Uncle Ernie's Road Trip's


Uncle Ernie's Road Trip's

Road Trips


Chapter 1 page 1

The trip wasn't my idea, although I certainly went along with it, when Little John proposed it. Little John had never been to the West Coast, but had always wanted to go. I hadn't been there in four years, so it was about that time.

It was the summer of 1972, and the current problem in Detroit was that the mob, which had taken over the drug supply, had decided to dry up the weed supply and started pushing downs. You couldn't find an ounce of weed, but suddenly you could get Reds by the case, that's 50,000 pills. As I didn't like downs, I knew we had to do something.

The rock concert I had managed for over a year, had folded up as the city had given the owner a choice of ending it, or stopping the dirty movies they ran seven days a week. Even through the concerts were making good money; the movies were making more, so it was an easy choice. This however, left me with a lot of time on my hands, so when Little John decided to make a run for the coast, I thought what the fuck, why not?

We came to this conclusion about mid-night, and decided now was as good a time to leave as any, and we pointed Little John's new car toward LA. Little John's new car was an eight year old Ford, that had been a Fire Chiefs car, and had at least 200,000 miles on it. I had my doubts about it, but the bag of African Gungee I had miraculously found, made it seem like a good idea. Little John said he'd drive the first leg, but as we hit the freeway the Reds he had dropped kicked in, and he couldn't even keep the car on the road. I quickly decided to take over behind the wheel, as Little John was about to get us killed.

As he nodded out, I twisted up a fat one, which made everything slow down a bit. He slept through Michigan, Chicago, Illinois and didn't wake up until we entered Iowa. As I drove through Davenport, he began to show signs of life, so somewhere between there and Iowa City he got behind the wheel and I fell asleep. The car had been running all right, but in about two hours a sudden lurching awakened me. Little John had managed to keep the car going to the outskirts of a little town, somewhere in Iowa's vast Corn Belt.

After a few minutes inspection, Little John came to the conclusion that what we needed was a new generator, so we started walking to the little town below. It was about a mile walk, as no one would stop to give us a ride. The main reason for this is I looked a bit like Tommy Chong, and Little John was a smaller version of me. Although several good ole boys dig salute us with their middle fingers as they went by in their pick-ups. One even went so far as to pat his favorite rifle, hanging in his rifle rack in the back of the cab, in his old Chevy pickup truck. To say I was beginning to get a bad feeling about this ‘Easy Rider Village,’ was a vast understatement. So, it was about fifteen minutes, before we made the village limits.

There was a John Deere tractor dealer, but no signs of a Ford dealership. As it was a hot July day, we decided to stop at the local tavern to drink a couple beers, and ask of the locals where we could get parts for the car.

As we entered the bar I noticed it was pretty much filled, not what we had expected for ten a.m. I also noticed that everyone in the bar turned around to look at us, with their mouths agape. We wisely took seats near the door, and ordered up two draft beers. The bartender reluctantly served us after checking our ID, and asking us what we were doing in town. As the long hair jokes started making the rounds, the bartender gave us directions to a parts store.

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We quickly proceeded to drink our beers, and leave much to the delight of the patrons of this little dive. So amid much laughter and merriment, we bravely marched off in search of the generator.

You would have thought that the circus had come to town, as we went in search of the parts store. Although this was basically a one street town, people started coming out of stores, and under rocks, to look and comment at the aliens that had landed in their mist. A mother quickly grabbed her two little boys and pulled them briskly into a building as we approached. Having just arrived from the big city, we were as startled by this behavior, as they were by our appearance. I had never gotten this much attention before, and to tell the truth we were kind of digging it. The only place I'd seen reactions like this was in films like "The Oxbow Incident" and "Hang'em High or the 1968 Democratic convention. As I didn't like the out come of these, Little John and I decide to make this a quick shopping spree, and get the hell out of Dodge. It's been my discovery in life, that knowing when to leave is very important, and that time was now! We quickly found the parts store at the other end of town, and by some miracle they had our part, which we quickly purchased, and beat a hasty retreat back to the car.

