It was during my 13th trip around the sun that I took my first road trip with friends of mine. I was always the youngest in the crowd at this time, but was accepted as one of the guys nonetheless. Thirteen sounds like a young age to be allowed to go on a week long road trip with friends, but it was completely acceptable to my “parental units” at this time. My mother knew all parties that were going on this little sojourn. After all, they all pretty much hung out at my house for a large percent of the time. My friend Jeff Preston, who was eighteen at the time, was the catalyst for this trip. His parents lived up in Mammoth and they were going to be in Europe for a couple weeks; so as all good teenagers do we put together a trip to exploit their absence. I have got to say, even though I was raised with a pretty long leash, I was still excited to get out of town with my buddies.
I must first explain our rag-tag group of characters, and how close some of us were at this time in our lives. Jason Foster, who over the years has remained my close friend, actually lived with my mother and I at this time. Jason and I had become close that year; our families had also became so ingrained in each other’s lives we just considered ourselves brothers. He basically came to spend the night once and stayed for the next four years. During this time in his life, Jason had a bit of magic to him. He was an elf like creature that always seemed to add a certain amount of mystique to all of our shenanigans. He’s the guy who taught me to drive stick, blow perfect smoke rings, my first memorable LSD experience, all the good parts of youth. Of all the folks who have walked through my life; him I’ve loved the most. Nigel Tucker, another close friend of ours was one of the most unique individuals you could ever run across. He had a very dry “Monty Python-like” wit that ran like an endless fountain. Back then Nigel wore a trench coat, had long black hair and beard, and looked downright frightening to those who didn’t know him. The truth is he is one of the sweetest and most genuine people you can ever hope to stumble across. Nigel always had a pun or dry one-liner at the ready to put a smile on your face. Lastly, there was Jeff Preston, the captain of the “luxury shit liner” that plays such a big part in this tale. He was eighteen and was the lease holding tenant of the apartment our whole crew would hang out at those days. Jeff’s apartment was the stage for many of our psychedelically fueled all-nighters, Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, gas mask bong sessions, and all the other ridiculous diversions we made for ourselves. That apartment should have been deemed a biohazard by the Department of Health. Jeff wore the Oxblood Doc Martens, Sisters of Mercy/ Bauhaus t-shirts, and had style that screamed “I am the perfect ratio of Goth and skater to be introspective and dark but still somewhat masculine.” He drove an old tank green Lincoln Continental (the shit liner) that gave his unique style another strange dimension. Armed with a unlimited 76 gas card we piled into the shit liner and hit the 15 north.
We all brought our guitars, suitcases, Nigel’s small bass amp basically everything except the kitchen sink. You could literally fit seven dead hookers in the trunk of that Lincoln. Straight out the gate we went through the Border Patrol checkpoint just south of Temecula and were flagged over to the inspection area. We had about a quarter ounce of pot I had gotten from my mother for the trip, and we were being pulled over for inspection. That was the first time I felt that sinking feeling in your gut when you’re holding, and about to be searched. Looking back now I totally understand why they pulled over a group of guys like us… Within minutes the whole contents of that trunk had been pulled out and strewn across the inspection area. They searched everything, even sent the dog through that monstrosity of a car, but nothing. Luckily, because of the training from my parental units, I had the foresight to open up the electronic panel on the back of my Fender Strat, put the contraband inside, and screw it back together. The guitar cases had already been looked through and weren’t in proximity of the car when they sent the German Shepherd through. So we repacked the boat and motored on feeling far too pleased with ourselves. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful and we reached Mammoth by nightfall. We had a mellow week of smoking pot and drinking beer on the porch and staring up into the snow covered mountains. Jason wasn’t much of a drinker at this time in his life had been consuming quite a bit of orange juice from an unlabeled container in the fridge. He was trying to keep his vitamin C levels up to fight off a bug he couldn’t shake. On the last day, Jeff asked him,“What container have you been drinking from,” his reply sent Jeff to the floor laughing. Jeff, hardly able to compose himself, informed Jason he had been drinking pre-made screwdrivers all week and was none the wiser. It was one of Jeff’s parents little quirks to keep a jug or two of pre-made screwdrivers in the fridge. Jason was a little goofy and tired the whole stay and had no clue he had been half buzzed the entire time.
The stay on the mountain had been good. A nice weekend getaway in the snow. But just as the old saying goes,“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” As soon as we left the top of the mountain we began experiencing car difficulties of mammoth proportions. One of the hubcaps and a few of the lug nuts came off one of the rear wheels and went shooting sparks down the night highway. The tire was giving the shit liner a warbling sensation you don’t want coming down a grade like that. The Lincoln ran sluggishly and we became aware of that sick car smell. At one point, part of the rear panel came loose and began dragging behind us down the mountain. We just took it easy the rest of the down the grade and stopped at a service station at the bottom of the hill in Bishop. They did a few quick fixes and we were southbound once again.
I am not sure the reason it was overlooked, but somehow we had not taken appraisal of the gas situation before starting through the Mojave. The Lincoln coasted for quite a ways through the quiet desert before coming to a halt. So there we sat, in the chill of the desert winter, dead on the side of the highway. As luck would have it, we came to a stop just an eighth of a mile from the access road to Boron Prison. We were stranded, fucked, a group of punk kids hoping someone would stop to lend a hand. But what kind of person in their right mind would stop to help a group of guys like us anyway ? That would be insane! We looked as if we just escaped from the prison and procured a getaway vehicle from the prison parking garage. Needless to say no help came that night, and this was long before cell phones. We had no options; we decided to act. We grabbed the boom box, put on Metallica’s Ride the Lightning and began pushing. Three guys would push while one steered, and we kept the rotation going in this manner for the next several hours. The desert sky was clear, cold, and beautiful; we were Hebrew slaves pushing a block through the Egyptian desert. The immense weight of that car was always regarded as a good thing to us. It was an added safety feature, but now we were cursing that damn albatross. Made in America ? At that point we were wishing it was a Toyota.
Metallica fueled us as we pushed on. As this story has been told to countless friends of ours it was nine miles, but I’m thinking it was more in the neighborhood of six. Cars would slow down and give us false hopes of gas cans and water; then speed off again. Needless to say, not one vehicle stopped that night. About dawn we finally reached the next town and pushed the “shit liner” into the service station. We gassed up, got fountain drinks, and washed off the sweat in the gas station bathroom. We arrived in Oceanside about nine the next morning with tired eyes and sore backs, but armed with a tale that would last a lifetime.
Where there is trouble you will find me.