Free Again and Rocketing Up The West By Thumb

After an unexpected few days in Jail, I was back in the wild of California, free bird instead of jailbird. My brother had come to scoop me up after I'd been released and I was staying with him at his girlfriends place to gather myself, tie up some loose ends and brew some beer of course.

First loose end, I had no idea where my backpack was. "Backpack" could also be read: everything I own. To sum up the jail thing, some people had taken me in while hitchhiking for the night, I'd blacked out drunk, coming to in their car a few blocks from their house wondering why they'd given me the keys and where I was supposed to be going. Before I could find any answers, blue and red lights were flashing and I was being arrested. Apparently I'd been gone long enough for them to report the car stolen, they didn't really know me that well, after all, who knows what what was going though their heads.

But, my backpack was still at their house, as far as I knew. That in itself is another head scratcher as to why they'd think I was stealing their car, with everything I actually own and find useful remaining with them, including my passport and other items to easily identify me.

Anyhow, now that backpack was the mystery. I wasn't sure if they had it, ditched it or denied knowing about, or turned it into the authorities and if so, which authority. After making phone calls to different sheriffs and evidence room supervisors, I eventually tracked it down. My lawyer had gotten in contact with the people who's car it was, the people I'd been partying with, they had the pack and the lawyer's assistant went and picked it up. It would be waiting in his San Diego office.

As it turned out, my lifelong friend Sean was in town from New York. I spent the day catching up with him and cruising around, together we went to the office to pick up the pack. It was a mess, through and through. I didn't actually pickup the pack, but rather two big black garbage bags stuffed with the backpack and it's contents strewn about. On top of this, everything was covered in the exploded caramel and grains crusted in from the exploded homebrewing ingredients I'd gotten the night of meeting these people (we met a home brew shop and brewery when they offered to let me stay the night with them).

The backpack it self was beaten to shit, a couple straps ripped off, the metal frame bent. I spent an hour or more in the driveway with the hose just cleaning and scrubbing, tying new knots and picking up the pieces. In the end my backpack was beat up, but it would still backpack.

After a couple more days relaxing with my brother, brewing some beer, it was time to hit the road again, freedom begs for motion. My brother dropped me off north of LA. I got a couple short rides to the outskirts of society breaking into the middle California desert.

Apparently I hadn't got enough sleep, maybe it was just the walking in between those short rides, but I decided to take a nap in the desert for an hour or so under a tree I found. It was worth it, I got back on the road fresh, catching my next ride in no time. The guy was an aspiring sailor and going exactly where I was aiming for, Sacramento.

By night I arrived at the home of my good friends Aaron and Jess. I spent shy of a week there catching up, drinking excellent beers and eating good burgers. Sam Hornes is the typical Friday night pub visit when near Sacramento, he wad a Lagunitas triple IPA there and plenty of other great new stuff while I caught up with them.

After the week Aaron dropped me off north of Sacramento where I stuck out my thumb from the shoulder of the freeway, catching a ride right away straight to Chico. The couple that picked me up in the van were interesting to talk to, even when we paused at a grocery store where their battery died while we were parked. We got a jump from someone easy, then soon I was in friendly Chico catching up with my friends there.

I spent a couple weeks there as well, trimming pot for beer money, drinking said beer, eating well and enjoying the company of great friends there. Frisbee golf, backyard parties all the good stuff. One afternoon we even went of to the vineyard where we enjoyed all kinds of great wine and, as my friend put it, I "drank down like it was beer". It was tasty. Not surprisingly, later that night we solved such mysteries such as "who stole the box wine", we determined it was some trio of sneaky buttholes.

I even got to brew some beer outside of town in Paradise, borrowing a friend's bike for a fun ride down Honey Run, the steep hill down through scenic views, blissful wind against the face back down to Chico. Finally, after an eventful night of Cinco de Mayo parties and pizza pilfering, I was ready to keep blasting north, now towards Washington.

The reason for Washington was a girl, one that I barely knew and had no chance with I figured, but was excuse enough to go see something new and keep moving. I'll get more into her story in the next story, but for now there's still the matter of hitching my way up there.

I walked to the freeway inside Chico, getting a ride to the north side of town from a college kid excited to be my first ride on the adventure up to Washington. Next was a guy driving around looking to buy a trailer, we cruised a little further north while he played his Jesus books on tape. He dropped me off in Red Bluff after getting me some food from McDonalds.

