A long trip to a nearby Vegas for a short time

Las Vegas, an all too familiar destination, but this is where my thumb was pointing on an on ramp in Rancho Cucamonga. It was to be the first stop on my eastbound journey towards New York and Connecticut where Christmas was waiting less than a month away.

It didn't start off with a flash either, I waited hours as cars passed me, at one point pausing for a while to get a sandwich at a place nearby, then back to the ramp. As the day began to escape me, a busy seeming guy stopped while on his phone, broke out a GPS saying something about a casino and we were moving. Only four or five miles though, the GPS took him elsewhere.

I was happy to have moved at all, but not too much further. I stood on the freeway thumbing cars until the sky went dark, then I got to walking. Cold was kicking in, I figured I'd walk until I got tired, walking kept me warm anyhow. A car with a trailer stopped though, a simple man heading to Chico of all places. I rode with him for a while until his turn off came, he dropped me off a gas station just before it.

The temperature had dropped considerably, the freeway was windy with the chill, I kept my pace to keep my warmth, sticking my thumb out to my side in an effort that did little more than freeze my hand. I saw a car whip into the shoulder in front of me, but before my excitement could kick in, I saw the cop pull in that behind them, nabbing them for speeding I imagine. A minute later I was walking by the car and the cop talking through the window, who perhaps didn't notice me until that very moment.

"You can't be walking on the freeway, walk down in that drainage, if I see you up here when I'm done with this ticket then we're gonna have another conversation". I assured him he need not worry, and kept my walking.

I'd spotted a truckstop ahead, but somehow passed by it, there didn't seem to be a direct exit that lead to it. An In-N-Out sign caught my eye and I went for that, enjoying a blast of warmth and a drink of water. I braved back out into the cold and stood at a useless tight-squeeze of an on ramp for a few minutes, then considered the drainage are under the overpass as a place to sleep. I was still plenty awake though, I decided to keep walking along the drainage paralleled to the freeway to see what might happen.

A mile or three later I came to a better on ramp, plenty of room to pull over and just a bit of streetlight. I stood there for an hour or so, scanning the area for potential places to sleep, thinking about the cold, Vegas and so forth. Any number of things could have happened, with the right ride I'd be in Vegas in just a few hours.

I wandered over to the Super 8 motel after a long while and decided on that, after a long day of much walking and the thought of a long cold night without decent cover, it seemed like the thing to do. I stepped into a warm room and crashed out on a big bed, I knew I'd get to Vegas the next day.

In the morning I went to the main building of the motel and ate as much of the continental breakfast as I could, took a nice shower back in the room and was out the door towards the freeway again. I stood there a while as people passed, one full truck slowed down and asked if I had gas money, I could tell they weren't going far either way, I told them no.

A couple picked me up a little later, I sat in the backseat with their sleeping baby girl. They were pot growers from a small town nearby. They drove me a little ways until their town came up, leaving me at the top of the ramp where I began marching through the desert. A long while went by before the cop came to inform me I couldn't walk on the freeway. He offered to flip me back around at the next exit and take me to the closest town, or leave me at that next exit. He didn't recommend the next exit, it was a good many miles from anything but desert.

I chose being dropped at the exit, he told me if I was to walk it would have to be behind the fence some 50 years from the freeway. "It's been getting really cold around here, you don't wanna get stuck out here overnight", he told me this and also warned of the trouble I'd be in if caught on the freeway again.

I watched him drive off, it became clear that this was not going to be a trafficked on or off point, there was just a long road stretching away from the freeway into even more emptiness. It was either stand there and wait for a car that may never come, walk behind the fence where no cars could see (and have no chance on foot of making it to civilization before dark), or roll the dice and walk on the freeway.

I walked quickly with my thumb out in the shoulder of the freeway, happy as each car passed that wasn't a police cruiser. Soon enough though, I watched a cruiser pass by in the fast lane. I was unsure if they saw me, I imagine they must of and given the surrounding trucks and their position, they couldn't have easily pulled over.

Just as I was thinking about whether they'd be turning around or calling another, an 18 wheeler rolled into the shoulder far ahead of me. I started sprinting for it, "It's a race!", I shouted with a smile on my face, knowing I had to get to the truck before a potential trooper came to give me a hard time. I won the race, hopped in the truck and we started moving.

The driver was Asian with a couple silver teeth, divorced and trucking around, he seemed mischievous as an indirect way. His truck was nice, one of the bigger cabs I'd seen with a little sitting area and a loft bed above it. He was going to New Mexico, which for me meant as far as Barstow, which wasn't terribly far, but a big step to make none the less.

He aimed for a big truck stop area just before town saying it'd be a good spot for me. It was a place for hitchhikers, we saw one with a sign as we pulled off. He pulled right through on to the on ramp to get back on, "I'll be picking up this guy now!", he told me. The guy's sign said "Wyoming" though, I popped out and told him the driver was going to New Mexico, no help for him.

The truck drove away, the other hitcher seemed in good spirits, but said he'd been there a couple days trying to get a ride. After a little more talk I decided to go head into the truck stop to see what was going on and wait until this guy got a ride so I could take his place. I didn't walk but 10 steps before deciding to turn around and just walk down the side of the freeway again. With the amount of daylight left, a couple hours at best, I knew I'd end up stuck there for the night and didn't want that.

I wished the other hitcher luck as I walked by him, he warned me of the state troopers. I walked all the way to Barstow, 5 miles give or take, landing in a familiar starbucks for a break. Barstow is a junction town, not much more from what people say, but I'd been there many times when traveling from one place to another.

It was well dark now, on the colder side, but not too bad. I stood under the street light as cars got on the freeway. A cop drove by and told me I couldn't be standing past the "no pedestrians" sign like I was. I moved up to the sign, not a great spot since it was in the dark and closer to the corner where cars only saw me as the whipped by with a blast of headlights.

It was getting on midnight, I'd been there hours without luck. I walked across the street where I'd seen the greyhound bus come and go from a couple times. I asked some guys at a magazine stand inside about the bus, they only knew that it came every hour or so. I made a call to a friend about getting some more information on it, the next bus was coming in a few hours heading for Vegas.

I didn't want to take the bus, knowing I was just a couple hours from Vegas and had made this hitch a number of times before with relative ease, but the already long trip and chilling air had me thinking about it. I couldn't think long though, less than a minute after getting off the phone and walking back towards the ramp, a guy pulled over and let me in, he was heading for Vegas.

The guy was kind and happy to help with talk of karma. He was a hustler too, he told me about his back and forthing to LA and Vegas, slinging fake watches and the like. We stopped for gas at Baker, he tried selling one of his watches to a guy there, "My cellphone tells me the time, sorry!", he said he got that one a lot these days.

He dropped me off right near Treasure Island in Vegas just after midnight, I hopped out at a red light and made my way into the casino. I had my comped room already booked for a couple nights, I checked in and headed up to my room, it wasn't long before I went to sleep.

The next day I took it easy - a big breakfast buffet and catching up on sleep. I clunked a little money in a roulette machine, used some promo chips at the craps table and watched the Lakers game in the sportsbook.

The next morning it was already time to go, I grabbed a quick bite, checked out and headed to the bus stop. I transferred downtown where I talked to a guy about another hitchhiker he'd seen who'd walked pretty far to get to a good spot. I was happy to pay the two bucks and save a couple dozen miles of walking. The bus got me to Boulder City where I'd begin my hitch towards my next stop on the way back east, Flagstaff.