HITCH ACROSS AMERICA: 1992
We are are all travelers in space and time, even when we are vegging in front of our television, killing brain cells with Budweiser, Camels, and Dan Quayle campaign mucus. Even in the passive and stationary posture of tube worship, we are nonetheless moving rapidly through (Cartesian) space in several vectorial dimensions (e.g., the earth’s rotation, and its revolution around the sun; the sun’s motion within the galaxy and the galaxy’s rotation; the galaxy’s movement within the local supercluster; the expansion of everything since the Big Bang, assuming that the universe began with a bang), and through various kinds of (Newtonian) time, most of which we measure with respect to the cycles of day and night; the seasons; and the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies. Even when we are asleep the seconds tick away, at least for those of us who continue to live within the Newtonian/Cartesian paradigm, moving us inexorably towards…the unknown.
Aside from these more cosmic, philosophical, and relative forms of travel, however (relative to our inertial reference frame of living on the surface of the Earth, these movements are imperceptible), our usual methods of experiencing transforms of our existential spatio-temporal coordinates, our more common modes of moving from place to place take the forms of self- or vehicularly-assisted locomotion/transportation on the ground, on water, or in the air. In the last century we have progressed from animal- and wind-based forms, to forms based on the combustion of fossil fuels in steam engines, to the wide array of forms in use today, ranging from the use of nuclear fission in ships and and submarines, to the combustion of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in rocket engines, to the use of dilithium crystals in Federation Starships, to bicycles, to the use of solar-electric power as well as the burning of fossil fuels in the internal combustion engine in land-based vehicles. The latter is by far the most widespread and ubiquitous mode: 95% or more of all surface vehicles burn fossil fuels. This is due primarily to the ease with which crude petroleum can be drained from the Earth and to the energy conglomerates’ rabid resistance to change.
The fossil fuel age is drawing to a close, if only because the terrestrial supply is finite. Unless interplanetary probes or explorers discover oil on the moon, Mars, or Titan (which is highly unlikely, since, as far as we know, these worlds have never harbored life-forms that could have become fossilized…on the other hand, what if we did find fossil fuels there…we’d surely see the NASA/EXXON Shuttle-Tanker!), and even if “we” use up all the petroleum in shale deposits (there’s enough to last a couple decades but getting at it requires strip-mining of unprecedented scale…and this is a lovely sight, indeed!), by the year 2050 or so the fossil fuel age will necessarily be over. Well before then, however, at present rates of pollution, the air over much of the planet will be toxic and unbreatheable.
The drivers of today may be dooming our grandchildren to “life” in sealed enclosures like Biosphere II. But hey, with the vast array of modern brain-washing techniques, few of our grandchildren may even realize that life outside the domes ever in fact existed; they may never know that air was once free! Most of them will probably like it. After all, things will be so…convenient! Or maybe using the wonders of genetic engineering to allow us to “evolve” into things which no longer require air to breathe would prove to be even more convenient!
Whatever the mode of power generation, however, tens of millions of personal automobiles, trucks and vans daily cruise the millions of miles of highways criss-crossing beautiful North America. I owned a vehicle continuously from the age of 16 up until November 1984, when I sold my last, a rusted-out Toyota pick-up, to a Denver junk yard. I love the freedom and convenience of owning your own vehicle. But is precisely this freedom and convenience that we take for granted in the astronomical number of miles we drive; and this vehicular excess is a primary causative agent in the etiology of the current global ecological scenario we have today. Anyway, enough said about the fossil fuel scenario. It’s important to think about, OK? It is the existence of widespread vehicular transportation that makes it possible to hitch-hike.
By the time I sold my old pick-up, I had already done my first trans-continental hitch-hiking trek, from July through early December of 1983, as well as hitching back to North Carolina from Key West in early December of 1982. By May of 1984, when I first moved to Athens, I had amassed over 12,000 road miles, and wrote my first article on hitching, entitled, surprisingly enough, “A Trans-continental Hitch-Hiking Trek: Part One.” In this piece I related the fundamental “do’s” and “don’t’s” of hitch-hiking, based on my experience, and described some of the rides I had and people I encountered. I also began to delve into the more cosmic and esoteric dimensions of this process.
In June of 1987 I left Athens with a 19-year-old Los Angeles run-away blonde named Heather; we hitched together to New Orleans, up through Austin, over to Santa Fe, and up into Wyoming and southern Colorado. At this point, after about a month, she returned to California, and I continued north through Wyoming and Montana, crossing the Canadian border and continuing up to Calgary, heading over to Banff. From here I hitched up the Icefield Parkway to a little resort town called Jasper, then headed southwest down through British Columbia over to Vancouver, proceeding south onto the Olympic peninsula, then southeast through eastern Oregon to Salt Lake City. Here I spent a weekend partying with a group of radical Mormon youth, and ended up riding with one of them down to Los Angeles, detouring through Death Valley en route. I got to “Shaky City” (trucker lingo for L.A.) just in time to experience a 6.2 earthquake from less than ten miles from the epi-center (I was on-lab at the Whittier branch of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that sunny September morning. I was sitting at a bus-stop at the time it happened; I thought that the concrete was buckling and the palm trees and lamp-posts were swaying because of an underground train!) From L.A. I ventured north briefly to Santa Cruz (here I ran into Heather by “chance” at a coffee-shop!) and to Berkeley, then returning south and then east over to New Mexico. At Las Cruces I made a short traverse over to Alamogordo, site of the first nuclear detonation (very creepy vibes there!) then I headed north on I-25 up to Santa Fe again, detouring to visit the VLA (Very Large Array, a network of 27 85-foot radio dishes which can function as one giant radio telescope 19 kilometers in diameter!). Then I high-tailed it back to Georgia on I-40, having hitched over 12,000 miles in four months. Safely back in Athens I retreated to Rocky’s Pizza and wrote the first 87 pages (not all in one sitting!) of a document entitled, surprisingly, “A Transcontinental Hitch-hiking Trek: Part Two.” This was intended to be a book, but somehow I got caught up in the real-time life of Athens that I love so much, and never finished it. These things happen. But I continued to hitch-hike.
Here it is, the last day of May 1992. Hey, this year is the quincentennial of Columbus’s invasion, I mean…intrusion, I mean…infection, I mean…discovery of America. Where would we be without him? Anyway, as of last week when I arrived here in Boulder (the Athens of the Rockies!), I have hitch-hiked right at 91,000 miles since the fall of 1982. Pretty impressive, huh, especially since it’s “impossible” to hitch anymore, not since the late 60’s or early 70’s at the latest. Not in the states, anyway. So I am told.
Some people tell me that I’m the Jack Kerouac of the 90’s. Among other things! I’ve read “On the Road” and “The Dharma Bums”, I think. Kerouac is certainly the archetypal hitch-hiker. I’m not sure that I’m the “anything-of-the-anything” that’s existed before; but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’ve hitched more miles than he did. Not that that would be any big deal. Back in the 50’s and early 60’s, when he did most of his mileage, there surely weren’t as many miles of highway or as many millions of automobiles or as many thousands of people with the time and money to drive all over the country at will. But, on the other hand, back then, in the proverbial “good old days of yesteryear” (when Reagan was just an actor (?) and Tonto and the Lone Ranger did their do-gooding! “That right, chemosabe.”) Americans still knew and trusted each other; a lot more people lived on farms and in rural areas. All we had to worry about was those evil Communists in Russia and Cuba. Crick and Watson had just discovered the DNA helix, and walking on the moon was the highest, most imaginative and seemingly unattainable goal we could set our sights on; it was the dawn of the Space Age, and John Lennon had just met Paul McCartney over in Liverpool. But…back to hitch-hiking!
