"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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

7/28-7/29/08: Denver V-Human Kapital

I should have just gone back to The Friary and gone to bed, but I saw that coming so there is no use complaining about it. After I've complained about it.

Eric showed up at 8:00 and we were off to work. I was out of it all day relying on aspirin and coffee to get me through. We did a few yards, boarded up a busted window, and I caught some much-needed winks in his truck while he was at Lowe's. The day was fine, but it could not end quickly enough! The day was worse for Chris; he had to open and was at work by 5:45!

Eric dropped me off at 3:00 and Chris was already home and in bed recovering. I decided to do the same, and got a few hours of sleep before we headed down to the coffee shop to get caffeine in our systems and say hi to Angela. We then went back home and watched Idiocracy and part of Easy Rider before Angela showed up to hang out and play Monopoly. Exciting times for exciting people!

And that was Monday. Good stuff, eh?

Tuesday, on the other hand, was much better. Work again started at 8am, and Eric and I were right back to our old ways, talking about the Human Condition and politics while observing how people live while driving all over the Denver metro. It's generally ideas and debate theorizing about where we're headed as a culture, and discussing how people are convinced to chase all these foreclosed houses we maintain for the banks, plus the cars, TVs, and the rest of the "American Dream". The whole time they are convinced that THIS is the "essence" of life! Work the best part of your lives only to take whatever wealth you accumulate and hand it to someone else...then wonder why life feels so "empty".

“America spells competition; join us in our blind ambition; get yourself a brand new motor car”

These discussions are the part of the job that appeals to me, and has for a couple of years.

This was a particularly intense day of discussion. Chris had reminded me of something I’d thought of a long time ago with an offhanded comment that a friend made to him about the IRS and when/why it was created. It HAS NOT been there from inception. Then, while Eric and I were sitting in a particular house the conversation turned to the systemic method of keeping people in a cooperative state of mental slavery. We discussed the selling, then exploiting, of fear. Encouraging, even fostering, intentional (willful) ignorance by defining and marketing an idea of ‘happiness and success’. An imposed definition that anesthetizes critical thought, and merely benefits the economic elite encouraging you to emulate them, while at the same time demanding you pay them 'tribute'.

“There’s room at the top they are telling you still…”


YOU foot the bill to sustain that system, and with that money they, while in the same breath telling you that ‘socialized’ health care is ‘too expensive’, provide Corporate Socialism to oil companies, failing airlines, banks. They ‘provide’ a fabricated war that conveniently benefits, with BILLIONS of YOUR dollars, the conveniently well-connected Capitalists that are conveniently poised to make obscene profits, while 4,000+ mostly poor Americans and countless poor Iraqis lie dead. Moreover, what happened to the cheap gas and WMD they were promising with the war?

Your ‘tax dollars at work’. However, break a leg without insurance?

Fuck you. Pay me.” (Name THAT movie)

Combine the Corporate Socialism with the Iraq War and you could college-educate and provide health care to EVERY AMERICAN. Think they really want to do something about cutting dependence of ‘foreign oil’? Bullshit. Prove it. Don’t talk to me about it ‘costing billions of dollars’ to retrofit decaying auto plants in Detroit to produce wind turbines thereby replacing lost manufacturing jobs by creating a new American industry: American jobs to solve American problems. Ask them why they outsourced THESE jobs! Or solar panels on every home?

‘Billions of dollars?' Fuck. You.

Health care, education, and sustainable energy. Add your own. These are the problems that REAL people are concerned with. Yet there are no results beyond the high pitch rhetoric we hear from Obama and Clinton. Rhetoric to get elected. However, when the vast majority demand a different direction for their tax dollars, health care rather than dead Marines and Iraqis, health care rather than more corporate millionaires, and repeatedly nothing changes, the definition becomes clear: taxation without representation. You have elected ‘representatives’ in name, but it isn’t YOU they’re representing. I believe it was Lenin who said that democracy only gives the illusion of choice: the real decision making is done in the smoke filled closets behind the visible Halls of Power. How pathetic is it that, in America, we can find more truth in the prophecies and observations of Marx and Lenin than Bush, Cheney, or Clinton? I’ll add Obama to that list in about a year, don’t worry.

One final thought. If you REALLY want to see your value as a human being beyond the definition “Human Capital”, suck it up and take a walk to a homeless shelter. To the prisons. To any street corner in any city. Go chat with my friend Pat in San Luis Obispo. Have a conversation with an elderly person in an Assisted Living Prison. That is the true estimation, at its base level, of how you are viewed as a human being in this culture; in this ‘system’. Your human worth is equal to the capital you produce, then spend, then produce: consume.

That is the answer to “Todd, why do you hate the system so much?” My last (supposedly progressive Santa Fe) radio boss asked me that question. He asked me too late to get the ladder climber answer he sought. I had already figured out that money does not define me, will not turn me into a whore. Ever. I was fired within a month.

The fact that I laughed when I heard "it's not working out" sent "Skippy" reeling. I'll never forget the look of bewilderment caused by actually seeing someone happy about being fired! It was as though he was seeing a creature from Mars stepping out of the Mothership; something a simple product of capitalism cannot possibly comprehend. I was supposed to be crushed, right? He'd just taken all my money away! What he did, in fact, was give me my life back by doing the hard part for me: forcing me to break the chains of monetary dependency and materialism. He also freed me from the absurd duty of feeding his pet pig.

“On bended knee is no way to be free…”

***END RANT*** brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

This was an intense day that broke me out of my mini-funk. I also noticed that the same intensity, quickening anger, recurred while I was having this discussion! Normally I am quite calm when I’m sober and have these conversations with people I agree with. I was anything but calm this day however. I noticed my language changing. My tone, which normally is even keeled, was full of disgust and disdain. My voice steadily got louder to the point of shouting. Like with Hippie McDouche, I had tapped into something. I was beginning to, perhaps, actually find a few splinters.

As is usually the case, my disgust had enough venom to go around. It wasn’t just directed at the system and predatory capitalists, but also at the left. It’s a special kind of hate I have for THESE sheep. So special in fact, that it deserves its very own special rant.

The rest of the day was uneventful. Friar Chris and I came to the conclusion that sitting at Barracudas every night ran counter to both of our best interests so we decided on conversation and a couple of games of Risk instead.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

7/27/08: Denver V

The bus back to Denver was scheduled to leave at about noon and I spent the morning repacking the backpack trying to swap out some gear and eliminate what I didn’t need.

The nearly two weeks I had now been off the road had been oddly lacking in the previous obsession with routes and the destination planning. It occurred to me that I had eliminated all of the pressing destinations that I just “had to see”, and now was struggling to find another! The only places in this country I had yet to see were upper New England, and Montana/The Dakotas. It seemed like neither place was really calling me. I didn’t know what to make of this, but figured it would become apparent with time.

Getting on the bus was a bit more difficult this time after spending some nice, productive time at home. Laina and I seemed to have found a happy medium where we both now understood what to expect. I knew I was doing the right thing however; there is nothing for me to do in Santa Fe now but return to where I’d already been personally and resume counting the days until death!

The ride back here was again uneventful except for a minor, amusing experience involving another redneck. I’d chatted with this guy only minimally at a couple of smoke breaks, but by the time we reached Colorado Springs he apparently thought that we were both members of the unspoken White Brotherhood. He began rattling off race jokes thinking that he was endearing himself to me with his well-practiced humor. I found myself just staring at him, wanting to explain to him that 1955 was far behind, but thought it better just to say “I know a few people who would still like these jokes.” I saw the same vapor lock in his eyes that I had seen in Hippie McDouche. I rather pitied this guy because I knew this was a product of his culture and upbringing, and the fact that he was from the South. I had seen this “assumed racism” while growing up in small-town Michigan, and have numerous anecdotes about how accepted it still is from my time living in Florida. I tried avoiding him the rest of the way, giving only yes/no answers when he tried again to bond when we arrived in Denver.

I’d arranged for Eric to pick me up, and got back to the Friary at about 9:20. I quickly dropped off the stuff, and made tracks to his coffee shop to say hi before it closed and to see if he wanted to go out for some drinks. I felt a growing urge to blow off some steam, even though it made NO sense since I had t get up early. “Just a couple… I have to work tomorrow” I said.


