1/09/2014

Our Winter Break Adventure: 5,700 Miles

grand canyon

The Origin:

This past summer my younger sister, Celeste, asked if I'd like to go to The Grand Canyon with her. I was rather excited at this proposition. After having hitchhiked to Maine and traveled to Canada already, I was looking for another summertime adventure. Celeste ended up not wanting to go, so this trip never came to fruition.
Fast forward to late October. The holidays were drawing closer, and I didn't want to spend them in Charleston. I wanted to have another Winter Break Adventure (like spending Christmas in New York and New Years Eve in Times Square). Again, Celeste did not want to go.
Upon hearing this, my friend Cayla said she would go with me to The Grand Canyon for Christmas. Now Celeste and I would have driven, but Cayla is cut from the same cloth as I. She's hitchhiked across the US twice, once with the accompaniment of a friend and this past summer by herself.
Thus, our transcontinental hitchhiking adventure was born. 

The Plan:

School let out on the 13th of December, which gave us more than enough enough time to get to the grandest of canyons by December 24th, so we decided to add a detour, a stop down in Houston, on the way, to see my Aunt Lisa and Cayla's ex-girlfriend.
After looking at the map for a little bit, we noticed how close Las Vegas was, so it was decided that we would head to Sin City from The Grand Canyon, for New Year's Eve. This raised a new issue though. If we left Vegas on the 2nd (you don't want to hitchhike hungover), it would be near impossible to make it back to Clemson in less than a week. Spring Semester began only six days later, on January 8th. Enter MegaBus.
If you book far enough in advance, you can get a MegaBus ticket for as little as a buck. Yep, $1.
MegaBus operates in Vegas, but none of the routes connect to the east coast. The farthest connection west you can get is Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston. Due to the aforesaid friends in Houston, we opted for the latter back to Atlanta, for only $15.
Now on to the real story.

The Adventure:

To Texas:

Whenever I leave from ho-bunk Clemson, I try to get a starter ride. On my Spring Break Adventure, my dad got me up to Ashville, on my first hitchhiking trip, I got a ride all the way to Orlando. This time around I was trying to find someone headed to Atlanta or further, and it just so happens, my girlfriend's mother was headed to Hotlanta, for holiday shopping. She was nice enough to take us all the way around to the city, to 85 South. This set us on a momentous pace. Getting around a major city can take an entire day when hitchhiking, when in a car it takes just an hour.
From there, we caught a ride from a 28 year old recent graduate of Auburn. I don't know if it's because I had just seen The Desolation of Smaug the night before but he looked rather like a red bearded dwarf. Either way, he took us all the way to his alma mater, and at this point I picked up my reading book for the trip, I am Legend.
Mobile, Alabama
Our porch to squat on, in Mobile, AL
Soon thereafter, Mr. Bill and Justin picked us up. They did some kind of maritime work in Mobile, and they brought us all the way there, the halfway point to Houston. We made amazing time that day, and on top of that, we had a place to stay. An employee at their company had been laid off in the past year and soon became homeless. From that point on, he's slept on the office porch, and that night, we were allowed to join him.
I-10 goes through downtown Mobile. That involves a tunnel and a rather sharp turn, so traffic is rather slow, through the city. You usually shouldn't hitchhike on the interstate, but it was Sunday and the on ramp was sparse. Cayla and I decided, "Why not!" And soon decided to hitchhike on the interstate. Within an hour, John-Henry Justice picked us up. He was driving down to Slidell, Louisiana to deliver a hottub that he'd sold on Craigslist.
John-Henry was a self-made man of very modest wealth who had done some adventuring of his own, back in the day. He made his living selling things on Craigslist, an opportunist in every sense of the word. Except for maybe the one time he mistook a streetwalker for a hitchhiker and soon found himself caught up in a police prostitution sting.
He dropped us off on I-12, in order to avoid New Orleans. I don't know if they have horrible gravel roads in Slidell or they simply lack windshield repairmen, but every fourth or fifth car there had a cracked windshield. Random but things you notice hitchhiking.
Soon, we found ourselves wanting to hitchhike on the interstate again... So we did. Within a half hour, we had a ride from Jordan. Jordan was a nice, seemingly gay black Houston native who was heading home.
When we first climbed in, he was rocking out and singing along to A.M.E. gospel music. This went on intermittently, in between conversation, for the first few hours. In those musicless spells, he told us about the audio books that he rented to listen to. The first one, War of the Gods, he thought was going to be on par with Troy or Clash of the Titans, but had turned out to be an eight hour long sermon. He was really excited to listen to the second one though. So much so that he pulled the car over to dig the "book-on-tape fables" out of the back seat.
Cayla was kind of looking forward to these because:
1) It wasn't gospel music.
2) She thought they were going to be Aesop's Fables or something similar.
But they turned out to be children's church lessons geared towards someone with the mentality of a grade schooler (think Veggie Tales but minus the funny vegetables).
After five hours of that hell, we were finally dropped off at my aunt's house in Houston. We'd made amazing time though, nearly 1,000 miles in under two days.
Cayla's ex, Lauren, came to pick her up that night. The next day, I went to the post office and relaxed a bit. By the following morning, I was ready to get on the road again, but Cayla wasn't having it. She wanted to spend more time with Lauren, so we did not end up departing until Thursday morning (having spent three days in Houston). 

