Saturday, October 20, 2012

Done? More like just getting started.

I'm back in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, where my grandma lives and where I started this trip nearly two months ago. Lots of emotions going on upon returning to the place where I first got picked up but the primary feeling is this: good, good, fucking GOOD!

I originally planned to spend a night in Fargo, North Dakota and then return to Minnesota tomorrow but last night my CouchSurfing host and I met up with two other CouchSurfing hosts and their guest for a little around-the-world get together where I met John, a Brit heading straight for St. Paul! He offered a ride, and instead of struggling to make it four hours down the road I comfortably cruised nine and a half hours (stopping in Fargo for lunch) all the way to my grandmother's driveway!

John has been in the U.S. for a few weeks, traveling around in a rental car with a group of friends from England. His friends went back home to work, but John stuck around and is about to embark on an epic tour across the Midwest, the east coast, and eventually down south and back west. He's a smart guy with some interesting insights into the American identity (as only a sophisticated Brit could provide), and his blog is observational, satirical, and well-written. The link is , check it out!

Anyway, John and I had lots to talk about on the drive to St. Paul. Turns out we hit up a lot of the same locations, just at different times. He invited me along to tour the country (again) with him in his rental car, CouchSurfing all along the way. "I'll have to dump you in Denver," he said, before adding "not that I mean to just leave you in the middle of nowhere or anything!" After hitching across the US, including through Denver, this didn't seem like a problem. I'll be in Virginia to vote in this oh so important election and it just so happens that he'll be there around the same time after hitting up Philly, Boston, NYC, and DC, so I have some time to think about whether I want to take him up on his offer and rediscover the country through the eyes of our closest ally.

For now, I'm just trying to process just what in the hell I just did with my life in the last two months. It was summer when I started and approaching winter now, however the entire experience feels like it lasted only a few days. Time just sort of blurs together when you resort back to your basic instincts. What I mean by that is that a lot of the rules of normal living don't really apply to life on the road. As Douglas Adams wrote, "time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so." You eat when you're hungry, you sleep when you're tired, and when either of those two things are difficult to obtain, you deal with it without any bullshit of what others might think of you lingering over you. Interacting with humans is a part of this. No, it's THE part of it. It seems like where once I put on a mask to display the "Adam" I wanted the world to see, now all that BS disappeared and there's just the Adam that dealt with shit as it came up. I'm a better man because of it, and it's taught me how to just be yourself in the midst of all the craziness that is the human race.

I feel good, but I don't know if I can say I feel satisfied. I still don't know what in the hell I'm going to do for a J-O-B, and I have absolutely no idea what comes next. The thing is that doesn't scare me anymore. The next step is just like making it to the destination: I'll deal with it. Some days will be good, some won't, might as well just enjoy the ride.

Ok, enough of that pretend-insightful shit. Here's what's actually next: grandma's for a few days, then Beloit, then Virginia to vote. This whole trip I never told anyone what I thought they "should" do, but I'm breaking that trend to say now to anyone who's reading: fucking VOTE. It's important.

From Virginia it's either starting all over again and taking the road trip with John (and spending the last of what little money I have), or getting a little more serious about life with a job. Or something else, who the fuck knows.

I'll post some photos and some other shit soon. Hope this didn't sound too preachy.

From Coon Rapids, signing out.

Here's a shot I liked from Montana.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Billings, Montana..again!

As my trip winds down, so seems my prospects of making it into St. Paul according to schedule. The problem with making it across the country (and into Mexico) is that you are filled with a sense of confidence about something you really have little control over. Hitchin is hitchin, and it's just as unpredictable now as it was when I first started.

Today I made it a total of seven miles, putting me just barely outside of Billings. An hour or so after the sun went down I caved and contacted my host from the night before. He was more than happy to pick me up and we resumed our conversation from the night before.

Today was simply bad luck. I actually felt pretty good throughout the day as most of the drivers gave me big friendly smiles. There was one middle finger but my reflex to give them the bird instantly back has been honed over the last two month and it didn't break my positive outlook for the day.

The sun was out, I had good music, and I sincerely believed someone would stop. In fact, two people did stop for me. One took me the seven miles that I talked about. The other driver was a lying creeper. I asked him where he was headed and he replied "east." "East on 90?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"I need to be on 94, towards North Dakota," I said.

"I'm going to North Dakota, I can get you halfway to where you need to go."

I-90 doesn't go to North Dakota...

"What town in North Dakota?"

"Um... I don't remember the name... I'll take you where you need to go."

"I'll wait for another car..."

Then I closed the door and that was that. Of the 50 to 70 cars that've stopped for me, only three have been like that guy. If anyone reading this is planning on hitching, remember to ask questions before getting in a vehicle, there are creepers out there...

