Wrapping Up The Trip With Marilyn

Hitchhiking from California to Indiana in ten days isn't much of an issue. Handily done, with or without the understanding of just how many seemingly random or even chaotic acts of generosity need to occur along the way. Ten days is cake for this task, but for Marilyn and I this was the last ten days, at least for this great adventure together. We weren't just trying to get to Indiana either, hardly. Not "ten days to get there", but "ten days left".

We spent a San Francisco morning waking ourselves up, then heading from my friend's house out into the day, a series of walking and public transit ventures got us to the south side of the Golden Gate bridge ready to catch a ride north.

A guy who worked on boats yielded to our thumbs, our first ride of the day that gt us just over the bridge. Next was a VW van to San Rafael, then a woman to Petaluma. We walked our way to Lagunitas Brewery just in time for the tour, our first of three breweries this day.

After the tour and a couple more pints we headed to the highway, catching just one ride to Santa Rosa where the friendly woman dropped us off at Russian River for some Pliney, a well known beer amongst those who know beer.

A short walk, another on ramp, another ride, soon dropped off in Healdsburg at the Bear Republic Brewery, now dark. We had our share there, a traveling couple at the bar next to us even bought us a round as we shared stories.

Finally it was time to bring the day to a close, as hitchhiking at dark can often be a fruitless endeavor. We walked along the freeway from the entrance just a bit, soon ducking into the tall sliver of forest that ran between the freeway and the divider wall of the neighborhoods. Nestled within we found a piece of flat ground for a tent, hidden away from the world, a swank little spot that Marilyn would fondly recall as perhaps her favorite spot of the whole trip.

We started getting rides right away come morning. First a guy with good memories of hitchhiking in Alaska, then a surfer type guy from San Fran, a woman who drove past many wineries and then a grape picker from Mexico who told us about a number of properties he owned in Cancun, he dropped us off in Fort Bragg where we got ourselves some breakfast.

A short walk through town, a pause at the brewery for an Old Rasputin, then a short ride just up the road from a young gal who lived nearby. Our next ride came from a traveling couple in a blue VW van, Brett and Monet.

We spent the rest of the day with them, cruising alongside the ocean sharing our stories as we went. We wound up at a campsite amongst the redwoods by night, relaxing the night away together.

Come morning we kept on moving, up the coast we went, finally parting ways with Brett and Monet in Eureka where they planned on scoping out the busking scene. Another pause at the brewery in town for Marilyn and I of course, then back to the road we went, eventually getting ourselves a short ride up to Arcata from a university student.

We scored another ride from a friendly woman up a ways more, then a quick pickup from a guy who shared the apple he was smoking out of with us. By this time daylight was on the down slope, finding a good spot to camp was on our mind.

There was a park that the guy knew about, we got through the entrance without paying, "We are not the droids you're looking for", he commented after talking his way in to the ranger and passing through. We drove a little ways in and he showed us where we might be able to camp, but all the same we decided to pass on the spot since it didn't seem clear that we could be hidden enough, that and it would be a good long walk come morning to get back to the highway.

Instead we rolled out of the park and back to the highway where he dropped us off, we figured we'd attempt to hitch one last ride and just settle on the surrounding forest if the ride didn't come in time.

The ride didn't come, we aimed towards the woods in the ocean direction leaving ourselves with enough light to find a good spot to tuck away for the night, we ended up finding a good one with a view of the water right at sunset. Tuna, whiskey, a good night.

A long foggy morning on the freeway rolled by until "Big John" picked us up, he claimed to be a minister. We rolled north with him, pausing at an elk refuge briefly, then up a side road that went high above a bay to get a view of all the fishermen in the fog below.

An electrician picked us up next as we continued on, that included a pause at a house where he had a quick appointment, then we got our next ride from a guy heading to a remote hot spring for the night. We paused with him at a big land bridge over the Rogue river, finally we found ourselves back on foot deep in an Oregon forest, little light left and very few cars speeding by us from time to time.

It wasn't hard to find a campsite, we just walked a little ways into the woods and set up for another good night's sleep.

The next day we made our way up to Washington. First a ride with fire fighters in their van just south of Bend, a car dealer got us to the north side of the city, then an excited woman with her kid in the backseat, this was her second time picking up hitchhikers and she loved it.

