Back on the road, Surprise to Salt Lake City

I spent my lasting morning in Arizona wrapping things up, anticipating the road ahead after a long stint of staying put. We grabbed some lunch, Larry, his dad, Trish and I, then they drove me up to the outskirts of the Phoenix area to a spot in Surprise I'd hitched out of before. Larry made me a cardboard sign that said Vegas, I was off to thumbing.

Soon I was in the backseat of a minivan, an attractive blonde driving with her teenage daughter in the front and her young son in the back playing with a godzilla figurine. The kid smiled and laughed while throwing godzilla around and telling me all about how he could breathe fire and these types of things. It became a quiet relaxed ride once he fell asleep, I too went in and out of sleep as headed north.

The family was headed up to Provo, UT, they dropped me off on Las Vegas Blvd just north of Freemont street, right where I needed to be. I gave Shana a call and then met her at her apartment. I caught up a bit and then opted to go get a beer.

I went to the Main Street casino and sat at the bar, popping $10 in the video poker machine with the thought that my beers would be comped by doing so, the beer there was pretty good too. After a draining the beers and my money down the bill came, the waitress told me should couldn't comp the drinks because I wasn't doing the max bet. I emptied out my pockets to pay the bill, leaving with nothing but some loose coins to my name.

I'd already booked a few free nights at the Luxor, part of the comp package included $75 in promo chips, so I wasn't all to concerned with my empty pockets. I wandered back to Shana's place where I'd be crashing the first night in town. Her and her boyfriend were looking to go out and do a little drinking, I decided to go along with them just to get out again, flask in tow.

A joint burned down on the ride to the M, the newest casino on the strip. We went through the night going to a few different spots, I was noticeably out of it, few words escaping my lips. We wound up back at their apartment for a moment and I passed out while they went back into the night.

In the morning I Shana cooked up one of the better omelette's I've had, a good way to kick off the day. I grabbed my backpack and got to walking to the Luxor on my own, a good 5 miles or more away. When I arrived and tried to check in I was told I would need a credit card for the deposit, I had the numbers to one, but they needed a physical card.

I walked to the side to figure things out, a mess of phone calls to people I knew in Vegas and people I knew who may know someone in town who could help, but no dice. The Lakers game was about to start, so I just went to the sports book to watch the game and decided I figure things out after.

The Lakers beat up the Magic and won their 15th championship, something I'd been looking forward to for a while. During this, I was going back in forth sending messages to Kelly, who I'd met in Zion through Molly from Flagstaff, she was considering coming to Vegas, but instead decided she may come the next day.

I got the idea to go to CVS and try to get a Visa gift card or some such to try and check in with, it didn't work out. At last I decided I'd try to check in one more time and see if I could catch some luck, or at least collect the promo chips. The girl I talked to at the desk had some words with her manager and worked things out, she told me they'd let me stay the night, but if I didn't have my friends come with a deposit by the next day I'd have to leave, fine by me.

I went up to the room and plopped down my stuff, happy to have a bed for the night. I immediately went down to the casino to collect the promo chips, and then on to the craps table, a 10 dollar minimum table. I figured I'd just make field bets $10 at a time to see what would happen, a field bet is betting that one of the listed numbers will be rolled on the dice. I hit once, then twice, then missed a few times. At that point I had $20 in real chips, that I could turn into cash, and $15 left in promo chips. I put the rest on the field and the dice rolled, a 12 came up, this is the most unlikely number to come up and pays triple, $45 in one roll giving me $65 all together. I left the table and cashed in my fortune, then promptly got some food in my belly.

I woke up peacefully in the room in the morning unsure what the next move was. I finally got word from Kelly, she was feeling sick and wouldn't be coming, which meant I had to be going too. I checked out before they had a chance to ask me to leave for not having a deposit, I got to walking back up the strip towards the I-15 on ramp near Sahara.

I thumbed out for a little while until a young guy from Brooklyn stopped and I hopped in the backseat. He was only going up to Freemont, but he gave me some junk food before letting me out. I decided I'd catch the bus up close to the speedway like last time, and headed to the bus stop.

A couple street dwellers sat on the bench, one wanted water and I gave him some, he talked to the other guy and then got to walking towards a shelter. The other guy talked to me for a while, he'd been on the streets since his whole life, he wanted to be in Oregon. It seemed like he was stuck in Vegas, I told him how I'd escaped a number of times. The bus came, I got on and he stayed behind.

I got off down the line and got to walking towards the Speedway, loosely thumbing rides as I went. A mini van passed me, then stopped in the shoulder far ahead and backed up towards me. A friendly looking guy popped out with his wife, he had me put my bag in the trunk and I took the front seat while the wife slipped in back. There was no air conditioning he said, so the window would be staying open, I couldn't be happier. The wind rushed across my face and through my fingertips hanging out the window the whole ride.