Getting Out of Texas:

Lauren lives an hour outside of Houston, in Sealy, so we started off towards Fort Worth taking back roads. Our first ride of the day was an Austin County Sheriff. His job consists mainly of herding cattle, so he had time in his busy schedule to take us one town over. Our second ride was a Hispanic man who barley spoke any English, and in my attempts to introduce myself in Spanish, I ended up saying, "I love you." repeatedly to him instead.
Our third ride of the day was the craziest of the trip. Every adventure seems to have at least one of those rides and this one was it, SheraD [Share-a-D]. She's an ex decade long topless dancer who also use to hitchhike around, back in the day, and fuck whoever picked her up. In her own words, "it can't be rape if it's consensual."
As she went to make room for us in her car, she had to find the top to her massive whiskey bottle. When we stopped for gas, she got a Pepsi. The cup from the center console was filled halfway with the soda and then topped off to the brim with hooch. Needless to say, I was scared shitless sitting in the front seat as she drove and drained the glass within 25 minutes. At one point she went to pass a car on a backcountry road and the oncoming traffic had to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting us head on.
The fourth and last ride of the day was to Waco. There was bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-35, so again we hopped on the interstate. And as soon as we stuck our thumbs out we got a ride from this girl Alex, who dropped us off at Baylor.
Fun Fact: Baylor is the world's largest baptist university.
The onramp at the exit was busy, but there was nowhere for cars to pullover. So again, we tried the interstate. We felt like we had a good spot, uphill with enough room to pull over before the interstate took a left hand turn. Within an hour though, it was dark, and we had to call it a night.
I rarely hitchhike after dark, and when I do, I solicit rides at gas stations or rest stops. One thing we did not take into consideration, when planning this trip, was the drastic decrease in daylight, during the winter months. Most of both mine and Cayla's hitchhiking experience was in the warm, long summer days, where you can hitch until 21:00 or even 21:30, but on this trip, we had to stop as early as 17:30, on cloudy days.
Baylor, Texas
Our campground, Baylor's front yard
We ended up camping in between the only two trees in a large, open park right in front of Baylor. The campus police circled the block probably twenty to thirty times an hour, but they somehow failed to see us. 
In the morning, we got up around eight and were on the road by eight thirty. We went back to the same spot we had found the evening prior and stood there for four hours, without any luck. In combination with the night before, this was the longest I had ever waited for a ride, so good job Waco! They managed to beat Macon, Georgia, who held the previous record of four and a half hours.
A bit distraught, Cayla and I decided to walk the 3.3 miles up to what looked like a busy exit, on Google Maps. That turned out to be just the case, and right next to the on ramp was a gas station. So Cayla went to thumbing it, while I started soliciting rides. After about fifteen or twenty minutes, right as the manager was trying to kick me out, Cayla snagged us a ride. 

The drivers was a large blonde woman who brought us 45 minutes up the road to Fort Worth. Though it was a relatively short ride, the temperature dropped 30 degrees, from 75 to 45 Fahrenheit, by the time we exited the truck. This turned out to be our only ride of the day, as again, the sun set on us with our thumbs out.

