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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Loaded Coal and Locked Dreams

After kickin’ it for a week in a townhouse off of Martin Luther King Blvd., gettin’ high off edibles, and free climbing the Flatirons in Boulder, I felt eager to hit the road again.  Meeting up with my old college partner-in-crime made me reminisce the past.  Honestly, my life has not changed much since college.  I just want to fuck around, live hard, and free, with a little work in between and provide for my wife.  Whether I have a roof over my head or not, she does and always will. Everyone around me is growing up, adulting so-to-speak, and I’m just stuck in a transience, trying to see as much as I can, recently, by train.  


That night, with the warm mountain air touching my skin tenderly with a lust, I packed up my gear and began my long tramp to 31st street.  The RTD public transportation service resided in downtown Denver, but my intentions were not public transit.  I sought to catch the next freight train to, well, nowhere in particular.  See, once I got that gypsy blood flowing, that urge deep down in my gut, to just get up and go, it did not matter where I ended up.  That wholeheartedly defined adventure, freedom, the foot-loose beauty of the steel beneath me as I sailed away across the country.  Most people in society see a man with no job, a backpack and coal dust on his face as a detriment to society, a waste, a bum. But, we picture it differently and with those thoughts ringing my brain like a wet towel I just moseyed along, inching closer to the ballast, steel, and my ride outta town.

I always left for the yard right before sunset.  The best time to creep around the yard for recon, hiding in the shadows of freight cars, trotting along the ballast, in search of a departing train. Denver yard antagonized me, partly because the activity amongst the city. People in Colorado walked. They ran, jogged, put themselves in the outdoors, which as a train tramp felt unknown to me.  I wallowed in the darkness, not because of its inherent dangers filling the shadows of the street lights, with booze, drugs and prostitutes, but because I walked alone in the night.  Night camouflaged me from security, citations and potential jail time.  I knew its risk and wandered anyway.  

Those eight miles strolled by in a yawn. As I roamed 31st Street to enter the yard behind Denver’s industrial complexes and closed-off construction areas, in the midst of gentrification, I stumbled upon a closed road.  The perfect entrance.  I tiptoed reaching the ballast, scanning the yard for cameras and without hesitation I ran. The first three empty tracks sprawled out across the ground, vacant of trains, with only steel, spikes and wood separating me from hiding for my next ride out of town.  I hopped up on a stopped train, planting my ass and pack inside the fox hole of a grainer.  The clock ticked and my body waited patiently, ready for the next train no matter the direction.  The ground rumbled in an uproar as I felt the vibrations of an oncoming locomotive and my spirits rose in an elated manner.  Her wheels purred against the steel in a tender squeal as the engineer worked the air brakes, ten, twenty, thirty empty coal cars rolled by, but she ceased to halt.  I sat up and pounced on my feet, jogging along the train, waiting for my ride, the back unit.  Clenching the ladder I pulled myself up as I skedaddled to the side door.  I jiggled the handle and tried to open her up, but my attempts remained nil.

“Shit another locked unit.”


I hopped off and watched her sail away, heading north to the unknown, as an oncoming train squeaked by on the 1st main line.  I looked ahead and my eyes met with a worker’s flashlight, as he checked the air hoses on an adjacent train, oblivious to my existence.  Immediately I changed my course, hopping onto the ladder of a southbound loaded coal car.  She rolled slowly through the yard.  Slow enough for me to switch sides of the train putting me out of sight of the yard.  Again the unit rolled by and I took a second attempt at the side door with futility striking my efforts.  


“Fuck it…”


I jogged along up to the next loaded coal car, climbing up the ladder, in plain view, throwing my body and pack against the grime and dust of the steel box.  I lay across the jagged rubble, coal poking my back and legs as plumes of dust crept into every crevice of my body, assaulting my nostrils and caruncles.  I scratched my eyes a teary red and sniffled, my eyes set on Big Brother from above, watching me from the masts of the yard.  I escaped unseen on the slowest, dirtiest ride ever heading south to industry.  


Where? It did not matter.  We chugged along at 15 mph through the frosty night sky.  The clouds smiled with a twinkle of the myriad stars shining over the silhouette of mountaintops.  An effervescence flowed freely through the air with pine and cheer.  I stood up plowing through the small, dark, rural towns, the wind whistling, as we crawled along the tracks.


“Man, what a slow fucking ride…”


After 4 hours we meandered through the valleys to Colorado Springs, where I came up with an ingenious plan to ride the unit.  How? The nose and side door stood there locked and dauntless, but the side window now, hmmm…


I left my pack on loaded coal fragments and moseyed along towards the unit.  Using the hand railings and gripping the side of the unit I clung on like life depended on it because it did.  I reached out as far as my small wingspan could reach, crimping the top cuff of the metal with one arm and prying the window open with the other. With a few jiggles she opened effortlessly leaving a small space to crawl into.  I shifted my fingers to the top of the unit, slowly edging across the cuff like a rock climber crimping his next move. Then I reached down into the open space pulling my body upward as my feet dangled freely a story above the ballast.  I wiggled for a second and threw myself in on the engineer’s chair, walked over to the side door and unlocked it.  Grabbing my pack, I set my gear on the floor and raided the fridge for water.  With a pisser, electrical outlet and speedometer I sat in my throne, the Cadillac of rides, a multi-million dollar unit. Naturally I checked the inspection log.  I still had hours to spare before the next inspection.  So I adjusted the thermostat, sprawled out along the rubberized floor, and drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke we arrived in La Junta, CO prior to sunrise.  We sat there for hours right past the mouth of the yard, at a siding.  I fidgeted inside, antsy to leave not anticipating inspection. But that’s what fell into my lap.

