NYC to San Diego mostly by Thumb, Good Times Between
Yes, this is a long one, I hitchhiked from NYC to San Diego and had to write and post this all at once due to lack of time along the way, good times will do that. So starting with Superbowl Sunday in NYC...
Tasting our homebrew amongst a crowd was great, everyone seemed to like it, my mind was on the road ahead by the end of the night. Amidst the drinking and football on that Sunday night, a few messages flew back and forth between myself and a couchsurfer from Dallas whose couch I requested. Turns out he was in NYC as well at the moment without a determined way of getting back to Texas, so it was decided we'd hitchhike together.
That aside, I met my little brother at Grand Central the next day, he had two tickets to the Lakers game with him. We headed to the Garden and watched what ended up being an historic game, Kobe Bryant got 61 points, breaking a Madison Square Garden record set back in 1984 by Bernard King who had 60 then. The Lakers won of course, a great last night in the city. My brother made his way back to Connecticut, I found my way back to quiet dark apartment in Astoria. Mark later came back from work and shared a beer.
In the morning I headed for the bus station, Mark set me up with a bagel and a coffee along the way. Outside Penn Station I met Hoang-Chau (pronounced like "Woncho"), my new friend from Dallas who I'd be hitchhiking with. He managed to get himself a 50 cent bus ticket to Washington as well. We shared some stories on the bus and got to know each other a bit, then let our own music and thoughts fill our respective heads as we rolled down the road.
We wandered a bit in Washington until I split off to meet my cousin, Hoang-Chau had someone else to stay with the night and we planned to meet in the morning to begin heading west. My cousin caught me up on his current job and life as it was, that night he took me out for beer and a big meal with his boyfriend in Arlington.
I slept well that night and woke early, out the door with my cousin on his way to work, flurries were in the air, he went to work and I waited for Hoang-Chau at the coffee shop. When we met up we rode the subway as far as it would go, emerged and headed for the closest on ramp to I-66 heading west.
I wasn't sure what kind of luck to expect hitchhiking as two guys, although I'd hitched with another girl, two girl, a girl and a guy, and of course just by myself. Before long a pickup truck pulled over for us, bags in the back, me in the backseat and Hoang-Chau riding shotgun, driving was a big old man who apparently was known by the name Uncle Mike, he was thrilled to have found some hitchhikers. "So where yall boys headed anyhow?", we told him, "Charleston, Charleston! You boys are hitchhiking, old ducks!"
He'd apparently done his share of hitching back in the day, he told us a story of how he'd run from the law and hitched to California only to find he hadn't been in trouble anyhow and then come back. He had a son he tried to get to try the road out, but only lasted 8 months and came home, so now he was working his grandson and even had a VW van and a nice motorcycle lined up.
After a little drive up the road he dropped us off at another on ramp where we waited for our next ride. Another older guy picked us up and drove us a ways, just shy of the split where we'd be getting on interstate 81 to head south, right by the gas station. Inside we got some cardboard for making a sign. As we were walking out a guy with a smile asked if we were hitchhiking, he was thrilled to hear the answer. He tried to offer us a ride, but his car was truly packed and it wouldn't have been possible. He left us with $5 and a said to find a guy named Roadblock in a place called the Empty Glass in Charleston.
We walked up to the on ramp were soon picked up by a trucker named Larry who was headed to Roanoke loaded up with milk. We rode with him as far as the split where we needed to hop on I-64, he let us out there on the side of the road.
After getting to a good spot we got picked up pretty quick, a guy with some skis in the back of his car and happy to have some passengers. He was a chef and a very friendly person. After driving us a good ways he let us out on the road with a box of leftovers, a good portion of fries and fish which we started munching on as we waited for our next ride.
A cop car pulled into the side of the road, each of us with a mouthful of fries. He asked if we saw the the sign, we hadn't, he asked us to get down off the freeway to the on ramp instead after running our IDs, he buzzed Hoang-Chau with the siren when he took a picture of his car.