I should have known better. “Just a couple” turned into closing the bar. We ran into an interesting old school hippie while there. I give the Nuevo Hippies much grief, and abhor the 60’s sellouts-turned-Capitalists, but for those who have held on to their ideals through the years, despite their systemic annihilation, I have a great respect. I am always curious to get their perspective. I kept asking Catfish, “What the hell happened to you guys?” He only would answer that he didn’t know because he was in Federal Prison! I liked him even more.

I staggered home at about 2:45 while Chris went off to buy a bike, managing somehow to set the clock for 7:30 before I fell asleep entirely too drunk.

Friday, July 18, 2008

7/18-7/27/08: Another Santa Fe Interlude

The bus to Santa Fe left at 10:50 and after being up most of the night, getting up and repacked was no small feat! I felt like I was running a bit late, since I had to hike to 17th and Arapahoe from Capital Hill, when I finally heard from Eric for the first time since I had been back. I had called him from Ken's truck hoping to get together with him, but that's how it goes sometimes.
The conversation was brief, but productive. He told me he had just canned his helper and if I decided to come back to Denver before I set off again to let him know and I could work to stash some trip money. I was geeked, but wished I had known before I had arranged to leave; I could have just stayed.

The trip was typical Greyhound. Nothing exciting. The bus now takes the route through Taos exclusively, because of the price of gas they eliminated the express route through Raton, so I completed the full circle when the bus passed my old road on 285 in Pojoaque.
The first thing I noticed about being back in Santa Fe was the same disconnect as Denver, but now mixed with pure disdain for the city. I do not like much about Santa Fe anymore. I get the same feeling I got with Hippy McDouche, except this is worse. McDouche probably does not know any better. Santa Fe cleverly and insidiously markets its bullshit under the brand name Liberalism. The City Different? HA! The only thing different is its method of exploitation: Stealth Predatory Capitalism thinly veiled beneath a cleverly schemed and marketed "progressive" image. My friend was right a year ago: Santa Fe's dead and has been for years. There is a rant coming on. One that is sure to enrage the Chamber of Commerce! (See the 'San Luis Obispo' post for more Chamber Fun!) I also have begun another radio rant that I cut out of the La Grande post…mostly…and may publish all three eventually. All of these are related, and have a common theme. 25-points if you can guess what it is!

Leaving the bus station, I was in for one of the strangest moments I have ever experienced. Laina moved into Santa Fe from Pojoaque a few days after I left. I had only seen our new place twice: empty.
Walking in was bizarre! Yeah, that was my stuff, but it felt like I was Couchsurfing again. I never got over that, and began to develop a sense that I was indeed homeless! I was not comfortable there at all, and would not be for a few days.

Friday night was spent downloading my pictures and trying to figure out why my computer refused to start. We tried to get reacquainted ourselves while at the same time attempting
 to figure out why, again, I felt so disconnected and uncomfortable in what was supposedly my own home. I was not successful.

The rest of the weekend was the same. I left the house Saturday to replace the computer's power supply and had an intensely bitter taste in my mouth at sight and even smell of Santa Fe. There is nothing left in Santa Fe for me that's outside of my four walls and I began to think about how that changed.

It seems pointless to spend more time on the weekend because that is pretty much it. Laina asked if I wanted to do something, anything, but I essentially refused to leave the house not wanting to expose myself to that toxic dump of pretentiousness.
It got to the point Saturday night where I began packing the backpack again pissed off that I'd PAID to return HERE, when I could be in Denver working! Laina tried to help me through that, but there was nothing she could do. I then figured I could begin consolidating the written journal for the online version to occupy my mind, but did not even start that until Monday.

The positive aspect of the first part of the trip home was the continued theme: calm combined with rare but intense moments of irritation. Plus, Laina and I were getting along better than we had in a long time simply because I was less generally irritated. My irritation had always tended to be all-encompassing. Now it seems to have a target. That made life at home much more tranquil.

It appears, also, that the time we have spent apart doing our own things has helped her too. She seems a lot more sure of herself and a bit more comfortable in her own skin. I do not think that the calmness trait changes were all one sided!

I finally began slowly updating the journal on Monday, although I still refused to exit the house! That came Tuesday when I went to the library to upload some stuff, and to get some cigs.

Tuesday, Laina also let me know that one of her co-workers, Cynthia, wanted someone to install a gravel yard at her house and that I could make some money while I was there. I had spoken to Eric over the weekend, and judging by my allergic reaction to all things Santa Fe, I decided that I should get the hell out of there the next weekend, choosing Sunday. I could go to work with him the following Monday, staying once again at The Friary. That fit nicely with Cynthia’s schedule, so I went to work for her Thursday and Friday. We intended to go over there on Saturday, but were interrupted by the remnants of Hurricane Dolly. Yeah, a hurricane dumping rain on New Mexico. Great timing Dolly.

Overall, the second half of this Santa Fe Interlude was much better than the first. Laina and I had some nice conversations. She said something very important: that she sees what I'm getting out of this, sees some effects, and now knows this isn't about her. I had been saying that all along, but now she finally gets that. She also had noticed that sense of calm; less restlessness.

I believe that it is borne of a now practical belief in the volumes of ideas I developed over the years of writing, thinking, and stewing. It has all moved beyond theory now. These ideas have also been reinforced by the experiences in Santa Fe over the last year+; seeing the charlatan behind the Progressive Curtain and the reality that there is no substantial change coming ‘within the system’. Those that tell you otherwise are merely tools of the system itself. Chomsky uses the media as a beautiful example of this defense mechanism in Manufacturing Consent: the system rewards those who act in its interest, even if they do so under the guise of "change". 

Right Scott? Right Bob? There’s a special place in Hell for the likes of you and I’d rather, and will, live under a bridge with honorable, urine-soaked castaways than breathe the sweet smelling cyanide of your deceit, ideological and ecological for-profit exploitation, and selling of the cultural fraud branded as “The American Dream”. Does that come with a side order of Freedom Fries?

That disgust and conviction would be driven home with unimaginable force after my return to Denver on Sunday. I would also put a definition to this seemingly inexplicable intolerance, and perhaps ultimately set up the framework for the next phase of this...whatever it is. It seems a bit odd and disingenuous to just call it a "trip" now.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

7/17/08: Denver-The Hippie McDouche Incident

I had continued to notice the frequent irritation with certain things, but oddly that I ALSO had a new sense of overall calm. I have been known over the years to have a bit of an edge, and let little things provoke me. That had stopped since I had been back, at least as it pertained to the insignificant. I was content to let life drift by, worrying about what I could control and seemed important. However, there were certain instances when that calmness and serenity annihilated at seemingly inexplicable times. Stores seem to provoke these times!

I walked down to King Soopers to get some cigarettes and to stop in to the coffee shop to hang out for a bit. Outside of the Capital Hill King Soopers, there are usually activists collecting signatures and money, for whatever cause they’re pimping that day. Today it was for my least favorite organization not named PETA: Greenpeace.

I saw the guy well before I went in, and felt myself getting angry just at the sight of this seemingly college-age kid wearing the hippie uniform complete with the Greenpeace upper- body billboard. He used the, “you care about the environment, right?” line to try to guilt me into stopping to hear his schpeel and of course grab my signature. I said something to the effect of “Yeah, but I hate Greenpeace.” They are trained to respond to these negative reactions to their activist panhandling by saying, “Well, you have NICE day too…” with the now- standard upward inflection on “too”!

It was such a canned, pre- arranged response from this little leftie puppet that before I knew it, my rage had built to the point where my mouth had lost its filter. I told him, in a rather loud voice, “I’ll have a VERY nice day if you’ll go fuck yourself.” With the upward inflection on “fuck yourself”. He had vapor lock, not knowing how to handle this. Keep in mind he was in a public setting, at a business, dealing with someone who was obviously belligerent toward his organization. So much so, that this someone was willing to cause quite a scene if he continued to press the issue.

Greenpeace, PETA, and extremist organizations like them are constantly fighting a P.R. war. They’ve both done more harm to the “causes” they claim to advocate simply by appearing to be ecoterrorists, all the while exploiting the naive, idealistic, well-intentioned sheep who are too young know better than to support them with labor, money, and signatures. Having a loud argument at the entrance to a supermarket with someone who simply wanted to be left alone would NOT exactly be a public relations coup, especially for these wannabe extremists.

As I walked inside, I noticed that the manager had heard the exchange and quickly walked outside to speak with Hippie McDouche. Mr. Manager was doing all of the talking. He did not seem pleased. Mr. McDouche remained, but I doubt he continued to use the obnoxious line with which his handlers provided him.

