Hitchhiking from California to New York for a Wedding

After a short ride towards Cleveland from a couple nice ladies a cop car rolled up on me as I waited on the next on-ramp, two of them came out and one did most of the talking. He asked for my ID, as they normally do, so I handed him my passport.

"What is this supposed to be?" he shot at me with perplexed aggression.

"It's my passport," I responded, my tone nearly in the form of a question, not sure what he really meant.

He flipped through the pages, "I could print something like this out at Kinkos!" he challenged. I glanced at his partner, but he intentionally averted his eyes from mine. I could tell he probably didn't like dealing with his partner day-to-day either, but didn't want to show any signs of disrespect.

"Colombia?!" he blurted when he paged across the country's stamp; I'd been there earlier in the year. He closed the book, he'd had enough. For whatever reason it triggered him to start spilling out unconnected ramblings with words and phrases like "Libs", "Obama", "America's the best country, but not for long", and "they're not working for me, I'm working for them."

I let him get it all out of his system, best to appear to listen without opinionated reaction in these cases I've learned. He finished with "It's illegal to hitchhike, you'll have to walk from here."

At this point, given the whole stand he'd made, there was no elegant way to tell him he was wrong, that hitchhiking was perfectly legal in Ohio and "thanks for checking on me, hope I get a ride soon and move on." Nope, I took my passport back and walk I did.

Just over a week ago I'd left Chico, California with three weeks to get myself to NYC for a friend's wedding, plenty of time to hitchhike there and make some stops along the way I figured.

It took seven separate rides with short waits in between until I got to Colfax, finally on Interstate 80 which stretches across the whole United States, east to west. It was there that a truck driver saw my backpack and asked where I was going. He then offered me a ride to Reno, but I could tell he'd be going even further than that. It's a typical and perhaps reasonable tactic, better to say he's going a short distance in case I turned out to be a maniac.

Sure enough, we chatted along and buzzed right through Reno deeper into Nevada where he stopped to sleep a while, but then we cruised straight on through Utah into Wyoming as daylight returned. I hopped out in Evanston where I hitched one solid ride up to Jackson deciding to see family up there.

After several days of catching up I was right back on the road where my luck continued. I hitched one ride back down to the main interstate where in no time a Toronto bound trucker scooped me up. I spent that day, night and the whole next day in the truck, steady east stopping just once to sleep.

In Michigan I hopped out at a junction where I managed to hitch just one ride to Lansing, deciding to catch up with a friend for a few days there before continuing to New York.

Finally I had a somewhat slow day when I left, not too bad though, hitching five rides from Lansing to near Cleveland where I camped for a night in some trees near the highway.

Ohio has never been a favorite place to hitch through for me, mostly because of the toll roads and some encounters with less-than-helpful police. I've had better experiences hitching in Ohio, as have others, but for whatever reason these types of interactions have occurred plenty as well there. I walked down the frontage road, looking at the map dreading what could be a huge delay, it would take hours to walk out of his jurisdiction.

I decided to roll the dice; I looked up the exact law that most closely regarded hitchhiking and had it at the ready on my phone, deciding that I'd keep thumbing. If he rolled up on me again I'd show it to him as politely as possible, as if it was a great revelation of education we could both enjoy. "Wow, yeah," I'd say, "seems like as long as I'm not on the highway directly it's fine to hitchhike, I guess we were both right"

Luckily it wouldn't come to that, I caught a ride inching closer to Cleveland, then quickly a second ride from a guy who went out of his way to take me clear to the other side, followed by a very short but helpful ride from someone else to a better exit.

As I waited there another cop rolled by, but he just shouted angrily at me without stopping, "You could get arrested for that!"

I'd come this far, if he was too unmotivated to even stop then I'd keep rolling the dice. It paid off again, as my next ride was someone heading into New York state, driving me clear to Jamestown where a friend of mine lived.

After a night of running around town with him and some other friends I kept moving, but despite getting nine different rides that day, including one on the back of a motorcycle, I failed to break three hundred miles of progress. The last ride I got was from a guy from Panama, "If you're gonna kill me, kill me good!" he plead, signing the motion of a gun against his own temple. That's a man so naturally generous, he'd give a guy a ride knowing his death was all but certain.

I slept in the trees with the sound of a scratchy fox bark in the distance and apples occasionally falling around me.

A van of some sort of religious, hippie group - that I'm sure most would categorize as a cult - was on their way to NYC to pass out flyers. I rode with them until they were having some sort of vehicle trouble; after some phone calls at a rest area it was determined they had to abandon their recruitment mission and return back to "the community".

Another five rides, including one guy who invited me to meet his wife and have a quick coffee at his house, and I'd made it to Kingston to drop in on yet another friend. I waited at a brewery until she picked me up along with her husband, heading back to her house for the night to catch up.

The last stretch of road was easy, just one ride on down and I was soon catching up with family just north of New York City; cross country hitching mission complete.

Well, just one more ride hitched down into the city after a couple days with family. Once in NYC days were filled with the bachelor party, a rehearsal dinner, the wedding itself and general shenanigans catching up with friends for a week.

Altogether it had been a pretty standard and mostly easy going trek across the country, yet again. With my New York craving satiated it was time to bounce off the wall back into rest of the country, always moving, always on to the next adventure.

September 11, 2015 to October 7, 2015