A ride from a hearseful of hippies outside Harrisburg

Not the hearse

In April 1971 John D and I hitchhiked from Detroit to Washington DC for the week-long May Day demonstration against the war in Vietnam. Just outside of Harrisburg PA, a black hearse pulled over. As the door opened to let us climb in, we thought we were entering a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie. Plumes of smoke billowed out. The hearse contained 6 or 7 guys as stoned as they were alive. They dropped us at the outer edge of DC. There we got picked up by a guy driving a VW bug. He correctly guessed we were coming into town for the demonstration. He asked if we had a place to stay yet. We didn’t have one. “He said come on over to my house for dinner. I wish I could invite you to stay with me, but my basement is filled with guests from the prior week’s protest by the Vietnam Vets against the war. But I believe I have neighbors who will put you up.” We had an excellent dinner with his family and the wonderful Vietnam Vets. Sure enough after dinner he arranged for a Mennonite family down the street to house us. They were gracious hosts. We stayed for a night with the couple and their two young children. They were prepared to host us all week. But on Monday morning we joined The Peoples’ Fast for Peace. The organizer convinced us that if we were going to be fasting all week, hitchhiking to & from Rock Creek would wear us down too much. He invited us to join the rest of the PFfPers staying at his sister’s apartment. Throughout the week we had surprising support when we did hitch around. A bus driver probably broke a few rules when he picked us up and gave us a free ride to show his support for the protest. Same thing from a cab driver who didn’t charge us. It was some week.

I should write up some of the stories on the protest too.

This is a photo my son posted to Facebook while travelling through Vietnam. He thought it could have been me. It moves me to imagine him halfway around the world thinking he had found a photo of me from 1971 in a room in a museum commemorating protests against the war.

Tubular Stonehenge

As I was returning to Oxford from Cornwall in the spring of 1974, I received a ride from a man in his early 20s driving a sports car with a great sound system. We were close to Stonehenge. He asked me if I knew the album Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. I didn’t. He put in a cassette tape of the stunning piece of music to play it for me. We arrived where he was going to turn off to go his way different from my route. We were perhaps 10 minutes from the end of the composition and he insisted I had to hear all of it. He pulled onto the shoulder where he let the cassette finish before we said our goodbyes.

Honest, I didn’t say …

On the Bodmin Moor

As I approached the Bodmin Moor in the northeast of Cornwall, all the rides I received told me that if I were still travelling near dark, I should decline any rides which were not taking me all the way through the moor — that I should under no circumstances be left on the moor after dark. [This took place a few days before the Tubular Stonehenge tale in the spring of 1974.] A couple of them explained that the wild critters on the moor were dangerous. Others shared the common belief that the Bodmin Moor is the basis for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskerville. Others state that nearby Dartmoor is the source.
 I soon received a ride from a retired doctor who invited me to join him and his wife for lunch at their sheep farm. He explained that they lived near the far edge of the moor. I accepted the offer. He and his wife had retired from their London jobs as doctor and nurse and purchased the sheep farm. It was early spring, lambing season, and my birthday. My hosts invited me to come out to see their flock. They handed me a brand newborn lamb. I was moved to hold a critter born 22 years and some minutes after me.

The previous two rides happened on my break between Hilary and Trinity terms at college, I had a wild, fun trip around Great Britain featuring a week-long jaunt from John O’Groats Scotland to Land’s End, Cornwall — the northeastern-most point to the southwestern-most.
 Other tales from that break yet to be written include:

  • Spending the night in jail in Wick
  • Walking along the north coast of Scotland singing the tenor part of the madrigal Happy Are we Met, coming around a corner to find a farmer with a sense of humor — said to me “Sounds like somebody’s happy.”
  • Getting a ride in Wales from 3 guys who explain this part of Wales hasn’t seen the sun in weeks and weeks
  • Getting a ride with a young couple from Berlin. She speaks 5 languages; none of which is English; he speaks English that is worse than my German. I speak German with them so that they both can participate; he speaks English so he can show off. They kept me with them for 3 days; insisting on paying for a night in a B&B when there was no hostel nearby.
  • Copyright @ 2016 by David Seibert

Originally published at davidjadventures.wordpress.com on September 21, 2016.

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