Overfishing in the 1940s had closed Monterey’s canneries. Gone were the bars and people immortalized by two of John Steinbeck’s Great Depression novels and the only sign of life along Ocean View Avenue were two cats fighting over a mangled fish carcass, so I wandered away from the forlorn harbor toward the Presidio.
Two young soldiers guarded the entrance to the fort. America’s long involvement in Viet-Nam War was coming to an end and they held their weapons at ease. The three of us nodded to each other, then I adjusted the straps of his bags. The ocean wasn’t far away and I hiked across the wooded peninsula to the edge of a continent. Beyond the dunes of Del Monte Beach waves surged from the deep water. A dozen surfers in wet suits rode the thick green swells like gods from Atlantis. California was Beach Boy country.
On the broad strand sunbathers basked like oiled seals and young mothers watched their children playing in the shallows. I shucked off my leather jacket and heavy Fyre boots, then barefooted across the warm sand to the Pacific Ocean, ending my cross-country trip.
As clear ripples eddied around my ankles. I fought the urge to strip off my clothes. Being one with the four elements was better suited for a more secluded spot down the coast and I retreated to the dunes. Sitting on a charred log I brushed the sand off my feet and tugged on my boots, then checked my wallet. I had only spent $60 since splitting up with my friend in Lodi four days ago and was counting on the $1500 to last the summer.
My good friend was waiting down in Encinitas, but at the speed I was traveling, San Diego was more than a month away and I picked up my bags to resume my trek around the Monterey Peninsula.
For most of the 60s ABC’s Wide World Of Sports had aired the Bing Crosby Golf tournament at Pebble Beach and
I stopped to observe a foursome of golfers approaching a pristine tee. The first three landed their shots on the fairway. The last member of the quartet sliced his drive and the ball pocked off a nearby tree. The brightly attired duffer shouted out an apology and I waved to indicate that he hadn’t come close.
17 Mile Drive was too narrow for hitchhiking and I trudged into Carmel a little past 1pm. A nondescript Mexican cantina offered a taco lunch special and I ate two at the bar. I could have easily put down a third. A San Francisco Chronicle lay on the counter.
The previous evening Cleveland baseball fans had rioted at 10 Cent Beer Night and the California police were conducting statewide raids to find the kidnapped heiress, Patti Hearst. The FBI was offering $50,000 for information leading to her capture. Anyone with information of Tania’s whereabouts was saying nothing. The surviving SLA members had gone to ground.
Sean signaled for the check. The bill came to $2.50 and I tipped the dark-skinned waitress a dollar. The pretty girl wished me, “Via con dios.”
She waved good-bye through the window and I walked to the end of the block, and then turned right on the Pacific Coast Highway, where I stuck out my thumb.