Norden

Soda

1970.

My best friend ever, even though I haven’t seen him in over 40 years, and I get a hair up our asses and decided to hitch-hike to Sacramento. Usually it wasn’t a problem getting over Donner Pass, unless you got let off at Baxter, the biggest, meanest tourist trap in the Sierra Nevadas, especially when it snowed. It was not snowing today and we lucked out getting into Auburn. Rocklin and Roseville were okay, but you could never be sure how long you might be there, or if a train in Roseville might blow up nearby.

There was something I forgot when we got our first ride out of Reno. Shoes. It had been in the mid seventies and I was barefoot, I walked better without shoes, plus I was fucking stupid. By the time we got to Sacramento it was 98 degrees, equivalent to 1345 degrees beneath my soles. We get stuck at Watt Blvd, 16 lanes of shimmering hot. After an hour, just before the ¾” thick callouses on my feet begin to blister, we score the perfect ride, our host is headed to Fruitridge Road, BINGO!

We find ourselves at my friend’s sister, she lives on the corner of 52nd St and 52nd Avenue. We talk, play cards, fire up a joint or two, or four, Sangria wine coolers, and finally pass out under the swamp coolers mist.

We wake up early, it is just 75 out, my callouses are now fire hardened, as we set out east. Our first stop is Auburn Blvd, one step further from hell than Watt Ave. During our 90 minute wait we watched as the clouds grew thick and gray in the east.

We score a ride, the driver says she’s going to Reno. As we hit the summit she decides that she is going to see a friend and we wind up in Norden. We get out. It is snowing. I am barefoot. The snowflakes are the diameter of a quarter, there are thousands of dollars worth falling at once.

If my friend and I were driving over Old Donner Pass the Soda Springs Store would be a stop in both directions. The Freeway was complete and fewer cars were coming through, which actually made old US 40 more fun, unless hundreds of thousands snowflakes were falling.

Did I mention I was in cutoffs? We go into the store and politely ask the few customers if it were possible to get a ride to Reno. Soda Springs Station was a very friendly store; unless you were a tall skinny long-haired 19 year old wearing a t-shirt, cutoff 501’s and no shoes, during a snowstorm. In that case you were politely asked to leave. We could ask for rides but only outside of the store.

My friend gives me his right open toed sandal, he kept the left, as we stood like storks in a blizzard.

In about ten minutes we score a ride. It is with a bald headed businessman, and his wife. They are in their 50’s in a new Cadillac. Our attempts at small talk fail when suddenly he brings up the subject of abortion. I don’t know what triggered it. I was 19, it was the 70’s, I really had no views on abortion. We were quickly and zealously told of the horrors of abortion.

The debate continued from Farad to Keystone and at the end of the ride I was and still am pro-choice. I think I may have won the debate, the businessman, was a bit flustered as he let us out, his wife gave us a look as we shut the door, it seemed to be a muted thank you, but who knows. It is 6:00 pm in Reno as my bare feet hit the pavement, it is 76 degrees out, and my happy feet propel me home, on the condition that I never forget my shoes. I have kept my promise.

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