Trip to Oregon with Molly - Part 1 of 2, Hitching The California Coast

I woke up early in on the morning of Saint Patty's Day, about to set off on a new adventure with a new friend; the thought of this and the buzz of minimal sleep had my skin tingling with excitement and anticipation. I packed my already packed bag, just shifting things around, it's become and endless habit I've entertained over the past couple years. I paced a bit and swirled some sunrise lit thoughts around my head, thoughts of the days to come, and then thoughts of being thoughtless in terms of the future.

Molly finally arrived to picked me up, I'd first met her a year before when I stayed at her house with my friend Nick on our way to the grand canyon, then spent a day with her and friends in Sedona. Later I'd camped and hiked with her in Zion. Now I was off to hitchhike with her to Oregon, she'd just tripped up there citing it as the time of her life. I'd come to learn that this is just the way she talks, "best ___ ever", "greatest moment of my life", etc, but none the less it equated to positivity. She'd never hitchhiked before either, so I'd be the first to go along with her.

On this Saint Patty's morning we drove to her family's house where a group of them were getting ready to go on a hike. I said some hellos, they scurried around in perpetration, and soon we were packed into a car bound for Sedona.

We arrived midday, a beautiful spot of twisting red rock in the middle of Arizona. We had a quick meal then got to hiking in a spaced out fashion - Molly, her brother and I arriving at the water first where we sat on a big rock. Meanwhile, one of Molly's three foster sisters had apparently "broken her ankle", of course not the case, but she made a show of it and Molly's mom was dealing with this.

We slowly made our way back to the car, packed back in, and headed up for Flagstaff where Molly and I would be spending the night. The story was my brother was in town and would be driving us to Oregon, a ruse to avoid Molly explaining hitchhiking her mom. Molly, her brother and I split from the pack at one spot first, the rest got food somewhere while we got small appetizers and a pitcher of beer at a little spot. From there we walked to Flag Brew for another pitcher of their porter with some of her friends.

We got scooped up by her mom again, made a beer run at a gas station, and then parted ways with her family when we arrived at a friends house. Her friends were BBQing and drinking good beers, actually getting ready to brew a beer of their own. We drank for drunk and talked the gamut of nonsense and truths usually hidden by sobriety, yet some still forgotten past the drunkenness anyhow.

Molly and I skipped out when her other friend arrived and we drove off with him, eventually arriving at a hot tub in the night, we dunked in. Some pot in the public bathroom sealed our moods, after another dunk in the hot tub we were driven a ways to her friends house for the night. Between passing out and some smokes her friend made a big spicy meal, then finally we passed out solid.

We woke in the morning ready for the road, excited to get up north, I was anticipating a good first hitchhiking experience for Molly. Her friend dropped us off on the road, I-40, and off we went, sticking out our thumbs. Some time started passing, not too much, but enough where I was starting to really hope a car would stop quick before Molly found the whole process to be a sluggish one. Luckily one did soon, and we hopped in.

Two guys were driving, and all the way to San Jose, over 700 miles away. We rolled on down the road, not saying way to much actually, we were both a bit tired from the night before. We contemplated our options, possibly stopping along the way in Bakersfield, or camping further up the road. San Jose was far, but a bit out of the direct path to Eugene, our first planned stop. After some thoughts and many miles we decided to go all the way to San Jose, I managed to contact a couchsurfer who lived up there and could host us.

Late that night we arrived and they dropped us off near a main bus terminal, then our San Jose host picked us up and brought us back to his house. He set us up in his living room, showed us where everything was, then quietly went up to bed. We had a peaceful night, sleeping on his huge air mattress, the most comfortable I've ever slept on.

We were up early the next morning, our host had to go to work and offered to drop us off wherever we wanted. We went to an on ramp to the 101, a bit of a sharp turn, but the best spot we could find. We got picked up by a guy who worked for a website called LinkedIn, he was on his way there. He dropped us off in Mountain View in front of the Computer History Museum.

We waited a bit there, laughing a bit and talking about our various loose plans for the future, mine being a school bus and Molly's being a trip to Thailand. A work truck pulled over and we ran up to it, telling him we were heading north towards Oregon. He said he was only going a few miles, but could drop us off at a train station to get to San Francisco. We told him were short on cash and would be best hitching anyhow, but that we'd appreciate getting a few more miles up none the less.

He was from Fiji, but living in the bay area now fixing up homes here and there that were getting ready to be sold, his most recent task being the removal of a hot tub and solar panels from a home, something all three of us couldn't comprehend, why someone would want these gone.

