During my third year at Cornish College of the Arts I was living in a sub-basement storefront space on Pike Street between Broadway and Twelfth Avenue on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The old wood-frame mixed retail/residential building was fairly run down, and the inside of my rental space reflected that. The large glass windows along the sidewalk let in almost enough light to paint by, and in back I had a small living area. It was a spartan existence, complete with cockroaches, a hotplate that was run off an extension cord through a hole in the wall to the empty space next door, and a bed. It was a starving-student artist’s life.
After deciding to drop out and go traveling I let the storefront go and put all my stuff into storage at different friends houses and lived that summer out of the back of my mail van that I had acquired to transport my large paintings back and forth between the college’s facility and home. I was a vagabond in an urban jungle. Always looking for a place to park for the night where I wouldn’t be seen. Plotting my moves to the next meal stop. Waiting, waiting and waiting for the time to go by.
Around autumn I’d had enough. I packed my mail van full of what art projects and possessions I could fit and left the rest behind. I headed north to the Anacortes-San Juan Islands Ferry terminal parking lot. I was born, and had grown up, in the San Juan Islands, and we still had family land there. It was there that I eventually intended to go, but for now, I parked my van in a side lot and made some simple preparations for leaving on an extended journey that would eventually take me on a freighter across the Atlantic, backpacking through Greece, and down the Nile through Egypt. I packed clothes and a beater guitar and my Pentax Spotmatic F camera into a backpack and stuck out my thumb, heading for Vancouver B.C., Canada. It was October 1978. I was 26. I realized I was taking a chance that my van would not be there when I got back, but I weighed the consequences, and left.
I had done a bit of rail riding previously, and it was my intention now to try my luck at hopping an empty boxcar on an eastbound freight for the eastern states.
First get to Vancouver and find the trains.