It was mid-December of 1972. We were into our second day in Florida and as we were traveling down the highway we spotted an orange grove and asked the driver to stop the car and drop us off. We headed for the Orange Grove and then sat there for a good hour just eating those delicious oranges. After we had our fill, we filled our backpacks with oranges and for the next couple of days that’s all we ate! I must say, my system was completely flushed out after that.
Our goal that day was to head for the ocean and find a place to camp and enjoy the Florida Gulf Coast. We ended up at a beach near Clearwater where we spent the late afternoon and evening smoking pot and hanging out with other hippie-looking characters. As the evening wore on, we found a nice secluded spot, made camp, and went to sleep.
In the middle of the night we were awakened to the realization that we were soaking wet. It had begun to rain very hard and our sleeping bags were thoroughly soaked. One of the people we had been hanging out with the previous afternoon was parked close by in his camper trailer, so we decided to knock on his door and see if we could spend the remainder of the night with him. He was kind enough to let us in where it was nice and dry, although we were still thoroughly soaked. This was one of the hazards of being on the road that we hadn’t really encountered up until now. When we were at the Rock Festival we were able to stay in someone’s tent to keep dry.
By late morning, the rain had stopped and the wonderful Florida sun began to shine and we were able to lay all of our stuff out in the warm sunshine to dry out. We spent the next couple of days just hanging out, eating our oranges, and generally having a good time. It was a very refreshing and relaxing time for us.
After a few days of just taking it easy on the beach, we were itching for some city life, so we decided to head east towards Tampa for a few days. It was a short trip–about 30 miles. So we stuck out our thumbs and away we went. I was also anxious to check on my mail. I had lost my ID card and had called my mom to send me my birth certificate. We would always use General Delivery boxes in whatever city we thought we might be going to. Sometimes this didn’t always work out and we would have to put a forwarding address to the next city we thought we might be in. I was still corresponding to the gal from Minnesota and always enjoyed getting a letter from her.
Upon arriving in Tampa we began to look for a park to hang out in to meet people–other hippie, freaky-looking characters like us. Oftentimes, this would be our mode of meeting people and finding out what was happening. There was usually plenty of free dope floating around. Sometimes we’d find a spot on a street corner and just keep our eyes open to what was happening around us or we’d find a bar that was frequented by hippie-looking characters.
Most of these kinds of places almost always provided avenues of getting to know people and being invited to wherever they were partying and getting high. We would then become a part of their band of friends floating from one house to another until we knew we were on the verge of wearing out our welcome. And then we would be on our way to another city doing the same thing all over again.
It was amazing how many times people would just come up to us and begin talking, wanting to know what we were all about, where we were going and what we were doing. Again, Hobo could talk himself into almost any situation and I would be more than happy to tag along. I was never able to master the art of bull the way Hobo did. He was great at it.
Over the next few days we met a few people whom we ended up hanging out with. This led to meeting their friends and partying with them, but we would always seem to end up at the park late at night with nowhere else to sleep. However, we were able to find a fairly nice secluded area in some bushes near the outskirts of the park that worked out fairly well for a camp.
We’d been in Tampa for about four or five days just hanging out and meeting people. We had also found a couple of good spots to panhandle that netted us enough money each day for coffee, food and cigarettes. It wasn’t one of our better times, but we were enjoying ourselves as we hit the streets each day and even scored a joint every now and then.
As we were standing in front of a convenience store one day, we met a couple of real grungy, hippie-looking dudes who reminded me of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers from the comic books that we’d read from time to time. They seemed to be taking a genuine interest in us as we began to exchange stories about being on the road. As it turned out, they’d hitchhiked around quite a bit as well. We mentioned to them that we’d been staying near the park down the street and were looking for a place where we could get showered and cleaned up a bit. After shooting the breeze with them for an hour or so, they invited us to their pad and said we could spend the night there if we wanted. With both of us really wanting a shower, we decided to take them up on the offer.
We ended up spending the evening smoking pot and telling stories. Their pad wasn’t much to speak of. It was really dirty, grimy and smelly. It didn’t look like they’d done any dishes for a week or so. There were dirty dishes piled everywhere. We also noticed there were cockroaches everywhere, especially in the cupboards. If we didn’t know better we would have thought we were hanging out with the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. Needless to say, when morning rolled around, we were ready to leave. The filth was just too much for us. We had also decided that we’d had enough of Tampa and were ready to hit the road again.
After stopping by our favorite convenience store and panhandling for breakfast, we found our way to the freeway onramp to wait for our first ride of the day. We didn’t really have a destination in mind other than working our way towards Miami. As long as the ride was headed in that general direction, we were content.