Hitchin' to Splitsville with Marilyn

From inside the back of a truck, the two of propped up on heaping bags of corn, we watched the road fly by as we raced further south into Colombia.

This was our first ride of the day, fresh off a stint in the small city of Buga where we'd discovered a brewery that doubled as a hostel, something I considered a bit of an oasis on a continent that was only just barely catching wind of the craft beer craze in the USA. We travel for new experiences and change, though, and change was on the way.

Marilyn and I had been running around together for nearly two years off and on, mostly on. It started with me popping in and out of her home in Indiana, then appearing in Santa Fe when she had a nursing conference, her flying in for a Californian visit when I did a stint on a boat in Orange County, then a summer trip hitching around the US and Mexico together. She went back to work in Indiana for the winter, but the summer memories pulled at her soul, by Spring time she'd quit and joined me in a full time hobo lifestyle.

Now, just shy of a year since her leaving Indiana, we were out of North America and a week or so into our first trip to Colombia, and South America as a whole. Our destination was simply southbound, a few ideas in between and mostly just game for adventure.

After the ride in the back of the corn truck we managed to hitch two more truck rides as we thumbed on down the highway, then came a ride from a couple guys closer to our age. We stopped in a small town with them where they offered to get us all a snack, we ended up getting some potatoes and eggs as the place that we stopped had tiny worms squirming through the meat they tried to sell us.

As we got further down the road it became clear that a bridge ahead was damaged and not passable by car, so they let us out and we continued on foot for a ways until we reached the bridge where only other walkers and motorbikes were able to find ways around.

We decided to keep walking in hopes of getting a ride from cars that would reach the bridge on the other side and have to turn back south, it paid off and we scored a ride from a family that let us cram in and ride to the next town down.

We waited there watching the road for anything non-motorbike heading south, but the pickings were slim. A dead dog laid rotting in the shadows not far from us by the road, concerning no one in the small town.

An older man and then a made-up pretty girl grouped closer to us, we were apparently in the spot where a Popayán bound bus was going to arrive. Given the absence of any cars coming due to the bridge, this bus option seemed to be our only option. When it came the group of us piled into the already packed little shuttle bus and started chugging on down the road.

The bus broke down in no time, the lot of us spilled out on to the side of the road near a little convenience store. Tires were kicked, engines looked at, arm chair mechanics made proclamations in rambling Spanish while minutes turned into hours. A local parrot squawked, a few people gave their English a spin on us and I gave my Spanish a spin on them. The make-up wearing cleavage girl got us cold drinks. We all waited.

Eventually another bus arrived, we all crammed in. Marilyn and I didn't have enough cash to make the payment once on, our pretty Popayán girl paid the difference. We hit a checkpoint somewhere on the dark road and switched buses yet again, then after some more wheeling we finally reached Popayán.

There, off the bus, we found an ATM and paid the girl back for the bus fare she spotted us. For as much as she'd eyed us and helped she'd been mostly shy, but now she wanted to help more and was suddenly guiding us towards some cabs, talking to a driver about a particular hotel to send us to.

Given my basic understanding of the language I was only catching between 40-60 percent of the jist of the things, but enough to know that a "good hotel" was not in our budget and potentially sticking us with a long walk come morning. She was only trying to continue to help us, but I was a foreign hobo hoping she'd just invite us back to hers for a liberal night of drinking and three-way debauchery. Clearly my manifestation abilities weren't in full gear.

Instead we thanked her and parted ways, Marilyn and I headed towards the city center. I'd previously mapped out all the ultra-cheap hostels on down the highway in all the potential cities we may end up, and one of them was right there in Popayán not far from where we were.

Come morning we headed deeper into the little city to get a glimpse before hitting the road. Popayán was a white city, from the tint of the stoned road to the buildings and you just expected to see Colombian businessmen in white suits leisurely brushing by you on a never-ending lunch break.

We wound up in a bit of a maze near the square that turned out to be some kind of college, we gathered. A younger kid, a student perhaps, recognized us as "Americans". You could see the recognition of opportunity on his face, "I fuck your government!", he told us with smug triumph. Whatever he meant, precisely, it was clear that he'd waited for this moment for some time, even if he hadn't completely executed his declaration the way he'd intermittently rehearsed in his head.

