Hitchhiking to the Grand Canyon, Helpful Arizona Cops

We hitched a ride in a Mustang to the interstate, a breezy intro to our day of hitchhiking. That came only shortly after walking from my friend's Salt Lake City home after our leisurely paced morning, on the road and going again.

Before we'd left my friend and roommate had gone towards work, Ryan had also split, a car traveler headed in another direction we'd met at a brewery the night before and pulled into our night of music and shared hospitality in the neighborhood.

A ride to Orem came once on the freeway, another ride to a busier spot and then a ride to Spanish Fork. Marilyn and I seemed to be moving along pretty nicely, the Grand Canyon on our minds and practically a week to get to Southern California left before my brother's wedding.

Our next ride was in the back of a pickup truck among concrete blocks, the driver and passengers opened up the slider window enough to relay that they'd never left the state of Utah, a fairly impressive feat, even for older teenagers.

Next was a prison guard who got us south to Nephi, a pretty attractive girl who didn't fit the the likely common mold of an enforcer of incarcerated criminals. We waited a bit where she dropped us off until we got a somewhat stranger ride, a middle aged guy hauling a trailer heading to Las Vegas. He was short and somewhat vague in speech, questions like, "What are you doing in Vegas" earned responses like, "work", and emphasized silence. The "What's in the trailer?", question quickly became the most obvious while also the question to avoid asking.

It was dark by the time we reached the junction north of Cedar City that Marilyn and I would have to take, we hopped out in the absence of moonlight while he barely said a word, staying consistent with the couple hours of road we'd just covered in quiet thought.

We headed up the dark little road, Marilyn apparently almost bit it on the cattle the guard she didn't see given her lack of night vision, we thumbed the rare pairs of headlights that passed us while hoping to find a more hidden place to camp the night, the new moon was making it difficult to see too far up the road, oddly enough it was the headlights that passed us by that gave us our only brief glances of the road ahead.

The cedar trees came popping up, quickly growing thick enough that we could tuck behind them off the side of the road with confidence that we'd be hidden away enough come daylight to any eyes that could possibly discriminate.

Morning came inside the little tent, upon packing up so came my realization that my wallet was missing. All I could figure was it was somewhere between Salt Lake City and the tent, but after a search of the backpack it was clearly gone from the present and there were no obvious options of determining it's location or point of slippage. So it goes.

We hit the road, a grandpa grandson combo whisked us off to the next little town where they talked in anticipation of an upcoming hot air balloon festival. From the edge of that town we got a ride from a guy from Hatch, then a woman who claimed to have eight boys of her own who took us to Mount Carmel, the jump off junction that lead to Zion if we'd been aiming that way.

A ride to Kanab came after that, then a short ride from a Mexican guy and then a slightly longer ride from an American who called himself a gringo in regards to his frequent trips to Mexico where he planned to eventually fully retire. He dropped us by the start of the one road that lead in and out of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Somewhere in that mix of rides came a text message, "dude I found your flippin flip wallet pouch thingy thing exclamation!!!", it was Ryan, the car traveler from Salt Lake who'd now made it as far as Denver when he discovered it. Mystery solved, I gave him my brother's address so he could mail it back.

A cop rolled up on a us after a while of waiting on the last ride to the rim, asking if we'd been to "House Rock", we hadn't, he was looking for somebody that wasn't us. Luckily he didn't hassle us further than that, he just left and soon we got a ride from a couple rangers who lived in the park year round and were on there way to the North Rim. They told us about the long winters, there were only about six of them out there then and had to use snow mobiles some forty miles just to get to their car at the plowed road for the odd supply run.

Soon we were there, they dropped us off with the offer of camping outside their house if we decided to stay the night. Before long we'd hiked ourselves out to the point and were staring out into the vastness of the Grand Canyon. I'd seen it from the South Rim several times, but this was my first experience from this perspective. Marilyn was in awe, that coupled with her fear of heights I was becoming more familiar with.

After snacking and staring out in the open we headed for the parking lot, opting to get on down the road some more despite the camping offer. Flagstaff seemed reasonable.

We rode in the back of a pickup truck for a short distance, then in the back of a second one all the way out of the park down the only road, this while curious children intermittently slid open the window to ask us our names and other short questions.

Traffic was light at best, but eventually we got a ride from a couple traveling from Berlin who was heading a good ways to find a hotel for the night, hours later we were hopping out of their car just forty odd miles still north of Flagstaff in the now dark of night.