Back when Kerouac was on the road, the psychological climate in America was radically different. Television was only beginning to become widespread; we were yet to experience the scourge of mind-management, consumer propaganda, and the unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of increasingly smaller groups and their undeclared war of infotoxin that Einstein warned of just before his death in 1955. Technology was the answer, and Uncle Sam its unabashed prophet. The United States of America was the sole and untouchable leader of the Free World, and we were proud of it.
But then the rot set in. From the assassination of President Kennedy and the escalation of our involvement in Viet Nam, to the resignation of Nixon in the wake of Watergate, through all the covert operations conducted in the 70’s and 80’s and the concomitant nuclear proliferation; the multi-ringed tumor-circus of the Reagan years, its cast of characters (including Oliver “Himmler” North, Mike “Goebbels” Deaver, and Cap “the Gap” Weinberger) and its legacy of subversion of the democratic process in favor of corporate control, culminating in the public disclosure of such grotesque violations of the constitution (not to mention basic human rights) as the Iran-Contra affair; all the way up to and including the “election” of a former head of the CIA as president, and the attempted implementation of the agenda of the “new world order.” Its mission: to undermine the Gifted Society. It looks like Uncle Sam has terminal brain cancer, that is, of course, if he’s not already dead (like Reagan, maybe he’s being kept “alive” by a daily dose of reanimation compound, the chemical warfare agent from Return of the Living Dead!).
Yes, even though I was just being born, it would seem that the over-all mood of the people in America was pretty different 35 years ago: more trusting, relaxed, optimistic, looking forward to a brighter world where you could live in peace and where your children could be a lot smarter than you thanks to the revolutions in education and communication made possible by the new technologies.
Look where we are today. Thanks to the widespread proliferation of the petrochemical industry, we have a grotesque surfeit of food to eat, but much of it contains pesticides and other toxins; perhaps as much as 70% of the Earth’s human population is chronically under-nourished. Thanks Monsanto. Thanks, DuPont. We have plenty of gasoline to burn, and it’s not as expensive as in Europe, until you add in the costs of things like the war in the Persian Gulf, the Valdez oil spill, and the non-numerical but more real ecological costs of burning fossil fuels. Thanks Gulf-Western. Thanks, Exxon. We also have plenty of legal drugs to do, like Prozak and methadone. Thanks, Dan. And plenty of illegal ones, too, like coke and heroin. Thanks, George. And hemp, probably the most economically important crop we could be growing now, remains illegal. Thanks, Richard Anslinger. Thanks, DEA. We also have, on the average, more televisions per household than we do children. Does this mean that we’re highly informed about what’s going on? Hardly. The average American watches 6.5 hours of television daily, the vast majority of it consisting of psychologically “sophisticated” programming aimed at selling products of necessity and instilling attitudes of desire. Thanks, ad agencies. Thanks, Hill and Knowlton. Thanks, NBC.
The News is supposedly the most important stuff on TV, right? Except for The Simpsons. We generally believe the news to be truthful and accurate reports of things that really happened, right? Even if it’s invariably the worst shit that happened that day, it supposedly really happened, right? But in today’s technological and political climate of subterfuge, social engineering and deceit, how can we really be sure of the “reality” of what we see on TV? Moreover, even if all the stuff that’s given the status of “news” is true, who in fact decides that it’s news? We could have Pat Robertson to thank, had he had sufficient funds to buy UPI; a “Christian News Network” would surely provide objective and unbiased “news”!
Yes, the social, psychological, and political climates (and perhaps the global atmospheric climate) of today are indeed quite different from those of the friendly fifties. Back then you could hitch-hike safely, knowing that the people who might pick you up weren’t likely to be gun-toting AIDS-infested child-molesting cannibalistic psychopathic serial killers who listen to “porn rock” and vote Republican! You didn’t have to worry about stuff like that back then. But now, in the Notorious Nineties, you never know who might be an alien lizard-being in disguise! The Evening News is always reporting heinous atrocities everywhere: everyone must be fucked!
That’s why I love to hitch-hike: it’s impossible! It’s dangerous! It’s insane!
I don’t know how many miles Jack Kerouac hitch-hiked. It’s not really the quantity of your mileage, but the quality of the miles, of the places you visit and the people you meet. As of the writing of this article, I have hitched 91,000 miles since the fall of 1982. I’ve visited about 35 of the United States, and the southern regions of Alberta and British Columbia. This figure is accurate to within about 5%, or about 2,000 miles. I have hitched 0.0098 astronomical units (an a.u. is the average distance between the Earth and the sun, or approximately 93 million miles), or 0.000000015 light years (a light year is the distance light travels in one year, or approximately 5.98 trillion miles). At 1990 levels of driving, Americans will drive one light year from 1990 to 1996.
Until this past trek two weeks ago, from Athens to Boulder, I had met only one person in all my miles of hitching who had hitched more miles than me. I think his name was Jim Johnson, from somewhere in Texas. He had a big van pulling a large U-haul trailer, and very long ( I mean almost ass-length!) hair. He was returning from down in a remote region of Mexico, bringing back a load of dresses; he went around and set up this big tent and sold the dresses at considerable profit here state-side. He seemed like a very cool dude with a solid gig which made him a lot of legal money. Anyway, he said that he had hitched a little over 100,000 miles, including to Guatemala and back, during his former days of life on the road.
Then, two weeks ago, a dude named Jim Buffington gave me a ride part-way across Atlanta. He’s a mechanic, and was on his way to pick up a freshly-machined engine head. He told me that he had hitched 250,000 miles in 15 countries over 20 years of hitching, which I believe spanned the 60’s and 70’s. Now, I know the degree of accuracy of my mileage figures: I have a scientific mind and am very honest. I generally believe most of what people tell me, unless they give me a reason to doubt them. Both of these Jim’s seemed intelligent and honest, so I take their figures as accurate. Plus or minus a few thousand, OK?
“Shit!” I thought, when he related the 250,000 mile figure. I always to hitch the most miles of anyone I knew of! 100,000 looked like an easy mark to beat; 250,000…I don’t know. By this fall, when I will have been hitching for 10 years, I will probably have surpassed the six figure mark (especially if I hitch from Newfoundland to Alaska in July, like I’m planning right now!); this averages out to around 10,000 miles per year. To hit the quarter-million mile mark, I’d have to continue at my present rate until the year 2007. I’ll be 51 then. I guess I could do it. I could also get really serious about my hitching, and actually stay on the road for an entire year (as it stands now, I’m actually “on the road” only a few weeks of the year). A typical truck-driver might drive 250,000 miles in one year. Seriously. Or if I wanted to get really serious, I could take to what is known as air-hitching. Now, I’ve only read about this; but it doesn’t involve standing by a run-way with your thumb extended! To perform air-hitching, you go into the terminal at the airport and start asking around about who’s flying where. This is something you do in small, private airports, of course. A friend of mine who’s a psychiatrist said that a lot of medical supplies are transported by plane, and that those pilots might be good to approach. Of course, if you were going to hitch over-seas, you’d have to have all your papers in order, n’est pas? Damn, by hitching on planes I could rack some miles fast. Like several thousand miles in a few hours! And be stylin’, too! Maybe I should go for a million! I wonder if I could hitch to Australia? The moon? Mars? The Arcturan Star System? Oz?