As the sun poked up across the horizon it winked at me and my mind finally snapped out of my morning daze.  “Shit a crew change, inspection.  I need to get out of the DPU.”  I stared out the back window as a white dot slowly materialized into a van.  The van stopped alongside the train where I planned my escape, the side door.  With the nose locked I could crawl out of the window, but my pack would not fit.  All these thoughts rambled my brain until I heard the jingling of the masterlock outside, a flannel shirt came into view and I surrendered fearing arrest.  I did not have time to hide in the shitter.  I stood there with my hands up.  The engineer let out a small yelp as he stumbled backwards.

“Is there anyone else in there I should know about?”

“No, sir. Sorry.”

“Well step out on this side. Don’t want ya to get hit…”

“Alright, thanks.”

“You know where you’re at?”


“Yes, sir. La Junta.”


“Well…alright…”


He stood there motionless for a second as I wondered how many days I’d sit in La Junta Jail.


“Go on now…have a nice day.”


“Ohhh…Thanks?”


And just like that all that fear, anguish and uncertainty subsided.  I walked away casually unsure of my next move.  The van rolled along towards the front engine, as I heard the ballast rumble beneath rubber.  I lingered in the desert behind the only dead tree near the yard pondering what to do.  What if I hopped back on the same train?  The yard looked dead. Nothing worked, I saw no activity, security or bulls.  I did not want to get stuck in a dead yard in a small town so I sat on the idea.  


Sure enough after an hour the units powered up and air hissed filling the hoses for departure. Slowly she began to glide along the smooth steel beneath her feet.  I ran quickly, scampering to a loaded coal car, scaling the ladder, for yet another tussle with coal.  A battle I surely lost as every orifice, and pore of skin covered in a black dust like a walking Grim Reaper.


We cruised along for 20 miles and stopped again next to the Arkansas River at a signal.  I wondered if he locked the window to the unit? Surely my curiosity made me check, but first I tried the side door. Locked, as I thought. After a few moments, I found myself sitting back in my 5-star ride, gaining access through the very same window as the previous night.  I smiled and laughed as I rode the same train I got pulled off of, in the same unit, of all else.


I peeked out the window watching the riparian vegetation outline the riverbed cascading alongside the train.  Shortgrass prairie scattered between vibrant green willow shrubs contrasting the countryside engulfed around me.  I felt freedom and at peace just watching the diverse scenery slowly change around me. Without any exertion on my part other than twisting off a cap to my next water, it felt legendary.  A generation of culture just out there to see it all, no matter what or where it was, by train, and I found myself slowly becoming apart of it. Not because I had to, but because I chose to, while temporarily out of work waiting for my next job to pick up.


Shortly, we entered Oklahoma, growling through open, desolate plains, with tractors and silos more commonplace the further we ventured. Farmers tilled soil in their fields, highways drowned in the freedom of emptiness and suddenly after the next crew change I found myself in another state.


The next big approaching city, Amarillo, stood within a few hundred miles of my location after leaving the tip of Oklahoma for the Texas Panhandle.  The train snoozed along the tracks slowly putting along the steel at unbearably slow speeds.  High and rolling plains snarled at me with mounds of redbed clays and coarse sand in the distance.  Among the prairies I witnessed mesquite woodlands as I basked from my swivel chair, peering out the window.

After 30 long hours of riding, and several crew changes I planned my hop out closer to town, scrutinizing the speedometer carefully to find the appropriate time to hop off.  As we rolled past Route 66 towards the coal industry I watched the sun sink below the horizon emitting bright shades of pink and blue sky beyond the dashboard of the unit.  15…10…8…6 mph flashed across the screen and I walked the plank with my gear strapped to my back, hopping off to figure out my next plans.  Where to sleep?

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

Road Trippin’ to the Rockies

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

After two years on and off the road traveling by foot, thumb, bicycle, bus, train, plane, and working itinerant jobs, I set out on a road trip with my fiancee from Phoenix to Breckenridge, Colorado – where it all began!

(Two years ago I set out on a bicycle tour from DE to CO. I pedaled over 2,600 miles before making it right outside Pueblo where I met up with a buddy to hike Hell’s Hole in Denver, CO. I hitched a short ride with him to Idaho Springs and continued my journey up through the Rockies covering over 5,000 feet of elevation in a day and eventually ended up in Breckenridge where I found a temporary job for the winter.)

Our short 4-day journey took us through Arizona, Utah and the Rockies ending up in Breckenridge. The best part of any trip is the journey and not the destination, but with only a few days to spare because of a short break from her teaching job, our stops along the way were limited. We headed north up through Arizona stopping at the abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post.

