I completed – with surprising success – the 8-week course in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration – during which time I was promoted to Petty Officer 2nd Class – courtesy of the US Naval Reserve and the San Diego NTC. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in San Diego, and finishing the course meant a return to Aurora and inquiries into what would be required to take advantage of this training. It also meant a, hopefully brief, return to the boring job at Thor Power Tool Company. But before stepping back through the looking glass, I of course took the opportunity to return to San Francisco.
Air fare to and from the west coast was paid for by the Navy, but any travel expense I incurred in the time between was on me. Therefore, to cover the 600 or so miles from San Diego to San Francisco, I chose the most practical (meaning cheapest), if not the most expedited mode. All too familiar to me from my Navy days on the East Coast, I chose the Greyhound bus.
The 100 mile first leg of the journey, from San Diego to a late afternoon layover and bus change in Los Angeles, was a piece of cake. Arriving at Los Angeles, I spent my time tending to personal needs, buying an overpriced bus terminal meal, and acquiring a couple of magazines to supplement my book on the much longer leg north to the city by the bay.
It was getting dark by the time our bus left the downtown LA terminal, so there was not much to see as we rolled north. I read my book for a while before turning out the reading light and closing my eyes. I dozed off and somehow the nighttime hours passed. With the sun finally rising on what was now Northern California I woke to discover that we were stopping in the small town of Gonzalez, California, about 20 miles south of Salinas, and 125 miles short of our destination. Acquiring a quick relief, some much-needed coffee and a snack, I re-boarded and settled in for the remainder of the trip.
A notable thing about Gonzalez, California was that every business I saw from my bus window was named Gonzalez; Realtor, Café, Dry Goods, Attorney at law, Gas Station, and others. I speculated that also, somewhere not too far away, was a large house where the town’s proprietor (perhaps named Gonzalez?) lived.
Back on US 101, and now fully awake, I dug through my bag and pulled out the April 5 edition of Time magazine which I had purchased the previous night in Los Angeles. As I began to read I came across a rather prophetic article anticipating protests scheduled by a number of “radical” groups – in particular Abbie Hoffman’s “Youth International Party”. I read with some interest of the hopes these “Yippies” had of causing some sort of disturbance at the Democratic National Convention, to be held later that summer in Chicago.