My next ride came from a big guy heading towards Redding. He told me that he usually picks up girls hitchhiking that he thinks he's got a shot of having sex with, apparently many were willing and good times were had by all. No sex in this situation, but I was plenty happy to get just about to Redding.

A guy with fourteen DUIs picked me up next for a short ride, but I got a can of beer out of the deal, go figure. I finished the beer and walked back to the freeway, catching a ride from a woman who delivered auto parts. I went along with her for a couple deliveries as we cruised north, enjoying Mount Shasta as it came into view, soon I was hopping out of her car in Weed, California in front of the brewery.

After a pint of beer, I was back on foot heading back to the freeway on the beautiful day. I got just a couple more short rides before it got dark somewhere near Grants Pass. I walked along the windy freeway until I found a spot up and embankment, out of sight from the road, but looking over the whole valley of peppered house lights, fading to sleep.

I walked quite a bit in the morning until a truck stopped for me, taking me about eighty miles, dropping me at a truck stop with five extra bucks. After that I caught a ride from a quiet guy getting just shy of Eugene. The road was busy, but an RV pulled a nice maneuver kicking up dust pulling into the shoulder a ways past me, I went running for it.

Inside was a younger couple and a slew of kids, they were adventuring all over the country. Back in Arkansas they had a sort of doomsday bunker they told me about, but for now they were on the move. We paused at a rest area where they wanted to pan handle for gas money, they said I could keep trying to catch another ride there while I waited and that if they scored some cash beforehand then they'd keep letting me ride with them.

I caught another ride right away, though, a guy living out of his car and considering moving to Eugene. He was only going as far as the next rest area, from there I got a ride from a guy who liked to drive fast. It was a short ride too, but we were cooking.

My last ride of the day came from a guy going to Portland, he dropped me off downtown more or less. I spent the sunset hour walking along narrow shoulders of freeway, into the night and still along the road until finally finding a place just north of downtown up an embankment to camp for the night.

I walked clear over the river and into Vancouver, Washington the next morning. Once there, I got a great ride from a guy who'd spent a bunch of seasons fishing up in Alaska. He invited me back to his house in town where I quickly got a shower, a feed of lasagna and a bottle of beer before he got me back to the freeway feeling full and fresh. People are awesome.

A middle aged guy picked me up from there, then a I got a ride from a Mexican woman longing to go back to Tijuana, also a short ride. I walked a long ways until a cop pulled over, a friendly guy, but he had to tell me that I wasn't allowed to be walking on the freeway. He gave me a ride to a busy exit and said I was fine standing on the on ramp with my thumb out, just not up on the highway itself.

That worked great, I was soon getting scooped up by a guy named Mario driving a van full of his homemade sauces that was was delivering to different Whole Foods stores in the region. He was from Bend and furthered the sentiment I'd been gathering that it was an awesome place, I knew I'd have to visit it soon.

He dropped me off in the mass of Seattle. I thought it might take a while to get a ride, but I got scooped up by a pretty young African lady dreaming of the next time she'd be back in her country, she was really friendly. She got me towards the north of the city where I got my next ride from a young guy from Ukraine, a guy who liked to drive as fast as possible. He got me a bite to eat from a fast food joint, then dropped me off further north along the freeway.

The sun was getting low in the sky as I stood at the next next on ramp hoping for another ride. Across the street there was a guy pan handling the cars getting off the freeway. After a while he gave up and came over to see what my story was. He said he was sleeping in his camper van, he pointed to the gas station down the road where it was, offering me a place to sleep if I didn't get a ride. I thanked him and considered it, saying I'd make my way over if no other rides came.

A ride did come, a hippie chick with a packed car gearing up for a summer as a camp counselor. We cruised a little way, the sun all but down now. I got a ride quickly from an Army guy, but just one exit. It was all but slid dark when I got one last ride, a friendly eccentric girl named Roxy who got me up the last bit of interstate, then through a little town to the outskirts where she dropped me off in the dark. I hiked until I found a place to camp for the night, now just an easy fifty miles from Oak Habor where I was heading. I figured best to get some rest and hitch the rest in the morning.

I got a quick ride from a couple in the morning, they dropped me off at the bus stop, the fare was free and it got me all the way south, an absolutely beautiful drive. Now all there was to do was link up with Jenny and find out why the hell I'd come up here at all.