Little John had wisely brought along a tool kit, and in about 15 minutes we had exchanged the old for the new, and with the last spark of the battery, we were soon back on the freeway heading west. I quickly twisted up a couple of joints, and handed one to Little John, to keep him from dropping a few more Reds, so that I could get a couple more hours sleep before driving again. I managed to drop back off to sleep, telling him to wake me when we got to Omaha, and we'd stop at my Aunt Jane's restaurant for dinner. I managed to sleep all the way through, and was awaken as we crossed the bridge into Nebraska. I then gave him direction to my aunt's place, and we find her in and have a tasty dinner, on her. She wanted us to spend the night, but we were in too big a hurry, so we were soon off with a couple of sandwiches, she insisted we take for later.

I took over the driving then and headed us out toward Salt Lake City on US 80. Little John dropped a few more Reds, as I lit up a joint and sat back enjoying the scenery, as the flat lands soon give way to rolling hills, and the occasional mesa. As we passed by route 25 to Denver, I thought about taking it south through Colorado Springs, and stopping at Ft. Carson. Back in the sixty's; when I was stationed there, we had found a dry creek bed that had coated us with gold dust, and I wanted to go back to see if I could find it again. Little John however couldn't wait to get to LA, and suggested that we do it on the way back. I said fine, but the thoughts of the gold were on my mind for some time to come. I continued to drive through out the night, as Little John slept off his buzz. Turning south on US 15, we cruised on south towards Arizona.

The sun came up to find us in the middle of nowhere, as the car started over heating. Oh joy. The last town, i.e. gas station, was about thirty miles back, and the low desert can be a Muther Fucker in July. Fortunately, the state of Arizona had places to stop for water, and we quickly came upon one. It was only a large vat of water beside the road, but it soon had the radiator under control and we were soon back on the road. As we cruised through Arizona and into Nevada, it became apparent that lack of water wasn't the only problem with the Ford, and we just made Las Vegas by the skin of our teeth. Amid much smoke and funny noises, we pull into the back parking lot of the Circus Circus hotel, not daring to pull up to the front door. Under a cloud of smoke and water vapor, we got our luggage and proceeded to check into the casino.

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There was a lot new in Las Vegas, since my last visit. The Circus Circus was one example. High over head there was a pair of performers on the trapeze, while down below there is animal acts going on. This fascinates little John, but I'm far too sleepy to care. As he goes to watch the acts and play the slots, I head off to our room for a hot shower and eight hours sleep. I awaken to watch the sun go down, but there is no sign that Little John has been in the room. After smoking a fat one, I head down for a late breakfast and to try and locate Little John. After a good meal of steakywakes and eggyweggs, I feel much better and head off to find Little John.

After searching the main floor, I try the second and eventually find him sitting watching the circus acts. There is something new on the second floor. A large area has been set aside for children, with various games to keep the kids attention. This is a great idea. It allows the parents the freedom to spend most all their time, losing their paychecks, while little Billy is kept out of their hair for a while. A very smart idea.

Little John is pretty much wasted, but manages to ask where I've been for the last hour. He says he's looked all over for me, and I explain that I've been sleeping in our room for the last eight hours and then had a good breakfast. Duh. Little John says he lost most of his money on the slots down stairs surprise, and wonders about the car. I tell him from what I saw, I think we warped the mill, so it might be a good idea to head back to Detroit rather than try and make LA. He reluctantly agrees, but wants to get a good night sleep first. As I've already paid for the room, I tell him where it's at, and he says he'll head over there in a little while.

