"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Thursday, May 29, 2008

5/29/08: Definitely NOT west- Rawlins to Denver

Day #10
Denver, CO

I left the library and started walking toward the T/A truck stop and I-80. On the way I ran in to Jeanette again, She gave me a hug and said she was praying for me. She seemed a bit down about something, but I couldn't really tell for sure. I retraced our steps from the day before and, like clockwork, the Wyoming Wind began to howl, pushing me and the pack around a bit. My right foot was beginning to blister-just the right one for whatever reason-and I started to notice some tightness in my right shin, calf, and thigh. Only the right side though! What the hell?

I had noticed some weather starting to push in consisting of heavy, dark clouds with a little thunder. The storm looked more like a winter storm than anything, but it didn’t surprise me. The weather forecast the day before had said it was supposed to be sunny and 70, but it was far from either! While I was crossing over I-80 on the overpass, the winds REALLY kicked up. I even had to hold onto the guardrail to keep from being pushed into traffic, and then the temperature must have dropped 15 degrees almost immediately. I was glad I was walking in when I was, although for all menacing tones, the weather ultimately did next to nothing.

I went in and bought some cigarettes, a coke, and 2 half-priced candy bars and sat down in the same place I had been with Doug on Tuesday night. I was still thinking the weather was going to do something, so I scoped out the truck stop and had thoughts of sitting down in the trucker’s lounge and taking a nap. I REALLY had gotten next to no sleep the night before and was really feeling it by now. The adrenaline from earlier in the day was fading fast, and I was really fighting to stay lucid. I concluded that I needed to stay inside for awhile, before I went out to the I-80 west on-ramp to try to get west, and thought that maybe some real food would help me to feel better. If that didn’t, a bunch of coffee surely would.

I went over to the restaurant, sat down and ordered the buffet and proceeded to gorge myself. I’m not sure I was supposed to raid the salad bar too, but I did. The service was pretty pathetic, so I wasn’t getting quite as much coffee as I had hoped and after I ate, the fatigue began to take hold. I could have, and thought about, just lying back and dozing and started to eyeball the big field behind the truck stop as a place to just throw down the tent and rest. I figured it was too early to do that just yet, only 1:30-ish, so since the weather had calmed itself I went to pay the bill, figuring I’d head out to the on-ramp to see what would happen.

While I was paying my bill, a trucker who was sitting a few seats away from me was in line chatting with someone and since he seemed pretty laid back and friendly I off-handedly asked him which way he was going. He said Laredo, Texas. Before I knew what I was saying I asked if he was going thru Denver, he said yes, and I said, “Think I could get a ride?” He checked me out for a split second and just nodded and said “Yeah” in a matter-of- fact sort of way.

I was getting out of Wyoming! AND in a truck!

I had wanted to get at least ONE ride in a truck on this trip to see how it went, and this guy, Cesar, was it. I was really surprised at how easy it was to hook up with him, and as we walked out to the truck my energy level began to soar. Maybe it was the food, but more than likely it was the adrenaline of being on the move again. I hadn’t even considered heading east, let alone southeast, but sort of chuckled when I saw the parallel between Rawlins and Ft. Morgan. Plans? HA! The Vagabond Gods shit on my ‘plans’!

Cesar’s truck was a brand new Volvo; beautiful. Cushy. Plush. As I was climbing in and getting the backpack situated the excitement was almost comical. I was doing one of the prime things I wanted to do on this trip, and was happy with the way I was able to improvise. We got on I-80 and began heading toward Laramie and Cheyenne.

What a fun ride. Cesar is in his late 40's I believe, and came to the US from Mexico 20+ years ago. He looks almost exactly like Al Pacino in “Scarface”. I would chuckle every time he said “Montana”, hearing lines from the movie. He was good natured about it; obviously hearing that comparison a million times. His impression was dead-on: “You cocaroach!

He told me stories about how he used to pick up hitchers all the time, and since he’s Mexican would try to help out the illegals from time to time, giving them rides, food, and even money; then finding out some of his stuff had disappeared with them. That reminded me of a few of the people I had crossed paths with. The ones who brand everyone on the road as a thief, bum, or criminal. Really pissed me off, but I understand it. Hopefully I thought I could change a bit of that stereotype.

The rest of the ride to Denver was great. We chatted, checked out all the antelope that were hanging out along the way and enjoyed the scenery. He took 287 from Laramie to Ft. Collins, then I-25 to the city.

I called Chris and Eric, and made arrangements for Chris to drop his keys off at Barracuda’s, and to meet Eric at his baseball game in Wheat Ridge, just off of I-70. Cesar took me all the way there, we exchanged phone numbers and conceptualized a plan to keep track of each other in case we end up in the same area. Then I could hitch a ride with him…wherever. What a good guy he was. Yet another example, eh?

I got to Anderson Park at about 8:30 or so, and came bounding in looking like something out of a Kerouac novel, and smelling like campfire. Quite the sight. There was something odd in the air Thursday night; everyone seemed riled up over something. Chris, Me, Eric…the two teams that were playing the game were at each others throat the whole time! Normally I’d blow that off, but I’ve seen brawls in these rec. league games! Too many baseball heroes with shattered dreams of glory I guess, but I wasn’t exactly helping calm things!

I was struck at the contrast that the day had held. Waking up in on a Wyoming prairie with the elk, then the truck stop, then walking up to the baseball field in familiar territory with friends. That still boggles my mind.

