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Published: August 1st 2009
Welcome to 'Merka! After walking 3 k's along the freeway, finally arrived at the border.
...more words: (as transcribed from my scattered journal, so excuse the writing.)
Well, it's been the most wonderful week of fresh air, pixies, family and awesome
hitchhiking! It all started a bit slow after Salt Spring Island, with Steve n I not getting the best of luck with our rides up to Courtenay (but nothing as bad as the previous week!) But eventually our lunatic behaviour got us there and we rolled into Alani's place before dark. Spent a beautiful few days hanging out, gardening, making felt and swimming in rivers and waterfalls and then teamed up with some friends to go to Lasqueti Island- which kinda has the vibe of one of those 'final frontier' hippie outposts still remaining in the world. It was another beautiful ferry ride over to the island (after missing the first ferry at 9am, we went caving randomly, and then caught the next one at 2) I spent most of the ferry ride keeping Bronwyn's 9 year old daughter, Reishi entertained with a ridiculous game of Barbies and telling her stories about little old ladies who lived in hamburgers that I was trying to make
The Saturday markets on the most beautiful island in the gulf between Vancouver Island and the mainland. No power, no paved roads. Paradise.
up on the spot (amazingly, she was enthrallaed!). When we got to the island, armed with only a tent and a few blankets between the 7 of us, we were kind of wondering where to go and what to do when suddenly we found ourselved whisked into the back of some guy's ute bound for a ramdom rock festival in the bush! After about a half hour on a bumpy dirt track (the island's only road) including a breif stop to pick up a stray dog that had gotten lost in the bush, we arrived at a cute little organic farm in the rainforest, where there was a small stage set up, no people to speak of, and some chilled reggae music wafting out over the front yard of the house (which was the sum total of the festival grounds). If only the music had stayed like that! After walking down to a beautiful rocky beach and having a dip, we found ourselves getting blasted from afar by some extremely bad rock music which, unfortunately continued until 3am, and was replaced by the drunken roars of whatever the Canadian equivalent is to a crowd of bogans. Sleeping on the dirt
In the back of a ute
Driving through the bush on Lasqueti Island.
that night with only my pants as a pillow proved interesting and the next morning i 'awoke' (although that would imply that one was previously asleep) bleary eyed and fuggy-tailed for my 7 hour mission to Seattle. For the record, aside from my sardonic take on just about everything so far, I'd just like to note that Laqueti is DEFINITELY somewhere I'd love to return. I got talking to the woman who ran the festival (who ironically seemed to hate the festival more than anybody else) about WWOOFing on the island, and it sounds like the most amazing place to do it! It's one of the last inhabited islands in the area that isn't on the grid, so everyone is on their own alternative sustainable enerfy, growing their own food and generally being communal about everything! One upside of that is that you can hitch a ride anywhere on the island almost instantly (or at least, whenever a car decided to come bumping along the dusty track)!
I missed the first ferry off the island. Then the second ferry. Just as I was taking this all as a sign that I was meant to stay and
Me, Steve & Alani... ahh... idyllic
live there forever, I suddenly looked up and found myself on a Vancouver city bus bound for the US border - or, at least within reasonable walking distance of the US border. Really not feeling ready to go back to the US, (I was already missing Steve my legendary travel brother-in-crime, Alani the pixie from the woods and all the other gypsy folk I'd met around Vancouver Island over the past week) I just braced myself and accepted the next part of my journey. The bus dropped me about 3 k's from the border at an onramp to the interstate, so like a hobo I just hoofed it down onto the freeway towards the checkpoint (trying to forget the fact that I was breaking about 3 laws doing so on my way to check into a new country as an upstanding law-abiding visitor! Ho hum!) Smoothing down my hair and tweaking my dishevelled beard into place, I arrived at what, unexpectedly, was the most dilapidated falling down customs building I'd ever seen (the one from Pakse, Laos into Thailand is more grandiose!) and actually had to hunt around for the central scrutiniser to stamp me in. The guy at the
desk I eventually found had the enthusiasm of a Woolies check-out-chick and seemed more interested in fiddling with my ukulele than checking my nether-regions for weapons of mass destruction, so I stumbled in and out of there pretty quickly and over to the carpark where my aunt Carol and cousin Jaime were waiting patiently for me (a vast understatement, since I was a good 7 hours late and they hadn't a clue which bush I was going to be stumbling out of)! Regardless, they were pretty stoked to see me, especially my aunt who hadn't seen me in about 22 years. I spent the night at Jaime's and then went over to see my other cousin, Nate and his wife Candace and spent a couple of days entertaining their extremely cute 2-year old daughter, Maya and even tinier and equally as cute 4-day old son, Sean. They fed me until I could eat no more and most of the time was spent sitting in front of a fan melting in the 40 degree heat (an all-time record for Seattle apparently!) A couple of days chilling, though (in the inferno-like heat?) and it was time to move on and hit the
my cute 2 year old 2nd cuz/ great niece...vicarious baby-sister-twice removed... whatever...
