Magnets in Salt Lake City

My last minute decision to go to Salt Lake instead of Berkeley lead me to the route 99 on ramp just outside Chico with daylight dwindling. I had a double sided sign, the side I showed off now said "Reno", I would wait until further down the road to show the "SLC" side. It wasn't long at all before an older woman pulled over and let me in, she took me shy of 20 miles down the road to Oroville.

I waited there with my thumb and Reno sign until Luke pulled over, a young guy headed home to cook some pizza, coming back from seeing his girlfriend. We took the back roads as it turned out, but he assured me it lead to the road I was trying to get to. He told me about his current attempt to quit smoking, and cut back on drinking as well, although he was smoking a skinny cigar at this time.

As we got closer he offered to let me stay on his couch for the night, the sun had fallen, but enough light remained for me to entertain the idea of getting one more ride. We stopped by his house either way, he wanted to given me a bag of pot and get his pizza in the oven. His dog bit the back of my leg coming in, but nothing too bad, and Luke gave me a bottle of water and a baggie larger than I'd expected. We hopped in the car and he drove to the road I needed to be on, close to a gas station.

I picked my spot and thumbed the light traffic under a street light, the day's light quickly went away. After some time I was graced with a pickup truck and a quirky driver headed for Reno. He told me stories of playing slots and tipping with 100 dollar bills. He also had many stories of having 3 and 4 women at a time at the casino hotels after winning big, a mixture of on and off-duty hookers.

I couldn't determine if he'd been drinking or was on something else, perhaps just tired, but he critiqued his own questionable driving apologetically between stories. Just before getting to town he bought me a burrito and a soda, and soon enough he was dropping me off just past Reno in a town called Sparks at the on ramp. A moment after he drove away I saw him running back to me, handing me $5 and wishing for his own good karma in return from the world.

I waited at the on ramp for a short amount of time, it was about 10:30 or later, I didn't expect much, but a cop was the first to come. "We don't do that here", referring to hitchhiking, he told me I couldn't do it anywhere, but my best bet would be to go to the nearby truck stop and try to turn up a ride.

I walked in the opposite direction instead, eventually finding myself walking along the train tracks next to the river, the stars shining down on me. The road twisted through the short mountains far up the bank to my left. Eventually I found myself on the wrong side of the river and still no end in sight. I considered camping out for the night, but being that I was likely trespassing railroad property I decided waking up there in daylight may not be the best thing.

I turned around and walked the walk to the truck stop. Upstairs in the driver's lounge I found a seat at a table to take a look at the map on the computer. Another trucker was sitting there, I asked which was he was going, but he'd just come from Salt Lake and was going the opposite direction. We talked for a while anyhow, him about his trucking through the states and dreams of a wife in China, me about my hitching around and reasons for going to Utah.

I looked at the map, discovering that I could have kept walking down the tracks and hit a small town and fresh on ramp, perhaps un patrolled by the cop who'd turned me away earlier. Either way I figured I was done for the night, and decided the river was a good place to sleep and the morning would decide whether to ask for rides at the truck stop or walk forward.

Before I left, the trucker I'd been talking to dropped a 20 dollar bill next to me insisting I take it and spend it "wisely", this was accompanied by a wink to say "buy beer and have a good time with it".

I headed to the river and got in my sleeping bag, cracking open a beer. At Sierra Nevada I'd bought a six pack for the road, I'd left three with Walter when we split in Chico and three for myself. I slept well.

In the morning I walked past the on ramp I'd been chased off the night before, realizing there was no sign forbidding pedestrians, as there is in most states, I decided I'd walk along the freeway to the next on ramp, and so I did for about 3 miles.

The on ramp I finally go to was occupied by a truck and a flashing police car that had pulled him over. I looked down at what looked like a small mining town and figured I'd walk through town in search of yet another on ramp further down and avoid the eyes of the police.

In a small parking lot just off the road I saw a group of people next to their two minivans, the guy in the group looked at me and smiled, I waived at him and said, "Hey there!... You don't happen to be going east are you?"... "East?"... "Yea, Salt Lake City direction?", he turned to his wife who was visibly nervous, he looked away back at me just as quickly and said, "We're headed that way, sure!", his wife seemed a little more upset and just got in her car, I hopped in the passenger seat of his mini van, he had his four kids in the back ranging from 2 - 9 years old.

We started driving, "She's mad at me... but oh well, no biggie". They were a big mormon family, and after the initial conversation of what my story was, he began telling me the whole mormon story of Joseph Smith and how the religion came to be, I let him go on about it. We made a couple stops at gas stations, and finally we arrived hours down the road in Elko, NV, which was the end of the line for me, they were gonna stay in town a couple hours and visit a relative after lunch.

