Anniversary Of College Football Road Trip During The Summer Of Love
How many of you have heard of the "Summer of Love," a period that existed in 1967 between the months of May and September?
That's right, flowers in your hair.
Consider for a moment that not everyone in the nation was a love child or actively participating in the "peace and love" movement at the time.
Some very ordinary people wanted to take a look at what was going on with this buzz about needing to go to San Francisco. It was said to be the experience of a lifetime.
In the summer of 1967 the opportunity to tour the USA on my bike arose from conversations with several old Navy buddies, some music lovers, and a family member.
Starting out in Dallas, going straight to San Francisco. Let's ride!
Along the way were several stops, most memorable were Santa Fe and Las Vegas.
It's hard to explain to someone how beautiful and calm Santa Fe, New Mexico is. It is easy to explain the noise of Las Vegas to anyone who has been there.
By the time we hit "Hip City" the Summer of Love was in full flower, no pun intended.
Having spent time in the city by the bay in the early 1960s, it was shocking to see what the town had turned into by '67.
Thousands of lost souls with dirty feet who looked like they not only didn't know where they were going, they didn't know where they had been.
Yeah, real cool.
At age 34, this old war horse "had his mind expanded enough before" to know this was not his cup of tea to drink.
Still, we needed some bread, so a couple of arrangements were made.
It's easy to draw a crowd if you yell loud enough and the audience always donates if plied to a willingness by whatever is being passed around.
Several buddies decided this was the place for them and the journey on the road proceeded with only myself and my cousin, Rocky.
That was July 17. 42 years ago today.
Hitting the road with enough dough to keep us in fuel if we took some time gazing at stars in the evening, and didn't mind what we ate.
Rocky had played the gridiron game growing up but was put out to pasture after a freshman injury at New Mexico State.
We spent a great deal of time going through the western portion of America, discussing life, the world, music, sports, women.
But, not necessarily in that order.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the trip was to visit college campuses and see what some of the schools we had heard about really looked like.
Utah as a state seemed sparse. A southerner grows up with sparse, it is hardly impressive when that is all you know.
What was impressive was Brigham Young University. A breathtaking experience but, they didn't have too many folks walking around that looked like yours truly.
The most astonishing site was the University of Colorado. A beautiful place, and seemed to be a world away from what we were accustomed.
But the Rocky Mountains are challenging, if not downright difficult, on two wheels. The people did not seem receptive to being invaded by strangers.
Invaded meaning someone who drives down the road near where they live.
Kansas–kindness. That is what comes to mind regarding the Sunflower state. Stops in Wichita, Lawrence, and Manhattan.
Neighbors were more than happy to share what they had. For that, there will always be a warm spot for the Kansas folk.
They sure make good pizza in Wichita. Don't ask why, they just do.
During these episodes a special effort was made to see the football stadiums, the practicing, and the work outs going on.
All of this was necessary, to cleanse the soul and clear the mind of the madness surrounding everything during the era.
Surely, somewhere, the serenity of normalcy had to exist in this country.
Revealing itself like a hay field being bound before Memorial Day, the wonder of the quest to search for the good in people filled each day along the journey.
Especially enjoyable were conversations with locals who knew about the upcoming football season.
In Provo, the talk was all about how the Cougars were going to pay back Wyoming for giving them one of their two losses the previous season.
It should be noted BYU was not able to get their revenge that fall. The Cowboys went undefeated, and faced LSU in the Sugar Bowl.
In Colorado, the instant dislike of anything Nebraska was obvious.
Being a big Cornhusker fan in the days of Bob Devaney, it was obviously best to keep silent.
Good thing too, later that season Colorado defeated Nebraska in Lincoln.
In Lawrence, Kansas there was a face to face meeting with the head coach of the Jayhawks, Pepper Rodgers.
The old Atlanta boy was amazed there was someone he could talk with that had a southern accent.
In the most humble and sophisticated way a fan could do, Rocky asked him "Ain't you the Pepper that played quarterback at Ga Tech?"
He allowed as he was but, said things had changed since his day.
He had been the assistant coach at Florida in 1963 when they brought in a player who would become the 1966 Heisman Trophy winner, fellow named Steve Spurrier.
Pepper had just arrived from being an assistant at UCLA in '66, where he had a QB named Gary Beban who was "good gracious good."
Four months after that conversation Beban won the Heisman Trophy.
One of the highlights of anyone's life is meeting Pepper Rodgers.
He still casts a giant shadow of influence on the game. One of his assistant coaches on that '67 Jayhawk team was Dick Tomey.
Today, Dick Tomey is President of the American Football Coaches Association.
So, three weeks had passed, the War (Viet Nam Conflict to youngsters) was still going on, the students still didn't like what the Dean's rules were, and law and order still seemed at odds with reality for a great part of the country.
But, we had sowed some wild oats, marveled at some great places, and were present for the launching of the college football season.
A season that saw a sensational new player named Orange Juice Simpson take Southern California to the National Championship.
Upon returning to the Lone Star state, there seemed little to do on the ride through Oklahoma.
Oklahoma is very important, to people from Oklahoma.
Looking through the book at a pay phone in Stillwater, (if you don't know what that is, it is a synonym for needing a date) a couple of old "acquaintances" allowed us to come by and make ourselves presentable.
From this experience the never ending question arose, how much does a new bar of Dial soap cost?
You should always have at least one spare bar of soap, that has not been opened, in case company stops by for the night.
Man, using someone else's wet soap, that's the pits.
Now you see why I could never get those dirty feet in San Francisco out of my mind.
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