road again onto the next crazy hitchhiking adventure!
Stayed last night on Carol's loungeroom floor- giving my new yoga mat and stolen blanket (from the 5-star lodge in Canmore) a good pre-hitching workout, and got up this morning to go into the city to meet my random 'mail-order' craigslist hitching pardner, Hilary. I'd figured it would be a good idea to hitch with someone else, so I answered a bunch of ads on the rideshare site of folks wanting a ride down to San Fran with the response "well, I can't offer you a ride, but wanna hitch with me?", and got the call back from Hilary! Carol drove me into town, picked up Hilary from our rendezvous and dropped us off at a gas station on the I5 heading out of town. Bidding me an auntily farewell, she headed off and most likely spent the rest of the day fretting for my well-being and wondering why she'd allowed her nephew to undertake something so preposterous.
As it happened though, hitching with a girl seemed to be infinitely
more successful than with my beloved Steve (bless his patchouli stench!) and we had what turned out
My mail-order hitchhiking pardner. Found her on craigslist trying to get a ride to San Fran.
to be the perfect day's vagabonding! Our first ride was from a couple of construction workers who'd been knocked off early because people at their job had been passing out from the heat (they don't breed em tough in these parts i tell ya!) They offered us a couple of breakfast beers and took us about half an hour down the road to another on ramp. We waited there for close to an hour (the longest we had to wait all day, and a breeze compared to what I'd grown used to!) in the blistering sun trying to look happy and close our pores as best we could to restrain the torrential sweat that was soaking through our once-clean clothes. Eventually, along came Mark, the fat middle aged IT guy who had apparently done a bit of hitching back in his college days and who took us about another 20 minutes down the road. Short ride, but nice bloke! He took us to another service station where we replenished our water suppply in anticipation of another long wait, but ended up getting another ride withing about half an hour with a bus full of highschool teachers on their way back
Excuse the speleling!
from a professional development day! When they dropped us at another truck stop only about half an hour down the road, we were beginning to wonder if we would even make it to Oregon by the end of the day. We were still barely out of the Seattle/Tacoma area, but just as we were about to surrender to the thumb once more, Hilary saw a woman in a convertable trying to go through an automatic car wash with her roof down. She had Californian plates, so despite her obvious lack of common sense, we decided we may as well give her a go. She was a hit!
Sheryl, the spiritually-elightened, sermon-listening, church-pastoring, word-preaching good samaritan from Yuba City was heading right into Oregon to the city of Salem, south of Portland, where I happened to have a couple of Couchsurfing contacts I'd arranged earlier. After failing the car-washing excercise she spent about 10 minutes cleaning crap out of her car before letting us pile in for the couple of hours ride south. After spending the first 40 minutes steering with her knees alone, sloshing iced tea all over the place in an oversized mug and talking on her phone
Port Orford, Oregon
"It didn't seem like a one horse town, but try finding a decent hair jelly!"
about her recent reckless driving charges to someone who appeared to be planning to commit some crime themself, she apologised and started talking to us about God and Jesus and 'the light'! Mine and Hilary's initial thoughts were both that she was some god-fearing nutcase about to drive us insane for the next 2 hours, but in all fairness, after listinging to about 15 minutes of her preaching, she seemed to have a pretty cool outlook on it all! Taking the wheel again with her legs and elbows occasionally parts of her face, she rummaged around to find us a photo of her son, who was a bearded, dreadlocked feral who had told her that he didn't shower because he "wanted to experience the natural cleanliness and functions that God had given his body". Good on him I say! She turned out to be a pastor at a church, however, she went on to tell us about how she thought that religion and spirituality were completely incompatible, and that 'all you need is love', and a bunch of other cool and wacky theories wandering more into the distant territories of Quantum Physics and the supernatural rather than just barking dogma
Thats it... i'm done
giving up in Crescent City, California. We took the bus the rest of the way to Arcata.
at us. After agreeing with about 50% of what she was saying, and remaining enchantingly baffled by the rest, Hilary and I had pretty much affirmed to ourselves that life was on the right track and we began to develop humming golden halos around our once cynical heads.