We walked down the ramp and saw the sign, literally a thumb with a cross over it. At the base of the on ramp we got a ride in no time, a guy our age happy to give us a ride. Where he let us out was pretty cold, my ears instantly started stinging, my cheeks doing the same with every gust of wind.
We luckily scored a ride after 30 minutes or less from a woman in a pickup. She drove us a ways until we waived goodbye and headed into the gas station in Alta, West Virginia. I used the bathroom and then waited by the door for Hoang-Chau to do his thing. A few girls were grouped together behind the counter in the adjacent restaurant looking in my direction, they coaxed a few smiles out of me, I assumed they didn't get too many guys wandering in with backpacks.
We headed back out into the cold snowy evening, the freeway was just a quarter mile away at best, and by the time we got to it the last bit of daylight had subsided. We held up our "Charleston" sign anyhow, the cars couldn't see it, couldn't see us. We each chugged a beer, Stellas. I mentioned the three girls, we headed back to the restaurant with the idea of getting coffee and seeing if anything could come of it.
Walking back up the on ramp a pair of headlights slowed down and pulled over, we thought we were lucky as hell, we ran up to it with the excitement of getting a ride, but as we got right up to it we could make out the siren on top. I opened the passenger door and spoke with a friendly cop who was wondering what we were doing, he said we should head back to the gas station, which is what were doing, wished us good luck, and we were back on our way.
We sat down at the counter asking for coffees, the girls were interested to hear what our story was, we told them where were headed and where we'd come from. The tallest one smiled and seemed interested, the other two listened and chimed in a bit here and there with questions. "So where do you sleep?" one asked.
"Tonight... unless we get a ride or something else we'll be camping out somewhere outside, we've got sleeping bags and whatnot", my reply was met by a blank stare. It was about 7 degrees outside with snow dumping, but this was our option at the moment. We continued drinking our coffees, they even gave us crayons to color with.
A man who overheard our story laid a 10 dollar bill on the counter, "I'm going the other way, just came from Charleston, would give you a ride if I could, hope this helps", we thanked him and he was on his way.
Finally, and a bit reluctantly, one of the girls said she could give us a ride to the truck stop just up the road that was a little bit bigger. "You guys aren't murders are you? Because I will shoot you. I have a gun in my car, and I'm strong for a girl, and we're redneck around here, we will shoot.", we laughed it off, she was serious, "and she's gonna follow in case anything gets funny. There's bears out there too, I'll cover you in honey and leave you out for them!"
"Sure! Thanks! No need to worry about us, we'd love a ride.", we continued to joke, she stayed stone cold serious about the matter. Really the ride didn't seem all that beneficial, the truck stop was just 5 or so miles up, and would be closed by the time we got there, same as the one we were at, but the idea of riding with fearful gun toting plain jane from the country was hard to turn down.
As it went she didn't end up taking us, apparently she was sticking around town to spend the night, her mom didn't want her driving on the slick roads, that's what she told us anyhow. The restaurant closed at 9, but the gas station remained open until 11. We took turns going in and out with our sign and asking the few people getting gas where they were headed. The man working at the gas station, a tall gray haired guy with a mustache, said for $20 he'd drive us to Charleston after they closed. I told him we were short on cash, but the road had given us a total of $15 throughout the day and we could give him that much. He didn't seem to like that idea.
We waited more, enjoying the heat of the inside while we had it. The gas station man made some more offers, to drive us halfway and such, all of it still meant sleeping in the snow and hitching more in the morning, we passed on this. At last he said "Can I trust you boys?", we assured him of such, and he offered to let us crash at his place, we gladly accepted.
We waited until for closing time to come, a trucker came in at one point saying how bad the roads were between there and Charleston, "practically shutdown". We talked to him for a bit, he told us some tall tale about walking from Oklahoma City to Louisville in just a couple days, we let him tell it.
It was cold outside as we waited for the man to close the shop, various locals came through asking what we were doing looking at us like we were nuts. Eventually the man pulled his car around and let us sit in the warmth while he finished closing, and soon enough we were driving down the back roads towards his cabin. We went through a couple gates where he had to get out and unlatch them, then arrived as his spot in the middle of the woods.
