Boise and Reno, Just Before Beer Week

I had a great time getting to Jackson and skiing a few days, on the final morning I woke up alone in the room. My family had left early for a flight, but I didn't need to check out until 10 or so. I showered and had my bag packed, along with scratchy cardboard sign with "Boise" scribbled on it with pen. The kitchen was loaded with abandoned food and drinks, lots. I packed my backpack to capacity with things like crackers, oatmeal, energy drinks, bagels, cream cheese and more.

I checked out and lugged my now overly heavy pack down to the end of the village road where I held up my sign and waited for a ride. A guy who'd just dropped his daughter off at the mountain gave me a ride down the road and over to the pass. I waited there a bit, one young couple stopped to offer me a ride, but weren't going far at all. Before they pulled away, a kid stopped who was heading over the pass into Idaho, I hopped in.

I offered him a bagel, I had a bunch of them and needed to use up the cream cheese before it went bad. He chewed on the bagel while telling me his plans to do some road tripping come summer time, he wanted to see big cities like San Francisco. He'd been near them with his parents, but they always went to remote cabins and lakes, something he said he got to do plenty around this area where he lived.

He dropped me off at the junction in Victor, Idaho where I began walking a bit until a guy picked me up and gave me the good ride to Idaho Falls. He dropped me off just a little before the heart of town, so I walked a good ways towards it, thumbing a bit in areas that had a shoulder.

A woman stopped and asked where I was going, I told her Boise and hopped in. "I thought you were my neighbor", she said with a timid whisper and a glazed smile, "I can get you in the right direction, the highway's just up this way", I thanked her and we drove towards it. She continued, "This morning I woke up and just knew I'd meet an 'Annabelle'", I pondered this for a moment, she went on, "and just earlier today, a dog comes running up to me, 'Annabelle' was right on the collar", she smiled giddily.

She explained this wasn't a freak thing, but that she frequently has visions of things to come. She went on about reincarnation and past lives she'd have, getting fairly detailed and excited, giddy really. I listened to stories of this, her family's distaste of her singing and some intrinsic connection she felt with Amelia Earhart. I couldn't be clear if she thought she was once her, or just got messages from her.

The whole time during these stories I was well aware that we were shooting down the road a good distance, already out of Idaho Falls and going down the freeway. She stopped for gas and had me pump it for her, she slowly hobbled inside to use the bathroom, a rather large woman weighing several hundred pounds.

We got right back on the road, I asked her if she was meaning to go this far or if it was out of her way. She told me she'd gone a bit out of her way, but would take me a bit further. A bit further ended up being American Falls, as we approached the exit she cut off her own sentence and began singing. It sounded like Minnie Mouse and Kermit's love child singing nervously in a church choir. Neither of us said acknowledged the singing, I just thanked her, grabbed my backpack and off I went.

I walked down the side of the desolate Idaho freeway, awaiting the next ride. I stopped at one point for a bagel, my hands freezing while spreading the cream cheese. I walked and walked, alternating my cold hands between a shopping bag, thumbing traffic and my pockets for warmth. I wound up at a rest area, I used the bathroom and scoped it out, then went to the exit with I continued thumbing traffic until the dark and cold became too much.

I sat inside the rest area on a bench, the only thing inside were two bathrooms and some tourist maps showing the state flower and other things. I thought I may end up spending the night in there, wondering if some maintenance crew or otherwise would come through. I asked a couple people where they were headed as they came in, one trucker cited insurance issues for picking up passengers, another just ignored me entirely.

Finally a couple came in, when the husband came out of the bathroom I asked him about a ride, he asked his wife when she came out, she agreed. I rode with them as far as Twin Falls to a truck stop there. It was getting late now, well past dark. I stood in the entrance of the truck stop, occasionally asking people where they were headed and whatnot, but many were locals or going the opposite direction.

I stood there quite some time, eventually a guy came in and I asked him where he was headed, he smiled and held up a cardboard sign. He was with his wife trying to get to Arizona, and had apparently been trying to do so for a month. "This town isn't to friendly to hitchhikers, especially this place, they'll kick you. Some people are cool, but that guy right there, Denny, he'll bust you!", he pointed to a guy behind the counter. He then listed off names and pointing around to who was cool and who would do what. He mentioned some shelters and different places in town to possibly score food and whatnot. I listened to him, but I didn't intend to be in town for a month either.

He left for a bit and came back again repeating what he'd said, we talked outside for a bit too. It seemed he was just drawing more attention to me more than anything else, eventually he went out to the exit of the truck stop with his sign, disappearing at some point.

After a while, I decided to head into the diner section and get a coffee to avoid the possibility of being tossed out. I sat in the booth for hours on top of hours, zoning out, nodding out, sipping coffee, trying to remain awake. All this until about 7am when the outside showed signs of light. I gathered myself and stepped into the cold morning, down the street to the freeway entrance.