Faded paint chipped off every corner and wall of the structures. Each room covered in vibrant, artistic graffiti and random tags defaced what once remained a historical roadside landmark on Route 66 off I-40. As we roamed through each adjacent, dilapidated room we felt a piece of history come over us. The 25-foot tall twin arrows perched outside the trading post stood tall attracting us to the abandoned structure. The roof of the structure fell through to the foundation of most rooms piling up soggy, moldy debris alongside all of the trash discarded by other trespassers. One room turned into a beautiful, under-the-sea mural of a giant Octopus alongside an unknown sea creature splashing in the waves. The artist blended yellows and greens with a hint of orange to emphasize the head and tentacles outlining the creature’s veins with a thin line of purple. This room stood out from the others because the ceiling remained intact and minimal litter scattered across the flooring. Other rooms remained in shambles with garbage piling up in the corners of each room and random tags sprayed across the walls. One that stood out said, “Nothing Else Mattress” spray-painted in black cursive above an old, worn mattress. The metal springs exposed and rusted from the misty air. Empty floorboards, broken drywall, wood and trash made the trading post look like squatter central. Stenciled gray faces spray painted much of the outer building walls. Old gasoline pumps stood out front of the structure completely gutted. I looked deeper into the history of the Twin Arrows Trading Post to see what once lied on these crumbling ruins.

Twin Arrows

Twin Arrows

At one point in time, Bob Moore’s “Route 66: Spirit of the Mother Road,” called it the Canyon Padre Trading Post. Along with other nearby towns and businesses along Route 66 many of them failed in the 1970s. The Twin Arrows Trading post changed many hands until their inevitable doom in 1995. The structure still stands decaying more and more each year as the roof continues to cave in, the wet slop continues to pile up across the damp floors and the Twin Arrows slowly come to their death as the desert sun rots away at their wooden cores.

We stood their in amazement as this structure crumbled before our eyes and wondered why no one tried to keep its history.

I wonder what this book was before it dampened in the rain?

I wonder what this book was before it dampened in the rain?

Walking along the side of the highway, hopping the Jersey barriers to get to our car we drove on past more desolate towns, completely barren and left in rubble. We wanted to stop, but needed to continue our journey to Colorado to get their before nightfall. Traveling on we made a few more stops. One at the overpriced Meteor Crater where we decided to turn around as the hefty price of $36.00 dissuaded us from entering.

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

Through Painted Windows…

The other stop took us to an abandoned structure off the highway right outside northern Arizona. We stopped to explore the decayed, roofless building. I crawled in through the windowless pane avoiding fresh animal dung left by a donkey or mule. An old wooden door creaked as we took a walk-through of the structure. The backside of the structure appeared under construction and after looking in the adjacent rooms I noticed a possible squatter living here due to shoes, and other trash left behind on the floors. “WATER IS LIFE” graffiti lined the outside wall in bright green capital letters and as we walked off towards our car I noticed a small, “No Trespassing” sign spray-painted across the front wall of the building.

Abandoned Arizona

Abandoned Arizona – A roofless hut in the desert sun.

The next state on our travels quickly approached: Utah. We made a quick stop in Bluff and ate at Twin Rocks Cafe. The Twin Rocks became home to the San Juan Pioneers when their six-week journey turned into a 6-month journey in the late 1800s. After eating a quick meal we realized daylight began to fade and we hustled to get back on the road. Hoodoos and canyons sprawled out across both sides of the highway making our eyes glue to the beauty surrounding us. Despite wanting to stop on multiple occasions we only took a smoke break at Recapture Reservoir where we managed to capture a heartwarming photo of the reserve with the sun reflecting its bright rays off of it.

Abandoned Arizona

I wonder where the desert goes…

The short-lived drive through Utah felt like it ended as the night beckoned in through the canyons of the desert. We continued driving down the dark, desolate road until reaching I-70 which took us on a long, inclined drive up the side of a mountain. We journeyed through Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs Canyon on a few hundred mile incline where the car barely broke 50 MPH due to the gradual grade. At around midnight we made it to our destination ending up in Breckenridge, CO where we stopped in to 711 so Kelly could reunite with her friend Kimmi.

Recapture Reservoir, Utah

Recapture Reservoir, Utah

Due to our arrival time our options for sleep were limited. I remembered a lot off the beaten path where we could camp in our vehicle for the night. We wandered down a dark Tiger Road camping outside an old mine in a vacant parking lot. A few hours of tossing and turning in our small Toyota Corolla left us restless and uncomfortable. I almost gave up on sleep that night since 14 hours of driving and 3 hours of freezing inside our vehicle left us sleepless in a cold parking lot. After much consideration we put down the back seats and cuddled up under a sleeping bag in the fetal position.

Breck

Breck

Our bodies resting mainly in the trunk and our heads poking out, laying on the back seats. We awoke a few hours later. I felt tired and grouchy, but we filled the day with friends and exploration. We met up with Kimmi and her boyfriend Dirty exchanging stories and bullshitting for a few hours. We spent much of the day relaxing, wandering around Breckenridge, exploring Tiger Road following the dirt path until our vehicle could no longer drive down it and ended up staying in a cheap hotel in Silverthorne. I napped for a while adjusting to the altitude and we finished the night off with a drink and some alone time before passing out.

The next day I met up with some old friends. We bar hopped from Angel’s Hollow to Ollie’s Pub before ending up in Fairplay, Colorado where an intense night of partying took place. I ended up puking and exposing myself to my fiancee before passing out on the bathroom floor. She still loves me though 🙂

Angel's Hollow Breck

Me, Max, and Phat James

After a few days of reminiscing my time in Breckenridge, wandering and partying with old friends, I filled our car with my belongings that James stored for me at his cabin in the woods. My old bicycle I toured with to Colorado, the rear panniers, and a few other bags of ski equipment all crammed into the trunk of the car. We continued our journey back home to Phoenix, Arizona as I recovered from a 6-hour hangover in the passenger seat questioning my life decisions from the night prior. Most of our route remained the same with the exception of Colorado. Our drive took us through South Forks down to Cortez. The foliage looked immaculate as we steadily drove down the meandering bends of the Rockies stopping at one scenic overlook. Our time in Arizona granted us with an illuminating sunset across the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we stopped and took in the scenery. Despite the short trip I enjoyed my time on the road with my fiancee and old friends.