Just as we were rolling into Salem, I decided to call our potential CS host, Laura Love (just to continue the theme of the aftenoon) who answered the phone in a singsong voice and promptly invited us over for gazpacho soup and tacos, which had just been prepared in anticipation of any unexpected guests that decided to plop through the front door. With our impeccible timing, we apparently were just the quests she was looking for. Laura was fat and jolly and talked a lot about lovely things such as food, and after taking us back to her house full of other people she seemed to have just met as well, fed us up til we would eat no more and offered to do everything for us bar our laundry. Wait, she offered to do our laundry. After dinner, she gave us a ride back to the highway headed out to the coast and told us with a waggling finger to call if it got dark and we needed a place to stay. With butterflies and rainbows above our heads and eyes like disturbingly cute characters from those Japanese cartoons, Hilary and I high-fived and danced around on the road, not even caring if we didn't get any more rides, when less than a minute later we were in the back of another car heading west!
Lisa a was a single mum who said she'd been drawn to our irresistable peace n love vibe, so had decided to help us out down the road for a few miles. It was pretty smooth sailing after that- another ride within 5 minutes of hers with a couple who had a bumper sticker with the words "BE NICE" plastered on the back of their car. If only more people had that plastered on the backs of their cars... or at least on the back of their minds. By the time they dropped us off, though the sun had fully set and it was getting pretty dark, but determined to get to the coast and crash on the beach, we pressed on into the fading light. After about half an hour we'd only got another mile and a half with a car full of hicks, and it was clear that hitching was getting sketchier. We were considering crashing in a field, when we approached a young couple at the gas station across the road, and had our last hit for the day! Ian and Adrien (who said she'd only picked us up because I told her my middle name was Adrian), a young couple-to-be, seemed to be on the way to their first naughty weekend away from the parents and they were heading to "TA DA!" Lincoln City on the Oregon Coast! We couldn't believe it (however we should have given our incredible luck so far) as it was well after dark and we were breaking our "No Hitching at Night" rule by a long shot. We had a great yarn on the way, but as we rolled down the hill and toward the coast, the temperature began to drop significantly and by the time we got there it had gone from a balmy 30-something to a dreary 15 degrees with a heavy dewy fog. Our dreams of sleeping on the beach were not looking so appealing anymore, and just as they were about to leave us to the wet sand and seagull poo, Ian must've caught a glimpse of our dawning hopelessness and he rolled down the window to ask us if we'd like to stay with them at Adrien's grandma's beach house up the hill! The perfect random end to the perfect random day, we were given 2 double beds to ourselves and the entire ground floor! Brilliant!
31st July - Oregon Coast: the FOG! THE FOG!!!!