He showed us the outhouse for shits, "but piss anywhere of course", then we headed inside. The first room where he was sleeping had a space heater, then there was the kitchen with a wood burning stove, and in the back a room with bunk beds, the place was designed by his dad as a hunting cabin. He got the fire going and we set up our sleeping bags right next to it.
We talked for a bit, he seemed like a lonely man, he left his wife in Ohio because of her gambling issues and other problems. He talked about his dreams a bit, and went on to say "I don't think we have total control, there's something beyond us that controls everything we do", I suggested aliens, he agreed.
In the morning we all arose at once, a nice sleep by the fire did us well. We heated up some beef stew and he dropped us off down the road on the freeway, at the truck stop the girl had offered to drop us off at the night before. We waited where the on ramp met the freeway, cars whizzing by ever so frequently. To occupy time we named off movies starting with A, then B, and so on. Shortly after we'd exhausted Z a car pulled over for us, we hopped in.
The guy driving was about 40, going down the road in search of a new job. He told us of a previous one, he was a salesman for various beers, and had done a good job. We all went through our lists of beers, favorite beers, styles, beers from different parts of the world, his favorite beer was called Blanche De Namur, I name I may not have remembered if not for what happened a little later.
He dropped us off up on the freeway just before where he was turning off, still a little ways to go to Charleston. We stuck out our thumbs to the oncoming traffic. I tired to recall the name of the beer when mentioning it again to Hoang-Chau, neither of us could remember. I looked behind as I often do to see if any of the passing cars had stopped, and sure enough there was a car backing up towards us in the shoulder, we ran for it. It was our beer friend from just a moment ago, he handed me a piece of paper, "I forgot to write it down, here ya go!", he sped off, I opened the paper that read "Blanche De Numur". Just as we were waiving goodbye for the second time a pickup truck pulled into the shoulder, our ride to Charleston.
The woman driving was named Joyce, headed to Charleston to deal with her bi-polar husband. He'd been put in jail and possible a mental hospital. One day he was at home and thought he heard intruders and was shooting into his backyard, the cops came and heard shots, assumed they were being fired at, and stormed the house and arrested him, trashing everything in the process. Joyce planned to take legal action against the police for that as well denying her husband meds.
Her father was a coal miner who caught a case of black lung and was receiving benefits until one day the powers that be asked for all the money back, he shot himself knowing he couldn't pay it back. The uproar resulted in changes, people with black lung would continue to receive benefits without the need to ever pay anything back.
Joyce continued to drive us until we reached our exit in Charleston. Her eyes watered up without threat of tears as she gave us both a hug goodbye. We walked down the street towards the capitol building in the direction of Jacob's apartment, a couchsurfing host we'd be staying with, he met us outside and we went up to his apartment. He was an interesting guy with a big interest in beers, a fridge full of good stuff and we all had a glass. He'd drove hours to Michigan to get a case of his particular favorite called Hopslam.
After a couple pints we headed out, he showed us some cool viewpoints of the city and eventually we ended up at a wings place. I got the hottest wings they had which required signing a waiver, apparently my name will show up on the wall for finishing my plate, and they were pretty hot. Back at his apartment we had more beers, and then headed out to a bar to catch the last bit of the Lakers game, we got to the bar just in time to see the game go into overtime, and then watched them beat the Celtics. We had a few more beers at the apartment into the night telling stories and listening to good music until we finally crashed.
In the morning I was beat, a bit of an ache from sleeping funny and somewhat of a fever slowing me down, a bit hungover too. We had some pancakes and then hopped in the car, Jacob drove us about an hour down the road just past Huntington to give us a good head start on our hitch to Louisville, I slept most of that ride and felt pretty good after.
Thumbs out on the freeway with a new sign that said "Louisville", we caught a ride from a pickup truck driven by Ron. He was an interesting guy on his way to Tennessee, we talked about all kinds of things, hunting came up a lot, he'd had all kinds of different meat, his favorite was turtle. He drove us as far as Elizabethtown, about 40 minutes south of Louisville.