The game ended and Eric and I went straight to Barracuda’s in Capital Hill, a place becoming familiar again. We had a pitcher of PBR, and Chris and his friend showed up almost immediately. I was curious to see how Chris and Eric got along because while their VERY different in a lot of ways, including age, they’re VERY similar too. The synergy was great, and the conversations were cool, except for all the grief I got for being in Denver again so soon!

Oh yeah, big world traveler!

I couldn’t quite get the concept across that there are NO RULES here! Improvisation. I was in Denver; make it work! Later on it occurred to me that this was actually going to work out quite well. I had decided on the way back to take the car back to Santa Fe so Laina wouldn’t have to worry about picking it up. It would save a lot of money, AND I could get rid of more gear and relax for a few days. It really did work out for the best. They just seemed convinced I was going to STAY there! No way.

The drinking commenced, and I made the mistake of letting Angela buy me a Jager shot, then had some of Chris’ Jim Beam when we got back to his house. Ugh!! I don’t drink much anymore, and when I finally got to sleep, after trying to convince Chris to come join me, I was flopping around on the couch like a fish!

Quite the day Thursday. Again, not what I expected when I awoke!



5/29/08: North, eh? "The Vern Moment"

Ha! More lessons learned. One I already knew but apparently needed some 'practical' experience to drive home. But, let's start from the beginning.

I left the library yesterday at about 3:00 and found my way out of Rawlins via US-287 north maneuvering around the ubiquitous road construction from a new sewer system. Getting out of town was relatively easy, but it became clear that I've become spoiled. I called Chris to find out how close I was to where he crossed 287 on his walk and through the discussion learned that he had the opinion that Wyomans (?) were much less likely to offer rides than other states.

Unfortunately I had planned on rides. The next town is 30-some miles north and Lander is 120. I hadn't filled my water supply completely, and was carrying just my 3-liter Camelback. It was soon obvious that I should have left Rawlins better prepared. I also have no idea about my stamina. Wednesday was a good day to find out!

I continued north on 287, and eventually got into the Prairieland of Nothingness; not even trees. Traffic on 287 was medium with a wide shoulder. I took my time, stopped when I needed to to rest and eat, heard my first yells of, "Git off the fuckin road!”, and thought pretty highly of myself when I had gone 7 or 8-miles by 5:30 pm. I had been eyeballing places to camp for quite a while because I hadn't expected it to be so damn flat; no hills or trees to hide behind. I had also noticed places called "Walk Ins" that consisted of barbed wire gates and signs saying not to litter and to clean up after yourself. Obviously public or state land. 

I found a spot behind one of these gates that at least had some hills to shield me from the wind, which was incredibly strong all day. I plopped down by the gate, and waited for a ride---which never came. It appeared that Chris was right, although I still wasn’t flying a thumb!

Around 7:30, I hiked thru the gate to prospect for a camp site only to discover it had many uses, none of which had much to do with hiking or camping. It was a dump and a dirt bike trail. Lots of activity and much of the junk left behind had bullet holes! Just like Hilltucky! Ugh...

But, I was pretty sure that, since the sun was setting, there would probably be no one coming back here to dump or ride. I found a decent spot and set up my tent. It was still relatively light out, so I had time to gather wood from the trash I'd seen lying around and I had visions of a glorious, campfired night. The clouds had even dissipated enough to give me a beautiful sunset.

I was out collecting wood when it happened. My lesson. I knew better than to camp near high human activity. See...'stealth camping' is supposed to be...stealthy. I wasn't so stealthy. A truck pulled thru the gate and rudely destroyed my little piece of Vagabond Nirvana. I began having dire thoughts: 

“Maybe I’m on private land?” (I knew better) 

Maybe these guys had seen me walking and decided to relieve me of what little I had!” (They'd have plenty of Clif bars to enjoy, I guess.) 

The truck bounced around up and down the hills and I believe they parked for a minute to smoke a joint...Or maybe make sure I hadn't disturbed their cocaine deposit worth millions more to them than my life!” 

When one of these guys climbed a hill at the other end of this place, and looked in my direction, I almost literally ripped the big yellow rainfly from my tent. I was sure he saw me and was about to bug out, but remembered what had happened on the S. Platte in Ft. Morgan last week: a big, fat nothing. So, I took a deep breath and decided to wait to see what they did. I mean, where the fuck was I going to “run” anyhow? 

They left. Of course. 

See how paranoia works?

I waited a while to see if they returned and, when they didn’t, I built my little fire by burning Canada. I mean really: why do I need Canada in my atlas? It was a nice fire; easy to light and I even used horse dung to get it going. Yes it does burn. And, surprisingly, doesn't even smell that bad. Thanks Les Stroud.

The fire helped to regain my senses and since it was getting cold, kept me toasty while I talked to my girlfriend to let her know what was going on. I got off the phone, peed the fire out (that stunk), and hopped in the sleeping bag—first making sure that almost everything was packed—and not even bothering with the rain fly even though it was going to drop to near 40. All in case I had to make a quick exit--still having paranoid visions of doom.

Have you seen “Stand By Me”? Remember the part where they're in the woods camping and the fat kid, Vern, is standing guard? You know, every time he heard a noise, he'd spin around completely freaked out? 

I was Vern. All night. 

But, instead, I imagined phantom Wyoming rednecks. In fact, I now have a road name:


I'll keep Vern until I earn another one. I'll be taking suggestions for last names and I'd appreciate any correspondence to be addressed “Dear Vern" until further notice.

