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My Hitchers

After leaving the beautiful still serenity of my campground in the Redwoods (The Journey to Ft. Bragg post), I started looking for a gas station in town. My plan was to make the long drive to Coos Bay, Oregon. I didn’t have a place to stay lined up though, so I was pretty much up for whatever. While I was driving I saw a young couple walking in a ditch down the side of the road and I felt strongly that I should pick them up. I’d never picked up hitchhikers before. I kept driving though and pulled into a nearby gas station to fill up. While filling up my tank, I noticed that the couple had walked to the gas station and set up shop in front of the door with their cardboard sign. I walked up to the boy. He was a short, shrimpy looking kid between the age of 18 and 20. “Where are you looking to go? I’m on my way to Oregon.” He got all excited, “We’re looking to go to Eureka.” “Ok, I’ll give you guys a ride.” “Oh, thank you! What can I do for you? Can I wash your windows?” “Um… ok…” I rearranged my car, while the boy washed my windows.

Loaded down with my new guests, Robert and his girlfriend Valerie, I started my journey. I made small talk as we drove through the Avenue of the Giants. They asked to listen to the radio. I asked them what they wanted to listen to and they told me, “Anything, we haven’t gotten to listen to the radio in forever, we mostly take buses.” I put on KLove or something, I listen to it anyway, but I also figured if I was in their situation, I would need all positivity and encouragement I could get. I was warned by Robert, the outspoken one, “Hey, sorry if we have to stop to use the bathroom often, she’s pregnant.”

We stopped at a picnic area by the Redwood trees to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cherries. They were very polite and thankful people, but I worried about them. I still worry about them, especially Valerie. Here I am feeding pregnant hitchhikers that beg for a living… I felt like saying, “You know, you might want to settle down for a little bit and take care of yourself… not for just yourself… you don’t want to give birth on a bus.” But I didn’t feel it was my place. I’m sure they’ve already gotten plenty of unsolicited advice.

I asked Valerie how they met. She told me they met at a park near the Bronx, where she’s from. Robert had been living the nomad life for a while and Valerie never knew there was a world outside of New York. After hearing her perspective on U.S. geography, I believed her.

She told me how dangerous it is to hitchhike from the hitchers perspective and how she prefers to take buses. I never really thought about the danger. I’ve always been on the other side. “Yeah, we’ve looked for rides on Craigslist and we post a photo of ourselves to show that we’re friendly and legit. It’s creepy the responses we’ve gotten…. people ask us to send another photo except without clothes. They tell us they’ll give us a ride in exchange for sexual stuff.”

Robert was outgoing, but also a bit reckless, while Valerie was more quiet and cautious. Robert used to jump trains and he was trying to talk Valerie into it. Valerie was adamantly against the idea, “It sounds like a good way to die!” My two-sense was all in Valerie’s favor. “I agree, it sounds super dangerous, don’t do that!” I told them about how I had met the documentary filmmaker in New Orleans (A Good Kind of Grungy post) that made a film about train jumpers called “A Cure for the Crash.” Oh, I worry about them. Jumping trains while pregnant sounds like an especially bad idea….

We stopped again at this little general store and at a glass studio. “So where are you all from?” we’d be asked. “Oh, she’s from Georgia and we’re her hitchers!” the outspoken one would cheerily respond. I saw all kinds of sights along the way – a drive thru three and one-log house, but we didn’t stop very often. I had a long way to go that day.

After about a four-hour drive we made it to Eureka. I knew my time with the hitchers was going to come to an end, but I knew they were safe as long as in my care and I worried about them. I knew after I dropped them off, I wouldn’t see them ever again. “So how long are you guys going to be in Eureka?” I asked hoping they were planning to settle for a little while. Robert responded nonchalantly , “Oh well, with us we never know. It might be a day it might be a few weeks. Thanks for the ride!”

About an hour later down the road, I had my place to stay. I received a text from John the Climber, my buddy from Vegas (Viva Las Vegas post). “Hey, where are ya?” “I’m heading to coastal Oregon.””I’m staying with a friend in Gold Beach if you want to join?” “I’d love to!”

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