I found myself an on ramp and walked halfway down it thumbing cars, now using my "SLC" sign. A state trooper stopped to check me out, telling me I couldn't be on the "freeway", but I confirmed with him that I could either walk up to the corner and continue thumbing, or walk down the freeway itself as long as I wasn't thumbing or showing my sign.

I chose the corner, after a half hour I was drawn to the taco bell down the hill from me where I filled my belly, then back up to the corner. Some more time went by without a ride, so I got to walking. Perhaps an hour of walking went by and the town got thinner and behind me, I figured I could start thumbing for rides at that point, and that worked.

A work truck stopped, the driver a white haired lady's man who lived only 10 miles up the road. In that short time he told me how he was growing tired of the small town, having dated every woman the town had to offer without finding a single good one. He was originally from southern california where he said the field was much larger and he'd been with woman from 25 to 50, he was about 50 or so himself. Mississippi is where he wanted to move, "where the woman are nice and well mannered". He left me his phone number and the promise of a couch to sleep on if I didn't find any more rides.

I did find another ride though not too much later, the car pulled up behind me and I smiled big running up to the door, a matching smile greeted me from a big blonde haired guy named John, he seemed purely overjoyed. I packed myself in squeezing between plants by my feet and a stuffed car. He was going all the way through Salt Lake City and down to American Fork.

He had a friendly excitement unlike too many others, thrilled to hear my stories and share the most similar stories of his own he could think of. We stopped at one point for soda and almond joy candy. He told me all about the surroundings, his family had once had ranches in the area around us stretching 50 miles and more at a time, and in addition to that he'd built many of the fences in the area. When I brought up train hopping was a freight passed, he told me how he'd seen guys hanging off the train while building fences and waived to them.

We hit the salt flats as we entered Utah, the mountains came into view just as sunset hit, painting exactly the picture I'd been looking forward to. We rolled into Salt Lake, he'd offered to drop me off exactly where I was going, Candice's door step. He left me with his information for if I was ever in need of a place to stay down the road or anything else, he insisted I take a 10 dollar bill from him and off he went.

I walked up to the side door, my visit here had not been announced. I saw Kate in the kitchen and knocked on the door, she turned and opened it seeing my face, "Really?", she laughed and let me in. No one else was home, Candice was due back any time. Kate and I caught up over a beer, and I wandered downstairs eventually to relax and await Candice, I left my SLC sign outside her door.

I heard her walk in and them come down the stairs, pausing when she saw the sign outside her door and I popped out. She smiled the big smile and gave me a matching hug, it was good to be in Utah.

A couple other people came over, she had Peter's dog to watch for a few days too, we relaxed and caught up over some beers, smoking a bowl later in the night when we realized the calendar had rolled over to April 20th.

In the morning I headed to the coffee house while Candice went to her new job, I met her there later just before she got off, a crystal shop close by. We munched on some magic candies I'd brought from Chico while she laid out some tarot cards on the counter to read me fortune.

Later in Candice's backyard we played in her garden a bit until we got the idea to build a sort of wigwam out of a stick pile, we held it up with hoola hoops and covered the whole thing with cloth and a tarp. We enjoyed some hash oil later along with some good beers, that night we slept peacefully in our wigwam of sticks.

The next day started similarly, me at the coffee shop, Candice at the crystal shop. I met her at the end of her shift again and we decided ice cream made the most sense, we grabbed some along with a couple cones and enjoyed it in the park.

More gardening, shoveling away, uprooting, getting things ready to grow.

That night Peter and Parker came back from their mind expanding experience in the desert, they seemed at peace with themselves and in tune with everything despite their apparent distance, reliving their experience as they described it to us.

Denny came through, a friend of everyone else being mentioned, him, Peter and I took to the night, live music, good music. A great bass player and harmonica player, the whole band had everyone alive and feeding off each other. The crowd begged for one more song at the end, they all got back on stage and fed us another tune before we left.

We got back late, Candice was still up watching conspiracy videos. We planted ourselves in her room and listened to a guy talk about Reptilians and mind control, the basic idea being reptilian like races from other planets who are responsible for our being here on earth, and apparently now living under ground waiting to make themselves known. A good story if nothing else.

We relaxed in the garden the next day, Candice hoola hooping with a smile. Surrounded by a beautiful day, biking was the thing, Candice biked and I walked to a friend's house where I was lent a bike. We biked around until we found a spot for some beer and split a pitcher.

We split up after that, I wanted to grab some ramen at the grocery store, on the way back the bike broke down, the tire had somehow bent into the frame of the bike preventing it from spinning, so I walked the rest of the way back, I wasn't far from the house anyhow.

That night we found ourselves going to a free show in the middle of Salt Lake, Michael Franti was performing. I lost everyone in the crowd in the very beginning, stuck in pack of people in front of the stage, so I jumped around for the whole show and caught up with everyone afterwards. We drove around in Ryan's van, he lives in his van and has a nice setup in the back with his bed and all. He got us both a burrito at a good spot and we cruised back home.