It took a good bit of walking down the freeway and trying different spots, an hour or more into it the sun went down. We finally got picked up though, a younger guy and girl headed to a bar in Louisville. They dropped us off right at the couchsurfers spot where we met the folks we'd be staying with. I intended to go to Kurt's show, the musician I'd met and traveled a bit with from OKC to Kansas and Denver months before, but I ended up calling it an early night to rest up, I never did end up meeting up with Kurt in Louisville.
The next day we drove around the city with Dwight, the boyfriend of one of the girls we were staying with. Hoang-Chau went to the Louisville slugger spot and got some mini bats, we also checked out a 200 year old tree that had toppled in the ice storm about a week before. There were fallen trees and debris everywhere still from the storm. That night we filled up a couple growlers of beer at the Cumberland brewery where one of the girls worked. Some friends came over and we drank and played games until sleep came.
In the morning we grabbed some free subs across the street for signing up as "members", then Dwight gave us a ride to a rest area outside of town a little ways in the the direction of Nashville, our next stop. We got a ride in pretty good time, two guys headed back to Atlanta from a job north of Louisville. They had a sign that said "Flash Us", whenever they saw a cute girl they'd drive up beside them and hold up the sign. The girls would either laugh or look disgusted, then they'd hold up the other sign that said "sorry". No one flashed us.
One car full of girls looked pretty upset, and we sped away. They caught up to us with a camera, we assumed they were taking pictures of the plates, we sped up more to escape and eventually veered off an exit to a gas station, throwing away the signs in case they called the cops. Nothing ever came of it. The guys bought us both a gatorade.
We kept on towards Nashville, they showed us a tiny gun they had, a deringer, it wasn't loaded. Hoang-Chau took a few pictures with him holding it. He took a lot of pictures the whole trip, camera constantly flashing no matter what we were doing. He also took notes the whole way, pecking away at his blackberry journaling the events of our trip as they were happening.
The guys dropped us off in Nashville, Hoang-Chau had them sign his travel book beforehand, he had everyone who gave us a ride sign the book, and other people we met along the way too. We walked over the bridge into downtown, I contacted Chris, our couchsurfing host who said he'd pick us up in an hour or so. We made our way to the broadway where we passed plenty of tourist looking bars, and eventually ended up in the Big River brewery each getting the sampler of about 7 of their beers, most pretty good.
Chris picked us up soon enough, an outgoing college student of about 20, we met his girlfriend and another girl over some coffee, and Chris showed us around his school a bit. His roommate made some mexican food for all of us, then the two of them headed to a frat meeting. We talked some more later and finished off a growler of pale ale we'd hauled from Louisville before heading to sleep.
We grabbed a quick bite in the morning and Chris dropped us off on the interstate. We had to walk a ways to find a better spot, eventually settling on a decent looking spot. One blonde woman stopped, not to give us a ride, but slipped a couple bucks out the window and wished us luck.
We eventually got picked up. The guy was interested in our travels and drove us just a little ways up the road.
We waited at our new spot on the freeway for over an hour with no rides. After longer than that I thought it could be a good idea if I split off and walked ahead, and thought maybe we'd have luck getting picked up individually. Off I went, hiking down the shoulder of the road, cars and trucks whipping by. After a couple miles I laid in the grass for a few minutes resting up, then continued walking some more without any sign of another exit even. A pickup truck finally came stopping behind me, when it got close enough I could see Hoang-Chau in the passenger seat, he'd got picked up and convinced the guy to stop for me too, and just our luck the guy was going straight through Little Rock, our next stop.
The guy was retired from the Army, he spent a great deal of time talking about it and more or less trying to recruit us from every angle. He thought we were pretty sad individuals on a path to nowhere, I pegged him as short sighted and stubborn, not the type of person worth proving anything too, so we let him talk about everything he had to say pulling useful nuggets out where we could. He went a bit out of his way to drop us off across the street from the apartment complex of our next Couchsurfing host, under an overhang where we could stay out of the rain while we waited for her to get home. He was the only person who declined signing Hoang-Chau's travel book.