But this is getting off the mark. At no point have I ever hitch-hiked simply to accrue miles. I hitch to get somewhere, always with a specific destination on each trek. I am where I am while I am there, but then, when I get where I’m going, there I am. What I mean is something akin to Ram Dass’ maxim “be here now.” In a logical sense, this is all you really can do, unless you undergo spatio-temporal re-location, which is some form of movement in space and/or time. You can “be there then” , but not “here” and not “now.” But you know what I mean! Buckaroo Bonzai already explained it: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Being very much a "people" person and very into meeting new and unfamiliar sub-species of homo sapiens, and in establishing communication with them, has certainly sustained and enhanced my career in hitch-hiking. If I hated people or meeting new ones, yet persisted in hitch-hiking as a mode of transportation, it would surely suck. In a big way.
In my first article on hitching I mentioned that what it's all about, in addition to actually getting where you're going, is the people you meet. I would estimate that I have had rides with at least a couple thousand people over my 91,000 miles. This form of meeting and getting to know people is vastly more interesting, educational, and varied than the "encounter" groups of the 70's; since you are exerting no control whatsoever over who picks you up, the forces which in our daily lives operate to prevent us from interacting with people who are radically different from us are attenuated. In other words, we don't usually meet or interact with people much unlike ourselves: it's too scary, too unpredictable, too…inconvenient! Most of us live our lives in terms of the repetition of daily routines, and don't really meet large numbers of new people as a matter of course anyway.
During hitch-hiking you are like totally wide-open to the unknown. I mean, not totally: for example, you can be relatively certain that whoever stops to pick you up will be human. Relatively certain. But you never know; at least all of my rides to date have looked like humans! And you can be relatively certain that when you get in the car the "laws of nature" of this part of the galaxy will still hold. Relatively certain. Of course, if you're accelerating to velocities approaching the speed of light, you will experience a slowing of the temporal process, known in Einsteinian parlance as time dilation. But compared to the statistical probabilities of everyday life, hitching involves a highly elevated coefficient of the unknown, for sure.
One thing that is certain, however, almost as certain as the fact that the vehicle which picks you up will be burning fossil fuels is that you will encounter an exceedingly interesting and diverse array of people. So diverse, in fact, that I find it difficult to generalize about the people who give me rides; except to say that in general they are all alive and are going somewhere, the one thing that they have in common is that they are almost all invariably nice people.
Before I extrapolate on what I mean by "nice", allow me to present some raw anthropological data on the nature of the people who give me rides and my encounters with them. My latest trek, from Athens to Boulder, in late May, was a prime example of the harmony and diversity of the hitch-hiking experience.
To head out from Athens, I got my friend Eric to give me a ride out to a good hitching juncture, about ten miles out of town, the point out past the mall where 78 bifurcates off to the left, and 29 continues on to Winder. The last time I hitched from there was back in February; I got picked up by a dude, Hamlin Endicott, a wine salesman whose brother Marcus is a professional traveller and has a book out entitled Vagabond Globetrotting: State of the Art. Before dropping me at my friend's house in Atlanta along with a sample of his wares, he took me by his place in order to give me a copy of his brother's latest book, which is a humorous, fact-filled guide to alternative travel all over the world.
On this latest trek I got a ride from this nexus with a dude named Rick Longenecker, an Atlanta computer specialist who is also involved in putting on the Phenomicon event (a multi-disciplinary conference of authors/minds focussing on leading-edge neuro-politics, science fiction, conspiracy theory, and other anomalies of modern thought). He recognized me from the Human Rights Festival. Our encounter consisted of an hour-long brainstorming session on topics ranging from computer technology in art and music, to Frank Zappa, to the Church of the Subgenius, to the infotoxin hypothesis, to the agenda of the "new world order." He dropped me on I-85 south, just north of spaghetti junction, in time to make his last business connection of the day.
I walked down the on-ramp (this one was particularly long, being a kind of short access-road, too; of course, even the shortest ramp can seem interminable when you're carrying over 100lbs. of gear in 90+ degree heat!) headed toward my favorite hitching spot; the vertex point where the on-ramp meets the highway. Here, technically, you are on the ramp, not the road, and you are visible to the passing traffic, as well as being at a visual apex of the white-lines which define vehicular trajectories (most of the time!).
I had been standing there only a few minutes when, yes, a car pulled over. Ah, that moment of joy and gratitudd, the one whose proximity is as elusive as the hose-beaked fryceratops (tuborhine lysergoceph) or perhaps the mythical "hide-behind" of Australian folk-lore (it's an animal resembling a kangaroo which gets behind you…but you can never see it because it's always able to stay directly behind you, outside your field of vision!) When you're hitching you constantly have to look over your shoulder, "down traffic", to see if anyone pulls over. Failure to respond promptly to a car who pulled over could result in loss of ride; being the diligent hitcher, this has never happened to me. I hauled ass, as I always do, towards the waiting vehicle (and I'm skinny enough to be able to haul ass in one trip!).
Running at the pace of a moderate jog with 100+ lbs. of gear can tend to kick one's ass, even it it's only for a couple hundred feet. I would say that this is the average distance I have to cover on foot to get to a car. A lot of times, they are able to stop closer, or sometimes even ahead of me; occasionally people will back up to meet me; trucks usually end up a quarter-mile or more (it seems!) down the road because they can't stop very quickly.
I arrived at the car, breathless. Now, this is the initial moment of encounter. During this first few seconds of interaction a tremendous amount of information is exchanged, mostly non-linguistic and pre-conscious. The person stopping gto pick me up has already seen me and sized me up, at least for a second or two; if they're stopping to get me, it's because they wanted to (and this is certainly the way it is, because when you're standing out there you are powerless to make someone stop. Of course, you could do stuff like jump into the on-coming traffic…but this would mark the end of your terrestrial hitch-hiking experience; or you could flash a handful of bills with two digits. No hitch-hiker is likely to have that kind of money…but if you did flash it, even someone going over a hundred miles per hour would see it, down to the serial number, because when it comes to the human response to money, many of the normal laws of nature, reality, and everything go awry as the psyche becomes affected by strange attractors at the quantum level! Or if you're a female person you could lift your skirt and/or show your breasts in the manner of Cicciolina, the blonde sex-goddess from Budapest who was recently elected to the Italian parliament. Seriously. But I prefer to stand there in proper stance, like a good hitch-hiker (once I even got a ride because the dude said I had good posture!); doing any of these things to try to get someone to stop could easily lead to one or more of the undesirable outcomes people always associate with hitch-hiking!).
