When Dad turned 62, he and Mom retired, sold their house in Rock Island, and moved back to their home state of Indiana. They told me that I had to come out by August to pick up any of my stuff that was still in the house, or it would go to Goodwill.
I wanted my desk, two chairs, a couple of books, two paintings, and some other mementos.
And Lane had never been out of California, except to visit me in the Midwest and some trips to Europe and Israel. Time for a road trip!
The only problem is, after a lifetime in Los Angeles and over 20 years in West Hollywood, even Ojai seemed intolerably homophobic to him. And we would be driving through some of the scariest, most conservative, most homophobic states in the country.
"Well...I do like cute redneck farmboys."
Lane agreed to the Great Redneck Roundup of 1995:
Day 1: Phoenix, Arizona
This one was easy. We stayed with a couple Lane knew, transplants from the gay Jewish community in Los Angeles, who took us on a tour of Phoenix's gay neighborhood and later invited us into their bed. Sausage Count: 2
Day 2: Flagstaff, Arizona
After seeing the Grand Canyon, we drove down to Flagstaff to spend the night. At a gay-friendly bar, we hooked up with a young Hispanic guy who worked as a waiter. Sausage Count: 3
The heart of the Mormon world. We were getting cocky, figuring that we could pick up a guy anywhere in Redneck Country, like on the campus of Brigham Young University. Bust.
Day 4: Laramie, Wyoming
In a few years, the murder of Matthew Shepherd would make Laramie famous as haven of homophobia, but in 1995, we were just thinking cowboys. We went to the campus of the University of Wyoming, visited the Art Museum, and the Museum of the Plains.
Nobody in Laramie, but on the road: when you go to a rest stop at dawn, there are always a lot of trucks parked, where the drivers spent the night. Curious, I walked among them. One of the doors was open, and the driver was sitting inside, legs spread, waiting for a passerby to strike up a conversation -- and be invited into the cab. He turned out to be from Chicago, into kissing and oral. Sausage Count: Boomer 4, Lane 3
After four days in the Straight World, it was a relief to get to Denver, with its strong, well-organized gay neighborhood. And meeting guys was easy. A South Asian guy named Ravi took us back to his apartment.
On Day 6, we toured the Museum of Decorative Arts and then met Ravi and his friend Jason for dinner. We all went to a ballet at the Opera House, and then back to Ravi's apartment again. Sausage Count: Boomer 6, Lane 5
Day 7: Omaha, Nebraska.
I wanted to see the old places I knew from my month in Omaha with Fred. And found that saying "I'm from West Hollywood" attracts guys as readily as saying "I have a gigantic penis." We hooked up with a Cornhuster, an extremely buffed former University of Nebraska football player who now worked as a college recruiter. He was an anal bottom. Sausage Count: Boomer 7, Lane 6
Day 8: Des Moines, Iowa.
Thomas, the gay Episcopalian priest who took me to my first Gay Rights Rally in 1981, was still living in Des Moines, a Silver Daddy who still managed to attract Cute Young Things. We "shared" his latest boyfriend. Sausage Count: Boomer 9, Lane 8.
Along with visiting my parents and brother, packing up and shipping my stuff, and going to my old haunts, we had time to hang out with my old friend Dick and his partner. I also sent Lane out to JRs by himself, so we would be even. Sausage Count: 11
Day 12: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
We saw the famous Stave Church and went to a gay bar downtown, hoping to hook up with a Viking. Instead we hooked up with a black guy on the downlow, whose wife was an English professor at the University. Sausage Count: 12
Day 13: Rapid City, South Dakota
We were so tired from driving and seeing Mount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument that we forgot to cruise. Bust.
Day 14: Billings, Montana
We ended up in Sturgis, South Dakota, during the famous Sturgis Bike Rally. Hundreds of hot motorcycle guys riding around shirtless, beer in hand. But there was no place to stay in town, so we had to drive on to Billings, Montana. Again, too tired to cruise. Bust.
Day 15: Missoula, Montana
We loved Missoula. A very nice art museum, historic churches, antique shops, bookstores. I saw one of the most beautiful men on Earth fishing off a bridge, a cut-off t-shirt revealing enormous biceps. Lane stayed at the hotel, saying I could hook up by myself, so I went to a country-Western bar and met Jared, a real, actual cowboy (or so he said). Sausage Count: Boomer 13, Lane 12
Day 17: Spokane, Washington
It was scary driving through Idaho, where the anti-sodomy law brought a maximum penalty of life in prison. But then we arrived in Spokane, Washington, a little gay mecca, drawing gay guys from all over the redneck states. They were low-key, closeted; no "real" gay bars, but lots of gay-friendly bars and restaurants, and a lot of "street cruising." But we didn't pick up anyone. Bust.
Day 18: Portland, Oregon
A gigantic gay mecca, with a bathhouse that took up nearly a city block and a nice country-western bar. We did some cruising separately at the bathhouse (3 guys for me, 4 for Lane so we would be even). Sausage Count: 16
Day 19: Redding, California
Two days left, 4 guys to go. We pulled into Redding, a town of 90,000 near the Oregon border and Mount Shasta, where Bigfoot has been sighted. There was only one, small gay bar, and it wasn't very active.
"We can pick up the rest in San Francisco," Lane pointed out.
"Sure, but we're supposed to be getting guys in the Straight World, cowboys and truckers and rednecks."
I went up to the bartender and asked "Do you know of any clubs where you could meet several guys tonight?"
He told me about a bear party going on that night in a place called Happy Valley, where we got our remaining four! Sausage Count: 20.
Day 20: San Francisco, California
When you drive into town from the north, you go over the Golden Gate Bridge, an iconic San Francisco moment. We were too overwhelmed by being home, in the heart of the gay world, to bother with cruising. But we had already had 8 dates or "sharing" experiences, 4 bar hookups, 1 public encounter, and 7 guys from bear parties or bath houses, for a total of 20 sausages in 20 days.
Oh, and we saw the Grand Canyon, too.