"You got room for an owl?"

At the end of 2015, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I hitchhiked from family to family, Wyoming to Southern California. In between were plenty of great rides hitching, generous invites, and the launch of my first BivyPack Kickstarter. (An updated version is now available to buy online.)

Things got a little strange in Idaho to start off. After several short and sweet rides heading over the pass from Wyoming, now aiming for California, a hunter heading to Boise picked me up. Initially I was looking to turn off at Twin Falls and angle towards a friend in Sacramento, but good conversation and knowing I had friends in Boise I could stay with had changed my mind. But that wouldn't matter.

About twenty miles before Twin Falls, after several hours of friendly chatting about my BivyPack and some of his camping inventions, he abruptly asked: "Do you have any pot?"

"Sorry, I don't," I replied, feeling bad I couldn't help out.

"When's the last time you smoked?" he asked.

"About a week ago," I thought out loud.

"I'm getting a pot-headache," he lamented. At this point I figured he was craving a smoke, and hadn't gotten any in a day or so. This was not the case.

"I'm a cop," he revealed, "and I can smell it. I can't have that in my truck. I'm gonna drop you off."

This was bizarre. I'd been rolling with him for hours and he'd mentioned nothing. I had no pot with me and even explained how I'd done laundry twice since smoking last, rarely smoke as it is and reminded him how long I'd already been sitting next to him.

"I can drop you off at the next exit. Or actually I can drop you right here," he said sternly as we rushed down the highway. I continued pleading my case, in a casual yet confident manner. It took about all my Jedi abilities to stall him until we got the little extra way to Twin Falls where he finally let me out.

Sunset was upon me and being dropped off even a couple miles earlier would likely have been the end of my hitching day. As perplexing as that ride had been, I marched down through town, getting a short ride to the south side from a local.

Darkness took over, but with no obvious places to tuck away and camp I was left with no choice other than to keep marching alongside the cold December road.

At last a Vegas-bound Air Force guy scooped me up. We stopped in Jackpot, the first town over the Nevada border where he was eager to pause and play craps. This was my typical game of choice, and one that had fueled many an adventure in Vegas. At this moment, however, money was quite low so I stuck to slowly playing video poker while he got his fix.

We continued on until we reached Wells where our roads parted. Now dark, late, well below freezing and with no trees or discernible place to camp, I was left with the painful decision to burn more than half my remaining dollars on a roadside hotel room.

I embraced it once the deed was done, and enjoyed the warm shower and sleep, as well as the free lobby muffins come morning. I took my time getting back out into the cold, then hitched a ride from a bull rider riddled with a career's worth of injuries heading to Elko.

Walking along the highway there I then got the somewhat rare ride from a full-sized RV. The two guys inside were coming off a freezing hunting trip, heading back to their homes in Reno. We arrived closing in on an early winter sunset. They gave me the option of a ride to far side of town or a bed to sleep in for the night. I sure made the right choice.

After everyone got showered up we went to their favorite Basque place near the Harrah's casino where we first had a couple rounds of the "Picon Punch" they'd been building up. Next we went to the tables where wine, soup, lamb shank and other delicious foods kept being brought out family-style.

I slept great in an extra bedroom at one of their homes, than was given a ride to the edge of town and filled with breakfast at a little diner.

Only a two-hour drive from Sacramento, filled with two consecutive great meals and conversation, the cold wasn't bothering me at all. My good mood translated into a ride by only the second car to pass me. Mark, a home builder from Truckee, rode me that way where we stopped at his trailer for a smoke and a couple beers before getting me back to the highway.

One more ride and I was in Sacramento, meeting up with my friend Aaron. I spent a couple days kicking it with him, hitting great breweries and brewing a batch ourselves in the garage. After hitching another couple rides I got on up to Chico where I had plenty more friends to catch up with.

Altogether I spent a week in the little town I've come to like. I filled the days with shenanigans at different beer bars, chasing girls, late nights, prepping the Kickstarter, and even getting a few days of trimming weed in to make up for my lost hotel money and then some.

After all the bouncing around, and spending a day at a friend's in the woods filming the video for the Kickstarter, I was back on the road. I was one week out from Christmas and aiming to get to my brother's near San Diego.

I got a breakaway ride heading to the Bay Area after first getting dropped off in Oroville. After just a few minutes he spotted something and skidded to a stop in the shoulder of the highway. He ran way back and crossed the road grabbing something, crossed back and ran up to the car with a huge grin on his face.

"You want an owl?" he asked, then glancing at my backpack, "You got room for an owl?"

He proceeded to cut off the wings and talons of his roadkill treasure, telling me how this stretch of road was known for "owl-scores."

Five minutes down the road he indeed scored yet another. I let him keep all the bounty for himself; I indeed had no room reserved for an owl.

Conversation steered to his sailing trip from Hawaii to the Philippines and other such ~20 day sails he'd done. Once near Berkeley he grabbed us some burritos and dropped me off. I managed a couple more short rides before the early darkness, then retreated into a coffee shop to polish up the Kickstarter before finding a hidden place to camp alongside a highway barrier wall.

A couple more short rides came in the morning getting me to where I wanted to be. First, though, I popped into a coffee shop yet again, gave the Kickstarter one last look over, and finally pushed the "Launch" button. The thirty day clock to raise $7,500 began.

The reason for me stopping where I was, on the southern edge of the Bay Area, was to drop into a place that manufactured carbon fiber. After announcing the Kickstarter to friends and family I walked across the street to the place and got to handle various sizes and shapes of rods I  was considering for the latest BivyPack frame design. Using the trim money I'd made in Chico I was able to walk out with a few different types cut to size.

I manged to hitch just as far as Bakersfield by dark where I spent a few days with friends relaxing. One of them gave me a ride down to Riverside, now just a few days before Christmas. The boost was enough, as I only needed to hitch a few more rides from there to Oceanside and meet up with my brother.

More family would fly in and altogether I'd stay down there through Christmas and New Years. All the while the Kickstarter was inching towards it's goal as I spread the word. With success imminent, my next move would be hitching back to Georgia to start making the BivyPacks. This would be far more complicated, adventurous, and lengthy than I'd expected — but every good journey is.

December 3, 2015 to January 9, 2016