We stood under a streetlight, the only thing that made it possible to be hopeful of catching one last ride, all the same we waited for a good while. We'd seen some cops cruising around, blasting a searchlight into neighborhoods. One eventually rolled up alongside us and hopped out, asking if we'd seen a guy in a black shirt with a red hat. We hadn't seen anyone, he shrugged it off.

"I don't mean to hassle you, but it is illegal to hitchhike. You guys do seem ok though", he looked us over, "You guys have ID on you?"

We handed him our IDs and he disappeared into his car, pretty common police interaction while hitching. He came out and handed our IDs back, "Well, I can get you down to Flagstaff, you have any weapons or drugs on you?"

Off we went, cruising through the night from the backseat, he was heading down that way anyhow and we were getting the long and last ride we needed to make good on the night. We chatted and he pecked at his computer.

"Isn't that kind of like texting and driving?", Marilyn joked, although actually fairly nervous given he was pegging a hundred on the speedometer. He kind of laughed it off, only seeming slightly annoyed by the comment.

"So where to?", he asked as we got closer. He pulled into the brewery parking lot and let us out, we thanked him and headed in for a beer, not such a bad police taxi service. Later on we were walking a little ways to my friend Keith's house, every step hurting a struggling Marilyn who's feet were wrecked from a poor choice of shoes coupled with the summer's level of hiking and wandering she was not accustomed to.

It was good to catch up with Keith, he lived in a big house with an unknown amount of roommates and people coming and going, a small pirate radio station operating in one room that would eventually get shutdown some months later. Eventually Marilyn and I passed out on some mattresses in the main room while people came and went in the late night.

We decided to stick around the next day, starting with the obligatory stop at Flag Brew, that after coffee first. We caught up with Keith later for some drinking kickball with his friends, jumping to a couple of fields and running out of a brief rainstorm.

That night there was a big party at his house, a band came and also some fort of comedian performer friend which involved him laboring over a whole box of popsicles while blasting Will Smith's "Summertime" on loop as he collapsed to the floor trying to finish them all off surrounded by the confused and amused hoard of drinkers.

Some time in the morning Keith gave us a ride to the interstate, Phoenix was next on our path and just a two hour drive down the road. We planted ourselves just south of I-40 and stuck our thumbs out, but once again we were approached by a cop before anyone else.

"Hitchhiking is illegal in Arizona, but people have to get to where they're going", he started, "I can give you a ride about fifteen miles down the road, but honestly I think you'll be better off right here", this after the customary ID check. We opted to stay put, thanked him for the offer and he wished us luck before speeding on down the road.

A pickup truck pulled to the side, through the window the packed cab of people said they were Phoenix bound and we were welcome to hop in the back. Off we went, blasting down the road towards the city of sprawl.

After about an hour we were quickly making the transition from a fair weather Flagstaff to the 120 degree wind burning assault of Phoenix. Our water ran out fast, sun burns were setting in, even once we got to Phoenix there was no telling where in the city they were going, it could be another hour until we got to wherever they were going.

Somewhat luckily they made the eastbound turn towards the part of town we were aiming for, but we couldn't have been more relieved when we finally pulled off the highway and into a gas station to hop out. We thanked them for the ride, also briefly meeting another Indiana girl they'd given a ride, perhaps hitchhiking as well.

We went directly into a convenience store, gladly obliged to the cashier's request we take our bags off, then went straight for the drink fountain to get the iciest drinks possible. I noticed the walk in beer fridge and went straight for that, chilling out and chugging down the drink getting some sanity back.

After a while we got in touch with my friend Jon who came and picked us up, we headed back to his house and got into relaxation mode for a while. Towards the night some people started arriving for a story telling party. Also I began brewing a five gallon batch with Jon, he'd gotten some equipment and had never brewed before, I was happy to show him the ropes. The brewing and the night went well, catching up with a few familiar faces and meeting some friendly new ones.

The next day was July 2nd, just a couple days before my brother's July 4th wedding in Southern California. We probably would have hitched out that day, but instead we just relaxed and explored a nearby brewery. Jon and another friend were heading to Los Angeles the next day and offered to let us just hitch with them.

The last leg of our cross country excursion would be simplified, soon would come the wedding, catching up with family and after that, whatever and wherever was an option.

June 28, 2013 July 2, 2013

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