Sophie, the girls we'd be staying with there, gave us a call when she got home and told us to head over. We made our way across the street in the gentle rain. I looked up to see a white pickup truck zooming right for me, in an instant it crossed my mind that they thought I was someone else who'd done them wrong, they smashed into me, my left knee smacked into the grill of the car and my head slammed down on the hood, I rolled off the truck and hit the ground, looking up to see the door opening. I was dizzy, Hoang -Chau started running over shouting "What the fuck man?!", I could hear the fight in his voice, we were unsure what just happened.
The guy started apoligizing immediately, it had been an accident. My head hurt, my hand and elbow scraped up from hitting the ground, I felt blood on my head, but it was just the rain. Hoang-Chau snapped a picture of the license plate and the guy, Patrick, gave us his phone number in case anything was needed and drove off. All and all I was fine, just a bump and some scrapes, the dizziness stuck with me for another few minutes as we walked to Sophie's place, laughing about it knowing it could have been worse.
I got cleaned up and grabbed some band aids and settled in, Sophie's place was simple and clean, she was a real nice girl from France working there in Little Rock. We talked a while then met one of her friends from nearby, a french guy who worked with her, they did work with private planes. She cooked a great pasta dinner, we all watched a movie and faded to sleep.
She was gone in the morning, off to work. We showered and gathered our stuff, then started hiking across town towards the interstate to start making our way to Dallas, Hoang-Chau's home. We ended up taking a public bus cross town to the interstate, the rain was coming down off and on. In a break in the rain we got on the freeway with our new "Dallas" cardboard sign, but were quickly greeted by a cop, he didn't get out, just spoke through his loud speaker telling us to get off the freeway.
We walked up a little more towards the next on ramp to see if we'd find a better spot, we came across a gas station along the way, Hoang-Chau went in while I waited outside. A man came up to me, "I've been there before man, I can get you a ride up just a little ways." I ran inside and told Hoang-Chau we had a ride, in a minute we were both laying in the bed of the pickup truck rolling down the freeway, wind blowing through everything. I love those rides, it was Hoang-Chau's first in a pickup like that, I hadn't had one in a while, tough to beat.
The guy and his son dropped us off about 20 miles up the road, it seemed we were in the clear as far as rain goes. We thumbed out for a while on the freeway awaiting our next ride, we made a mad dash for a Penske truck that stopped up the road, but it turned out they'd stopped for reasons unrelated to picking up us hitchhikers.
An RV drove by eventually and managed to stop in about the same spot the Penske truck had earlier, but this time it was for us. We hopped in and met a young guy driving, we was a middle man between a repo guys and auctions, constantly driving things like RVs to deliver them, seemed like a sweet gig, and he was headed all the way through Dallas to Fort Worth.
We relaxed and joked with the guy, trading off between the front seat, the couch, bed in the back, and the recliner chair. He stopped half way and latched a boat on to the back, another repo job, it meant double pay for him. A little more down the road we stopped at a Braums and Hoang-Chau got us some burgers and shakes.
As we got closer to Dallas the rain started coming down heavier and the winds picked up, we could feel the RV sway especially when going under and out of overpasses. It settled down by the time we reached Dallas, we were dropped off at a gas station in town where a couple of Hoang-Chau's friends picked us up and we headed back to where he was staying, Will's place.
We relaxed that night, and took it easy the next day too. I wandered a community college campus and caught up on the computer a bit, then we wandered the mall. That night we went out for good beers, I had a decent IPA and Hoang-Chau had his first taste of Stone's Aarogant Bastard, I finished what he couldn't. We then hung around a club nearby until well after closing waiting for Will to collect a check from the owner for some design work he'd done for them.
The next day we met Anthony, a guy Hoang-Chau had got in touch with learn some more about Parkour, which is like urban jungle gyming - flips, climbing on roofs, jumping gaps, that type of thing. We both watched as Anthony ran around the apartment complex getting on top of every roof until we decided to go back to the college campus and see what kinds of obstacles it had in store.
