At the end of my first year of college in the summer of 1970, I decided to embark upon a personal odyssey to understand something about my past and how I had gotten to where I was in my life. Attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville had been a liberation in some ways, though still living at home discouraged me from being a part of any social scene at.the university.
I felt detached in many ways--an observer of life. Like I had felt when I was in high school. The concept of hitchhiking throughout the United States was daunting and yet I didn't give much thought to anything beyond the adventure of the journey. A transient's life held a certain assurance of staying detached, but it would also force me to be more confrontational when I needed to be. At nineteen I was an adult and needed to acquire a greater mindset of independence.
With my well-prepared backpack and brand new Coleman sleeping bag, I met up in the evening of the last day of classes another student who had a car. The student, whose name I don't recall, was going to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio where he would be working for the summer at the amusement park. He had posted for a rider to help him with gas expenses. Since I was going to Cleveland, I took this guy up on the offer since that was the closest ride I could find to my destination.
Summer weather had come to town. The warm day had become a warm evening. It was a good night for driving. I don't recall what kind of car it was--a late 60s model Datsun maybe. It was a stick shift and I'd never driven a stick. He was expecting me to help him drive. We would be on Interstate 75 most of the way.
The student drove for the first few hours until we needed gas. We were somewhere in Kentucky. He turned the driving over to me. It was a bit of a rough start, but once we were moving on the freeway he seemed satisfied that I probably wouldn't have to change gears for awhile and he could sleep for a bit.
It was the wee hours and I started to get sleepy. I rolled down my window but after awhile my driving companion indicated he was cold. He seemed kind of grouchy about it, but I could see he was pretty tired. I pressed on without the outside air and was fine.
By daylight we were in Northern Ohio. It was about 9 AM when we reached Sandusky. I unloaded myself, my backpack, and my new Coleman sleeping bag by the roadside across from the entrance road to the Cedar Point Amusement Park. I stood there and watched the student's car disappear up the roadway that led into the park.
It was sunny and starting to get hot. There I was at the side of the road on the outskirts of Sandusky, Ohio. I stuck out my thumb for the first hitchhiking ride of my odyssey. I was going to Cleveland.