Winter Hitchhiking Trip From Vegas to NYC

No longer anchored to the boat, I was on a new path. The idea was to return to the boat, but I somehow knew that it wouldn't work out like that.

Now, after another tumble in Vegas and parting with my shipmates, I was walking the freeway north of the city looking to catch the first ride on route to New York and Connecticut where I was looking to be in time for Christmas.

First a construction worker to Mesquite, a short walk across the town, then I was scooped by a computer programmer heading to Saint George. A flat tire stopped us just short of town, he plugged in the spare and we kept moving, then another tire went out.

He called a friend who came and picked us up off the side of the road, he blasted ACDC as we made our way to a shop in town to get a new tire. I parted ways from there, heading back to the freeway to keep moving.

Soon I was hopping off the back of a pickup truck that had taken me out of town a ways, waving goodbye with smiles as I thanked them for the ride and the jug of orange juice they gave me. I walked up the ramp back onto the freeway into the cooling air approaching dark.

A roofer picked me up, calling himself an old hobo who’d done his share of walking. He put me in Cedar City with twenty bucks to add to my cash stash, then just as quick I got a ride from another guy who’d done his share of walking. He was an ex-drug dealer who’d since found another path.

He dropped me just on the north end of town where I walked down to the freeway and walked until it got dark on me. It wasn’t looking good for camping, the area was sparse and the cold had set in pretty fierce as well. I contemplated this as I kept walking until finally a car stopped, however it was of the red and blue light variety.

The cop was pretty chilled out, but informed me of the illegality of walking on the freeway. I hopped in the front seat and we drove up and right back to the last exit where there was a bit of a tiny truck stop.

I thanked him for the lift and quickly got inside to the warmth where I grabbed some fast food to munch on while I thought of my next move. The door swung open and closed as people came and went, the blast of frosty air a constant deterrent to my thoughts of camping, which seemed unlikely anyway given the lack of places to tuck away. Not much for cedar trees on this end of Cedar City.

One of the girls who’d been working the cash register was getting off work and came and talked to me for a while, intrigued by my backpack and curious to hear a story. Maybe she’d offer me a place to stay for the night. We sit by her fireplace drinking hot cocoa talking about travels and nonsense giving way to euphoric admiring grins and steady laughter. I’d see a spider in her hair and brush it out, the simple contact coupled with our state of bliss would be the spark that lead to a kiss, the floodgates would open. I’d stay in Cedar City for two more days while she’d tie up loose ends, then we’d hop in her car for a whizzy east coast road trip in the throws of new romance. After Christmas we’d fly straight to Africa, hitching around, buzzing and growing together until finally meeting a bunch of hippy types living off the grid somewhere. She’d fall in love with the place and want to stick around, while completely understanding my need to keep moving. We’d part ways there, completely in love and with every intention of reuniting again, perhaps in Africa, maybe in Europe or even Cedar City.

Instead she wished me luck on my adventure and was out the door, another cold gust of reality as it shut behind her.

I went the motel route that night, cashed up from trim season and twenty bucks richer with road money. I enjoyed the warmth and much needed rest after Vegas and the road since. Not quite the spontaneous Utah born romance adventure, but it would do just fine all the same.

The morning came and I enjoyed the bonus of a continental breakfast in the lobby, then I went marching into the day towards the road. The first truck to come my way was my ride, a guy heading up to Salt Lake or further, I rode with him as far the desolate I-70 junction and walked just a ways to wait on the next ride east.

A car was stopped just off the exit and I had a good feeling about it, after a while he emerged from the car and waved me down. I walked on down and greeted him.

“Hey there, my name’s Mike”, he said.

“Kenny”, I replied.

“You wanna smoke a joint Kenny?”, and off we went. He was Denver bound, hundreds of miles away in the right direction. He told me about his rock climbing certification and eventually there was talk of aliens and the anticipation for December 21, 2012 which was just days away. We paused at one spot to look through rocks which had all kinds of painting on them and so forth, fueling his ancient alien talk.

Cruise cruise cruise, through the day all the way to night, into the snow finally. We paused in Glenwood Springs where he wanted to get a coffee. Once there it was icy all around, so much so that he skidded and whirled on the streets, myself and some bystanders helped push his car into a parking lot.

“Well”, he sighed, “This is as far as I’m going tonight then, I’ll wait until things clear up in the morning and keep going”.

I was determined, though. With friends in Vail just a short distance away, I had to at least try and make it and dramatically change the outcome of the night. I hiked the icy road back to the freeway entrance where there was luckily a streetlight to stand under and wait for someone braving the weather eastbound.

The Hail Mary ride arrived, three friends and a dog heading to Denver. In no time we were all laughs and chatter, then just as quickly I was hopping out of the car in snowy Vail. I walked through it a short ways to a coffee shop kinda bar in town where Riley was having a drink, soon followed by Amy, two girls I’d met in Washington a ways back.