South Rim Sunset

Sunset outside the South Rim in the Grand Canyon

Pioneer Park

Hitchhiking to California

Hitchhiking to California

We stood near the on-ramp of I-70 West flying a sign that said, “West.” The vehicles whizzed by the roundabout right before rush hour traffic around 2:30 PM. Most people laughed, threw peace signs, thumbs up or ignored us. After plodding back and forth for about an hour we decided to get closer to the on-ramp and throw a sign. A V8 pickup truck flashed his turn signal and pulled off onto the shoulder, rocks and dust popping up as we ran to open the door.

Hitch Hiking to Cali

Throwin’ a Sign

The man, a carpenter from Buena Vista, headed to Copper Mountain, gave us a hitch.  Being our first time hitchhiking we didn’t think to ask how far west he was headed. Here to find out just six miles into an area nearly impossible to hitch hike out of we learned at that moment to only accept long distance rides to high traffic volume areas. Luckily, we walked to the on-ramp outside of Copper Mountain and after shaking there in the cold, windy weather, sign flapping in the wind, we ended up hitching a ride from a woman headed to Vantage Condos in Vail. She boarded, worked in finance with a major in international business and just moved out to Colorado from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Backcountry skiing out there kicks ass and she highly recommended me heading out there for next winter. The ride only lasted a half hour, but we made progress, mile by mile.

We tramped down the road walking parallel to I-70 West. I visited Vail a few years back and remembered my way around town. Every five minutes I glanced around looking over my shoulder for spots to sleep in town. The cold weather, wind and potential rain made it hard to find any suitable areas. However, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a man on the opposite side of the road who turned around and pulled off into the parking lot next to us. He rolled down his rickety window and asked where we planned on going. California bound, but far from our destination. He gave us two options. Wait for him to finish an errand and he’d hitch us to Edwards or wait and he’d give us a place to sleep for the night. I found that rather creepy and declined the offer, but took him up on the hitch to the next town.

Marien and I sat down on the curb of a small mall complex, scarfing down on some snacks while we waited for the scruffy, brown bearded man to pick us up.

After a half hour he pulled out of the parking lot and told us to hop in and throw our packs in the back. His old, beat up truck, creaky and full of trash, seemed like the only viable option at the time. So we jumped in and the truck rattled while he drove to Edwards. Another short distance hitch, but worth it since we decreased in elevation. He stopped at a local gas station to fill up letting us go on our journey. He planned on rubber tramping around America next year and writing a series of stories called, “The Bum Chronicles.” Based on the stories of bums, tramps, crusties, punks, etc. and how they separated from society to live a free lifestyle outside the norm. “Maybe we’d meet again,” I thought, as we lingered around the gas station, looking for a spot to fly a sign.

We walked to the roundabout near I-70 West and within a half hour an older woman from Alaska picked us up. An activist, who in March of 2013 set out to walk across America to support a cause for The Wild Foundation, gave us a ride to Eagle. She couldn’t take us any further, but gave me her card in case I make it out to Homer, Alaska.

Hitch Hiking Eagle Colorado

Hitch Hiking through Eagle, CO. We spent the night on a hill in the woods.

She pulled off on the side of the roundabout near a Burger King and we parted ways. At this point, only an hour of daylight remained, we threw a sign with no luck of a ride. We ventured on down a back-country road. A river rapidly flowing to the right of us, and yellow-brown blended sandstone mountains soaring to the horizon. To our left, a mountain covered in brush and trees with rocks tumbling down a steep slope.

I glanced around for no trespassing signs and could not find any in sight so we decided to climb up the slope to find a spot to camp. Slipping and sliding around while rocks clunked and rolled down the hill we finally reached the top where flat ground lay. Immediately we found a great camping spot beneath a tree. Minor problem being the dog who reluctantly and viciously barked at us from the neighboring lawn. We couldn’t sleep here. We trekked across until he stopped yelping and howling only to encounter another mangy mut.

I paced myself and slid down the hill grabbing onto trees to brace my falls. We reached flat, rocky ground with rabbit droppings and pebbles. The dogs stopped barking at this point. A small section of land appeared to be camp worthy, but we needed to position our bodies appropriately for it to work out. I laid feet sloped upwards nearly sliding down the mountain while Marien lay in the opposite direction feet sloped downwards with his pack on a rock. The rocks beneath us, uncomfortable, braced us from rolling down the steep grade. They became a nuisance as the night sky loomed over us and the cold dragged in through the trees.

We barely slept at all that night due to our bodies being weirdly positioned. I remember fading in and out until finally drifting off into a peaceful sleep. Only to wake up hours later to nearly sliding headfirst down the slope.

I re-positioned my body the same direction as Marien’s and drifted back off to sleep right before sunrise. 

With maybe two to three hours of sleep we both looked like zombies. The sun rose shining vibrant, bright rays of light into our bloodshot, craggy eyes. We drug our feet down the road with our heavy packs on and yearned for the Burger King to open to grab some breakfast.

First, we decided to throw a sign to get out of Eagle. A trucker passed and motioned that he would pull off on the shoulder, but never did. Five minutes later a punk chick pulled up and rolled down the window. Her lip rings, nose ring, and jet black hair presented a hardcore aura, but her nice gesture offering us a ride to Grand Junction was enough for us to hop in and stash our packs in the trunk.

