Going to Mexico, Again

Rod offered to drive me 50 miles to Casa Grande to meet up with Kevin, my rideshare to Costa Rica.  Before we left, we jumped.

Phx_Rod_Nat_Jump

We ate at Del Taco, my treat.  Then Kevin arrived in his 1983 Mercedes Benz Diesel.

Phx_Del_Taco_Bike_Car

I had bought a bike rack through craigslist for $25; basically, my ticket to Costa Rica.  While I was packing my bags into the car, Rod, Nathan, and Kevin were really interested in attaching the bike rack to car.  Too many guys working on a simple task.

Phx_Del_Taco_Group

It was time to say goodbye to Rod and Nathan.  I gave them each a big hug, but an especially big one for Rod; he had saved my ass in Texas, and helped me out a lot in Phoenix.

Kevin and I drove to Tucson.  I had arranged a place for us to stay through CouchSurfing.  Fess was able to host us, but the bad part was that we arrived really late, like 11:30 pm and then got up and left early at around 7:30 am.  So, I felt bad because it was bad CouchSurfing etiquette.  We were basically using Fess’s place as a free hotel.  Fess said he didn’t mind.

Tucson_Fess_Host

Fess was kind of odd.  He’s about 40 and living with his parents.  He told us that he hasn’t worked since 1999 because he likes traveling, and he was happy to showboat his travel knowledge. “I’m more comfortable in third world countries.”  Whatever dude.

Kevin and I crossed the border in Nogales, AZ the next morning.  No problem.  No grenades either.  Kevin was pumped we were in Mexico!  Party boys!

Mex_Excited_Kevin

Advertisements

Ethics: Stealing a Can of Beer

This is the incident that set off a four hour argument. It involves this CouchSurfer, Chris, a wannabe troubadour from Memphis. Free spirit.

So then we left to go out. We came to a Circle K. Chris was jumpy, “Hey let’s stop here and get some beer.” Dawid pulled in and we got out. “I’m not gonna buy beer, but I’ll watch you guys buy some.” Dick comment. I follow them to the back refrigerator. I see Chris take a big can of PBR and slip it into his back pocket. I call him on it. “Dude, are you serious?” All sly and sneaky but with a big smile on his face, he says proudly, “I do it all the time.” “That’s bullshit dude.” I get pissed.

Genessa buys a six-pack and then we return to the car. Chris broaches the subject of his stolen beer. My heart starts thumping. “Dude, you just stole that beer. That’s wrong. Why do you think it’s okay to do that?” He gives me some abstract explanation of how his conscience doesn’t think it’s wrong, so it’s not wrong. I get riled up about it. I noticed my voice get emotional at the end of some of my statements.

Phx_Troubadour_Wannabe

Look at the bandana tied around his boot, and his mesh sleeve over one arm. Give me a break.

He thinks he can customize some bizarre morality for himself where it’s okay to steal from a business, and that if he’s happy with it, that’s all that matters. I tell him that he’s selfish parasite. That if everyone used his morality, there’d be no Circle K’s and there’d be no beer in a can. Chris said that would be fine; he doesn’t like or respect a business like Circle K. Dude, you benefit from it. They provide you certain products in exchange for money; that’s the agreement. If you don’t to support Circle K, don’t be a patron of their stores.

Chris started telling me that “money is a construct that we’ve assigned certain emotional value to” and that in a primitive society, people would barter. Oh God, free spirit. Stupid open-minded ideas. Money exists to make bartering easier. What you did in there is *take.* Nothing was bartered or agreed upon. It wasn’t a gift either. And this isn’t a primitive society. You’re in fucking Phoenix dude. It’s a modern society with laws. To live here and benefit from it, you need to respect the laws that allow people to live together. If you want to act like you’re in a primitive society, go out to the damn countryside.

He kept talking about primitive society and eating from the land, like picking an apple from a tree. Dude, what you stole is a canned beer. It’s a manufactured product; not primitive at all. The beer is mass produced, it’s been canned, there’s a label printed on the can, and it’s been refrigerated. There’s a value to it, and Circle K is selling it.

