Hey guys, so this is going to be an ongoing narrative of what’s going on during my travels. I don’t know if I’ll be including many pictures or any video in these. They also won’t be posted on the front page of my blog. Just something new I’m going to try. Somewhat of a journal format I guess.
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Colorado to Veracruz
My journey had officially started. I was driving in an old blue van with some guy I had never met. Our destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico.
His name was Peter and he was on his music and mushroom tour. That’s what his craigslist ad said and that’s what he confirmed when I first met him.
My first thoughts of course went to psychedelics. Music, tripping on mushrooms, it made sense. I asked him, “So this mushroom and music tour… tripping while jamming out?”
“No, well… kind of”
It was going to be an interesting ride.
It turns out Peter knows his stuff when it comes to mushrooms, more specifically mycoremediation. Not exactly edibles, although I got the impression he was familiar with that as well.
Mycoremediation is the process of using fungi to break down contaminants in the environment. It’s actually crazy fascinating. Give specific fungi the right environment and you can break down most anything you can think of. When I have some time, it may have to be an independent study I’ll have to take on.
Aside from mushrooms, Peter also dabbles in hip-hop music. His mushroom and music tour consisted of going from city to city and not only giving presentations on mycoremediation, but also performing to a totally different crowd in the underground hip hop scene.
This combination and my natural curiosity led to a six hour ride listening to hip-hop and discussing this mycology movement that I was completely unaware of.
As we neared the city of Albuquerque I started talking hitchhiking with Peter. Hitchhiking has been his preference of traveling for quite some time so I was able to get a lot of information from him.
I asked about best locations for hitchhiking, what signs to make, places to sleep, things to avoid and what type of people generally pick up hitchhikers.
This led me to seek a large trucker stop, scrap my sign I had made (a giant cardboard hitchhiking thumb with, “South?” written on it), position myself towards the end of an on ramp where people had time to scope me out, make sure I looked friendly and then pull over.
I debated with him for a little bit. It all made sense, but I had shot out some couchsurfing requests and was keen on making my way to a McDonald’s (wifi) to check to see if anybody had responded.
By this time the sun was setting, which meant if I wanted to hitchhike out of Albuquerque I had limited time to work with and if nothing came up I would be forced to sleep in the city.
Taking his advice with the hopes to keep moving we got off in the next exit looking for a truck stop. Stops outside or on the skirts of the city have greater potential for drivers to be making their way longer distances compared to just traveling within the city.
Not finding a truck stop we make our way back onto the highway running into some other hitchhikers. With enough room in the van, he pulls over and allows an older man, woman and their dog to join us.
This was day six for them trying to get from Grand Junction, Colorado to Albuquerque. Six days even for hitchhikers is a looong time to try to cover that short of a distance. Pairing up with somebody lessens your chances of being picked up as well as having a dog with you.
As we kept moving the old man directed us to the next and only major truck stop (from what I gathered that day and the next) which painfully was within the city and difficult to navigate to.
Things were not looking too great for hitchhiking.
Already cutting it close for his performance that night, Peter dropped me off and continued his way with the other hitchhikers. Last words of advice, “Good luck and don’t let that officer see your sign”. Oh man…
I was dropped off at a trucker stop in a terrible location that didn’t even connect with the highway and had an officer on duty at all times.
I went inside, ditched the sign and stretched a little bit.
Heading back outside, I talked to the officer about the nearest Mcdonalds then started heading in that direction. As I’m leaving the lot, a trucker steps out and starts walking towards the gas station. I ask if he’s heading south.
He informed me that the majority of truckers were heading north. As for the guys driving south, he pointed them out to me at the station, all of them hanging out, grabbing some food and sitting right behind the officer. So much for that plan.
I thanked him, threw on my headphones, hopped on my longboard and started making my way to Mcdonalds trying to not get agitated. Not seeing the Mcdonalds, I stopped by an Applebee’s and ordered myself a beer.
Enjoying a beer and relaxing for a second was nice, but their shoddy wifi didn’t have me staying very long.
I finished up, hopped back on my board and finally found myself a Mcdonalds.
Finally online, I started checking Couchsurfing and the Craigslist rideshare section. The couchsurfers were either traveling or didn’t have any room. As for rideshares, there was nothing. I bought a cookie and sat there for a while.