While we're watching the circus acts, someone comes by and hands us a flyer, for an art auction in the casino. We decide to check this out, and soon take seats in the room. Someone; the flyer says, will win a choice of paintings, and Little John is convinced it will be him. This auction is really just a sales pitch for the incredibly stupid, and where better than Vegas to find them. We are sitting by the door, and as people buy something or get bored, they hand me their tickets on the drawing as they leave the room. Meanwhile Little John is beginning to nod out on the Reds. He is fighting it, but I can see that it's a battle that he will soon lose.

Sitting next to us is an immaculately dressed couple, the man in a tuxedo, and the lady in a very expensive evening gown. Little John nods out and falls asleep on the ladies lap. Unfortunately the lady's husband, is the casino manager and Little John is quickly shown the back door. I decide to stay as I have more than half of the drawing tickets. At the end of the sales pitch they actually have the drawing, and on the second number drawn, I have the winning ticket. I have a choice of three paintings, and I choose a pencil sketch of an old man holding his grand daughter, by someone call Esperonas. The dealer assures me that's it's worth at least $250.00, as this was the minimum bid they would have excepted. I take the painting back to the room, but Little John is nowhere to be seen, so I get comfortable and watch the tube, smoking great amounts of weed until I crash out.

When I awake Little John is nowhere in sight. I go down stairs to breakfast and afterwards, go back and get my bags and painting, and check out. When I arrive at the car, I find Little John curled up in the back seat. When I wake him up, I notice a large swelling on his right upper arm, and question him about it. He has no explanation about it, but says it's really sore. It looks to be an insect bite, and is beginning to change colors. Little John shrugs it off, and we head off in search of a gas station for gas and water.

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Little John really wants to stay in town for a while, so I reluctantly pull into the Sands Hotel's parking lot. While Little John calls home to have some money wired, I head off to the Keno lounge, for some cheap gambling and free drinks. Little John soon joins me to say, he's had $100.00 wired to us, and we can split when it arrives. While I'm showing him how to play Keno, a tall man in an outrageously bright green suit distracts me. There is only one man on the planet that would enter a casino in such an outfit. It has to be Doc Severinsen. When I tell Little John this, he says no way, so I walk over an introduce myself. Sure enough it's Doc, and I tell him I've always been a fan and to keep on being outrageous. I realize how boring I must be to him, but he good naturally shakes my hand with the hippie shake. He smiles and chats for a moment, until someone rescues him and leads him away. We hang out at the Sands until the money arrives.

We fill the car up, and I start the long drive back. It's just as I figured we warped the mill, and the more water we put in it the worse it runs. The best we can hope for is getting out of the desert. Not much chance of that, as it's really beginning to smoke. In fact it smokes so much, that out of the barren landscape appears an Arizona State Trooper. He says that we can't leave the car out in the desert, unless we want a large fine and towing charges on the car. Not much chance of that, as we barely have the money to make it back to Detroit if the car was running fine. He tails us for a while, until we pass a donut shop and as the car gives up, we find ourselves in front of a roadhouse, where we park. We immediately take out our luggage and begin hitch hiking.

From out of nowhere a cowboy pulls up, and picks us up. As we pull out on the highway, I notice the state trooper is pulling into the bar. He must have got his coffee and donuts to go. The cowboy is going to just outside Salt Lake City, and offers to drive us there. We sit back and enjoy the scenery, and listen to the driver tell us some cowboy tales. Most deal with how lonely it is on the prairie, and how horses start to look real good after a while. I think this is funny, but then again I'm in the back seat. Little John doesn't see it that way, as he is in the front seat, and the giant cowboy is beginning to talk with a lisp. He drops us off; as the sun starts to set, just south of Salt Lake City. He offers to takes us to a local motel, but as were in a bit of a hurry according to Little John, we decline his offer and continue thumbing.

After about an hour, we get a ride from a couple of fellow hippies in a converted school bus. They offer to take us to the other side of Salt Lake City, and offer to share some of their weed. This is an offer we can't refuse, and were soon goodly stretched by their Panama Red. We sit and talk politics and religion with them. We're all against both of them and when they drop us off, were feeling pretty good about the trip.