We talked about how Circle K is operating under an agreement. They are selling beer for money. He broke the agreement, so he’s wrong. He’s fucking them over, and if everyone operated with his morality, there’d be no Circle K. Chris said, “Exactly. I guess I choose who to fuck over.” He went on to say that I don’t even realize how many people and things I fuck over with my purchases. The troubadour used my bike as an example. Talking about low-wage workers and pollution from mills. That my purchase was taking advantage of people and the earth. He got me confused with that one, although I believe Surly is American-made, so it doesn’t involve low-wage workers. Giving some complicated irrelevant example to take the heat off of him. But I thought about it, and realized that everybody throughout that supply chain was operating under an agreement. Low-wage workers were working willingly. No one was forcing them to work, so even though they might not be paid enough, it’s still their choice. The government sets standards on pollution. The factory would be operating under that agreement. We’re citizens of that government and we have to agree that the government will represent us. So we’re operating under agreements. Back to the simple example of him stealing a beer. He broke the agreement with Circle K. He’s wrong.

I asked him how he’d feel if I stole his beloved black troubadour hat. He said he’d be pissed. I tried to make him realize that that’s how Circle K feels too. But Chris sees Circle K very differently than a person. He said he wouldn’t steal from me “because you’re you.” Abstract, free-thinking. I told him it shouldn’t matter whether it’s an individual, an independent, artsy coffee house, a non-profit, or business like Circle K; it’s stealing in each case. Chris told me that his father was a preacher, so he was raised straight. But that now he’s questioning everything. What is good and evil? He threw in saying something about “semantics.” And that he realized that “To get anywhere, we’ve got to just blow it all up. You know what I mean?” “Dude, I have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re arguments aren’t coherent.”

And it’s true, his arguments sucked. They were based on free-spirited questioning and romantic ideas of primitive society. What he had going for him was confidence. He remained calm, maintained eye contact, and used bullshit, meaningless vocabulary to try to explain his way out an obviously wrong petty crime he committed.

The other thing that pissed me off about it was that he was so proud of it. “I won’t buy beer, but I’ll watch you guys buy beer,” and “I do it all the time” with a big smile on his face. If you’re so proud of it, and you speak so righteously about your behavior, you should act righteously too. Next time you go to steal a beer, instead of sneaking out with it in your back pocket, you should hold it up to the clerk and tell them your taking it. Go on dude, see what happens.

He could have just waited for Genessa to buy the six-pack and give him a one. A gift.

We argued about it off and on for about four hours probably. We went around and around, and I realized it was pointless. If he can’t accept the most basic ethical principle, that it’s wrong to steal, we won’t get anywhere. Taking his hat, or taking his life, would be wrong, but he didn’t think taking a beer from Circle K was the same thing. IT’S TAKING DUDE. STEALING.

I didn’t want to be pals with him, but we both agreed that the argument was the highlight of the night, and it was time to lay it to rest. I hope I crushed his spirit a little though, just enough for him to think about it next time he goes to steal.

Phoenix: Thieves, Troubadours, and Wannabes

Leaving Rod and Teresa

I spent a couple of nights with Rod and Teresa. I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, and I wasn’t even sure what my welcome was — I had hitched a ride to El Paso and kept stretching it: motel room, continuing to Phoenix, and then accommodation in Phoenix. I had definitely pushed it. Rod and Teresa had been really good to me. So, to give them a break, I contacted a CouchSurfer, Dawid, who said I could stay with him no problem.

I proposed the idea to Rod. I didn’t want to just bail on him and reject his hospitality, but I knew he wanted some private time with his wife, without an extra, strange body in the house. Rod was like, “Yeah, that might be a good idea.” It was a funny response. He was straight with me. I was expecting, “No dude, no, not at all. You can stay as long as you like,” and I was going to interpret it as “Dude, I need a little space.” I guess it didn’t matter how he was going to respond; I was going to give him a break no matter what. Guests are like fish; after three days they stink.

Phx_Rod_Teresa_Bye

“Psychotic” Host Dawid

Dawid doesn’t have a cell phone, so I just showed up. Luckily, he was around. And he gave me a great welcome. When I walked through the door, it was high energy. He’s traveled a lot, including a trip down through Central America, and also a backpacking trip in Eastern Europe, like me. He was rattling off a fresh, new vocabulary. “Dude, this shit’s psychotic in the Summer.” He kept spouting off this shit, and I just listened. It was entertaining.

Dawid was pumped I chose to go South to Central America. He wanted to come too, but he’s gotta hang out in Phoenix for some business. He was telling me I’d be living like a king in Nicaragua, and that “Central America is like elementary school. When you get into South America, that’s some serious shit. That’s like high school or college. It’s a whole different level, bro!” I don’t really know what that meant.

Phx_Dawid_House

Dawid and his now ex-girlfriend, Kristin, bought the house a few years ago. Then they broke up, but they’re still living together with some other roommates. Pretty cool they were able to work that out. It speaks to their easy-going nature.

