Hitchhiking From New Orleans to Arizona

We'd spent more than a week in New Orleans, it was certainly time to get moving. All told, Bridget and I had been traveling together for over two months and barely left each other's sides, from California to New York, down to Florida and now westbound out of Louisiana.

We'd originally had a grand plan of hitching a boat out of the Keys to South America, visions of hikes in Peru with an open future. A lack of funds needed to change Bridget's flight back to Australia from Los Angeles had changed things a bit, ticketed for just shy of two months from the moment. Ambitions of hitching by land to Peru had kept us moving west, but after the long New Orleans trip, Baja seemed like our only logical option, at bare minimum we'd have to get out of the US (for purposes of her visa) for about a month.

Bags down and sign up by the freeway, we caught our first ride out of town from a woman with two big dogs. We managed to cram in, bags tied to the roof, making our first known steps towards Mexico. Another ride after this from a drunk guy who got us over the bridge, then towards the end of that long day was a guy heading for Lafayette who said he always picked up hitchhikers. That was a good ride, which included a joint and a beer as we rode into the sunset.

We stood under a streetlight and managed to get our last ride of the night to a town called Crowley. We tried hitching there for all of five minutes, but opted to head into the nearby gas station to use the bathroom and get a drink. The woman behind the counter was curious and friendly, so I asked her about any places along the road that might be good for camping the night. She mentioned several places, then told us if we waited in the lounge next door for her to get off that she could give us a ride to one of the nicer spots up the road.

We waited it out, longer even, long enough where I went back to check on her, but she had left. Someone else working there offered a free coffee, we accepted and got to walking along the frontage road in the dark. A lot of the land was marshy, we walked a god ways under the bright ringed moon until we found a place to tuck away for the night.

We woke up in the morning and hiked along the frontage road until getting to a truck stop back by the interstate. We paused briefly there, on the way in we crossed paths with an older man in a yellow slicker jacket and backpack heading for the highway, "I'm walking across the United States, reunification of the nation!", he declared. He'd been walking a good while, accepting rides when they came, but never sticking his thumb out and looking for one directly.

By the time we'd cleaned up inside and gotten back on to the freeway ourselves, he was out of sight. We'd pass him a while later upon getting a ride in a cable work van with a friendly guy who picked us up. He got us a good meal and into Texas. Our next ride came from an Argentinian horse trainer who said he was better with horses than people, but we all got along great and loved hearing his stories. He dropped us off after dark pretty close to San Antonio.

Bridget and I began walking, but opted to wait back at the gas station and see if we could score one last little ride into the city. At some point earlier we'd managed to find a person living there via couchsurfing who could put us up for the night, so getting one last ride was going to make a big difference.

Another traveler emerged from the darkness while we waited, he called himself V. He'd caught a ride from Tucson to San Antonio and explored the city for about a week, then had walked the distance from the city to this truck stop and was anticipating a lot more walking to get to his destination of Pensacola.

After a good while, a friendly guy who'd smiled on his when into the gas station came back out with good news, he'd just gotten a call from work and was needed in the city and could give us a lift, conveniently the neighborhood we were heading to would be an easy drop off as well. He turned out to be pretty interesting. Originally he was a bull rider, eventually moving on to buffalo and also becoming a bit of a career stunt man. Besides that, he'd been doing undercover work in San Antonio where at one point he'd walked in on his Sergeant doing blow with hookers. He'd reported this and consequently got dragged through the political nightmare along with threats to his life and the shaming of his reputation. He'd more or less moved on from this and was now enjoying odd jobs and watching his daughter grow up into a pretty good roper herself.

In no time we were at Jasmine's house along with two other couchsurfers she was hosting. It was a night of travel stories, tea and relaxing. The morning came with thoughts of the riverwalk and exploring San Antonio, but Bridget seemed eager to get on the road and I had no objections. Jasmine gave us a ride to the western outskirts and to the freeway we went.

First was a ride from a girl going to massage school for about thirty minutes. At a truck stop there a couple calling themselves rubber trampers gave us a banana, they would have given us a ride, but their car was packed to the brim. Instead we got a ride from Juan, a trucker heading for El Paso. I spent the first part of the ride in back drifting in and out of sleep and listening to him talk.

We cruised and cruised into the night, stories of his marriage trouble now that his wife had become obsessed with Jesus and he wasn't into it, stories of growing up in Mexico, at last arriving into El Paso. There would be no more continuing on, we were beat. Luckily, this truck stop had a big dark truckers lounge with the TV on so we settled in the for the night to slowly fade to sleep.

In the early morning we got the groggy out of our systems and became waking ourselves up. We posted up on a bench out in the open, asking truckers where they were heading when they seemed friendly enough. A guy eventually came up to us and offered to get us a meal, we gladly accepted, very excitedly actually. He was a Vietnam veteran, we sat down sharing stories between trips back up to the buffet.

Another trucker on a stool nearby sipping coffee was hearing bits and pieces and chimed in a few times. Eventually it came out that we were heading for Phoenix next and that other trucker, Dan, offered us a ride saying he could have offered even sooner, but thought we'd already linked up with the guy we were sitting with.

He was ready to go to, we scarfed down our meals and had some last words and thanks with the veteran, then made our way out to Dan's truck and in no time we were blasting off. Bridget and I bounced between the back watching movies and up front sharing stories with him until finally getting close to Phoenix where he was going to sleep for the night.

Soon enough we were getting picked up by my great friend Larry, once again I was in Phoenix. It was a good night catching up, filling our bellies with Popo's food, our homebrewed beer and finally passing out. It had been a good trek to get to Arizona, but the magic was still to come. Before heading to Baja, I still wanted Bridget to see the Grand Canyon, Sedona and whatever else we could find along the way, keeping it moving.

February 7, 2012 to February 10, 2012

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