Hitchhiking West for Thanksgiving


Waking up in the woods in Tennessee, or anywhere along any road, was nothing new. Even the feeling of not knowing where I'd be waking up the next morning, 5 miles or 500 miles away, was not new — but it is addictive.

California was the distant target, but first, Wyoming. I'd told my family I'd make it there for Thanksgiving, and after some fiddling with sewing machines in Georgia I was now on my way.

A diagonal hitch across the United States is always the most unpredictable. The options of when to cut north or south, when to continue east or west — it can be as daunting as it is liberating.

This trip, as it were, would prove fairly easy.

Crouching out of the woods and on to the road I would glide into Memphis by nightfall. It took just one ride halfway to Nashville from a festival-goer followed by a window repairman making the rounds throughout the state. When he said "Memphis" I gave Nick a call.

There are few things like an unexpected night at a friend's, especially one who understands the road. I often don't mind tucking away in the hidden spots near the highway, but I also have no problem destroying ice cream and pizza after a shower and laundry, laughing with a friend after nearly a week of only camping.

I crossed the Mississippi river for probably the hundredth time, Nick dropped me off there on the highway just as the sun was peeking up, right back at it again. A Dallas girl was the first to stop, taking me as far as Little Rock while she told me about her plans of buying a school bus once she graduated, eager to see the country herself.


The rain started up once she dropped me there, but it wouldn't ruin the day, despite it's perseverance throughout. From my shelter under a bridge a short but timely ride got me around and out of the city, up the road another thirty minutes.

Another swell of dumping rain hit, but a guy with his son got me out of it, along with his old friend he'd just picked up from prison. Just up the road we pulled into a driveway where I was left waiting in the car with the teenage son.

"They're both idiots," the son said once they were out. "I'm a poet."

He didn't have time to recite anything before they two came back, handing me a can of beer I wound up chugging when I recognized they were dropping me off only two more miles further up the road.

Once again I was standing in the heavy rain with my bag down, but then the breakaway ride came.

"I'm going to Salt Lake City," the driver told me. His name was Jason, originally from China and now in the States working with commercial real estate.

A fifteen-hundred mile ride, perfect.

We stopped at a mall around Fayetteville that he was checking out and exchanged numbers.

"I'll call you in about an hour. After that we'll be driving straight through the night." He disappeared into the mall and I wandered behind him on my own path.

I got in touch with my friend in Salt Lake to see if he was in town and up for an unexpected visit. After more than an hour without hearing from Jason I began to look at my options, in case he'd bailed on me, but in the end he called and we were cruising.

Somewhere in the dark of Nebraska we pulled over and slept just two or three hours until his alarm went off at sunrise. Cruising again. We stopped at malls in Omaha and Lincoln, each for a while.

He let me take the wheel at one point and I jammed on it.

"Have you been on this road before?" he asked. This was his way of saying I was driving too fast.

He took over again as blowing snow swept in, cautioning him into an absolute crawling pace as all other traffic whizzed by us. We continued at this pace into the night, and just a hundred miles from Salt Lake he pulled over into the shoulder wanting to sleep.

Feeling eager to finally arrive, I kept the conversation going. We landed on the topic of snakes in China, which somehow gave him all his energy back as he put the car back in gear. By 5am I was thanking him as I hopped out of the car and up to my friend's doorstep in Salt Lake.

I spent the better part of the next week hanging with my friend there, and also stopping by a place that produced carbon fiber to explore some options for the frame of my BivyPack.

Conveniently, my mom was driving down from Wyoming to pick up my brother at the airport, so I waited until that day and hitched a ride on up with them.

For the next week I'd just relax and hang with family as Thanksgiving came and went. A promotional $6 day of skiing on the mountain was crowded, but still skiing.

My next move was California. Perhaps more importantly, I was gearing up to kick off the first Kickstarter campaign for my BivyPack idea. The fun was about to begin

November 16, 2015 to December 3, 2015

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing! What is the name of your book on Amazon? Ive been out of the country for a few months and want to purchase the book:-) Ciao for now,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back! It's called "A Six-Pack of Hitchhiking Stories," here's a link to it on Amazon for both the eBook and the physical paperback: https://amzn.to/31qC5yL

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