Hitchhiking towards the West

Hitchhiking and the road were on my mind Friday night, and down to chinatown I went. I couldn't find the bus I was looking for, but found one going the same way for the same price around the same time, good enough for me, off I rode towards State College, PA leaving NYC once again.

The Party College
I thought it might be too late for Jess to take me in, I contacted her through couchsurfing, but she told me that my 11:30 arrival was no problem at all. When she didn't answer the phone when I did get there, I wandered around the walmart waiting for her to call back while thinking of my backup plan, sleeping behind walmart. She called, she came, and took me back to her place with her friend.

They were both very friendly, and knew each other pretty well it seemed, often cutting themselves off when they knew they were going off track and losing the other's attention. There were a few options for the night, and after some shots of rum and an alternative use for apples I showed them, we headed into the night for a slice of pizza and a taste of the scenery.

Walking through this campus town was unreal, especially given our current state of mind, it was a like walking through the opening scene of a college party movie. The street lined with houses was alive, to our right we walked buy a guy spinning around the bat while every chanted and through beer at him, the streets were covered with people drinking and shouting. Without skipping a beat we saw a drunken done up girl on her phone crying her eyes out, "Why does he have to be such an asshole?!", it was great.

We got our slice, sat for a while, saw a lot more drunken cliches, and headed back to crash out. The next morning I had a great breakfast cooked for me, and got a phone call from Karin who was making great time hitchhiking, never waiting more than 5 minutes for a ride, and currently in a truck headed all the way to Detroit. Jess drove me up to I-80 which was about 20 minutes away, a huge help. I hit the onramp with my thumb out trying to catch up to Karin.

Short Rides and Mostly Dry
I got my first ride within 5 minutes, I almost couldn't believe it. It was a couple guys, the passenger didn't say much at all, the driver was nice and they took me about 30 miles weaving through traffic pretty quick. I found myself at another onramp, a pinch closer to cleveland, although now Karin would be at least as far as Toledo.

The rain came in quick and painless sprinkles, but an hour passed with no rides. I found myself doing what I always do standing alone with my thumb out for that long, singing songs with lyrics that come out of nowhere, this time it was "So pick me up, before it rains, pick me up before I go insane, before the night, I would like to see some miles melt away".

The rain looked to pick up a bit, but the rides didn't, so I broke out the pack cover and started up the onramp intent on walking down the freeway to the next exit. No sooner did I start walking did an old man stop and pick me up. He took me as far as Dubois, another 30 or 40 miles up the road.

In Dubois I waited under the bridge by I-80 with my thumb out belting my recently found song, adding some more words as they came, "Why won't they pick me up, they think I'll stick 'em up, they think I'll stink 'em up, you're in a pick up truck! just pick me!, just pick me up! just pick me (indiscernible screaming).

Terry the Trucker
After an hour of that, I walked up the hill, set on walking to the next exit, tired of waiting any longer. I knew I was in a decent spot, but I was itching to be moving. Trucks and cars whizzed by, but the shoulder was big and I was out of the way. A big truck buzzed by, the kind that hauls a cars all stacked up. I had a quick fantasy of seeing a truck like that at a gas station and sneaking between a couple cars, truck hopping state to state.

I kept walking, but when I looked up, that very truck had pulled over about 150 yards ahead. A huge smile came over me as I started running, my 60 pound pack bouncing up and down until I finally got to the truck where the trucker had come around. I told him I was headed for Cleveland, and then on to California or somewhere out West, he told me he was going all the way to LA and I was welcome to come. Awesome.

I hopped in the truck and off we went, right as the rain and wind picked up pretty good which he said was the reason for picking me up, keeping me dry. His name was Terry, a 20 year veteran on the road, the last 7 of which were hauling cars. He told me all about it as we drove and drove, he even bought me a sandwich when we stopped once.

I shot Karin a text to let her know I had a ride cross country, she told me to keep on truckin' and she'd make her own way. We finally stopped in a small town called Ohio called Waynesville for the night, I got my choice of the 10 cars in the back to sleep in, and passed out.

