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Looking Back to 1976-Road Trip with My Sister Across the Country

Thanks to hitchhiking and the Green Tortoise Bus, we made our way...

It was the summer of 1976. I had graduated from UCSB a year earlier, and with job prospects slim to dim in Santa Barbara, I knew I had to make a change. Going back to Studio City was an option, as my brother Jack had offered to find me a job in public relations, but at that time, all I wanted to be was a professional poet. Working in an office seemed like a mortal sin.

My twin sister Teresa was also at loose ends, so we thought it was time to hit the trails of travel. Since we’d both broken up with our respective lovers, maybe we’d get lucky in love traveling the country, which was what we decided to do.

A few weeks later after saying adios to the family pad in Studio City, I was on a bus heading north to join Teresa in what was soon to be an adventure of a lifetime: traveling around the United States on a Green Tortoise Bus and hitchhiking.

Remember, hitching in the '70s was what iPhones are today…everyone was into it.  Throwing caution to the wind, we boarded this jalopy of a bus, lined with nothing but mattresses and hippies. Everyone was sandwiched between one another, and free love was available at every opportunity.

I remember a bearded guy named Alan who took a shine to me, morning noon and night. All I wanted was a good nights sleep, not some pheromone-ridden 26 year old trying to mount my thigh at every turn.

Eventually, Teresa and I made it to Ohio, where we disembarked the bus and began our hitching expedition to the East coast, where we’d eventually meet my mom, who was clueless about our thumbing pursuits.

Teresa and I had a great system for catching rides. With her yard-long hair, she’d stand in front and seduce the sedans into stopping. Then, she’d conk out in the back seat, and I’d take over, yakking as much as I could to gain mileage. 

Once, we were picked up by a trucker who was popping black beauties (speed) every couple of miles and announcing his conquest on his CB radio.

“Breaker, breaker, I’ve got two beavers in the front seat…” I knew he was referring to us, so we decided to cut this trip short, and test our luck on the freeway off ramp once again.  Soon, another horny guy picked us up, but Teresa soon realized she’d left her sleeping bag at our last stop.  That was an untimely $50 lesson, depleting her truck-stop breakfast money for the next few days.

Once, a “counselor” who promised to give us shelter for the night, along with some free pizza, picked us up. Unfortunately, he made a pass at me every time Teresa when into the other room.  I guess there really is no free lunch, or dinner, for that matter.

Eventually, we made it to NYC around 12:30 at night, and got to stay with my uncle and his wife in Manhattan. They were fighting most of the night, which prompted Teresa to give some marital advice to the wife via a scribbled note left on the dining room table.  No wonder we were never asked back to their apartment again.

We landed in Maryland, and got to stay with my mom and her boyfriend, Eddie Mayo.  Eddie slipped us a C-note when my mom wasn’t looking, and wished us good luck on our adventure.  He also gave us our first golf lesson. I quickly realized that golf wasn’t just for old people.  Anyone who can successfully hit a ball the size of an apricot should be admired.

With that money in hand, Teresa and I decided we could live it up on our trip back to LA, and decided to get a drive-away car to get us home.  We had about 4 days to get there, so we rotated shifts behind the wheel. Since I wasn’t the victim of losing my sleeping bag, I had a bit more money, so we made a trade. She’d drive the night shift, and I’d buy her breakfast. 

The truck stops we enjoyed along the way provided many meals of pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns and lots of coffee. We'd stuff ourselves at breakfast, and if we planned it right, didn't have to eat again until dinner.

Studio City welcomed me home a few days later, and I had to face the realities of getting a job, dealing with traffic, and handling demanding bosses.

But those days on the road will be forever embedded in my mind, when both Teresa and I were on the precipice of everything, and we fostered a special bond that we both cherish today.

teresa mcgrath June 26, 2012 at 02:28 PM
great article mary...it was the trip of a lifetime...i was going to sonoma state college, and my relationship came to an end...mary and i thought, let's travel for 2 months...i took a breather from college, still trying to figure out my career, haha...after mary bussed up to penrose, and hr north of s.f., we took another bus back down to s.f. and bought our tickets for the green tortoise...nothing like having mattresses instead of seats....lots of weed, hash, and alcohol made the rounds, save the bus drivers....love the folks on the bus...very diverse and fun...our actual hitching began in ohio where we stayed at a friend of my ex- girlfriend's ......visiting mom and eddie was fun, tried lobster for the first time and the infamous golf lesson...we made it to n.y. city with uncle bill and his wife jackie...they took us out to dinner at a fancy place, where we didn't understand the place setting manners, nor dress garb....we smoked hash with our uncle and aunt, then headed out to provincetown, massachusettes, the gay mecca....we stayed above a pool hall for $10 a night, and loved the cape cod environs....we visited n.y. again, plus boston, harvard, berkeley school of music, and radcliff, visiting friends....the drive away car for our trip home was fun....we were so tired in n. mexico, we slept in our sleeping bags during a frigid night, and were awaken by some people walking...they were shaking our car...we couldn't let them in...loved the trip with my dear twin!! hitching!
Mary McGrath June 26, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Gee, I forgot the chronology of some of these escapades. I remember playing pool in some small town, and the guy got mad because we beat him at pool. I remember the first room we stayed at in Provincetown seemed haunted so we switched to another room, had three ice cream cones, and we were upset that Provincetown was more of a ghost town since it was September and the tourist season was over. I recall seeing a deer crossing the highway in the middle of the night, unless that was an apparition. Thanks for the memories!
teresa mcgrath June 26, 2012 at 08:52 PM
playing pool was in provincetown...i forgot about eddie and the $, hahaha....plus being up late in n.y. city or boston with alan, music student, and friends...riding the rail/subway...seeing the clubs open til 0400...wow
Panglonymous June 27, 2012 at 07:50 AM
Nice one, enjoyed it (and the pics) a lot! Great flow...
Mary McGrath June 27, 2012 at 01:09 PM
Thanks Panglonymous...It was quite an adventure...
Andy Steiner June 27, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Traveling the country looking for our next home, was the original plan when we sold our house in 2005. Never made it further than Las Vegas. That's my only regret about the motorhome, that we never did roam America.
Richard Niederberg June 28, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Sounds like it was a great Road Trip. After graduating CSUN in 1975, I travelled the country for a few years before going to Southwestern University to get my Doctorate, My trips were nowhere near as exciting as yours, but I saw stageplays and art daily.
teresa mcgrath June 28, 2012 at 10:16 AM
thx andy and richard...everyone's trips are exciting...i'm glad people are able to do so, even if it never materialized or did...
Mary McGrath June 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Erika's aunt & uncle did that after they retired. Sold their home and hit the road for a year. Now that would be fun!
Mary McGrath June 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Sorry we didn't chat much at the picnic Richard. But I'd love to hear more about your adventures....You've made quite a name for yourself...I'm impressed...
Mary McGrath June 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Yes, we've all traveled different roads, all diverse and intriguing...

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