The "few miles" he was going kept on increasing, so much so that we found ourselves rolling through San Francisco along the wharf as he pointed things out like a tour guide. Next thing we knew we were rolling over the Golden Gate bridge with talk of breakfast in Sausalito, and this is where we went. He sniffed out a nice spot, this was one of the happier people I've met.

We sat and had a big breakfast of pancakes and fruit filled french toast that he bought us. On the way back to the car he paused at the ATM, after a minute or two he came over and handed us a couple twenty's "for the road". We hopped back in the car loving life, he drove us even further to a good spot just up the road and dropped us off, telling us to grab water bottles from the back of his truck before driving off.

We went up the highway and got picked up pretty quick again, two young guys in a pickup truck heading a ways. They were amused by our traveling style, we happy to still be rolling up the road. I noticed we'd be passing through Petaluma soon, my mind shot to Lagunitas, a great brewery in that town. I brought it up and we thought about it for a second, but ended up rolling by it. As good times would have it, I'd end up there anyhow in less than a months time, and at another brewery later in the day.

We stopped in a parking lot and switched cars, the passenger guy was now the driver, taking us up a bit further to a wide open spot on the freeway. We waited there for a bit until a woman in a small car picked us up, she claimed to have picked up many hitchhikers when she could. She told us about her favorite hitchhiker of late, a girl who'd been traveling by herself all over the world, confidently hitchhiking the world solo.

She didn't take us very far, but to a spot she swore was great and saw a good amount of action as far as hitchhiking is concerned. She turned out to be right, as our next ride was one of the better ones of the day, and easily would have been the best ride on any other day. Scott was his name, heading north, heading home. A friendly guy, a bigger man on the grey haired side of life, one I could tell had lead a life of happiness. He told us about his hitchhiking and traveling days, specifically a trip to Europe with friends that had cost him $700 for 3 months, "the best $700 I've ever spent", and he meant it entirely, he wasn't using the words as Molly would.

Chico got brought up somehow, then he mentioned a beer club he was in and we discovered we both knew the lady who worked at the home brew shop, him much better than I. Talk of beer lead to talk of the brewery in the town he'd be dropping us off in, he told us how he loved to go there for a pint... or three... and then maneuver his way driving the twisty familiar hills back home to his wife who'd gently scold him for it.

He could see our excitement brewing just hearing about it, "twist my arm!", he exclaimed, actually sticking his arm out in front of me, and we now had a destination. We rolled up to the brewery, where I discover it was Mendocino Brewery, pretty well known among beer lovers. We poured over the selection and all three went for the Eye of The Hawk, sort of a strong ale, he stuck his money out to the bartender before we could even think of doing so, he seemed happier to pay then we were to get paid for, we were all so happy, an easy state to be in given our day and the pints in hand.

He stood talking, beer, life, travel - another pint after that one and we talked a bit more, joining some bikers at there table who were passing through for a pint themselves. Soon he had to get on the road, we figured the same, finishing our beers and heading to his car for our bags. He drove off after hearing our extensive thank yous, then we set on foot for the edge of town just a block or so away.

We barely stopped moving our feet, starting to slide of our backpacks - and another car stopped, a girl around our age with a beat up a car. We jumped in and headed just a pinch up the road, rolling green fields and hills surrounding us, wide open for the most part.

We stood there in the open, Molly started cartwheeling as cars passed by and our smiles grew, fueled by a beautiful day and pints of tasty beer. Our next ride eventually stopped, a young guy with his dog heading up towards Mendocino. We went a little further north, then he cut west for the coast, then north again. He was a pot grower in the area, a painter and a sculptor.

We started rolling through the vast rolling green hills and roads that wound all around through them. We stopped at a dusty pull out in the middle of the whole scene, the center of beautiful. We looked all around, he pointed into the distance trying to pin point exactly where he lived, over one peak and between another couple deep out there. He showed us some pictures of his sculptures and paintings, pretty awesome things to see. We smoked and sat in the grass as the sun set behind the hills, I fell in love right around then.

We hopped back in the car and wound around the hills some more, driving past another road he said lead to his property, saying we should come back to trim next season. He dropped us off on a Mendocino beach, a beautiful spot he said we'd be able to camp for the night undisturbed. Far down the beach we saw a couple campfires set up, a nice reassurance that this was a good spot to be.

