The last expedition I set forth before resting my hat back in my hometown drew a close to quite a wide world spread adventure. The kind of journey that resembled Wreckless Eric’s advice of escaping the rain of Britain to search out the globe for his girl. I literally went the whole wide world but returned without a soulmate, clocking a massive amount of kilometers hitchhiking.
I had arrived in Cancun, Mexico mid-March from Madrid. In two months, I hitched the Maya Riviera through Belize and Guatemala, then north along the Pacific coast until Guadalajara. From there, I shot directly north through Zacatecas, Chihuahua and Juarez. In mid-May, I crossed into New Mexico. In Mexico, I had couchsurfed a few times. In Guatemala, locals offered me accommodation through their own humble words. Not a soul on couchsurfing replied on that route from El Paso to Denver. There was a guy I knew in Santa Fe. We’d met on a beach in Gokarna, India. Through Facebook, his stories would pop up occasionally. His tales to me about Santa Fe back in India were many. He raved about the place. He made the whole experience seem magical. After a week through mostly arid plains and desert and mostly alone, I needed magical. From El Paso to Santa Fe, I had to ride 500 kilometers. In Australia, that could have been managed in half a day. Wait times were rarely more than 30 minutes for me in Australia. El Paso was big, and the border was part of the city. It took an hour on foot to the first bus station. Two buses took me to a central area, not too far from the highway north. One more bus would take me to the outskirts. The second bus was across from a Hooters. I’d seen one Hooters in a decade and a half, in Budapest. Somehow, that neon sign in the last glowing streaks of sunset signaled my re-entry to a land I once called home. The same corporate instillations that drove me away were now inviting me back without a word edgewise. They didn’t care that I abandoned them for the world. All that mattered was I came back, and my wallet had money in it. Hungry, I ate at Wendy’s. They didn’t have Frostys available. Those revolting, ice cream drinks made from artificially chocolate flavoring, sugar and bone marrow were the only reason to eat at Wendy’s. Everywhere I looked, surrounded by pitch black night sky, neon signs lit the way along huge, busy roadways. There were motels for more than 100 dollars, fast food restaurants, and closed up box stores like Walmart and Home Depot. My skin crawled.
Down a few side streets, I located a church. It was a big yard where I could pop my tent, quietly in a corner. The next morning, I was greeted with distaste, then offered a free meal. Each person assumed I was homeless until I told them I’d hitchhiked from Cancun.
“You still shouldn't have camped there.” The pastor didn’t consider that it was the only place where I knew I was safe. In Africa, the pastors invited me into their homes when they found me.
“You’re lucky we didn’t call the police.””
After the soup kitchen fed me, he came inside. “Do you want a ride to the outskirts?”
“Do I ever.”
It took a long while at the gas station full of long-haul trucks. When I wasn’t rejected, I was ignored. Car drivers brushed me away on sight.
“I’m not a beggar. I don’t want your fuckin money. I’m not carrying a squeegee.” My frustrations mounted until one of the gas attendants kicked me out of the parking lot. At the edge of the parking area, he sent me further with the threat of police.
I waited on the shoulder for 90 minutes. My first ride was with a Mexican American and went to Las Cruces, 70 kilometers away. We had a great chat while listening to Boombap classic 90s jams by Gang Starr and Nice and Smooth. He gave me a tenner, which I refused.
“Take it. Buy yourself some eats. Long way to Canada.”
Half hour walk and I was on another shoulder. One hour later, I was in the flatbed of a truck. A pair of Indigenous guys were driving into Truth or Consequences. It was far from the shoulder – and illegal to hitch on Interstates. I got off at the exit. After an hour, I decided to walk north five kilometers to the Interstate entrance from Truth. There was a massive gravel shoulder with ample space to pull over. A car drove past every few minutes. They blew by until my shortest ride ever picked me up. It was 100 degrees with a slight wind. It was nearly 5 in the afternoon. I’d traveled 160 kilometers. Eight hours had drifted drudgingly past me, and I had only managed 160 kilometers. It was another 2500 to my hometown in Canada. Shortly before the Interstate junction, a car pulled over. Upon opening the door, I noticed the half empty mickey of vodka on the passenger seat. Inside, a collection of empty cigarette packs lay on the floor. I lifted the bottle of vodka and opened the glove compartment. It was jammed with rubbish.
“You can have some.” I was certainly tempted.
The old girl looked about 65 years old. She slurred her words through cigarette drags.
I’ll drive ya to Albuquerque.”
My face brightened. Back in Mexico, before Chihuahua, I had a truck driver smoke meth in the cab of his truck while driving. This drunk old bird was alright in my books.
“You pay gas, you pay vodka, gas back. No problem.”
She pulled off at the junction. We’d traveled a kilometer. She repeated her offer a few times, insisting. Then she offered me an old sandwich from 7-11 on the back seat. I got her to let me out across from a McD’s. The first vehicle I approached; the guy rolled up his tinted window. The second swatted me away. I then snapped.
“I’m not fucking homeless you fucks!”
I spent that night in a motel next door after another gas station attendant sent me away.