They took me as far as Saint George, a good ways up the road, the woman gave me a walmart gift card she had as I was getting out, the told me how much they loved helping people, I was grateful for it.

I got picked up pretty quickly from the next spot, a couple guys and a girl about my age just going up the road. He dropped me off in Toquerville, the sun was on it's way down and headlights were turning on. Just before it vanished, I got picked up again. The guy driving this time was a zip line specialist, he'd just been talking to someone about a job giving nature tours along a river, shooting from zip line to zip line while explaining the surrounding nature.

He took me 15 miles past where he was headed to get me into Cedar City, dropping me off at a Chevron gas station and pushing a $20 bill in my direction saying I deserved a good meal. I walked into the gas station all smiles, I grabbed a burrito and a 24oz Pabst thinking I'd likely be camping out. The girl working the counter was cute, she smiled and asked me about my backpack, my answer interested her. I used the microwave to warm up the burrito and took a seat at the counter and she got to asking me more questions - where I sleep, if I get scared, where I've been, where I'm going. She was on the cusp of offering me a place to stay, I was asking her about any wooded areas that may be nearby.

I decided to give the on ramp a quick try, and that's all it was, there was a blind corner and little place for cars to pull over, it was late and dark anyhow. I wandered back to the gas station to use the bathroom and see the girl again. She suggested a few more places I may have luck camping out, she looked at me apologetically as if she wanted to offer her place, but couldn't bring herself to do it.

I got to walking down the road in search for the next on ramp and a place to camp nearby. It was quite a walk, hitting some dead ends along the way. I came across a KOA and talked to a guy outside asking if it cost anything to camp without a trailer, he said $20, too much for me and I kept walking. I soon came close to the next on ramp and saw a really nice patch of trees and a big field, I wandered in and set up my sleeping bag and popped open my beer.

I slept great, a bird chirped above me early in the morning as a wake up call. I got packed up and headed for the on ramp, I made a quick stop for a snack at the gas station first. I thumbed at the on ramp, I'd been in the same spot once before months ago when some traveling sales folks picked me up. In no time a car had pulled in across the street, I didn't realize he was stopping for me at first, but then ran over when he started waving his hand frantically at me.

His car was loaded up with gear and instruments, we made a quick stop at what I think was his folks place and then got on the road. He was an interesting guy, telling me about rainbow gatherings and things like this. Talk of acid and mushrooms came up, he told me about his experiences with this.

Getting closer to Salt Lake City we stopped for a bite, he got me a couple burgers. Before we got on the road he dug through his trunk and handed me an ice cube sized block of chocolate with some special ingredients. He drove me just shy of Salt Lake City telling me to enjoy, dropping me off next to the freeway.

I got picked up right away again by an air force guy in full uniform. He was headed to Ogden, but happy to get me to where I was going. He went out of his way to take me directly to Candice's place in Sugar House, it seems every time I hitch to her place people drop me off at her doorstep.

I went to the door and met Lars who was making pancakes, a couchsurfer who was also staying there. Kate came from around the corner, laughing as she saw my face with a hug, I tend to drop in on the house unannounced and it all works out. Candice was at work at the crystal shop at the time, she didn't know I was coming either. I went downstairs to throw my bag down and discovered Anthony was there, one of the guys I'd drunkenly biked around with in Laramie, Wyoming a month or so ago.

I caught up with everybody and had a pancake. I plugged in my phone to find a voicemail waiting from Candice, she'd called only minutes ago apologizing for never showing in Vegas and saying that I should come visit her in Salt Lake sometime. I laughed at the timing and headed for the bike, riding towards the crystal shop. I rolled up and set my bike against the tree, she'd seen from the window and came at me with a huge smile of surprise and a hug. Her boss stood by with a smile too, Candice had cut her off mid sentence to come running. The woman wandered away and took off, I caught up with Candice for a while in the shop, I told her about the magic chocolate I'd been given on the road.

After a while I headed to the coffee shop to catch up on things and wait for her to get off work. I got in touch with Cameron after a while, he came and picked me up when he got off work. We dropped my bike off at Candice's and went and saw Peter, he'd just gotten back from a camping excursion in California.

Cameron had moved into a new place with his brother and dog who'd moved from the east coast, I went and checked out the new place and we got to playing some beer pong. We soon hit the road and met up with the whole crew at half off sushi night. After I hopped in a car with Candice, Peter and some other folks and we went to a garage party, enjoying just one beer and some relaxing before heading back to Candice's place and calling it a night.

Good times behind and ahead, talk of a big party on Friday and ideas of hitching to Jackson in the future. It should be an interesting week or three ahead.