Tag Archives: flying a sign

Golden State Green


California - Outline and Flag (Solid) by DevinCookI’d heard the stories from other travelers. Seemed like most everyone had a story about being handed weed while flying a sign. Seemed like everyone had a story like that except me.

Maybe I looked too middle age and normal. Maybe I just didn’t look like someone who wanted marijunan. In any case, although I’d flown signs for two years in a dozen states, no one handed me weed until I went to California. Money, yes, and food–once an entire cake–and hand sanitizer and a toothbrush, all were given to me as I stood on corners and held my sign, but no one thought to give me pot until I made it to the Golden State.

I was in Ukiah the first time it happened. Mr. Carolina and I had just spent a few days with the Viking and Mick and Karl, his three friends I’d recently met in Santa Barbara. We’d made some new friends and seen some beautiful California mountain land, and now we were back on the quest to return a pipe to Sweet L’s dad and then drink from the headwaters of the Sacramento River. After we said our farewells to our friends, we headed down from the mountain and into civilization where we hoped to get fuel for the van and for our bellies too.

We pulled into a gas station next to the Wal-Mart and stood behind the van. Mr. Carolina held my two-gallon gas jug and I held our “out of gas” sign. A few different people handed ua a few crumpled dollars, and we thanked each person sincerely.

Mr. Carolina had wandered away when the man approached me. He didn’t look like a hippie or a Rastafarian , or a sterotypical stoner. He just looked like a normal guy.

Here you go, he said to me, holding out his hand. This might help.

I reached out to receive what he was offereing. He placed quite a large chunck of hash in my hand. I quickly closed my fingers to conceal it.

You can probably sell that for $60 or $70, the man told me while I thanked him very much.

I knew we weren’t going to sell it. First, I’m not in the drug sales business, because it seems like quite a risk. Secondly, who was I going to sell the hash to? I didn’t know anyone in town, and I wasn’t going to walk through the Wal-Mart parking lot and approaching strangers and saying, Psst! Want to buy some hash? while suspiciously shifting my eyes from side to side. Third, while I wasn’t going to smoke the hash, I knew Mr. Carolina would.

Mr. Carolina lived with pain. He’d been in a terrible car accident some years before. He suffered from a brain injury and what he called a “broke neck.” His spinal cord obviously hadn’t been severed, but I suppose one or more vertebra had been damaged. He told me about coming out of a coma and trying to pull out the catheter draining urine from his body before he realized where he was and remembering what had happened. He told me about pissing blood when the catheter was removed. He’d had multiple surgeries since the accident, and he’d lived with pain since then. I suspect he suffered more pain than he ever let me know.

He’d been on prescribed pharmaceutical pain pills for a while. He’d been a “bad drunk” too, he said. Now he used marijuana, when he could get it, to manage his pain. The chunk of hash in my hand would get him through the next few days.

When he came back to the van, I opened my hand and showed Mr. Carolina what was hidden inside. He had a big smile on his face when I handed it over to him. Marijuana Leaf Green by GDJ

The second time it happened was in Bakersfield. Mr. Carolina and I had picked up two traveling kids at a truck stop in Santa Nella, and now we were trying to get them to Oklahoma City.

Please don’t leave me in Bakersfield, the Okie kept pleading with me, although I’d never threatened him with such a fate. I don’t know what sort of disaster he’d experienced the last time he was in the city, but he was really nervous about being left there.

We pulled into the strip mall housing a Wal-Mart and about a dozen fast food joints, hoping the Universe would provide us with money for dinner that night and enough gasoline to get us out of town in the morning. Lil C siad he wanted to fly his sign at the parking lot’s main exit. I said that was fine with me, but told him I’d make more money than he would, and I planned to share whatever I was given. He said I should go ahead and take the main exit.

I’d been standing next to the stop sign for a while, and people had been blessing me with dollars when an older man wearing his hair in a ponytail pulled up. I saw him rooting around, trying to find something. He rolled down the window on the front passenger side and reached across the seat. I stepped over and leaned in to take what he was offering.

Do you smoke weed? he asked.

Even though I personally didn’t, I knew the boys would, so I said yes. The man handed me two skinny joints, and I thanked him very much.

Sure enough, the boys were happy when I returned to the van with enough money for dinner and gas to get us out of town, as well as two joints for them to pass around before we slept.

Images courtesy of https://openclipart.org/detail/172974/california-outline-and-flag-solid and https://openclipart.org/detail/277751/marijuana-leaf-green.

Pregnant Lady


Mr. Carolina, Lil C, the Okie, and I were traveling on I-40, trying to get Lil C home to Kansas City in time for his mamma’s birthday. Crossing into New Mexico felt like a homecoming to me, even though I wouldn’t see my friends in Taos for several months.

We pulled into Gallup needing gas for the van. We started our money-making endeavors at a gas station. While we were there, we talked to some other travelers. They were from Oklahoma I think, and they gave us a handful of change. The boys took turns sitting with me on the brick planter near the doors to the convenience store; we held our cardboard sign saying we were going home and out of gas.

