Have you ever wondered what happened to the hippies of the sixties? Not the ones in the news who committed crimes or acts of terrorism throughout the last few decades but the thousands who haven’t shown up in about forty years? As RT and I sped across the great plains on Interstate 70, we had no idea we were going to discover the answer to that compelling mystery.
We did find a few old hippies browsing around eastern Colorado but none to speak of until we landed in the absolutely delightful town of Boulder. I was beside myself. Famous restaurants and shops of all kinds surrounded quaint brick streets where artists of all shapes and sizes shared their wares with the general public. Even jugglers and clowns and other non-recognizable entertainers performed all up and down the shady avenue.
Whiffs of culinary delights from around the world teased us, luring us into a wonderful corner restaurant for dinner, but not before we began to notice that we had made the great discovery. Most all the old hippies (our age, actually) who didn’t make it in life are now ambling about the lovely streets of Boulder, Colorado. It looked as if they were not doing much of anything. In fact, I might bet that some still wore the same jeans they sported in the sixties, a few holes added. And unlike Willie Nelson, most pony tails were still intact.
We found the rest of them a bit further up the road—and the mountains—in Estes Park, the gateway to the Rockies. Having stayed the night in a wonderful little lodge-like hotel RT found on the edge of Boulder, we visited the awesome Boulder Falls and then cruised on up through the gorgeous countryside to Estes Park. Our first order of business being to take care of the gnawing hunger in our empty bellies, we walked up and down the Old West plank sidewalks reading outdoor menus all along the way. We settled on a small grill with outdoor seating where we could enjoy the food and the panoramic scenery of the Rockies at the same time.
The first old hippie we met in Estes Park was our waiter. He seemed to have no clue where he was or what he was doing there. Words sort of slid out of his mouth…very slowly. His eyes were a bit glazed. After we sat at our little table and looked around for about thirty minutes, he wandered up to us and murmured something unintelligible. The pen he held was shaking like the Aspen leaves Colorado is so famous for.
RT was happy to see that the menu included hot roast beef open-faced sandwiches, one of his favorites, particularly when traveling. While I struggled to decide what I was going to order, he patiently watched another leftover hippie tune up his guitar there on the deck. Yay, we were going to be entertained with music from our teen and college years. Perhaps a little Bob Dylan, Donovan and Joan Baez would be included. But then, the musician’s girlfriend showed up and they discussed something about their obviously strained relationship which postponed our entertainment for at least twenty minutes or so.
It was probably because of that postponement that we realized the waiter hadn’t come back out in at least forty-five minutes. Other diners had noticed his absence as well and were expressing their displeasure rather loudly. Finally, RT walked inside to find the waiter who rather dreamily agreed that he was a bit behind schedule.
Finally, the musician began to play and sing—very well, I might add—and the waiter brought our order. We were very happy campers until RT noticed that he had no mashed potatoes which he had very clearly ordered. This time RT actually caught the waiter’s attention and asked if he could bring the mashed potatoes he had forgotten. RT couldn’t possibly eat a hot roast beef open-faced sandwich with neither French fries nor mashed potatoes. I understood his problem quite well as did all the other diners who complained about worse issues than missing potatoes.
The dazed waiter stared at the plate while RT explained the issue of the missing potatoes as if my husband were giving him directions to build a nuclear bomb. If I remember correctly, the waiter mouthed something like, “You wanted potatoes?”
RT said, “I ordered mashed potatoes. Where are they?”
“I dunno.” He slowly walked away pondering the question as if it were the mystery of the ages.
RT and I looked at one another. “Well,” said RT, who didn’t like to complain. “I’ll just eat the roast beef and enjoy the music.”
About that time, a guy pulled up to the deck in a pickup truck and blew the horn. The musician put down his ancient guitar and walked over to the rail to talk to the visitor. After a few minutes of conversation, the fifty-ish musician picked up the guitar, jumped over the deck railing and took off with the guy in the pickup truck.
I have no memory of my food, but apparently it tasted pretty good. RT only half enjoyed his roast beef without potatoes until he suddenly stopped eating and stared at his plate.
I looked. Lo and behold, far beneath layers of roast beef, gravy and bread was hidden a nice little lump of mashed potatoes. I’m sure RT ate more than usual that day just to get some potatoes in with the roast beef. He wanted to apologize to the waiter but I warned him that the poor guy was too stoned to understand or either his brain was as fried as that egg on television.
We decided to stroll down the street a bit to walk off the calories and see the sights of Estes Park which we could have easily seen from where we were…except for one attraction in particular. Just ahead of us, standing on the street corner holding the leash for a gigantic white poodle, stood a woman dressed in a bright pink clown suit with huge white gossamer wings on her back. She was rather hefty with lots of lumps herself and sported what I can only describe as wild, yellow blonde hair.
RT said, a bit too loudly, “Look, MT! Go stand beside her and I’ll take your picture.”
“No,” I whispered, suspecting the woman had escaped from a loony bin or perhaps a traveling circus had left her behind. “Walk faster, RT.”
“She’s a tourist trap. Probably selling those balloons she’s holding in her other hand.” RT was already fiddling with his camera, preparing for a shot to please National Geographic. WebShots was a thing of the future.
“No,” I continued to whisper. “She’s not here for entertainment. I have a feeling she’s real. She could even be dangerous.”
“Nobody would dress like that for real,” replied my very pragmatic husband.
“I think she does.” I kept my eyes on her at all times, hoping and praying she wasn’t hearing what RT was saying. He kept his eyes on her as well, camera in hand, waiting for her to belt out a song or start tap dancing.
Finally, when she did neither and just crossed the road with her genetically mutated poodle, he gave in and agreed that she was real. We may have found the strangest and happiest lost hippy yet. And yes, we did take pictures.
PS…I have also discovered many old hippies in various regions of our continent and beyond who have gone on to make a powerful impact on the world around them once they found the Way.