After I had left the supermarket I was a little disturbed, but also quite encouraged. I was not disturbed by fact that I had yelled at a puppet with Greenpeace’s paw up its ass, but at how FAST, and the degree to which I had gotten so angry. It was a bit frightening, and not in character for me. Usually it takes weeks for me to build up that kind of anger! The only conclusion I could come to, at the time, was realizing how far I’d come from being that Liberal Agenda Dog myself a few years ago.

Sometimes the things that bother you the most are the things that remind you of yourself. There was more to it, but that was the only thing I could come up with at the time.

The encouragement came from the fact that I obviously had tapped into or developed some resources I had been lacking: crystallized ideas and more importantly unwavering confidence in them. The self doubt that has plagued me forever, as it pertains to action, is drastically dissipating. That was encouraging, but only the first example of many that would show me that I now had to learn how to deal with it!

I walked back to the Friary feeling quite ornery, but with no other confrontations, thankfully. We went to Barracuda’s later and I was feeling quite agitated and unsettled, not only about the incident at the store, but with everything that surrounded being in Denver. I told Chris what had happened, and he just chuckled saying he thought that I had possibly gained more focus. I was not sure. I just knew that I was unexpectedly perturbed and could not figure out why!

We managed to stay out until 2am helping Angela celebrate her birthday, and I had decided that I was going to take the bus back to Santa Fe the following morning. I thought that maybe some time back there would provide a foundation for reflection and comparison so I could process, and maybe figure out what exactly had changed.
It was a quick and surprising 3-days in Denver. It was obvious by now that I NEEDED the interlude this time and that I was entering uncharted territory with myself.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

7/16/08: Denver IV-Planting the Redwood

I spent all afternoon transferring old posts and setting up the new blog. It took the whole day, but I was happy with the way things turned out. I continued to try to crop and edit more of the pictures too. I began to sniff around, a tiny bit, for some possible temp work and figure out days to get back to Santa Fe. I figured that the sooner I got back there, the less money I'd spend and thus the more I'd have put back for August. I'd pretty much assumed I'd go back there until 7/31, then leave from Albuquerque on I-40, riding with Laina on her way to the airport. That, of course, unless some dramatic development led to finding a solid way to make money.

I hing out at Chris's coffee shop for a bit then stopped off at the grocery store for some cigarettes and Coke, since Angela had offered to cook us dinner after the got off of work. I was still trying to figure out the disconnected feeling, when something else began to manifest: a surging and intense frustration leading to anger.

I found myself getting VERY annoyed VERY quickly at having to deal with the inefficiency at the supermarket! Stupid, I know-- and knew THEN. But I couldn't help it. I was utterly pissed off at finding myself re-engaged and plugged back into the system. Even if I really wasn't. I was going from my metaphorical jungle back into the zoo, and I was NOT adjusting well! I dumped the Coke off in the nearest aisle, and got out of there immediately, going instead across the street to the more expensive convenience store to get the Coke to mix with Friar's Jim Beam.

I was curious before I got back how exactly this trip would change me. I now had my first indication and that example worried me a bit. Why the quick building anger? What exactly was that from and why was it seeming so difficult to readjust? Was this just a temporary reaction to the change in environment, and if so why did it not happen when I left? To top it off, it bothered me that every other time I'd stopped in Denver, it had a positive effect on me. This was really strange!

We got to bed pretty late and pretty drunk, but before we did Chris and I hatched a spontaneous (sort of!) plan. Chris finally acknowledged that perhaps the idea of us traveling together, and soon, was in fact a good idea. I had been suggesting the idea since April or May, but for numerous reasons Chris had thought it best to concentrate on his plan of opening a coffee shop in Denver. Something had changed, and we began to discuss methods, funding, possible destinations and the likely as well as possible outcomes. The first idea was Europe. But, thanks to our weak dollar, that would be beyond expensive and I really didn't like the thought of following in the footsteps of every smelly college-age hippie who'd done the 'backpack Europe thing'.

Then, there was Mexico. Cheap goods. Lots of history. And...marketed FEAR. The thought of cutting through the stereotypical bullshit and fear-mongering to discover the reality of the country, and the people, appealed to me a great deal. Chris, too. I was eager to continue what I'd started out West: discovering exactly how many people were as fed up with this system, government, and hamster-on-the-wheel existence as I am. I'd also like to get a firsthand look at conditions and attitudes in Latin America, and how the "real" people view us. I'm sick of over-hyped, loaded anecdotes.

With that, we figured why stop there? If we timed it right, we could continue on to South America and possibly get to Rio in time for Carnival. Then there's Peru and Machu Picchu, Argentina, Chile, and Guatemala and Costa Rica on the way. A true adventure, especially considering I speak next to NO Spanish. Not to mention Portuguese!

Nothing was set in stone, but we had set the possible framework to do something very significant and I could still venture off toward the Atlantic in the meantime. Chris's sister is getting married in November, so we set December 1 as the (very) tentative launch date, of course contingent on Chris deciding that he is 100% sure that he wants to do it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

7/15/08: Denver IV

Everything went according to plan. We were up at 6am and on I-25 heading into Colorado by 6:45. The ride from Cheyenne was a quick 90-mile sprint, and I felt better about this controversial little decision the closer we got to the city. A good sign!

Ken and I exchanged information, ju
st as I had with Cesar, and we promised to stay in touch, which we have. He also indicated, as did Cesar, that if we were ever in the same area that I'd be welcome to ride wherever he was going.

He dropped me at the 23rd St. exit and I began the short trek from I-25 to Capital Hill via the free shuttle that runs up the 16th St. Mall downtown. When I got to the Friary at around 9, Chris was of course still sacked out, since he rarely rises before dusk thanks to his chronic addiction to amphetamines and Catholic Porn.

We got caught up and after a couple of hours, that was that. I collapsed for most of the rest of the afternoon, then began sorting through the 1300+ pictures I'd taken. Not alot of excitement. We went out for drinks after he got out of work, and I began what would turn out to be a lengthy process of processing.

I noticed almost immediately that there was indeed something different about how things...felt. Smaller. I felt like an observer who was completely disconnected from everything which was odd because whenever I had returned to Denver before the trip, I had felt that cozy familiarity of 'home'. Not this time. As this Interlude continued, I'd learn that this oddity was FAR from isolated and it would soon be VERY apparent, disturbingly in some ways, how much I'd been affected by what I had experienced.

Monday, July 14, 2008

7/14/08: The Great Idaho Escape-Ken

I woke up at about the same time as always, and went through the familiar coffee/hygiene routine while feeling quite energized after the intensity of Sunday. This day had a different feel then the last few; the optimism of the night before had hung on.

I ran into my nameless trucker friend from Kentucky almost immediately. He was still hanging out, waiting to hear when he could drop his load and move on. We did not discuss a ride, or much of anything beyond the usual pleasantries.

I also ran into Richard the Racist again. We chatted for a bit, and he offered me another pack of smokes and handed me $5 unexpectedly. My spending habits had changed drastically since the US-30 ‘Come to Jesus’. I had spent money on nothing but coffee since Saturday. Richard’s $5 had more than replaced that, and again I was struck by the generosity. He was getting ready to head to Soda Springs, and then Rexburg and I revived my efforts to convince him that a ride would be a wise career move. No luck there! With a handshake, he was off.

I lingered at the table for a couple of hours updating the journal, drinking coffee, and in the end finally decided to replace the atlas that had been lost in Cambria, CA. They had the 2008 Atlas on clearance for $4, and with the money Richard had just given me, it seemed like a wise investment considering I’d paid $5 for only an Idaho map a few days before.

Shortly after noon, I’d had enough of the table. I’d not gotten anywhere with the potential ride with "Kentucky", and thought it was time to try the road. I had by now come to terms with returning to Denver. There was motivation in the fact that I may be able to work and put some money away for a week or two while sitting on the cash I still had, thereby preparing for August in a way that would leave no chance of reliving recent monetary dramas! Plus, it was becoming apparent that I needed time to process everything, not to mention (as I mention) the memory card in the camera getting full and the online journal needed a massive update. An opportunity to "pull things together." The self- expectations had waned with the shift in perspective back to that of a "passenger".

I found some cardboard and made a couple of signs, one saying “Cokeville, I-80, Cheyenne” then hunkered down in the sun at the Flying J entrance not sure what to expect. People drove by, came then went, and I sat there with a serene calm that had been missing for a few days. I had missed that!