I had my tent and gear to sleep outside with me. I had planned on sleeping outside on the plains as I hitchiked, but wasn’t sure what to do being stuck in the middle of a city. Finding a bench to sleep on just didn’t sound like a good night, even for me. I dabbled with the idea of finding a bar, meeting a group of people, telling my story and seeing what I could make happen. I had done it before with success.
I couldn’t do it. I felt like I would be cheating myself out of an adventure I had been longing for. It’s the journey that tends to hold more value and memories than the end.
By the time I left McDonalds and started longboarding again it was just shy of midnight. I decided I would make my way to the highway and just start walking/boarding until I made my way out of the city.
The parts of the highway that I was walking on had those decorative and patterned walls that line the road. Street lights gave an orange glow to everything. As I continued walking I started to hear rushing water up ahead. I made my way towards the sound and found myself running into a gap in the wall. It was a space where two of the patterned walls along the road overlapped and gave enough room to walk through and behind to the other side.
Oddly, the highway I had just walked out from sat on a slope that overlooked a small park and well manicured softball field that had a stream running along it. Not visible from the highway and having no signs of anybody actually being able to see me, I threw down my pack and longboard, sat with my back against the wall and slowly worked myself into a sleep.
Four mosquito bites on my hands and five hours later I wake up to a sky that was beginning to lighten.
I stretch, grab my stuff and head back onto the highway with my thumb in the air. From what I had picked up, it wasn’t a successful way to try to get a ride, but I figured I would do it anyway as I walked to the next on-ramp.
The next hour led me to standing on a few different ramps all without any success.
From one of my on-ramps I spotted another McDonalds and made my way for orange juice and some wifi.
Nothing new on couchsurfing or ridesharing. I did have a message from the owner of the hostel that I was going to be working at though. Apparently they were busy and going to be shorthanded sooner than expected. The owner was curious to see how soon I could be there.
I went back out to try my hand again. For the next 4-5 hours I found myself going from ramp to ramp, longboarding in between trying to come across another truck stop. My agitation towards the city and lack of truck stops off the highway was growing. Stupid, I know, but from everything I had learned previously when it came to luck on hitchhiking, Albuquerque was the opposite. Being on a time crunch made things worse.
I found a gas station near one of the ramps and went inside. After grabbing some water I talked to the Nesquik driver that was restocking his product. This was when I found out that the only truck stop that he had ever noticed or been to was the initial one with the terrible location that I was dropped off at in the beginning.
Frustrated and with hitchhiking chances looking grim I went to a nearby hotel that offered free wifi. I found the local Greyhound bus terminal and made my way there. I had to make my way to the hostel and didn’t have as much time to play with anymore. I decided that this hitchhiking tour was over.
I hopped on a city bus to the station, bought my ticket to Mexico City then relaxed and waited.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been on any long distance buses, but you will seriously find the strangest characters.
As I waited, a group of friends sat in front of me discussing what they were going to do. None of them had a bus ticket to anywhere. The woman in the group was a mom who split her time ranting on the phone about getting a lawyer for a situation regarding her child and making eyes and starting conversations with me.
The other 3 guys were trying to find jobs and were really racking their brains thinking of people to call and where to work. Two of three were sitting down, while the third was standing up with one hand down his pants and the other drinking some pop. This third guy would spin around about every 15 seconds then take a drink, all the while contributing thoughts on work.
Behind them, towards the other end of the room stood a darker and scrawny tattooed guy. He was bald, rocking an unkempt goatee, jeans made for somebody twice his size and a hole filled wife-beater that was supposed to be white. Staring out the window, then sketchily at everybody in the room, he went from laughing madly out loud, making random gestures at people and then having conversations and inside jokes with himself.
Oh bus stations…
The time finally came. I made my way on the bus and headed across the border to Juarez. Our bus was running late and we weren’t going to make it across before the border closed. Luckily they made some calls and kept us moving.
At the border, we got out, they scanned our bag and sent us right on our way. No questions, no identification checks or anything, just a bag and body scan.
Aside from sleeping at the bus terminal for a few hours the following 30+ hours had me on a bus cruising through the Mexican country side. The scenery went from arid lands to pleasant rolling hills and as I neared Veracruz, lush mountains and jungle with fog hugging the trees.
It was nice to be here. I welcomed the humidity, the language, food, people and such a genuine and caring culture. My culture.