So I'm stuck in Billings for an extra night but at least I have a roof over my head, a nice host, even pizza and beer. Most importantly, I'm safe and optimistic that tomorrow my luck will improve!

Signing out from Billings...again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The cold and windy route home!

When I started this trip I had four destinations that I wanted to go to: St. Louis, Missouri, Huntsville, Texas, Loveland, Colorado, and San Francisco. I naively thought that I could be in St. Louis by day one, Texas by day two, Loveland by day four or so, then Cali by the end of the week. I thought I'd be on the road for two to three weeks tops.

It's been nearly two months since I started, and because I decided to take the northern states back that means its starting to get cold!

First hint of cold I experienced was in Oregon leaving Portland. I was heading north to a city in Washington called Spokane, which put me through the mountains. In addition to the cool mountain air, I got rained on for nearly the entire day. At first I thought that it might inspire some sympathy in the drivers but then I remembered that in any horror movie where the hitchhiker murders the family he's always standing in the rain...

I was stranded the first night, but luckily I made it far enough east to get out of the mountains and out of the rainy weather. I camped by the railroad, where it was surprisingly warm.

Fast forward to after Spokane. Billings, Montana is my new destination and it's an 8 hour drive away normally. I figured I could get stranded but I'd at least make it into Montana. Instead I made the least amount of progress I've made the during my whole trip. I got stuck in Kellogg, Idaho for the night

The trip to Kellogg was not particularly cold, but the morning that I tried to leave was. I believe the temperature was in the 40s, which wouldn't be so bad if I was out there for just a few minutes but I was stuck there for hours! After an hour and a half or so I walked to a local apparel store and bought an undershirt and gloves. Now I was in business! An off duty deputy gave me a ride out of town shortly after and the weather started to warm up.

By the time I made it into Montana the weather was improving. The sun came out a bit (forgot to mention it was cloudy) and the wind had died down. However I still had a long way to go. When I arrived in Butte Montana the sun was just starting to set. I ignored this (and my host in Billings) to watch the presidential debate at a truck stop! I had hot coffee and was able to enjoy Obama make a total ass of Romney in the comfort of a soft recliner chair in the truckers lounge!

It was close to 9pm when I left to give hitchin another go. When I stepped outside it was FREEZING! Literally, it was 37 degrees before the windchill and the wind was brutal. Even with my undershirt and gloves, I wasn't equipped for this. I got a motel for the night and watched CNN replay on a constant loop Obama's classic "could you say that a little louder, Candy?"

I slept in the next day, then went back out there. It was even colder during the day, 36 degrees plus more brutal winds. I had to hold onto my hat to keep it from flying away. Luck was on my side this time and I got a ride in 10 minutes.

Actually I got a ride in less than two minutes but he was going on another highway.

I rode with Larry, a very interesting man who recently divorced his wife after she "started menopause and went apeshit crazy." Larry was cool. He was the kind of guy who would leave for Guatemala for six months with a total stranger just to take his mind off the divorce. The ride that should've taken three and a half hours ended up taking closer to six for a few reasons.

First, Larry drove slow. He liked to take pictures of the scenery while he drove and he did so every time he saw something cool, or every 10 minutes. Also he needed to stop at a specific Wal Mart to pick up a power converter which he ordered in, but when we arrived there had been a gas leak and the store was evacuated. We waited 30 minutes for the fire department to work that out, then had customer service issues at Wal Mart for another thirty minutes...

Couple hours later a fan belt blew in the camper that we were riding in. Larry spent an hour fixing it, braving cold weather and strong winds to do it.

"I could've had it fixed in thirty minutes but my hands went fucking numb!"

Finally, we arrived in Billings where I was able to eat toasty Eggo waffles for dinner and run a load of laundry at my CouchSurfing host's house.

If all goes according to plan, which I don't expect it will, I will be back at my grandma's house in Minnesota in two days.

Oh, and I got fucking hailed on in Idaho for like, thirty seconds... Forgot about that.

Anyway, this trip is winding down for me but by no means getting less interesting in it's final days.

Hope this didn't sound too complainy. I heard some good advice from one of my drivers which was one word: "bitch."

" mean complain?"

"yeah, 'cause if you don't bitch then you'll bottle it up and let it all out one day by fucking beating someone up."

In all honesty the cold ain't that bad, and in a strange way I take pleasure in taking this hitchin thang to the next level. At least I have access to motels and hot coffee and whatnot. I hope none of the beat generation kids got caught in the cold all night...

From Billings, signing out.