The next morning Terry met with some guys, we were in town to pick up an 11th car. I couldn't see how it would fit back there, but he said it would happen. We spent the day unloading cars, making room, towing the new car on, and loading everything back up. By 4pm we were back on the road, west bound.

Karin gave me a call, she said she was stuck and asking for advice on what to do, no rides were coming and she couldn't find a good place to stand. Turns out she was just 100 miles up the road from where were on I-70, just west of Indianapolis. Terry said we should pick her up, and so we did.

Karin was a skinny 29 brunette girl, she was living on some land in Virginia, and now headed to grass valley to meet some friends. She talked a lot about healthy foods, efficient energy, things like that. Terry talked a lot about hydrogen and how sick he was of gas prices, he was getting about a mile to the dollar. "If it wasn't for the government we would already have hydrogen cars, you have no idea how much stuff the government is hiding, they control everything". Terry drove, and drove, and drove, he finally stopped a little past Kansas City around 4am. I slept in the same car again, Karin opted to sleep in the bushes in her sleeping bag.

The next day we cruised onward, off to Denver where 6 or 7 cars needed to be unloaded. Along the way we stopped at a walmart so he could get some oil and whatnot. Out in the parking lot Karin asked another trucker if she could ride with him towards salt lake city. The guy grabbed her breasts and told her to turn around. She turned down that ride, and continued with us.

Karin had plenty of money I gathered, she wanted to hitchhike for the experience and prove she was brave, that women were brave. She had a nice camera and filmed things here and there saying she was making a film for women hitchhikers. As we got closer to Denver she got into a gentle argument with Terry about women. Terry said "Women have their place, and they should stay there, stop trying to put on the man pants."

"What place is that?", Karin asked with a smirk.

"Taking care of the children, taking care of the house, children need a woman's affection that most men can't provide. They break down to easy, they can't be trying to be truckers or getting involved in the corporate world, they'll break down".

Karin had little to say other than "I don't agree with all of that", and Terry kept talking about it, bringing up Hilary Clinton and whatnot. We finally got to Aurora, just outside of Denver, and Karin went into the truck stop in her own direction, trying to find the next ride. I stuck with Terry to help him deliver cars.

I zipped around in someone's BMW following him down the freeway to deliver the first one, then a couple guys met us at the truck to pick up another. At this point it was late, and I spent my third night in the car whose new car smell was all but gone by now.

The next morning we took one car into the shop that he'd damaged, and then unloaded more while phone calls and conversations with other truckers kept him fairly distracted. Eventually we took off to meet a woman near the airport, I drove her car and he drove someone else's and I followed him there. He didn't like this woman, he said no one did. She came walking out when we pulled up, he asked her to sign the papers, but she wanted to see the car start first. Terry started it and then turned it off. She demanded to get in, they start arguing, Terry knew if she got in the car she'd drive off without signing anything or paying. He tossed me the keys to the other car and told me to drive off, so we both drove away leaving her standing there.

Down the freeway a minute or so he pulled over into the shoulder, and came to my car to grab the papers. When he went back to the car he was driving he realized he'd locked the keys in there, the car running and all. We drove around and found a locksmith, and were off again, him on the phone with someone talking about the "dumb bitch woman", she wasn't the sweetest. He got us some ice cream and we headed back to the truck.

After we made another delivery, I finally went my own way, off to Dave's house from couchsurfing. I got Terry's number, he said to call anytime to see where he was at if I needed a ride, or a job hauling cars. It was great times with Terry, and a great ride, but I was happy to move on to the next thing, a shower on my mind.

I got to Dave's house, and within 5 minutes I was in a car again headed towards the Rockies game, he had an extra ticket. Dave and his friends were great, and the baseball and beer is just what I needed, the light rain that came and went felt great too.

This morning I took a much needed shower, cooked up a couple eggs, and relaxed. I like the vibe in Denver. I'll likely stay another night or two, then see if I end up going north through some breweries, towards Vegas, or something else.