On a Greyhound to San Francisco

On a Greyhound to San Francisco


You can live on a Greyhound bus. It’s not easy. They have a habit of pulling into small places and dumping you off in the small hours of the night. But you can sleep, eat and watch the world. You meet a variety of people and you are kept at a nice temperature. They make regular toilet stops. The only thing missing is a shower.

We lived on the bus for a couple of weeks.

We headed out of Boston and up to Canada, stopping off at Niagara Falls for a peer over the rail at the spray and rainbows. Then it was up to Montreal where we wandered around and spoke French. I discovered that they didn’t understand me there either.

We headed off round the Great Lakes as the early fall colours were just starting up and blotching the green with patches of red and gold. Then it was back down into America and across the vast ocean of the plains with its rippling wheat like waves. At one point we saw a line of huge combine harvesters crawling across the land. There must have been fifty of them, each one in line a length behind the other, serviced by a stream of trucks carrying off the grain. You could imagine their journey relentlessly motoring forward at a steady pace, day and night, leaving a wide swathe of stubble in their wake.

He hopped off the bus to hitch through Yellowstone to see the bears, geysers, steaming pools, bubbling mud and algae/bacteria stained deposits. Then on to Grand Canyon for a half hour peer into the chasm.

We hit San Francisco late in the evening and decided it was too late to check out our address so we hopped a bus up to Sequoia for a sleep and took time to stare at those majestic two thousand year old masters of the forest.

Walking through Haight Asbury we were home again. They had names up on the Fillmore West for the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.

We were sick of Greyhound buses and needed a break.

Once again we found ourselves standing on a pavement with a scrap of paper looking for a fictitious person. The address did not seem to exist.

But this was the sixties (well 1971). Anything was possible.

A window went up and a girl leaned out.

‘Hey, you look lost,’ she shouted down to us. ‘Do you need a place to stay?’

We made new friends with Dave and Jack. They turned out to be the people who actually owned the place.

The Golden Gate Park and the Haight still had some of its magic. You could imagine the ‘Human Be-in’ and free concerts in the park. There was still the camaraderie and fun though the wheels were coming off, the hard drugs were there, the weekenders , young kids and junkies were all over the place.

We decided to head to Los Angeles. Given our experiences in Boston and San Francisco with addresses Jack offered to take us. We could have caught a Greyhound, we had tickets, but we decided to hitch, stop off at Big Sur and get down to this cove that Jack knew of called Pfeiffer State Beach.

It sounded cool.


16 thoughts on “On a Greyhound to San Francisco

  1. I used to go home on the equivalent of a Greyhound during boarding school holidays from Brisbane to Mt Isa. It’s a mind numbing trip of 2000+km’s through endless Oz desert, I was too young to appreciate the beauty back then. Conversely, friends of ours visiting from Finland chose travel by coach from Adelaide to North Qld 3000+ kms because they wanted a hands on experience of the ‘real Australia’ and they loved it. If you haven’t done it, it’s worth it just to have a different experience of travelling.

    1. It certainly gives you a different feel for the enormity of the land. It was an amazing experience. We more or less lived on greyhounds for two weeks. We slept on them and only got off at rest stops to get something to eat.

      1. We had many adventures on those buses. I remember we had an address in San Francisco to go too (another story) but got into SF late evening, too late to call round. So we go on another bus heading up the coast to the redwoods so that we could get some sleep. Had a look at the redwoods and came back to SF the next day.
        I’d quite like to do the same in Oz – though a car would be preferable.

  2. Something of your story doesn’t ring true though.
    In 1971 Jefferson Airplane didn’t even play in California, let alone the Fillmore West. In fact, they only played 4 US dates in total, one in Philadelphia and 3 in New Jersey.
    The Grateful Dead did play there twice, 5 March and 2 July 1971.