We camped in a lot next to the interstate that was owned by some oil company. It was a cold, rainy, and undoubtedly the most miserable night of the trip. Having come off my worst day ever of hitchhiking, by measure of both the longest wait and shortest distance in a day, I was pissed and we had just run into a cold front. Cayla wasn't exactly chipper either. 

When we woke up in the morning, it was still drizzling and due to condensation, Cayla's sleeping bag was now wet. We packed up, put our rain gear on, and made our way back down to the exit ramp for I-20. Thankfully, we were under an overpass, so the hour long wait for a fellow named Josh was made a little less insufferable. 

Josh is a high school biology teacher who was out Christmas shopping for his four and thirteen year old and his in-laws. He was only going a couple miles down the road to the mall, but Josh was nice enough to drive us fifteen minutes down the road, out of the city interstate complex, to a large gas station/rest stop.

Once there, Cayla just sat inside the Popeye's, ate fried chicken, and watched the rain. I, on the other hand, was out in the precipitation soliciting rides from drivers and truckers. Within thirty-five/forty minutes, I found us a ride with Roy. Roy was driving a massive U-Haul with an additional trailer in tow headed for New Mexico. Sadly, he wasn't destined for Albuquerque but rather right across the Texas/New Mexico boarder, so he could only take us as far as Sweetwater, on I-20.

On the way to Sweetwater, Roy rendezvoused with his wife and mother-in-lawn at a roadside Denny's. As we pulled up, we saw another fellow vagabond Chris. He'd been on the road for two years, was once a sever cocaine addict, and he started smoking crack because there was a crack drought. In the words of Cayla, "he was tall with pretty blue eyes" and he'd been in jail for a while. Chris was tying to learn how to hop trains, and was making money doing medical testing. Roy's daughter in-law had room in her car to give him a lift too, but for some reason even Roy himself said no to that proposition.

After being dropped us off in Sweetwater, we got a ride from a god-fearing couple who believed the end times were coming. They brought us to a gas station 45 minutes up the road, and from there I found us our next ride within 15 seconds. I literally got out of their SUV, put my pack on, walked up to the first car I saw (it did have a Darwin Fish emblem on the bumper), exchanged maybe a few sentences, and then we were in backseat of another car (before I think they even knew what just happened).

Jim was an artist of the 60's hippie generation from San Antonio, and his sister, Barbara, lived up in Amarillo. They were stopping in Lubbock for the night then heading up to Amarillo by morning.
The road has an odd way of working. One night, you're miserable, cold, and wet, and the next, you have two of the nicest people you've ever met buying you a warm hotel room for the night and then giving you a ride two hours up the road, in the morning.

Life Lesson: When the road gets rough, keep going. There's a La Quinta Inn waiting for you, at end of it.

We were now on I-40, and finally, it seemed, about to be out of Texas. It took a few hours before we got a ride from Jesus 45 minutes down the road (but half way to the boarder!). He dropped us off in bumfuck nowhere/a town called Vega. I tried to to solicit rides for an hour and a half without any luck. Most of the cars were loaded down with families traveling for the holidays, so we walked a mile and resumed hitchhiking on the interstate. The sun was getting low in the sky, at this point, and it seemed that we were going to have to sleep in an abandoned farm shed for the night and spend a ninth day in that godforsaken state. But then, at sunset, a car looped back around on a side road, and offered us a ride OUT OF TEXAS!

To The Grand Canyon:

Sue and Jeff, an incredibly delightful couple from Toronto, were our vehicular benefactors. They thought that Cayla was a little boy and that, in combination with our "Merry Christmas" sign, was enough to make them turn around, pick us up, and take us all the way to Albuquerque. On top of that, when we got there at 21:30 at night, they were nice enough to also buy us another hotel room.

Life Lesson: When the road gets rough, keep going. There's a La Quinta Inn an even nicer hotel waiting for you, at end of it.

Albuquerque, New Mexico
We'll take it king size!
The Club House Inn & Suites had an indoor pool, a whirlpool, and a hottub. None of which we used, but it just proves the point. The complimentary hot breakfast buffet though we definitely did dive into, in the morning: eggs, waffles, bagels, and some oatmeal packets for the road. On top of that, the hotel's shuttle bus took us 8 miles outside the city to a Pilot truck stop.

