School Bus Sparks Crossing of Country and into New Year 2014

Beer Camp had done a number on me, it took a couple days more in Chico before I was ready to hit the road. One morning I finally started hoofing it through town, passing a construction riddled highway entrance in favor of the next one. A girl in a minivan took me a couple exits, from there I hitched a ride from a guy going to Concow, another short ride came after that and then a guy heading to downtown Sacramento.

I walked around downtown for a bit contemplating my options. My goal for Christmas was to see family in New York and Connecticut, I still had a bit more than two weeks to get over there and planned to pay Marilyn a visit on route in Indiana.

With just a few hours of daylight at the moment, and being in a bad spot downtown in terms of catching my next ride, I considered seeing some friends in town for the night rather than taking a long walk to a good spot.

Earlier in the day I had posted online to a rideshare site, craigslist, mentioning that I was hitchhiking east towards Indiana. Before I could decide to stay the night or truck on my phone buzzed and a new decision came.

Two guys and some dogs were riding a short school bus towards Maine by way of Indiana, they were twenty minutes west of Sacramento heading my way, happy to pick me up and wouldn't be needing gas money. Sometimes things are easy.

They scooped me up downtown and I hopped in like a kid heading to school, then we started rolling. We got through Tahoe, into Nevada, passed Reno and went into the night and the bitter cold. There wasn't much for heat on the bus, by the time we reached Winnemucca the two of them decided on getting a hotel for the night, I happily curled up in my sleeping bag on the floor in the warmth for the night.

In the morning we cruised again, blowing past Salt Lake City and into Colorado, cruise, cruise, chugging along, hitting the pass and almost spinning out on the ice, cruising into the dark, passing Vail, pausing in Denver for a beer and barreling along just a bit more until we hit a rest area just over the Kansas line.

Morning again, stale Kansas driving, Kansas City came and went, Saint Louis and then down to Carbondale, Illinois for the night where we stayed with one of the guy's brother. In the morning we kept going, not far we stopped at a bar where we dropped one guy off, but not before he filled us full of beers and food there.

Towards nightfall we reached Bloomington, Indiana where Marilyn was not expecting my arrival until just a bit before when I may have tipped her off by asking too many questions via text. The school bus that had picked me up in California was now dropping me off at her doorstep.

We caught up immediately, as well as popping open two of the beers I'd brewed with her that were now ready, including the orange chocolate stout that her turned out really well.

I spent close to a week there with her, bouncing around and brewing, relaxing and seeing her friends. She'd decided to rent a car to come out to the northeast with me to spend some more days together leading up to Christmas.

We hit the road one day after she got off work, picking up the car and heading eastbound. We found a surprise brewery in Ohio called Weasel Boy, a place I picked on a whim mostly based on how close it was to the freeway, but it turned out to be amazing.

I took over driving through the night, east, east, east, by the first sign of daylight Marilyn took back over until we'd landed ourselves in the Dogfish Head Brewery parking lot in Delaware, catching perhaps an hour of something like sleep while we waited for the doors to open.

We were the only two on the tour once we got in, we got a few samples and drove some twenty minutes or more to their brewpub for chow, then finally got back on the road. Marilyn took over while I caught up to sleep, soon we were into the thick of New York City, dropping off the car and getting ourselves to my friends' house for the night.

We spent a day poking around the city, catching up with more friends, then heading up a bit north to my dad's house the next day. We bopped around there, headed to Connecticut to see more of my family, a Christmas party brought in some more friends and good times, then with two days left until Christmas I was dropping Marilyn off at the train so she could catch her flight to Tennessee to see her family.

As it turned out her flight got cancelled and she made the long trek all the way back to Connecticut just to spend the night, then the next day, Christmas Eve day, I dropped her off again to do it all over. I spent Christmas and the next several days with the family, then headed back into the city the day before New Years Eve.

I arrived theaded out fancy, I'd pulled together some dress pants, a tie and that sort of thing in anticipation to visit my friend who was bartending at a swanky joint with a dress code. Before that, I went and met up with another great friend for a much needed burger at Shake Shack.

As the day turned to dark I arrived at the 21 Club need Rockefeller Center where my friend worked. Cocktail after cocktail went down, eggnog, skunky beer and sliders in between until finally he was getting off work.

Out on the street our other friend, Neil, was just arriving, suit and all, a bit late, but we were off to find a more casual bar. We found a couple more spots with good beer lists, catching up with each other into the night.

When that was all over I found my way to my friend Lisa's house for the night, staying up for a while and sleeping into the afternoon. By the time I was up and out the door I was making my way to Neil's place in Queens, ready for New Years Eve to get going.

That night we planted ourselves at his favorite bar, meeting all kinds of his friends and new folks slipping in and out. Midnight came with a sip of champagne and a split bottle of Dogfish Head 120 I'd brought myself. Shots and drinks and more and more and suddenly morning or afternoon came with daylight waking me up somehow all in one piece back at Neil's place.

My phone had a new number in it with a couple texts back and forth, I cracked open a hair-of-the-dog homebrew as I fired out another message to the number, I figured it was one of the girls from the drunken night before.

An hour or so later I'd pulled myself together and was meeting her at a closed bagel shop, so a diner instead. Her name was Deniece, we laughed recounting the night, then went looking for a bar after eating, it was closed so we settled on bringing a six pack back to her place.

Some flirting and a background movie, finally I had to run out, not kissing her until in the cold on her stoop, then marching through the icy air to hit the train back to Connecticut.

I spent just a couple relaxing days there, then hit the train back to the city and directly to Deniece's place. We hung there at her place a while until eventually grabbing some dinner with a few of my friends and her friend that I'd also met the New Years Eve. The three of us along with Neil went bouncing between beer spots, watching Deniece hula hoop in the snow, carrying on and returning to the neighborhood bar we'd all met at.

I spent the night with her, slept in and eventually headed to another friend's apartment for the day kicking around with him. The next day I wandered around Manhattan, now just days away and eager to get heading west again.

I met up with Deniece again there when she got off work, poking around the big library and whatnot before heading back to Queens, there's not much like the fresh part of a little flirtatious meandering.

After another night at her place I woke up to my last day in the city. I sluggishly moved through the day, eventually firing myself up for another set of beers with my friend in the city and Neil, a last visit to Deniece and finally crashing out at my friend's house.

I'd have an early bus in the morning, I'd found incredibly cheap tickets to Pittsburgh by way of DC, this would be a good head start to blast out west on the road again. My New York visits are always fun, seeing old friends and family, finding new fun, but the lure of the road is strong, it was pulling me back once again.

December 6, 2013 to January 7, 2014