In the summer of 1970 I was riding on top of a 1964 Ford Econoline Van that was speeding through the desert at over 75 miles an hour. George, Danny, and I were long term friends and recent high school graduates. We were taking a trip around the country before we headed to college in the fall. We had been driving cross country all summer.
We had just been driving for hours through the desert and scenic unpopulated areas of the Southwest. As we made our way into Arcadia California just North of Los Angeles a police car began chasing us. We could not hear them coming after us because Danny had rigged the sound system so loud that we could hear nothing around us. I was riding on top of the Van with my long hair blowing in the wind with headphones on. The song I want to take you Higher by Sly and the Family Stones was playing at very high volume boom lakka lakka boom . Below is a picture of our Van.
In retrospect it was an incredibly unsafe situation. I was leaning against a luggage rack that was basically sticking to the top of the Van with old dry rotted rubber suction cups. When we finally heard the police sirens and megaphone we stopped and pulled over. The two policeman were really pissed off. When I refused to let them search the vehicle the policeman then asked the driver Danny if they could search our vehicle. Unfortunately Danny gave them permission to search and after an extensive search they found a very small container of marijuana. They proceeded to arrest us and throw us in jail. George, our wanted to call home as it didn’t look like we were gonna get out any time soon. I prevailed upon George and Danny not to call home. We were able to speak with one another since our cells were next to each other and tried to figure out our options. I slept through breakfast every morning and was only eating part of a horrible dinner. I was getting incredibly hungry and claustrophobic. It was shocking to be caged in this jail cell like a monkey. After spending several months wondering the wide open spaces of the great American southwest I was now staring at 17 slightly rusted steel bars instead of the Rocky Mountains . I am allergic to wool and the bed was a piece of gray cut up canvas with a wool blanket that cut my skin and itched non stop. I was wondering what the future held. I had heard that the penalty for possession of marijuana was 20 years in prison back in 1970.
The police agreed to let us go for no apparent reason after only 3 days. When we got out of jail I took off running through some open park gulping in fresh air and the sense of freedom that only a caged animal can feel. We found our Van at the impound and it was totally torn apart. We reassembled it a little bit and were happy we had not called home for help and our captors had released us. Danny went out and bought an album from a group called Traffic who I had never heard of before. We got back in the Van and that night drove up the beautiful and scenic Route 1 under a full moon overlooking the Pacific Ocean .The moon caused the roaring surf to glow. All night long we played the Traffic album over and over again being mesmerized by the originality, uniqueness, and power of the music. Imagine the joy we had in being set free and listening to this historic album as we headed on to more adventures.