Grand Canyon, Flagstaff Fun and Hitchhiking to Vegas

I woke up Friday and got straight to playing with Trip Hopping, but I had the road on my mind knowing I'd be hitting it later. Larry and I took a quick bike ride for food, then relaxed back at his place a bit . We enjoyed a few beers while we waited for Nick to arrive, he was coming to pick me up and go to Flagstaff for the night.

We got on the road just as the sun was going down, aiming for Flagstaff with thoughts of the Grand Canyon where we'd be hiking the next day, the reason for the trip. We caught up on the ride, sharing ambitions of future travels to places like Australia. Nick had some extra beans, rice and "half a pig" for me, I chowed it down while we rode.

We were greeted in Flagstaff by Molly and her friends and roommates, I'd found Molly on couchsurfing the night before and she was up for hosting us. She was well traveled and had yet another Europe trip in the works coming up soon.

All but Nick and I went to sleep, we decided to head into town so Nick could show me some spots and live music. We first stopped at a corner store that was also a bar, Nick got a root beer and we walked to a bench on the corner, as per his Flagstaff tradition. I spied a beer on tap, Lagunitas Maximus, I took note of it, it's one of my favorite beers and I've never seen it on tap before.

We wandered around town, dipping into different places for a few moments to enjoy live music and take in the different scenes. Flagstaff is a young town and has a real good feel, we were both digging it. Flag Brewing seemed like a great place - beer, coffee, live music, burgers and a generally good feel. We headed back to the place with Maximus to find they were closed, I decided I'd get there another time. We caught a little more music and then headed back to sleep.

In the morning we got on the road to the Grand Canyon. Just outside of town we picked up a hitchhiker, Zane, who was also headed to the canyon. He'd just left his life in the northwest and had an open calendar, he figured Arizona would be a decent place to be. He told us stories about his life, a lot of which spent on the go.

We dropped Zane off at the back country office once we got to the canyon, he was going to look into camping for a while. Nick and I headed to a shuttle that took us further west to a trail we wanted to hike, dripping spring. It was a warm sunny day, and turned hotter as we made our way down into the canyon. We looked out into incredible views of the massive canyon cut through the earth, red rocks and layers, greenery speckled in patches throughout.

After a full day, we climbed out of the canyon bit by bit and hopped another shuttle back to the car and headed back to Flagstaff. We enjoyed good music and the breeze from the open windows. We decided to go to the root beer spot again so I could get myself a pint of Lagunitas Maximus, one sip and life was perfect. Despite my dwindling cash stack, I had little choice but to pick up a six pack of a beer called Modus Hoperandi.

We got back to Molly's and Nick cooked up some soup and potatoes while I enjoyed a couple of my beers, it turned out to be a great choice. We headed out to meet Molly at a friend's place, but she was on her way back already so we just met her back at the house. We talked into the night until sleep was the thing.

In the morning Molly and a group of friends were ready to go to Sedona for a day of swimming. Nick had to get back to Scottsdale, but I gladly accepted the invitation. We piled in a car and headed south, shortly arriving in the incredible scene of Sedona. Red rock spires towered above everything twisting around, we parked along the freeway and got to walking.

We veered into the woods down a steep slope and hopped rocks to cross the creek until we came to a sort of beach. There was a little rope swing into the water, and on the other side was a rock wall about 40 feet high that people could jump from if they were willing to make there way to the top. We had a few beers and cooled off in the water, swinging in and enjoying ourselves.

Another car full of friends showed up, along with other folks coming to enjoy the secluded spot. No one else was up for it, but I ventured into the woods across the creek until I found a good spot to climb up the wall with jumping on the mind. I made my way to the ridge that looked like the best spot while everyone watched below. I launched off and plunged the 40 feet or so into the water below, a pretty awesome feeling that reminded me of good times in West Virginia.

We enjoyed the spot for a while longer until we decided to move on back to the car. One car load of us went to a brewery in town, the prices for food didn't match what I had in pocket, but I managed to cover a beer for myself. I instead munched on a loaf of bread back in the car as we headed back to Flagstaff.