From there, we hitchhiked on the interstate. Within the hour, Dave picked us up. May I take this moment to point out things that you should not say or discuss with a hitchhiker you pick up:
1) Do not say, "I'm safe." "I won't hurt you." "You can trust me." or any combination or variation of these (It is kid of creepy, Dave).
2) It is ok to ask if someone has a gun or weapons on them, before letting them into the car, but do not discuss self-defense (and especially martial arts, Mr. Justin heading to Mobile).
3) Do not ask if we are going to hurt or kill you (only the true crazies aren't going to be made awkward by this).  

Dave also had acid reflux, and thus managed to produce the most rancid, vile burps I have ever had the displeasure of smelling in my life. A few unsettling phrases and bile belching aside though, he was a pretty cool cat. He was en route to San Francisco to see his nephew for Christmas, even though he had a wife and all back in Tennessee, but he was headed just as far as we were for the day, Flagstaff.

Cayla and I were in Flag before night fall. Lauren use to live in Flagstaff so she had a friend, Roamy, who we could stay with there. We dropped our packs off at her house and then went out for some celebratory beers. It was now the 23rd of December, and if we were right on schedule to make it to The Grand Canyon by Christmas, the next day.

In the morning, we walked the mile or two to the highway that heads from Flag up to The Canyon. Throughout our entire trip, thus far, we had jokingly told nearly all of our rides that they should just drop everything and head with us (read drive us) to The Grand Canyon. Within ten minutes, we had a male nurse Simon pull over for us. He was only headed seven miles up the road, to go snowboarding, but all of our cajoling finally paid off. Simon didn't just drive us seven miles up the road rather seventy-five miles, all the way to The Grand Canyon.

The Grandest of Canyons:

After walking around the Rim Trail with us for thirty minutes or so, Simon headed out. By the time we figured out what we were doing and where we needed to go for trail permits, it was too late in the day to go down the South Kiabab Trail (an east to west hike) so we ended up starting on the Angel Bright Trail (a west to east hike). Essentially, we would be hiking the canyon the opposite way most do.
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Strike thy best Lewis and Clark
Not even ten feet onto the trail, I slipped on ice and busted my ass. Crampons had been suggested, and this made me a bit leery (because of what happened the last time I failed to head such warnings). With that said, the first mile of the trail went at a snails pace, as Cayla and I cautiously placed each step. Eventually though, we made it past the frost line, in the canyon, and even though the sun was setting, I was able to make it the last four miles to camp without my headlamp.

Our Christmas Eve campsite was called Indian Garden, and we found a magnificent spot to sleep out under the stars. I really wish my girlfriend, Savannah, had been there to enjoy it with. Cayla was great company, but something about the majesty of The Milky Way and The Canyon just begged to be shared with a lover.

In the morning, we had an easy three mile hike to Phantom Ranch, the central campsite and ranger station for The Grand Canyon. As we were hiking the day before, we saw several people hiking out of The Canyon with just day packs. A round trip, to the bottom of The Canyon and back, was around twenty miles, so we were a bit perplexed as to how all of these seemingly out of shape people managed such a feat. Our questions were answered when we got to Phantom though. Along with campsites, there are climate controlled bunk houses and even individual cottages and a canteen that is essentially a dining hall.
Grand Canyon Trail Map
Our trek went from west to east

It turns out that most of the people who go down and sleep in The Grand Canyon don't backpack in. They just stay down at Phantom Ranch, where there are hot meals, warm beds, and flushing toilets, and if the walk there and up again is too much, you can even sign up to have a mule carry your fat ass in and out of The Canyon. I'm sure the National Park Service makes a killing off of these people, but I don't think one truly appreciates such a place until they walk it with whatever comforts they care to have with them strapped to their backs.

When we got there, we found another great place to camp and stargaze at Bright Angel, across the creek from the fat cats in their bunk houses. We set up camp, wrote post cards, and made dinner, as we waited for the canteen to open. From 20:00 to 22:00, the canteen served beer and wine, and Cayla and I decided to have a celebratory, Christmas decanter of red wine.

