I returned briefly to Los Angeles in late 1977 and would then join Doug Hoggatt for nine months in Hemet (a time truly to be remembered), then six months living in the Sierra Nevada gold rush country (Murphy’s and Angels Camp) working for the State of California harvesting pine cones with Norm Benson, a gig that would enable me to save enough money for the return to Europe in the following year, 1979.
Rendy and I planned this one out, choosing to concentrate primarily on three countries, Britain, Italy and Greece. To prepare for the trip, I took an Art History course at Santa Monica College so I would have a better understanding of what I was viewing when I re-visited many of the museums I’d been to in 1977. And it did indeed pay off for me.
We landed in London (Laker Airways from Los Angeles for about $225) on May 14th. For the next month we would hitchhike in a counter clockwise direction throughout most of southern Britain, including London, Norwich, Cambridge, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Cheltenham, Bath, Tauton, Barnstaple, Bideford, Bude and back to London. It rained most every day and was fairly cold. We spent quite a few nights in youth hostels, good inexpensive lodging with the one drawback that you had to be back in the joint by 10pm, pretty early by our ‘close the pub’ standards. So on at least one occasion we had to talk our way into letting someone let us sleep on his or her front room floor.
Tired of the rain, we fled for London and Tent City where we could put our tents up for about a pound a night and enjoy their indoor facilities, as well as the pub just down the street in East Acton.
On June 15th, we jumped on Magic Bus headed for India that was to drop us off in Luxembourg. A favored form of transportation, I would use the company again many times over the course of the next five years. Our leg was overnight and we assumed we would get dropped off in the middle of a city in Luxembourg. Imagine our surprise when we awakened early in the morning as the bus is pulling off the autobahn in the middle of nowhere to the bus driver’s announcement that this was the Luxembourg stop.
We would then spend all day hiking and hitchhiking to our eventual destination, Idar Oberstein, Germany. Midway through the day we cleared the German border and at the first opportunity, stopped at a small market to purchase a couple of bottles of beer, mine being a Bitburg, to celebrate our return to a place of many fond memories.
Ten days would pass in Idar Oberstein, the first few on an Army base with the boyfriend of a girl we knew in Los Angeles, then a fest night at a youth hostel where guess what, we got locked out and slept on the grass in front and finally at a campground nearby. I’d injured my Achilles tendon on the hike into town and needed the time to recuperate. We finally started hitchhiking south on the 26th and in short order spent one night each in Karlsruhe, Freiberg, Zurich, Bad Ragaz and finally stopped in Lake Lugano, Italy.
Our night in Bad Ragaz, a small city in the Swiss Alps was an adventure. The roadie for a Vietnamese rock band, Ted Rangers, playing in a nearby disco picked us up and we would spend the night listening to the band, drinking a good local beer, and eventually sleeping in their rooms at the inexpensive hotel they lived in.
We would spend a month in Italy, stopping in Milano, Genoa for me and Venice for Rendy, Florence for nearly two weeks, Sienna, and Rome. At this juncture Rendy and I decided to go in different directions and so I took off for a night in Naples, an overnight train to Brindisi and an overnight ferry ride to the Island of Corfu. At the youth hostel where we stayed in Lugano, a fellow traveler heading north told us that if we were heading to Greece, we had to stop on Corfu and go to the beach at Pelekas. And so I did.
I would stay for two weeks, wild camping on the beach like everyone else, eating at the 2-3 Taverna’s lining the cove, and drinking beer or retsina wine at night, dancing to great music. I met four people on that beach, two of who are still friends today, Janis Levine and Francois Neddam. Francois will reappear as a central character in many future postings. Janis is originally from Los Angeles, and travels more than any one person I know. The other two, Elfrede from Germany and the Dane, John Christianson, will also appear again, and we will too soon loose track of them.
Elfrede, Janis and I continued on for another two weeks, touching down briefly in Athens and then on to the island of Paros and two beaches with the final, Kolimbithres being the best. August would turn out to be end up being a month of long days in the hot sun, doing nothing much more ambitious than working on a tan, the ideal lifestyle for a boy who’d grown up in Los Angeles, two miles from the beach.
We returned to Athens and began to go our separate ways, each embarking on a different schedule; I’d take Magic Bus to London for $50 one way. Those last days were great, particularly since I’d just spent almost a month wild camping on a beach somewhere. Sleeping in a real bed, hot water showers nearby, indoor plumbing, even in a rudimentary hostel seemed like a luxury at the time.
While at Kolimbithres, we met a young lad from the states, Jan Lin. His parents were diplomats and he’d traveled quite a bit. He was a good companion as Elfrede and Janis didn’t eat much and for me, sharing a mealtime experience with good friends and good food is one of the best things we can do. In the waning moments of our time in Athens, and for me, the end of what had been a couple of years of travel; the four of us went out to explore the local neighborhoods. I wrote this about a number of years back as part of a journal of recollections I encountered about that time in my life:
One memorable evening Jan Lin and I went (along with the girls who of course didn’t eat) in search of the perfect Souvlaki (that middle eastern taco made with lamb, either a patty or kabob). It was great to have someone to share the adventure with, hitting a bunch of these little stands, downing a couple of Souvlaki at each one (quite small, they were good for a couple of bites) and a cold Greek beer to accompany.
As we worked our way back to the America House we came upon an American busker, playing her violin in a side street, the sound echoing one or two blocks away. We joined the crowd around her and sat there in the warm evening, the classical music drifting past and over us. It was one of those magical moments that linger long past the event itself.
I went to sleep that night, on top of the sheets, next to a window with the Athenian night whispering to me, the melody from that violin still echoing through the streets of my mind, the sound of Greece inviting me to stay.
I would climb on Magic Bus though and make my way home. There would be adventures at the airport in London (someone was on strike, delaying all flights), I’d invite three English fellows heading to LA to come home with me and meet my parents (who never failed to thoroughly enjoy those types of encounters), and I’d reconnect with the life I’d left behind in Los Angeles. I’d meet the girl of my dreams, marry her, and she would become a very big part of the story that has and that will unfold as we together, begin this new phase in our lives.