At about 2:00, I heard a voice behind me trying to get my attention asking where I was trying to get. The voice belonged to an apparently gregarious, outgoing driver--who, because of my headphones, seemingly came out of nowhere. I told him I was trying to get toward Denver and asked where he was going. He said toward I-80, then all the way to West Virginia and that I could ride with him if I liked.

I think I giggled like a little girl. Then I laughed. Loudly.

Ken looked at me as though he was taken aback by my joy as I said the first of a few hundred thank yous. I stowed my pack, and made a quick trip inside to use the restroom, say goodbye to my new cashier friend and to let her know I’d finally found a way out of there.

Ciel had never made it back and I realized, to my lasting disappointment, that I had not gotten a picture of her or thanked her properly for her conversation. Sometimes the seemingly most insignificant things can have an incredible effect other people, and we will have no clue. I am sure she had no idea what that little talk meant to me.

Then Ken and I were on the road: east on US-30 toward Wyoming. I was finally seeing the places I had noticed on the map. Lava Hot Springs, Soda Springs, and eventually the Wyoming state line, and Cokeville: the next Flying J I had set as an intermittent goal if I ever got a lift out of McCammon. I also finally got a chance to see the terrain changing as we moved east. I had considered walking out of McCammon eventually and could now see that it would not have been that bad… yet.

Ken and I got along very well. We didn’t struggle to keep conversation going at all. He was one of the surprisingly small numbers of black truckers that I had seen come through and he made the same observation I had: Idaho is quite white bread. He said he was from Tampa, Florida and had a 20-year-old son back home, which surprised me because he looked closer to my age than he really was. We’re both blessed with looking a lot younger than we really are!

This ride began to remind me of my ride out of Wyoming with Cesar back in May. As we crossed from Idaho into Wyoming, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt a sense of accomplishment. I had gotten out of Idaho and was now back in Wyoming. I cannot say that there was any previous longing to return, and since we had not discussed how far I was going with him, I had visions of hitching through Rawlins again soon! Looking at the terrain of western Wyoming however made me thank Ken again. Nothing but the kind of desert that reminded me of Nevada and Utah. No settlements. No water. No anything! Not the kind of place you want to find yourself stranded.

After a few hours, there was I-80 again. From here it was a straight shot east to Cheyenne. Somewhere along the way, Ken asked me how far I wanted to go. I had left that open to him, and figured I would go as far as he was comfortable. I answered something to that effect, and said I would probably go all the way to Indianapolis if he’d let me! To my utter shock, he indicated that he would.

This triggered a flood of scenario building in my head. I’d not even considered it a remote possibility that I’d be getting that far east that quickly. I began to think about where exactly I’d go if I got to Indiana. Laina's trip home was still 2 ½ weeks away. As I considered the developments, the irony was not lost on me that I had gone from vagabond pauper to hitting the Hitchhiker Lotto in a day.

Soon, things started looking familiar. We passed the exit where Doug and I had joined I-80 back in May, and Ken was planning to stop in Rawlins to get us showers. That made me laugh! No matter what, it was going to be Rawlins! Unfortunately, there were no showers in Rawlins so he continued toward Laramie passing the T/A I’d visited before. In retrospect, I was feeling nostalgic. Isn’t it funny how things that seem to be obstacles today trigger the most emotion and the best stories later? File that one away.

Laramie didn’t have a Flying J, so Ken continued toward Cheyenne as we had some killer conversations about the state of things and yet another example of Mutual Disgust in society and government! It seems that wherever I go, it is coming through the cracks. Rest assured friends, I am only a singular example of what appears to be blanket disgust for the ‘system’ and how it treats common people. Ken gave me a crash course on how the government nickels and dimes truck drivers beyond income and gas taxes, permits, etc. It’s nothing short of extortion.

He was at the end of his allotted drive time for the day, so had to stop for the night. He knew where the Flying J was located in Cheyenne, just south of I-80 on I-25; the road to Denver. There were no showers here, so Ken decided that we’d stop in Nebraska the next morning to clean up; crashing in Cheyenne for the night.

As cool as it would be, I’d begun to seriously question the wisdom of continuing on to Indiana. I had no idea where I would stay for 2 weeks, or if I even wanted to. It would make getting from west to east infinitely easier, but maybe too easy.

I decided to call Laina and Friar Chris to discuss it. Chris divulged that he and Angela were going to New York City the third week of August and suddenly I had a possible destination if I were to continue east. I could just meet up with them, then continue to Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, then reverse course and go down the Atlantic Coast from there.

From Cheyenne it’s a quick 90-mile stretch to Denver through Ft. Collins. From Denver, I could go back to Santa Fe, see Laina and thereby eliminate Michigan all together if I chose to. And…I could find a way to stash some money. This plan came together with almost no effort, which is usually an indication that it is a good plan!

I felt kind of bad turning down Ken’s offer, but I simply was not prepared for it. What I was prepared for, however, was hiking up to the I-25 ramp to find a ride that night, figuring Ken had done enough and I should let him have his space. To my shock, he grabbed the atlas and concluded that it would be just as easy for him to get to West Virginia via I-70—from Denver—as it would be via I-80. He said he would be happy to drop me in Denver in the morning and that I could have the other bunk in his cab. Really? Really.

McCammon to Denver: ONE ride.

Another driver that I’d become good friends with.

Idaho suddenly made a lot more metaphysical sense.

We got to bed rather quickly and, after sleeping on the ground and on trains for the past week, the bunk felt like a fluffy little cloud! I passed out, and slept like a stone. Obviously, my early optimism for the day was well founded, and this leg of the trip was about to end. I knew I needed time to process it all, and my reaction to re-entering ‘society’ would surprise even me.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

7/13/08: McCammon, ID-Ciel

“Adversity introduces us to ourselves.”

I like that saying. Life is easy when things are easy. What happens when life gets difficult ultimately defines you. These ideas would soon have new even more personal meaning.

I had set the cell alarm for 4:15 in order to catch the 5am
ride to Salt Lake. I wondered before I went to sleep if I would hear it, or ignore it. There should have been a “c” for ‘both”. It was not out of total laziness that I kept sleeping, although that WAS probably a factor. It was another of those weird feelings, this one telling me, “Stay in bed, things will be fine.”

At about 8:30, I rolled out of bedroll and
made my way to the coffee machine. This day had a different feel than I had gotten used to. There was a mild scent of purpose, and an out- of- place feeling of calm about me; at least compared to the last few days.

I resumed my position at the table facing the truck drivers. I
had not even bothered with the passenger cars since I had gotten there, or even tried the on- ramp. I was truck hunting. I liked my little perch right there where they could ALL see me when they walked inside.

Hitching with truckers’ aint what it used to be. There was a time in a simpler day when they would be happy to pick people up. Now, due to insurance liabilities (of course) it is a terminable offense for those driving for trucking companies to give rides, although some still do. Forget them pulling over though. Owner- operators are a different story. They OWN their own trucks, pay their own insurance, and therefore are not beholden to company ‘policy’. They however do have to beware of the Point of Entries, and can run the risk of scrutinizing POE officials if they see you and decide to check paperwork etc. I understood all of that, and never harassed ANY of the drivers going inside with the “Hey bud, how boutta ride, man?” I had various signs on my pack, which was on the table next to me, so I figured that if they wanted, or could have a rider, they saw me. I have a ton of respect for these people anyhow, especially since diesel prices have shot through the roof. They are the ones who are literally on the front lines of this economic storm. If you do not believe me, hang out at a truck stop and chat with a few… I’ll spare you the lengthy rant… for now! This day is interesting enough.

As I was seated there eating sandwiches a man had given
me the day before, I saw a young woman hovering around between my smoking and looking like she wanted to sit down at the table with me. Yesterday I probably would have let it go, but my menstrual cycle had eased a bit this morning, so I invited her to sit down.

Ciel appeared at first sight to be either an athlete, or a farm girl who had bailed much hay in her life. Quite sturdy; NOT fat. She appeared to be in her mid 20’s and was very friendly, out going and almost uncomfortably open! She loved to talk, but when she spoke, I noticed impairment; though not one that was severe. She immediately reminded me of the Cerebral Palsy- inflicted character from the 80’s sit- com “Facts of Life”.

Poor observation.

Ciel said that she lived in Salt Lake City, was a Special Needs teacher, and had driven up to McCammon only because she loved the area. She liked the truck stop because she enjoyed people watching, something I had learned to appreciate in my near 24 hours there.