While enjoying our overpriced box wine and made a few friends: Terri from Albuquerque, Zoe from Oakland, and Danny from Los Angeles. The latter got the utmost attention from Cayla. He was headed west on I-40 and thus could get us right below Las Vegas. Soon it was agreed that we would meet up in the morning, hike out together, and then he would give us a ride.

Danny had hiked the trail the normal way though, and by morning, he had decided that he wanted to see the other half of the trail that we had already traversed. Cayla and I were of the same opinion but of the half that Danny had already trekked over. So we set up a rendezvous point and time, the visitor's center at 14:00, and went about our separate trails.

The thing about hiking in The Grand Canyon is that, well it's a canyon. Unlike a mountain range, there is no up and down. There is just up, and there is just down. The down had been easy, but the up, well that was a bitch. In the span of 7 miles of trail, you climb 4,780 feet. Essentially, you're climbing a staircase nearly a mile high.

I like to think that I'm in pretty good shape, but this trail was undoubtedly the most arduous climb I've ever made. I was fairing pretty well, all things considered, but Cayla was struggling. I started carrying her water for her, and still she was crawling up the mountain, not quite on all fours yet but using the rock face to push herself up the side of the canyon. Our other friends from the night before saw this, and Terri offered to let Cayla use her trekking poles. And honestly, I'm thankful she did. Otherwise, Cayla herself was doubtful that she would make it up the last mile of trail and still make our rendezvous time.

Upon summiting, Cayla proclaimed, "I've never been in more pain in my life." And with that, we made it to the visitor's center with 15 minutes to spare, though Danny did not get there until over an hour later. When he finally did arrive, it was clear that The Canyon kicked his ass as well. 

Then we were off... 

To Los Angeles?

Our plans with Danny went from: driving us to Highway 95 to driving us to Highway 93 to driving us to I-15 to camping in the Mojave Desert to finally driving 100 miles out of the way to Joshua Tree. And this my friends, is probably my favorite part of the trip.

Joshua Tree is absolutely beautiful. It's a desert landscape covered in seemingly random rock/boulder formations that are a climber's paradise with fields of its namesake, Dr. Seuss-esc tree interspersed between them.
Joshua Tree, California
View of our campsite from the rocks

It took us nearly an hour to find a campsite to squat in for the night, but finally we found a place, in Hidden Valley, and had a campfire. Due to Danny's schedule, we could only stay for one night, so we agreed to let this climber named Alex take over our site, once we left. Out of appreciation, she cooked us breakfast and showed us around the rocks: cave paintings, rock climbing sites, and a natural resonance chamber.

It was near 13:00 by the time we left the park, and it was decided that Cayla and I were just going to spend the next four days in Los Angeles and then take a $20 MegaBus from there to Las Vegas, at midnight on the 30th, to avoid having to hitchhike out of the city.

Once there, Danny brought us to In-N-Out Burger for the first time and was also nice enough to let us use his shower. Then we were off again. We considered camping on the beach somewhere in Southern California but ultimately decided to go to Disneyland instead. Yes, Disneyland.

We took a bus to Anaheim that night and slept in the bushes of The Most Magical Place on Earth. In the morning, I rented a 5'x10' self-storage unit (which was free for the first month) to keep our packs in. And as far as going to Disneyland... I'll let a picture be worth a thousand words here:
Disneyland, CA
Shirts are required at all times on Splash Mountain 
After our day at Disney, we slept in the bushes across the street from the self-storage facility. We awoke to a Hispanic woman staring out her hotel window at us, so we packed up as quickly as possible and got out of there. The rest of the day, we spent Goodwill shopping for New Year's Eve clothes. I found a pair of flame platform shoes, and Cayla managed to assemble a wardrobe that made herself look like a little Willy Wonka. 

That night, we slept next to the storage facility, behind a marble and granite showroom. As we were packing up, some of the workers came outside and gave us coffee. The rest of the day was spent loitering, doing laundry, and waiting for our MegaBus to bring us...

To Las Vegas:

After being pulled over by Nevada Highway Patrol, we finally arrived in Sin City at around six in the morning. I had friends, whome I'd worked with selling books, who were also hitting up Vegas for New Years. They had one room at the Bellagio and two rooms at the Wynn, and we were going to crash at one of them.