During the moment of encounter I am simultaneously doing such things as reading the basic personality characteristics and sensing the overall vibrational aura of the driver, looking around inside the vehicle for signs of trouble (empty alcohol containers, weapons, unusually large quantities of garbage, unidentified viscous substances on the floor, venomous reptiles, syringes, containers of radio-active waste, or hidden passengers) noticing smells, and talking to him/her (usually a "him" but not always), often beginning with "Hey, how's it going? Where ya headed to?" followed by "Hey man, thanks a lot for stopping!" And I mean it, too. All this is taking place while I am loading my gear into the car. I have only turned down rides a few times, usually because they were only going a mile or two or because the vehicle was filled with people. Once I turned down a ride because the dude wouldn't tell me where he was going. I mean, a hitch-hiker without a destination is bad, but a driver without one is worse because he'll get there a lot sooner! The most potentially "interesting" ride I ever turned down was a few years ago, as I was hitching along I-40 somewhere west of Oklahoma City. I was walking along, not even hitching. This old van pulled over with several fairly disturbed-looking individuals inside. They looked like worn-out road junkies, not all that old, but pretty fucking beat! They all had this really kind of hungry look…I don't mean for food…but hungry for something! Detection of this vibe within about 150 milliseconds of seeing them iinstantly defined my response: "Thanks for stopping, but you really don't have room." I don't think they were rabies-infected Republicannibals; they just wanted some more shit to shoot up! So anyway, I continued walking down the road. Then they pulled up next to me again. "Hey, if you've got some money, we'll make some room for you…" They didn't quite get it, did they? I was too nice to tell them that I hitch for fun and adventure, not out of desperation and lack of alternatives, and that I wasn't about to get into a van loaded with homo sapiens road-kill. As well, they didn't realize that asking me if I had any money wasn’t exactly going to encourage me to join their merry band of junksters; in fact, I've had a small number of people to pull over and ask me if I had any money, and then keep on going when I answered them, honestly, that I didn't…but I was glad. Who would want to ride with someone driving a car with no money? "Hey buddy…that sure is a nice camera ya got there…" These guys must've really wanted to help me out, though, because then the driver leaned over to talk to me, in front of the chick in the passenger seat, who apparently had been not unattractive in the not-too-distant-past, but who now resembled William S. Burroughs' retarded step-daughter before she went into rehab! "Hey, we can stop and get some money…she gives good blood!" They were serious! The implications of this statement made me kind of cringe. I said "No, but thanks anyway" and kept on walking, hoping they would drive on and leave me alone. They did. I wasn't afraid of them; they didn't seem violent or aggressive (they must've been on that smack!) But for some reason I didn't want to become a part of that happy group of fellow travellers!
Anyway, back to the ride at hand. This guy's name was Jim Buffington. He's a mechanic in Atlanta and was on his way to pick up a freshly machined engine head for a job he was doing. He was maybe around 50. He was a damn cool dude. He's the one I mentioned earlier who said he'd hitch-hiked a quarter-million miles in 15 countries! A lot of his hitching strategies revolved around wearing the proper clothes, contrasting what he would wear while hitching in Europe as opposed to what proper dress code would be for hitching in the States. I wear what I always wear: jeans and a t-shirt in summer, add cold-weather gear if it's cold. Fairly clean clothes, nothing fancy. That's one of the three basic "do's" of hitching which I formulated in my 1984 article (the other two are "Have a back-pack" and "Make a clear, legible sign."). Being interested in alternative fuels for the post-fossil-fuel age, I asked him what he knew about propane as a fuel for the internal combustion engine. Not to my surprise, because he seemed like an in-tune dude on top of his profession, he knew quite a bit about it. Of course, he didn't think there was anything better than gasoline for commercial use (from the perspective of the non-ecologically minded mechanic, I'm sure this is true); the major drawback from using propane is what is known as valve-seat recession. I forget the precise mechanism of action of this process, but it results in having to get your valves retooled more often than you normally would. But overall, he only strengthened my case for propane, by verifying the positive things I've learned. While conversing about placement of fuel tanks, he related that he had welded a full tank of gas before. He said the dude who owned the car insisted on going into the building across the street while he did it! Jim was a damn good dude, and he told me that he could do the propane conversion thing if I ever needed it done. He dropped me at a good hitching spot where Clairmont Road crosses 85.
The spot was good, but it now looked like it was going to start pouring down rain at any instant! I was probably an hour before sunset, but really dark due to the thunder clouds. This brings us to another prime variable of the hitch-hiking experience: the weather.
Like getting a ride while hitch-hiking, the weather is outside the domain of our immediate control. More than even the 'software of the atmosphere', the weather is dynamic and alive, expressions of the living forces of Gaia. If you're an atmospheric scientist or meteorologist, however, the weather consists of contiuously changing patterns of chemical and thermodynamic non-equilibrium interaction, solar-driven matter/energy transductions between land and sky, ocean and cloud, liquid and gas. A clear, beautiful day has less 'weather' than a day of violent thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, cyclones, and microbursts: weather is in a sense the events of the atmosphere.
To the American Indians and other indigenous, aboriginal peoples of all continents, the forces of the atmosphere have always been regarded as entities, beings, or deities with whom humans coexist; and a significant part of the spiritual life of these peoples centers on maintaining harmonious relationships with these forces.
I feel the Earth, the atmosphere and its weather and the whole of nature, including the mountains and minerals as well as the florae and faunae, to be vastly alive. I have come to experience Gaia as a consciousness, a web of life that connects everyone and everything on the planet. When I am out in nature, and particularly when I am hitch-hiking, I feel especially close to her.
In terms of the weather, I usually seem to be in the right place at the right time. I carry very little rain gear; when it's warm it's fun being out in the rain. But I carry a significant amount of stuff (writings, for example) that could be damaged by water; plus water-logged gear weighs a lot more than dry! Normally, given that I have the choice, I tend to stay where I am if the weather is 'bad.' This might mean staying an extra day at someone's house, or at least waiting for a break in the 'weather.'
If I do find myself standing by the roadside beneath threatening clouds, while recognizing that that storm spirits are my allies, I might also scope out where I could go if the bottom drops out. This would usually be somewhere like an over-pass bridge or a restaurant within walking distance. You never know when a storm spirit ally might want to douse you for fun! Plus, I could always pull out the rain fly from my tent to stay dry if I really needed it.
Anyway, I was standing there at Clairmont Road and I-85 south beneath a dark thunder-head. My destination for the day was just over a little beyond Six Flags, to my sister's house in Winston. I figured that two more rides would be all I'd need: one down I-20 West, and one out to the Douglasville exit. But it was pretty dark, because of the clouds, even though another hour of daylight remained; I knew that if I had to walk up the on-ramp to get out of the (possible) rain, it might get dark on me. This is another factor in hitching; I rarely hitch after dark, unless I really want to expedite my arrival to where I'm going. And even then, I only hitch from well-lit ramps, which this one wasn't.
I wasn't exactly stressing, just hoping for someone to stop. All of a sudden a pick-up pulled over. It was loaded with gear for house painting. And he had a shit-load of furnace filters up front. This was Doug Sikes. He was on his way home up to Marietta. He was a damn good dude. About five minutes after he picked me up the rain started. It was pouring down pretty hard, and my gear was in the back; but we were moving fast enough that it didn't matter. Until we hit the traffic going to the Brave's game! But by then the rain slacked off somewhat. He fired up a joint and we got a nice buzz as we conversed about all kinds of cool shit. He was basically headed over to get on 75 North when he got me, but went out of his way not only to take me over to where 20 West and 285 meet, but even further, all the way to the third Douglasville exit, to within five miles of my sister's house! Then he bought me a drink before heading up to Marietta. An excellent person.
