The second rule of Hitch Club: Forget vehicles with kiddos.
**Show of hands. How many of you parroted Tyler Durden? That'll teach you to get ahead of me.**
Such silly ride expectations will send you straight into vagabond therapy.
Knowing all this, I didn't even bother looking at the minivan; it was driven by a woman about my age with a teenager in the passenger seat as went by. So I was shocked when I glanced over and noticed them backing down the ramp's wide shoulder toward me!
Before I even got to the passenger door, positive energy poured from this vehicle. A young man of about 13 smiled widely, almost enthusiastically, as I approached and I noticed that there were two other teenagers inside as well. Their mom asked how far it was to Primm, having seen my sign, and when I told her it was just 12-miles she invited me to hop in.
The kids played a game of musical seats (reminding me of the Chinese Fire Drill game... on an exit ramp!) giving me the front seat. After almost three full days I was finally leaving the hospitality of Jean behind me.
After our introductions, the first thing I said: "Ya know, you might be saving me." And then recounted the wannabe thug drama of the morning. The kids expression: "Whoa!" The driver: slightly concerned, while at the same time unsurprised. Most people assume it must happen all the time, so I went on to tell her how rare it actually was and how the good people massively outnumber these mostly inept, bark-no-bite predators.
Wait. What? More of this optimism? It then quietly occurred to me just how much my cynicism had been supplanted by reality-driven positivity in such a short time.
I then told her how surprised I was that she had stopped. She answered that they "picked people up now and then." Obviously good people not paralyzed by paranoia and the ubiquitous Narrative of Fear.
The quick ride to Primm was an invigorating and refreshing injection of positivity and optimism. The driver, Lara, and her kids (Casey, Caden, and Clayton) were from Salt Lake City and on their way to LA to check out colleges for her oldest, Caden, who was entering his senior year in high school.
Their general overwhelming tone: Leave It to Beaver! This family oozed authentically wholesome, unforced, genuine love for each other. And others. The kids were attentive, conversational, exceedingly polite and immediately reminded me of the day Chris and I met my nephews, Ben and Brad (who were raised in Idaho), back in 2009. Back then, we were both immediately struck how respectful and polite they were as well. Must be something in the water up there.
Clayton & Casey
I adored these people! The immediate effect was, naturally, another reminder of why I do this. Later on, I'd kick myself for not yet being salty enough to ask about a ticket upgrade all the way to Barstow! But, at the time, I was still caught between north and south and was short-sightedly seeing Primm's Flying J as a better base.
Beyond that, who they were as people lingered for a few days. Since they were from Salt Lake City, I naturally assumed they were Mormons. And, their authentic vibe reminded me of my time in Idaho visiting my sister and her family, as well as hitchhiking.
The next day, I wrote:
This was serious shit! They made me seriously second guess my almost militant avoidance of Utah that's always been based on second hand information! For a short time, I considered St. George as a target destination. Old followers of mine will understand: that's some powerful stuff!"Sure, their beliefs may be full-frontal whackadoodle. I don't care. Mormons are unintentionally, and by far, the best ambassadors for their religion. The key word is unintentional. While the rest of you are trying to project the image of plasticized wholesome & righteous happiness, these folks seem to actually live it. Maybe they go home, cheat on the wife, kick the dog, and wonder why little Billy's a cutter like much of the rest of "Family Values" America but, as far as I can tell, there's nothing fake about it. That, or the majority of Mormons I've met deserve Academy fucking Awards."
When Lara dropped me off at the Flying J, I immediately groaned and thought of Wichita Falls, Texas: another urban truckstop! Ugh!
I'd also seriously underestimated how condensed and hectic this little gambling town on the California border would be. There are three large casinos and an outlet mall crammed into what looked to be less than a square mile! Not to mention the large truck stop, fast food joints, and other gas stations. Primm oddly reminded me more of a desert oasis amusement park than the dinky little town I'd expected! There was even a roller coaster!
Once at the truck stop I mentally exhaled. Despite only going 12-miles, it felt like 200. I went inside to fill up the water bottle and scout for power outlets (score!) then plopped down next to the trucker's entrance (still targeting trucks! Derp! Third rule of Hitch Club?), and removed layers. In 12-miles, the temp had jumped 15-20 degrees!
Honestly, thongs Thursday day was off to a great tactical start...if my mind were tuned into such things. I'd arrived in Primm just after noon, and on most other trips I would have immediately made my way back to the ramp after topping off the water.
This trip is different. Somehow. Remember Steinbeck's "trip personality" thing? This one, or at least this leg, was less about miles than other things. My software was churning in the background. So, I spent the rest of the day sitting at a table between the gas pumps and truck facilities. Just watching. Not actively trying to move on.
Along the way, I'd wisely gone out back to scout camping possibilities and was delighted to find nothing but a stark landscape of desert nothingness stretching from behind the huge trucker's parking lot all the way to a mountain range in the distance.
"Nothingness" is slightly inaccurate. There was a large solar field in the distance. Up close? An abundance of (what I assumed were) sage bushes. Fuck botany! Some wonderful, brittle shrubbery just tall enough to hide a clever stealth camper? That's some...somethingness!
As the sun fell, I walked thru the truck parking lot, trying to be obvious enough not to invite suspicion but also discreet enough not to attract the attention of the neighboring casino's security.
I quickly found a perfect spot. Maybe too perfect, in retrospect! It was a flat sandy patch with plenty of dusty space for my backpack and the stretched out sleeping bag. No rocks! Woo! And, it was completely surrounded by sage. In summary, someone would have to be enthusiastically looking in order to find me. And, I'd hear them long before they saw me.
No repeats of Jean's Misadventure in Stealthing were occurring in Primm! And the views were excellent. This would prove to be one of my favorite nests ever.
I called home, listened to the night's Cubs-Dodgers playoff game, and was asleep (on top of the bivy. Again! What the fuck is wrong with me?) by 10. But not before this leg of the trip's course was subconsciously set...