We talked for maybe five minutes and the rest of the ride consisted of a lot of dead silence. A fluent conversation with this girl seemed to be impossible, but nonetheless we learned she moved four times over the past year and had two kids. When she stepped out of the vehicle to grab a coffee at Starbucks I realized how beastly this woman was, standing at 6’4″ and at least a good 225+ lbs. my jaw dropped in amazement. She offered to buy us something, but we declined.

The ride to Grand Junction took us through Glenwood Canyon, which I traveled through before a few years back when I visited the hot springs. The canyon really portrays a variety of colors throughout the different rock formations, which is how the state got its name, “Colorful Colorado.”

Hitch Hiking through GJ, CO

We started hitch hiking to California yesterday and made it to Grand Junction, CO.

She dropped us off near the on-ramp in Clifton, which made an unsuccessful attempt for hitchhiking. Vehicles whizzed by at speeds of 70 MPH and the lack of a shoulder made it impossible to stop. We stood outside in the chilly, misty weather, raindrops casually landing on our heads every few minutes. The intermittent showers made us seek shelter until the sun popped its head out a few hours later.

We munched on some food at Subway and trekked down the road for about six miles until we entered Grand Junction. This town sucked for hitchhiking. No one acknowledged us or even thought about giving us a hitch.  After four hours in the scorching heat, my arms singed a dark reddish brown, nose peeling, I gave up and plopped my ass at the nearest stoplight hoping a kind soul would give us a lift to the next town. I threw rocks at the ground while Marien flew a sign.

Hearing a voice off in the distance I heard a woman yell out, “What direction are ya headed?”

“West,” I said. 

She asked if we wanted a ride to the next town over, Fruita.  We nodded our heads, with only one condition, we needed to sit in the bed of her truck.

We hopped over the tailgate and unstrapped our packs. As soon as this woman tapped the gas of her V8 pickup truck I could tell we were in for a bumpy, speeding frenzy.  She sped through town burning yellow lights, passing cars over double lines all through the back roads of Route 340.

We sat in the back our asses thumping against the bed of the truck as we hit the rigid cracks in the roadway.  Then a light shower sprayed down on us, my hair soaked and parted across my head from the wind flying over the front of the truck.  The winding roads filled with mountainous ridges and radiant cliffs off in the distance. Huge mansions filled the land. Our faces spread smiles of joy and amazement from the beautiful views bestowed upon us.

Within minutes we arrived in Fruita hopping out at the Loco truck stop and gas station. She offered to buy us food or beer, but we declined.

Hitch Hiking through Fruita, CO

Hitch Hiking through Fruita, CO. Don’t stop here guys…it took us forever to get out!

We could not find a proper spot to fly a sign so we tested out the sidewalk near the on-ramp. After several hours of standing and soaking in the burning sun we managed to make $20 without panhandling, but merely holding a sign that said, “West.”

A long four hours of standing made this seem like an endless pit going nowhere.  We walked over to the truck stop to see if any truckers could give us a lift and found out that only independent contractors had that capability due to insurance restrictions with other company vehicles. 

After much lost hope and mental anguish we saw a fellow traveler hop out of a truck with a dog. So not all hope vanished.

The scruffy man with noticeable teeth damage walked over in our direction. His name, Whitewolf, and partner in crime, Jack, gave us some pointers on road life.

The best times to hitch are early in the morning during work traffic or between 3 to 4 PM when people are coming off from work. You might also get lucky with the occasional truck driver. He also mentioned a place to sleep off in the distance by the Colorado River.

We decided to take his advice and call it a night. He sketched me out a bit so we found another spot to sleep off Route 6 West next to the True Value in a bushy area. I actually fell asleep for a few more hours than the night before. The snoring, and gargling sounds expelling from Marien’s mouth woke me up ever so often, but I just smacked him so I could nod off.

The stars lit up the sky that night and the cold, frigid air, dropped the temperature into the low 40’s making my bones chill.

I awoke super early at 4:30 AM and hustled to pack my gear to see if any truckers headed westbound on I-70 would pick us up.

Fruita, CO

Another hot day in Fruita flying a sign 🙁

We stood outside the Loco truck stop flying our sign as each trucker passed with zero acknowledgement. Distraught, we lost faith in them and decided to hang by the on-ramp. Only this time we sat in front of the no pedestrians on the highway sign. We walked back and forth down the sidewalk between the gas station and city market multiple times. Not a soul would pick us up. Most of these rich, pricks just laughed or ignored us.

We decided to move towards the roundabout inside of the city limits and still came out unsuccessful. Lunch whirled around and we hit the gas station for food where we saw Whitewolf again.

He advised us not to fly a sign inside city limits since we could get arrested for soliciting. He also pointed out we could panhandle outside of Loco without getting in trouble since the workers did not care.

He kept mentioning his brother Blue being right outside of town. They wanted to meet up in Fruita and head to Moab. His brother, an ex gang banger, made hitchhiking a profession much like Whitewolf. He perfected the skills of scoring rides and money in a time efficient manor.  

Noon hit and we decided to give the on-ramp another whirl only this time we ventured onto the highway for a bit. When that proved futile we moved to the on-ramp only this time we sat closer to the city limits so more people could see us from the light.

