Monday 25th August. San Francisco, California, USA
"Somebody wake me! This must be a nightmare." That's what I've been saying to myself for the last forty hours. I left Dixie and Bills' place at Lakeside about nine o'clock yesterday morning, and I haven't slept since. It's now well after midnight and finally I'm facing the prospect of a soft, warm bed. It's just this second started to rain outside.
Something strange happenned to the hitchhiking when I left Interstate 5. I'd happily chalk up this last two days' effort as the worst hitching I've ever had in all my travels. *Even when I sat in one place in the Sahara for twenty-four hours, I was at least drinking beer with the police cheif* Since mid morning yesterday, I've had over twenty lifts, each taking me an average of fifteen miles! In between each lift was an average wait of over an hour and a half. In addition to that, I've walked conservatively twenty miles, since rides don't always leave me in a perfect spot for hitching. So you may remember that I once proudly lauded praise on the secondary coastal route known as Highway 101, and referred to Interstate 5 as a 'huge black gaping scar tearing through the natural beauty of the western states' FORGET THAT CRAP! If you're driving, Highway 101 is still the way to go, but if you're hitching, 101 is an endless wasteland of RV, log trucks and minivans jampacked with families. It's a time warp, a black hole, dotted with tiny hick towns with no services, no internet acces, and no decent tobacco.
The Oregon coast is beautiful; there's no argument. I'm just disappointed that I wasn't able to relax and enjoy it. You see, I had hosts in California expecting my arrival yesterday. I'd underestimated not only the distances involved, but also the number of motorists who would be travelling less than twenty miles! Not only that, I asumed I'd be able to contact them from internet cafes along the way. Wrong! "Never assume" someone once told me. I didn't listen. So, I'm reconsidering my chosen mode of travel. Hitching is a perfect way for me to travel UNLESS I have people waiting for me.
I checked in to the Globe Hostel in San Francisco at around midnight. The night air had only just cooled down; I was still hot and sweaty and sticky. Most of my toes seem to be blistered. My legs and shoulders ache, as do my arms from carrying the laptop. My head's throbbing from lack of food and sleep, and an excess of coffee, sun, dust and exhaust fumes. My eyes sting, and as I notice in the mirror, half of my left eye is blood red. I'm tired, cranky, confused, disappointed and disheartened. I have already given up hitchhiking several times today, as well as a couple of times yesterday.
Now, I'm in no frame of mind to relive the last couple of days blow by blow, and I doubt I could remember the series of events that led me here anyway. So I'll just mention a couple of the more noteable rides:
Nick the trucker, who gave me my best lift. A hundred mile drive in a new quiet, comfortable semi trailer, past deserted beaches and through breathtaking giant redwood forests.
The two girls who pulled up on the other side of the road and offered to take me ten miles north, when I was hitching south, then took me a couple of miles south to a gast station that no longer existed.
The lady who said she didn't know what the hell she was doing picking me up, since she never picks up hitchhikers.
The guy who brought me the short distance from Willits to Ukiah, only to state that he had probably decreased my chances of getting a lift, since in Ukiah I could no longer hitch on the motorway itself.
The hippy couple who stopped and asked if I could put in gas money in exchange for a ride... a ride of ten miles! They drove off when I started throwing rocks at their car.
Dave, the born again Christian, who said a prayer for me; "Dear Father, bless Stephen in his travels and show him where the good food and ale is to be found, and surround him with good personalities."
The nameless Mexican who provided me with the most terrifying continuous forty-five period of my life, as we careered through what was most likely a forest of giant redwoods. He said he does that short trip twice a week, which doesn't explain why every single corner seemd to catch hime by total surprise.
Jan from Cloverdale, eighteen years old and cute as a button, with the most obscene Dr Dray music blasting from her car stereo....it almost made me blush ..almost
And special mention must go to:
The moron who saluted and yelled "Hail Hitler" as he drove past
The two polite Oregon cops who pulled over to talk to me, and to run my name for warrants. The fact that I'm still here means that I either have no warrants or the cop made a typo with my name.
The endless parade of imbeciles in Yukiah who circled round two or even three times during the hours I was waiting on the on-ramp, apparently in an attempt to perfect the way in which they can ignore someone.
The helpful couple who run the liquor store on the northern California border, where I dined on a microwave burrito for breakfast at seven o'clock last night.
Frank, the friendly Spanish-Irish gas station attendant in Eureka, who is very generous with his coffee refills and spends his time out of work playing with his bearded dragon. That's not a metaphor. He has a pet bearded dragon.
The fireman who told me that the tiny hamlet of Leggett was a two mile walk south, when I was actually just around the corner from another exit which led directly into Leggett.
The Leggett postmaster, who listened patiently as I berated everything about his hometown- including the signage and the firemen- while I was posting some of my stuff forward to New York *then most likely threw my package in the trash*