Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My first hitchhikers


Should I or shouldn’t I? Should I or shouldn’t I? Should I or – oh what the hell.

I turn Black Betty around and guide her back a half mile to the turnout at the edge of town. Sitting on the gravel at the entrance to the turnout, facing away from me, are two young hitchhikers. They smile and stick their thumbs at passing cars until it slowly dawns on them that one is approaching from behind.

“Where you guys headed?” I ask.

“North, to Eureka,” one of them replies.

The two hitchhikers are Kyle and Rachel, both 22. Rachel is quite attractive and Kyle looks like Abraham Lincoln on a good day. Once inside with the doors closed, I notice the stench of body odor. Could be an interesting ride.

I once considered hitchhiking around the country myself, but given the reaction from most of my friends and family regarding the CouchSurfing Project, I think an all out intervention might be staged if I decided to hitchhike. Picking them up is the next best thing, I guess.

“You ever had any bad experiences with hitching?” I’m hoping for some wild stories of hiding in bushes and defending themselves with nail clippers or something.

“Nah, most people have been good. The worst that happens is a guy will pop a can a beer or you just know he’s all tweeked out on something.”

Kyle’s nonchalance belies the hardcore nature of his and Rachel’s travels, a trip that makes mine look like a comfortable Sunday stroll to the park. They have backpacks and gut intuition when accepting rides, and nothing more. They could reach their destination in two days or ten. They could wait two hours for a ride or two minutes. That’s badass.

“So what do you guys do when you’re not hitching?”

Kyle, in the front seat, fields this one as well. “Ah, that’s a good question. Rach, what would you say we do?” Rachel thinks a moment. Before she can answer, Kyle says, “I used to work at a boys and girls club. Mostly I think about hitching.”

Of course Rachel has dreads and loves Ani Difranco. Of course Kyle wants to be an Abe Lincoln impersonator. Of course they’re on their way to a festival and of course they sound like they’re permanently stoned. These are today’s hippies, as stereotypical as the San Francisco neighborhood I just left. They sit adrift on the edges of society, taking fate into their own hands and traveling when and where they please, not letting petty concerns like money get in the way. There’s something vaguely appealing to that.

People have often told me they’re jealous of me and/or this trip I’m taking this summer. And here I am jealous of a couple of counterculture kids from Nowhere, America. The grass is always greener… as they say.

I drive Kyle and Rachel all the way to Eureka, a coastal town in Northern California. I drop them off on Main Street downtown.

“Ok, God bless, Godspeed, peace be the journey and all that…”

“Thanks for the ride, man. You’re the best ride we’ve gotten on this trip, and we’re not just saying that like we do to all the others.”

They both heave their packs on their shoulders and walk off down Main Street to parts unknown, and I drive off in search of a Walmart parking lot.


Anonymous said...

This is rachel's mother in Dallas TX. Thanks so much for giving Rachel and Kyle that ride. I spoke with her yesterday soon after she arrived in Eureka. Good luck on your journey!

the chef said...

I'm glad you didn't get shanked and robbed Scott.

Be careful out there.

Have you picked up a can of mace yet?


Kirsten said...

Dad said you didn't think you'd have time for the Oregon coast. It's a beautiful drive, especially in the central and northern sections, so I'd recommend fitting it in somehow. State parks seem to dot the coast, but the one I remember being especially nice was Ecola State Park.


Dad said...

Kirsten's right - definitely worth the ride up the coast. You would probably enjoy a night at Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. Ecola State Park, as I recall, is up towards Cannon Beach, the town where people in Portland go "downashore."

LukisWeb said...

I'd never pick-up a hitchhiker, or two, too afraid. Great post!

P.S. Why are you looking for a Walmart parking lot? Planning on sleeping in your car?

And you've been linked:


Kirsten said...

I think it's great your hitchhiker's mom left a post. I look at it as another sign of the modern age.

the chef said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the chef said...

Modern age?

That's only a sign of the modern age if you started counting backwards in 1987.

That would make it 1967.

So... Yea! Sure, the good 'ol modern age.

In case you live with out T.V. or the internet (obviously not if you are posting on a blog)... these are horrid times.

Go tell my brother who has been to Iraq 3 times and is ready to deploy again in October that these are "Modern Times".

Fighting a war in a foreign country for fossil fuel... and for what? So the rich get richer and the working man get's poorer??

Yea... "Modern Times".

How about the death toll in Philadelphia?

Global warming? Now THERE is a sign of "Modern Times".

Wake up.

I don't mean to be rude Kirsten... from what I can tell... you are Scott's sister... I admire and respect Scott... but the world isn't all dasies and butterflies.

Be careful out there... it's a mad, mad world we live in.

If we were still in the Garden of Eden... by all means, run free with out a care... but, alas, we are not.

You may say these are the rantings of a paranoid, pessimistic cynic but that doesn't make it any less true.

You might think I'm an asshole... that also might be true.

But people get carjacked, robbed and killed by COMPLETE STRANGERS all the time... sometimes even while being kind enough to offer them a ride somewhere in these modern times.

Be good...


Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, Garret and I have been keeping up with you on your blog.. I'm jealous I have to go to work everyday while you get to pick up Hippies... I hope the drive east is as eventful as the drive west! Happy travels and many more pleasant hitchikers to inspire you!
Melissa from Texas

Amy said...

Dude--the fact that the hitcher's ma sent you a message is awesome! You're famous already! I've told everyone I know about your voyage--wish you could see how many people read it!