Tuesday, February 23, 2021



May 1974

The record collector did not have success in Grand Junction and seemed blue about the lack of luck. It is hit or miss he tells us.  “Sometimes there is a bonanza.  Not today.” We hear a good deal about the tribulations of being an itinerant record collector.  I listen puzzled about why he chose this line of work or hobby if the very activity of driving about and sleuthing brings him down.  Strange; driving cross country, stopping in towns, looking for old records. When I asked him why he does the collecting, he snorted a noise and waved his hand forward. “Long story” he said.

Because he is headed for Las Vegas, the driver will stay on I-70 once we pass a town called Green River. At that point, I will hop out and veer North on route 6 on my way toward Salt Lake City.  It is late in the afternoon now and I figure that we will hit the junction of 6 and I-70 with about an hour left of sunlight.

Of all the places I remembered on this journey, the stretch from Fruita to the Utah border, and the next 70 miles or so to Green River was the most desolate.  More desolate than even Nevada.  There was nothing west of the Colorado/Utah border on I-70.  No exits no gas stations, nothing. The signs that we saw were for Green River and because of the absence of everything else, Green River seemed like it would have to be a haven, a large town of some sort.  A few hours earlier I’d considered (and begun) walking from Colorado to Utah to avoid the cop’s warning.  Had I continued on that walk to the promised land of Utah I would have died since for seventy miles past the border, I did not see a single human made thing besides other vehicles until we got to Green River.

My hitch-hiking partner opened up during this journey through nothing.  From Baltimore originally, he’d had it with college, his parents, his siblings, his fair-weather friends and was seeking some place where people were, “you know, true.”  Fellow’s name was Billy and Billy did not seem to like much of anything.  During the time we were on the ramp in Fruita he had not said much though he often spoke disparagingly about the vehicles that passed us.  “Bleeping station wagon”, for example, “Bleeping Chrysler. 

“Let me tell you something about Chryslers. Forget about Chryslers.”   

The driver seemed to be developing a connection with Billy, muttering “I know what you mean” regularly after some comment about a problem with this or that. “Don’t talk to me about guidance counselors” he said a couple of times in a row when Billy discussed how he had wound up at “the wrong school.”  “Just don’t talk to me about guidance counselors.” The driver said again.

We arrive in Green River expecting gold in the streets after all the signs and found it hardly worthy of our anticipation. There was a gas station with an attached grocery.  Across the street from it were a couple of stores and around this hub were homes scattered in an elevated area.  Green River was a something in the midst of nothing.  They were not going to get a major league baseball franchise. Doubt if there were enough kids to field a single little league team and I wonder now where the kids went to school.

Billy and the driver were up in the front and began to schmooze like old buddies.  I was glad, and so were they, that I’d be leaving the car when the road split.  When it did, we said our goodbyes and I was not out of the car for a few minutes before another car stopped.  I was disappointed to hear that he was only going a few miles down the road but was nevertheless considering taking the ride, when not one, but two other cars stopped.  I’ve done a good deal of hitch-hiking in my day and this spot, though I was only there once, has been the luckiest.  I guess if you have been driving through nowhere and you are about to pop because you have had nobody to talk to or even see except the soul selling coffee and pumping gas and stocking the shelves in the superette in Green River you might get itchy for some conversation.

I had my rule about not taking a ride after dark and there was probably only an hour before the sun would be down for good. It was great news that I now had my pick of rides.  One of the drivers was going all the way to Salt Lake City and I thought that this was one lucky moment as I threw my gear into the backseat and hauled my body into the front.

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