Some moments are ripe for change. For me it was the time to leave. My work was closing. The restaurant was set for a remodel. They tore it down. And started from scratch.
My friend Sean wanted to take a trip. I had shared stories about my first trip. And he had done some traveling too. The plan was to go east for the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Pennsylvania.
At first he was asking his girlfriend to come on the trip. And she refused. But then we all watched The Matrix. Then she agreed to go along. But my friend changed his tune. I’m not sure why, but he got upset. She did not join us on the trip. I wonder how things would have been different if she had gone.
We hitched out of Portland on I-84. Eastward we went through Eastern Washington. I’m not sure why, but we traveled through Spokane. If you forget how to pronounce the city name, remember it does rhyme with cocaine.
In Spokane we were spanging at a store. A man came out and talked to us for a while. Said we were doing it all wrong. If we wanted to learn about the world. Get a job he suggest – but not in a mean tone. He said we would learn more working, than traveling. Sean later pointed out we would never had heard his ideas. If we had never traveled to Spokane.
After Spokane our next stop was Missoula. We met some younger people. And they let us spend the night at their apartment. One of the girls I had a crush on. And I was flirting with her, maybe not aggressively. But the next thing I know she is making out with Sean. It upset me. There were and are few women I am attracted to on a real level. She was one of them. Sean later told me he didn’t know I was flirting with her. And I believe he wouldn’t have done something to hurt me. Just our ideas of things were different.
Heading east we got a ride with a crazy couple. I recall stopping in Buffalo, Wyoming. We would all take a walk for a while. She would call a hotline and say she was an abused woman. Then someone would come out and give her gas and money. I didn’t like her taking advantage of services meant to help people. Though she claimed there was a small kernel of truth to her story.
The plan with me and Sean was for us to go to Boulder. I loved Boulder during my last visit. And I wanted to stop again. Also as we got closer I was looking forward to being away from the couple. But then the three of them came to me. They had made plans for us to go all the way to Pennsylvania together. Great, I thought.
At one point the heat was getting to all of us. We pulled off the interstate to go to a lake. But there was a usage fee and none of us had the money. Driving back we crossed through Glendo, Wyoming. They were having a town fair. I pointed out we would be missing a rare event if we didn’t stop. So we stopped.
I ended up singing karaoke with some local teen girls. The only song I recall is, “I’m a bitch, I’m a lover, I’m a child, I’m a mother…” And Sean won the Watermelon Eating Competition. The guy in the couple said at one point some local boys were giving me the eye. Because I was singing with their girls. But he took off his shirt, showing some mean tattoos I guess. He made it clear he was with me, and they tamed down.
In North Platte, Nebraska, she went to the hospital. Me and Sean walked downtown. Found a pizza place. Got some out of the trash and started back. There was a house with a trampoline in front. I asked if we could jump on it, as a joke. They said we could. But it didn’t feel comfortable, or fun.
From Nebraska we went south. They had to do something in Kansas. While I don’t think brake repair was what they planned. It became unavoidable. The whole van should shake and the brakes made a loud grinding noise. My guess is they had to replace more than brakes. This is where we finally parted ways.
We had to walk through town to find a place to hitch a ride. Doing so we passed some cops at a convenient store. They stopped us a couple blocks later. They asked if we had any weed. No, we told them the truth.
“Then why did we smell weed when you walked by,” they asked.
We explained we hadn’t bathed in a while. Sometimes body odor can smell like weed.
“Nope, we know what weed smells like,” they insisted.
We suggest it was the sage we had burned in the van. Again they insisted they knew the smell of weed. They had to let us go. We asked for directions to Missouri. They informed us they didn’t know how to get to Missouri. So we headed off down the road. They also told us not to hitch-hike. We got lucky and found a ride from a woman at a gas station.
In Saint Louis, Missouri we got a ride with a airport shuttle. The man drove like he was crazy. But it was kind of fun. We made a stop at the Gateway Arch. You can pay to take a ride up into the arch. But neither one of us wanted to spend the money. So we got back on the road. We were hitch-hiking in East Saint Louis, and the sun was going down.
“I think we need to get out of here before dark,” I told Sean. It was a place about which I had not heard good things.
We got lucky on two counts. We got a ride before dark. And our ride took us all the way to Chicago. Then took us on a tour of the city. Finally we got dropped off in Indiana. From there to the gathering was a short trip.