He made it clear that “Mi casa es su casa.” Dawid had some hair clippers in the bathroom, so I gave myself a fresh cut. #3. And I didn’t fuck it up, Ryan; I kept the guard on the whole time! ;P

Phx_Dawid_Haircut

I went out to Safeway to get some essentials, including a gallon of milk. When I’ll be somewhere a few days, I like to get milk and drink the shit out of it. Nourish my body. I love milk.

I also found a deal in the brownie aisle. Duncan Hines buy 2, get 3 free. Holy shit!! 5 boxes in my basket.

Then I went on a brownie baking binge. First victims: Dawid and his girlfriend, Janessa. They just got browned!

Phx_Dawid_Janessa_Brownies

Wannabe Troubadour

Dawid told me that another CouchSurfer would be coming by, “a real morbid nomad.” Knock at the door, and a low-energy, skinny shit with glazed eyes drifted through the door. Dirty backpack, gallon jug of water, guitar slung over his back, troubadour black hat, worn down black boots, bandana tied above one of his boots, sunken cheeks, boney bastard. His name was Chris. He didn’t introduce himself, and waited for people to ask him questions. He was from Memphis.

The three of us headed out to Tempe, the nearby university town. Chris took his guitar. He wandered ahead of us, swaying from side to side. Man in black. Johnny Cash, Jack Kerouac wannabe. Bad boy.

Phx_Walk_Guitar

We were going to take the light rail to Tempe. Dawid forgot his wallet and was going to ride the train illegally. My attitude towards riding public transportation for free changed a lot when I got caught on MARTA in Atlanta. That was a bad deal and I had to pay it back with community service. I paid for Dawid’s ticket. Chris didn’t buy a one. I let the free spirit be free.

Phx_Light_Rail

When we got to Tempe, Dawid and I split with Chris, who wanted to play street corners for coins.

Bizarre Time in Tempe

We walked around Tempe, which was a weird, ultra-clean, outdoor mall. A black guy sitting on stoop with his friends asked us for some money for food. He had bizarre pale blue eyes. I had brought brownies along with me, so I offered those. He didn’t want any. Hypocrite. But a couple of his friends did, so I handed them out. The weird-eyed guy shouted to his friends, “Take ’em all!” an odd, selfish outburst. And then he yelled out to Dawid, who was wearing a hat with feathers, “Hey man, gimme sum of dose feathers man!”

Dawid and I decided to avoid wasting money at a bar, so we went to a Jack in the Box to drink a bunch of refills. Two fat guys were in there watching the parking lot, busting non-customers. While we were there, they had a car towed. They told us they were “contractors. “Shitty job. Sitting around all day trying to bust people. The guy whose car was towed came in and confronted the fat guys. Their sweaty, pudgy faces tried to shake off the blame.

Phx_Tempe_Jack_Box

Dawid and I walked back to meet up with Chris. “Hey, do you guys listen to hip hop?” I denied any interest in hip hop. Dawid got sucked in and put on the headphones. A minute later, Dawid told the guy it was unoriginal stuff. The guy and Dawid got into a long discussion that was going nowhere. “‘Black’ and ‘African-American’ are both names given to us by the oppressor, so if I get to choose, I’ll choose to be called ‘Nigger.'” I walked away.

As they were talking, I noticed an overweight belly dancer dancing on the side street. She was dancing for money, but no one was interested, and she didn’t have any musical accompaniment. It was a lonely sight.

Across the street, there was some sort of Bible awareness group. I saw some alternative types in their parachute pants stop to get into some stupid religious argument with these guys. Is it really worth it?

As Dawid finished up his talk with the hip-hop guy, and we continued walking, I was immediately solicited with a fake $1 million dollar bill asking the Million Dollar Question. Oh great. Young guy asked, “Have you ever heard of Jesus? You know the guy who died to save the world. Do you know who he is?” Condescending boring shit. I just shut down and didn’t say much. I said meekly, “I don’t know.” He asked, “Well, do you have a couple of minutes to take a quick test? I’ll ask you the Million Dollar question to see if you’ve got what it takes to get into Heaven.” I was so disinterested but I also felt bad. With a scrunched up face, I said apologetically, “No. I don’t want to.” and left.  I had gotten the same run-down from Shawn, our generous host in Liberty, TX.  Everybody with this Million Dollar Question.