I was struck right away by Riley, she had some kind of beautiful glow to her and was deeply engaging. Our conversation went straight to travel, hitchhiking, journeys and options. The two of us headed to another bar to shoot some pool, then sat back while she explained her recent situation, somewhat torn between the life she’d built in Vail and her itch to get back on the go. She was on the fence with happiness on both sides. “One of these times when you come through I’m just gonna take off with you”, she told me, all energy and passion, an endless adventurer.

We stopped for one last drink and then walked up to the house she was living in. We stayed up for a while with some tea talking, watching a fox that had appeared out on the deck for a little while. I thought about kissing her then, inspired and excited about endless possibility, blissed and buzzed. There’d be no spider in her hair however, no trip to Africa, that story would continue to wait.

In the morning I was back to the road, a goodbye to Riley and into the snow I went. A short ride got me through town a bit, then a vacationer named Jon got me a couple towns further east. The wind picked up tremendously, throwing snow and whipping me around as I tried to stay facing the cars with my thumb out in the air. Finally a red headed dreaded out snowboarder guy pulled over and I quickly hopped in.

We sat through traffic for a while, then went through a tunnel, on the other side was blue skies easy sailing towards Denver. He turned just before the city and I hopped out on the side of the freeway, happy to be in better weather and moving right along.

I waked for a little ways to get to a better spot, then waited by a ramp as the sun got lower and lower. Just as it went away completely I got a ride from Jamal, a trucker heading across the city. I was grateful for that ride, happy to get across in one shot and past the junction to my next road, Interstate 76. I walked a while in the dark, got one more short ride, then walked some more until I spotted the first patch of trees suitable for camping the night away.

In the morning I caught a ride with a woman a little ways, then got a ride from an 81 year old wheat farmer for the next little ways. Next was a guy on his way to North Dakota to see family. He got me as far as North Platte, Nebraska where he turned north. I quickly got another ride from a “hockey mom” for a ways further.

My next ride was a van with six dogs and four people all packed in, not a drivers license among them. They all had different stories of how they’d wound up together and what their next moves would be, for now they were heading to Omaha to figure things out.

I figured it would be dark by the time we got to Omaha, so I got in touch with a friend in Lincoln, someone who’d picked me up hitchhiking once before and let me stay with his family there. He was home and said I was welcome to stay the night at his place again.

We hit a gas station at sunset, the girls grabbed a gas jug and approached people, quickly finding someone willing to fill for them, this is how they were traveling along on the cheap. I ended up driving for the next ways, being that they only had one working headlight and couldn’t afford to get pulled over being that none of them had a license, they typically stopped driving when night fell for this reason, so were all grateful I’d come along.

I pulled off into Lincoln to let myself out, then they continued on, risking the last piece of the drive to the nearby Omaha on their own. Soon I was at the house, sharing stories and catching up, happy to be with friendly faces for the night.

He gave me a ride to a truckstop in the early morning, time to keep it moving. My first ride was to Omaha, a friendly guy who gave me a pair of gloves for my trip. Then a short ride into Iowa and another quick ride after from a guy who used to work for PayPal. A preacher scooped me up next and got me to and across Des Moines. Next was a short ride from a carnival worker.

By this point I’d made a sign that said “Connecticut for xmas!”. It worked like a charm, a Philadelphia bound trucker stopped, the breakout ride I was hoping for. Idaho, Illinois and soon Indiana where we stopped to sleep for a spell. He drove some more, then we stopped and slept some more, by sun up with was cruise cruise again. At a truck stop he got us a couple shower tickets, then treated me to a big buffet breakfast.

We stopped at a truckstop just before sunset and he figured he’d be there for a while, so I figured I’d try to hitch another ride. Darkness came fast though, along with some drops of rain. I headed back to his truck just as the storm broke. He was happy to let me crash there for  bit, then sure enough we were rolling again come midnight.

We arrived around Philly in the middle of the night, running through the hefty rain for a coffee, then trucked it out to the outskirts we paused until morning when the gates opened in the place he was making his delivery. Finally we cut back to the freeway and he dropped me off around downtown Philly.

I was close by the Chinatown bus station that runs to and from New York City on the cheap throughout the day, so I happily got myself a ticket and a cheesesteak from a cart on the corner to munch on.

Chinatown to Chinatown, I emerged in the New York City streets, joining the bustle as I marched up to midtown, the center of the world tempting the Mayans to make their move on this worldly anticipated date of December 21, 2012.

Up the highrise I went across from Grand Central, happy to see Sean’s face at the end of his workday. Soon we met up with Carl, a subway to Steinway and eventually a place for some drinks over games of pool. The idea popped up to go jam, so it was off to the rehearsal studio nearby to give my harmonica some juice and cap off the night and the long trip from the west.

I’d have some time to enjoy the city, see the friends and family and figure out where I’d be blasting off to next, the world was wide open.

December 15, 2012 to December 21, 2012