We dragged our feet some more and slowly weaved our way through the narrow streets back to the wide open road, the forever south highway.

We got a short ride first, then did some hilly walking before getting picked up by a Colombian guy with a small blue car who said most of the year he lived in Stamford, Connecticut, close to where I grew up.

We rode like mad amidst the beautiful landscape, he passed people on the blind, curvy cliff side roads, saying he was ultimately aiming for Ecuador.

We ran out of gas at one point, he had to siphon some from his cousins car that had been ahead of us. We lost track of the cousin and he eventually rigged up a jug with a tube that he put under the hood to keep us going. When that failed he had to hold the jug out the window himself as we cruised up and down through the mountains until finally he was able to buy a gallon off some passing villager on the side of the road.

After all of this stop-and-go bootleg-style driving we came up on Chachagui where Marilyn and I finally hopped out, about 50 miles north of the Ecuador border.

There was a hostel there we figured we could hang at for a night or two before making the country jump. There wasn't much to the town, that we knew of, it was more of a relaxation maneuver.

The town was perched on the mountainside like much of the Colombia we'd seen, the hostel in particular was all but vacant despite the oasis sort of feel to it, fenced in with a courtyard-like pool seen by all the rooms. We essentially just saw the owner and one Canadian guy staying there as well who was riding his motorcycle down the continent. We had a room to ourselves with a hammock out front.

We grabbed some awful Colombian cans of beer from a market tucked away in the bricks nearby, but beer nonetheless, and walked to a lookout point we were told about. After taking that in we lapped through the few blocks of town for some groceries and cooked a basic meal back at the hostel, briefly catching some of the Canadian's road stories before heading to our room for the night.

The morning came, also bringing with it the spark that would begin the conclusion of my journey with Marilyn.

It was a disagreement on a morning sexual position that broke the camel's back. Whether the camel was on their back or otherwise, when a relationship comes to an end for such a thing it's never just for that one thing that ended it all.

Unsatisfied yet relatively unbothered I left the room for the bathroom, Marilyn followed and tugged me back to the room after my morning pee, eager to work things out. I was over it.

I was over the whole thing. I left across the courtyard to the kitchen to make tea, she appeared soon enough behind me weepy with talk of our relationship and the greater issues at hand.

The sequence of a now familiar and unfortunate conversational pattern was apparent and I wasn't going to see it through again.

"We just have to travel on our own", I told her. I felt cold, but calm and true, all the while somewhat annoyed with thinning yet stable patience.

I left the kitchen and made my way to the roof to sip my tea and get away from what I needed to get away from.

She spoke of, including later that day, "working on the relationship", finding ways to better communicate and meet each other's needs, these sorts of sentiments, even forwarding me articles written by relationship gurus or some such.

I wasn't into it. I was happy with myself, who I was, what I was doing, where I was going, and moreover I was ever-glowing about Marilyn's being and momentum into a true sense of freedom and blissfulness. We'd had fun all over, in all kinds of ways and ways that would likely forever be unique to our dynamic alone.

She said she loved me and perhaps that's true, I loved her the same, but I knew what she loved more was the blueprint of freedom I'd guided her towards. At least a fair chunk of what she loved about me was really what she was finding in herself; she loved to travel freely, live in the moment and challenge the things she once perceived as fear, even if it was still frightening at times. Moreover, she'd now proven that she had the somehow rare knack to actually blaze into this reality rather than idly dream or simply ponder and marvel.

I didn't want to spend another day with her. Not this day or the next, not another day until she'd soaked in and realized what she'd become, not another day until I myself could breathe in my own adventure for a spell, my own adventure without being leaned on so heavily, my own path without need for micro and macro consent at every turn. I needed to take a turn being selfish without being hurtful.

I'd spent more time with her than just about anyone, it's possible I'm just not designed to stick around with one person for too long, I've certainly proven that I'm not designed to stay in one place for too long.

By the end of the day we'd dipped in the pool, drank wine, had a meal and even had sex before the night was done. The ending was drafted, though, it was time to go our separate ways.

February 10, 2015 to February 12, 2015


  1. Well-written piece. I enjoy the updates from the road.


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