The only trouble is Little John's arm is beginning to turn black and harden up. I ask him if maybe we should seek help at a local hospital, but he says he's fine and let's continue. Fine by me, but it's not my arm that has swollen to twice its normal size.

It's about 10 p.m. now and the temperature near around the mountains is starting to drop. We continue hitch hiking, and soon are picked up by a pair of cowboys in a pick up truck. The only trouble is, we have to ride in the back. They take us over the mountain and down the other side to where I-80 meets with I-15. When they stop to let us off, we're both close to being frozen solid from the wind chill. We walk to over to I-80 and decide that, one will continue thumbing, while the other curls up in our single blanket. As Little John says this, he grabs the blanket; and walking off the road about forty feet, nods out.

Chapter 1 page 5

Thanks. I continue to stand and hitch hike, but no one is stopping. About three a.m. I wake him up, and take my turn in the blanket. Try as I might I can't get warm, so after an hour or two, I get back up and let Little John go back to sleep.

About two hundred yards from us, is a little one-acre forest in the middle of a large field. As the sun comes up, what must have been 100 people start coming out of these trees. Fortunately, most of them are heading for either California or Salt Lake City, but about ten or so start hitching in our direction. It's been over eight hours since the cowboys dropped us off, and in all that time we couldn't get a ride. How in the hell are we going to get one now? The sun is up, and is starting to warm things up a bit and it wakes Little John. I take another turn in the blanket and fall immediately asleep. It's ten a.m. when I'm awaked by Little John, who has gotten us a ride. It's a beautiful girl in a new Mustang.

I quickly call shot gun, and take the seat next to the virgin Mary, no, not that virgin Mary, although as far as I'm concerned she might as well be the original. After a minute or two of normal conversation, she turns the subject to religion. Her religion, she's a Mormon. As Little John and I are atheists, we try to be polite and let her drone on and on. Partly to be polite, mostly because we really need the ride. Any thoughts of getting into her "magic underwear" are soon gone as she proudly announces that she is a virgin saving herself for her some day husband. Even though she is quite pretty, we feel she'll have no problem, as long as she keeps brining up her religion. I know it certainly has shrunk my tiny Johnson. We sit quietly listening to her babble for a couple of hours, and she lets us off in Rawlins, where we bid her good luck in her quest, and find a restaurant for lunch.

After a hot blue meat loaf sandwich and curdled milk lunch, we walk back to the freeway. We walk up a huge clover leaf, where at the bottom we discover a freshly killed doe lying by the roadway, and a large Roman Candle which Little John quickly picks up and places in his luggage. He says, we'll shoot it off tonight when it gets dark and boring. We walk to the top of the cloverleaf, which is about a quarter mile from the bottom, and begin to hitch hike.

Almost as soon as we do, a Wyoming State Trooper pulls up, and gives us a warning. It is illegal to hitch hike in Wyoming. You can not put your thumb out, or wave or even use a sign. If you do, you could find yourself on a chain gang cleaning up the highways for 30 days. However you may stand near the freeway, and if any one stops and asks you if you would like a ride, you may except it. He informs us of this, and suggests we walk the three hundred miles to the border. He says he'll be back, and if he sees us hitch hiking he'll take us to jail. As he pulls away, I bring out a couple of joints that I'd rolled back at the restaurant, and hand one to John. As we salute the trooper with our middle fingers, I light up our joints and turn to see what the commotion is at the bottom of the cloverleaf.

Six or seven pick up trucks have pulled out of the little town below, and are gathered at the bottom of the cloverleaf. About twenty men get out of the trucks, and begin milling around until a Sheriffs Deputy pulls up. With a bullhorn he begins to direct the men in a search for something. I figure they're looking for the dead deer, but as it is all but obvious it must be something else. The search goes on for about 45 minutes, and at its end they haven't found what they're looking for. The Sheriffs deputy thanks every one for coming out and then soon leaves. It has by this time dawned on me, that they're looking for the $5.00 Roman Candle that we found. Even though we were in plain sight of them, they didn't bother to ask us, so Little John decides to fire the Roman candle off.