She told of going atop the small mountain across I-15, and just sitting. She would just watch animals and spoke enthusiastically about a family of skunks she had encountered. Then she told about just watching traffic and then the stars. She seemed captivated by it all, and had no interest in justifying it, which greatly appealed to me because had she tried, to someone who did not understand, it would have been useless. She also said she hoped to move there soon because she said she ‘just LOVED McCammon’. She spoke with such passion about the place that I immediately knew what she meant and, although I did not feel the need to tell her so, the same thing had drawn me to Santa Fe. I can’t explain that to you to this day.

Then, the conversation got interesting.

Remember how I said she was open? She LOVED to swear! She swore almost TOO much, and that says something coming from me! She seemed to have a very soft verbal- filter; just said what was on her mind.

She seemed curious and often amazed by what I told her of the trip, especially the train, of course. She asked the typical ‘how do you trust people’ questions, and seemed to be encouraged when I repeated the now tired: “I’ve yet to meet ONE asshole, knock on wood.” We began to chat about the whys of the trip, and expectations v. how we REALLY want to live and the idea that it is really up to us to define our lives and ourselves. I talked about looking for answers from other people and the realization that all the answers we all seek come from within through first learning to be honest with OURSELVES. The hardest thing there is to do. No, the irony of the last few days was NOT lost on me at the time. This conversation was needed at exactly that moment, and, I was setting myself up.

The first story she told me was about being a lesbian in Utah. In addition, I had nailed the athlete part. She had been a softball player, and apparently a good one. The two connected beyond the pathetic stereotype. Ciel told me that she and several other women in her family just “liked women more than men”. Not an isolated case. When she was a sophomore in high school, she had been cut from the softball team because she was gay. Her parents were hardcore LDS (Mormons) and hated the fact that she is a lesbian, but apparently hated SOMEONE ELSE hating it more than THEY hated it. Funny how that works. In short, they almost went batshit on the school and sued; decided to move her to another school instead.

She finishes high school, and is on the verge of getting softball scholarships to schools in Florida and Montana. Then, one of the most timely, and intense things I have ever heard first- hand.

Ciel had mentioned several times that she had been in a car accident. She was about to go off to college, at 18, when the accident happened.

Ciel was riding home in a Blazer with the woman that she repeatedly referred to as her ‘wife’, and the woman’s two boys; ages nine & six. The children were buckled in while the adults were not. I do not recall from where they were returning, but do know they were in a very isolated part of desert. She said that they were having a wonderful day, and that at the time of the accident were laughing so hard that they could barely contain themselves.

Neither of them saw a VERY large rock in the road and they slammed into it, throwing both women in the front seat into the ceiling, so hard Ciel said that it severely gashed her head. The next thing that she remembered was her wife being unable to stop because she had lost the brakes. There were closely spaced bumps in the road, and since there were no brakes, she lost control of the Blazer and it began to roll, throwing both women from the truck.

Ciel flew through windshield and apparently much further than the other woman. The next thing she remembered was having no feeling in her body, unable to move. She said she saw the truck rolling toward her with the other woman was in its path. Then she saw the truck roll onto her, stopping just short of Ciel.

I was sickened. How could someone experience something like that? Yet, the story was not over.

The kids, who were buckled into the backseat, managed to free themselves. Apparently, her wife had not died instantly. The 9- year old tried to help his mother, and was taking her pulse when she passed away. Ciel told of how this child closed his mother’s eyes after she died. I could not even fathom that. THEN this kid then removed two blankets from the truck, used one to cover his mom, and the other to cover Ciel to try to prevent sunstroke.

A NINE year old.

Ciel witnessed all of this, then began to lose consciousness. She described her right sandal as being ‘up by her ear’, having difficulty breathing due to a collapsed lung, fluid collecting in her abdominal area, and her skull being ‘opened’ in four places from the windshield, not to mention a broken hip, clavicle and several ribs.

This kid had lost one of his shoes in the wreck but knew he had to walk, since they were in the middle of nowhere. Ciel then told of how he removed one of the shoes from his mother’s body, put the six- year old on his back and walked for 2 ½ hours until he found help.

A NINE year old!

Incredible. Rarely am I that captivated by someone’s story, but hearing her tell this one kept me completely riveted. How could someone experience all of that, and come out the other side?

Then… the lightning bolt of perspective I had been waiting for.

Todd, you are a whiny little bitch.

I told her that too: “I’m a whiny little bitch, aren’t I?” She laughed. I didn’t.

It all became clear, and all at once. How in God’s name could I justify ANY of my pathetic little complaints? How could I whine about having a bit of trouble getting out of Idaho? How could I piss and moan about DOING what I CHOSE to do in following an idea, when there are people everywhere who DO NOT have the option?

The complaining stopped. So did the chastising of myself. I now realized why I was there, and this incredible sense of resignation, faith, and some weird sort of CONFIDENCE, came over me. Just… calm.

Ciel then told me the story of how she recovered which ties into the first line of this entry. What you do in the face of adversity DEFINES you. I had experienced no REAL adversity yet, I came to realize.

She was in a coma for 3 ½ weeks, and while unconscious, says she first heard the doctors tell her parents that she was going to be a ‘vegetable’ and ask them what color wheel chair she’d want. Then she showed me something I understood, and showed how she was sitting at this table at a truck stop in Idaho: defiant ANGER! She said to herself, “I’m 18 fucking years old! There’s no way I’m spending the rest of my life in a wheelchair!

How many people would have simply rolled over and died, giving in to self- pity? She told ‘fate’ to go screw itself, and not only survived, but also recovered almost completely. How?

Call it fire, spirit, rage, discontentment, rebellion; whatever you like. THAT is the essence of life. Not settling. Not accepting what is dictated to you, expected of, and expected FOR you. The guts to tap into something you KNOW is right, in the face of everyone telling you you are wrong. Then, having the courage to move past the mental masturbation and fight the battles to get what YOU expect out of life.
THAT defines you as a person.

Not the toys, “career”, bank account, witty personality, or quantity of friends. I saw these things personified in this “odd little person”. The exact things that I value the most, and find the least, in people. The things I fight to achieve, often failing miserably, in myself. I began to realize that this “odd little person” was anything BUT odd. She was rare. A very special human being I was in the company of. The kind that mirrors the person you aim to be, while at the same time showing you just how far you still need to go, despite all the flowery compliments you receive along the way for even trying. A person I “chanced” to meet at an Idaho truck stop? I knew better.

I told her EXACTLY how impressed I was, and that I was thrilled to be having this conversation with her. I believe that set her back a bit, not knowing what to think of that. I told her that surviving the ordeal was astounding enough, but to have the strength to fight, then come through the other side with a positive outlook and to be able to appreciate the little things in life that are REAL. These things elude most of us.

At this I felt embarrassment when I naturally thought back to some of the people who had told me that I am some kind of an inspiration to THEM. That I am doing something that they wished they could do, but lacked either the courage or the opportunity. I literally felt shame in that, especially after all the self- indulgent pity of the past week.

I came away from that conversation as though someone had pushed my Reset Button. Like the old Nintendos that used to freeze up, and you would need to blow the game cartridges out! It is also remarkable that this had the effect of forcing me take it easier on MYSELF as well. I quit stressing whether I wound up in Denver or Montana. I quit stressing the money thing, stopped beating myself up, and recaptured the role of passenger rather than trying to intellectually- hijack the trip.

Life was once again good, and I did not care when I got out of Idaho, or where to. (Still NOT Utah!)

We sat there chatting for a couple more hours, seemingly recharging each others mental batteries. She said that she expected to be returning to Salt Lake either that night or the next day, and that if I was still there she would take me along and drop me at another truck stop. That sounded good to me thinking I would still be there!

She left to have her Sunday, and I sat there writing and trying to process everything. The financial issues ‘happened’ to ease a bit too through a surprise phone conversation, and I now had two weeks taken care of. Things just started to seemingly fall into place.

Later on, and seemingly just for effect, I had another one of these conversations although not one that was nearly as intense. Lori, a girl who worked inside, came out to smoke and started chatting with me because I had now become a familiar face. She told me the story of how she and her husband had moved there after he had been ‘blown up’ in an oil- field accident. They needed to be closer to his doctors, in SLC, and would find out in August if he had a broken back.