We wandered the dirt path from his car, he equipped us with a light a small container of his homegrown. We turned a corner to the beach and found our spot with Molly's headlight leading the way. We dropped our bags on the sand, exhaling from the day that began in San Jose. Molly looked at me matching my smile that had been present the whole day, the moment gave me the sudden urge to kiss her, her head lamp deterred me, a fools excuse, but no matter, things were perfect.

We considered a fire briefly, but the coziness of sleeping bags kept us content as we were. Loose words in the air faded to waves and occasional car passing over the bridge a ways away, and then the howling of whales in the distance, almost unbelievable to us both, "a fairy tale", this is what Molly called the day.

We woke in the morning to more appreciate our surroundings, hopping out of sleeping bags, warming from the chilly night to go explore. We picked up shells and small pieces of drift wood, saw little caves and tiny waterfalls coming from the cliffs above the waves, then explored the inlet that went down a ways.

We packed our bags back up and headed across the beach to a staircase that lead to the top of the cliffs, "the stairway to heaven" we were calling it. We climbed up and headed for the edge of the cliff to admire the beach from that perspective. We started talking with a guy hiking around through there, he lived in the area and told us a bit about what was around, everything from coffee shops to nice views further down the path.

We headed down the path and ran into him again, he pointed some more things out, then reached in his pocket and gave us a twenty. We walked a bit further to see more cliffs, ocean and bright flowers. We wandered into town, using an outhouse, I threw muddy socks into the trash. From there we headed to a coffee house and got a coffee each, it was then we discovered both of us could only drink half a coffee, a good piece of information for the future.

We walked from there towards the road to hitch further up, but a cemetery along the way caught Molly's attention, she has a certain intrigue with them. We wandered around the gravestones looking at names and dates, there were quite a few veterans buried there.

From there we made our way to the road where we got picked up by a local guy. He took us just up the road to Fort Bragg, we saw signs for a beer fest, so he dropped us off there. We stood in front, peeking inside and reading the signs. There didn't seem to be all that much action, and the price of admission was higher than we'd like. We decided to wander down to the main drag of town and perhaps get a beer where we could find one.

North Coast Brewery is what we found, I'd had beer from them some times before, particularly there imperial stout. We had a beer a piece there, Brother Thelonious, we eyeballed some of the food too, but the beer was enough for the moment.

With a pinch of a buzz we wandered down the road, just walking and looking out on the ocean. A sandy hill on the beach caught our eye, we ran to it, tossing our bags aside and going to the top. We both laid down and rolled down the hill, landing in a fit of laughter and dizziness that brought back memories recess and summer camp.

We stayed there a while enjoying the sand until we got back to our mission, getting ourselves north. Back on the side of the road, my thumb in the air, Molly in cartwheels. The cartwheels got us a ride, a guy with distinct blue eyes gave us a little ride to an obscure pullout along the beach a bit further up. We stood eating pistachios waiting on the next ride.

A happy Costa Rican guy picked us up, before many words were exchanged our pushed a duby in our direction, "let's get on the same level here", he smiled, "I just smoked plenty, finish this if you'd like". We did as he suggested, and soon we were on the same page, happily talking about the beauty that surrounded us.

We dropped us off in Westport, a place that was barely a town, they did in fact have a general store. We were in the mood to walk, so we did, further up the road looking out on the ocean. We spotted a whale swimming around, "it keeps getting better!", Molly exclaimed, a phrase heard many a time along the trip.

We came upon another cemetary, this one tiny and fenced off from the general public. Just past this was a windy curve and what looked like miles upon miles of cliff hugging road, so we chose our current location to thumb from. After some time there a feeling of stagnancy got us walking again, movement begets movement it seems, as we were picked up quickly after.

This ride took us just by a campground, one that our driver owned. He told us if we didn't get a ride we could camp there, we hopped out of the car and did some more walking along the endless coast. We sat in one spot for a while, a sign said "Scenic View Point, 1/2 mile", but we felt we already there. Very few cars passed though, we waited for a while. We entertained ourselves skipping rocks across the road, I tried to see how few jumps I could get across the road in, three was my best.

A van drove by, then drove by again, asking us which way Westport was, he needed supplies from there store. He said he'd pick us up on his way back if we were still around. We were still around, so off w went in his camper van. He wasn't going anywhere in particular, just exploring a bit, looking for property for the coming growing season. We stopped for a bowl and a poorly rolled joint (Molly and I both are lacking here), then continued north. He kept driving and driving, we took the scenic route through the giant red wood trees, incredibly thick and shooting high into the sky.