Here's a dog with a party hat on his head.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kids of the Beat Generation

I'll do my best not to make this a completely random outpour of my thoughts...

It's been a few days since I got stranded in Garberville, California and camped out with four individuals I originally described as dirty hippies. They were hippies, and they were dirty (physically, they had dirt all over them), and I'll admit I didn't understand why they were living their lives the way they were when I first met them. Now that I've run into more of their kind (and had time to process my interactions with them), I think I have a little more insight into their vagabond lifestyles.

In Garberville I encountered DOZENS of backpacker types (you can look up in High Times why this place attracted those types- I had no idea of the town's significance until I was dropped off there). They didn't impress me in the slightest. They smoked pot on the side of the road, they looked dirty, and once I got to talking to them I got the sense that they didn't care about anything. When I arrived in town one long-haired and dirty individual was trying to hitch right where I was suppose to be (sorry to keep using "dirty" over and over again but that's what I saw over and over again). He had no sign and looked stoned as fuck.

"It's easier with a sign man!" I said to him smiling. "Yep," he said and smiled back. I told him I'd go and have dinner now so he could have some space to hitch. I ate in a location close to the entrance ramp, and the sun started to set. By the time I finished my sandwich I could see the hitcher, as well as dozens more like him moving in waves in my direction. Some had clumped together into groups and some were walking individually. Many of them had dogs. I stood up and got my pepper spray ready, more for the dogs than the waves of potheads. I waved and said hello to a few of them. A few waved back and one said he liked my hat.

They were all moving into the forest to camp for the night, away from town. This gave me the opportunity to hitch without these freaks around, I thought.

I waited for two hours before joining these "freaks" (they're not, by the way) in camping in the forest for the night. Here's what happened in those two hours:

Lots of cars passed, none stopped. That was probably obvious. Lots of cops drove by, but none cared about me on the side of the road.

A bus, decked out with paint, bike racks, and I-don't-know-what-elses pulled up about 30 feet from me and large groups of backpackers began to congregate. I figured I should at least see where the bus was going.

I approached someone waiting to board the bus.

"Excuse me, sir... Where is this bus going?"


"Where is this bus going?"

"uhhhh, I don't know."

Fucking brilliant...


I talked to the driver, a hippie chick (with a dog) who told me the bus was going to a town in the wrong direction just 3 miles up the road. She was very nice and helpful, and, unlike her passengers, able to communicate using words.

I went back to my spot on the entrance ramp of the highway and the bus left.

Another hippie walked by, and I asked him why there were so many backpacker types around here.

Stoned, he said, "don't you know where you are man?" Then he reached into his bag and tried to give me a handful of weed. I told him I didn't want to be hitching with that.

He told me I could find his camp a few miles down the road if I needed a place to crash.

Around 10 pm I started thinking about calling it quits, when another wave started to approach.

"HAHAHA, look at this guy, where does HE think he's going to get a ride at this time?"

My sign said fucking Eureka... The way they all moved together I thought they knew each other.

"Eureka," I replied.

"HAHA, good luck with that man, ain't nobody stopping this late."

The man had a point...

I looked at a rather pretty (but still dirty) girl in the group and asked where they were headed.

"Uh, we're just going to toke up then go to sleep."

"Do you mind if I tag along?"

"I don't care."

"Awesome," and there I was, part of the wave.

"Nice hat, man," one of the hippies said to me...

I stayed close to the girl- Amber- as she was by far the least sketchy-looking of the group. The large wave broke up into smaller chunks and soon I found myself in a group of five (myself included) trekking into the moon-lit forest. I was with Amber, the loud-mouth, and two other guys (Austin and I-honestly-don't-remember).

We found a spot, and as soon as we stopped moving they packed a bowl. I talked with them while they smoked, keeping my guard up the whole time. The loud mouth talked all the time, (or tried to) telling us how he was mentally unstable and sharing his life story. He had a hard life, but it didn't take a genius to know that 99% of what was coming out of his mouth was complete BS. I believed he was insane though.

"Normal" group dynamics didn't work in this crowd. Loud-mouth (I don't remember his name) would interrupt always. Amber and I did do some talking over this, but it was hard to talk with this yahoo next to us. The other guys barely said two words, stoned out of their minds. Not-Austin claimed to have been in jail for 5 years for possession of marijuana in Idaho.

"That's rough," the group replied.

Amber was neither mentally insane nor blitzed out of her mind. I wanted to find out what the fuck she was doing here in the forest with these people but I never got the opportunity. She was beautiful and, unlike the crowd I was with, competent.

I didn't learn much about her except that she had been living on the road for two years. She was a run-away and "just can't do the whole 9 to 5 thing." Unlike her "peers" she was interested in my trip, especially the two nights I spent in Mexico. I wished the guy next to me would shut the fuck up.

