In 1965, a young and beardless Gordo Harris hitched a ride from Tucson Arizona to the coast of California. The beautiful and refreshingly confident young Mary Noble was his driver, headed to a Beatles concert in San Diego with a girlfriend. Gordo was happily crammed in the back of her tiny Karmann Ghia with his knees up around his ears, and took in the scene with pleasure. Mary was a ‘lush’ he’d always admired, so while the free ride wasn’t all that comfortable, it was free, and he figured it was a huge bonus to get to chat. He sat back and listened as the voices of these young women whipped out of the open windows and the wheels below his bony arse rolled them over the desert, from the familiar saguaro cactus gardens of home, all the way to the crystal sea coastline of California.
Gordo didn’t go to the Beatles concert with Mary that year. Though he would have liked to, he couldn’t afford it. And she’d already been on a date with him before: she drove, and they split the bill. Anyhow, Mary didn’t have a free Beatles ticket for him that day, so he bid her adios where he climbed out at the highway. As he watched her speed off down the road that day, he probably noted that she wasn’t wearing a seat belt, and that he looked forward to seeing her again one day.
At such a time in their youths, neither Mary nor Gordo would have entertained the idea that this would be the first of many more road trips to come. They’d known each other in high school, but with college finishing up they were both off to seek their own destinies in the world beyond. Still, Gordo really felt … there was something about Mary.
Years passed, revolutions happened. Hippies sailed to Australia in search of a new world. Family and friends were fare welled in the USA. Life started anew in wild and wonderful ways. This was of course, the 70s. Eventually, to cut an exciting love story short, these two individuals ultimately met up again in Coloundra. It was the Sunshine Coast of Australia, and life was beaming. Gordo had a beard. Mary had a bed. The rest is history and a whole lot of it! But the road trippers united for life that night, and have been traveling in tandem ever since.
These days, Gordo still sports a beard, though its white and and a bit less woolly now. Mary, incredibly, still bounces by with an all natural brunette bob, only wisps of grey framing that joyful face. The two of them have gone through life together, traveling the world with their babies in backpacks or on the back of bikes. They’ve traversed magnificent mountains, run through forests that rained leeches, they’ve basked on glorious beaches and pedaled through mad traffic in crowded Asian streets. These intrepid travelers have traveled many roads together. And they did it all with kids. Indeed, they are the original vagabonds!
In 2017, the old… ahem… original vagabonds united with the next generation fam. As the Wittys descended onto US soil (part way around their planetary jaunt) the hippies patiently waited at the hideous LAX. And after several grueling hours in customs (including a full nappy explosion at the immigration desk), three travelers emerged, and an epic road trip began.
The motley crew of 5 drove across about 10 states. They flew a few too! They visited relatives and loved ones, met up with old friends and made new ones. This time they started on the Californian Coast… but it wasn’t in a Karmann Ghia. Gordo had a bit more room this time.
He was still in the back a fair bit. But in this huge white people mover, lovingly named “the Igloo”, Gordo had a bit more room for those lengky legs… and a few odd habits he’d also grown throughout the years! In the back of the Igloo, among a swag of toys for young Atlas, you would often find Gordo with his toys: earphones humming away the latest audiobook on file, ice chests full of baby spinach and several half eaten carcasses of cooked chicken, paperbags full of corn chips and Cheetos, multiple vessels carrying various concoctions of watered down Pepsi max… and plastic bags. Plastic bags in every cranny you could cran your eyes in! Ah there’s something about Gordo too, you see.
And how I love him so.
Over two months, the 5 vagabonds made many miles and made many, many smiles. Thanks to two old hippies, the wandering gang were welcomed into the homes and hearts of all of those family and friends who Gordo and Mary had left back in the USA in the 70s. On this trip, the young vagabonds were taken on a trip of trippers.
They literally drove through history. They learned of events that happened in this neighbourhood in the 50s, heard of friendships that formed in that bar in the 60s. They wound through the deserts, hiked into the canyons, walked through the national parks and held the family that formed the interesting lives of these original vagabonds. All those wonderful people, and this beautiful country, in all of its tragedy and glory, displayed itself wildly and proudly to the Vagabond 5. And they loved it.
The two hippies have left the Atlas Vagabonds now. They have left the old country for Fiji, and homeward bound to their beloved Darwin, Australia. But they have left many memories in the hearts of the Wittys who remain here. We love them. And we thank them for this trip. It really was… a trip.
ps. Gordo doesn’t always sit in the back. But he does let the Bison *nisob* go in front.