A pickup truck pulled over acting like he wanted to pick us up. By the time we ran down the on-ramp the man scurried off the shoulder and onto the road. We got shafted once again. At this point I lost my composure and gave up all hope. We might be stuck here for a while.

Then a yellow Subaru made a wide turn and pulled off on the shoulder picking us up.  The woman, a young 29 year old, brunette with a short black mini skirt and small body frame just finished mountain biking with her dog, Paige, in Fruita. On her way to Zion National Park she asked where we were headed. “As far west as you’re going,” we said.

We held a long conversation with this girl. Her outgoing personality and thirst for adventure made it a very cool ride. She boarded, mountain biked, and rock climbed among many other activities. She worked for Zion National Park and we talked about the most random things that I can’t recall what topics we covered, but it made the three to four hour trip seem like a half hour.

Between the conversations that took place and the breathtaking, diverse scenery, Utah by far exceeded my expectations. Never in my life did I set my eyes on such intricate, colorful mountainsides, with huge bright canyons, and smaller slopes covered in green trees and pastures.

Utah Hitch Hiking

We made it to Cedar City, Utah today baby despite hitch hiking being illegal in Utah!

I scrunched myself in the back seat and most of the trip my feet lost feeling and toes numb. I moved my ass ever so often to keep it from getting sore. So much backpacking gear and equipment filled her backseat and her dog kept snuggling up next to me so I felt squished between her stuff and the window. She apologized, but I didn’t mind since I appreciated the hitch through most of Utah.

It being Easter and about to rain we decided to use some of the money we made towards a Hotel for the night. We stayed at the Days Inn in Cedar City where the young, pretty girl dropped us off before heading to Toquersville.  After camping outside for a few days a good night’s rest definitely suited us.

We showered, ate food and passed out into a deep sleep while watching television. I don’t recall falling asleep. I remember waking up around 10 AM to check out and put in a day of work on the roadway trying to hitch out to the next town.

We flew multiple signs hoping to skip St. George and land in Vegas or California, but all we got out of it was $10 measly dollars and no ride.  Hours passed and I felt like we sat back in Fruita, with no hope of leaving. 

The main issue we encountered being the illegality of hitchhiking in this state. Most officers don’t enforce the law, but people displayed paranoia as they drove by us. We saw many gestures, one of which, a forefinger pinched close towards the thumb. At first I thought everyone was making fun of our dicks with a deprecating comment about the length, but then realized they meant we were close. We both chuckled over that one for a while.

Cedar City, UT

Flyin’ a sign to get the hell out of Cedar City, UT.

After flying a sign for hours that day in Cedar City we almost gave up hope. An Indian woman flagging for construction going on near the on-ramp waved us over. She noticed us standing outside holding our sign and offered to give us a ride to the nearest homeless shelter after her shift. They would pay for our bus ticket to Vegas. It didn’t take much thinking on our part. Within a few seconds we looked at each other, nodded and declined the offer. We’d test our luck on the road since the cops didn’t pester us yet.

Another hour passed and an older woman with two dogs, headed to St. George, stopped to give us a hitch. She worked on designing many of the homes in the area and gave us her card. An excellent tour guide pointing out the canyons of Zion National Park and the other ridges in the area, Black Ridge and Red Ridge. She gave us a brief overview of her hometown, Old Harmony, which consisted of Mormons who came from Harmony, Pennsylvania. Many believed in abstaining from addiction substances like tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, and took their religion very seriously despite having a polygamous lifestyle.

Dana needed to make a stop home first to grab eggs for St. George before dropping us off there to get us one step closer to Vegas.

We pulled into her driveway and helped her unload the soil and fertilizer from her trunk. Her yard looked almost self-sustainable for a vegetarian. Vegetables, flowers, and chickens occupied the yard with a clean, blissful view of the mountains in the distance. She propped up frames of trampolines to make greenhouses in her front yard and just finished an addition to her back yard making her home a bit more spacious.

New Harmony, UT

A nice woman invited me into her home in New Harmony, UT while hitch hiking to California!

She cruised along pointing out every little attraction and historic area between Cedar City and St. George. The incredible view of diverse scenery amazed both of us. Mountains of red, brown, orange and green illuminated the sky of clear blue. She pulled into the Sinclair gas station and dropped us off in the middle of town. The massive traffic volume in the area complemented all the industries, stores and university.

We walked around, grabbed some grub and hit the on-ramp for a few hours flying our “Vegas” sign. A few drove by and giggled, laughed, threw their hands up like they didn’t know where they were headed and in the end we stood there ride-less. I waved at all the hot women looking our direction and they acknowledged me and reciprocated, but 7 PM came and we needed to find a place to sleep.

We walked into town looking for desolate buildings or bushy areas to camp. Trudging along up the hill a beige vehicle stopped near the sidewalk next to where we walked. A younger man, in his thirties, with gauges and a bull ring in his nose, told us he lived in Vegas and departed tomorrow around 5 PM if we wanted to hitch a ride. We told him to meet us near the on-ramp.

We looked down over town and to our right sighted a bouldering park: Pioneer Park. Many people climbed and walked around following the path before darkness hit. We moseyed around climbing to the very top of the park waiting for people to leave. I noticed an uninhabited area by a billboard across from where we sat.

Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park – We did some bouldering and ended up sleeping on the highest cliff there.

The perfect place to camp for the night. The sun slowly faded off into the sky as darkness staggered in upon us. All of the artificial lighting made it near impossible to sleep. The sky lingered in a light phase until about midnight. We pulled our mummy bags over our heads and dozed off into a deep slumber atop the highest point in the park overlooking every bright yellow speck of light in the city.