All together now: Todd, you… whiny…

The rest of the afternoon, I spent chatting with a couple of drivers, both of whom were interesting. The first, an Owner/ Operator from Murray, Kentucky. One of the ‘common sense Conservatives” I was referring to in another post. We spent about 3 hours just talking about things; economics, sociology, politics, name it. He was a true independent and hated BOTH the left and right. I liked him immediately. He had been sitting at the truck stop almost as long as I had because he had gotten to Idaho ahead of schedule and could not drop his load until Monday morning. He said that if he were going somewhere that ‘made sense’ for me, he would give me a lift. I was quite happy and hopeful about that!

Next was Richard, a driver from Butte, Montana. He was an interesting character. VERY politically and socially aware;
also a blatant racist and conspiracy theorist.

He is convinced that Obama is a Muslim operative planted to destroy America.

Other than that, a very delightful person! Once I got him to cut through the xenophobic and
conspiratorial nonsense, he was quite fun to debate with, and had some remarkable insights into the effect the price of gas will have on the economy once more trucking companies begin to cut back or fold. He was also quite interested in the idea that I was ‘unplugging and watching’ events unfold. Unplugging from a system that he agrees is rigged, and does not amount to much more than indentured servitude at- best, and slavery at worst. Yes, I WILL spare the rant… but THAT one IS coming! He encouraged me to head to Kalispell, Montana to look up the survivalists he claimed are thriving in the area. I took note.

We spent a few hours talking as well, since he too had to
wait until the next morning. He went off to sleep after giving me a pack of smokes unexpectedly. I tried to drop the hint that I’d take a ride if he were to offer it, but it was clear that he, despite his anarchistic attitudes, wasn’t going to violate company policy! I thought that was funny.

Toward bedtime, I decided to try my luck out by US-30, and while I did not get a ride, I did have a nice conversation with a Mormon truck driver who seemed very interested in how the ‘outside world’ views Mormons. I bit my tongue. He seemed like a very nice guy who was also interested in how it is to hitchhike in 2008, and the people I’ve met to date. In the end, he offered me a ride, but it was not even to Salt Lake. I had visions of the Mormon compound in Big Love, so politely declined!

I gave up on finding a ride at about 10:30, feeling oddly confident about my chances for Monday. It had been a
rather remarkable, enlightening, and intense day despite the lack of real “events”. I changed spots from the night before, choosing a spot next to US-30 that was beneath some trees to shade me from the parking lot lights. After a pair of feral cats hissed at me as their welcome to the night’s nest, I fell asleep quite fast, and slept nicely all the way through the night.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

7/12/08: Pocatello to McCammon, ID-Slaying a Dragon

I woke up rather late beneath the bushes huddled beneath my raincoat for protection from the sprinkler and the chilly night. I packed quicker than normal because I was unusually close to the exit ramp, and rather than being in a depression in the terrain, I was on a small hill in plain view of Pocatello’s Saturday morning traffic.

Then it was off to the Flying J gas station. I got my 65-cent
coffee refill and sat down outside hoping the backpack would help strike up a conversation leading to a ride to at least the truck stop in McCammon. I got half of it; the conversation. There was a couple of trucks filled with Boy Scouts returning from camping in the Tetons but headed west; toward Rupert. I would not be going back to Rupert.

I was now fixated on the "real" Flying J in McCammon, and hoped getting there would help me decide: Montana or Denver. (Still undecided!) It had become clear, and did not escape me, how fearful I still was. Montana, or anywhere but Denver carried with it risk. Denver was safe and within reach. My fear was overpowering my sense of adventure and clouding judgment preventing me from relying on recent history and hard-earned experience. I "knew" I’d gone through all of this before, in San Francisco, and that there was little difference between then and now, but just couldn’t get the clarity needed to allow that experience, and the memory of meeting Eric & Marine, guide me. I would not "really" be able to see that until much later.

After an hour, I made my planned trip to the Walmart Supercenter, conveniently located directly behind the gas station, to get food and cigarettes while at my apex of the indecision cycle and thinking Montana was the way to go. I went directly to the canned food section grabbing some salmon, off-brand Beefaroni, and a new staple: pork & beans. I also picked up Ibuprofen, razors, and a couple of Clif bars.

The Clif bars had by now been all but eliminated due to cost. Some places charge as much as $1.85/ea. and, while they are great for energy and convenient, I was spending in the neighborhood of $20 a week on them; something I could easily eliminate. Walmart had them for $.75 making it a difficult decision not to get a whole box!

I was a great curiosity at Walmart. I guess people are not used to seeing a fully loaded backpacker come through doing his Saturday morning shopping. The looks! It was curiosity mixed with utter amazement at the size of the pack and my appearance. I took no small pleasure in this. Kids were the best! I overheard one saying to his dad, “He looks like Survivorman!” I got a kick out of that because Survivorman (Les Stroud) is my favorite TV show, but I also felt a bit ashamed! I doubt Les would have been plagued by the asinine, fabricated, mental drama I had created over the last 24 hours! Let alone be caught dead at Walmart buying Clif bars and canned salmon!

On the way out, I realized that I had forgotten my tobacco (horrors!), so had to go back to the ‘tobacco line’. At the register, I slowly began to recognize the young man working it! It was the kid driving the overheated minivan in Jerome! I could not believe it, but after a moment of metaphysical reflection, I could. He remembered me and said, “This is all the farther you’ve gotten?” I just shook my head not repeating what I was thinking. “Why the hell didn’t I hit you up for a ride when I had the chance?” That was one of the more odd events of the trip so far. Eerie. It was as though the universe is mocking me saying, “See? I tried helping you. You refused. Dumbass!” I walked out shaking my head dumbfounded.

The plan was to sit down outside, pack my new loot, and then head to the I-86 ramp to score a ride to McCammon. There was, thankfully, a different feel to the day and I felt optimistic that I’d have success at getting out there and perhaps beyond.

I was walking past the lawn furniture display and sitting there was a large, badass looking young man who, despite looking like he belonged on the cage fighting circuit, was quite friendly and asked what I was up to. I thought he had the right idea and became another person demonstrating the comfort and versatility of this luxurious Walmart lawn furniture. I began packing while chatting with Trevor about the California and Oregon coasts, and he got particularly interested when I told him about the freight train. Funny thing about that train: it seems to be the one story I have that garners the most attention even though, to me, after the initial euphoria, at the time it was no big deal; even something of a disappointment.

He asked where I was going next, and when I said I was trying to get to the Flying J truck stop in McCammon he lit up saying he and his friends were going right by there on their way to Lava Hot Springs where they were going to drink beer and "play on the river". He immediately called a friend to see if I could catch a ride. After some creative ways of generating gas money: no problem. I felt bad that I could not really offer them anything but that was the reality.

Trevor seemed like a decent dude, but he offhandedly talked about how he would be going to jail on Monday because of a failure to pay his probation officer. This left me mildly concerned, and I spent a few moments creating my now famous imaginary scenarios that conclude with me in a bloody heap out in the desert, minus my (almost empty) wallet and backpack. I can be a creatively disturbing cuss. I caught myself slipping into Paranoid Bitch role, again, and quietly, but severely chastised myself, then felt quite at ease when his friend Dustin and his girlfriend emerged from the store. It helped to remember how much of a tool I felt like after the Boise ride.

I again declined to load my pack into the trunk (just a good policy if you can help it) instead keeping it stowed on my lap in the front seat as we set off toward the "real"  Flying J, 25-miles south of the I-86/I-15 interchange. These were just some kids off to have some good (mildly) clean fun. They reminded me of people I would have hung out with if I was a bit younger, and for a while, I missed those days! Drinking beer, basking in the sun, and hoping you didn’t get hurt. At least not too bad! I even thought about tagging along to experience a REAL Idaho Saturday night but decided against it in favor of trying to get my head on straight and getting this indecision under control. In retrospect, going with them and not thinking about it may have been exactly the tonic I needed, but I will never know for sure.

Trevor (the bald guy), Dustin, and Mystery Girl dropped me at the truck
stop after quite an enjoyable and informative ride. I learned quite a bit about the area and found it to be not unlike where I grew up. Just fewer trees! I got a picture and they went on their way while I began surveying the Flying J I had been so hellbent on.

It was definitely a "real" truckstop. About the same size as
Jerome' and had good traffic. It was also located on US-30, so I could indeed go either way: Montana or Denver. Even to Utah if I could find a ride through it, or at least to a truck stop that may serve as a haven shielding me from fascists and Mormons!

