Saturday, April 25, 2015

Travels With Charley - Part II

Welcome to Kingman
Get Your Kicks on Route 66

Actually to be precise the Buick did not blow up in Kingman, Arizona but outside of Kingman. That particular day we saw Kingman three times. When we drove into the town on Route 66 just before dawn the car was knocking, and we again needed gas. Fortunately this time a station was open. There was no self serve in those days except for illegally siphoning it. You pulled in, waited for a gas jockey to make it out to your car, said fill it up with regular, and check the oil. Then we all made a dash for the bathrooms. They were always gross. But in the Route 66 days there were no rest stops with or without facilities.

The attendant said the Buick was two quarts low. He added oil and some STP oil treatment stuff in case we had a crankshaft leak. The Buick was a year old and had just been serviced by the dealer in Albuquerque. We were all a bit road weary. Nobody questioned the information until the first long steep hill on the California bound side of Kingman when there was a big bang and then flames.

This was the 60's so there was also no cell phone. In this day and age with six coeds there would have been six cellphones. Out west there wasn't anything between towns and the towns were few and far between. No Google Maps, no roadside emergency telephones, no gps. But we were not worried about that just then. We were looking for anything to put out the flames. Oh, and no bottled water. In much of Arizona no water at all. You bought soda pop from the vending machines when you stopped for fuel.

There was a lot of sand. And any engine gloriously in flames would not be hurt by sand. So while Penny and I flung sand on the flames, and the others unloaded the trunk and car of our worldly possessions we didn't notice the pickup with the three men pull up. "You little ladies need any help there?" one asked. In 64 we were still fighting for civil rights for blacks (they were blacks then) and nobody had considered equal rights for women. When we heard the question we all stopped and noticed there was hardly an inch of the pickup which did not have an Elect Goldwater for President bumper sticker, so good we didn't argue the little lady comment. The passenger got out a fire extinguisher, and more effectively put out the fire. I quietly walked to the back bumper to peel off the Kennedy sticker (we had not yet replaced it with Johnson) to find it covered with a Goldwater sticker. 

Penny caught my eye about then and I shrugged and smiled. We did know one young Republican. In point of fact, Penny was dating him. We all stared in disbelief with our political conversion, but grateful, very grateful about then. Coats were surrendered to stupid but freezing college girls and our bags flung in the back of the pickup. And we climbed in on top. Except for Bunny and Penny who got to sit up front. Then back to Kingman to get the car towed. "It should be cooled down by now," we were informed by the pickup driver, who bought us good Republican ladies breakfast at the Frontier Cafe while we waited for the Buick dealership just down the block to open.

Seems like we spent a lot of time in the Frontier that morning waiting for an assessment by the mechanic, "It's toast. Your block is cracked. Threw a rod through the oil pan. Hence the flames." And the verdict. "No half blocks available. There's a strike on. Can't tell you when it would be fixed. There's a strike on."

We dumped all our money in the middle of the table. Funds were not equal but clearly we couldn't all catch the train. There was a Greyhound bus. We could afford that, but then have no money for our three days in Los Angeles let alone the trip back to school. We were all out of the dorm on a lie. Calling our parents was not an option unless we wanted to start putting ourselves through college.

The Princess, I really cannot remember her name, had the most money and obviously the most moxie because she called her parents and got money wired to her to catch a small commuter plane. To be fair she surrendered her extra funds to us so we could afford the train, but the next train was going back to college. It didn't leave until later in the day.

Throwing caution totally to the winds we decided to try our luck at hitchhiking. There were four of us after Marge chickened out. Marge, never one of us, said she was going to take her share of the joint funds, and take the bus back to Albuquerque. Omens were not good. The rest of us agreed we would try hitchhiking for two hours, and if we had not gotten a ride we would take the train back to UNM. And defeat.

But we figured our chances were good to get to California. We were after all not on a back road but Route 66. America's highway. We picked a sunny and well traveled spot. Made ourselves comfortable on our luggage and launched in to the first round of Get Your Kicks on Route 66

And that is when Charley, who worked for the Pontiac plant which was also on strike, cruised into our lives. He designed interiors for the luxury cars and was on his first ever vacation without mother. "I can take you to LA if you are willing to tour Hoover Dam and Las Vegas for a couple hours on the way."

He looked like he needed company so we said yes.

To be continued.


  1. I can't wait! I really must write my share of similar adventures. To this day I pick up hitch hikers whenever I can.


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