    1. From what I could tell that sign had been left up for some time. It seemed to be a historic relic harking back to better days. There certainly were no gigs on in the week we were there or we would have gone to them and my understanding was that the billing was from quite a while earlier.

      1. No way man. Just no way. I knew Bill very well as I worked the door at the Winterland in Frisco back that period. There’s no way he wasted his time on nostalgia stuff and there’s no way he’d be presenting signs for gigs past gone dead and buried. That wasn’t how he worked at all. He was all about the next and the next after that gig.
        Sorry man, but you are greatly mistaken on this.

  3. If the Airplane hadn’t played Fillmore West since October 14th, 1970, you never did see such a sign. Bill hosted shows almost every week back then and he didn’t even have the billboard space to so much as advertise the gig after next. So he certainly wasn’t using space for dead gigs. Just look up the photos of the theater for yourself and see just how implausible your story is. You can find photos of almost every single billboard that Bill put up at the FW from the day it opened to the day it closed on July 4th, 1971.
    I reckon you’ve mistaken the Airplane for Hot Tuna.

    1. I report what I remember seeing. You interpret it how you like. I’m not that fussed. I know what I saw. I remember it clearly as it was a gig I dearly would have liked to have gone to. But there you go. The story is a true recollection. Make what you like of it. I can only report what I remember seeing.

      1. As a keen collector of all kinds of California memorabilia from back then, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you saw nothing of the kind. In fact, the Airplane didn’t even play Fillmore West when it closed yet had made their big breakthru there in the first place. But Hot Tuna did play on these closing gigs as found on the triple LP release. You did maybe see a sign for Hot Tuna.
        You can easily fool yourself on this – sure you can as it’s your story. But you can’t fool the likes of me because I know for a fact that it did not and could not have happened.
        End of story.

        When exactly were you there? You didn’t say and that would make it even easier for you to clear up your mistaken recollections with photographic evidence of the Fillmore West billboards. As easy as Apple Pie.

      2. Firstly it was no billing for Hot Tuna. I was never a big fan.
        Secondly it was as I recall it a cinema-type billing with the names up like you’d get on a cinema.
        Thirdly I was travelling quite light but I did have an old camera – some box brownie type thing – and I did take some photos. I think we came back with one film’s worth – probably 24 – for the whole three months. I wasn’t greatly into taking photos back then and the camera was not that good. I believe some of those are in my 60s gallery that I put up on here – check out the main menu.
        I did not think to take a photo of the billing. I just noted it because it was pretty cool.
        We were there in August 1971 – towards the end.

  4. I make mention of Hot Tuna for very good reason. Firstly the band featured two ex-Airplane members and secondly was available on the FW billboard for all to see.
    You not being a fan of Hot Tuna is a no consequence to the fact of the matter. Neither was I, or the Airplane for that matter. They both completely sucked.
    Yup, I know the type face alright – the entire USA of theaters used the very same format. Some still do.
    I don’t need your photos! It was Bill Graham’s people who photo-ID’d every billboard that ever went up – as seen from the hundreds of billboard photos on the Fillmore archive for both East and West.
    The Fillmore West’s last date before closure – as I’ve already told you – was July 4th.
    Jefferson Airplane were nowhere to be seen and also by which time were settled nicely into New York City which was now their base. They used New York City as an easier spring-off point to fly to Europe, where they were more popular particularly in Scandinavia, Holland and Germany. They were by 1971, no longer a Californian band.
    The very last band to grace the Fillmore West stage was Santana.
    None of what you’ve said on this makes any sense at all and considering it was so many decades ago now I really don’t buy into your claims of remembering anything clearly as you said. That’s something of an impossibility. I could buy you remembering clearly something that was really life changing – such as being held up by a gunman robber or something, but something as inconsequential as a concert billboard? No ways.

    1. Big deal – same pattern. I know what I saw. I reported it. So if you’re not happy tough. I really don’t need the pedantic silliness. Anoraks are ten a penny. It’s being there that matters.

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