Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brian On The Road ^

November 7, 1960

The girls were up and dressed when Brian woke. He quickly got up, pulled his clothes on and joined them at the breakfast table for coffee. He no sooner sat down when Margie said “Well? Where’s your map?”

Brian got up, fetched the map from his back pack and brought it to the table. Margie took it, unfolded it and the two girls poured over it.

“Which way are you going?” asked Mary Lou.


“He wants to get on 71. That’ll take him to Columbus.”

“Yeah, but he can by-pass Columbus if he goes down 42. It’s a slower road but he might have a better chance of getting picked up.”

“Yeah but he can by-pass Columbus if he gets out before it.”

“And then what? He gets tangled up in the beltway? He’ll never get off it, like Charlie on the MTA.”

“What are you talking about. He doesn’t have to get tangled up in it. There are ramps off of it.”

“Yeah but he doesn’t know where he’s going he could get off the wrong way.”

“He should follow the signs.”

“But what if there are no signs? Hey Brian. You got a compass?”


“Okay. I guess you’re right, as usual. Okay Brian here’s what you do.”

Finally they showed Brian his map and Margie pointed at it. “You take this road here. It’s a good road. You’re better off not on the highway. That would take you into Columbus which you don’t want to do.”

“What’s wrong with Columbus?” asked Brian.

“Nothing” said Mary Lou. “It’s a nice town but you’ll just waste a lot of time trying to get through it.”


“Then you have to get on 70. That’ll take you west. But be careful. The Ohio State cops don’t like hitchhikers.”

Brian didn’t know what he could do about that if he was going to be on a state highway. He had already dealt with the Massachusetts Police. He wondered if the Ohio Police would be as gentlemanly about it.

“Come on” said Margie. “I’ll point you in the right direction. Take your bagel.”

They left the apartment. Mary Lou gave Margie a kiss, then gave Brian a hug and said “Good luck. Keep in touch.” She turned and walked away.

Brian and Margie walked a few blocks and Margie pointed out an intersection of several roads and said “You want the one with the brick house on the corner.”

“Okay. How do I keep in touch?”

“Me. Chamber of Commerce, Cleveland. I’ll get it.”

“Thank you Margie. It was great seeing you again.”

“Good luck Brian. Don't look back.” She smiled, turned and walked away.

So Brian was now on his way south, out of Cleveland and headed for California once again. At first the road was a city street, not right for hitching. But Brian kept walking and after a while it became a suburban road with houses and lawns. Brian thought how much it resembled Waynsburg and he felt a little homesick. But then he thought about California and what he and Bob could do there and he felt good to be on the way.

After a few miles he tried to hitch again. This was a two lane road and he noticed that most of the traffic was going in the other direction. Monday morning rush hour into Cleveland, he thought. Some cars came his way but didn’t stop for him. Finally after another mile or so a car pulled over. He opened the door and the driver asked whim where wanted to go. Brian said he was eventually heading west. The driver said he could only take him a few miles as he was turning east. Brian said okay.

The driver had glasses and a grey well trimmed beard. Brian thought he might be a teacher, a professor of something, somewhere. “Where’d you start out?” the driver asked.


“Oh, you’ve come aways.”


“What are going to do out west?”

“California actually. My friend and I are going to start a film company, we hope.”

“What’s your name?”

“Brian Sims.”

“I’ll look for it.”


After a while the man pulled over. “You may as well get out here. My exit’s just up ahead.”

Brian thanked him and got out. Across the road was Liberty Diner. Brian decided to go in and have a coffee. He was still carrying the remnants of a load of Chinese food in his gut which he needed to be relieved of. It was easy crossing this road, not like the Mass Pike. He entered, sat at the counter and ordered a coffee, then went to the men’s room.

The Liberty Diner was a clean, neat and friendly place, not unlike thousands of such places all around the country, and Brian would see many of them.

The man behind the counter placed the coffee in front of Brian and asked if there would be anything else. Brian ordered a banana cream pie.

Brian sat having his pie and coffee and thought about his home in Waynesburg and about his Mom and Dad. They knew he was thinking of going to California but he hadn’t told them he was hitchhiking. His mother would be very concerned. He guessed he would have to send them a post card soon. But not yet. He thought about his sister Louise who was finishing up her undergraduate work at the University of Virginia. A Chem/Bio major, of all things. She could have gone to Barnard or Vassar, but she picked a big university setting. Probably so she could poke her nose into as many things as possible. Brian recalled the incident of the cave.

After a while he left the diner and went back across the road. He still felt like walking. There were enough cars on the road to make hitching on it worthwhile, but no cars were stopping for him. As he walked he admired the look of things, the houses, buildings, some interesting bridges, one in particular. So this is the Midwest, Brian thought. Not a bad looking place at all. Well, he thought, seeing the country is one of the benefits of hitchhiking across it.

He walked for hours. Nobody stopped to pick him up. The afternoon darkness was setting in and it was getting cold. He finally came to another diner and went in to warm up and have some dinner: hot dogs and baked beans. He finished off with another piece of banana cream pie.

When he went outside there was a street lamp on in front of the diner. Brian was very tired and didn’t want to walk any more so he stood under the lamp with his thumb out. But nobody stopped for him.

It was getting very cold and occasionally he would go back inside the diner to have another coffee, chat with the owner and warm up. For the next several hours it was back and forth to the diner and out to the road. At one point it started to snow. The snow was think and heavy and he imagined it would be difficult for anyone to see him even under the street lamp.

Brian didn’t know what time it was, but when he saw the light on the front of the diner go out he rushed back inside.

“I’m closing up” said the owner.

“So I see. I need a place to sleep.”

“You sure do. Go round the back and into the basement. There’s some cardboard packing crates. Push a couple of them together. You can sleep there for the night.”


“I open early” he warned.


Brian found the basement and the packing crates. He put them together, put his pack under his head and in no time he was asleep.


Tobe continued


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