"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

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.