He jumped all over everything, ran up walls into back flips, and even did a little damage to a floor that wasn't quite a floor near the library. When that was exausted we headed to the mall, Anthony had the idea to run through the mall in Parkour style until he could attract security or police to chase him. We wandered the mall but he never ran for anything, and we headed back to the apartment.
Anthony accelerated quickly and drove fast, weaving through whatever he could, whether it was a parking lot of the freeway, it made for fun rides in all the in betweens. He raced his car through the apartment complex, drifting and skidding as we pulled near the apartment narrowly missing two parked cars, then slided into a spot with menaiacle laughter. Three guys stood by the spot looking amazed at what they'd just seen, as it turns out they were couchsurfers waiting for Hoang-Chau, who had forgotten Wiwwwabout them coming, but here they were.
Will's apartment was controled by the school, he wasn't supposed to have people stay overnight and was already on thin ice because of getting caught with guests not too long ago, but Hoang-Chau knew a friend where they could likely stay with the night. A few other people started filtering into the apartment with talks of drinking. Before long a poker game started with myself, Anthony, and the three couchsurfers from Quebec, a $5 buy-in. I was the last one standing and walked away with the money, the girls and everyone else long past ready to go out drinking, the time was near 2am.
We headed to a bar that was just fixing to close, a tiny old woman behind the bar still gave us a beer each and a 10 minute warning, we fit in a game of pool and left the place. As it turned out the whole lot of us headed to a girl's house with the intention to drink more and pass out, and that's what we did.
In the morning Anthony drove Hoang-Chau and I north in the direction of Denton with the idea of dropping me off on the freeway so I could hitchhike up to Oklahoma City on my path to San Diego. On the way there Anthony drove as usual, cutting off a lady in a red car pretty close. He had reason to think she'd called the cops and was a bit paranoid about it. After a late start and some stops here and there we didn't get to Denton until 3 or so, Anthony said his buddy would have a party that night and we should just stay in town. We wandered around another mall, and then went to a pizza spot.
Around this time I got a message from Jeanie, a girl who'd picked me up hitchhiking around that area a while back on my way to OKC, she was in town and knew of another party going on, she told us to come later. We headed to Anthony's friend's place and met him, Matt. He had no intention of having a party as Anthony said, but had plenty of beer and intended to get more. The four of us headed to a construction site right as night hit, Matt was also into Parkour and they wanted to poach this particular spot. They climbed and leaped around until that was done, then decided to head to the square to see if they could flip around some sort of crowd. There wasn't much of a crowd, but they both flipped off walls and ran around a bit.
We picked up some more beer and headed back to Matt's place, I drank some beers I hadn't had, Shiner Blonde and and Shiner Bock, both fairly good. A couple other people came over and played some Halo and Rockband. I got a text from Jeanie and a few of us headed her way towards the party.
We got there and I found her and caught up a bit. She'd gone out of her way to pick me up back when she did, drove me 45 minutes or more up the road into Oklahoma, and has sent me messages ever since wondering where I was and what I was up to in my travels. Her boyfriend hovered closely, my interest turned to the huge inflated slide in the yard, I slid up and down a few times and circulated through the party some more. We noticed another party raging across the street and strolled in to see the situation, a band playing and general drunkeness in two houses and a bit of a courtyard in between.
Through the night we drank and wandered between the two parties, Anthony did some flips of course when he could, a cute girl introduced herself to him but he didn't seem to have anything to say to her, she walked away. I talked to Jeanie some more, she told me her plans to travel and go to more schools abroad if she could get in for free. The cops showed up eventually, just checking in really, but unwarranted paranoia caused enough people to scatter and the domino effect drained the party, we were gone too, stumbling into Matt's place and passing out.
The next day I found myself jumping out of Anthony's car at a red light with my backpack and heading up the on ramp, on my own and looking for my next ride. It was a couple from the area and there son in the back seat playing with an electronic toy game, he may have been 7 or 8. They drove me just a little ways up the road and loaded me up with a couple cheeseburgers from mcdonalds before letting me out on the road.