At the gathering I lost Sean right away. And didn’t see him until almost the last day. He was in a rush to go. I said just wait. I wanted to dig a spring. Then I wanted to eat. I had shared our plans with a few people. One of which came up to me. We wanted to go to Niagara Falls. And he had found someone who could give us a ride. The amazing Pam.
We got a ride from the gathering from Pam to the falls. Then she said we should meet her friend Laura. Pam took us to Syracuse, New York. There we met Laura, who is also amazing. Hanging out with Laura and Pam they suggested we meet Shaylyn. She lived in Ogdensburg, New York. Right across the river from Canada. So, up to the far north we went. This is real Upstate New York.
We spent three days in Ogdensburg. And a day in Potsdam, New York. There was a festival in Potsdam. Before going I was singing a line from Into the Woods, over and over. “We’re going to go to the festival, and dance with the prince.”
Laura’s uncle lived in Potsdam. We went to his house. He was building it himself with trees from his land. When the time came to go to the festival Sean stayed behind. It was just me and the girls. There was music, and the street was closed. We were dancing. They said I must be the prince.
I am still friends with Shaylyn, Laura and Pam. In fact they are more like sisters.
Pam gave us a ride to the ferry for Burlington. We crossed the river and spent a couple days. One night we met some girls at a park. We chatted for a while. Then they wanted to buy us some food. We went to the store, and we were walking around. I picked an olive out of the bulk bin and ate it.
“You can’t do that, it’s stealing,” one of the girls freaked. “Here we can buy some.”
I did it again with something else. And she reacted the same. I’ve always viewed it as a sample. As long as you don’t press your luck.
The other thing I recall about Burlington was the pizza. Some people let us spend the night at their place. There was a flier for $1 pizza. It was too good to be true, right? But it wasn’t. We called and ordered a few. They weren’t great pizza. The quality was comparable to Little Caesar’s. Their story was they had an oven and liked to make pizza.
It was in Burlington I parted ways with Sean. There had been problems. He sat on my bag at one point and drenched my socks in a waterproofing chemical. Which made my feet break out in a rash. He would drink all his water, and then want to drink mine. And the girl issue from Missoula. It was better we part ways.
I went to Cambridge for a couple weeks. Another place I loved from my first trip. And I loved it the second time too. I even camped in the same park. For money I did Tarot card readings on the street. I made a friend, and we chatted about philosophy. He remarked how well read I was for my age. I love the Harvard Square area.
But the time came to go home. In the fastest time ever I made it back in about three days. The only problem I had was in Ohio. We were on the interstate and it was getting dark. I told him to drop me off on I-80. But I dozed off. And woke up on a freeway. When I asked he said we weren’t on I-80 anymore. So I told him to drop me off at the next exit.
Getting out I started walking through Shaker Heights. I found a pizza place and got a free pizza. A young man on a bike asked for some. I told him sure, but he didn’t eat pork. It was a pepperoni pizza, but I was picking the meat off. Me neither I explained and told him what I was doing. He did help me with directions and gave me some money for the bus.
At the bus stop another man wanted some pizza. I was getting sick of it already and was ready for someone to eat it. He ate it, and then called me away from my bag a little. He thanked me and said he was homeless. I told him I understood. He asked for money and I told him all I had was $1 for the bus. When the bus came he grabbed my bag and wouldn’t let it go. The bus almost left without me. I banged on the door and told her the story. I gave him the $1 and rode the bus for free.
From Ohio to Chicago, then Minneapolis where my friend from college James lived. I got there at night, and connected with him the next day. When I said I crossed the country in three days, I didn’t count the time with James. He also gave he a hair cut. Then he dropped me off headed west.
In North Dakota the mosquitoes were so bad I had to sleep inside. There was a truck stop with a movie theater. So I slept in one of the chairs. No one noticed me in there, or said anything. The movies were Little Big Foot and a psycho movie about a woman with an unknown stalker.
From there I got a ride with a guy in a U-Haul. He took me all the way into Montana. Even staid the night in a hotel with him. And he took me out to dinner. From Montana I went south through Idaho. Then across Eastern Oregon. From Hermiston, I got a ride all the way to Portland. I was home.
Back in Portland I got a letter from the girls in New York. They had plans, and invited me to join.