My sister Susan and her two-and-a-half-year-old son Tyler came and got me. We watched the giant orange solar disc setting as we headed for the house. I spent two days with them, watching Leonard Nimoy's "In Search Of" with her husband Dave (this particular episode was called 'The Sun Worshippers' and was about the end of the fossil fuel age, alternative fuels, and solar energy. Fascinating, Captain.) Watching Tyler pitch the classic "terrible two's" fit at Po' Folks, and doing hand-painted t-shirts with her daughter Lindsay, who's six. My niece. "Uncle Jeff." I hate being called that. It's not that it makes me feel old or anything (I mean, I just turned 36 but most people think I'm about 27); it's just that I'm the only one in the family who has two names. There's
My sister is the normal one of my parents' two children; I am, of course, the mutation. But we get along pretty well. As she was preparing to take me out to the highway when I was leaving, she told me that I must have an "excess of guardian angels" because I rarely get sick, don't have any allergies, and always have good rides hitching. I have always felt that a lot of beings are watching out for me, but certainly I don't have an "excess" of assistance!
Susan drove me out to Carrollton after work (she's a speech and communications therapist), leaving me in the warm glow of a North Georgia late spring afternoon, on the threshold of Memorial Day weekend. One of the things I really enjoy about hitch-hiking is being able to spend time alone out in nature; if you're along a highway kind of away from a city, and there's not much traffic, it's pretty nice to be there. As long as you're not there for too long. And it's not sub-zero temperatures! I have developed a kind of sensibility about how long it's taking me to get a ride. A lot of times, if it seems like a ride is long in coming, this means that the next ride will more than likely be really good.
I would estimate that I waited maybe 45 minutes. Now, this is probably about average for the duration of a wait, maybe a little long but not by a lot; two hours would be really long! A truck pulled over but then kept on going. This happens occasionally. I know I get talked about on CB's sometimes; I'd like to hear what is actually said! Most of it is just passing the word that "Rodger Dodger, ya gotta hitch-hiker about eight miles southbound." Some of them might think I was a girl if they saw me from behind, because of my hair.
Anyway, a big yellow Ryder truck, probably the largest size they make, pulls over in front of me. This means I was spotted from a distance and that a speedy decision was made. He was pulling a trailer with a car on it, too. Charlie Gallion. He was going to Dallas. Dallas? Yeah, in Texas. Around 800 miles! He was also a fellow North Carolinian, from Greensboro, close to where I grew up. Excellent! He was moving in with his new girlfriend, who was paying for everything, including the move! I saw a picture of her: a real honey! He was kind of in a hurry to get there (I wonder why!?); those rental trucks have governors which prevent their being driven at over 65 mph. This is probably very sound thinking. I drove for several hours throughout the night, and we got to Dallas just before rush hour. In order to help me get through the metropolitan area, Charlie drove me about 25 miles north, towards Denton (home of NTU and where Heather, the blonde run-away chick from LA and I partied with some frat people on the Fourth of July in 1987!). Another damn good dude!
Where he dropped me was a sort of non-descript quasi-industrial/suburban area. I walked along the side road for about a quarter-mile, to get on the nearest on-ramp. Right over beside me was a large grove of beautiful trees, oaks maybe. I stood hitching for a few minutes; but the trees were drawing me near…I had to find out why. Those gentle voices I hear…explained it all in a sigh! I walked over and sat at a picnic table for a few minutes. I cannot explain the mystical feeling I had in that grove, but it was somehow connected to the spirit of nature as a whole, and to the Indians who lived there not all that long ago. Their presence is alive even now, to those who can perceive it. I feel that it is this force or consciousness that puts me in the right place at the right time and connects me with the right people. After changing into long pants and looking at my road atlas (a customized, water-proofed 1984 Rand McNally), I felt it was time to get back onto the highway.
After a very short span of time, only five to ten minutes, a car pulled over. Paul Jones, from Aubrey, very close to Denton. He had been doing some house-painting, but was on his way home. He was very into the Indians who had once lived in this area, and spent a lot of time out by the streams collecting various kinds of arrow-heads. He was a very spiritual person. He drove me up to the north edge of town. We went into a convenience store and he bought me a bar-b-que sandwich. We sat and talked for a while. He drew me some pictures of the kinds of arrowheads that were likely to be found in this area: Washita, from around 500 A.D; Fresno; Clovis, from around 10,000 B.C; and the Adenz, from around 6,000 B.C. Then he had to split because of a court date: he had recently got busted for growing that evil narcotic devil-weed hemp! When I go back through that area he's going to take me arrowhead hunting. Yet another damn good dude!
I sat in the store a while, waiting for a break in the drizzle. I felt surrounded by an aura of intensely positive spiritual vibes. It was that living Indian nature energy. When the rain stopped, I walked up the side road and onto the on-ramp. A car pulled over before I even got onto the highway. This was Matthew Tresp, from Whitesboro, about 30 miles up the road. He had seen me in the store. He had just got off work but was kind of fooling around for a while before heading to the house, the wife and kids. We drove through the rain, which was moderate. He offered to take me on into Oklahoma, which was more than a few miles. Just as we were reaching the exit where he had to turn around and go back, the rain had diminished to naught!
Standing there amid the lush grassy plains of southern Oklahoma, I felt totally at one with the land, the surrounding area, the spirits of the Indians who used to live here, the herds of mightly buffalo. I felt totally at peace with everything. I realized that I was at the southern end of what is known as "tornado alley", a region several hundred miles wide which extends from central Texas up through the Great Lakes area and into Canada. Although the sky was overcast, I did not perceive any serious storm precursors. By this time I was beginning to feel pretty beat, after driving all through the night with Charlie Gallion. I decided that if I didn't get a ride fairly quickly, that I would go down into the field next to me, pitch my tent, and catch a few z's. It was only around 10a.m. I was running well ahead of "schedule" (not that you can have an actual schedule when you're hitching, but I know how I'm doing compared to previous experience; the scale of comparison is based on what driving time would be, which I compute at 65 mph plus stopping time for food and fuel…this is about the fastest you can do the ground-travel thing, and to do this well at distances of over 1500 miles or so requires more than one driver), and could afford to take a break if need be.
But after no more than 20 minutes a car pulled over. Neal Brown. He had been living down in Mexico City for the past month, and was on his way to meet his business partner, Les Powers, up at a place called Bob's Pig Shop in Paul's Valley. They represent musicians of different kinds and as a team function as a sort of regional, smaller-scale Bill Graham Productions of southern "tornado alley" country musicians. We arrived in Paul's Valley, OK. This was early afternoon on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. By now I was feeling like a brain-dead zombie; Neal suggested that I crash out in his car while they had their "business" meeting, then come in and join them later. When I laid down I instantly zoned into a hyper-rem space; my degree of fatigue forced me to sleep, but my innate wariness of being on the front seat of the car of someone I'd just met less than an hour ago, and in a town I knew nothing about prevented the sleep from being very deep.
