After a 60-hour drive, he fell out of the car in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Aptos. The minister and the chairman of the Board of Deacons came out to welcome him and show him his new digs in the deacon’s mother-in-law apartment.
Six months earlier, he had responded to a flier that was posted in the college chapel and joined the Tentmakers, a religious organization that matched college students with summer jobs. In return for finding a summer job for him, he agreed to work as a volunteer in the local church. The model for this program was St. Paul, who supported himself as a tentmaker as he spread the gospel to cities around the Mediterranean Sea. That was more than 60 years ago. Today, mother nature is using nationally broadcast news to remind him of his stay in California. Now, flooded beachfront properties in Aptos, where he lived in 1960, are appearing on national television.
It was a gap year after his sophomore year in college during which he lived near Santa Cruz on the north side of Monterey Bay. Aptos is a tourist hamlet situated right on the beach, at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains about 20 minutes from the city of Santa Cruz.
He traveled to California by car with three friends. They left Marshall, Texas the first day of the summer break and drove, nonstop, for 60 hours. The evening of the third day, they arrived in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Aptos.
During their marathon drive, they turned south at Flagstaff and drove through Oak Creek Canyon to Sedona and on to Jerome. Sedona hadn’t gained a reputation as a spiritual portal then, but Jerome was a former copper mining town reimagined as an art colony. They drove up a narrow Jacob’s ladder road to get there. It was on a mountainside so steep that the jail, which was originally built above, had slid down below the road.
In Los Angeles the map offered two routes, U. S. Route 101 and State Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Route 1 was shorter, so they chose it and somehow reached their destination without sliding into the Pacific. En route they encountered the opposing breathtaking vistas, maritime and mountain, as well as bulldozers, strategically located to restore sections of the highway that occasionally crumbled into the sea.
After he unpacked in the bedroom that he would call home for the next few weeks, he showered and took a nap before attending the weekly prayer meeting where the pastor introduced him to the congregation. A member of the congregation loaned him an old Ford, because life there was impossible without a car. The next morning his new minister took him to an orchard near Watsonville, where he went to work thinning apples. He was the only English speaking worker in the orchard. Every few hours a member of his cohort would shout, “Poco Tiempo!,” then they would all climb down from their ladders to rest and hydrate.
He didn’t take to his new trade, and the following Monday his pastor took him to the cemetery in Santa Cruz. Summers were dry there, so the boss reassigned one of the cemetery workers from grave digging to irrigating until the rainy season started. The ground was so dry that it demanded a jackhammer to excavate each new grave, so he acquired a new skill. At the end of the dry season, the irrigation specialist became available for grave digging, and the new guy became redundant.
He told his minister that he was considering staying on to help in the church for one school year. The pastor suggested they pray about his decision, so they retired to his study, accompanied by the deacon, where the pastor made a bargain with God. If he found a job and a place to live within the next week, they would take that as a sign that he was meant to stay. Turns out, God meant him to live there for another adventure-filled year.
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