After a fitful night with little sleep, I awoke early this morning to the sight of my kind of visitors: elk. A herd of them. One was particularly interested in me-just eyeballing me while I smoked, snapped a picture, and eyeballed him back. He didn't budge until I stood up, then darted back to his friends. That was a great way to start the day, even though this cold I got from Leah's kids is getting stickier!

Low on water and with no legitimate prospects for finding more, I packed the tent and slowly walked back toward Rawlins feeling as though I had grown a huge, gaping vagina for being freaked out so easily. But I was also glad that I’d at least ridden it out using the Platte experience. I also had time to think about the wisdom of going further north. I decided no, I'm far enough north; maybe too far. I like warm. Warm gooood. Plus, if I get to Lander and need to be 'stealthy' again, which is a certainty, I'll have to deal with bigger critters than friendly elk and the High Plains Redneck. I'm not yet wanting to play Mountain Man, so I've decided to get back to I-80 and point my thumb west toward California. Maybe Fresno to see what my sister's got going on. If not, I should land close enough to get toward Astoria.

There I go...making plans again. I think I just make this shit up to seem like I have a plan...

Way to go Vern-o!

Oh, about the lesson. If you're going to stealth camp. Don't camp anywhere there's a likelihood someone will show up! Laziness kills! Or at least scares the Bejeesus piss out of you...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5/28/08: Wyoming!

DAY #9
Rawlins, WY

Yesterday went better than expected, and contrary to how the day felt when it started. I slept later than I wanted to, and of course drug- ass getting packed up and out Leah's door. I think it was 10:30 or so when I finally found myself walking toward the West Glenwood on-ramp to I-70 west. I hung out a the little truckstop for a while watching people before I plopped down, leaned up against the pack and waited.

I'm not much of a hitchhiker at all. I don't bother putting my thumb out or anything. I figure if someone cant figure out that I'm looking for a ride-you know, lying on a backpack at an interstate on-ramp and all... It didn't bother me just sitting there. It was a beautiful day, sunny, NO WIND, and I felt like a snake sunning himself by the road. I understand why they do that now!

I did finally get a ride after an hour and a half or so, with a kid fresh out of college from Ogalalla, Nebraska. He was on his way to Rifle, where he lives now working on oil rigs or something similar. He was a pretty cool guy, and loved what I was doing! It seems when I say "I have no idea" when people ask where I'm going, I get the big "WHOA!" of amazement everytime. I forget the kids name, and didn't get a picture, but he was a pretty good guy, and his information on route 13 convinced me to go that way out of Rifle, and get off the interstate.

I walked through Rifle, about 3-4 miles or so, while stopping at a sporting goods store to see about maps. The one I needed was $8.99 so I decided I didn't need it. Getting out of town was a breeze, and when the sidewalk ended, I sat down to take a break. While I was sitting there looking for my gum, a pickup stopped and told me to "throw my shit in the back and get your ass in here!". I was amazed how quickly that happened.

Doug had just finished his 2-week straight work week, and was heading home for his week off. He asked where I was going, and initially I told him toward Meeker; aiming low as always! But then I found out he lived in northern WYOMING, about 50 miles from the Montana line, and 45 miles "east of Yellowstone", as I would heard REPEATEDLY over the next few hours! He told me he'd take me as far as I wanted to go, so after setting my eyes on US 40, I figured I'd see how it went and if it went well, shoot for Wyoming.

"Well" is a relative term, isn't it?

As with Dennis a few days before, Doug was drinking. And I believe he was rather baked. He was trying to show me how much of an outlaw he was at first, naturally assuming that's what I was. I let him go...it was kind of funny. Although he was a bit odd, and his driving was--interesting--I soon figured he was essentially harmless, and probably safe enough to at least get me to Craig.

Our first little adventure was in Meeker, where he decided he needed a beer. We stopped at a neat little bar where he went inside and proceeded to buy the bar a round. There were 5 people there; big spender! A guy was trying to sell a carved wooden dog for $250, and I believe Doug would have bought it if I hadn't asked him "What the fuck are you going to do with that?" "Talk to it!" he said. When I didn't fall over laughing at his humor, I think he realized that he was acting the fool in trying to impress everyone with his little stack of $20's! He quickly finished his beer, everyone thanked him for the drink, and we left to continue up 13.

Doug said he needed more beer when we got to Craig, and it was there that I looked at the map for the first time since Rifle. We were 40 miles or so from the Wyoming line, and he'd agreed to let me drive from there, so I decided to get greedy and stick with Doug to I-80. Plus, I'd actually begun to like the guy. He was a big talker with all sorts of bravado and fronts, but once you got thru all that he was great. I'd find out later HOW great.

The Wyoming line came and went. I got my picture of the sign. Doug peed. I asked him if he wanted me to drive--REALLY wanting him to let me--and he let me know that he was in-charge here: "I'll let you know" in a low, gruff voice. Great. So I kicked back, and watched the scenery, which by the way was magnificent, especially along CO- 13. Better than I even imagined, and ample place to throw the tent down.

By now I planned on getting out where 789 (new name for 13) met up w/ I-80, in hopes of getting a ride, or at least filling my water supply and walking on. Problem though. There WAS a gas staion there 25 years ago, but now nothing but a fireworks stand. And I mean NOTHING. I scoped it out. Doug peed. I decided I'd keep on with Doug east on I-80 toward the next truck stop, or at least semblance of civilization. That turned out to be 25 miles down, here in Rawlins. We took exit 214 to the T/A travel center, and I had my eyes on the KOA across the interstate. Doug insisted I let him buy me Subway. I had been refusing his offers of food the whole way, but by now I was hungry and the thought of a 12" Tuna that I could split for dinner and breakfast seemed smart.