The two quiet guys slept near each other, and the crazy one set up his hammock. Amber slept in her sleeping bag away from the crazy guy and I slept near her. No naughty-business ensued. I don't know how to explain but it just wasn't like that.

At the break of dawn Amber and I left without saying goodbye to anyone else. We chatted a little on the hike back to the highway, then parted ways at the entrance ramp. She was going to stick around town, not doing anything in particular...

I posted a sign that read "CLEAN" and made it out in 10 minutes, happy to turn my back on that town.

I poked fun of the hippies a lot with my drivers, but that whole experience stayed on my mind for several days. I encountered several other Beat Generation types; those who make a lifestyle of living on the road, sometimes for decades.

While it was easy for me to make fun of them I feel like I understand them better now.

"The road broke me," said one of my drivers while lighting up a fat doobie. "Just not having a home, getting stuck in places... I was on the road for six years, man... It fucking sucked."

"Why'd you do it for that long?" I asked.

"It wasn't really my choice. I just had to."

I can't imagine the circumstances that drive people to run away and live on the road for years at a time, nor do I want to. Sean, a kind Canadian who had run away at age 12 had some incredible insight:

"...when all you know are strangers you don't have any real a certain point you eventually become a stranger to yourself..."

This explains the not-caring attitude I saw in almost all of them. Tell a freight hopper that you think what they do is exciting an they'll act like it's no big deal.

Travel and adventure are two things I respect and admire about the Beat Generation. They probably have more perspective on what humanity has to offer than most people who never escape their comfort zones, but without a strong sense of self I think they're cursed to not care and cary on almost hopelessly. Ironically, I think a healthy dose of hitching, freight-hopping, and a shot of the unknown can teach you loads about yourself, giving one an even greater sense of self.

Goddammit, what am I even saying... I'm generalizing out the wazoo and that's not fair to a lot of them. I saw old men hitchhiking in pairs having a happy conversation on the side of the highway, and I've spoken to many who have come back into society from years of hitching with bold new perspectives, excited about their travels. For the most part, however, the kids I see hitching as a lifestyle don't look happy and I sense that they're only getting themselves more and more lost.


Wow, that was a long one... Did I mention that I got made fun of for wearing blue jeans instead of rags?

I also rode a hippy bus, met the most intelligent man on this trip so far (an Oregon rancher!) made it up to I-90, the mother road, and cleansed my soul with the spiritual properties of sage :)

Or at least cleansed my bad smell with the aroma of burning leaves, I'm not so much into that soul-cleansing shit.

As always there's way more to say, but I'm not even sure how much sense this made so I'll leave it here. Don't get the wrong idea by the tone of this post, I've been having a fantastic time and really learning lots about people and myself (more in the last two months than in the last two years of college I'd say).

Montana tomorrow. From Spokane, Washington I'm signing out!

Here's a wheelchair in the middle of a river. What I want to know is where's the little old lady?

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Here at Powell's Books in downtown Portland. As always I have lots to share but in this post I'm just going to write about a series of coincidences that've occurred in the last two days.

I left from San Francisco and decided to take the most indirect route Portland imaginable: up the beautiful coastal drive on California 1. What is normally a 10 hour drive on the highway is closer to 15 hours on this beautifully scenic route.

Right at the beginning of route 1 I was picked up by a couple of Canadians traveling from San Fran up to British Columbia. Meredith and Chloe were very chill and I felt very fortunate to be able to experience the natural beauty around me with them.

They dropped me off in Garberville, California, a town that High Times described as one of the trimming epicenters of the country. Potheads and hippies from all over the country flocked here, making catching a ride after dark incredibly difficult for me... I'll get into the details of my camping experiences with the hippies in another post, but I'll just say that I was glad to make it out of that area at the first light the next day.

With a sign that said "CLEAN" I was able to get a ride about 50 miles up the road to Eureka, California. I grabbed breakfast, washed up, then waited about 1 hour before, low and behold, along came Meredith and Chloe! Interacting with anyone who considered themselves members of society would have been nice, but it was even better to be picked up by these two amazing individuals. We drove up the Cali coastline, taking breaks to check out some of the beaches before parting ways again in Redwood National Park.

Ah, I've forgotten an important detail...

So when I first met Chloe and Meredith we stopped for gas and saw another car with BC plates. The girls, excited to talk to fellow Canadians, struck up a conversation with the two men in the vehicle. Turns out they were Brits who had purchased the vehicle from a French couple back in San Fran. Nice people, but not Canadians.