Dawid and I kept walking and came to young guy down on his luck. He sat on a planter with his backpack, his dog, and dog food laid out in front of him. His head was down. Dirty looking dude with nasty dirty blonde facial hair lining his jaw and chin, loose shitty jeans, and a cut-off t-shirt that was cut way down on both sides, football-player style. We offered him a brownie. He perked up and took it. He asked for a light, and told us he’s on probation. He seemed in decent spirits. Then he saw some people coming and ducked his head down again. He was looking for pity and playing his dog for some coins. A few people stopped to pet his dog and that opened up a conversation for him. Pathetic young guy. His parents are probably rich. He’s just rebelling and trying out the homeless parasite life.  It’s like summer camp.

Chris, the Troubadour, found us, and he earned enough money to buy a cup of coffee.

A young sweaty white kid with basketball shorts and carrying a duffel bag came rushing past us. Then he saw Chris and said, “That bitch just sucked my dick.” He was ecstatic, but didn’t stay long. He rushed away.  Chris filled us in. This kid was underage and asked Chris to buy him a beer. While Chris was getting the beer for him, some girl became quick friends with the kid, as he was waiting outside. I guess she wanted to get into his sweaty shorts. Bizarre. I think he was carrying some drugs in his duffel bag. That probably has a lot to do with it.

Then an overweight, really sweaty Native American guy with long, dirty hair came up to Dawid as he was sitting on the bench, interested in the feathers in his hat. “Why’d you kill my morning bird?” He had this deep “duuuuh” retarded sound in his voice, had screwy eyes, and missing teeth. Dawid messed around with him for a little bit, and then weird Native American guy started sniffing the air. “I smell Bob Marley.” He kept sniffing and scooted off, following his nose. “I’m gonna find that Bob Marley.”

Phx_Janessa_Dawid

We met up with Dawid’s girlfriend, Genessa, and headed back to the light rail. A crowd leaving the Diamondbacks game squeezed into the train. Chris started playing some Johnny Cash. He was great, really good. The crowd started singing, clapping, and dancing.

As we were walking back home, we passed a fenced-in empty lot with a dumpster in it. Dawid was shocked. There had been some art project that he’d helped to build, and now it had been torn down and tossed away. He peeled back a plywood door that had been nailed shut. Chris got interested too. I wasn’t going in there. The plywood door came off. I set it next to the fence, so the nails weren’t sticking up, waiting to be stepped on. As Chris came out, he picked up the plywood and started carrying it away. I said, “Dude, what are you doing? “I’m taking it to the [community art house]; they always like wood.” “You should leave it here.” “Why?” “Because it belongs in the door frame.” “Who says?” “Whatever dude, you can do the work of carrying it.” So, he hauled it off, guitar, black hat, huge piece of plywood, and all.

Dawid, Genessa, and I got back to the house, and sat around for a bit. Then Chris walked in. “Are we gonna go out and get some beer or what?” Dawid said, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll head out in a minute.” There was some delay. Then Chris says, darkly, “If you guys are just going to sit around here, I think I’m gonna head out and round up some trouble.” Cool guy. Troublemaker. Firestarter, twisted firestarter. Who is this guy? Unbelievable.

See [Ethics: Stealing a Can of Beer] for the next piece of the story.

Then the four of us went to Cruisin’ 7th, a tranny bar. That was my first. A weird experience, mostly because I’d see these normal-looking guys with a cross-dresser, or transvestite, an odd, undercover sexual preference. It was like I stepped into a secret.

Pool Party

Rod, who had given me a ride to Phoenix, called me up and told me that his wife, Teresa, was gone to Michigan, and that if I needed a place to stay, he’d be happy to host me again. That was cool since I had been with Dawid for about three nights. Flip-flop so I wouldn’t be burdening anyone too much.

Rod invited me to a pool party that his sister was putting on. I went. They welcomed me in, especially since I brought a box of brownies. The two seven-year-old girls, Anna-Bell and Tessa, were pumped. I was able to load up on food, and my paltry gift of brownie mix made it okay.

Phx_Pool_Party_Brownie

I made new friends!  John Mark, relax.

Phx_Pool_Party_Girls

Goodbye

I stayed one more night on Dawid’s couch, making it four nights there. I think Dawid and his roommates got pretty used to me being there. They were sad to see me go.

Kristin agreed with my philosophy to flow like water. She came up with an analogy about how if the ocean is shaken, it keeps flowing. I don’t know. I wasn’t really listening. I was busy flowing like water.