I jumped in place and paced around to stay warm, holding up my "Boise" sign when vehicles passed. As the sun finally peeked over the horizon, an 18 wheeler shuffled into the pull out and I got in. The driver was from the Philippines, he told me stories of how much he loved it there.

Before long I was hopping out of the truck at a Boise truck stop, then started walking in the downtown direction. After a mile or two I came across the more interesting part of town. I walked by a shop with a sign on the door, "Closed for the day, my 6 year old has a game today", I figured this to be a laid back town.

I walked by what I thought was a brewery and decided to go inside for a beer. It turned out to be a big bar with lot's of great regional beers on tap, but none made there; the beer menu was listed in order of how many miles away the beer was brewed. I sat for a drink, then another, talking beer with the bartenders and enjoying myself.

I'd gone through a few beers and at least a half dozen samples when I decided I was probably going to be short on money, and also needed to find my way to the house I'd be staying for the night. The bill came, four bucks, I looked confused, the bartender looked over, "I got a couple of those for you". I smiled, paid the little bill and made my way back to the street.

I went to the address Jen gave me, she's the couchsurfer I'd got in touch with. I arrived to meet Matt, her roommate that wasn't expecting me, but also not surprised. We talked while he cooked up some pizza, afterwards he took off for work, at the comedy club, and I took a much needed nap on the couch.

Jen arrived with a friend later that night, we went out to a bar where she was hosting a trivia night. She's a comedian, and a magician too apparently, at the bar I met the whole crew of other Boise comedians and otherwise entertainers. We played the trivia and drank cheap beer by the pitcher through the night.

Later we stopped by the comedy club, then to a bar with a balcony for another drink. We ended the night at Jen's where she cooked a big late night meal, I fell asleep in front of a TV show about animals or some such.

In the morning I munched on some leftovers while I made my "Reno" sign. When Jen woke up she gave me a ride out interstate 84, dropping me off by the ramp where I started flashing a sign and a thumb to passing cars. A car stopped and I got in, an older man was driving, not too far he said. He questioned my route to Reno, suggesting his son lives there and takes a different road. He wanted to stop by his house to look at an Atlas, I was pretty sure I was on the right road, but I wasn't in any hurry.

We stopped into his house, dark and antique looking with a homely warmth to it. He'd told me he didn't like it living here, and only did so because of family issues. I gathered he'd once been quite wealthy, perhaps still reasonably so, but whatever fluctuation in his finances hadn't affected his day to day as much. He made himself tea and poured a cup of juice for me, then pulled out a map book from a back room somewhere.

We looked at the roads and finally determined that I'd been going the right way after all, he wondered what the hell his son had been doing and why. He seemed a bit lonely, a bit bored, but somehow still excited about life. We got back in the car and started driving towards the end of town, back to the road, or wherever as far as he planned on taking me.

Before we got there he decided he'd take me out to a buffet to get me some food. I filled up a few plates of food as we sat eating and talking. He'd mentioned his desire of having one person, a sole companion who he could have a true connection with, day in and out, sharing projects and their lives. I asked him if he'd been looking for one, he questioned my question, wondering why I'd ask. I explained I was interested simply because that's what he'd been talking about, I started to get the idea he was somewhat considering me as a possibility, or perhaps thinking that I was considering this. He explained that he hadn't been looking, that it was something that would "just happen".

We paced the parking lot for a bit while he smoked a cigarette. He pointed at an older couple across the way, "you see them? They look like they've given up, have nothing to live for, no joy", I saw this, "but me, I keep the twinkle in my eye, that how you can tell these things. Have you seen the twinkle in my eye?", he had sun glasses on at the moment as he looked at me, but I'd seen it earlier. Eyes tell a lot about a person, he still had life in his, but they were glazed in a fresh layer of loneliness - it seemed he tried to cover that bit with a no-bullshit way of talking to appear like it wasn't much of a bother for him.

It turns out where we were was as far as I was going, the road I wanted to be on was right ahead. He offered to let me stay the night where he'd feed me more and so on, I opted to continue down the road, as he probably expected.

I walked a ways down the one lane road until someone picked me up, a guy who'd grown up in Orange County until growing sick of it, he was happy here in Idaho now. He dropped me off at a picture perfect crossroads, desolate in all directions with long stretches of road heading into various horizons. I waited a short time until I was picked up by a guy named Keith, he was heading all the way to Reno.

It was a good long drive, our conversation went on for hours while the scenery out the window stayed basically the same, desolate. He drove the road a good many times, he was some sort of regional manager for a gas station chain and frequently had to check in on stations or attend meetings. Once close to Reno we stopped at one gas station where he quickly checked some things out, then another, then he dropped me off at the house I was to stay at in the snow covered Reno.

Another couchsurfers house, I came in and met my host and his set of roommates and friends hanging around. It was a laughing night of a few beers, fooseball and sharing stories. In the morning my plan was to go to Sacramento where friends and beer week awaited.