Hitchhiking from California to the Midwest

Marilyn and I packed up from a few days on the river at the Hitch Gathering, now hiking up to the road to get moving again. Our idea now was eastbound, places like Jackson Hole, Wisconsin, Michigan and ultimately South Carolina.

We chained together a whole lot of short rides that day. First in a pickup truck, then a few miles from a metal worker, another guy just a little ways, a gold mining guy who got us to a camping area and then a ride from a woman who was indeed camping around there, then a gold miner to Downeville where we paused just to get a snack.

Another prospector picked us up there, down the road he had an RV parked and we helped him out by driving his car behind him while he scooped that up and got it all to his property nearby. A camp counselor girl gave us the next ride, then a bike shop owner heading to Truckee got us to the next junction.

A woman heading to Chico picked us up there heading north. At this point we debated whether we'd get out at the junction and keep heading north and east, or take the turn with her west to Chico. We decided to opt for Chico, even though it was the wrong direction it would be nice to see my friends there for a night, get cleaned up after camping and relax for the night.

Relax we did, then come morning we got back to walking, back to hitchhiking. On the walk out of town a familiar truck pulled over, it was a friend of mine who'd spotted us walking. He gave us a ride out of town a ways, also confirming that there'd be some harvest work for me in just a few weeks time.

A guy going to Red Bluff for his dog was our first ride, then some Rainbow Gathering folks heading to Redding. A short ride to Bella Vista there, then a couple heading to a party got us further down that road. There wasn't a lot of traffic, but a guy scooped us up for a few more miles, then a solar and wind energy expert further still. A woman talking about wildfires got us to the next town, then a trail worker got us to the turn off to the park outside Burney.

We got picked up instantly there from someone who thought we were hiking the PCT, then a real short ride from a tie dye shirt guy, then our last ride came from a guy searching for some campsite he'd heard of or been to once long before. He dropped us off on the lonely road as the sun set, we walked up a little hill bending around the corner and found ourselves a patch of trees suitable for the tent for the night. We laid out and watched the odd shooting star, eventually fading to sleep.

We were up early, ready to push forward. We scored a ride to the next gas station where Marilyn eagerly gobbled down some coffee, a cowboy walking by stopped dead in his tracks when we old him we were heading to Wyoming. We laughed, nothing's too far.

A ride to Adin from one guy, a ride to the next junction from a Reno originating construction worker, a Reno bound woman ride to Alturas, then a guy just out on his own adventure that got us up around Burns. On that ride we flew by Lake Abert, a lake I once walked about 15 miles along without getting a ride.

We walked as the light rain started, some locals gave us a ride just a few miles, then we walked a long straight road for a while longer until a guy in van scooped us up and got us to Ontario, right along the Oregon/Idaho border. We sort of tried to hitch another ride there, but it had gone dark and was just about pointless.

We had a snack in the truck stop, then we walked around to a couple people outside and Marilyn asked some truckers for rides. We came back inside and asked for some cardboard with plans to make a sign, a trucker walking by saw this happening and asked where we were going.

Next thing we knew he was offering to let us sleep in his cab for the night, he'd be Oklahoma City bound in the morning. Score. We hung out and watched some TV with him and then passed out, feeling happy perched in our top bunk, a long ride coming in the morning.

Cruise we did, go, go, go, across Idaho, into Wyoming and finally to Soda Springs where our roads parted, now just a hundred miles from Jackson. A guy gave a short ride to Henry where we got rained on briefly, a younger guy got us a couple more miles up, a couple with some dogs to the next junction, then some girls heading straight to Jackson who'd been coming from Salt Lake City.

In no time we were dropped near my mom's place, ready to relax and take in the unmatched beauty of Jackson Hole for a few days. We made the obligatory stop at Thai Me Up for Melvin beers that night, went to the refuge for sunset the next night. Marilyn even ran into an old "friend" who was our bartender at the Moose, a guy who'd tried to drown her in kindergarten, although he didn't remember this, them and his co-workers all got a laugh out of it anyway.