I woke up in the morning to discover an incredible amount of traffic was hitting my site, triphopping.com, and many new members were signing up. I called Larry to find out if he had posted something or if he knew what was going on. As it turns out, a friend of ours had posted a link in an email that was sent out to a ton of couchsurfers about an upcoming event.

Spinning off of this good news, Tim and I walked towards the blue plate, a diner in town, and Candice wasn't far behind us taking a shower then getting on her bike. We stopped in the coffee shop next door, turns out Tim works there, and he got us some food from the Blue Plate brought over.

My thought at the beginning of this particular day was to hitchhike out, towards San Diego most likely, but I'd managed to score some cheap Lakers tickets, they were in town playing the Jazz that night, so I decided to stick around. I spent the afternoon peeking at all the new people coming on Trip Hopping and losing my mind with Candice, her losing hers all the same too.

Parker came over later, the two of us went to the game. It was a great game, but it went Utah's way and they won by 2, it turned out to be the only game the Jazz won that series, falling 4 games to 1. Parker is a big Jazz fan, so loved every moment of it. He dropped me off at Candice's place where I shared a bowl with Peter before getting to sleep.

Kate made me a great breakfast in the morning, I spent the bulk of the day tweaking Trip Hopping in light of all the new people coming, it had dwindled a bit from the day before, but still leaps and bounds above any other day the site's been up. Eventually Candice came home, still unable to find her mind, tequila and beer was the answer, Peter joined us later that night until we were all passed out in Candice's room for good.

More Trip Hopping the next day, going stir crazy once the sun went down and happy to have some people who wanted to get out for some food, I just wanted beer and to go, so hopped along with them. The beer was good and we had a few pints, which always begs for more, so we hit the gas station for supplies and landed at Stephen's house where we enjoyed just a bit more, but some smoke and hash oil had us just about knocked out, so Kate and I headed back to her place and crashed.

Again I woke up with hitchhiking on my mind, my clothes were clean and I got a shower in. Kate had mentioned going south a bit towards Spanish Fork with Stephen and offered me a ride. They were planning on going on a small hike to the hot springs. Just as we were getting in the car Candice pulled in, we said goodbyes, something seemed off, but that was that.

Along the ride I was easily convinced to go along with them on the hike and figure the rest out later. We stopped at Stephen's folks place and piled into his dad's car, and the four of us were off. It was threatening rain and snow, but he got there and started hiking anyhow. It was a little ways of a hike, and the snow got heavy half through, but we finally found ourselves at the hot pots. We stripped down to bathing suits and hopped in to get out of the cold, each with a couple beers. We smoked and took it easy. At one point the snow storm got pretty strong, a white wall came right for us swirling everything around, we loved it.

Soon enough the sun showed it's face and started beating down on us, a man walked by on the path above us and offered us a beer that we all passed around. Minutes after that a couple ladies threw down some oranges, I was grateful for that, I hadn't eaten yet that day.

After a few hours we packed it in and headed back down to the car, and on to Stephen's folks' place again. His mom made a hell of a meal, fried taco shells with tasty seasoned chicken and other good things like this.

We ate and relaxed until it was time to get going, I decided to roll back to Salt Lake after all, leaving my hitchhiking for another day. Candice was surprised to see me walk in the door later that night, happy I was back all the same. We ended up passing out on Cam's bed, Cameron is her roommate who was out of town at the moment. We stayed up for a little bit while she tried to explain her recent fit of craziness, which seemed to be a mixture of stress and new realizations not fully understood. We both fell asleep wrapped in crazy.

In the morning we went to the airport to pick up Cam, he'd had a good old time back in home, but was happy to be back. His main objective for the night was to get hammered, as he intended not to drink for the next month and wanted to have one last hurrah, we were happy to help him with this task.

Before we got to drinking, we grabbed a meal at a place called One World that works off donations, or trading time washing dishes for meals. After this we picked up some beer and a half gallon of Jameson whiskey, which we got to drinking right away.

As a few more people arrived, we were already getting deep. Cameron had the idea of getting some nice clothes on and hitting the town, everyone else was into the idea too. Cam had enough nice clothes to outfit the bulk of us, dress shirts, ties, jackets, the whole deal. The girls got there good clothes out and even put on some wigs that Candice had, then we were out into the night.

First we hit a place called the Red Door, which I slightly recall. Something beckoned me outside the bar and I began to wander, coming across a few guys in suits smoking cigars just down the block. I got to talking to them about one thing or another until I got pulled away by Candice and Peter, we were off to the next thing.

A cab took us one way or another until we were at a place called the sky bar. Peter wasn't happy with the cover charge, but managed to "make a deal" or some such, and we stumbled in to the mostly empty dance floor and bar, as hammered as we could be. Everyone got to dancing and drinking some more, Denny met us out there too. At one point I went down the elevator and got into some discussion with a group of people by the door, and soon enough we were all marching back up to the bar again.