The first target though was booze. On the way from the bus station to the strip, we picked up: three quarters of a liter of Kraken Rum, two limes, a can of coconut milk, an eighth of gin, tonic water, four Red Bulls, and a bottle of champagne. We were ready to P-A-R-T-Y.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Shopping Cart: +5 to Homelessness

My friends though had partied a bit too hard the night before, and thus were not conscience enough to figure out the rooming situations and check into the hotels until 17:00. This meant that Cayla and I spent half a day loitering around the Bellagio. At one point, while sitting up on the railing, my voice recorder (that I use to keep an audio journal of my travels) fell into the fountain. 

Luckily, I had been keeping it in a plastic bag, so it was just floating on the top of the water, but the bag wasn't perfectly water tight. And you could see my microphone slowly sinking. Cayla tired to reach down and grab it to no avail. At this point, I was already stripped down to my skivvies and hopping in. The water was probably only up to my diaphragm, but it was bitterly cold. 

Though all of this probably transpired in under thirty seconds, we managed to amass a rather large crowd around us (I guess who doesn't want to see some idiot swimming in the Bellagio Fountain). The rest of the afternoon was a lot less eventful. Eventually we did meet up with friends of my friends who got us a room key (and finally a safe place to store our bloated packs). 

From there we showered, changed into our thrift stored wardrobes, and hit the strip. For dinner, Cayla got a $5 $10 footlong from Subway and I got two, $2 hotdogs of the same length. Now all fueled up, it was party time. But it turns out my friends wanted to go to a club that had a $100 cover charge for girls and a $300 cover charge for boys, so we opted out of their New Years plans.

Instead, Cayla and I met up with one of our mutual friends who just graduated from Clemson and has been vagabonding her way across the US of A every since, Emily. Once convened, we decided to just hangout in our cushy hotel room, drink, and watch the New Year's Eve fireworks from our window. Savannah, my girlfriend, had been nice enough to allow me a New Year's Kiss, so I ended up giving Emily a peck on the lips, as it became 2014. 

Cayla had scoped out a gay club with a drag show "a few minutes off the strip", so shortly after the pyrotechnics, we headed out for that. "A few minutes off the strip" though turned out to be several miles in the desert night cold. It probably took us an hour to get there, and by that point we had finished off all of the liquor we'd brought with us.

I've been to gay clubs with Cayla before, but this place place was just a cock stable. The only use for the women's restroom (if they even had one) must have been for those cross dressing because I didn't see an XX chromosome, besides Cayla and Emily, in the place. After we caught the end of the drag/karaoke show, we made the long journey back to the hotel of fountains. It ended up being five or six in the morning before I finally got into bed.
New Year's Eve
Enjoying New Year's Eve? BURN IN HELL!
In the morning, I was doing pretty well, but Cayla was rather hungover. So we ate greasy Chinese food and then decided to go pull a double feature, at the movie theater (we saw "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street", in case you're curious).  After that, we wrote postcards and called it a night early. We had to make it back to Houston, nearly 1,500 miles, in five days. 

Back To Texas:

My friends were suppose to give us a lift out of Las Vegas and down to I-40, at eight in the morning, but again, they partied too hard: one missed their flight, one was running late for theirs, two almost got ripped off by a hooker the night before, one was still missing, and the others were immaculately hungover. So that plan was off. Cayla and I took two buses out of Sin City to Boulder City/Highway 93. 

At this point, it had been eight days since we'd stuck our thumbs out and actually hitchhiked, which made those many a many miles ahead of us seem all the more daunting. Luck was in our favor though, and within twenty or thirty minutes we had a ride with Ryan all the way down to Flagstaff. He blared the most atrocious country and Top 40 music the entire three hour ride there though.

Once we were in Flag, we decided to try hitchhiking on the interstate. As we were walking up the ramp, a Hispanic couple pull over and offed us a ride ten miles down the road that we turned down. After about a half hour, a state trooper pulled over and kicked us back down to the on ramp, and pretty soon it was nightfall.

