It would have nearly been impossible for Day 4 to be worse than Days 2 and 3 had been. But I never expected how awesome a day it would turn out to be. I saw and picked up my first hitchhiker – a young man going by the name Zombie. It was the best decision I’ve made on this trip so far.
Settling Into a Routine
It’s hard to have much of a routine on the road. You never know where you’ll end up from one day to the next. I expected to be camping in the Badlands last night, but fate brought me to a forest just outside Rapid City instead. You can also never predict what you will see, what you will do, or what will happen.
And that has especially been true of my first three days.
Yet despite all the chaos, some things are settling into place. I’ve already identified the items I’ll be using most often on this trip and sort of reorganized things a bit for improved efficiency. In the coming days, I’ll be purging some of the stuff I brought but shouldn’t have in order to lighten the load on the truck.
Hunger has been surprisingly absent, because I haven’t eaten much since this trip began. Most meals are a granola bar, or some crackers and cheese. I eat only twice a day – when I wake up and right before bed. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat anything at all the evening of day 2. I’m not saying that I don’t get hungry. But the food is in the back of the truck, which makes it inconvenient to get to. So I ignore my hunger, and it goes away. The heat probably helps, too, since I usually lose my appetite whenever it gets too hot.
New Sleeping Arrangements
After all the money I sunk on days 2 and 3 with the van breaking down, I was reluctant to spend any more money on vehicle stuff. But after loading the truck with all the stuff I had left in the hotel room, the inescapable conclusion was that I needed to buy a tonneau cover. That set me back another $500, but I was able to put all but the most sensitive cargo into the back of the truck, clearing out as much space as possible in the cab for both Remy and me. It’s still not as comfortable sleeping in the truck as it is the van, but at least now it is possible.
Just outside of Sioux Falls, around 3:30 p.m., I spotted my first hitchhiker. I picked him up. Although I got his legal name, I’m just going to refer to him by his tramp name – Zombie. He came aboard with his dog, Chelsea. The great thing about Zombie was that he wasn’t some poser tourist like me. He was an authentic hippie vagabond. If you watch the interview with Comfrey Root in the documentary American Nomads, this guy was more similar to Comfrey as anyone else I had ever met.
Zombie was a great passenger. We had a few minor differences, but overall we seemed to have quite a bit in common, particularly when it came to philosophy and worldviews. He shared a lot of helpful information about nomadic life and nomadic communities. Some of it I knew – most of it I did not. Meeting him was an educational experience.
As we headed west, I got to share the Badlands with him – a sight he hadn’t seen before. We both joked about the incessant billboards about Wall Drug, and decided that we both had to see what the fuss was about. So we did.
I took him as far as Rapid City. I would have taken him a lot further, but our paths were diverging, and I wanted to make sure I brought him to a place that was safe and he was more likely to find his next ride. We parted ways around 9pm local time, so with the time zone change, we would have spent about 6 hours together.
It was great, and I was really sad that it had to end. However, we did exchange e-mail addresses, and it sounds like our paths might cross again. If not in Colorado or Wyoming, then possibly in Oregon. But no matter what, I’m feeling pretty confident that I just made a friend for life. I’ve never connected and bonded with someone so fast as I did with Zombie. I suppose that’s the way it has to be on the road – because time is limited.
Progress and Pace
I hope I have more days like today, and I hope I meet more awesome people like Zombie. Though I wouldn’t mind it if the pace slowed down a bit. I’m a little exhausted from all the excitement. I can’t believe just how much has happened in four short days. Even though I thought I would have been a lot further along my journey by now, these unexpected adventures have stacked on a lot of extra mileage. It’s been worth it. I’ve gotten a lot more experiences than I could have predicted I’d have at this early stage of my trip. Great things can happen when you stick your neck out and take risks.
A Quote, Sort Of
I need to jot this down before I forget. Zombie said something to me during our trek. I don’t think he intended it to be some deep quote, but it resonated with me as one. He said that he liked to help his friends, and he saw his role in life to bridge gaps. It occurred to me in that moment that he and I were both filling in gaps for each other.
He got about a 350 mile ride in blistering heat, virtually clearing the entire state of South Dakota, and putting him within striking distance of his next destination. I got a friend, great company, a new experience, and a lot of sage advice.
If you ask me, I think I got the better part of that deal. I hope our paths do cross again, because I feel like I’m in his debt.