I remained in this state of semi-sleep (I'm not sure exactly what kinds of brain-waves I was generating…from the dreams I was having, they must've been a full-spectrum combination of gamma, zeta, lambda, and pi!) for one or two hours of real time (this is one of those commonly-used scientific expressions that I could digress on for aeons!). The Neal came out and got me. I went into the bar and joined him and his friend Les. We started in on drinking some Budweisers and eating bar-b-que and tamales and exchanging stories about hitch-hiking, country music, life in Mexico city, and chicks. Primarily the latter. We were also scoping out all the female resources which passed through. Did you know that in Texas, if a girl is old enough to go to the store, she's old enough to get bred? HaHa!!! Seriously. What age would that be, 12? I guess it depends on if the store is close enough to walk to, or if she has to drive, in which case it would be 16. "I heard that." That's another colloquial Texanism I learned.
We drank quite a few Buds and exchanged quite a few tales. From what Neal was relating, life in Mexico City is pretty damned cool. I wouldn't mind checking it out some time. Neal sounded like he was planning to spend a lot of time there. By now it was around 5 p.m., and we had to be on our ways. Neal had to return south into Texas, and Les was returning north up to Oklahoma City. I loaded my gear into Les's car as he donated some hemp-based pharmaceuticals to Neal's cause. Then we were on our way, up I-35.
We burned one after we got on the interstate; after a while, my road fatigue set in again, and I started nodding off. By the time we got to OKC I still had plenty of time to catch a ride, and Les was going to drop me over on the west side of town; but then he said I could come and crash at his house as long as I didn't slit his throat in the middle of the night. I said I wouldn't, as long as he didn't try to fuck me up the ass or anything like that!
By the time we got to his house in a nice suburban part of OKC I didn't feel sleepy anymore. Les's girlfriend and her kids came over, as well as his friend Mike. Like myself, Mike and Les design t-shirts. I showed them my line of designs, and they showed me some of theirs. I played them some music they hadn't heard before (that's partly why my back-pack weighs so much…I typically carry 10-12 cd's and maybe 80 cassettes!), including my friends The Samples from Boulder, and some William Orbit (his "Strange Cargo" disc has been my favorite music of the past year). We drank a few Corona's, consumed some more cannabis, and acted silly with the kids.
It was at this point that I got to hear the infamous "Ass-whippin' " tape. I can't remember how they got this tape, but it's by this dude back in Tennessee somewhere. I don't know his real name, but on this tape he uses three aliases: Bill Morgan, Roy Mullins, and Leroy Mercer. What he does is to call up a store, like an automotive supply or a shoe store, and he tells them that he recently bought something from them but that it fucked up somehow, and now he wants a new one of whatever it was, and sometimes more. Supposedly he is a "sophisticated businessman", according to Les; but he speaks in the quintessential American redneck dialect. It sounds real enough to me. He's outrageously antagonistic to the store peope, and makes incredible and unrealistic demands; but he begins with premises that are so outlandish that anyone who even talks to him for long has to have patience on the order of infinite, and/or have an acute lack of intelligence. The funniest parts are when the store people disagree with him or say they won't fulfil his demands, and he says,"Well, somebody's ass could get whipped over this…" See, that's why they call it the "ass-whippin'" tape. Get it?
The evening was deepening, and I felt the land of nod tugging at my brainwaves. I slept very soundly on Les's sofa, awakening once in the middle of the night to a stressful scene in some late-night science fiction movie. Over the last few years I have grown quite accustomed to sleeping on sofas. Regardless of their length or density, I can always manage to obtain some form of decent rest. The next day was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Les had a lot of stuff to do, so we took off around noon. The day was damp and overcast, but tranquil. He drove me out past Yukon (a tiny suburb of Oklahoma City…my only previous experience there was when I was hitching through in the winter of '90…somehow I was there after dark with no ride and it was colder than fuck…a waitress from a restaurant where I had eaten and her boyfriend took me to what had used to be a motel but was not a shelter of sorts for people on the road who needed a place for a night…but they wouldn't let me stay there, however, because I was guess what …a single male! So they drove me to a truck-stop down the highway) and dropped me at a Love's (a kind of truck stop/convenience store found throughout the Midwest). I asked Les if he'd mind giving me a dollar or two for some coffee. I still had two sweet roll/pastry-type things that Paul Jones had given me back down in Denton, TX. I knew they were probably still edible because I've always heard that the shelf-life of a Twinkie is 9.2 years; I've yet to test this figure. I also remembering that Twinkies aren’t actually cooked, but that they just sort of rise to the occasion! Les said "No problem", and added that since I might be an angel, he had better help me out! I felt surrounded by a powerful aura of good vibes. "May the force be with you" I said as I got out of his car. Was he an angel?
A little ways before we turned off I-40 to cross over to the Love's we saw a hitch-hiker walking down the highway. He was a dude maybe ten years older than me, with a long, scraggly beard, standard "road attire" (dark, somewhat soiled clothes with a jacket bearing the emblem of an oil company, and matching hat), and an Army-surplus duffle bag with a large reusable coffee mug dangling from it. I mean, I didn't register all this information until I talked to him in the Love's. All I noticed when I first saw him walking was that he resembled the typical hitch-hiker that people see and go "Ooh, I'd never let that guy close to my car…", and the fact that he was hauling ass on foot.
I was sitting at a table, drinking my coffee, eating my sausage biscuit and welll-preserved pastry, looking at my road atlas and enjoying the good vibes of being in the middle of an excellent trip. I was taking my time, waiting for the drizzle to subside, reflecting on the excellent "luck" I'd been having so far. Then this dude comes in, the one I'd just seen walking down the road. He sits down in the booth behind me. Two of the guys who worked there were sitting across from me; observing their response to him was interesting. They knew that I, too, was a hitch-hiker; they could see my sign and my back-pack outside. But their response to me was somewhat different. They saw me as someone at the very least "on their level," someone with whom they could communicate; I could tell that they saw him as somewhat sketchy.
I think that most people I know would've seen this guy as sketchy. Regardless of whether he was hitch-hiking or not. He had a kind of wild, unkempt look. Like he might be kind of…yes, crazy! Now, this is a topic on which I could digress at great length: the relativity of the concept of "sanity." To some people, anyone who hitch-hikes today is obviously insane; this would be something that would constitute the very definition of "insane." But people can tell from talking to me that, although I might be a little crazy in a positive sense, I am not only not insane but that I am probably a good deal saner than most people. I know plenty of people who would argue this; my point is that I actually am fairly normal (another topic of digression) and am perceived as such by most people.
But this other hitch-hiker may easily have been perceived as a wing-nut by many people. I could tell from talking to him and from looking into his eyes, however, that he was not insane, not mean or crazy or someone to be afraid of. In fact, he seemed like a pretty damned good dude. He did seem a little lost, and by his appearance he definitely didn't "fit in" with the status quo. Like myself, he didn't have much money. He was drinking some coffee, and I offered him one of my donor Twinkies. He was really glad to have it, saying that he hadn't eaten in a couple days. His name was Chris; he didn't have a specific destination, but was looking for some work harvesting wheat.
I felt a great deal of compassion for this man. He seemed like an innocent soul that had been wounded by having to exist in the disease of human society today; we didn't talk all that much, but we probably share an equally profound disdain for much of what motivates people today. He seemed like essentially a country person, which I, too, am. He looked at my atlas, and complained about not getting rides. I suggested that he formulate a destination and make a sign.