By now Doug had calmed down a bit, and we were getting along very well. He said he was glad he picked me up, and for the last 3 hours had been pressuring me to ride all the way to his house "45 miles from Yellowstone!" I must say I considered it, but the thought of going that far north didn't really appeal to me, plus I still wanted to get to US 191.

While we were sitting there eating, a woman walked over to out table and asked how far Evanston was. Through the coarse of the conversation, we learned that she was going to PORTLAND and was on a limited budget. I offered her $20 and help driving if she'd let me ride, and Doug offered to throw in $50! I thought he was full of shit...but then realized he's do it. She would have taken me, but there was now way I was getting me and my pack into her car. NO WAY. It was stuffed. I would have had to ride like Grandma in "Vacation". Too bad. So Close!! But alas...Wyoming it is.

Doug and I said goodbye, and he handed me a folded piece of paper and quickly got into his truck. I went inside to finish Dinner, and chill out for awhile, opened it up, and inside: $25. I was amazed. This guy had driven me from Rifle, CO to Rawlins, WY...bought me dinner...offered to pay for gas in exchange for my transit...AND given me $25. All I had done was be honest with him and treat him with the resepct I thought he deserved. That's the only thing I can figure.

I hoofed it over to the KOA, got a tent site, talked to Laina and crashed. I woke up coughing in the middle of the night, and today have a sore throat, and a sore shoulder from sleeping wrong! I'm hoping Leah's kids didn't get me sick.

I got up this morning, did some laundry (YES!), took a shower (woohoo!), packed and walked off at about 11:15. I stopped at a little park on Washington St. while I made my way toward the library, and as I was sitting there an elderly lady asked me if I was hitchhiking, I said "sort of", and she came over and sat with me. We chatted while I ate, and she told me she used to hitch all over the place in her younger years. We talked about the town, her son she had just met for the first time, and eventually we walked off together toward the library. She walked me all the way here! She also gave me her address and asked me to call or send a post card. Nice lady this Jeanette.

The library doesn't have a timer on the computer, so I was able to upload pics, send Couchsurf requests for Lander, WY and update this.

I think I've decided to hoof it up 287 toward Lander, then take 28 southwest from there. I really want to avoid Rock Springs, which I keep hearing nasty stories about.

Over 200 miles yesterday. Not too bad!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5/27/08: Back On the Road

DAY #8

I've decided to get up early and try to get on the road west, then north. I hesitate to write that in stone because of course it could change. I chatted with Chris for quite a while Monday and thought I'd try to get to Vernal, Utah one way or another then take US 191 north into Wyoming toward Yellowstone, then west again into Idaho, partially retracing his steps from his cross- country walk in '03/ '04.

There are a few ways to get there depending on how I decide to do it. I COULD hitch it into Utah, and pick up US 6/191 directly from I-70. If I do that, I'm locked into hitchhiking until I can get off the interstate. Another route is to get to Rifle, CO and take CO 13 north toward Meeker, then to Craig or take what looks to be a desolate stretch of road to Dinosaur, CO.

Either way, I'd then pick up US 40 and go west to Vernal. I'm leaning toward the CO 13 route right now...we'll see. I also spent part of the day considering other routes...including toward Fresno, CA where I could stop in to see my sister. I noticed US 6 crosses Nevada and breaks off in Bishop, CA very close to Fresno...and the Pacific Crest Trail. The Pacific Crest is on my short list of likely places to add to Hwy. 101 in Oregon and Northern California, but to make it at least semi-efficient, I'd need to take it from Fresno into Oregon toward Mt. Hood, then move west to return south on 101. Doing that though, I'd miss Idaho which I'd like to cross of my list of states!

Indesiciveness blows.

Monday was another uneventful, relaxing day. James took off either back to the mountains or to his friend's van. Other than that, not alot going on now; I stayed a day too long. There's no tension or anything here, other than my own restlessness. Leah and her husband have been great, and made me feel pretty much at home. It's just past time for me to get on my way.

One neat thing though: at about 10pm when Rob & Sonny found a dog. A big ol' Husky/Chow mix that appears to them to be abandoned. Becca's trained in veterinary-type- things and thinks he's between 6 mos and a year...and ALREADY weighs 50- 60#. A big boy indeed. I'm contemplating taking him along, but of course that would mean that the rides would drop off significantly, thus slowing me WAYYY down. I'd probably be walking the vast majority of the way, and of course will have to try to feed him as best I can. He'd probably enjoy the northern route but, because of his thick coat, I'm not sure the Mojave's a good idea for him (or me?).

Also, I'd need Leah to drive us out of Glenwood at least to New Castle, and I hate to ask her to do that. I need to think on that one a bit more, but it's odd that he showed up when he did. Leah pointed that out too...Something for you to look forward to I guess! "Did he take the dog or not??" See pics of him below...

I talked to Laina a bit tonight, and realized that things have been quite enlightening for me personally. I've rediscovered some dormant parts of myself, or at least some facets of my personality that I wasn't using anymore. Street-sense. Ability to size people up quickly, relate to them as needed & even manipulate some to prevent unsavory situations (Dennis).

Ft. Morgan's weather ignited my survival instincts and showed that I can still adapt. This probably sounds elementary, but before I left these were some concerns. I had wondered if my sedentary, cushy, mindless existence had rendered me lame and ready to be put down. It hasn't. I'm rather eager to see what else I can summon when I need to.