As luck may have it, we were only a little over a mile away from Roamy's house, so we ended up crashing there again, for then night. Alarms were set for 6:30, but we didn't end up getting out of bed until around eight or nine. When we were finally up, we went back to the same on ramp. After about an hour and a half, we had someone else offer us a ride just right down the road and again we said, "No thank you." 

Cayla had made a "Texas :)" sign the day before and had thrown it to the ground a few minutes prior to our last ride offer, but she picked it back up, in an attempt to ward off the false hope that rides only right down the road conjure. And we're lucky that she did.

Within ten minutes of her picking the sign back up, Steph, who was headed all the way to Weatherford, Texas (just west of Fort Worth) pulled over for us. She was making the thirteen hour drive all in one day, and she figured she could use some company. The main reason she pulled over was because of the "Texas :)" sign.

Steph use to be a nurse, but now sells All-State Insurance. She lost two children, 16 and 22, within the last 18 months, to suicide and a motorcycle accident respectively. These events are apparently the cause of her career change and for her ex-husband moving with her 12 year old (and now only) son, whom she was going to visit, to Texas. I can't even fathom losing both of my siblings, let alone if they were my children, at such a young age and within such a short time span.

Cayla and I were dropped off in Weatherford at around two in the morning. We camped out in an empty lot, and again, didn't get on the road until pretty late/sometime after eleven. But at this point we weren't in too much of a rush. Out of fear, due to how long it had taken us to get out of Texas, we had purchased an additional MegaBus ticket (for only $4) from Dallas to Houston, when we were in Lubbock the last time through. And at this point, we were one or two city buses away from Dallas, with four days left before our bus in Houston left.

With that said, Cayla had grown impatient. Even though we were down the home stretch, she payed one of our rides for gas and searched CraigsList for rideshares to Houston. 
CraigsList RideShare
The CraigsList Rideshare post Cayla responded to
It took us four rides to get around Fort Worth/Dallas (remember what I said about getting around a major city and in this case there are two sandwiched together). The first ride was with a guy who just finished doing eight years in the pen. He brought us only two miles, but we were about to walk down to that exit anyway so we accepted the short ride. Our second ride was a cute girl named Beth and then you find out that she has an eleven year old son (Note: Probably every woman who picked us up this trip, in or around Texas, was a teen mom). She was headed into Fort Worth proper, but you never want to take rides all the way into a city, if you're just passing through.

Beth dropped us off at the interstate spur for the city's outer loop. From there we caught our third ride 25 minutes down the road to Highway 287, which cuts down to I-45 (a straight shot down into Houston). Our final hitch, of the day and the trip, was a stoner named Chris who Cayla gave a quarter of a tank of gas to so he would bring us down to the interstate.
Houston, Texas
The mayor is her neighbor

Chris took us down to Ennis, and from there we were only three hours away, with three days to go, from Houston. We wait up until one in the morning for a ride from this guy off CraigsList. He was a really cool, fellow college kid headed down to Mexico to go kayaking with his friends.

My Aunt Lisa, whose house is where we were dropped off at, just escaped the winter vortex up in New York City and was fast asleep when we finally did get there, at four in the morning. We ended up having to hop her fence and sleep on her porch (she got a call from her neighbors in the morning that there were two homeless people camped out on her front stoop). 

To Clemson:

Once our second stay in Houston was over, Cayla and I caught the MegaBus at 23:15 to New Orleans. We arrived in The Big Easy at 6:00 the following day, and our next bus did not depart for over an hour. As luck may have it, Café du Monde was only a mile away, so it was beignets and Café au laits for breakfast.
Neither of us instagram, but if we did
Thankfully, our bus to Atlanta was only a quarter full, so we were able to sprawl out over an entire seat, for the eight and a half hour bus ride to Atlanta. Once we were there, we completed our cross country cheeseburger odyssey at The Varsity (the other honorable mentions were Texas' Whataburger and California's In-N-Out) before my girlfriend, Savannah, came and picked us up from Atlanta.


In Total:
10 States
24 Rides
3 MegaBuses
6 City Buses
100 miles of City Driving
5,600 miles of Interstate
---------------------------------
1 Kickass Winter Break

Thank you to Cayla and Lisa for the photos

If you're looking to learn how to hitchhike, check out my book- The Hitchhiker's Guide to: Earth.



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Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA

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