We were out in the country where she dropped us off, a long distance biker paused and chatted for a bit while we waited on our next ride. Before a ride came we suddenly saw some dark clouds building up and tumbling our way. We were in the wide open, we knew it was coming, when it reached us it hit with fury as winds blew heavy and the rain pounded down like a waterfall, all we could do was take it.

A passing woman stopped her truck and let us hop in, she was only going less than a mile up and didn't seem the type to typically pick up hitchhikers, but she wanted to offer us the temporary shelter. We sat chatting on the side of the road for just a bit until the bulk of the storm finally passed, we thanked and hopped out as we continued to dry out, quick blasts of sunlight through the clouds were welcomed.

We got a long ride from a guy who had old memories of hitchhiking through storms and snow himself. We blasted back through the storm that had just passed us then got ahead of it a ways when he finally dropped us off, Marilyn and I then waited for the next ride hoping it would come before we had to experience that same storm once again.

The wind picked up and the lightning strikes picked up in frequency, but right as it broke we got ourselves another ride, a local guy who gave us a ride just a short ways to a truck stop where he got ourselves a bite to eat to wait out the storm, yet again. It seemed there were some other hitchhikers there too, it appeared that way anyhow, they soon were slipping into some one's car and racing off.

When the rain died down we made our way to the highway hoping to get a ride ourselves, a Hutterite couple picked us up and we drove as day quickly turned to night.

They dropped us off in a town called Ritzville, just over 50 miles southeast of Spokane. We attempted to hitch a ride at the onramp there under the streetlight, but eventually the darkness and potential of some more storming had Marilyn considering the various hotels in walking distance.

The morning came, well rested, showered, bellies full of a complimentary breakfast, ready for the road again.

We stood directly on the shoulder of the freeway to increase our visibility and chances, but a state trooper quickly ran us off after a quick check of our IDs. Luckily right as we were walking away from that a guy pulled over offering us a ride to Spokane.

After a long wait there we got another ride to the Idaho border, then a ride from a guy hauling a big trailer, then a ride into Coeur d'Alene, and then another short ride to get through the city to the east side and a better spot.

A van full of kids and dogs came next, the dad telling us about his hippy burrito spot in Spokane, the lot of them were going camping. The next ride was the big one, an Albanian trucker on his way to Chicago.

We cruised and cruised, but we didn't intend on riding all the way to Chicago, like I say we weren't trying to get back to Indiana so soon, we were trying to enjoy all the days we had left. Instead we ended up hopping out in Bozeman somewhere around midnight, once there my friend Sourdough came scooping us up and bringing us back to his place for the night. I'd met him when he was on the road some years back when we were both hosted in Phoenix by the same person.

We did most of our catching up in the morning once we'd all gotten some needed sleep. He had his own things to do that day so Marilyn and I ran around town ourselves checking out different beer spots and so forth. By night we made up a big dinner and Sourdough showed us a SWAT truck he'd bought with intentions to convert it into a super sweet travel vehicle.

The next day it was back to the road, we still had many miles to cover. A home builder gave us our first ride of the day, then a couple heading back to Wyoming after a fishing trip, then a ride came from artsy lady for a little ways.

After a sweaty wait we got a long ride from an older Canadian guy, propelling us into North Dakota. This would be my first time in the state, leaving just Hawaii on the list of US states I still hadn't visited.

He cruised across the big state, finally he dropped us off just barely shy of Bismarck.  While I'd now "been" to North Dakota, Marilyn and I had come up with our own unofficial criteria for actually being in a state, which involved some form of love making as well as sampling a local beer. While we weren't about to get down on the side of the road, it seemed like Bismarck would be our best shot to at least hit a North Dakota brewery, in fact I'd already scoped one out.

We stood on the side of the road, daylight now somewhat dwindling. We knew hitching a ride just into the city would pretty much mean it would be our last ride of the day, but it seemed worth it for our mission of getting some local beer while we had the chance.

When a car yielded to our thumbs it all seemed a bit more crazy, as the driver said he was heading clear in Minnesota... this was quite a bit of miles and an excellent ride to pass on all for a beer, but we were both in agreement that the beer needed to be drank.

"If it wasn't for the obligatory beer we need to drink in town we'd ride all the way to Minnesota with you", I told him as we neared Bismarck, "Unless you feel like grabbing a beer with us", I joked.

One man's joke is another's good idea as it were, he surprised us both saying he'd love to come grab a beer with us, then we'd all continue on to Minnesota. Amazing, it was the best possible thing that could have happened right then.