Vitam Impendere Vero---from theory to experience. In other words, I know my theories, now I need to know how I respond when I get out there and live them. Not a bad start so far.

I also looked back at the pictures I've posted on Picasa over the last 3 weeks or so; last week in particular. I am amazed at all that's already happened. Jackson State Park seems like a month, but Chris dropped me off only a week ago. I can almost smell these pictures when I see them, and can go back and re-experience the feelings that were part of those moments. Quite intense!

Week two starts today, and parts of the rugged West are in front of me. At least there wont be tornadoes! Just heat & mountains & snakes...Oh My!


Monday, May 26, 2008

5/26/08: Memorial Day-Glenwood Springs

DAYS 6-7

Still Couchsurfing at Leah's trying to decide rather I want to try to come up with a kayak to take the Colorado River, which is across I-70 from here, into Utah toward Canyonlands or pack up and head either west or north. I hadn't really planned on being in this part of Colorado, so I'm having to retool what few 'plans' I've made. I'm thinking I could get to Rifle, and walk US-6 or head north toward Craig in an effort to get toward Idaho then Oregon. I could also head due west, but then I'm completely reliant on rides to get me thru Utah in general and maybe Salk Lake City in particular. I have no urge to deal with SLC, but must confess I'm curious to see what the people in Utah are like. Somehow I suspect they're not as 'weird' as some people would like us to think!

Sunday was spent lounging around, and taking the free bus around Glenwood going to the thrift store and the Army Surplus to seek out some different rain- pants. Ft. Morgan made me realize that the jogging pants I brought may be a bit insufficient in the long run! I also kind of wish I had kept Friar Chris' big yellow rain hat! In the end I decided it wasn't worth the money to just get some flimsy pants, so I'll go with what I have.

James went with, and he seems to know alot of people here. He splits his time between Leah's, a van, and a tent in the mountains. He also told me how to get a 'food card' from the state; 3- mos @ $160 a month-the day you apply. I'm not going to do that of course, but it struck me that the social 'services' in Glenwood, and Colorado seem remarkable. They have a day center where people can get a shower, Internet access, and even some food. The vagabonds seem to appreciate Glenwood, and it's obvious that they have a rather progressive attitude here. Because of this, I believe, while the 'alternative culture' is thriving, that's why I have yet to see ONE panhandler. It's a good place to be for those who choose to tell society where it can go.

I spent the first money ($20)on food since I left last week too. A box of 12 Cliff Bars, trail mix, loaf of cheap bread, and some summer sausage in anticipation of leaving here this morning, but the weather will be better tomorrow and I want to think a bit more about the possibility of working for a week or two to either get the kayak or add to the funds. Wages are inflated here; $10-$12 almost everywhere and Help Wanted signs too. I just don't know if I can stomach working!

Leah and Rob said I could stay indefinitely, but I'm getting itchy feet and noticing that the longer I'm here, or anywhere, I get a bit off track mentally. I adapt to domestic life, but then the splinter in-the-mind starts to itch. My internal compass reminding me I'm straying off course.

That's something that's always been with me and before I knew what it was, even got to the point of depression! I know there are alot of people who have that sort of "inner voice" screaming at them, but they simply can't interpret it. It's something that's there to guide you and the "Rosetta Stone" presents itself when you start to listen, rather than fight it, blame yourself, and let your indoctrination and the "Ministry of Standards & Practices" convince you that the 'flaw' is YOURS, that you're defective and need to 'get with the program'. Listen, observe, ask honest questions and you'll soon begin to realize that the flaw's not yours-it's the 'program' that needs to be 'fixed', or preferably in my estimation: ignored. Thoreau: "...but I will still make what use and get what benefit from her I can." Nothing immoral about that; the system uses you in the exact same way!

You'll either get that or you wont.

I also signed up on Digihitch.com today to try to find a possible partner. I'd love to have someone I could chat and experience stuff with, but what are the odds?!?!? Ha!

Been a pretty chill couple of days, but yeah...getting a bit restless! I may head out later this afternoon still...it's Memorial Day, so I may be able to catch a ride quite a ways with some people who came to Glenwood for the holiday, but I don't know yet. My indecisiveness is still driving me batshit!

Oh, one funny note although I'm sure they don't think so. Rob forgot to put 'Red' back in his tank Saturday night. Red is the red-tailed Boa Constrictor in the pictures. He's small...maybe 2-3 ft., and pretty harmless...now. We tried desperately to find him, but no luck. So, there's a Boa slithering around the trailer somewhere. They bought a mouse to try to lure him out... but...we'll see about that!

I keep picturing news footage I've seen:

"Next on Action News: A TWENTY- FOOT Boa Constrictor is found beneath a Glenwood Springs trailer! Neighbors had no idea it was there and the mystery of the disappearing neighborhood pets is now believed to be solved..."

Now you know how these things happen!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

5/24/08: And the Road Has Always Led West...

Ft. Morgan to Glenwood Springs, CO

"Into the Bush"? Not so much.

When I got up to I-76 at 11:30, it was as if there were some imaginary boundary I wasn't meant to cross. I discovered there were MORE tornado watches issued for Morgan County, and the rest of NE Colorado so I re-found my familiar spot under the Conoco sign advertising gas for $3.92, and waited for a ride toward Sterling, Julesburg, or ANYTHING near I-80.

The thought that the weather, and my seeming inability to get out of Ft. Morgan for my third day, was making me think that perhaps I should forget Nebraska, Iowa, S. Dakota etc. and head toward Oregon now. One way or another. I figured I'd see if a ride developed while I saw how the weather would play out. I could always walk up Hwy. 52 toward W road if things cleared up later in the day, and if severe weather came through, I could get inside.

