The road to Lubbock, then to Austin

I woke up in Flagstaff after having spent a couple nights in town, now I was ready for the road, ready for Texas. I had a cup of coffee with one of the guys I was staying with, as I was walking out the door a roommate came home, one I hadn't met yet, he gave me a small green stone as a sort of "hello, goodbye and thanks".

With that, I was on foot and heading for the freeway, happy to feel the not-so-cold air. I made my way to an on ramp I'd hitched from once or twice before, there was a post there with scribblings from dozens or other travelers, I've always read, never added to it.

A traveling security system installer picked me up, he was heading for Amarillo for a job, and eventually back to Oklahoma City where he was based out of. He had a laptop sitting on a homemade stand set up, it made for slightly cramped sitting on my part, but we ended up watching movies the whole way heading east with only bits of talk.

We blasted through Albuquerque and on to Santa Rosa where I let out, he continued on towards Amarillo, but Santa Rosa is where the road split off more directly to Austin. The sun was setting, I walked a hundred yards past the truck stop to a pull out to try and catch another ride, but the coming darkness and near non-existent traffic would have me staying put for the night.

I bounced between the the truck stop and the spot a couple more times - some coffee in the diner listening to truckers talk about motorcycles and bar fights - then uselessly standing in the dark again watching some headlights pass only so often. At last I settled into a seat in the truckers lounge, a small dark room lit by the TV playing uninteresting nothingness.

Some hours later, when the earth was spinning back towards the sun again, I ate a cheap hot dog and headed back to the road. It was a cold in these early hours, at least cold enough that when coupled with my hours of stagnancy I was encouraged to walk rather than stand still at the pull out to wait on a ride. This was a somewhat remote area however, so my walking earned me no extra traffic, just more steps, enjoyable none the less.

Eight miles went by without a stopping car, I went through familiar stages of singing to the beat of my feet, wondering when my ride would come, who it would be, predicting it, manifesting it, walking on. I was tired, a bit in the shoulders and more so in the eye lids. There was no sense in getting a ride in such a state, perhaps no means to, so at the first good looking set of trees (there wasn't many, it was vast desert in all directions) I skirted behind them and rolled out my sleeping bag for an hour or so of rest.

After this I got to walking again, after just a mile or so a car passed me, I waived the same as the others, he turned around and picked me up, "axe murders wouldn't waive", he told me. He was heading to Lubbock, this was midway to Austin and where I had a place to stay with a couchsurfer, I was relaxed and happy to be cruising.

He was an interesting guy, reserved at first, and in general, but he warmed up quickly realizing I wasn't an axe murderer. He installed air cleaning systems that he'd innovated and done a great deal of traveling with it, including to military places where he had top secret clearance. He told me stories of this, many stories about the history and current state of Lubbock, lot's about cotton and asked me a great deal about my travels.

He dropped me off right at my couchsurfing hosts front door. I came in and met Nate, he was watching football. He offered me a beer and we talked a while, eventually he had to go out, he had a date with some girl in town. I got a good shower in and then headed to a nearby bar he suggested because of their beer selection.

I had a burger and a pint there, a woman slipped me $20 and I had a couple more, some people love travelers. I wandered the streets a bit more, there was a lot of people flooding in and out of bars, we were right by campus in this college town. After some bouncing around and a couple tacos I headed back to Nate's and passed out.

I wandered some more in the daylight when I woke up, around campus and through the town. Later I went with Nate to a historic site with a lot of transported ranch houses and the like, then he drove me around the town showing me neighborhoods he grew up in and whatnot. We took the night easy, watching football and eating some venison sausage made from a deer he'd hunted himself.

The next day I was off to Austin, Nate grabbed breakfast burritos and coffee and dropped me off at the edge of town where I began walking and hitchhiking. I walked past a big cotton field with cotton balls under my feet that had collected on the edge of the road.

A van stopped for me, a middle aged man and his mother heading part of the way to Dallas. We stopped at the radio station just a mile or so up first, his brother was the DJ there and also lived in the apartment built within. After collecting some of there things, we were on our way.

The mother was very friendly and the son, standoffish at first, became very open as well. He talked about Texas, aliens on our planet and the potential pole shift coming in late 2012. He had a bunker worked out with plenty of supplies, ready for disaster and no burden in the meantime.

We made a stop at a truck stop buffet for food and coffee, shortly after they dropped me off at my turnoff with hugs and goodbyes, it had been lively conversation and a good ride. I walked down the road a while, a pickup truck drove past and began to turn around, as he was making the second U-Turn to pull over for me, a tamale truck rolled into the shoulder as well. I had my choice of rides, I went for the original pick up since he was first and potentially going further than a food tamale pickup, although the prospect of a couple tamales was tempting.

As it turns out they were both going to the same small town some 30 miles up the road, we followed them the whole way and watched them turn off a block before he did and let me out. It was a nice quick ride, he was on his way to go hunting, he said he'd killed about 80 deer since he was 9 years old, all in this area.

My next and final ride came quickly after getting dropped off, also hunters, a son and his dad coming from South Dakota where they'd been pheasant hunting with friends and family. We cruised down to Austin, I was in the backseat with my eyes focused on the sunset in the distance.

We stopped at the son's house, they unloaded and the dad drove off, then the son gave me a ride just another couple exits down and dropped me there at the big grocery store where I waited for my friend Kate to pick me up. I'd met Kate in Tallahassee just less than a year before, she was friends with my couchsurfing host, I'd only met her briefly over dinner, but she was getting the travel bug at the time and was full of excitement and curiosity. She'd since done some moving around and recently settled into Austin. At her place we talked for a while and listened to her finicky record player into the night.

The next day she went to work, I headed downtown in the afternoon to begin some wandering. A guy walking by said something about my shoes and me probably not being from around there - they were my keens which seem to be sandals, but when coupled with warm socks they're never cold. This turned into a quick exchange, I then asked him where I might be able to find a breakfast taco (I was told this was an Austin thing to do, sounded great to me).

He launched into a script about being a personal guide around the city, among a laundry list of other gigs and jobs, read: hustler. He took me in a big circle until we saw a truck serving tacos, then tried to get some money off of me, then hurried away. Even though we'd come across the truck by chance, the tacos ended up being great and I had a couple.

I wandered 6th street after that, sat in a coffee shop for a bit, then made my way to a bar as it got dark. I had a couple pints in the mostly empty place, local brews from 512 Brewery, not bad. After that I headed back to Kate's place for the night.

We had an easy going day, waking up late and making french toast. That night we went to her favorite place for bloody marys, that and a local IPA and cheese fries was the way to go. Following that we went to a bar on Congress to meet up with some of her friends for a beer and a little ping pong before heading back to her place for the night.

The following day I'd begin heading to my next destination on the way back east, a great one, New Orleans.

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