Phx_Kristin_Eoin

I asked Dawid to come outside so we could capture a jumping shot before I left. We were both unused to the timing of when my camera takes a photo using the self-timer. So it was trial and error for a while …

Phx_Jump_1

… until we nailed it.

Phx_Jump_2

Phx_Janessa_Dawid

Rideshare Options from Arizona

While I’ve been in Phoenix, I’ve found some amazing rideshare opportunities on craigslist.  It’s more active here than anywhere else I’ve been.

I found a free ride from Flagstaff all the way up to Northern Idaho.  I thought it would be cool to be dropped off in Yellowstone or somewhere in Utah.  But how would I get to Flagstaff?  I found another free ride from Phoenix to Flagstaff the day before the Idaho ride was going to leave.  It was amazing how these rides lined up.  And I called the guys and they both had trucks and would be happy to take me.

Ride To flagstaff Weds May 06

No gas needed, just paying it forward if anyone needs a ride. Please call me at XXX.

Going North, Flagstaff to Idaho 5-7-09

I will be passing through Flagstaff at 5:00 am on Thursday May 7th, will travel through Kanab UT, Richfield. UT, SLC then up through Idaho and on to Butte Montana, then west through Missula and on to Idaho. I will be stopping at the Safeway fuel station in Flagstaff. I am just looking for someone who needs a ride. I am a former long haul driver and so you don’t have to drive. I will pay for the fuel, if you go all the way to Idaho you will have to pay for your lodging in Butte Montana, yes I drive long hours and don’t make a lot of stops. If this will work for you please contact me, no drugs welcome, if you are friendly and like to visit then this will work. Please responde on the internet or call my cell at XXX daytime.

I was excited about going North.  Linking up all these rideshares was an adventure.

But nothing really stuck out for me as a place I really wanted to tour.  Yellowstone, Utah, some of Montana.  I was even thinking getting up North and then cutting West to Oregon and then taking the Pacific Coast highway South.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

Thinking about the Pacific Coast option, I looked at San Diego’s rideshare.  A guy had posted about a trip to Costa Rica.  He was looking for a travel partner since he wanted to do some sightseeing along the way, and take a break on driving.  He’d pay all the gas.  Holy shit!!  It was Cinco de Mayo.  I got really pumped.

I emailed him telling him my story and telling him to call me soon so I could secure that trip and cancel the rides going North.  He called, we talked, and then he got excited about it too.  I guess he was expecting the trip to be sort of a burden. 

His name is Kevin Norman.  He’s a white guy whose been having trouble finding an IT job in San Diego, so he’s going back down to Costa Rica to be with his wife.

Travel partner needed: Oceanside to Central America. (Oceanside, San Diego)

Approx on May 7th,, I am driving from Oceanside to Arizona, through Mexico, visiting Ruins, Acapulco, Guatamala, Honduras, Nicagruaga, and ending in Costa Rica. I need someone to travel along with me. This is a one way trip YOU must find own means back if you don’t like paradise! Must have valid US passport and DL/ID, of legal age. I will provide gas, 1 hotel room, food. and don’t plan on staying in fancy hotels. I speak 100% fluent spanish so no worries, just trying to get back to CR where my familiy currently resides. I am a family man just needing assitance with the trip and don’t want to travel alone, if you dare to go and are adventerous enough to join, feel free to contact me anytime. I won’t have a place for you to stay when i reach final destination. I and the governments on the way will NOT tolerate drugs, guns, . If you need a trip and plan to surf then that’s fine but as long as we don’t spend 90% of the time wating for waves. Believe you me, the quicker we get there the better. GOD Speed!

Who can take the trip you say?
1. Legal of age with ID and Passport
2. not wanted by any government
3. someone just needing a very cheap trip to go surfing in Acapulco, or CR
4. Someone who has family in or on the way and wishes to be dropped off at the nearest major city in route.
5. Someone that enjoys open roads, adventures, life stories, seeing culture, history, beautiful people
6. Someone that enjoys talking about darn near anything from music to quantum physics
7. Can be a couple. But may need to pay for your own room if you wish.
8. Backpackers not hitchhikers. no crayzies
9. willing to take 5-10 day trip.
10. Not affraid of virus, and aware that the common flu kills 36,000 people a year in USA. But I will have masks, and hand cleaners.
11. Speaking of Flu. MUST not be sick or have a fevor, these countries will not let you in, and i wont let you in the car.
12. Has a good bladder, or not shy of road side emergency bathroom stops.
13. Once again , Heathly enough and fit to make the trip.
14. Pleasant to get along with. May be a Guy or a Gal,

If you plan to stay someplace part way in the trip and not continue, thats fine too but just let me know in advance. Make sure you have means to come back.

