Beary-Bear’s First Snow

T and I came back to California in the middle of January. Being used to the weather in Hawaii, I forgot all about how wet and cold San Francisco was, and was wearing short-shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops.

By the time I got off the plane and over to the baggage claim area, I felt as if I had walked into a deep-freeze unit in a cryo facility.

My friend Walt, who had published my Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds poster, picked us up, and kindly gave us a couple of extra jackets he had on hand. After spending the night at Walt’s, he drove us to the nearest freeway on ramp so we could hitch across the US – we were going to go visit my folks, who lived in New York.

We left Walt’s jackets, figuring we’d stop somewhere and get clothes. We didn’t get the chance to do so, though, as there were no shops near the freeway we needed to take.

We thought we had scored in a big way when our first ride told us he was going all the way to Arizona, but only a few miles in, his car started shaking like crazy and making weird noises. He pulled into a gas station to see about repairs, and we went back to the road and stuck out our thumbs again.

This time, our ride took us into the mountains. To Donner Pass. Where it was snowing. Where great blizzardy gusts of wind shook the car, and snow flurried so thick you couldn’t see past your nose.

Although we hadn’t gotten even as far as Truckee, he suddenly swung off onto a barely-there side road, and announced, “This is where you get out!”

Shocked, we found ourselves at a tiny gas station sitting back from the road, almost hidden in the woods. We watched in dismay as he slipped and slid away, making his own tracks in the fresh snow to whatever lonely destination there was down that track.

The gas station was closed tighter than a clam at low tide. We jimmied the lock on the back door, used the rest room, and grabbed some chips and candy bars. The heater wasn’t on. We left some cash on the counter and a note of sorry/thanks.

By this time I was so cold I couldn’t even cry. My skin was lobster red. What the heck had we been thinking? We were the epitome of stupid.

Instead of waiting by the onramp, where no one was coming, we stumbled right up to the freeway. We shivered and waited and shivered and waited, praying for cars to stop. But they flew past us as if the devil itself was chasing them, showering us with snow like confectioners sugar. Enormous soft clouds of it.

The freeway was a foot deep in icy snow. There was so much snow buildup that the lanes were getting narrower and narrower – from three lanes, now only two.

I got fed up with waiting, my thumb now stuck in hitch-hiker’s position. So I just ran out into the middle of the freeway and stood there. I should have known better – being from a snow-filled childhood back east, I still forgot how slippery the roads got. I guess my fear of being stuck there overnight over-rode my fear of a car hitting me.

Nonetheless, a car stopped for us. Off we went, being berated up, down and sideways for our outrageous stupidity at top volume by our driver.

We were on our way to feeling warmed up, at last, when he dropped us off in las Vegas on the doorstop of a thrift store, where we indulged in warm jackets, flannel shirts, heavy pants, socks and boots.


text and image: Beary-Bear’s First Snow
© Angela Treat Lyon 2023
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