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Hauser wrote letters during this time, and they have been edited and crafted into a book, together with additional newspaper articles which he wrote at the same time.
|The 1974 letter|
"I built a fireplace, cooked some ghastly pre-made tamales, stepped on and bent up my plate in the dark and then realized there are bears around there. So... I tried to hang my food in the trees but they're all Douglas firs here and the branches slope radically downward. And the rope was only about five feet long anyway, so I ended up hanging it where anything taller than a chipmunk could get at it."
"But before the (Old Faithful) gushing goes all the way back down, people leap to their feet and the area is a sea of dogs, kids and Instamatic-toting tourists all rushing to beat the rest of the swarm to the cafeteria line or to get their cars out of the parking lot before the traffic jam snarls it up. I was lucky. I was one of the first ones in the cafeteria."
"Out on I-70, I was standing there with my sign out when all of a sudden a state trooper car pulled over with a couple of cops in it. The back door swung open and one of them motioned for me to get in, and right away I knew something was wrong."
"That night, when the train got to Kamloops and slowed down almost to a stop, I jumped off to get on an empty boxcar or an automobile carrier. As soon as I jumped off, the train started picking up speed. I walked along with it, hoping it wouldn't go too far before it stopped, but it kept going faster and faster. By the time the first empty boxcar came by, it was going faster than a trot. I jumped up on the side of the car, holding onto the door latch, but after a few seconds I could see that I couldn't boost myself with my backpack inside, and I had to let go, and I went tripping down an embankment."
"Walking down the street with my pack on, I met three old Mexicans sitting on a step and they were really friendly and shook my hand about a dozen times and introduced themselves. One of the old guys said he had been traveling all around the world too, and someday he's going to the moon, which is farther than I'll probably go."
"He also had bumper stickers all over his van saying "Keep America Beautiful -- Shoot a Redneck." And whenever we pulled into any place, he turned on his 8-track as loud as it could go with some obnoxious outer-space kind of sounds. He really enjoyed grossing people out. I was glad to get out of his truck."
"Later, while walking through a town, all the good old boys were hanging around in front of the gas station and the guy pumping gas yelled out to me in a high squeaky voice I couldn't understand at first. He said the guy getting gas could give me a ride. When I asked the victim if he could, he had to admit it, so I got in and we drove off with everyone roaring at the joke they had pulled on their friend. The gas pumper was an immediate celebrity."
"Overhead, a dragon, King of the Skyways, disguised as golden cirrus clouds, swooped down. In the distance, waves leaped up behind the rocks to get a better look at the approaching shoreline. And birds, as if on cue, flew across the face of the huge orange disk, making the picture complete. And the people sat amazed."
"On one of the streams, I was in the worst whitewater part and my pole snapped, and I teetered a few seconds and then fell in. Everything in my backpack was soaked, and my sleeping bag, too."
"Another old guy in his 60s or 70s took me a few miles down the road in his pickup truck. When I got in, his topside choppers were sitting on the seat. He picked them up, drool dripping off, and put them in his mouth to talk to me."
"My first ride was with a Bolivian Indian who was drafted into the US Army and was stationed in New Jersey. He drove me way out of his way. His car interior was covered with shag carpeting anywhere there wasn't a handle, meter or dial, which he did as a wedding present for his wife."
"Yes, I ran into my first sex pervert of the trip. As soon as I got in his pickup he showed me a lewd booklet advertising some barely believable stag movies. Then he got into the questions like did a woman ever "come down" on me, did I ever make love to a black- or a Chinese girl, would I let a man blow me if he offered me 5, 10, 50 dollars. I kept trying to change the subject but he wouldn't be led off the path. I told him I had a knife in my back pocket, which I didn't, so I never really worried, but it was still a weird ride."
"So much for writing from Detroit. Now I'm in the Badlands in western South Dakota. I can't keep up with myself in this letter. But I've taken a vow to finish it here while my clothes are drying on a barbed-wire fence. It won't take long -- yesterday it was up to 106 degrees in the shade, and it's already getting there today. Okay then..."
"Weird scenes inside Blue River! We arrived there and I sat on the floor of the engine to stay unnoticed when they changed crew, but the new engineer walked back here and saw me. He's an old guy and he wasn't too happy to see me sitting there reading Studs Turkel. But at least he didn't throw me off. I think I'll have to get out of here in Kamloops, though. He said the yard cop checks the speed freights there. I may go back to the automobile crowd in back."
"When I finally walked to the intersection where the Trans-Canada takes off for Thunder Bay, I saw a line of hitchhikers stretching out along the road as far as I could see. There were two guys right at the beginning, at the best spot, and I asked them how long they had been standing there, and they said 29 hours. Fifteen feet behind them were two other guys and they said they were there for two days already."