Please contact for further details and things you will need.

God Bless
K, 31, gringo

Phoenix

 When I arrived into Phoenix, we went to Rod’s house where I met his wife, Teresa.  She seemed really cool, but definitely had some hesitation about a stranger showing up at her door.  I don’t even know if Rod had told her.  I had changed my plans to come to Phoenix only a few hours earlier.  At one point she said, “Rod’s never done something like this before, bringing a stranger back home.  But I’m sure you’re cool, right?”  I didn’t know how to respond to that.  All I could do was fill her in on my story, where I’m from, and where I’m going.  With enough talk, she would get a better sense of who I am. 

Rod, Nate, and I left for a little bit, and when we returned, Teresa was saying that one of her friends offered a place for her to stay so that she would be safe, away from me.  Damn, I felt bad.  But Teresa was going to stay.  I think she just came around to trusting Rod’s judgement, and I didn’t look like a freak, so she was happy enough.

Phx_Rod_Eoin_Garden

I said I wouldn’t mind camping out in their garden.  It was really pleasant out there, and warm at night, but they had neighbors sharing it, so it probably wouldn’t have worked too well.  They had an extra bed for me.  Bad ass!!

I went out to see some of Phoenix.  It was Cinco de Mayo, so I stopped in at Taco Bell for lunch.

Phx_Taco_Bell_Cinco_Eoin

I biked around downtown Phoenix.  It was flat which was nice.  It was hot though, like 105 degrees Fahrenheit.  All the buildings and houses were colored in sandy, desert tones.  Lots of cactus.  Not much grass, mostly gravel.  I guess vegetation just fries out here.

Phx_Dump_Eoin_Ride

I biked down towards the South Mountain Park.  I jumped.

Phx_Mtn_Park_Eoin_Jump

Then I took a closer look at a desert scene.  Really I was just trying to get some great self-timed shots.

Phx_Desert_Cactus_Eoin

Rod, Teresa, and I went out for Cinco de Mayo.  We went to a badass Mexican restaurant.

Phx_Cinco_Teresa_Rod

I had found a rideshare to Costa Rica on craigslist.  I called the guy, Kevin, and secured the ride.  He’d be coming through Arizona, just South of Phoenix, and paying for all the gas, so it was perfect.  I was pumped and I felt like celebrating, so I bought dinner for Rod and Teresa.

Phx_Cinco_Eoin

Hitching out of San Antonio

Leaving San Antonio

I got up early to head out of San Antonio. As I was pedaling on the loop road around San Antonio, a car pulled up next to me, keeping my speed. The girl in the passenger seat said, “Where are you going?” Then she kept asking questions. She and her boyfriend said I was inspiring. They were pumped for me. I told them that this was a first for me, having a car keep my pace to have a conversation while I cycled.

A few serious road cyclists passed me, easily. It seemed to be a popular route. Shitty though. Frontage road to an interstate.

I got stopped at a train crossing. It took about 30-40 minutes. Luckily, a cyclist was stopped there with me, so we talked. He asked about my trip, and said, “Damn, I wish I had done something like that when I was younger. I can’t do that now.” He was talking about his job and responsibilities to his wife and kids. It’s a good reminder of why I’m doing this at all.

SA_Hitch_Cyclist_Train

I turned onto the I-10 frontage road on the way to El Paso about 500 miles away. I needed a ride. No way was I going to bike through the desert, and I was trying to get out towards Ryan quickly. He was in Colorado.

I made it to a gas station with a McDonalds. Everyone I asked was local, or on their way to San Antonio. This wasn’t a good spot.

SA_Hitch_Gas_Station

Hitch to Kerrville

I rode over to the neighboring Valero gas station and pulled up to a Suburban. A young guy and his girlfriend were filling up. I asked them if they were going to El Paso. They weren’t but the guy offered to give me a ride to Kerrville, about 20 miles away. It was hard to know what to do. I could get stranded out in Kerrville if there’s nothing around, and where I am now, I could still go back to San Antonio and have a place to stay if I couldn’t find a ride to El Paso. But I felt I couldn’t give up an offer for a ride, so I took it.

SA_Hitch_Suburban_Kerrville

I knew they were young, but I had know idea Peter was just out of high school, and Alex was going to be going into her senior year. Teenagers. They were really cool though and interested in my trip. I warned them about the quarter-life crisis. “Just look out and be ready for it when you turn 25.” I told them about the path I was on through school and into college, and then spit out to the working world, and then things weren’t so clear. The work path was way more boring, and I didn’t want to get stuck.