I walked a good ways seeking a better spot, many cars passed, but none were stopping. The clouds threatened rain, at one point they fired on me with pellets of ice, better than rain I thought. After what seemed like a good while a pickup truck stopped for me, a local guy driving who said he'd hitchhiked a decent amount growing up. We passed some traffic heading to a casino, he told me about his current girlfriend who was always blowing her paychecks in the slot machines. As he was going on about this his phone rang, it was her asking him to pick up lotto tickets on the way home.
The rain picked up pretty heavy, I figured my pack was getting good and wet, he let me out a truck stop and I went inside to stay dry. I stayed put at a table by the truckers lounge waiting out the rain. Another trucker overheard me on the phone talking about hitchhiking and asked where I was headed, he wasn't going anywhere for a day or so though.
The rain finally broke and I booked it for the freeway to see if I could catch a ride before it started up again. Just as a drizzle started a truck pulled off into the shoulder ahead and I ran for it all smiles. The trucker was headed for North Dakota, so that meant Oklahoma City for me. He was a felon of sorts, busted for stealing and selling four wheelers, did some time for that, and also got caught stealing tools from Peterbilt, but got away with other things like selling and trafficing cocaine for a few months.
He dropped me off along the freeway where I-35 met I-40, the road I'd be taking west. It was dark now, valentines day as it were, I hadn't a place to stay in town, but it was fairly warm and I camped in OKC a number of times. I hiked clear across town, it was further than I thought, maybe 10 or 15 miles. My intention was to relax in a starbucks until it closed, but I got there as they were shutting their doors for the night. I walked a little further to a Texas Roadhouse, I nursed a beer and went through a couple buckets of peanuts at the bar.
I walked further up still running along the freeway and set up camp in a field close to the truck stop, a field I'd camped in the first time I was in Oklahoma after my first long hitchhiking trip back when. The air was cool, but my sleeping bag did the trick and I slept through the night more or less, heading to the truck stop in the morning to clean up a bit.
From there I was on the I-40 greeting the west bound traffic in hope of a long ride. I saw sirens go off, a cop was pulling a car over for speeding or some such, they decided to pull over directly in front of me. The cop hardly gave me a glance, and I kept thumbing the cars. I'm not sure what passers by thought was going on, dude in a backpack hitchhiking next to a flashing police car, the people in the car pulled over also seemed perplexed.
I started walking up the freeway, hitching by the cop car wasn't working out. Soon enough I was in a car with a guy headed to work at the oil fields in Elk City. He told me about his take on the economy and his job security, then put on the comedy channel for a while until we got to his exit. He dropped me off at a McDonalds and four dollar bills to use for food. I filled up my stomach and headed to the freeway yet again.
A young guy stopped for me just as I was walking up the ramp, the very first car to pass. There was a girl in front, I hopped in the back. He said at first he thought I was someone else, a hitchhiker he'd given a few rides to, some guy who parties back and forth between OKC and Amarillo, TX. He had some beer in the back and offered me one, a Bud Light. I finished that and he offered me another one just miles before he dropped me off, I had to chug it down, luckily Bud Lights go down like water.
My next ride came soon enough, this guy was coming from Illinois on his way to Phoenix to see his ex-girlfriends kids, he was sort of like a dad to them and there mom was drugged out of the picture from their lives. After that he planned to go to Vegas and drink like a fish. I was only going as far as Albuquerque, but Phoenix would be my next stop. He told me all about his trips to whore houses in Vegas and the situation with his ex-girlfriend along the way. We stopped at a gas station where he got me a sandwich, and soon enough he dropped me off in Albuquerque where I waited at the coffee shop for Codie, my couchsurfing host there.
She picked me up and we headed to her place, we made a quick trip to the grocery store. Back at her place she cut up some peppers to let me taste the differences between red, green, orange and yellow, I liked yellow the best, she made a sandwich with all of them. It was an easy night and she had a guest room, I slept in a comfy bed compared to my grassy nook the night before in Oklahoma.