With the sun going down we were keeping our eyes open for a place to camp, we found a spot and a trail to the river. He parked his van pretty far down, Molly and I took our bags and found a flat sandy spot 50 yards or so away where we pulled our sleeping bags and set up to sleep. We talked a bit, looking up at the stars, and soon faded to sleep. The sleep was interrupted a bit in the night, I felt light and infrequent drops of water falling from the sky. A while later it became a full pour down, I quickly fastened my pack cover over my bag and grabbed my rain jacket, putting it over Molly to keep her somewhat dry.

The morning came, still bits of rain coming down, Molly was cold, wet and miserable, everything she had was soaked. I gave her some dry socks after getting back to the van and we continued on. It was a mostly quiet ride, Molly cold in the back, our drivers liked the windows open, not to pleasant for her in back mostly damp still. We made plenty of little stops, just pulling over while he stretched his legs or poked around somewhere, but we finally got to Redding where he let us out.

We looked like a mess, big backpacks and huge black garbage bags we'd been given by the van guy for our wet sleeping bags and other clothes. We managed to pack it all together to look a bit less ridiculous, then continued down the ramp to get to the main flow of traffic. Before we got there we were stopped by a police officer, wondering what we were up to, informing us we could walk where we were walking. He gave us a ride up a few exits to a ramp he said we could stand on. He told us if we were caught again we'd get a fine, and if again after that, straight to jail.

A guy picked us up eventually, I sat in front talking to him. Molly didn't say much, he commented on this and got a smile out of her, he complimented her perfect teeth. She does have great teeth, he wasn't the first or last person to compliment her on them.

He dropped us off near a fairly desolate spot as far as traffic goes, right by a small gas station. Molly went for the bathroom and came back with a beer, we drank it down along with the tail end of some other liquor we had on hand. We waited quite a while, hopping around and throwing pebbles at signs across the way. We wanted to go up to the freeway itself, but the cops warning had us thinking otherwise.

More time went by and we were done thinking about police, we had Oregon to get to, up on the freeway we went. We got picked up in good time, a ride all the way to a town called Yreka, just shy of the Oregon border. We went up the ramp right away this time, thumbing the main traffic, but a California cop came and stopped first.

It was the typical cop stop, wondering what we were up to and wanting us off the highway, but we were in the system now, apparently. We handed him our IDs for him to run, I waited for him to get word back on his radio, I wondered how much our fine would be... I couldn't hear the radio chatter, he smiled at us and handed the IDs back to us, "I'm sure you guys just don't know better, just head on down the ramp and you can hitch from there", we made haste and headed down before he could change his mind.

The sun got lower, hunger came to the top of our minds. As the sun disappeared, we walked in the low light a ways and made our way to a taco bell, deciding a feast was in order to clear our heads. We drank tons of water while we devoured nachos, burritos and taco greatness smothered in fire sauce. Once done we sat and charged our phones in an outlet rolling over our options - possible places to sleep the night, or perhaps thumbing under the streetlight. It was a colder night, and our sleeping gear was still wet, so camping anywhere wasn't the most attractive idea, we considered finding a church as well.

We stopped by a motel mainly out of curiosity, we were both broke, some wild number like 150 was our answer for a room cost. We marched back down to the onramp and stood under the streetlight hoping to catch a ride before to cold became too much.

This paid off, a fairly packed car with two Russian guys stopped for us, eager to give us a ride. They shuffled around the backseat and trunk until there was room for the four of us, we hopped into the backseat with relief, they were heading for Portland.

The guy in the passenger seat called himself a philosopher, and talked this way. I was sitting behind him, after a few minutes of talking he pulled off his headrest so we could all see each other better to talk. He was interested in our lifestyles of traveling and vagabonding, couchsurfing and hitchhiking. He talked about many things, how everyone is connected and so on.

He knew of an experiment someone somewhere did:

They filled containers with water and wrote different messages on each, like "love", "anger", "peace", etc. They then had people look at all the containers and express whatever the emotion was while looking at the water. Afterwards, they froze all the water and looked at it in a microscope, it was then they found different distinct patterns in the ice that differed from each emotion container, the results were consistent.

I found that pretty interesting, he went on to relate that humans, who are mostly made up of water, so just thinking about someone will effect them.

They dropped us off in Eugene just a block away from Molly's friend's place. We walked over and I met Tanya, she'd just gotten back from a four day cocaine bender in Vegas, now recovering at her home. She was immediately hospitable, I took sips of a tasty beer in between hits from the circling bowl. Due to her recovering and our stint on the road, we called it a fairly early night.