Pioneer Park

Marien free climbing some cliffs in Pioneer Park.

Pioneer Park

Pioneer Park – St. George, UT

We awoke to the sounds of cars putter pattering across the blacktop from down below and the screeching noise of tires sliding against the roadway. The sun peeked its head out over the mountains and the wind roared like we were in Kansas.

Certain our ride would pull through we decided to walk to the nearest grocery store, 3 miles away. Halfway into the walk we saw Zack in his beige car. He yelled down the street at us, “HOP IN.”

He dropped us off at the grocery store before work and mentioned he’d be around the exit at 5 PM to hitch us to Vegas. We didn’t think to exchange numbers, but figured we’d meet him later in the day by the on-ramp.

After hitting the store, and scarfing down a huge piece of bread along with fruit slices, we made our way back up to the Vegas on-ramp. Holding our sign in the windy, drizzling weather made it rough to get a ride. No one acknowledged us, and we banked on Zack pulling through. After an hour a police officer rolled up to the shoulder and asked the usual bullshit questions cops do. He demonstrated politeness, as did we, but some of his questions came off as irrelevant. He requested to see our IDs to see if any warrants existed for either of us. I scurried around in my wallet and could not find my Breckenridge ID. He ended up searching on my voided DE license. After questioning us, he let us go with a warning and told us not to solicit on the corner anymore or he’d have to charge us.

Hitchhiking is illegal in Utah and Nevada, which we knew, but we ended up here so we took our chances.

We decided to hit up Pioneer Park and boulder for a few hours before our ride to Vegas. We plopped our bags down in the sandy valleys of rocks and began free climbing. I did not have my climbing shoes, but bouldered anyway.

Dangling between the crevices of rocks physically exhausted us making our forearms sore and tingling. We sat down and rested for a bit before grabbing food and waiting for Zack to arrive.

We loitered around Sinclair gas station after speaking with the manager and patiently waited in lounge chairs until 4:30 PM.

A hippie from Breckenridge with long black hair and a stoned look on his face pulled up asking us for drugs. I laughed and didn’t take him seriously. He proceeded to list the drugs he wanted. I laughed again saying sorry man. We get hassled by cops, you really think I want to get searched with drugs on me?

He threw a peace sign as they left for Colorado. We walked back and forth down the road next to the on-ramp waiting for Zack. Ten minutes went by, then twenty, then thirty and an hour. We gave up hope. He shafted us, and remained to be our last hope.

Since we did not want trouble with the police and hitchhiking appeared to be useless we tramped to the nearest shuttle, 5 miles away.

Ended up paying 30 bucks to take a shuttle to Vegas. I felt ashamed and didn’t look out the window since our hitch failed. Ended up fading in and out of sleep from the bumpy motion until we ended up on the Vegas strip.

We trudged along the strip looking for a cheap motel. The Hard Rock, our cheapest route, located 3 miles away seemed like our best choice.

The heels of my feet started to feel like every step I took landed barefoot across sharp, pointy rocks. The pain worsened the further we traveled, but I wanted to gamble, drink and see some titties. After a long drawn out trek away from the strip we ended up at the casino hotel, which claimed $29 rooms for the night.

When we arrived the front desk personnel told us the cheapest room available, $95. So we decided to check in our bags and walk around the casino.

I tried gambling until approached by security asking for my license. Then I realized I left it in Cedar City. I tried explaining it to them and showing my voided license from DE, but these people have the brains of peas.

I verbally abused them since they did not follow my explanation or do anything to help my situation. Between the black man and Native American neither one offered a resolution. They nearly forcefully removed me from the casino.

At this point, gambling, titties and drinking became impossible. We pondered hitchhiking, but after seeing another traveler get arrested and harassed by cops we decided to look up the Greyhound station schedule and head to Salt Lake City.

We walked about 10 miles through the hood of Vegas in the wee hours of the morning. It took us about two to two and a half hours until we finally reached the station. The street covered in filth. Abandoned buildings decayed on every street we walked down. Bums slept behind dumpsters, on the sidewalks and even upright on benches just covering their bodies in tarps. The station filled with all different kinds of odd people from pimps, home bums, broken down snow bunnies, crack heads, strippers, and a few normal looking individuals. We booked a ticket for SLC that left early in the morning. We used this time to sleep since we stayed up most of the day and walked about 15 miles in total.

Marien texted me and eventually nudged my shoulder. I awoke from what felt like a drunken stupor. My eyes in a clouded daze from lack of sleep. I looked over towards my right to see a scruffy, gray-bearded home bum trying to steal my ticket from Vegas to SLC. After confronting him about it he exclaimed he was holding it for me. The man, embarrassed, walked away and left the building. Luck, on his side, because if he tried reaching into my other pocket I may have accidentally stabbed him with my knife.

The next few hours our heads bobbed up and down like we were bobbing for apples. We sat in our chairs slumped over, tired, waiting for the bus to pick us up. When that moment finally came it felt like heaven. Never in my life, would I enjoy the simple pleasure of just sitting on a bus, squished next to some random person, until that night due to lack of sleep.

We arrived in SLC and spent much of the day walking around checking out the town. This city, covered in bums, homeless people, and gangs, caught me off guard. I expected to see a bunch of Mormons and religious people trying to bless me and keep my spirits from going to the depths of hell. We roamed around the city for miles and eventually took a city bus, UTA, to Ogden where we grabbed some food and noticed a considerable amount of skin heads in the area. I really regret not taking the plunge and walking 8 miles in-land to see the Great Salt Lake, but after trekking considerable distances the other days we took better judgment against it.

