North American Hitchhiking Gathering

Max picked me up in Lawrence, he was coming from Kansas City and we were both on route to Denver for the first annual North American Hitchhiking Gathering. We rolled into town right around midnight, still unsure as to where we'd be staying the night.

We parked downtown and headed towards an address, but we couldn't find the place or get in touch with the person who lived there. We were heading back to the car, thoughts of driving around some more and camping, then Max got a message from someone else in town.

We showed up at a quiet house and met Ted, a happy spirited guy who'd organized the gathering. I stayed up a while swapping hitchhiking stories and various ideas, brewing excitement for the present and future.

We scooped up a poet on the way to the freeway, Delila, then drove until we could find a place to park and start hitchhiking to Boulder. It was a bit of a goofy scene, being that we had a car and Boulder was just 30 minutes off, but Max and Delila had never hitched before and this was a hitch gathering, after all.

We made a sign that said "Boulder", Delila and I smiled at cars as they drove by us on the ramp, Max and Ted sat behind the bush waiting for us to get our ride before they'd be doing the same.

It was nice to see her excitement in being out catching her first ride, it soon came from a Mexican couple and their baby in a big pickup truck. I sat up front while the guy told me about farming in the area, Delila sat in back with the sharply smiling woman, also excited to be helping us out.

They dropped us off by the farmers market in Boulder, we hopped out at a red light and began rolling through the market and munching on free samples. After we'd sampled peaches and crackers and all sorts the place had to offer, Max and Ted arrived, they'd gotten a ride not long after us.

There was a sort of amphitheatre with rows of bench seating in the park, we headed there to rendezvous with the other hitchhikers who'd come for the gathering. There were just a few people there, we came and sat with them. One guy recognized me, Bill, he'd read some of my stories online and seen some videos of me hitchhiking. He had a bunch of stories himself, he'd gone on some big trips, including the latest one from Texas to there in Boulder.

We talked a little while, some bums sat with us drinking a couple beers, cops came and made them spill it out. Delila recited a poem, Bill slapped the guitar around for a while too. Soon we split into different directions, myself, Bill, Ted and Max went looking into good places to camp.

We got to the edge of town and split into twos to hitch up the mountain towards Nederland, Bill and I caught a ride from a vodka distiller who'd recently moved to Boulder. We stopped off at the market in town and waited on the other guys to catch up.

We determined the next town to meet at, then Ted and I set off to the road to try our thumbs at getting there. An admittedly drunk guy pulled into a dirt lot right away, we told him generally where we were headed and that we'd be looking for a place to camp. He told us he knew the perfect place, plus there was room in his car for me to run back to the market and get the other guys.

He drove us a ways down some dirt roads and up to a trail head. He hiked in with us a little ways until we found a nice clearing to setup camp, we had a smoke with him until he reluctantly headed back down the trail. He said he would have loved to stay and camp if not for his lady back home.

Max became ill and passed out in the tent after a gnarly vomiting session across the trail, he was beat from the days sun and stress perhaps. I stayed up swapping stories with the other two, Bill told us of his recent hitches and Ted told us about his biking adventures.

I laid in my sleeping bag for the night, watching the moon make it's way across the sky behind the tall tree tops. I woke up in the morning to the sound of Bill strumming his guitar, I went in joined him the patch of sun he'd found on the trail. He told me about "radical honesty" and his two girlfriends back in Texas. We greeted people as they hiked by us, making guesses as to which of them were the types to pick us up in a hitchhiking situation.

Ted and Max woke just a little later, they both headed down the trail after breakfast, Max was on his way back to Kansas and Ted just wanted to take care of some things in town, he'd come back later.

Bill and I hiked up the trail, a good couple hours, finally arriving at some lakes at the top. We both braved the freezing water, dunking under and then relaxing in the sun on the shore, Bill washed his clothes while we talked a bit.

After a good while of exploring a bit more, scoping out potential campsites for the future, we hiked back down to where we'd been the night before. Ted still wasn't back, but he arrived shortly later with a guy named Aaron who he'd caught a ride with. We had a smoke with him while his dog ran around, then he took off and the three of us stayed up a while talking again, no end to the stories and whatnot we had.

In the morning we packed up and headed to the parking lot, standing by the exit looking to catch a ride out. There weren't many cars, Ted and decided to walk, if for nothing else just a change of scenery. Bill stayed behind, that's the last I saw him, but I'd later hear that he got out and made his way back to Texas.

Ted and I got picked up a ways down the road by a pickup truck, we'd been eyeballing a parked train, half joking about hopping on it. After the pickup truck we got a ride in a van as far as the market in Nederlands, we paused there for a bite of pizza and then kept moving. A guy in a gas station let us ride in the back of his truck and got us down to Boulder. That's where I parted with Ted, he opted for the local bus to get down to Denver, but I continued on, I had Salt Lake City on my mind.