She dropped me off on the road the next day, Phoenix was my new destination. An hour went by a car stopped, I tossed my backpack in the trunk and hopped in, booming bible speak was coming out of the speakers, a clean cut native guy was driving. He immediately launched into a brief life story of a troubled past of drugs and whatnot, but god was showing him the way now into his current aspirations of becoming a succesful insurance agent. He drove me as far as Laguna and let me out.
I walked about a mile up the freeway to a rest area and tossed my bag down waiting for my next ride. After a while of waiting I put my sweatshirt on to begin walking further down to seek out a better spot, but right then a car pulled over and I hopped in. It was a mexican guy heading to Vegas to work on the City Center in the middle of the strip, he was a real nice guy and the ride would get me as far as Flagstaff.
It was a good long ride and we talked about a lot, he filled up his tank in Flagstaff and got me some food and drink before dropping me off at I-17, the road that would take me south to Phoenix. Darkness was just kicking in, by the time I walked over the bridge and made it to a good spot darkness was there to stay, but I found a decent streetlight to stand under, my feet in the snow.
Sure enough, someone spotted me and stopped, a massage therapist working in Flagstaff and living in Cottonwood, a small town down the road about 90 miles from Phoenix. She offered to let me crash at her place, it was too dark to hope for any more rides so I gladly agreed to stay. She had one roommate, she was cooking when we walked in, I enjoyed some chicken watched some TV with them before finally passing out on the floor in my sleeping bag.
In the morning she drove me back to I-17 with a hug, off again on the road. On my way down the on ramp to the freeway a cop decided to check me out. He asked where I was going, Phoenix, where I was coming from, New York, then took my license back to his car. He started filling out some paperwork, asked me how much I weigh, I guessed it was written warning or something. He just handed me my license and wished me good luck though, off he went with documentation about my weight and whatever else.
I had a new ride in no time, two natives of a tribe whose name was never mentioned, a guy driving and his 92 year old father who never spoke, likely sleeping. The guy driving, Walter, told me his dad was a code talker back in the war dealing with Japan. He had plenty to say about a freaky girl he knew in Avondale, a suburb of Phoenix which is specifically where I was headed. He dropped me off down the road in Phoenix where I-17 meets I-10.
I wandered to I-10 and stuck my thumb out for a bit, but the spot wasn't suitable for any cars to stop and none did. I walked a ways and eventually hopped on a series of buses for a buck and a quarter, did some more walking, and finally arrived at Larry's place, the door was locked and he wasn't home, he didn't have a phone paid for at the moment so I waited for him to come back.
A girl Erika stopped by before he did, another couchsurfer who was also waiting for him to arrive. Trish came next, she lives nearby and I've hung out with her too everytime I've been in town, the three of us decided to head out and get some food and left a note for Larry. By the time we got back, he was home.
The next night we went to a bar downtown, Larry bought me a beer, Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. We had some food and more drinks a little into the night. My friend Nick came too, he'd just moved to Scottsdale, I'd met him up in Alaska at Couchsurfing collective and seen him a couple time when he was living in Vegas.
The next day I was pumped to get some new footwear, Keens again, I could toss my boots away. Keens are like sandals with a toe, my last pair had lasted me a while until they stunk out and got destroyed in an attmept to clean them right there in phoenix. Erika and I went on a hike up Squaw peak in time to see the whole valley at sunset, then climbed back down and met up with everyone else for pizza and beer.
Larry and I headed back to his place and watched some basketball before going to sleep, another loss for the Celtics. The next day I hopped in the car with Erika, she was heading to California going through San Diego.
The drive was nice, I took time to write a decent amount of these words and enjoy the scenary as it passed, rocks, dunes and lot's of green as we got closer to san diego. Erika dropped me off at Andy's place, he wasn't home, but his roomate and wife were. After hanging out a bit we headed out to a beer bar where I got a great hoppy beer. From there we headed to a wine bar... where I had wine, Andy eventually met up with us too, he'd been playing night golf. I went with him and his roomate Dan to a friends house and laughed through a movie over beers before heading back to his place and passing out.
There's a whole lot of San Diego left to go, but the road here was full of good times.