This edition of the Dusty Moon Road Adventure series. The questionable dangerous road of HITCHHIKING!!!
In our modern times this mode of travel has almost become endangered. Once, as common as catching a bus, the offering of a ride to a stranger was considered well- mannered. Depending where in the world you are, it might be easier or harder than you could imagine. In a two-part series, Hitchhiking….You Just Don’t Know What’s Ahead! First the stories, and next week Contessa’s Hitchhiking Guide.
From my many roadside adventures, when I think about Hitchhiking, two stories come immediately to mind. The best and the worst experiences to date.
My very first hitchhiking experience was in Los Angeles, California. I had been living there for two and a half years and my luck had landed me a free pass to Burning Man. I was just on the cusp of joining the cirque and they invited me to perform with them at this festival. I had previous commitments and couldn’t make it out until mid-week. I knew that it musn’t keep me from missing this adventure. All I was told was to bring my own camping gear and find my way there by Wednesday. I had a car, but knew from stories that I didn’t want to bring it out to the playa. I didn’t know anyone outside my new cirque family and if I didn’t show up it would look really bad. Finding your own way to burning man can be quite the hazing feat, and I knew I had to successfully find the tent city in the middle of the desert.
No directions, no street names. “Just get to Black Rock City, and find us. Look for the flower and the venus fly trap.”
I was driving home to Koreantown, Los Angeles, three days before supposing to show up in the middle of the desert. A couple leads but nothing solid, and I was starting to question if my journey was possible. I found out too late that the festival had a car share website, and everyone had left that day or the day before. Thinking about this, I somehow got lost taking the mirage of back streets through West LA and found myself winding through neighborhoods trying to get back to the East side. Out the window, I see some people packing a van on the street. Immediately I can tell they are packing for the Burn. Minimalist in survival gear, all the necessary glamping gear and thirty gallons of water. I pull over around the corner and casually walk up to the van. I strike up convo, and help them lift a few things into their van. They are leaving that day, but there other house mates can’t leave till Wednesday because of work!!!!! YESSSS!!!!!! hisses in my brain this is the ride I’ve been waiting for. I’m introduced to the roommates inside and they are looking for one more to share the ride, gas, and pleasure with.
I’m to show up Wednesday morning with my gear, and supplies, and an RV will be there as our ride. I guess you could call this reverse hitchhiking. I was in a car and pulled over to ask for another ride. The RV ended up being spectacular, roomy, and with many amenities. The day came and as if things weren’t foreign enough I was about to lock myself into an rv with seven strangers that all knew one another except me. Whatever the circumstance I was going to be in this experience for no shorter than fourteen hours. Needless to say, the best hitching trip of my life. Luxurious, comfortable, wonderful hearts, and only the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime.
Even in the glow of magnificent hitches there can be just as miserable, and having a well tuned discernment button can be one of your most useful tools.
Again, this experience took place in LA years later. I didn’t have a car anymore, and had started my carless journey (refer to my blog, WHATS A CLOWN WITHOUT A CAR).
Let this story be all the wrong circumstances and reasons for catching a hitch. I had been on a long trip to Guatemala, that I extended last-minute and was returning to LA. At the time I was living with an art collective called Catalyst and we occupied a fantastically large warehouse smack in the middle of industrial wasteland. Although we were a pretty tight home crew, our lives and lifestyles were busy and spanning many different walks of life. No one that I was living with really knew my schedule, so my change of arrival was un-noted.
My time in Guatemala was quickly coming to an end and I had developed a massive ear infection in my remaining days. I had stalled one of my flights a few days because of the pain the infection. The time had come and I couldn’t miss another flight. My infection hadn’t receded and I was just as ill and in wretched pain. By the time I got to the airport in Guatemala city, I could barely stand up. The floor was swirling and my equilibrium was severely compromised. My cellphone had died sometime the week before, and in the fog of illness, I was trying to figure out logistics of landing in the US and making it back to my bed. The pain from the infection had swelled and taken over my entire head and I knew that my ear drums would burst once the plane took off. I love traveling and most of the time I’m an expert flyer especially while dealing with unknown and stressful circumstances, but this one had truly trumped my expertise.
Once in the boarding area, I spotted some other younger travelers and one of them obviously had acquired a sprained ankle while traveling. I best explained myself and asked them for any pain medication or anything that would relieve the impending in-flight doom. I must have looked absolutely miserable, and they filled my palms with pills of all sorts. With the fear of high altitudes mixed with inflamed eardrums, I took the entire handful and prayed that it would make me pass out for the duration of the flight. I was no longer concerned with logistics and plans, I just wanted to be unconscious while this plane took me thousands of feet into the air. Thankfully that part of the plan worked. I past out on the incline and didn’t wake up until we were bumping on the ground in Los Angeles. My eardrums did in fact burst while I was passed out, and whatever pain factor I thought I had in Guatemala was now tripled. I stumbled down to bag check and knew I had to get myself to the other end of the city. I hopped a bus that would take me far closer to my bed, the Downtown Grand Central Station. In my delirium, I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that in this time zone it was presently 3:00 am and I am now 4-5 miles from my bed. The train station was deserted. Not a taxi, a customer, a teller. In an age of cellular phones, I had no ones number to call since my phone was dead. The disintegrating pay phones outside couldn’t even help me. I was so close to my bed and so determined that I pathetically roamed the station looking for any sign of life. At 3:45am I spotted a possible utility van sitting in the parking lot.
Right, I’m having the same thoughts as you are right now, “NOT A GOOD IDEA”! But desperate situations always seem to acquire desperate measures. I approach the van and beakon the driver to roll down his window. He looks as shady as I probebly do and I politely as I can, try to explain my situation. Trying to reassure him that I’m not homeless crazy or homicidal as well as explaining how much pain I’m in and how important it is that I get home and to a doctor.
He’s extremely cautious toward me. His caution actually makes me feel better. I ask him for a lift. I beg him. Even to me, my story sounds bizarre as I’m saying it to this stranger. In my own head I would be extremely wary to take someone into my car in those conditions. Eventually he softly and awkwardly agrees.
I’m now less than ten minutes from being in my bed. The idea of my bed and shutting my eyes in the comfort of home was driving my feet to climb into this strangers van. As a poor excuse of a hitch, I clamored into the front seat. I tried to act as normal as possible to build confidence in this man who was very weary of his decision. Every cell in me was telling me to pass out, I’m sure I looked drunker than a skunk, and who knows how long it had been since a proper shower. Not only dealing with sickness and travel, I seemed to be slamming into some pretty severe cultural shock. One moment fighting my way out of volcanic tropical forest with no modern amentaties and dumped into the cement grime of Downtown LA where it’s extremely difficult to go anywhere on foot. Even though we had gone less than three miles, the trip seemed to last longer than my unconscious flight. We both sat equally uncomfortable unsure of our decisions. I offered him the last of the money I had. Again, as I reached into my wallet it was all void of American money and only Guatemalan Quetzals. I apologized uncomfortably again, and slid out of the car. Thanking him for the billionth time, I grabbed my packs and headed in. I had made it!!!! No money, no ears, no equilibrium, no phone, no car.
The best of times and the worst of times, I would say! The hitching stories go on and on, but next time, a guide. Contessa’s Guide to Hitching! Brought to you by the good and the bad experiences. For hitchhiking is an art….till next time!!