After a while, the drizzle abated. He left before me. By the time I hit the on-ramp, he was gone. I wonder on occasion where he finally ended up; of if he’s still walking the interstates of southern “tornado alley”, waiting for that certain ride that will take him where he wants to go. Maybe he was an angel…in search of harvestable wheat.
I walked out across the interstate bridge and down the on-ramp to the edge of the west-bound traffic. After a little while a guy pulled over. Jay. Something or other. He was only going about 10-15 miles; sometimes short rides can be good in that they can reposition you into a more suitable location. Where I was was fine, but I went anyway. The difference between walking five miles with a hundred-pound pack and being driven five miles is significant, to say the least. This ride was one of those rare instances of encountering the pervert. This dude wasn’t seriously twisted, not as far as I could tell, anyway; but after a few miles he started rubbing his pud. He seemed like an elementary school teacher who might go after young boys. I could easily envision him doing it, plus I could sense the vibe. At least he didn’t pull it out of his pants. At that, I would’ve been forced to be let out. Luckily, this has never happened. I can always tell before they ask me “the big question! But this dude just started in on a’strokin’ while we were in the middle of a conversation about New Zealand. This dichotomous situation had an interesting effect on my mind; on the mental level, I was interested in the information he was relating. But on the gut, instinctual level, I was recoiling. I mean, he wasn’t really going at it like he was serious; he seemed unsure of how far he was going. I started wondering how much this depended on me; I also kept willing him to stop it, beaming my strongest telepathic laser beams at him. Finally a sense of relief: we had reached his exit. Just as we were pulling over, he said “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” I instantly replied “Don’t even bother.” I politely thanked him for the ride, and left him with my official motto of the 90’s: “Don’t fuck up, because fucking down is more gravitationally efficient.” Then he was on his merry way.
I looked around. The middle of nowhere. No stores, not even a service station at this exit. The clouds weren’t really dark, but it did look like it could raining. I wondered if I shouldn’t have stayed back where I was. But I felt really good vibes all around. A moderate cross-wind was blowing out of the north; it kept my hair in my face as I looked into the on-coming traffic. I had just got my hair cut before I left Athens, so I wasn’t looking quite as wild as I usually do. I had on my blue and purple pull-over from Australia that I got in Crested Butte back in March; if has aborigine-esque images on it. I felt at one with everything. I was expecting to be there for a while.
It’s hard to describe the state I go into when I’m actually in the act of hitching, standing there by the road-side with my thumb out. If I’m unstressed and everything is taken care of, I think that my mind kind of expands out into a larger domain. At this particular time I was quite content to be there, maybe just a little anxious to be picked up, because of the possibility of rain. But I was very happy.
Once when I was hitching down from Murfreesboro, Tennessee two summers ago I had the experience of kind of seeing all the way up the highway for quite a long distance. I didn’t exactly see over this distance in a visual sense; it was more like a sort of nerve impulse that seemed to travel out from me and up the road at very high velocity. I was in a kind of altered state; I had a two-day mid-summer cold virus, and had just ingested a dose of this stuff called Thera-flu. This day was warm but rainy. The nerve impulse thing is something that I noticed more later on than at the time it occurred. I don’t know the purpose it may have had; I certainly didn’t will it to go out. It reminded me of something out of Carlos Castaneda crossed with the aboriginal “dream-time” continuum. Anyway, standing there in Oklahoma that day, I felt a similar connection. To something I am a part of, yet which is infinitely vaster than me. That is aware of me and watches over me.
After not very long, I looked up and saw a tractor-trailer pulling over in front of me. I had been immersed in thought and failed to notice if he came off the on-ramp I was at the end of, or if he was coming down the highway. I wasn’t positive that he had stopped for me; but when I saw him getting out and opening the passenger door, I knew I had a ride.
Jim Gwinn is probably the nicest truck-driver I’ve ever met, maybe even one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Plus, he gave me one of the best rides I’ve ever had. It was one of the top ten I’ve ever had in terms of length: over 1,000 miles, from just west of Oklahoma City all the way to Denver; and it was one of the top five in terms of the good vibes and quality of camaraderie we shared.
We travelled all through the night, cutting up from Amarillo across northeast New Mexico, and stopping to sleep in southeast Colorado. The force was with us as we talked at length about the state of the world and the hidden agenda of the “new world order”; Jim related his intuition that a lot of people in America were getting really fed up with the overall scenario of economic oppression and corruption in leadership. I shared information I had gleaned from my college town friends and my network of “intelligentsia” cohorts. We agreed that a higher force exists, one who is powerful and benevolent. We cruised beneath bridges whose clearance was two inches lower than the height of his truck!
At sunrise on Sunday I awoke to the electric cobalt blue of the Colorado sky, after a few hours of attempted sleep on the floor of the cab, entwined with my back-pack and the gear-shift lever. Jim awakened shortly, and we had breakfast in the restaurant in whose lot we had parked.
I will never forget the faces of his two grand-daughters. He had pictures of them in his wallet. They both looked exactly like little angels who were looking up at someone or something really brilliant. All of his family, wife, daughters, and sons, and their husbands and wives, looked like extremely nice and spiritual people. I felt blessed.
Jim dropped me in Denver at Colfax Avenue (the longest street in America, being over 30 miles long), a central thoroughfare of the Mile High City and the Banking Capital of the West (as well as “air pollution capital of the Rockies”). This put me to within about a quarter-mile walk of the RTD, which in turn I rode up to Boulder. I left him with the “Oklahoma is Twister Country” t-shirt that Les had given me. Jim continued on I-70 east back up to the metropolis of Brush, to visit his sister, as he had a day off. We had spent about 22 hours together on the road. I arrived in Boulder around 1:30pm. I had left Carrollton, GA approximately 67 hours earlier; subtracting the time I spent hanging out with Neal and Les in Oklahoma, my trip took about 47 hours.
This trip put me over the 91,000 mile mark of hitch-hiking. I remained in Boulder for around two weeks, assembling visual information for the upcoming tour I was to do with a local band, Midnight Kitchen. We left on June 9 to do a tour of New England. I did gigs with them in Chicago, and at the Wetlands in New York City, where they opened for an Athens band, Allgood. I did get to “drop some NYC” for the first time; I got to see Manhatten and experience a full moon with lunar eclipse on my birthday. Due to assorted personality conflicts with some of the band members, my intolerance of their stupidity and idiocy, and the fact that I wasn’t getting paid, I terminated the tour and returned to Athens in mid-June, where I have been until now, July 7. I have been doing a lot of writing and research, particularly on the psychology of mass-media and the “conspiracy behind conspiracy theories.” In NYC I by chance met with the senior vice-president of Hill&Knowlton, the world’s largest public relations firm; and upon returning to Athens, I met with a former CBS news correspondent who teaches broadcast journalism and is working to start a college cable news network based out of UGa. But all this is another story entirely. Well, not entirely…but another story!
In my first article on hitching in 1984 I observed that the Jungian phenomenon of synchronicity is a fundamental aspect of the hitch-hiking experience. Synchronicity, together with uncertainty, movement, and encounter, constitute the four-fold transform operators which are the basic substrate not only of hitching, but of life itself; hitch-hiking makes these phenomena more salient and brings them into sharp focus.
