The idea of going up north to Jerome began to take shape in our minds. On our final day in Tempe, besides doing some serious panhandling and preparing for our next adventure, we went to the Laundromat and made sure we had clean clothes. We wanted to start out as fresh as possible as we didn’t know what the next few days would hold.
When the next morning arrived we were itching to get started. It was a beautiful February morning filled with lots of promise for the day. Jerome was only about a hundred miles north: just a three or four hour journey.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Jerome was a hillside haven that appealed to counter-culture types like Hobo and me. Many people would come to Jerome, buying houses for a song, or sometimes just taking over the more neglected homes the town began building its reputation as an artists' colony, ghost town, and just a good place to hang out undetected.
On our way to Jerome we go a great ride from a guy who had a small farm just northeast of Jerome and would be going right by the Jerome turn off. He was afraid he was going to be really lonely with his wife being away for a couple of weeks and wanted us to come and stay with him to keep him company. We told him we really wanted to go to Jerome, but might drop by after we had worn out our welcome in Jerome. He gave us a map and directions in case we decided to take him up on his offer.
We arrived at our turn-off for Jerome and said our goodbyes to our new friend, letting him know we might see him in a few days, depending on how things went for us in Jerome. He reiterated to us that he really wanted us to come and see him.
Sixties Counterculture, Jerome, Arizona
We arrived around mid-afternoon. It was a rather small community, so there wasn’t a lot to see. There was a bar located on the corner where we’d gotten dropped off. It had a park bench just outside the bar, so we sat there for a half an hour checking out the people coming and going. As we were sitting there, our attention began to focus on the rows of abandoned houses that were located up along the hill on the other side of the street. We decided to take off and see if we could find a place to stash our packs or to camp out for the next few days.
We were amazed at how many empty houses there were. They were all in pretty bad shape; some of them really run down. After about 20 minutes or so we found the perfect house for us. It would serve as a place to crash and store our packs and that was about all–no running water, electricity, or any of the other comforts a home could offer. It was good enough for us, though, as our needs were quite simple.
Once we were settled in and felt safe about leaving our packs at our new home, we decided to walk back to the main street and explore what else the town had to offer. We met a few people but nobody seemed to be taking much of an interest in us. We were a little surprised, since this was such an out-of-the-way place. Jerome wasn’t a place where you just passed through. You got there because it was a specific place of destination.
It was getting to late afternoon; so we wandered back to the bar where we first started out earlier in the day. We thought we’d try our luck at panhandling in front of the bar. We wanted to go in and have a couple of beers, but didn’t have any money. As we were panhandling, people would give us funny looks, as if to say, “What do you think you are doing?” It was like an unexpected scene for them. It wasn’t long before we realized just how unexpected it was for them.
Feeling unwelcome, we decided to wander down the street and into the residential area of town. As we were walking along, we ran into a couple of Freaks who looked more like us and got into a conversation with them. They eventually invited us to their home where there were others who were just hanging out as well. We spent the evening smoking pot with them, listening to music, and munching on their food. They let us know that Jerome wasn’t really a place where people like us would do very well. They told us that Jerome catered more to the artist types: people who were there with some kind of purpose besides just hanging out.
As we were sitting on the bench in front of the bar once again, the local sheriff came over and began questioning us as to what we were all about and why we were in Jerome. We told him we were just traveling through. He was sort of a big, jolly guy, who kind of reminded me of Hoss Cartwright from the Bonanza television series. He let us know in no uncertain terms, though, that he had his eye on us.