In reality the weather began to go to hell. Storms moved in, a public address system that they use to announce severe weather went off, and it got COLD! Plus, the wind was incredibly strong. I found out that a tornado had in fact tried to touch down nearby, but never quite got to the ground after 3 tries. Close enough for me.

It's also Memorial Day weekend, so most of the cars I saw consisted of families who had no interest in picking up timid hitchhikers.

Meet Dennis

At about 6:30, with a new storm warning issued, and it getting dark, I left the gas station to seek shelter, and before I had even gotten out of the parking lot...guess what...a pickup truck hauling a large John Deere stopped across the road and offered me a ride.


I asked how far he was going, and he said "almost to Utah". That was enough for me after 3 days in Ft. Morgan, so I hopped in.

The drivers name was Dennis, and he had been seriously burned I later found out in a oil well accident back in 1980. He seemed nice enough, a guy who seemed like a big talker, but I didn't get a threatening vibe at all, so didn't feel too concerned. I was certain I could whoop him if need be! But about 2 blocks up the road be let's me know that he's had a 'couple of drinks', but "not to worry". I figured, since he was headed toward the business district I'd be able to see how worried I should be rather quickly, and he was driving well, so I just went with it.

The tractor was to be dropped off in Ft. Morgan, along with two HUGE tires (pics) and, of course, he asked me to help with that-which I did. Plus, if he fell off the trailer, I'd know he was in no shape to drive! No one was left at the business, so he just dumped these two massive tires wherever they fell, left the tractor by the chain link fence and left. He was none to happy that they had left for the weekend, because he wasn't getting paid! He attributed it to the tornadoes. I figured it was 6:30 or 7:00 on Memorial Day weekend; I wouldn't have waited either. I kept that insight to myself.

We got on I-76, and headed west- back down the same road I had ridden w/ Chris a few days earlier, and I caught myself thinking, 'what a waste!', but then realized that this was going to be a part of the complete mosaic; journey not the destination thing.

On the way toward Denver, I learned that the 'couple' of what I assumed were beers were in fact huge hits from the Vodka bottle in the console! I then learned that he had JUST gotten a DUI in Oregon, and been in a minor accident after falling asleep near Eagle, and would soon be losing his CDL. GREAT!!!

I began to plot ways of getting out of that truck in Denver where the surroundings were familiar, but just couldn't stand the thought so I decided to ride it out, and see where it took me. Part of the journey...part of the story...blah...blah...I think I'm going to look back on that as a significant moment. We'll see.

I found out that he conveniently had a laptop and nationwide broadband Internet via satellite in the truck, so I convinced him he needed an inverter (not hard to do!) and then began sending off Couchsurfing requests to places along I-70 west of Denver! Breckenridge...Glenwood Springs... Grand Junction. It was late, but for some reason felt pretty confident I'd find something and sure enough I got a call almost immediately from Leah in Glenwood Springs. The initial call was odd because Dennis was driving and I had to act like we had known each other and not let on that I was plotting an escape, lest I be dumped in the middle of nowhere at 9,000 feet with spring snow falling!

He was buzzed & eager to socialize with ANYTHING female, so to motivate him to get me there that night (he was talking about stopping in Eagle) I answered 'yes' when he asked "Does yer gerl have a friend?". It was like meth to his imagination-he was inspired!

From there it was a matter of keeping him on the road and talking so he wouldn't doze off. It was then that the serendipity kicked in. I figured out why he picked me up, and then had a pretty good idea why I was now heading west.

Dennis is a raging alcoholic who want to but has NO idea how to get it under control. He needed someone to talk to that had the courage to be honest with him, share ideas, and offer a clear perspective. Right up my alley! He said I was the first hitcher (even if I wasn't technically hitching-- technically) that he'd picked up in "20,000 miles".

Over the 5 hours or so he became almost dependent. DEFINITELY attached. I hit something he needed. Again, the conversation-as with the night before with Richard-centered on finding answers within yourself rather than Pink Floyd's "someone or something to show you the way"; or Leonard Cohen's "Waiting for the Miracle": "...I waited half my life away." The idea's getting clearer...

He did everything he could to keep me in the truck; even in the room he rented in Glenwood. I however had had enough.

We got to Glenwood Springs about 12:30, he found a room at the Glenwood Suites, I called Leah to arrange a pickup, and leveled with him that I was a bit fed up with the Vodka and needed to move on-without him. I also burst the bubble that he was going to "hook up" with Leah's non-existent "friend". We parted ways with me giving him my cell number, and him promising to take me to Grand Junction the next morning-which I knew would never happen and didn't.

I got to Leah's, and she has a house full! Five other adults, and 4 kids between 3 mos. and seven. I LOVE it here! It's real...the dose of domestic reality I love. And taking me in at the last minute?? Gotta love that.

Today I began to consider hanging out in Glenwood long enough to work to get my kayak or canoe...and since the Colorado River is across the road...Bryce Canyon anyone?? Chris...Chris...Buehler...?

I need to process that and get over my ever present self-doubt and ego watch, but there's a common theme developing even back to the pre-trip days and the conversations with Friar Chris. Now I'm trying to be receptive to see if there's a "why I'm here". I suspect I've found it, but need to think on this one. I need to be sure I'm right.