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Even though it's broad day light, the searchers can plainly see the candle going off as we had pointed it in their direction. They stand and point at us with mouths agape and start to head for their pick ups, as a hippie from LA stops just in the nick of time, and gives us a ride.

He's only going about a hundred miles but we don't care, as he probably saved us from our doom at the hands of the red necks. I twist him up a joint for his troubles, and around two o'clock he drops us off in the middle of nowhere, by a last chance, gas station.

We get some munchies and a couple bottles of Coke, and resume our journey. As Little John hitchhikes, I check out the scenery and something whistles by my ear and explodes on the ground in front of me. It's just and empty whiskey bottle lobbed at us by another drunken cowboy, the third so far. We stand or sit sweating in the sun, until it starts to set when we finally get a ride from another hippie, from New York in a Volkswagen Super Beetle. He says he can take us as far as Lincoln Nebraska and we settle in

Around 1 a.m. we arrive in Cheyenne, where there seems to be a city wide party in progress. The rodeo is apparently in town, which sort of explains why there are cowboys riding horses out of bars. It sounds like Detroit on New Years Eve, or maybe World War II, as there is a continuos sound of gunfire every where we go. They sure know how to party in Cheyenne. On a side street, we eventually find a likely looking spot for dinner; at an innocuous looking greasy spoon.

As we enter, I notice that the place seems to be full of drunken cowboys, who have left most of their horses, tied up out back. We take seats in an open booth, and decide to hide behind the menus for as long as possible. Bob Seger's "Looking Back" runs through my mind, as I look around the place. So far so good. The clientele have their noses buried in their fresh fried horse, i.e. the "Meatloaf Surprise" and haven't noticed us so far. The waitress comes by saying, "You boys must be from out of town." Brilliant deduction!

"Did you come in to see the Rodeo?" Wrong!

"No ma'am, just passing through," our driver replies.

As we order three deluxe burgers, from the background I begin to hear, "Would you look at that over there, what the fuck is it?" Uh oh.

We order the burgers to go. Believe me when I say that no one has gotten faster service than we did that night, as the owner wisely decided to place our orders next in line, to keep his place from being destroyed. So the burgers are at our table in under a minute, but as were walking out the catcalls begin. I decide that enough is enough, and begin to tell them all to go fuck themselves, when our driver and Little John grab me, and pull me along before my big mouth can get us all killed. I think our driver set all sorts of formula V records that night, getting us back onto I-80 and didn't slow down until we reached the Nebraska State line.

We gagged down the fried horse and fries and started to feel pretty good about life.

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I twist up a couple more and afterwards, we nod out and sleep until we reach Lincoln Nebraska. Unfortunately he drops us off in down town Lincoln, far away from the freeway as we can get. It's also still dark, and we haven't a clue as to where we are. That nothing except the police station is open doesn't help much, but we finally find an open gas station where we gain directions back to I-80. We're just a couple blocks from a road that goes to the E-way, and we walk down to where we might catch a ride. I get the feeling that in this neighborhood, we're not likely to get a ride, except to jail.

Surprisingly, we don't have long to wait, as another freaky person pulls up in a van and tells us to climb aboard. We do, and as I take the shotgun seat I'm handed a Thai stick and some papers, and told to do the honors. Like I said life can be good. As I clean the weed, we're told that he's going to Iowa City, but has to stop and pick something up in Omaha first. So if we don't mind a small delay, we have a ride about half way home. Far out man! Little John takes a couple tokes, and nods back out.

