Another Hitch Hiking Luck Story
My story began at the exit where I-10 and I-15 cross. I was heading for I-40, which was my usual route from CA to IL. There is no exit or entry ramp there, just a fork in the Interstate. Not that it was a problem for me, because I always hitch hiked on the freeway, even though it was illegal to do so. It gave me a much better chance to get a ride, like maybe ten times or a hundred times as many cars. So I was sitting on the side of the highway eating my stale food when a state trooper pulled up next to me. I immediately ran about to his side and said, “Oh, thank God you are here! I got dropped off here and there’s no exit or entry ramps and it’s so dangerous! Can I get a ride to the next exit ramp?”
“Bullshit,” he said, “Get in the car.” So I sat there while he ran a check on me and of course I came out clean. Whatever petty crimes I did—smoking pot, taking acid (um, LSD to those that didn’t take it) and yes of course hitch hiking on the interstate—none of these ever got me arrested. That is how lucky I was! The trooper looked disappointed but said, “OK, I’ll take you to the next off ramp,” which was a couple of miles up the road. When he let me out he said, “I’ll be back, and if I see you on the freeway I’ll take you to jail.”
“Oh don’t worry about that officer! Thank you for the ride.”
Now, if you have never been to the fork of I-10 and I-15 you don’t know that it is pretty much in the middle of the desert. I tramped up the exit towards the legal place to hitch, just before the “No Hitchiking” sign, I was just glad I had a hat and some water. But when I got there my heart fell. There was another guy hitchhiking.
Now, it’s an unwritten rule that the first at a site gets the best place to catch a car, that is, behind the guys there first. I stopped to look at a sign there, where people had written on the wooden pole.
“Don’t bury me on the lone prairie”
“I was here for 5 days and only got someone to stop when I dragged a branch into the road so they got a flat.”
“Good luck buddy, here for 2 days”
Jeez, looked terrible. While I was reading the other hitchhiker came up to me. He looked pretty straight, which might be better for me if another freak came along. But if it was another straight, then I was doomed. This joker didn’t even have a hat.
“Hey man, you got any water?” he asked me. One bottle, that might have to last me 2 or more days.
“Can I get a drink? I’ve been here all day.”
“Yea, sure.” Share and share alike, I figured. Sharing brings good karma. I couldn’t just let him die of thirst up here. So he took a couple of big swigs. “How long you been here?”
“All day, from this early this morning. Hasn’t been a car here all day.”
“Hey, you wanna hitch together?” he asked me.
“Sure,” I said because it sort of doubled my chance to get a ride if someone stopped for him.
“I’m Frank,” I said, putting my hand out. I never used my real name to hitch.
“John,” he said. We shook.
Well, after an hour of baking I looked wistfully towards the bottom of the on ramp, down there in illegal land. The only car I saw was the highway patrol. Well, I figured, they have water in jail, right? If I’m out here tomorrow at least I can get a ride to jail. I’d be way out of water by then, especially sharing it with John. .
Oh my god, a pickup stopped! We ran to it.
“Just going’ one exit up,” he says.
“Great! Thanks!” It was literally one exit. Then we got another short hop. And another one-exit ride. And then back into baking.
Of course John and I talked. I learned he was going back home to his wife because he had to run away when the cops caught him porking the mayor’s under age daughter.
“Jeez man, that’s stupid. You know you are going to go back to jail, right? That’s rape you know.”
“Yea, I know that. But I miss my wife.” Well, it could’ve been worse. He could have been a murderer. I was pretty much uncertain of hanging with John. If we got picked up and they ran a check then he’d be busted, and me too just for being with him. Oh man, bad enough…
Well, a car stopped again. The driver was a middle aged man and there was a kid in the front seat. Now that was rare! I almost never got picked up by people with a kid in the car. But we piled into the back seat and the driver told us how he was going home from a wedding, and what were we doing?
“We just met,” I said, to cover my butt.
“I’m going home,” said John. And then shut up. Whew. I spent much of the ride chatting about how things were in the hippy world. The guy seemed curious. John was either shocked or incredulous. His stare could’ve been either one.
“I’m heading up to Los Vegas way.”
“Great, thank you sir.” It was a decently long ride. At least we were out of the sun.
“We’re going to Chicago, “ I said.
“You’ll be wanting I-40 then,” said the driver. “I’ll drop you guys off in Barstow.”
Barstow! Oh crap. Barstow, CA, was one of the Sargasso Seas of hitch hiking. I have a friend who was stranded in Barstow. While waiting to hitch a ride out of town she ran out of food and money and so she got a job as a waitress, hoping to save enough to take a bus. But one day a friend of hers, a Hells Angel, stopped into her restaurant for a beer and a burger and when he left, so did she. I considered taking a ride to Los Vegas. But no, Barstow it will be.
When we got to the town the guy got off the freeway. John said, “Can you drop us off at the McDonald’s? I’ll spend my last dollar to get a burger or something.”
“Oh, are you guys hungry? Tell you what,” as he pulled to the side of the road, “I have some ham and stuff in the trunk, extra from the wedding. You can have it.”
“Wow, Sir, that’s very generous of you.”
“Don’t mention it.” We went around to the trunk and he gave a bunch of cold cuts wrapped in tin foil, a new loaf of squishy white bread, a jar of mustard, and a plastic knife. “Good luck,” he said, “Your entrance is up there.” Maybe a mile away.
So John and I made us a couple of sandwiches and ate them as we walked to the entrance. It was so hot and dry that my bread was half stale and the bologna was curling at the edges before I finished a sandwich.
When we got to the entrance my heart fell. There must’ve been 15 people waiting for a ride. The entry curved up to the freeway and I made a round of the others asking them how long they’d been there. A day. Two days, a week. Jeez, maybe I will be buried on the lone prairie, just another hippy snack chip, dried out and salty by the side of the road. Well, if I had to wait at least I’ll still be me. I asked all of the other folks hitching, “You hungry? Come down here and make yourself a sandwich.” Sharing brings good karma.
Wow, they were happy! Every one of them left their packs and came down.
“No man,” says John, “we’re going to need this stuff.”
“It’s already stale and half dried out. Share it.”
So he stood there, bread in one hand, cold cuts in the other, and there was a small crowd around him when a car pulled up around the entrance. I held out my sign “Chicago” and he stopped, reached over and opened the door.
“Chicago? Me too,” he said. And I threw my gear into the car, then John’s gear and said, “Put that on the ground” and pretty much threw him into the car too and I jumped into the front seat, carefully locking the door.
“Go, go, go” I said. He did, and we went up around the ramp.
Lucky! One ride all the way home, about 2000 miles. Fantastic.
The driver looked into his rear view mirror. “Hey,” he said, “Why’re all those people yelling and giving me the finger?”