I sat outside for a bit then trudged into the trucker’s lounge to write and charge the cell. I was disengaging. If you would have asked me why I could not have answered. I just felt like it was the right thing to do. I had reached the point where I simply had to begin the process of reflection, self-examination, and the same processing of events I'd needed back in Fruitland. There were no intermittent destinations to help me to procrastinate the inevitable. This was it. So, there I sat. Writing. Thinking. Drinking coffee.

The weight of my money issue became THE significant problem. So much so that, at times, it factored into every detail of my thought process. Like the fog on the coast, I could not see through it.

There were times that I was sure the trip was over; even for good and that,= I was destined to be back in Santa Fe, even if it were via Denver for a short time. The thought of going back to find work seemed to lead only to my contrived inevitable: quitting.

Yet, through all of this negativity there were examples of clear recollection fighting to escape.

I remembered the conflict with myself in San Francisco. Again. Deciding to enter the Headlands was obviously a bigger decision than I realized at the time. It also reminded me of one of my favorite questions to ask yourself, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” 

I had also asked myself in San Francisco, “Would you have traded meeting Florian and his family for anything?” Of course not. Then why eliminate the adventure up the road to Oregon? That is what had reset my brain in California and led to Eric and Marine 3-days later. But, despite that, it still was not working today.

During the day Laina surprisingly pointed out, or rather reiterated, something that had been obvious to me until this point. Things always work out. Things come along at the right time. I had seen this, and now believed it. Friar had seen and experienced it on his cross country walk. Laina now even believed it! Nevertheless, for me, then, it was impossible to lean on. It seemed that my faith in not only that, but myself, was beginning to fail. I was fully aware of the attitude changes of the past couple of days and wondered if I could rely on myself to keep a clear head, make good decisions, and follow through.

A nasty rabbit hole I had descended in to! 

***I had no way to realize it at the time, but this episode was a miniature example of something that would continue to haunt me on a much larger scale much later on.***

Fear and Impatience won Saturday’s battle, even though I knew for sure that, for whatever reason I was supposed to be here. Even though I could see the forest through the trees, I didn’t want to just accept that the forest was there. I had taken 10-steps back: trying to intellectually and institutionally manhandle the situation; something I knew better than to try to do. I was painfully relearning a most valuable lesson. An important lesson was being bonded into my brain.

Things got progressively worse as the day moved to night. I had found a table outside where I could sit, relax, smoke, write, and hope for a ride. I sat there thinking, lost in my own head until I came to the realization of the obvious: the source of my frustration was…myself.

It was not "money's"’ fault. It was mine for losing sight of the original vision and getting giddy about how much "fun" I was having. It was my own fault if I had to quit. It was my own fault if I could not make the decisions I wanted to make now because of foolish spending all along. I was not frustrated or mad with anyone but my own damn self!

Not even the Mormons! Well, maybe a little...

That realization came slowly and as my mood began to lighten, with both acceptance of it and a developing stubborn, ornery, resolve to “fucking fix it!”, things began slowly returning to normal. My thinking moved away from self-pity “woe is me!” to lessons and solutions.

Shortly after all this began, I found a potential ride with a trucker. He was going to Salt Lake City in the (Sunday) morning, and while SLC did not thrill me, I had begun to alter my thinking back to taking things as they came. The driver said he was leaving at 5am, so I said I would be there at 4:30.

With that, a very trying, troubling day came to a merciful end. I walked to the opposite side of the truck parking, set up the nest, set the alarm, and tried to get a few hours sleep before my chariot to Salt Lake City departed. 

I had trouble sleeping as I thought about the course of the day. Lying there, I began to reclaim a bit more responsibility for myself and the fact that I control the future of this trip. I concluded that this day, as unflattering (and embarrassing to write about) as it was, was going to be one of the most important of any I will have as long as this lasts.

Friday, July 11, 2008

7/11/08: Pocatello, ID- "Z" and a Reckoning

This day I was prepared for. In fact as I went to bed I resigned myself to the fact that I may be sitting right there, at the Albion exit, for perhaps MORE than just a day. I was NOT going to repeat the mistake of Jerome. I would be getting to Pocatello, or grow roots right there!

I awoke earlier than I probably should have, 7:45, considering how tired I was. On some level, I was subconsciously prepared for the day and wanted to get going ASAP. I went over to the now open Shell station to begin the day with some coffee as planned, study a map, and do some writing. There was a rather attractive, very friendly, almost creepy, cashier working that morning with whom I become acquainted through the day.

I sat there for a couple of hours writing and charging the cell phone, not really in a big hurry to get on the ramp to nowhere. I did however get out there, at about 10:30, and began receiving the same blank, fearful stares as the day before. This went on until 1:45 when I trekked back to the Shell for more coffee and the hope that I would be able to MAYBE converse my way into a ride. No such luck, but I did wind up chatting a bit more with Heather. The fact that she was nice (not so creepy now) gave me SOME hope that there were nice people around there.

I probably should clarify something, since I have been assailing eastern Idaho quite heavily! The people there ARE nice. They are not the pricks that perhaps I have led you to believe. They are, in fact, very friendly, and will chat with you at the drop of a dime. They seem quite down to earth and personable, just as they did in the western part of the state...until you get on the highways and put out the thumb! It was rather difficult to remember the kindness at times though; perspective. Foreshadowing. I also had stopped even bothering trying to thumb cars with Utah plates. If they were here, they were going to Utah most likely anyhow!

After chatting with Heather, and learning that she got off work at 3:00, I walked slowly back to my spot. Same results. At about 2:50 I was just about to enact my long shot plan: ask Heather for a ride to the I-84/ 86 split. That would have been indescribably foolish but I was beginning to wonder if I was REALLY stuck there. It seemed like an eternity after my luck 2-days before, but in retrospect I was mentally bundling everything that had happened since then and projecting it onto Friday! Dangerous waters to navigate.

Just as I was about to venture back to the Shell station, the skies opened, the seas parted, lightning rained down from the Heavens...use any biblical reference you like...I had a ride! AND... it had Utah plates! What the hell?

He wanted to be called ‘Z”; would not tell me his real name. He appeared to be a younger guy of about 25 or 26, had a
rather thick accent, had a dark complexion, so I ignorantly just assumed he was Mexican. He said he was heading home...to Ogden, Utah. I really wanted off that ramp, so I asked him if he’d take me as far as the 84/86 split; again rolling the same dice that came up craps the day before. The split was only 5-miles up the road, but I was happy. I had even considered walking there the next day and was beginning to see how the Hippie had walked 25 miles a few days ago.

I got the “something told me to stop” story again. He was different. Different good. I learned that he was on the verge of losing everything due to his inability to find work in Utah, and that he had just ‘gone for a ride’. Somehow, at this point, I was leaning toward Denver (indecisiveness!), and he told me that he’d been considering moving there, but knew nothing about it. I told him I had lived there for 2 ½ years and he became quite interested in what I knew. He offered to take me to the next exit past the I-84/86 split, and thank God. There was NOTHING at that interchange but highway. I would have had no access to water had I been stuck there. I also had done my homework. I knew that the next exit was something like 25 miles up the road. I nestled in and began chatting with this VERY interesting person.

Z was not Mexican or anything close. His family had moved to the US from Afghanistan in 1986 after a Russian missile hit their neighbor’s house. On top of that, he wasn’t so young. He was in his mid 30's, and he was eager to talk about the philosophy of life, its purpose, all of that. He was in the process of losing everything he had worked toward chasing the “American Dream”. House, car, everything. And it is the third time it has happened. He’s Muslim, so he defined it as God’s will, but I interjected my own thoughts on the matter. He was not the dogmatic Muslim we are indoctrinated to believe make up the entire faith. He was VERY open to other ideas, opinions, and possibilities. He simply used the Muslim teachings as a foundation.

We talked about freedom, freewill v. fate, even Thoreau’s thoughts on freedom equating to the things we can do without; as opposed to the things we’re tethered to...physically OR mentally. I had that discussion knowing I was failing miserably in that respect; at least failing to make progress. Z bypassed the next exit. And the next. And the next...

Near the end of the ride, he quoted Mohammad as saying something to the effect of “Live your life as a traveler”. He said it was this that had made him stop; I'd reminded him of it. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but was honored.

I came away from that conversation feeling much better about things, and had a new appreciation for the idea that people are people. Governments, ideology, and religions fuel divisiveness. Not individuals.

NO! That does NOT mean you can call yourself a “World Citizen”, ya damn hippie.