We woke up in Lincoln city and cooked Ian & Adrien breakfast before thanking them profusely and heading out - pretty late in the morning actually. After spending all morning looking around used bookstores (I did get a copy of Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume for $3!!) we got our first ride at about 2pm, and it was only about a mile up the road. This was to be the theme of the day, a stark contrast to the previous day of stupendous luck, and after a while we decided to just take whatever rides we could get. After a couple more hours, we'd only made it about another 20 miles and found ourselves at a tiny gas station with an eccentric attendant who also happened to be a part-time bubbleologist (just like me!). He entertained us with giant bubbles until we got another ride with a guy who played ukulele music in his van the whole way and showed us some of the most beautiful coast with rainforest stretching all the way down to the sea. After dropping us in the town of Florence, with a bit effort we managed to flag down the lady of Florence, who was a middle aged subversive, not unlike my own mother. She was a good yarn and took us quite a way, but inadvertently dropped us in the worst town hitchhiking has ever seen- Coos Bay. Again, it was getting late, and I'd been trying to get hold of a CS'er who apparently lived in this dump of a town, but he wouldn't answer his phone. After a good couple of hours thumbing and hiking all over the place trying to find a decent hitching spot, we were starting to get a little unnerved by the vibe of the place. It was crawling with bums and drugged out people and a few of them leered and yelled shit at us as we walked by, something along the lines of "You're in redneck town now son!" But, as always seems the case, just as we were on the verge of giving up (and give up we would have, as there was nowhere to go!) a couple of guys stopped in their ute and offered us a ride out of this hell hole. It had been foggy all day, something I'd not figured into the equasion of hitching down the coast, and it had started to rain, but once again the universe provided (in the form of our kind driver) and Josh, our ride invited us to crash on his loungeroom floor. PHEW!! He woke up at the un-hitchly hour of 5am for work, so we had no choice but to start out early and hope for some good rides down the 101... where there were no cars to speak of. You could practically take a bite out of the fog and we looked like a couple of murderous silhouettes against the bleak highway to the average passer by, but to our surprise it didn't take long to get out first (and only) ride of the morning. Unfortunately it was just to the one-horse town of Port Ormond down the road, where it didn't look like they knew what a car was, let alone had them gracing the roads at any decent interval. By now the fog had settled in, had kids and built a white picket fence around us, and we were getting wet and cold. After being shouted at by a well-past-his-use-by-date gas station attendant for trying to solicit rides out of his nonexistent customers, we were pushed to the fringes of the town and tried desperately for the next 2 hours to flag someone down. A drifter wafted by and told us that we'd be better off taking the bus, but that the bus had stopped running 7 years ago. Thanks for the advice. Soon after he said that however, a ghostly bus stopped in some fog across the road and without a second thought, we bolted over to see where they were headed. It was Brookings, which is about as close to the border as you can get before hitting California, so that's where we headed, hiked 5 miles to the edge of town and kept trying our luck with getting to San Fran, or at least Humboldt County, where maybe we could relate to someone.
1st Aug - HUMBOLDT COUNTY!!
Hilary & I finally made it into Arcata after giving up on hitchhiking shortly after the California border (it had taken another 2 hours to get out of Brookings, with a lady who took us a grand total of 19 miles.) We just decided to wait for a but to Arcata and shell out the $25 instead of waiting in vain and destroying what was left of our souls. At the bus stop, we got talking to Sunshine- a real deal street kid gypsy with a guide dog (for personal guidance?), a bike and a whole lot of crap stuffed into a shabby backpack. She was pretty friendly for a filthy hobo and she said she's show us around Arcata and help Hilary find a ride to San Fran (she was keen to get there and see a girl she was into, but I was hoping to chill out in Arcata). Soon, another bus pulled up and off jumped our friend Ben, who we'd met on our last bus ride in Oregon! Somehow, together we had formed a motely bunch of sleep-deprived gypsies who, after piling off the bus in Arcata had not a clue where to go or what to do. Sunshine showed us the finest in local dumpsters and parks to sleep in, but after another few unsucessful attempts at calling a Couchsurfer i'd supposedly teed up, I started wondering if I'd actually be crashing in the park that night. People in the town square were stranger than I'd expected and I was getting the crazy-eye from numerous stoners staggering around the place. Hilary and Ben had bailed, and had continued hitching to Eureka, so I just hung out with Sunshine and ate sushi in the fading sun (thank god we were out of fog-land!) wondering what to do. Just before surrendering to sleeping in a squat with a hobo and her dog, however, I had a brainwave and found the numbers of some CSers who lived not too far away in the town of McKinleyville. Brian picked up on first ring and soon I was getting a ride with him back to his family's home with a warm bed and food and whole load of bog standard normality! It was funny, as they were such a normal American family, and it felt quite surreal after the last few days of madness. After trying to entertain me with slideshows of himself standing in front of various tourist attractions around the world, Brian soon realised how much of a daze I was in and I retired comforatble into a semi coma. In the morning it was coffee, raspberries from their garden for breakfast before a good ol dose of internetting and finally hitting the road bound for Reggae Rising festival!
...to be continued... on teletype paper... in stream-of-consciousness form...
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