Synchronicity is essentially the temporal conjunction, or simultaneity, of two or more events which are causally unrelated but whose coincidence is meaningful to the person experiencing them. If a June-bug flies in your hair one day and you dreamed that this happened the night before, this would be a synchronistic phenomenon to you; but to anyone else, it would be a “random”, or less meaningful event (it wouldn’t be meaningless because it would still mean that a June-bug flew into your hair!).
My hitch-hiking excursions are laden with positive synchronistic improbabilities; to me, this is evidence of a higher intelligence at work. Dr. John C. Lilly, whose dolphin communication group I worked with for a while in California in the early 80’s, even refers to “God”, in this domain of the universe, as the “Earth Coincidence Control Office”, or ECCO. Someone who can control coincidences would surely be pretty high up there!
This last trip from Athens to Boulder contained a number of synchronicities on different levels. First, the fact that Rick Longenecker recognized me from the Human Rights Festival, and that we are both really interested not only in the psychodynamics of the emerging socio-political “order” but also in computer applications in art, music, and multik-media performance/presentations.
Then, that Jim Buffington had himself hitched a lot more than me, plus the fact that he knew all about the use of propane as a fuel, and could even do the installation himself. This is something that had been on my mind quite a bit; I had been wondering who to talk to about actually getting conversions done. Even though I thoroughly enjoy hitch-hiking, I would still like to get another vehicle, for certain practical reasons, like the transportation of musical and visual hardware…but I promised myself that I wouldn’t get another vehicle until I could get one that didn’t burn gasoline exclusively.
Then there’s the weather synchronization. Getting picked up by Doug just minutes before the bottom dropped out, and his being nice enough to got out of his way to take me beyond the rain and close to my sister’s house. And Matthew Tresp taking me extra miles to beyond the edge of the rain-fall.
At my sister’s house, when I was watching TV with her husband, Dave, and “In Search Of” was all about alternative energy sources, a topic of major concern to me (and to every other living being on Earth!). I even took notes on this show, jotting down the names and companies of many of the people Nimoy interviewed.
Then the next day, when my sister dropped me off in Carrollton, Charlie Gallion picked me up. That morning he had just left from the exact area in North Carolina where my folks live, Concord, the basic area where I lived for over 20 years of my life.
Paul Jones being the amateur archaeologist interested in Indian artefacts and attuned to the nature spirit-energy which is the fabric that connects all living things, taking the time to draw arrowheads for me, and offering to take me out by the rivers where they used to live.
Neal Brown being into the music scene, and a fellow partyer; Les Powers being into the music scene, and a fellow partyer and t-shirt artist/entrepreneur. And having a shirt with a tornado on it: I’ve never actually seen a real tornado, but they are probably the single most recurring theme in all the dreams I’ve ever had.
Even Gay Jay stroking his pud had some interesting things to relate about New Zealand; I’ve been wanting to go to Australia and New Zealand for several years, to visit the aboriginal shamans.
And “farmer Jim”, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met on the road, taking me all the way to Denver, and having grand-daughters who look like little angels; their pictures spoke to me that Sunday morning in a way that I will never forget. A higher presence was beaming down on us.
This is a partial list of the more significant synchronicities of my last trek. To someone who has never hitch-hiked or been alone on the road, these connections may not seem very impressive or even noteworthy. But when you think of the endless array of possibilities of who could pick you up, of what could happen, of how unsafe and impossible hitch-hiking in the Notorious Nineties is, just how improbable is it for me to meet only really nice people, many of whom have useful and relevant information or stories to relate, and who go out of their way to be nice to me?
The good luck I experience on the road is evidence to me that the world is basically a much friendlier place than most people would like to believe, and that a higher power does indeed exist, one who watches over and cares for people who are living in tune with the matrix of life and who are working to bring the human race back into harmony with the forces of the cosmos we have always been an integral part of.
In this document I have begun what I hope to be a book about my hitch-hiking and travel experiences. I have many more stories to tell from previous trips, many more insights to share and theories to relate concerning the cosmological and psychological dimensions of living in a quantum-relativistic/participant-observer omniverse. Within two days of the completion of this essay I will be headed out once again for Colorado, hitch-hiking probably along the same route as on this trip. Depending on the rides I get, I am planning this time to come up through central New Mexico so that I can visit some friends in Santa Fe and also visit the San Cristobal site, an unexcavated Anasazi pueblo in the Galisteo basin about 30 miles north of Clines Corner. This is one of the most magical places I have ever visited; it feels like a window opening out into an entire other universe of unknown but friendly forces.
From there I will return to Boulder for a few days, to work on some art. Highway 285 from Santa Fe to Denver is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been on. You have the Rockies to the west and the Sangre de Christo’s to the east; both are over 14,000 feet most of the way up. This route also takes you right by the Great Sand Dunes national monument in southern Colorado, one of my favourite spots anywhere.
After Boulder I am planning to hitch up through northern New England to Maine, then over to Newfoundland, then to return westward, hitching across southern Canada all the way over to Alaska. This trek will put me over the 100,000 mile mark. After this, I’ll be ready to hitch on a continent other than North America! I think Australia will be next, but probably not until next year. I have some visiting and business to do in California first.
I highly recommend hitch-hiking for anyone who is feeling bored with their life, who is suffering from chronic ennui and/or lack of appreciation for all the things you take for granted in your normal life. Hitching kicks the ass of any sloth or malaise; it puts you into sharp focus through interfacing you with the real world (by definition, “the domain of possibility in which stuff you don’t like or can’t predict can happen.”) Hitching is the polar opposite of sitting home watching television, vegging to election year rhetoric, public relations propaganda, consumption persuasion and mindless mediocrity.
Theoretically, you can go anywhere and do anything. Even if you don’t have much money or own a vehicle. The people who give you rides are already going that way anyway, and I’ve yet to have a ride from anyone who expected me to have more than a few dollars. People are nice; you won’t starve to death. You can always find some place you want to go…Oregon, British Columbia, Idaho, Alaska, Maine…get there, find some work, meet some people. Get a new life.
As far as you know, this is the only life you will ever have, so make something of it instead of sitting around worrying about stupid shit and complaining about how fucked up things are. Get out and see beautiful North America before we destroy it all! Hitching is economical fuel-wise, too…when someone picks you up, they instantly double their people-miles per gallon. You can even help them pay for it if you want!
Remember: you are traveling through both time and space even while you are sitting still. By the way, our solar system is moving toward a point in the constellation Hercules, directly overhead in the summer sky. If you happen to see me in the vicinity of the Arcturan Star System with my thumb out…how about a ride?
Yes, I do use my thumb when performing road-side solicitation of relocation assistance! When I’m standing at the highway/on-ramp vertex, my right thumb becomes a sign, a symbol, an instrument, an antenna, and a friend in this travel-oriented art, science, adventure and exercise in interpersonal encounter and relinquishment of total control over the immediate aspects of my situation, otherwise known as hitch-hiking!
In the immortal words of J. Paul Serengeti: “The only thing that’s faster than light is simultaneity.”
p.s. Carry a towel, read lots of Vogon poetry, use the number “42” as a mantra…and maybe you’ll meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the galaxy!
7 July 1992
Word count: 12875