Hitchhiking Dressed as Santa and an Elf

We had a thousand mile journey ahead of us for the upcoming Christmas holiday, myself dressed like Santa, Marilyn as an elf; Jackson Hole, Wyoming was our destination, Albuquerque our starting point and hitchhiking as our method of transportation.

A couple road tripping friends dropped us off on the outskirts of the city after having spent a couple days together. We were feeling jolly, my smiled showed only through my eyes with the rest of my face covered in the white, dollar store beard. We'd scrambled together all the red and green gear we could at thrift stores and the like, we were sure this would make the trip up to Wyoming a little more fun.

Our first ride came from a a guy in the cannabis industry, but only a few miles up the road. Next a car dealer rode us all the way up to Santa Fe, snapping a picture of us for his family to see later. A family gave us a short ride north of town after that, and there we waited for quite a while.

It was cold and getting colder, my Santa beard blocked only some of the bitter wind blasting us, the worst of the gusts coming from the passing 18 wheeler trucks. Now Marilyn was bringing up rental cars, pondering the prices and the possibility.

We couldn't give up. Santa wouldn't give up, he'd push on.

And just like that one of those 18 wheelers was now pulling over. We ran for it and hopped up into the truck to meet the ex-Marine and long time trucker, currently aiming to end his day in Fort Collins. Warm again, and now knocking out about half the miles of our trip in one ride with this truck driver and his little dog.

It was in Loveland where we stopped for some food, it's also there where the driver decided he'd press on just a bit further on up to Cheyenne. This was good news for us, as this would connect us up with Interstate 80, as well as getting us officially into Wyoming. Once there he tried using his CB radio to catch us our next ride with another trucker, but nothing came of it.

We parted ways, then my elf and I went into the truck stop to ponder our situation. We had just over 400 miles to get to Jackson, which included several more junctions, which meant a straight ride would be less likely. It was dark now, as well, which meant it was also getting colder. It would be easy to say that Marilyn simply couldn't take the cold, but she actually had a condition called "raynauds" where her blood vessels constricted quite a bit when reacting to cold, the result was that her hands and whatnot would actually turn visibly blue. Such an inopportune condition for an elf.

We found some cardboard and made a "WEST" sign, deciding we'd brave the cold for a bit and try to catch a ride standing under the streetlight by the entrance to the interstate. This didn't last long, however, as cars and trucks were few and far between while the cold didn't quit.

We headed back inside the truck stop to warm up an evaluate. One possibility, which I've done several times before, is to sit in the truckers lounge overnight, fading in and out of sleep before getting back on the road come daylight. It's not the best sleep and you can run the risk of getting kicked out (although that's never happened to me in these instances), but it became a moot point as this truck stop didn't have a lounge.

We got a token drink at the fast food spot inside to "buy" our table while we thought some more. For Marilyn there was only one solution, one I couldn't find much of an alternative to myself other than braving the cold, and that was to get a motel room. She worked her phone wizardry and worked it all out.

In the meantime someone who'd seen us early came by and bought us some food, a pretty awesome thing to happen in that moment.

Afterwords we walked a mile or more, one last trek through the chill to get to a warm room for the night, luckily still close to the highway.

After the good night's sleep we clattered on back to the highway. The wind was vicious, sucking the air out from us in bone chillingly freezing fashion. Both of us wearing all layers of clothes we had underneath our Christmas gear, my cheeks now authentically rosy. After a good long while, though, Marilyn's hands were once again taking on the blue color. "Marilyn! You're hands are freezing!"

We were just about to take a break, march our way back to find a nearby gas station or some other place to warm up, when our ride came just in time.

We climbed up into the Utah bound truck, taking turns talking in the passenger seat and napping in the bunk in the back until we hit Rock Springs, the turn off heading towards Jackson. We hopped out there and got to walking, mostly just to stay warm while we waiting on the next ride to come. Things were slow, though. Some people honked and held up phones, smiling, but not as many people were actually stopping to give us a ride.

Finally of course someone did, a family from Florida heading to some sand dunes just several miles down the road, they dropped us off a pretty desolate turn off up the road. We kept marching from there, now with the sun going down once again, and now quite far from anything other than the road and frozen plains around us.

An oil field worker saved us from that situation, picking us up armed with burritos and pastries. He took us up the next bitty town where he got us some hot chocolate before dropping us off. It was dark now and only the gas station was open, and basically that's all the town was, that too would be closing soon. There was a streetlight at least, so we planted ourselves there. Someone driving the opposite direction gave us some more warm gear, that and the hot chocolate made things at least a bit more bearable.

Our persistence paid off, in a big way, as we eventually got picked up by a passing twenty two year old who'd been working as an inspector up in North Dakota, but was now on his way to where he grew up and lived in Pinedale, which was just eighty miles south of Jackson. He offered to take us a junction further where he thought there was a streetlight, but just as we were getting there he made an even better suggestion, that being to let us stay in his trailer for the night, hit the bar for some beers and then drive us to Jackson in the morning. Sold.

We dropped our bags off and de-elfed, then headed to the bar. A night of many beers and then a warm night inside, travel magic never ceases to amaze. Come morning the snow was kicking on down, we cruised on anyway as the snow got more and more intense, but we made it to Jackson and our new friend even dropped us off directly at my mom's house there. Success! And with a few days to spare before Christmas.

We spent nearly a week in town altogether; catching up with my mom, siblings and more family; visiting the amazing Melvin Brewing a couple times in the Thai Me Up restaurant, checking out the tire-salt-licking big horn sheep and having good meals all along. For Christmas day itself we went skiing, crisscrossing around the mountain as much as possible. A day on the mountain is always a good day, especially in Jackson.

It wouldn't be until a few days after Christmas that we'd get going, eastbound for New Years, and what a wild year it would be ahead. A few continents, flights, trains, buses, hitchhiking, a backpack/tent project, love, breakups, pick pockets and muggings, more love, more bliss, more pints and more of everything that's kept me kicking on down the road. Ho ho ho and every night a good night.

December 19, 2014 to December 27, 2014

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