His name was Justin, he worked up in the north of the state where the oil scene was booming, like many other people working up there he did two weeks on and two weeks off, so he was on his way back home for the off stint.

We ordered up a round of beers while we got to know each other, then, amazingly again, he paid for all the beers, refusing to let us do so which seemed only fair considering how much he was helping us out already.

We blasted east towards the next state, during the long ride Marilyn managed to figure out a friend of a friend lived in Fargo and was able to set us up with a place to stay for the night, Justin happily detoured us off the freeway once in the city and dropped us off at her house. We thanked him and up and down and soon met the Fargo girl in the late night, we briefly became acquainted, but it was quickly time to sleep.

She was gone in the morning, Marilyn and I got ourselves sorted and hit the streets of Fargo. We found ourselves a coffee shop on the long walk to the highway, then a beer bar naturally. We sipped on beer and even decided to go for burgers, several locals chatted us up and gave us a wildly friendly impression of North Dakota as a whole. That impression became deeper when it was time to pay our bill, one of the guys we'd been talking to had picked up our tab before leaving a few minutes before us.

As we kept walking towards the highway a passing biker pumped his brakes and curiously started questioning what we were up to. He ended up offering to buy us a couple cold drinks in a nearby fast food place hoping to pick our brains a bit more, we spent about a half an hour or so talking about travel and answering his questions, hearing about all the travel books he loved to read.

Finally he let us go and we kept walking, crossing a bridge into Minnesota, then at last getting our first ride of the day from a welder to Alexandria. We had a long wait there, then a short ride, then finally a longer ride to Saint Cloud. Next a ride to Monticello, then finally a ride we got standing under a streetlight from a car full of friendly people a bit younger than us heading into Minneapolis. They dropped us off at a brewery there where they had the valet guy snap a photo of the group of us.

I had a friend there in the city, her and her boyfriend eventually came and scooped us up, we caught up on the car ride, but once again it was a late night and we were all quickly dropping into sleep once we got to her place.

The four of us headed to the botanical gardens in the morning, Marilyn and I still planned on getting on the road this day, but wanted to have some fun exploring first.

After the gardens we headed to the big brewery in town for a tour, the four of us enjoying some more conversation and samples afterwards before heading out.

They dropped Marilyn and I off at the highway after, we walked up to the shoulder and stuck our thumbs out, then incredibly got a surprise ride within five minutes. Not just was it a ride that came quickly, but they guy was going all the way to Indiana and said he could easily make a slight route adjustment to get us directly to Bloomington, our ultimate destination, Marilyn's home base, the end of the trip. This was over 600 miles away and in no way direct, pretty amazing actually.

We drove and drove and drove, chatting the whole way. I could sense Marilyn's growing discomfort though. Neither of us had expected a ride quite like this, it had earlier seemed inevitable that we'd have at least one more night on the road before hitting Indiana, before the adventure was over.

We stopped at a gas station, she was noticeably teary eyed coming to grips with it. She'd even considered bailing on the ride somewhere along the way to get in another night of camping perhaps, but the lightning and threats of heavy rain along with the seemingly insane prospect of rejecting what was such a one-in-a-million sort of perfect ride had her accepting that this was going to be it, or last ride, our last day on the road.

It was well after midnight when we hit Bloomington, we got dropped off at her friends house in town, they were amazingly waiting up for us, or at least had just taken a short nap beforehand and were now up. We couldn't thank our driver enough, the last one, the one who completed this particular trip together.

Her friends quickly put some glasses of homebrew in our hands while we caught up, we drank them down and gave them the abridged version of the three months spent together hitching around all over, but the bulk would have to trickle out over the next few days. We fell to sleep shortly after the conversation.

For Marilyn it was over, it was back to work after the extended time off. I'd be staying in town for a bit as she settled back in, but then I'd be off to California for harvest season, no known plans beyond that, just a promise of continued rambling.

The idea of staying in one place, for love or otherwise, the idea of actually living somewhere, staying put for the foreseeable future... this was still not something I could imagine becoming a reality yet, even after six years of near-constant motion.

Time to keep moving, riding the unpredictable yet undying rhythm I'd tuned into all those summers ago. This wouldn't be the last of Marilyn, though, in fact it would be more of a spark, a promise of more to come. The beat goes on.

August 21, 2013 to August 30, 2013