Disc golf, more Thai Me Up, tubing, relaxing, Jackson was always a good stop. My mom was heading to Boulder to see my brother, so Marilyn and I joined her for the long ride, as we too were heading east still, Madison, Wisconsin our next idea. After a night in a Rawlins hotel, a morning at a donut shop filled with taxidermy and some more driving, Marilyn and I hopped out in Cheyenne when my mom turned south to Colorado.

The very first vehicle to approach us on the on ramp picked us up, a van driven by a guy who'd spent 30 years in prison along with his wife riding shotgun, sipping a beer and smoking a blunt. They dropped us off and we got our next ride from a box truck, a ways down the road the truck lost power and slowed into the shoulder of the road. He'd had this problem before and was gonna be stuck for a little while, so we parted ways, Marilyn and I marching down the road waiting for the next ride.

An extremely tired guy picked us up and got us to North Platte in Nebraska where he dropped us off. From there we got a ride from a trucker heading to Houston. We cruised and cruised, even smoked a joint as we cruised some more, watching the sky grow more ominous with news of a big storm rolling in.

We stopped at a truck stop in York, still west of Lincoln, this is where the trucker would turn south. By this point the rain was dumping and he'd decided to call it a night there, not wanting to leave us in the rain he offered to let us sleep in the cab for the night. We easily agreed.

Come morning the rain had subsided, Marilyn and I made our way to the interstate 80 on ramp ready for another day of hitchhiking. Our first ride was great, as a nice guy got us through both Lincoln and Omaha and into Council Bluffs. After a hot and sweaty walk we got our second ride of the day, a scientist who told us she'd been studying cricket sex.

The big ride of the day came next, a Russian truck driver named Igor heading to Chicago. He got us all across Iowa and into Illinois where we finally hopped out around the northbound junction to Wisconsin. Three guys picked us up there and dropped us off near a bus station, a somewhat annoying miscommunication that had us doing some more walking to get back to the highway. Once there we managed to get a ride, though, a guy got us into Beloit, officially in Wisconsin now.

By this time is was late, though, dark now, but with only 50 miles to Madison we were still determined. We lucked out, a car packed with four travelers, dogs and gear pulled over and squeezed us in. Not only were they heading to Madison, but they dropped us off directly at the house we were staying at, a host we'd found through the Couchsurfing website.

This was a somewhat different Couchsurfing experience, as our host had to leave town last minute, but said we could still stay, he just gave us directions on how to get in the house and so forth. We popped in and got ourselves some showers, then we were eager to head downtown and check things out.

Lyft, the taxi like service similar to Uber, had some promotion for 50 free rides there in Madison, so would be pretty well set for getting around while in town. We took our first free ride to town to a brew pub and then another. At the second place we met up with a guy who'd read my blog and seen my videos, we cruised around with him getting beer here and pizza there. Altogether it was a good night checking out the town.

In the morning Marilyn hit the farmers market, she came back to the house armed with all kinds of cheese curds, fried cheese, cheese breads and basically every form of cheesy goodness she could get her hands on.

After our feast we spent the rest of the day taking advantage of all of our free rides, cruising around town hitting brewery after brewery and finally a beer store before heading back that night.

Just outside of the city there was a girl I knew living with her husband, she was one of the first people to host me on Couchsurfing, so we got in touch and she'd host us once again. We met her in town and road back to the country to her place, then the whole lot of us road to the lake to the day where they had a boat. Drinks, tubing, swimming, frisbee and good times, then finally back to the house for the night.

The next morning we'd awake to thunderstorms, but this was anything but an omen for the days to come, we instead had a impressive string of generosity and hospitality awaiting us as we headed towards Michigan. Good times behind, good times ahead, onward.

August 12, 2014 to August 25, 2014