In 2017, we were north of San Francisco, where we had just seen an old farmhouse that was used in WWII to watch the coast for enemy ships. The gem of history was amazing.
Then, we decided to continue further up to an overlook that supposedly had amazing views of the ocean. So, we meandered up the curved highway.
As we drove, my mind wandered. I felt my leg itch, so I reached down and scratched the scrapes I’d gained so far on the trip. As we neared the area of the overlook, we entered a heavily treed area — normally a source of comfort. But, at the start of the woods, there was a disassembled van. The engine was removed and tilted against the car like a lazy thief decided it was too much work. It had clearly been there for some time. Clearly cleanup crews didn’t often this way come.
Further up the road, we passed an old camper van — yellowish-brown with a couch sitting behind it like nature was their living room.
As we began the slope downward, we saw a sign pointing up to the left. “Penitentiary.”
A bit further, another sign stated that it was illegal to pick up hitchhikers. That instilled confidence.
Finally, we found parking near the little path out to the scenic overlook. Only one other car was there, and LaShera insisted that I investigate the spot before she and our 3 kids ventured toward their doom. (As Rambo says in Rambo 2, “I’m what they call expendable.”)
The path was a bit long. As I approached the view, I noticed a family of four — two adults and two kids — pointing, smiling, and snapping photos.
At first, they didn’t see me. Then, they did. Their countenances changed. Most notably, the mom, whose eyes became saucers. Her body language communicated discomfort as she drew her kids close.
They packed their stuff, watched me with a nervous head nod of acknowledgement, and rushed off to the car.
Back at the car, LaShera mentioned that the family didn’t waste any time leaving. And, in retrospect, it made sense.
I have always had a big head. So big, in fact, that I needed custom ordered helmets when I played football, and custom caps for recreation. For that reason, I most often used bandanas to keep sun off of my head and sweat out of my eyes.
I’m also a large man with broad shoulders. Six-foot-three.
But, there was one additional, important detail. Remember when I scratched the itch on my leg? Apparently, I nicked myself and didn’t feel the blood running down my shin and soaking into my white tube socks. Apparently, I had crossed my legs. Apparently, I had touched my light colored shirt with the hand that nicked my shin.In the moment, in the scenery, I paid no attention to how I looked.
By the time the family saw me, there was this huge, bald man with a beard, with a bandana on his head, sunglasses concealing his eyes, in raggedy camo cargo shorts, with dried blood up and down both legs and on his shirt.
They likely thought I was an escaped prisoner.