Candice never stopped dancing, Peter never stopped laughing, everyone was having a great time. We finally squeezed into a cab and were dropped off at Candice's place, I promptly passed out on the small couch.

We slowly woke up in the morning, still feeling drunk and retelling the stories from the night. We hopped in a car and headed to the Blue Plate and had a great meal, Peter showed me around the yoga studio he works at across the street. We headed home and I got to messing wit Trip Hopping again, and then Candice and I jumped on bikes and rolled back towards Tim's coffee shop where we sat for a while until she had to go to work at the crystal shop. I went to a different coffee house where I talked with Walter about transfering the site to a more powerful server.

I biked over to the crystal shop just before Candice got off work, then she went to Tim's and I grabbed some ramen to go cook back at her place and called it an easy night.

The next day was nice as far as weather goes, Candice took a quick bike ride to Tim's coffee spot and relaxed for a little bit. Peter came in at one point excited about his friend coming into town, Dr. Jubb, he'd be picking him up at the airport soon. Along with Peter was a friend of his, Scott, this guy was apparently going towards Palm Springs, CA the next day and offered me the ride, which would get me pretty close to San Diego where Walter was.

We biked back to Candice's place and she took some time cleaning her garage and gardening away the afternoon.

Towards the evening we headed to Peter's place where we met he friend Dr. Jubb. He's apparently known to some degree in circles related to his work with "life food". The exact definition escapes me, but more or less it's fruits and vegetables. He showed us, and fed us, one substance he called black gold, which was an oily soil containing over 25 species broken down over time that can be found in various parts of the earth. This, he said, was the healthiest substance in the world, citing that it's the only thing that could cure food poisoning in 20 seconds. It tasted good, although when I ate it was mixed heavily with coconut butter and raw honey, tasted a bit like chocolate.

He gave Denny a massage of sorts, whisking away bad energy with his hands as if he was scraping and throwing it. He had many things to say and enjoyed picking up the guitar, a type of flute, and a djembe in between all of this. His nickname was Happy Face.

He gave us a bit of a demonstration as he made us some food, steamed vegetables with nuts and a really good sauce, sort of thai style. Scott made a guacamole type dip, and then Dr. Jubb made a sort of pudding sauce, then whipped it somemore with ice to make a liquidy ice cream sort of deal, all pretty tasty.

The night went on with Happy Face talking about all kinds of things and answering questions. I asked him about using the black gold substance as a type of fuel, he said he had the capability of taking 90% water and any existing fuel to make it all combustable by using a spinning vortex device and adding things at the right time. He wouldn't get into much more detail, saying he feared the powers-that-be would shut him down in some sense. We headed home and were passed out shortly.

In the morning I threw everything in the washer, Candice woke up and we talked for a while. I hopped in and out of the shower with the road on my mind. I'd decided not to take Scott up on his ride offer to California, instead hitchhiking towards Colorado was my idea. Cam has mentioned a trip he was making there that weekend for some soccer and brew tours, and a couple other of my friends were going to be in the area road tripping.

Candice biked along side me the 2 miles to the on ramp headed east, her hair in golden curls she'd done up that morning. We went through wealthy neighborhoods, we joked about going back grad schools, getting degrees and finding jobs we could work at for 20 years until we could become the boss, and then perhaps retire one day. We of course had no idea who actually lived in these houses, but that's the kick we got on.

The on ramp was a nice long strip, down the road in the distance we could see the buildings of downtown, mountains and blue sky in the other direction. Candice threw her bike in the grass, deciding to smoke a cigarette with me there before we parted ways. The cars started to pass, Candice laughed and stuck her thumb out, I didn't want her too. I knew we'd get a ride in a heartbeat and would then have to explain that she wasn't actually riding, just myself. She did it any ways a few times, sure enough, a white pickup truck started to stop ahead, I grabbed my bag and started to say my goodbyes to her, but the truck took off.

Another guy stopped shortly after who lived nearby that wasn't even really going anywhere, I guess he was just intrigued. He gave us a bottle of fancy sparkling water of some such and turned around back to wherever.

I wanted Candice to come with me, the energy was palpable to the cars coming by, we'd be able to go wherever we wanted in this country or any other, I thought of how easy we'd get rides with her curls and smiling eyes, the beer we'd drink, the people we'd meet, the never ending refrain of good times. I knew she wouldn't, couldn't in her mind, too many ties and magnets to people, things and the town of Salt Lake City. I picture her bare foot, sifting through her garden after a yoga session, dark beer on her mind and a smile on her face, she's where she's supposed to be.

After a hug and a spin I watched her bike down the way and turn the corner back to her life, I faced the future of mine, the steady traffic heading on down the road.

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