When I notice this, I also notice that his arm around the bite has swollen even more, and is starting to turn black all over. This does not bode well for Little John, if I can't get him to go to a hospital soon. I'm really surprised that he hasn't mentioned this, as he must be in some pain from it. I decide when we get to Iowa City, to make him at least see a doctor. I don't want to explain to his parents, why I let him die out on the road. There is no excuse as he works at Ford's, and has Blue Cross insurance, so he's going as soon as we stop!

Our driver stops in Omaha to get his packages, which look suspiciously, like kilos of weed. A large amount of money changes hands, and were soon back on the road again. Oh well, I should have guessed. "That's a swell hobby you got there," I tell our driver. He doesn't reply, but pulls out a joint, hands it to me and just grins. Who am I to judge, so I take the joint and watch the scenery go by. It does, and we're soon approaching Iowa City and the University of Iowa. Our driver stops before his exit to let us off, and while were disembarking he hands me two more joints. We begin to copiously thank him, but he just grins and is gone.

We walk over to the bottom of the eastbound ramp, and begin to hitch hike again. A car full of old folks goes by dressed up in their Sunday-go-to-meeting finery, and a blue hared little old lady flips us the bird. Little John yells back at her, "Fuck you too granny," but I just laugh out loud. Not exactly the reaction I expected to us in the heartland, but then again they're the same ones that would reelect "The Trick" to a second term. Wasn't it "The Trick" who said, "You can fool some of the people, all of the time. All of the people, some of the time. Now here's where I make a liar out of Lincoln?"

Meanwhile, Little John eats a hand full of Reds before I notice it. Oh joy, just what I needed. Fortunately we soon get a ride to Moline Illinois in a VW van, driven by pretty hippie lady who welcomes us aboard, with a couple lines of cocaine she has laying conveniently on the dash and wonders if we have any weed. As we hadn't smoked what the last ride had given us, I hand her a joint and pass the mirror to Little John who can barely hold it thanks to his swollen arm. Well that does it. When we get to Moline he's going to the hospital. He soon nods out in the back seat as I light up a joint, and begin to talk to our driver.

She says that she is just returning from LA and I tell her about our adventures so far.

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She says she can drive us to a hospital when we get to Moline, and I tell her I'd really appreciate it if she would. We spend several pleasant hours discussing religion and politics, and agree that there's way too much of both. She's an atheist and I'm an agnostic quickly becoming an atheist, so we have lots of fun discussing the Bible. We both seem to be turning from Liberal Democrats into Anarchists. The miles just fly by, and way too soon were pulling up to a Hospital. Meanwhile Little John has been snoring his brains out in the back, and is quite surprised to find himself in front of a hospital. He reluctantly decides enough is enough, and we get out to go inside. Our driver "Mary" says, that she'll stick around until we're through, and give us a ride back to the freeway.

I check Little John in, and when he disappears with a doctor, I return to the van and Mary. I'm surprised that she still around and waiting. When I see that look of lust in her eyes I understand. I quickly settle down to lunch and we soon get down to some serious business. Eventually we "Cum Together,"* and Little John knocks on the door. He's been patiently waiting outside the van for us to finish. I hadn't noticed, but apparently Mary's screams and the rapid motion of the van had attracted a lot of attention.

Little John says that we had a cop watching us, until he was called away by radio on some errand. Oh well. Mary has finally composed herself enough to drive, and takes us out for a little lunch before dropping us off on the freeway.

A doctor lanced little John's arm, he was given a shot of antibiotics, and his arm has returned almost to its normal size and color. They're not sure, but they think a spider bit him, while he slept in the back seat of the car. He says he's feeling fine, but is a little tired.

Our next ride is our last one, as we get a ride with a truck driver who is going to Detroit, after dropping half his load in Toledo. While Little John swaps Reds with the truck driver for some speed. I nod out in the sleeper and sleep until we're dropped off in downtown Detroit. I give a call to my girl friend; who will become my second wife "Beelzebub," and she soon arrives with my car to drive us home.

*See "The Beatles."





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