Typical Arizona to SoCal to NorCal Hitchhiking Trip
California possessed the primary gravitation, particularly Chico, for starters. I'd won a contest some months ago to go to Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp, myself, a friend and our fellow campers had an amazing time at the brewery which culminated in our brewing a beer of our choosing, the fruits of which were soon to enjoyed. I wanted to be in California to taste as much of this brew as possible, so goes this section of the road to get there.
Our route was all too familiar to me at this point: down to Phoenix, over to Southern California and the ever-tricky escape from the sprawl up to Chico by way of the potential slow down of Sacramento.
Ready, set, go and Marilyn and I were out on foot. We set off without a bang, rather eased into the day with a coffee and then a beer at Flag Brew, then on to another brewery called Mother Road on this unusually windy day.
After getting our fix we were off to the freeway, upon claiming our hitchhiking spot a volunteer highway cop of sorts pulled up, just wanting to help. A ride to Mesa Verde got us going.
From there we got a ride from a trucker and his wife straight on down to Tempe. We planned on staying with a friend there, but after some missing keys and related confusion we headed across the city to stay with another good friend.
We spent the next day there, relaxing and hitting the good spots in Phoenix, read: chimichanga from Popos.
In the morning my friend dropped us off to the west where the sprawl of Phoenix metro finally tapers off to desert. My brother's place was our next resting point, just between San Diego and Orange County.
A short ride got us to a rest area, then a very tired man picked us up, his English speaking was poor, but he was friendly and even got us lunch when he took a quick five minute nap. Eventually he dropped us off at the junction heading south.
There was got a ride from a liadback guy who took us halfway to Temecula, giving us parting gifts of beer and weed for the road. A guy going to his new job as a dishwasher gave us our next ride to Temecula.
One more ride from a father and son and we were close enough for my brother to come scoop us up and take us back to his place for the night.
We spent the next day there, heading into town for a trip to Stone's taproom and some walking around and a chill night catching up with my brother.
Back to the road again, our mission was to get up to a friend's house to the north of the hitchhiking nightmare that is the Los Angeles sprawl.
All told it wasn't as bad as it's been in the past, but still took a series of rides. First was an older surfer that got us north of the military base, then a Marine a few more exits up, then a nice couple up to the 405, then we caught a nice break when an animator picked us up and decided to go a little further and get us up to Long Beach.
We sort of got slowed down there when we had to do a bit of walking to get up to the next spot, which included walking on the freeway itself for a minute until a cop slowed to shout, "You don't want a ride from me!", telling us to to get off the freeway.
A bit more walking and we got to another ramp where we managed to get picked up by a girl named Hannah heading to Van Nuys. She dropped us off at a highway entrance that, amazingly for this area, had a big wide shoulder perfect for hitchhiking. We got a ride in no time from a costume designer.
He dropped us off in a strange spot, though, after some navigational confusion, we wound up walking up to a strange highway entrance that was tucked away in a neighborhood. It seemed pretty strange to me and traffic was low.
I figured we'd be there for a while, perhaps wind up taking another long walk to another entrance, but along came our final ride to Woodland Hills. This guy had a baby ball python on his lap in a bag, we were in good hands.
Finally we wound up meeting up with my friend there, he had to go out for the night, so we just relaxed and in the morning we were able to catch up a bit before getting back to the freeway for our last leg of the journey to Chico.
First ride was a Peruvian family asking us the "You aren't killers, right?", question. Our next ride was somewhat amazing, it was Hannah from the day before! She didn't even flinch, almost as if she had been expecting us. We weren't even in the same area that she'd picked us up or dropped us off the evening before, just pure coincidence.
We'd carried on so well the day before, and now again with the crazy chances, she decided to take us all the way up to Santa Clarita, the final thread fraying north from the ragged Los Angeles tapestry of urban sprawl.
We got a ride from a truck driver there heading to Fresno. As many times as I've gone this route I should know better than to head up 99 instead on straight up Interstate 5, but alas, I usually can't say no to getting more distance.
We paid for it, where he dropped us off there was minimal traffic and we waited a long time to get our next ride, it came from a delivery truck that had seen us earlier, it was a short ride, but at least we were in a new spot.
A father and son got us to Madera next. More long waits, we headed up to the freeway itself and were rewarded with a Mexican guy pulling over in his little red sports car. He was heading for Merced, but drove us a bonus distance on up to Modesto.
Unfortunately the spot where he dropped us off was pretty terrible for hitching, so once again we risked walking up on the freeway in order to catch a ride.
Instead the police came along, "You know why I'm here?", he asked as he rolled alongside us.
"To give us a ride?", I replied as seriously and hopeful as possible.
He told us to get off the freeway by walking over this embankment, we'd already walked too far from the entrance. This sent us on a little precarious hike through the brush and then around a river to finally get back to the next entrance up the way, the sun now piercing golden through the trees as an indication that Chico was most certainly not happening on this night.
Some time ago I'd been given a ride from a guy who lived near this area, he'd taken me in for the night and then given me a ride to Sacramento the next day. I gave him a call to see if he'd extend a similar favor again for Marilyn and I, at least a place to stay, but I only got a voicemail.
As long as there was some light we'd keep on going. A couple in a van got us to the first exit north of Modesto, then a guy there gave us a ride up to Stockton where the sun had finally disappeared.
We still considered hitching, but mostly our eyes were darting around surveying possible campsites. We walked up to another exit, finally gave up on trying to hitch and found ourselves a place to get pizza and a pitcher of beer, refueling and contemplating our situation.
We hadn't seen much for camping, even looking at some satellite view of our area showed nothing promising. At last we resigned ourselves to some dirt cheap motel a little walk away.
On the walk there we were joined by another guy, he seemed to live around there and didn't want to walk by himself given the area. We were ever spotlighted by a passing cop car on the walk, apparently we weren't in the happiest part of town.
The motel matched the whole vibe as well, but we savored the room and bed to sleep on for the night.
Shag, shower, pizza, road, another day ahead of us. It started out slow. A long wait, then a long walk to find a better spot, a big cold drink, another walk and another long wait, then finally the payoff: a German homebrewer who scooped us up and took us straight through Sacramento to the northern junction, leaving us with a bottle of his beer for the road.
From there we just got a ride up to Yuba City with one guy, then a speed demon clear to my friend's doorstep in Chico. Mission accomplished.
All the was left to do now was catch up with good friends, drink delicious beer and let the weeks unfold as we jumped from Beer Camp release party to release party. We could handle that.
March 30, 2014 to April 5, 2014