Soon we were on the southern fringes of Pocatello when he finally HAD to stop for gas. I had told him I would have ridden all the way to Denver with him if either of us had the money, and I meant it. I got a picture; he bought me a liter of Cherry Coke, and then was headed back toward Ogden. I laughed quite loudly when I realized yet ANOTHER foreigner had come along to treat me better than my own people...and this guy was a MUSLIM! From AFGHANISTAN! In IDAHO! The irony of it all...I thought we were the "Evil Satan" or some silly shit like that.

This gas station was desolate and had no traffic whatsoever, so armed with my cold bottle of tasty Coke: to the ramp. Briefly. It too had no traffic, so after about 5-minutes I was walking a new interstate: I-86, which connects I-84 and I-15. I still have not figured out WHY exactly it is an "interstate". It’s only in Idaho as far as I can tell.

I was of course hitching, but had fully learned by now the futility of hitchhiking while walking an interstate. Traffic volume and speed. There is too much traffic for people to stop safely, and even if they wanted to, it would take almost 1/4 mile to do it and then they would have to wait for me to catch up. It just was not going to happen at around 5:00-5:30, but doing it DID make me feel better!

After a few miles, I hopped a fence to the frontage road, which appeared to follow I-86 all the way into Pocatello.
Shortly after, I came to a little truck stop that had two wonderful things: cardboard and a shade tree. I repacked a bit, ate, and made a new sign: “I-15: Montana”. Indecision: it blows!

I situated the sign on the pack where the few trucks that
had gathered could see it, and dozed off for about an hour and a half. It was beautiful beneath that tree! The weather had not been quite as hot; upper 80's, but it was still nice to be out of the sun.

I awoke to the sound of Laina calling. I was groggy, needed coffee, and wanted to get back on the road hoping to get to that magical point: US-30.

US-30 had been with me since Portland, but Pocatello is where it breaks off and winds east into Wyoming joining I-80 toward Cheyenne. If I were to avoid Utah AND go to Denver, this was going to be the place I would hang a right. At least I thought. I had not looked at the map closely enough...but that’s not important now. The important thing was to make a decision on which way I was going. Montana v. Denver. I even broke out the dice, or single die. I had done this once before when I was stuck between the northern and southern routes of the Discovery Trail in Colorado. It had come up ‘North’ on something like FIVE consecutive rolls. I went north. This time it was almost as clear. Odd: Montana Even: Denver. The first two rolls were three’s. Then a six. Then ANOTHER three. The dice say Montana. Let’s see what US-30 says.

I got back on I-86 and walked at a pretty good clip toward
US-30, 3-5 miles up. I was feeling quite good and didn’t even realize I’d walked something like 7 or 8 miles since Z had dropped me off. Finally US- 30 came.

Here it was. I HAD to make a decision. Montana to Michigan? Denver? What would it be? I had no idea and needed some input other than my own; I was still suffering a bit from my own mental
diarrhea and could not see the forest through the trees. Part of that may have been due to mental fatigue, or maybe the mental exhalation of leaving Oregon. I don’t know. I do know that I DON’T function as well when I don’t have at least some sense of at least a general direction. I am telling you, INDECISIVENESS BLOWS! Well, this was going to be the time I would decide…at least that’s what I told myself.

Laina and I talked for a good hour, trying to figure out money v. time frame. How I was going to get through August if I kept going? Hell, would even get thru July? It was here that my failure to remember past experience began haunting me. And where I let fear reclaim control.

I had forgotten San Francisco. I'd had the same conversation the night before I entered the Marin Headlands. The difference was that now I was closer to Denver and had opened it up as an option; my safety net. I didn’t realize this at the time, of course. All I saw was possibly being stranded in Montana, broke, and being chased by Brokeback Bears. Forest through the trees Todd. Forest through the trees.

The conversation ended with a call to Friar Chris to see if he could get online and price bus tickets. I had almost reverted to the person who would need a bus out of Pocatello. I had gone nearly 2,000 miles by now...and was pricing bus tickets out of Pocatello! The pricing knocked me back into commonsensical, even metaphysical, reality. No way would I be bussing to Denver. Or anywhere.

From the beginning the point of this has been, at its core, learning how to experience more with less. I had lost sight of that almost completely, and the Happy Hitchhiker thought came to mind again. This trip was in danger of ending abruptly now only because of my failure to remember exactly why I was here in the first place. That pissed off and motivated me at the same time. It also helped to realize how much I valued this and wanted it to continue. I was not ready to curl up and die in Santa Fe! 

Yet, where was the faith that the solution would present itself? I believed it would, but was I ready to really put it out there and prove it? Not yet. A great opportunity to grow significantly was slipping through my fingers. I knew it. I could see it happening right before my eyes. I just was not ready for a leap of that magnitude. However, it planted seeds. Some would sprout over the next few days. Some would take a bit more time.

The practical reality: I knew that I wasn’t going to get through 8/15 if I didn’t generate cash, and I now had a solid idea of what that amount was. Unfortunately that figure was the same as it had been a week ago...even two weeks ago...back in San Francisco! For all my pontificating and philosophizing, I am a Grade-A dipshit sometimes.

I had started down I-86 again toward US-95/ Yellowstone Ave. where Google Maps had told Friar I would find a Flying J. I was now coming into the very place I do not want to be while looking for a place to sleep: the city. Thank God, Pocatello barely qualifies. I would later discover that I’d walked about 12 miles since Z had dropped me off at 5:00 and I was still holding up ok, although rest would be good!

After another 4 miles of walking, and about 1 million miles of mental marathoning, I finally got to Yellowstone Ave. Sure enough, there was a Flying J. A Flying J gas station. Not a truckstop. I was not sleeping there unless it was in the restroom. That was not happening.

I asked the cashier about what was located at the I-86/I-15 interchange; whether there was a truckstop or not. I figured that since it was only another mile, I could walk the rest of the way if I knew what was there. He may have been the stupidest person I have ever met. He just could not process “Is...there...a ...truckstop...at...I-15.” Unbelievable.

I quickly grew tired of this spot, and him, so took my coffee across the overpass to the Shell truckstop. I was quite the novelty again. Walking up and down a busy teenager cruising lane on a Pocatello Friday Night wearing my backpack and smelling like road. I am sure all the young ladies were hot for me. I believe one of the Denny’s dishwashers actually was; he was eyeing me all the way across the bridge.

**Quick! Name that movie: “I suppose it doesn’t matter that I’m NOT a homosexual?” “Shit Andy, neither are they.” (Perhaps a slight paraphrase)**

This is the scene I remember seeing in my head as I walked past that creepy little Denny’s! That and “Idaho Deliverance”.

The woman at the Shell station was no less annoyed but much more informed and coherent than her Flying J contemporary had been. It was here that I first learned of the huge Flying J. Unfortunately, it was NOT at I-15 as I had hoped, but 25-miles out of town on I-15 in a place called McCammon.

I now had a short-term destination. From McCammon I figured I could go east OR north. And find a ride there. I was stoked to have the information, so bounded back to the exit ramp hoping to catch a ride to McCammon. One person did stop, but he was headed north and smelled like a stale bottle of Night Train.

At about 1am, the traffic just suddenly died. Next to no cars. I mean anywhere. It was as if I was seeing a B horror movie and they were running to hide from the ‘Attack of the Man Eating Mormon’. This was enough for me to call it a night.

I crossed the interstate overpass again to follow a promising tree line just off the highway, to no avail. There was so little traffic that I crossed all four lanes and the median of I-86, slowly, and wasn’t seen by anyone.

I finally found a nice little hedge row whose bushes had enough space beneath its branches to clear out a small space to conceal both me and the pack while providing a slight bit of insulation through the night. Problem was it butted up against a fence that separated the right-of-way from an apartment complex and there were still a few people up drinking. I had to be uber quiet because I had found my spot, goddammit!

I was exhausted, a bit cranky, and did not care about anything but sleeping and being left alone. Once settled, the people left me alone all right. The sprinklers did not. About an hour after finally dozing off, I heard the things go off. I hoped against hope that they would miss me all together, but immediately felt water splatter me in the face. Really? Yes, I was slightly perturbed to say the least. I muttered something about irrigating "every mother fucking thing", dug out the rain pants & jacket, covered the pack with its rain fly, and defiantly went back to sleep. I didn’t care if Noah Industry's ‘Epic Flood 2000 Sprinkler’ went off; I was going back to sleep.