There's something weird that happens when you're out on the road like this, and it's NOT just me that gets it. Things happen at the right times, and for the right reasons. You have to be open to the possibilities and willing to act on them, fighting your fearful tendencies, culturally indoctrinated wariness of the unknown, and taking your 'plans' & dogma and throwing them out the window. It's a challenge that's difficult to grasp at first, but the freedom is INTOXICATING!

I was discussing this with my friend Amber today, who's headed to Italy to WWOOF next week, much to the chagrin of her family. Use common sense, listen to your instincts, and live.

Me the arrogant philosopher after five days; get used to it I guess!

Friday, May 23, 2008

5/23/08: Ft. Morgan-Homeless Shelter

DAY #4

As it turned out, the 'events of the day' were decided as soon as I walked out the door and was putting the rain fly on my pack.

A woman walking into the library saw the pack, asked if I was passing thru and needed a place to get out of the weather. I saw that as a stroke of luck; the familiar right thing at the right time, so said 'yep!'. She directed me to a place called 'Caring Ministries' here in town saying they had a shelter where I could get inside for the night, and even eat some real food.

I walked up there, filled out their paperwork so they could do a background check to be sure I wasn't a fugitive and then walked to the 'Chara House'. I got there an hour and a half before they opened for the day and called Chris and Eric to let them know I wasn't being taken by tornado to Oz. Chris tried to warn me off of the shelter thinking I'd be ripped off, but I looked at it as to much of a coincidence to be shown that place at THAT particular time, so I ignored it.

Turns out I was right to. The people there are the types that I can relate to. None of them were 'homeless'. They were mostly just out of prison trying to put their lives back together. More of a halfway house than homeless shelter. The people there were friendly, helpful, and to a man seemed to have a realistic view on life because of where they had come from. Obviously I couldn't get to know everyone intimately because I was only there for the night, but they all were respectable human beings. It's funny, but it reminded me of some of the people I met while working as a carnie in March. People tend to paint the pictures they want to paint of people based on stereotypes and urban legend, without getting to know anyone. I can see the look on a few (very few) peoples faces when they see me and my pack. "Get a job!"

The supervisor's name was Richard Fairchild, a local pastor who goes there just about every night from 6pm to 8am to keep an eye on things, and counsel the residents. He's a good guy, and we wound up chatting for a couple hours after everyone went to bed. I had to be careful with my comments because he struck me as a bit of a fundamentalist and didn't want to ignite a Holy War! He reminded me a bit of the guy who runs "Salvation Mountain" in "Into the Wild"...although not as "syphilis- crazy"!

The conversation seemed to revolve around the occasional conflict between helping people who just wont help themselves. Responsibility etc. I found his views to be a bit contradictory because he refused to CREDIT himself for anything; attributing everything to God. Everything was externalized. Nothing he believed seemed to come from within. There seems to be a bit of a disconnect in the two viewpoints. Crediting God for everything good, yet if something bad happens, it's either unrelated to God or because we 'don't know Him'. Seems as though he wants it both ways-you can't assign blame without also being able to assign credit to the individual.

This is the kind of religion that appears to appeal to those who wish to simply punish themselves in an attempt to gain the promised Paradise after death. I'm sad for those people because life's meant to be LIVED, but at the same time it's always nice to meet people who are driven to do the right thing, and are DOING it.

I may sound overly critical of him, as if this were the ONLY things we talked about, and of course they weren't. He's doing some wonderful work for very little in return. These people need the help he provides, as do the occasional nomad that wanders through! Again, it seemed that through conversation with someone, my ideas become a bit more solid. A little more of that self-doubt chips away, and I'm more certain I'm on the right path. When a pastor of a church, whom you don't necessarily agree with, calls you 'intelligent, educated (ha!), and blessed', it makes you wonder.

I'm glad I stayed there last night, and I hope these people find their way-- whatever that may be. If you want to donate to them here's the address:

Chara House
attn: Richard Fairchild
110 Brush Ave.
Ft. Morgan, CO 80701

I've been in Ft. Morgan 2 1/2 days, and now it's time to move on. I suppose I'm going to pick up the ADT and head west for a bit toward Sterling. The forecast is for thunderstorms possibly popping up that way later today, but I don't mind that. As long as the tornadoes stay FARRRR away, I'm fine! I'm also thinking about heading north a bit sooner than I expected- into Nebraska then maybe South Dakota. Always wanted to see it...

A big thanks to everyone in Ft. Morgan who I ran into, especially here at the library. There are some VERY nice people up this way, and remarkably have not found ONE person who's been rude. I'm not surprised though. Chris and Gary ( www.walkingman.org ) said the same thing. People's tendencies are to be friendly and helpful, with fewer exceptions than we're led to believe.

I should point out that despite all my worries, the weather here turned out beautiful last night! It's a gorgeous morning, although a bit windy. Next stop: Sterling...but we know how that goes!

I now walk into the...bush.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

5/22/08: Ft. Morgan, CO

DAY #3

Today's a waiting game. Most of this part of the state and into Nebraska is under a tornado watch. It's significantly cooler here, and that wind is STILL howling. The clouds are moving in different directions depending on their heights, so I've resolved to ride it out here unless I can figure out a ride to the rest stop near Sterling.

I've also learned that there was a tornado near Greeley this morning or early afternoon. A pretty large one that flipped semis etc. In case you don't know, Greeley was my original starting point and/ or destination because the ADT runs close to there. More severe storms are forecast for the area today, so tonight promises to be interesting. If I need to, I found a tunnel that runs beneath I-76 that will probably flood, but will protect from wind perfectly. Not TOO keen on that idea, but it's a last resort. This all makes we wonder about the wisdom of heading into the Plains. Maybe I should just head north NOW, then toward Oregon? That, by the way, has become my pseudo-destination...eventually.