The going home part was true for half of us. Lil C was going home to his mamma, and now that we were on the 40, Mr. Carolina was heading to his family for the holidays. The Okie didn’t seem to have anywhere particular in mind, and my plans were nebulous at best. But some of us were going home, so the sign was true. As for the out of gas part, if we weren’t currently totally out of gas, we would be soon.

So we held our sign, and kind people blessed us with some dollars, until the manager told us we had to leave. That’s typically how it happened, so we weren’t surprised or upset. We decided to try our luck at Wal-Mart and headed that way.

Pregnant PhotoshootAt the shopping center housing the Wal-Mart, I found the most promising exit and positioned myself there. It was a weekend afternoon, so there was a lot of traffic. I’d been standing there a while and had made some money for our cause when an obviously pregnant woman with two little kids in tow approached me.  She was upbeat and friendly and told me she was the girlfriend of one of the travelers we’d met at the gas station. (The boyfriend had described us to her, I guess.) She wondered how much longer I planned to stand there at the Wal-Mart because she was hoping to get a chance to stand there with her sign and try to bring in some funds for her family. I allowed I’d be willing to give up the spot at two o’clock, which was about 40 minutes away. She said she and the kids would hang around until then.

Are you on your way home to Oklahoma? I asked her.

Honey, she replied, I’m nine months pregnant and four centimeters dilated. I ain’t going nowhere!

I was impressed. Nine months pregnant is one thing, but four centimeters dilated is serious.

I stood there with my sign for a while more, but my heart wasn’t in it. If that pregnant woman was four centimeters dilated and ready to stand outside Wal-Mart flying a sign, she must really, really need the money. I’d gotten some dollars, enough to get some gas in the van and get us down the road, probably enough to get me and the boys each a hamburger for dinner too. I was ready to go.

When Mr. Carolina came to check on me, I told him about the pregnant woman, told him I was ready to relinquish my spot to her.

As we drove away from Wal-Mart, we saw the pregnant woman and the two little kids standing at the exit. The woman was holding a big sign that said family in need She held the sign in such a way that her pregnantness clearly showed. The little kids jumped up and down and waved at each passing car.

Personally, if I had kids, I’d be nervous to have them with me while flying a sign admitting I wasn’t able to provide for them. I’d be afraid CPS might come along and ask questions. But maybe CPS in New Mexico is too busy for such inquiries.

In any case, what they were doing seemed to be working for them, and I hope they’re all ok, wherever they are now.

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/pregnant-photoshoot-161485/.

Go to the Poor People



If you’re in trouble, or hurt or need–go to the poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help–the only ones.”

–John Steinbeck

I agree with Mr. Steinbeck on this one. When I was on the road with nothing–no food, no money, no gas–it was often the people who seemed poor who helped me. I was always touched when people who seemed to have very little shared what they did have with me.

One day I got an object lesson in the generosity of the poor and the stinginess of the rich.

I was in Bakersfield, California (population approximately 350,000) with Mr. Carolina, Lil C, and the Okie. I was flying a sign that read “Traveling, Broke & Hungry” at the main Wal-Mart exit. We were trying to get money for some dinner and enough gas to at least get out of town.

I’d been standing there with my sign for a while when I saw a Hummer approaching the exit. No one in a Hummer had ever given me so much as a dime before, so I resigned myself to getting nothing from this driver. But a miracle happened! The Hummer stopped next to me, and the passenger side window slid down. I could see the woman in the driver’s seat rummaging in her purse. She pulled out a bill and leaned across the seat to hand it to me out of the passenger window. I reached for the bill, and there was a moment when both my benefactor and I had our hands on it.

We realized at the same moment that the bill was a twenty. I let out a little noise of joy, and the woman let out a little noise of consternation. Just as I was saying, Oh! Thank you!, the woman pulled the bill out of my hand. Apparently the woman driving the vehicle that cost at least $30,000 new could not afford to give away $20. She ended up giving me $5, and I was grateful for it, although not as grateful as I would have been for that $20 bill I’d briefly had my fingers on.

Some time later, a young guy road up behind me on a bicycle. He asked me about my sign. I told him my friends and I were trying to get out of Bakersfield, trying to get out of California, heading to Oklahoma so one the the friends could get home in time for his mother’s birthday, all of which was true. I told him the four of us were hoping to get some money to buy some dinner and gasoline.

The young man reached into his pocket and pulled out two or three crumpled $1 bills and handed them to me. I thanked him, knowing this was probably quite a generous contribution from someone getting around on a bicycle. I watched him ride off, then turn the bike around and ride back to me.

You know what, he said, you should just take all the money I have in my pockets.

He pulled out a few more crumpled $1 bills. In all, I think he gave me $7.

After I thanked him again, he told me he was giving me the money in Jesus’ name. He told me he felt very fortunate to have a job and his bicycle, things he’d gotten through Jesus, and he felt like Jesus would want him to give me all the money in his pockets.

I felt like I had just witnessed a Biblical parable. The rich lady driving the Hummer had a $20 bill, but decided after I had my hand on it that she needed it more than I did. The poor boy riding a bicycle, however, saw my need as greater than his, so he emptied his pockets and gave the contents to me.

I don’t think Mr. Steinbeck would have been surprised.