We ate a few meals at some small diners and grabbed gas station food for the rest of our time in SLC. We explored the outskirts of the city limits to find a place to sleep. Once we stumbled upon a park with a considerably steep hill we scoped it out for potential spots to sleep and relaxed until dark watching the sun set before our eyes and peep its way under the hill. We set up camp on a small flat section in the middle of the hill. This way we could get to the above highway if we needed to, but also, any footsteps approaching us from below would awaken us from falling rock. I nestled into my sleeping bag as I watched the trains pass by below and eventually dozed off into the night.

The next day we awoke relatively early to the epic rays of the sun rise beating down our bags. My bones no longer chilled, but immersed in sweat from wearing too many layers the night before. I quickly began to remove clothing and proceeded to wake up Marien whom I thought got the best sleep of his life because he didn’t budge from his bag at all until I nudged him.

We packed up our gear and headed back down the road taking a hiking path towards the gas station. A guy popped out of the bushes and approached me, holding out his hands, like I was his savior. As he got closer to me, I realized an 8-inch dagger lay across all ten of his fingers. I nearly ran, but refrained from freaking out and yelling at him. I clasped my pocket knife in my right hand and out of no where he murmurs, “Nice pack, do you want to buy this dagger off me for your travels?”

I then realized this harmless guy just wanted some money for food. He probably stole that off someone and wanted to get rid of it. I shook my head and politely said, “No, but thanked him for the offer.” He scurried back behind the bushes and it appeared to me he spent the night there as all his belongings appeared to be scattered on the ground. We continued on and tried to find something to occupy our minds. The abandoned building next to us, locked tight, and boarded up at every entrance and window, did not seem like a plausible exploration spot. I tried gaining access through the second story window, with no luck and decided to tramp on down the road towards the mall.

SLC

Sunset on a hill in SLC

Breck Street Musician

Breck Street Musician

Last night I finished work late around 9:20 PM. I grabbed my backpack and headed out the back door towards Main Street. I walked down the road headed towards Breck Station with intentions of catching the 9:45 PM bus, but I saw a man on the street corner fiddling on his guitar and decided to stop for no particular reason.

I sat on the stoop next to a bearded man in his late twenties and an older homeless man in his late forties with a guitar in one hand and a bottle of liquor in the other.  He slurred his words and played little riffs on his guitar. One of his more unique songs was dead flowers dedicated to his bitch of an ex-wife…as he so exclaimed many times over the course of the night. He gave me some advice, “Hit it and quit it.” I chuckled and continued to listen to his theories on our government and God as he continued to mess around on his guitar. The other gentleman scattered for some beer, but appeared sketchy and ended up getting kicked off the older man’s stoop.

I sat, legs crossed, ears open, just listening to the man speak. Sweat dripping off his greasy, long gray hair, meandering through his scruffy beard as it plopped onto the ground from his chin. The disheveled man hit the end of the road no doubt, but still experienced much of life that many others never will in their lifetime. Flying signs made him end up in Breckenridge when he was headed for Hawaii. Many years of hitch hiking, spangeing and working corners and he ended up in a ritzy town with snow, cold air and mountains all around him.

We never got into where he slept on cold nights, but after bumping into him today I learned the cops hassled him a few days ago and ended up giving him a citation. His court date is in a few weeks.

It sucks that the homeless are treated like this. I thought about giving this man some of my extra travel gear since I won’t need it when I leave.

He mentioned fighting for your rights in the constitution and never giving into anything just because that’s the way the majority sees it fit. I always have interesting conversations with this guy.

Today I learned back when he was bumming in Florida he met the original drummer from the band Classics IV.  The man got drafted and left the band without any choice. The song he came up with “Spooky” wound up becoming a huge hit. He missed out on his dream because of our government. The Man bought him a guitar before they parted ways. Hopefully karma put him back on his feet.

I left not much longer after this story to get an eye exam at my appointment.  It’s been an interesting day. My season is definitely over due to stress fractures in my legs, but I plan on getting back into biking and rock climbing to make the rest of the season go by before I spend the summer skydiving in Akron, New York.

Sally Barbara Terrain Park

Sally Barbara

Sally Barbara

I’ve upped the stakes over the past few weeks and finally overcame my fear of being inverted and spinning. We got a crew together from work and parked in the Sally Barbara lot then hiked about twenty minutes until we reached a bowl to the left of the cross country skiing path.  We used the roadway to create a jump and launch off into the powder. I hit a back flip for the first time and landed a 360. James learned a 360 and Alex was hitting 720s. The spot was perfect to learn tricks with minimal risk of getting injured.  I landed one back flip and fell on three hitting my tips and over rotating. Once I get enough practice and learn the rotation for spins and back flips my goal is to huck off cliffs and land them. I want to be able to scope out a line and just go off a cliff into a double back flip doing true free ride skiing.  We hit up the lot a few days later and launched off the biggest jump I’ve ever hit in my life. This man made jump was like 10 feet tall and launched us 20 to 30 feet in the air and 40 feet out.

I finally achieved some of my goals this season of attempting tricks. Now I just need to perfect them for Jackson Hole next winter.

Man made street jump

Park Jumps

Making some park jumps at Sally Barbara in the Back Country at French Creek Gulch.

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