Stop me if you heard this before, but I woke up. Cold. Around 4:30. Familiar? Thought so. I'm sick of typing the same embarrassing anecdote in this space. Just go cut n paste this part from the four previous days. Cool? Good.
I rolled out of nest as the sun rose around 6:30 then spent the morning establishing a little routine: sitting at a stool inside the Flying J charging and writing.
I also rediscovered the beauty of Subway's 12" cold cut combo. Eat half in the morning. Half later on. Food? Done! And thank God. Planters and cheap beef sticks were getting really old! I appreciate the low cost, but I'm almost afraid to ask: What animal tastes like that, Matador? Nevadan Desert Snipe? Manbearpig? Or was that something trapped, caged, and butchered beneath Groom Lake?
**Related Fun Fact: Area 51 now shows up on Google Maps . #TheMoreYouKnow #TheTruthIsOutThere**
The morning passed. I had no urge to leave Primm. In fact, and Chris will love this, it was an anti-urge. As though I were being told to sit down, resist the growing impulse to mentally fidget, and just quietly "be".
"There's something here for you. This trip's not like the rest. So, let go of these outdated expectations and just open your metaphorical fucking eyes."
Therefore, this Friday was short on action, but full of silently obtained insights and observations. Some quite unexpectedly powerful. Not coincidentally, the ship also finally started to slowly steer.
My beacon was found the night before when I remembered that Barstow, in addition to being on the east/west I-40, is a relatively major transit point. Both Greyhound and Amtrak stop here on their ways to and from Los Angeles. Not only could I hitch from Barstow, but I could also get pretty much anywhere in the country via America's embarrassing excuses for bus and/or rail lines. If I chose to.
The Utah family from Thursday was still top of mind, and I was engaging in serious self-negotiations about an about face: returning north just to test Utah. Had I been completely wrong about that state? The idea of exploring a part of the country I'd only seen by car also appealed to me. But the dozens of nagging, unwelcoming anecdotes I've heard from countless other travelers about law enforcement, and even LDS church, harassment throughout Utah set off warning sirens that combined with a bigger question: where to after Utah? In November, keep in mind.
Colorado? Wyoming? Idaho? Oregon in the rainy season? I've always done this in the summer for a reason. Now, with winter approaching, and my rushed packing and shipping abortions, going too far north was not only potentially uncomfortable. It was possibly foolhardy!
Two possible outposts were my sister's or nephew's places in Boise. But, the once promising sibling meetings/reunions had bluntly terminated in 2011. I haven't been in contact with Lynette in 5-years. And, I'd feel weird popping in on my 21-year old nephew. I kept imagining him having to explain the sudden arrival of his bizarre traveling uncle if he had roommates!
Things have changed a great deal in the last few years. Sands thru the hourglass? My ass. Time's a quiet bulldozer.
The Trickle Becomes A Flash Flood
These internal dialogues took place as cigarettes burned and the afternoon passed at my little outdoor table from the day before. I was again reconnecting to my old "energy", and I was astounded to realize that, as before, it seemed enhanced. But today? It was exponentially more powerful than in Jean. The intermittent torrent of what I've lazily dubbed my "flow" periodically, and literally, gushed to the point of being almost overwealmong and nearly bringing me to tears!
That was most certainly new. Nice to know I can still surprise myself!
The only time I'd felt that powerful of a "connection" was when I did my mushroom-based depression killing therapy when the Upper World seed was planted.
Today, all I was on: water.
Oh, and that Cold Cut Combo. You don't suppose... Nah.
When I'm tuned in, some of the best human moments require no interaction. An afternoon spent watching unguarded, oblivious people, who are wholly unconcerned with my presence because, to them, a wandering backpacker means "disposable", can be priceless.
In fact, that's connected to what, aside from the fine gas station cuisine and 5-star accommodations in the random ditch, is usually the most interesting aspect of hitching: a complete absence of facades.
I'm just a filthy, wandering, no account vagabond to those gloriously oblivious, unsuspecting souls who can't, or just refuse, to see beyond my thumb. Please don't read that as a condescending or bitter condemnation. Quite the opposite. It's a blessing; as though I'm a spy embedded inside "real" Americana.
And, when I'm tuned in and in my element, I'm quite good at quickly gauging what people want and expect in exchange for my presence in their vehicles. Some want to listen. Some want to talk. Many want stories! Others are just curious about "why" someone would do this. Some insist on spewing their personal manifestoes. Still others are thoughtful and crave deep conversation. A few just turn up the radio or throw me in the back with the scrap wood and growling dog!
Sometimes, though it's never directed at me, I see the worst. I've met seething racists, legions of homophobes, a few misogynists, and more than a few criminals. My very first "real" ride was across the Rockies with a future cop killer. I've had more guns pulled from beneath seats than I'd care to count--always because these heat packing "badasses" were more frightened of me, and everything else, than I was of them. And they wanted to be sure I knew it was there. I identified Tea Partiers before there was a Tea Party.
Then there's the fascinating and just bizarre. I've ridden out of the Mohave Desert with a gun running, pot peddling preacher. In North Carolina, I watched a Christian biker gang worship their God--then listened intently as them claimed I was "called" by Jesus himself. (The Zombie Messiah and I are pretty tight!)
Remind me to tell you about The Asscrack Incident and the not-so-subtle obese nymphomaniac in upstate New York sometime...
I've been invited inside RV's and one August morning, woke up in the weeds next to the Columbia River in The Dalles, Oregon. That evening? I was aboard a terminally ill billionaire's multi-story floating home on the Willamette River in Portland. It turned into a weekend stay that included tagging along to a business meeting attended by a prince from Ghana. Yes. A real prince. From Ghana. I still marvel at the course of that weeds-to-wealth day!
I keep saying it but, almost always, I see the best in people. And it kills whatever cynicism I've collected while chained up in The Cave out of necessity. I'm constantly reminded that the overwhelming majority of people are good, decent, caring folks who are often confused, terrified, and just doing the best they can with what they have and have been given.
Mostly though, I'm reminded of our one fundamental commonality: basic humanity. This shared human experience.
All from having the simple audacity to ride my thumb, trust my instincts, and believe in my life and my message. Even if I didn't know precisely what the message is!
Yep. I was back. And it didn't take long. At all. In retrospect, I think Thursday's wannabe thugs being immediatly followed-up by the immense positivity of The Salt Lake City Cleavers shocked, then primed, my senses. Not sure I can even explain that. Fuck it. I'll leave that cryptic little nugget to your personal interpretation. I believe in you.
I was back inside editing video by 3:30 and back in my posh little dirt nest by 6. I called to discuss options with Laina and checked Greyhound and Amtrak schedules/fares from Barstow with a sudden focus on Phoenix. I'd been threatening my buddy Jeff with a visit all year. Plus, his would make a terrific place to play mail tag and correct my gear farts.
Things were starting to move, at least in my mind. I was asleep by 9:00. Inside the bivy this time! See? He can learn! Where's my gold star and ice cream, goddammit?
Ya know? Ice cream sounds really good...