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Semester Break

Winter of 1964, I was in college in Kalamazoo, Michigan and needed to get home to central Pennsylvania for semester break. My car was questionable for that 600-mile trip, the weather was changing fast and I had just given my seat to a girl friend in a car that was leaving in three hours. So without much thought I packed a small bag, dressed warmly and walked to an I-94 exit south of town for the ride of a life time. Hitchhiking was the norm for me all through college in the early 60's. This one started out with a very fast ride east via the Ohio turnpike to just west of Cleveland.

My driver was a salesman of what I forget but a story teller of all that is evil in this world. If only I would have had one of today's small portable recorders. He talked none stop of things that I knew little about, and unspeakable in mixed company. I still wonder how someone could possess such stories. By leaving me off west of Cleveland, all traffic passing me was westbound. It was by now late in the afternoon and light snow was falling. I was just outside the toll booth and finally had to pay someone to take me to the exit east of Cleveland.

From there I got a ride with a young couple headed east who asked me to drive while they slept. I thought nothing of it at first until the nonstop show started in the back seat. At 19 that was my first exposure to live X-rated rearview mirror action with all the sound effects. What more can I say except when they dropped me off at a Pennsylvania turnpike plaza several hours later I was exhausted. It was late, snowing and I was doubtful of my prospects for a ride.

As I walked into the Howard Johnson, out walked the girl who I'd given up my seat. By this point her car was already one passenger short so I joined them for a fast dash ahead of the snows toward Harrisburg. As we slept in the back things started to go wrong up front. The car was only running on its battery and the lights were getting very dim. Then all hell broke lose in the engine compartment. The engine must have thrown a rod and smoke was pouring out the back. By chance a state trooper pulled up along side and directed us off the road. The car was dead. He left us cross the road to a maintenance site where I called my father, who was two hours away. A school teacher with still a teaching day ahead, he drove though light blowing snow to get me and the three girls headed for New York City. We dropped them off at the Harrisburg bus station and just arrived home for him to take my teaching mother to school and to his teaching job. One week later I had a uneventful trip back with another friend from Philly.




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