I haven't done much other than tear down the site, charge the phone at the city park, and hike to the library. The REAL events of the day are yet to come...


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

5/21/08: Jackson State Park to Ft. Morgan, CO

DAY 2:

Got up at 8:30 after sleeping on and off most of the night. Felt pretty rested though after relaxing the day before. The weather was obviously changing because the wind howled all night, and was coming directly out of the East/ SE... changing periodically. But the thing that didn't change was that it was STRONG! All day... I decided to take mt time getting out of there, and decided to hit the road at noon. I loaded up and walked for a few miles feeling pretty happy about things, especially that I was FINALLY doing this. The day was beautiful despite the headwind. Probably 80- 85 and sunny.

I got 2-3 miles up the road, took a break remembering Chris' system, and shortly after I started again a pair of elderly gentlemen who had been at the campground offered me a ride to Wiggins, which is on I-76. I had no interest in the interstate, nor the 8-mile walk back to meet up with 144; which is part of the American Discovery Trail, so I politely asked to be let out there which was MAYBE 3 miles from where the picked me up! I believe I was seen as insane, but out I went.

Literally 5 minutes later, IF that long, another car stopped to offer a ride all the way to Ft. Morgan. They seemed nice, so I got in and learned that Rolondo is a pastor at a church in "Morgan" (as they called it) and has a radio show on Sundays. What a nice couple they were, and they even let me snap their picture AND dropped me at the library. I came in to play with the internet a bit, then figured out how to get back on course and headed down Main St. toward I-76.

Here's where I MAY have made my first REAL mistake. I was intoxicated by the kindness I had already received that day, and wanted to see if it would continue, so I spontaneously decided to plant myself at the Conoco station next to the I-77 East on- ramp to see if anyone would stop. Noting at 4:30...5:30...6:30. By then I had learned the seriousness of the weather. There was a "Storm Team" from a TV station...in GREEN BAY!...here. They were following some storm chasers and thought there was a good possibility of tornado activity here either that night or the next day. By then the realization that I just wasn't going to be offered a ride hit, and since I'd wasted 3-4 hours sitting, I'd now have to figure something out in Ft. Morgan, or on the fringes.

I had found out from the Storm Team that there was a park on the other side of I-76, so I hoofed it there and discovered that there were hiking trails that went along the S. Platte River. I followed the trails, then quickly found a suitable place to exit them and hunt around in the bush to find a place I could be concealed, and shielded from at least some of the wind that was still blowing...

Once I found the site, I quickly set up and got inside. After I chatted w/ Laina and while I was updating my journal, a FIERCE lightning storm came through. There was VERY little rain, which surprised me, but the lightning was constant to the point it was as if I were inside a strobe light! Keep in mind...this is my first night solo stealth camping, so I had no idea what to expect.

Thankfully the storm was over quickly, and just as I was dozing off...VOICES!!! Are you KIDDING me? Who the Hell would be out on a night like that...except me, of course...

That spooked me a bit, because about the LAST thing I wanted was to deal with drunken vagrants or teenagers, so I hopped out of the tent and eventually deduced that they were probably up on the hiking trails. Why??? Who knows. I can tell you this though, that my initial fear and anxiety is now quickly turning to something akin to anger to solve the problems. I was more pissed off that these people were keeping me from sleeping and ready to deal with it to get some sleep! That's a good thing in my estimation.

I finally got to sleep and heard NOTHING the rest of the night...


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

5/20/08: Day 1- Finally on the Road!

Jackson State Park, Colorado

I'll have to be brief, as my time's running short. Chris dropped me off at Jackson Lake State Park early Tuesday morning. What is it with Tuesdays??!?!?! I immediately realized I'd left my cell phone in the car, and the rest of the day was spent trying to contact people and reading/ chilling out. The weather was perfect, and overall it was a nice, calm day. Chris drove back up from Denver, brought the cell phone, hung out briefly, and I wrote in my journal and slept.

The main thing about that day was the realization that despite my best intentions, I'm still tethered to technology more than I'd like to be. Initially, the thought of not having the cell phone was horrifying! I almost couldn't fathom not having one, then I realized my thinking was WAYYYY flawed-even if I couldn't help it!

Do you ever think about just HOW dependent we are on cell phones etc.? There was a time not so long ago when people KNEW their friends phone numbers, and could rattle them off! Or at least had them written down somewhere. When I went to call someone without that phone and could remember NOT ONE NUMBER, I realized that the theory in Technopoly is dead-on: with every new technology we lose some skill and some aspect of self-reliance. Makes me wonder about how "progress" is defined!

Think about how helpless we'd be if EVERY kind of technology we depend upon were to suddenly vanish. We'd be simple prey. A free man isn't a dependent one; adapt or die! We tend to look upon earlier generations as 'ignorant'. Really? Or are WE the holders of real ignorance? I'd be happy to have that debate with you.

How's that for doom & gloom?

I did alot of thinking about the bike trip as well, and how the 'first day' went so well, only to drop off the next when things got a bit challenging, and took the attitude that every challenge is part of the story. I was happy that I got to finish Don Quixote and send it back w/ Chris too.

That was one other thing: about 1/2 mile down the road from the drop off I had a LONG list of the extra crap (like electric clippers) I had in my bag that I simply did NOT need! Lesson: stick to the essentials! Comfort items become uncomfortable on your back, and slow you down!

In retrospect, it was probably the best way I could have started.