Back at Molly I relaxed the night away, watching the Celtics get beat by the Magic and seeing highlights from the Lakers game, they'd blown out the Rockets in game 7 to move on to the next round against the Nuggets, good times. I had Vegas on my mind now, as that was my next move.

In the morning I had a couple pieces of toast and headed out the door, walking down route 66 towards the I-40 on ramp on the west side of town. I walked two or three miles, a packed car stopped for me before I even made it to the freeway, I knew it would be going a distance before I even got in. The drive was Peter, a guy my age tripping around before going to work at Yosemite for the summer "removing invasive plant life".

At the moment he was headed loosely to San Diego to see some friends, thinking he'd stop at Joshua Tree for a night of camping on the way. We got me as far as Kingman, the halfway point to Vegas. I walked across the little town to the edge and stuck my thumb out until a jeep wrangler stopped for me, a car that reminds me of good times with my brother... and sometimes without him, doing things with his car he'd of killed me for in the moment.

The driver was an older guy who wasn't going way to far, but he was happy to help me out. He had a son who'd hitchhiked a bit in this same direction, he dropped me off at a filling station where he said his son had great luck getting to Vegas. He actually took me off the route I'd originally been on, US-93, I was now on US-68 which he said could be better since trucks were allowed on this road since it avoided the Hoover Dam, and would also avoid the slow moving dam traffic.

I didn't wait long before an old station wagon pulling out of the gas station waived me into the car, a man driving and an old woman who remained silent in the passenger seat. They were headed to Laughlin just over the hill a across the border to Nevada. In fact, we all remained mostly silent that ride accept for the radio. The driver didn't seem too keen on conversation and a bit hard of hearing anyhow, but friendly none the less. I even found myself falling in and out of sleep a bit.

We reached Laughlin and they dropped me off at the turn off to Vegas next to a copper statue of a man who probably had something to do with the town. As I got out of the car, the woman spoke her first and only words, "Be careful".

I walked to a sandy pull out on the road to Vegas and thumbed the cars that came my way. In just 10 minutes or less a pickup truck aimed for me, an older guy at the wheel and a smiling blonde pointing at me in the passenger seat. They pulled up next to me and asked to see my ID, I started to pull it out and asked why, the pumped up blonde said "So we know we're not harboring a minor dude!", she took a look at it and told me to hop in, "You're a baby!", she laughed.

"This is Bob and I'm Jennifer, Bob is awesome!", she was full of energy and had the look of slightly strung out hooker, cuts up and down her arms. Bob told me to take a look at the sticker on his back windshield that read "Highway Patrol", he just looked at me as if to say "so no fucking around", but he was friendly too. Jennifer was overly excited, she stuck her finger in her mouth as they joked about how young I was and stuck it behind my ear, "You're still wet behind the ears!", she laughed and cranked the ACDC on the stereo.

Their story changed a few times, she told me she was on the side of the road like me and got picked up by Bob too. She wanted to stop for a beer and a bathroom break, Bob told her she could use a bathroom, but would have to wait until we got to Searchlight to have a beer. We stopped at a small roadside casino and she ran in, I stood by the truck while Bob smoked a cigarette. "Kids", he said and shook his head smiling. He told me how he used to travel all the time, living in all 48 states for a good amount of time in each learning about different types of people and how they lived.

We hopped back in the car. "I really want that beer, we should stay here.", Jen said.

"We can stay in the backseat, are you gonna pay me here?", that was Bob's reply.

"Well how's this payment gonna work?"

"I have needs you know", Bob's flirty response.

"Well what's your specific need then?"

"I have a whole bunch of needs, should I go down the list?", "Let's just get down the road for now" and we got going, Jen continued her energetic antics, rubbing elbows with us both and jamming to the music. The two of them danced in their seats, Bob playing air guitar to rock music and squeezing her slim giggling body.

We got to Searchlight at a gas station and Jennifer grabbed a couple beers from the back of the truck for herself. A guy walked by and she shouted to him asking about a cigarette, he said he was buying some now, "Menthol!" she shouted back and laughed. "Sexy vato" she said to me about the trucker. She crept into the backseat and began to down her beers. She asked me what I was running from, I didn't have an answer.