Anyway. I continue onwards, passing through straight up hippie country. I took a ride on a magical mystery bus, and was offered pot by at least three different drivers. I was also asked for my clean pee while at a McDonalds... I didn't want to give up my pee for some reason.

I get as far as I can in the day, leaving me about 70 miles from Portland. I camp out or the night, sleep in late the next morning (today) and within twenty minutes along rolls the two Brits, Matthew and Wilfrid. They take me all the way to my destination in Portland, we chat and have coffee at Powell's Books, then parted ways.


I'm currently chillin at the bookstore while I wait for my host, a fellow Beloiter, to get off work, before going out and doing whatever!

Much more to come, stay tuned!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

There are three lies that will be told this election:

"1. That trade unions are what's wrong with this country...
2. That teachers, and their unions, are what's wrong with this country...
3. That immigrants are what's wrong with this country."

-Steve Earle, getting political on stage at the Bluegrass festival at the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco!

Let's back up a little bit. Steve Earle is the singer/songwriter of 'Copperhead Road', the song that I heard while in Texas that made all the cowboys and cowgirls run up and stomp their boots in unison to the accompanying line dance. They didn't stomp their boots when Mr. Earle played that song here in the park, but there was a crowd of nearly 800,000 stoners, boozers, hippies (beautiful and dirty), families, hobos, dogs, and regular guys named Steve all following along and having a bitching time!

Ok, let's back up a little more...

Salt Lake City!

Stayed with a host who was both hot and philosophical, nothing naughty happened.

Bitch and a half escaping from Utah, but after two nights of getting stranded I did NOT make it to my destination in Vegas. Cop kicked me off the highway -which, by the way, is how I made it to Utah from Miami- so I was stranded at Wal Mart for like, ten goddamn hours. Gas station host took me a town down which was an easier place to catch a ride. Long story short, I "covert camped" near the highway, I slept under bridges at other times, and even once purchased a shower at a truck stop. I won't bore you with the details of those three days, nor do they much matter at this point. I had some bad luck but in the end I made it all the way to San Diego, where I was able to catch a trolley to the border and get picked up by Randy!

Randy was true grit, but we got along and soon it became obvious that the man had a sensitive side. Not ten minutes after telling me a bar fighting story followed by "and then I shoved her mouth right into my cock"-like story, he showed me his romance novel that he was writing that was surprisingly some of the best writing I've seen all year. I only stayed for two nights but I wish I could have stayed longer because Randy was definitely a fun and engaging person once you got to know him and he showed me a good time down in Tijuana!

There was also Gal, the Israeli host who was also staying at Randy's place. He was a fun guy, and his total obliviousness to U.S. culture made me look more cultured by comparison.

Anyway, it's hard for me to linger on the "pre-San Francisco" days, because I've really been falling in love three times over in this incredible city. I was here one year ago with my girlfriend at the time and we made some beautiful memories that I carry with me coming into this city. What's so amazing about the city, however, is that even in it's 49 square mile area the possibilities to create more good memories are right behind every street corner.

I was just dicking around Chinatown, not really going in anywhere but just looking around when I stumbled upon Jack Kerouac alley. For those of you who have read "On the Road," the book was a strong inspiration for this whole hitchin thang. A quick Google search revealed that Kerouac frequented the bar and the bookstore at the end of the alley.

But enough of that... I saw fucking Steve Earle live and he was AWESOME!!! Guy's pretty far out there (especially for a country singer). I met my good friend Andrew from college at the show and we hung out for a bit. Second night I was there (Sunday), I was introduced to Theresa, Joey, and Lorrie (Rorrie, if you pronounce it with the Chinese accent). We left the festival, grabbed a drink at Kerouac bar (it's not called that), and had a jolly ol' time. They were cool.

I'm leaving out a lot but I'm a bit drunk so please excuse me. What I'm really trying to say here is that of all the places I've been to so far, I think my thumb has been most on the pulse of San Francisco. I've casually had the opportunities to use my Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish (not with tourists I should mention), and the people are just... well, they're just cool. It's a city, just like any other city, with crazies and hipsters, and unnecessary glamour, (and lots and lots of gays), but beyond all that there's just this "coolness" in the people which make them chill to talk to, though not naive. It ain't LA where people are worried about their appearances all the fucking time and it ain't New York where it'll take you forever to get from one end of town to the other. It's San Francisco and I'm falling in love with this place all over again!

I'm here for two more nights, then I start my return journey. I'll try to find a way to be back here as soon as possible.

Signing out.

Way before Copperhead Roaaaaaaaad! (photos soon to come)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Will blog later

Having good times now, I'll write something when I take a break from doing shit!

I wish this photo weren't upside down.