Hitching from San Diego to Salt Lake with a stop in Vegas
I was thinking of leaving San Diego (good times there) without a particular destination, just hopping on the road and seeing where my rides would take me, but a call from Candice gave me a destination, Salt Lake City. That's where I met Candice around Thanksgiving when I surfed her couch a couple nights on the way to Wyoming.
Andy dropped me off on the freeway near Qualcom in San Diego, I'd stayed at his place just over a week. I felt as I usually do when I'm standing by the on ramp, free. The sun beat down and a car stopped, jump in. A long haired hitchhiker from the past picked me up. One of his better stories involved him hitchhiking with a buddy riding along in some guy's car headed west when a cop siren went off and they pulled over. The driver said to the hitchhikers, "Don't worry, I'll just say I picked you up and everything will be cool", which is what happened, but he continued to inform them that he had a gun under his seat and would "take care of the pig". They promptly exited the car at that point and briefly explained to the cop they were hitchhikers who'd gotten as far as they needed and walked up the road.
He dropped me off near Escondido, Stone Brewery crossed my mind, I walked down to the freeway and entertained the cars, one stopped in the shoulder. Out popped two folks my age, a friendly guy and a perky girl happy to pick me up, they'd passed me once and looped back to do so. They made some room and I hopped in front, the back was loaded with chairs they were trying to sell for some extra cash. They only drove me a little way and through a town a bit to unsuccessfully unload the chairs and dropped me back by the freeway.
My next ride came from a Mexican couple in a minivan, we talked about mexico and california, they drove me a good ways up near San Bernadino. He left me at a truck stop he thought would be a good spot, but it was a mile or so off the freeway and right by I-10 instead. I got some food with the 4 dollar bills he gave me then started hiking back towards the freeway, only to find I'd walked down a dead end, turned around, and walked the other way until I found an on ramp. All of this took an hour or so.
I waited a bit until a local tow truck scooped me up, taking me through a town or two and dropped me off, a guy was selling fruit and laughed at me, I laughed at him and smiled up the on ramp until a car stopped for me, a middle aged guy going up the road to Apple Valley about 30 minutes up the road. He dropped me off and it was dark, a big shopping area.
I stood in the brightest spot I could on the on ramp, few cars passed and I can't be sure that they all even saw me, none stopped. I decided to walk through town on the frontage road to see if the next on ramp was better lit or if some bar or anything else would catch my eye. It turned out to be a little ways away, maybe 3 miles. It was as poorly lit as the last, but one of the very first cars stopped and a guy got out and stumbled around to the passenger side to try and make room, his car was packed with everything he owned. He tossed a box of MREs into the bushes to make space, he was a Marine who'd just gotten out. Before I got in he told me he'd been drinking and asked if that was OK, I hopped in.
We cruised up the road, he handed me a beer, he had a jack and coke for himself. He told me stories about being a Marine, his wife he'd split up with, and all of his drunken tales in between. He'd gone on more than his fair share of week long binges ending in blackouts and occasional hospital visits.
Vegas was my stop, I had two free nights on the strip and intended to hang out until getting back on the road to Salt Lake City. He dropped me off in the parking lot next to the Excalibur, handing me yet another beer to go. I wandered up to the check in area double fisting cans of bud lights and got my room key, soon enough I was passed out in my room on the first floor.
In the morning I wandered, armed with an infusion of cash wired to me from some folks in California. I won some money at the craps table and enjoyed the buffet all day long. They'd given me two free game tickets for the carnival type games downstairs, I wandered that way. I tossed a ball in a cup with the first one and won a stuffed flower that said "#1 Mom", the only prize available. Next I won a wizard hat by catapulting a rubber turtle into a bucket with a mallet.
In the morning I was ready to go, I checked out. I walked down the strip towards an on ramp near the Sahara I'd had luck with the last time, a few miles away. I waited on the on ramp until a big guy picked me up who was headed a few exits down, but he helped me out by going further to the speedway exit which is on the very edge of town. He was a friendly guy, he told me he went to Provo Canyon School, a school I'd gone to as well and I told him as much. He told me about his time there, 10 years before I'd gone, then dropped me off.
I waited up on the freeway until the next ride came, a pirate from Vegas. He went to renaissance festivals and was the captain of his ship, meeting with his guild on a regular basis. He loved it, drinking lightly during the day entertaining the boring folk, then night came and he broke out the good stuff and got wild with his pirate kin and anyone else who had lingered behind. He drove me a long ways all to Cedar City.
It was windy on the road, cars rushed past as did the tumble weeds. It wasn't long until a cop car came from the on ramp and pulled into the grass, smashing a bottle with their tire that sprayed liquid all over the road, we laughed at each other through the windshield and I waited for her to say whatever she was saying in the radio until she got out and asked what my deal way. She scanned my license quickly and asked me to just walk up the on ramp off the freeway, I did that.
I thumbed cars from my new spot until a couple pulled up, they were traveling selling souvenirs to gift shops and whatnot, they were headed all the way to Salt Lake City. They were both friendly, we stopped at a TA truck stop along the way so they could check inventory and we kept it moving after that. Once we got into Salt Lake they decided they could take me right to where I was going and let me out right in front of Candice's house.
Cameron was home, her roommate I'd met the last time, we talked a bit and eventually Candice came home. A few of us relaxed and caught up for a bit until sleep overtook us. I slept well, happy to be in Salt Lake with good people and a simple three ride hitch from Vegas.