The trucker came out empty handed, "They didn't have the kind I like", he came over smiling flirtatiously at Jen.

"Well where are you headed?", Jen mirrored his smile, he said he was going to Miami via I-40. She perked up, she was apparently trying to get to Carlsbad, New Mexico, home perhaps, and asked if he was going near there. He wasn't sure where that way, but said he'd grab a map and would figure it out.

"But who is this guy, I can't be taking you away form your man ya know", referring to me, she assured him I was just a friend. He went off to his truck for a map.

Bob stepped in, "well there's the ride you've been waiting for", she seemed hesitant though, something was calling for her in Vegas. She grabbed Bob's phone to make a call, but accidentally picked up an incoming call from his wife. Drama ensued as she tried to explain who she was facing heavy scrutiny on the other side of the phone call, "Oh my god! Your husband is just helping me out, and that's it! I'm not sleeping with him or anything like that, he's just a good man helping me!", things like this. Bob kept telling her to hang up, she ignored him.

He looked at me mildly frustrated, "Women, they just keep talking and making things worse". The young trucker came back with the map, Bob just ushered him away saying things had changed, he didn't seem to mind and went his way. Bob ushered for me to hop in the car and he started it up, Jen hopped in the car still on the phone. We got to driving and he at last grabbed the phone from her and hung it up. "You just gotta hang up, the more you talk the more information they have to get things twisted and come up with their own ideas. Now they'll call two or three more time and you just gotta let it ring, I'll deal with them later."

She was upset, they argued a bit over the ordeal. She thought he must be shady if they were so suspicious of him, he told her that's just the way they were. Jen pouted for a few minutes looking out the window, but soon the music had her fired up and they seemed to have made up and got back to their air guitar and dancing.

She looked into the mirror and did her makeup. She looked back at me, "You wanna turn out like this?", her mascara lined eyes sadly pleading into mine. "Go home" she whispered, and turned back around.

We stopped at the Railroad Pass casino, the same one I'd hitchhiked from a couple times going the opposite direction. They both had a beer in the parking lot, she ran in for the bathroom again. Bob started telling me more of the story, he said he'd picked Jen up near the Tropicana a week back or so with his wife sensing that she was down on her luck, he told me she'd been tricking around for a while which was no surprise.

He'd been partying with her a bit and putting her up in a casino, but eventually his wife called the casino and somehow got her removed from the room and he'd lost contact with her, and then ran into her again a couple days later closer to Texas of all places. He hadn't told his wife, but after the phone call earlier she'd obviously found out they were back together in one way or another. He said now he was just getting her back to Vegas and she'd offered a few bucks for gas.

She came out of the casino and we got back on the road, the towering casinos soon popped up in the distance. She got on the phone with some guy she was going to see, he started feeding her directions. We got off and headed west on Tropicana, then turned around to go east, and then back west again. Bob got frustrated a bit with the poor directions saying we should just stop where we were and have the guy come to us, she ignored him and demanded he keep going straight, I was happy with this as we were getting closer to the strip.

He'd eventually had it and we pulled into a parking lot near the Hard Rock, she seemed to be fine with this. I hopped out and said my goodbyes, "women and directions, bah", Bob's last words, I got to walking in the direction of downtown.

I shot a message to Shana, who I'd be staying with in Vegas, she told me a bus I could catch. I walked up Paradise until I found a stop and waited for the bus. A woman at the stop spotted me a quarter to pay the $1.75, the bus came quickly and I was on my way.

I jumped out at 4th and Bridger and got directions to Shana's place from there. I spotted her from a block away coming out to find me, we went running for each other laughing as if we were old friends who hadn't seen each other in ages and hugged. This was my first time meeting her though, but I could tell she was going to be awesome.

She had some friends over for dinner, I was just in time for some good food and we all had glasses of Jameson. The group of us talked into the night over whiskey and an interesting cinnamon moonshine from a mason jar. I eventually passed out on an air mattress watching a movie Shana had put in for me.

It's good to be in a different part of Vegas than usual, despite the looming court date. It should be an interesting trip with some good times, we'll see how it goes.