First Time in Bloomington

I got my fix of the northeast, New York City and all, it was time again to head westbound. The west is always calling, sometimes louder than other times, this time around there was Jackson Hole and friends hiking the Pacific Crest Trail among other things that I wanted to get to. Summer time and the living's easy.

Before all that, there was Indiana. I'd met a girl briefly in Louisville, Kentucky on the hitch over to the northeast who was bragging about Bloomington, the Indiana town that she lived in. She said I could come stay with her and check it out sometime, so I figured this would be my first destination on route.

Leaving New York City was easy, the always cheap (sometimes just a dollar ticket) Mega Bus would get me to Pittsburgh, a good jump start to what would otherwise be a hitchhiking trip.

"Looks like you've been in a scrap, son", an Australian guy in the line for the bus turned looking at my black eye, the result of a foolish drunken night some days earlier. I'd thought it had faded enough, but clearly not. I just hoped it wouldn't impede on my chances of catching rides when the time came.

The bus rolled into Pittsburgh close to sunset, but I'd already arranged a place to stay the night with a guy through the Couch Surfing website. I walked a few miles down to the beer bar where he told me to meet him, not seeing him right away I just grabbed myself a pint and waited.

Eventually the message came through that he was having troubles with his lady friend, dealing with her was going to take precedent over hosting me for the night. Fair enough, I finished my beer and got to walking, back to downtown and over the bridge out of town, finding a hill to climb up towards the train tracks and in the woods a bit. It overlooked the city and was out of the way perfect.

Some thunderstorms rolled through during the night, but all was cleared up by morning. After I was packed up and ready to start walking I got a message from my non-host, feeling bad that he hadn't been able to put me up and now offering to give me a ride to a good hitchhiking spot.

This was great, he scooped me up, not only saving me the long walk just to get back to the freeway, but past the first little junction and down the road a little ways to a great spot to start moving. From there I got a couple short rides one after another, first from an older guy in a van, then a skinny Mississippi guy a little further.

A cop passed and made me get off the freeway and down to the the on ramp which didn't seem like a great spot, but luckily a couple paused to pick me up. The guy driving was once a trucker, so he took me to the next big truck stop with the advice that I pretend that I was myself a trucker, asking other trucker for a lift since my truck broke down or some such.

I thanked him and hopped out, but decided to walk back up to the road rather than put on some act. This paid off, quite literally I suppose, as I got a ride quickly from a guy going to visit a friend in the hospital who was able to get me just over the border into Ohio, handing me twenty bucks as I stepped out of his car.

Next I got a ride from a couple, then a single guy heading to Cleveland, dropping me off at the highway split as the rain started misting some more. I walked through the sludge on the side of the road until a friendly cop came along, he gave me a ride to the next busy little town.

I stood on the on ramp, watching the sky change and the cars pass. Finally it opened up, bricks of water falling from the sky that drove me off the road and into the adjacent diner for shelter. I ordered a coffee to wait out the storm. The waitress was sympathetic, she said seventy year old dad was still hitchhiking around the country, she wasn't even sure where at the moment.

After an hour there was a break in the storm, the waitress gave me a muffin and wouldn't charge me for the coffee. I headed back to the on ramp, the rain still coming down, but much lighter at this point, luckily I caught a ride straight away. The guy was with his kid, telling me the story of how he'd burned his house down one drunken night to prove some point to his ex-wife. He regretted it.

I stood at the next on ramp, the sky getting darker. A cop drove by, shaking his fist with a face of anger, but too lazy or busy to stop and do anything. Just before it got too dark to hitch any longer, I got one last great ride. The guy's name was Ted and he wasn't going all that far, but he decided to drive a dozen or more miles than he was planning to help me out.

Not only that, but he slipped me fifty bucks for a motel room. Being that it was now total dark and the rain was still coming down, threatening to get worse before it got better, this was even more amazing.

The morning came, I was dry, comfortable and showered, ready to hit the road again. My first ride was great, a woman calling herself a "military mama", she was on route to Missouri. Her son was in the military, she'd become the mama figure to the others as well, cooking big dinners and the like.

She filled me with mocha coffee beans and ideas of stuffing jalapenos with cream cheese and ranch powder before wrapping them in bacon. We rode through Indianapolis, she dropped me off a ways on the other side to the road that would head south to Bloomington.

I walked for a bit as the rain came and went, then rode in the back of a pickup truck, blow drying the wet off myself. I walked for a good while more, anther downpour came and then another blast of sunshine. I started hearing sirens, then came upon the flipped pickup truck they were going to see. Somewhere past the accident I at last got another ride from a young guy with his dog, then immediately after got a ride from an older guy to Bloomington. He was happy to pick me up, reminiscing about his younger days when he'd hitchhike to Florida to pick oranges.

I took cover in a coffee shop until Marilyn came and got me, it was good to see her again, good to be at my destination. We dropped my gear off at her house where I met her roommate, then we walked on over to the town's more well known brewery, Upland, then back to her house where they had some friends coming over for an Olympics viewing party.

The next day Marilyn drove us out to the lake where we waded and swam around for a while. That night we had a big dinner, complete with the stuffed bacon wrapped jalapenos as suggested by military mama. Beers, rum and a bike ride, then a couple stops at the laid back bars Marilyn liked best in town.

The next morning started with a sandwich of magical proportions, my favorite - peanut butter, banana, honey, cinnamon and bacon. After this was a trip up to a winery for some tastings and a tour. Back at the house we balanced the wine out with our own little beer tasting as we lounged out watching more of the Olympics.

Maybe it was the women's volleyball, the fact that we'd been talking a lot about sex, probably both, but suddenly Marilyn came out with it, "So, do you wanna have sex?", the question either of us could have asked from the jump, we wasted no time with the answer.

Breathing easy now in our new borderless dynamic we kept the good day going by heading to the county fair. If sex is in life's top ten, fried food certainly is too, we got more than our fair share upon meeting up with Marilyn's friends, connoisseurs on fried goodness and all the fair food now available. We got right to it and made our way through everything - grilled cheese, pulled pork, lemonade, sweet corn, tenderloin, elephant ears, deep fried twinkies, corn dogs, deep fried snickers, deep fried oreos. Obviously funnel cake. In between our feasting we went through the animals, seeing prized bunnies, pigs, chickens and the rest of it.

I spent the next day at the library while Marilyn was at work, then we had one last good night together, including a late dinner bike ride for Indian food. Alas, the road calls as it always does, another magic sandwich in the morning and I'd be on the road again. I'd had an amazing time with Marilyn in all regards, we'd established something excellent and this pass through Indiana was simply the spark for trips to come. Good good, now on to Jackson Hole for the next dose of rambling adventure.

July 25, 2012 to July 31, 2012