SA_Hitch_Peter_Alex

Asking for a Ride at a Gas Station

They dropped me at a pretty active gas station, but it was on the wrong side of the road, the road that would be going East to San Antonio. I was greeted by a motorcycle guy who was with his group. He asked me about my trip. “How far do you usually go each day?” “About 60 miles.” “Oh really? Is that all? I thought you could get further.” Dude, maybe you should try it. Riding up hills involves a lot more than just a turn of your wrist.

Once again, my target was guys in trucks. When I saw one pull up, I would act casually over by my bike outside the store, giving him a few minutes to get out and start the pump. Then, when I was sure he wasn’t still trying to get the pump to accept his debit card, I’d walk over confidently and ask, “Excuse me. Do you happen to be going West towards El Paso?” In asking it, I’d be as harmless as possible, not pushy. Just a nice guy. I would usually get friendly responses, but most were heading East.

I got one guy who was traveling alone with an empty truck to admit that he was going to El Paso. Then I asked, “Would you be able to give me a ride? I’m a cyclist from Atlanta, and I’m just trying to avoid riding through the desert.” He looked a little shocked, then hung his head, and begged me forgiveness. “Sorry, I can’t. I’m sorry. Sorry, sorry. I wish I could. I’m sorry.” He was really sorry. I guess he was really worried what might happen. He probably thought he’d end up dead.

A truck pulled in towing a loaded trailer. The bed of the truck was carrying a four-wheeler, and the trailer was carrying all sorts of gear. I gave it a shot. I figured there’d be room somewhere for my bike. I asked nicely and confidently. The guy was going to El Paso!! But, “I don’t like ridin’ with people.” Old gruff guy with a straight, heartless answer. It was probably better he didn’t give me a ride.

One guy I had asked, who was going East, hung around my hang out area by the store for a while. He was a friendly smart ass. All he offered was “Get pedalin’ man. You got a damn bike.”

Two Latino women saw me waiting out there for a while. I wasn’t going to ask them because they were women — I didn’t want to spook them — and they were in a car. But one of them was curious and sympathetic. I told her I was trying to get to El Paso. “Ooooh, we just came from there. Oh, I’m sorry. I wish we could help.” She asked if I needed anything from the store, like a drink. She really wanted to help me. I could tell from her face. Full of concern.  It was a nice interaction.

Then I saw my ticket out of there. A truck with an empty bed came in pulling a trailer. Four young guys stepped out. I’m pretty sure they were a metal band on tour. This was hopeful. I figured I could bro around with them and get a ride. Plus, typically, these scary-looking metal, or punk, guys are really nice, gentle people. I asked the driver as he walked towards the store. He said they were going to El Paso. Then I asked for a ride. “No dude. Not enough space.” Dammit. I guess with four guys in the truck, it might be a tight squeeze.

But then I noticed that there was a girl who was with them, traveling alone in her empty Ford Focus. Throw my bike in the empty bed of the truck, and I’ll ride with the groupie girl and keep her company. Missed opportunity. Perfect situation. But I made the mistake.

I shouldn’t have let one person make the decision. I should have found the opportunity to ask the whole group, since I’m sure one of them would have had compassion and guilted the less compassionate ones into giving me a ride. Plus, the group might see it as more of an adventure. The one guy probably didn’t want the burden of making the decision to take in a stranger and have it go wrong. Lesson learned.

Get Pedalin’ Man!

After an hour and a half of waiting at the gas station, the “Get pedalin’ man!” comment got to me. Someone told me there was a rest area in 10 miles. I figured that could be a better place to ask for a ride. I got on my bike and rode on the I-10 shoulder.

SA_Hitch_Desert_Eoin

Really hot. Nothing around.

SA_Hitch_Thumb_Eoin

I was a long way from the nearest big town, and about 8 days riding from El Paso. Fuck this.

SA_Hitch_El_Paso_Sign

I approached a “picnic area.” This was the rest area I heard about, but one important thing was missing: facilities. No facilities, no people. Why would they stop? And I was running out of water. Busted idea.

There was a small truck parked outside one of the picnic areas. The hood was open, overheated engine. There was a stack of about 10 mattresses strapped down in the back of the truck. The Mexican couple who owned the truck were taking a break at the table. I asked them if they had any water. The guy pointed to the roof of his truck, case of water bottles, and told me to help myself. I took one. Then later, after I retreated, and looked down on my luck, he urged me to take more. I took one more. Gracias!