"I got to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, got hassled at customs, stood a long time in the cold and couldn't get a ride. I went into an empty, sad diner called Vic's Eats, run by an old woman with the biggest nose I've ever seen, with a wig dyed a hideous red, and her face caked with makeup. There was a good juke-box there and I put in a quarter just to hear some sound, and when "Behind Closed Doors" came on, I nearly broke down and cried. I was so lonely I couldn't stand it. I left before the last song came on."
"He was a well driller, and he told some neat stories about what they run into down there. They tried to dig a well on a farm in the middle of an extinct volcano, and after a few hundred feet they just hit a big hollow spot, and the well casing slipped down, and they could hear it hitting the walls, but they never heard it hit bottom. That would be a rush!"
"I set up my tent next to this English girl's, Nicki. While I was pounding in my tent stakes, she told me the tent on that same spot the night before had been ripped down by a bear. The bear dragged his sleeping bag out while he was still in it. What a welcome. Nicki and I went into town to hit one of the two bars. The place was mobbed with about 100 people, and all of them were from the Free Camp. We ate and drank all evening. It was great. We managed to survive the long walk through the woods in the dark without running into any bears, but later on a bunch of them came into camp and the dogs were running all over."
"I stayed in the youth hostel that night, which was a bunch of smelly canvas tents. The regular tents were full by the time I got there, so they let a bunch of us sleep in the cook tent for free. It was a really funny group of people. This one English guy told this story about how the night before he had been robbed and beaten up, but he found out where the guy lives in Toronto, and was going to get him back. Every time someone new came into the tent, he told them the same story and made them feel the knot on the top of his head."
"I looked in a few culverts to see if I could sleep under one if I had to, and then I spotted a paper bag of cookies lying by the side of the road. I nudged it with my toe to see if it had anything in it, and it did. So I opened it up and it was full of cookies. I pulled one out, looked it over, took a bite, and it was great. So I had a whole bag of cookies to munch on while standing by the road."
"We drove through the customs laughing like we were stoned out of our minds. For some reason, the idea of going through customs seemed really funny at the time. The guy waved us through before I could even finish saying where I was going."
"It's a neat sort of asshole-bar there called Fred and Doris'. The owner is trying to breed his coyote with a Norwegian elk hound. Behind the counter, he also sells turnip necklaces, cowboy hats, cigarettes, boots, watches, clubs and beer cans mounted on plaques saying "one of many killed"."
"I had five beers, Olympias. An Indian there talked me into buying everyone else a beer. But I didn't mind because someone had already done that for me. I stumbled back to camp, a half-finished beer still in my hand, and held a sermon from the roadside to my fellow cows across a fence. I can moo quite well, and cows always seem to enjoy the snappy conversation."
"I slept the night in the woods by a town right near the Quebec border. My first ride the next day was pretty funny. He was an old Frenchman with a goatee, who looked and talked like the stereotypical Frenchman. He was telling me how I should visit Montreal. But when I said I didn't speak French and that I wasn't sure if I could get around OK, he said I should just find a French girl. He said, "Spend two nights with a French girl and you'll be speaking French."
"He only had the car for a week, and the day before, he wrecked the front end and spent the whole night fixing it and stealing a new radiator so he could make it in time for his brother's wedding in Philadelphia. He had a case of beer in a cooler in the back seat, so we drank all the way down the road."
"Somehow, we survived and were let out in downtown Savannah, where it was getting dark and the rain had turned into a monsoon. My damned backpack broke again and I had to stop in a gas-station and fix it with some coat-hanger wire. While wading through a bottomless puddle, my rubber sandals broke and I began hiking barefoot. We had to walk through the ghetto, which is scary enough, but the guy I was with said he saw some guys in a car try to throw a bottle at us."
"Well, it was dark out already a mere 8 hours after I got into town. Then, all of a sudden, as I was still trying to get used to my brief entry into Cheyenne, a couple of drunken farmers who thought I was a girl in the dark picked me up."
"So hoorah! I'm off to see Ken Kesey! That girl said she'd leave the key to her house under the mat if I came back to Coos Bay, which I think I'll do because she's very pretty. I can pretend to look for a job there for a while."
(After a bear encounter) "All my food was gone the next morning except for my peanut butter, the honey and the squished banana. I ate the honey and peanut butter. I found my shredded backpack in the bushes and wrapped string around it so it would hold clothes, and put a paper bag inside as an extra container."
"There was a sign that said "camp" that pointed into an arm of the lake. Stupidly, I believed it, and I waded across the lake, sinking nearly a foot into the muck. It was thigh-deep again. Nothing on the other side but a flat piece of ground with no snow, so I camped there. No one around for miles."
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