SA_Hitch_I_Need_A_Ride

I had found a piece of board on the side of the road. Desperate situation, desperate measures. Just desperate. I needed to find a ride, but I also needed to help myself get to the next town. So I made a “I Need A Ride” sign using my electrical tape (which I found on the side of the road back in Louisiana), and strapped it underneath the cargo net on my rear rack.

I was speaking to the Mexican couple when an older white lady pulled up in her Suburban. She was traveling alone and stopping to give her dog a walk. I told the couple that I would ask her for a ride, but I that I have a strong feeling she’d be spooked. They said I should give it a shot.

As I approached her, she turned away from me. Then within speaking distance, I started saying, “Excuse me … excuse me.” She didn’t turn around. Then, louder, “Ma’am?” Finally she turned, and I rattled off my story. “… I was just wondering if you could give me a ri..” “No.” Blunt. Bam. Spooked. “Okay, thank you.” I turned around and retreated. I freaked her out.

A few semi-trucks pulled in. I asked the drivers. They all said, “Man, I wish I could, but this is a company truck, and it would be a liability issue.”

SA_Hitch_Bike_Portrait

I rode off. I was hoping my “I Need A Ride” sign would work. No one stopped or honked or anything. I figured it was probably too small. I was racing the sun, trying to get to Segovia with enough time to eat and then head out to find a camping site on the side of the road. It was 6:30 pm, and I still had 10 miles to go.

The Sign Worked

Then I saw two guys pulled over at the off ramp, waving me over. Shit, my sign worked! I had given up hope since I’d been riding with it for about two and a half hours. They said they could take me to El Paso, no problem. As we were loading the bike in the back, Rod asked, “You don’t have any guns or knives on you, right?”

SA_Hitch_Bike_Truck

Rod and Nate are brothers. They were driving back to Phoenix from a week-long vacation in Clearwater, FL. My hometown. Apparently, Rod saw my sign, and thought, “I would want someone to give me a ride if I was biking out here.” He asked Nate, and Nate said, “I don’t want some freak to be sitting behind me.” I guess he thought I might strangle him or something.

We were all put at ease pretty quickly as a lot of information was exchanged. I got to hear their story, and they heard mine. They were all about talking “dude,” and “bro,” and stuff being “tight.” I got a good sense that they were really decent guys. I mean, they took a chance and stopped for me.

I told them about CouchSurfing and they both dug it big time. They liked the idea of knowing a local in the area where you’re traveling, free accommodation, and building karma. They both got amped up on the “pay it forward” idea.

SA_Hitch_Rod_Nathan

We stopped in Vanhorn, TX for the night. They got a motel room, and said I could stay. I told them I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor, so I ducked down in the truck as they went to check-in.  Freebie.

SA_Hitch_Motel_Bed

We went to eat at Wendy’s. I bought them dinner off the value menu. A value gesture for their incredible generosity.

My luck had changed. It went from running out of water and looking for a good spot on the side of I-10 to being on a road trip with friends and sleeping in a motel room. I slept in the space between their beds. It was great.

Flow like Water to Phoenix

The next morning we headed out early. They were both saying how they were going to be sad to see me go. I wasn’t looking forward to it either. They would drop me off in Las Cruces, NM, where I could then find a ride up to Albuquerque. I would have a pretty good chance of finding a ride because Albuquerque is the next big town North on I-25.

Rod went a few miles off their track up I-25 to find a good gas station to drop me off. They wanted to solicit potential rides for me. They figured that if they vouched for me to some stranger, I would have a better chance.

We didn’t find much, but we saw a Sam’s Club so we stopped to eat. $2 pizza and drink combo. I treated them again. Another value gesture.

SA_Hitch_Rod_Nathan_Eoin

As we were leaving, I said “Damn, I wish I needed to get to Phoenix.” They agreed. Plus they had been saying that if I ever came through Phoenix, I should call them up and I’d have a place to stay. I started thinking. Maybe it would be a pretty cool jumping off point. I could ride through the Four Corners. Go to Grand Canyon. The main thing was that I didn’t really feel like trying to hitch a ride. I was with two cool guys. I wanted to flow like water.

So as we made it back to the truck where we would be parting ways, I asked if I could join them all the way to Phoenix. They were happy about it. Rod said I could stay with him no problem. Last minute change of plans. I was pumped about it.