Tag Archives: hitchhiker

Christmas Hitchhiker Part 2 (Blog Post Bonus)

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Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

The Man got out of bed really early on Christmas morning. (He’s usually out of bed between 3am and 5am in the winter, so this was not unusual.) I woke up around 5am, and joined him in the living room. We opened a few little presents from each other and as well as the wrapped treats my sibling had sent in a big box. We ate miniature powdered donuts for breakfast, watched the sun rise through the east-facing window, and spent some quiet time together.

Around 10am, we decided to watch A Christmas Story on the DVD I’d given The Man that morning. I needed something from the truck before we started watching, so I put on my boots and trudged through the snow.

Once at the truck, I grabbed the thing I needed (I no longer remember what it was), then glanced over to the backseat. On the passenger side of the backseat was a green backpack. I didn’t own a green backpack. At the time I owned a purple backpack and black backpack decorated with red and orange flames and a blue backpack, but not a green one. As far as I knew, The Man didn’t own a green backpack either.

About that time I realized I didn’t see the blue backpack I normally kept in the truck. The blue pack was stuffed with hats I made and wanted to sell. There wasn’t room for the backpack in our tiny trailer, and I only needed the hats in it when I was selling at a flea market or craft fair, so I left the bulging thing in the truck. But where was it?

I rummaged through everything I could reach on the driver’s side of the truck. No blue backpack. I walked over to the passenger’s side of the truck to rummage through the things on that side. No blue backpack either–only the green one.

A wave of realization passed slowly over me. Had last night’s hitchhiker left her backpack and taken mine?

I opened the smallest, outermost pocket on the green backpack. Right on top I saw a debit card with a women’s name on it, a set of keys, and a flip phone. Oh no! I opened the main pocket and saw, among other things, a block of Tillamook cheddar. Oh no! This was serious! We had the woman’s cheese!

I went back into the trailer.

We have a problem, I told The Man. I explained my backpack was gone and a backpack holding important things (keys, phone, debit card, cheese) was in its place.

Go get her phone, The Man suggested. He thought we could call someone on her contact list and let them know we had the hitchhiker’s belongings. Good idea!

Photo by Fabrizio Conti on Unsplash

I went back out into the snow and sunshine and grabbed her phone. Once inside again, The Man flipped the phone open and looked at the phone log. Most of the calls had been made to one number. The Man said we should call that one.

He dialed, then handed the phone to me. A fellow answered after a couple of rings.

Good morning, I said, feeling awkward. I told him my name and explained how the night before my guy and I had picked up a hitchhiker. I mentioned the name I’d seen on the debit card.

That’s my mother! he exclaimed.

I told him how we’d driven her almost home and that I’d just discovered my bag missing and her pack (filled with important items) in our truck. I told him we wanted to get her bag back to her but because she’d had us drop her off down the road from her house, we didn’t know where exactly we should go with the pack. Of course, because she didn’t have her phone, we couldn’t call her and arrange to meet.

Photo by Lee Jeffs on Unsplash

The son said he would text his mother’s neighbor’s phone number to me. He thought maybe the neighbor could help. He thanked me for calling, and we wished each other a merry Christmas before saying goodbye.

In a few moments a text with a name and phone number came to my phone. That must be the neighbor, I thought.

I called the number and started another awkward conversation with another stranger. After I explained everything, the neighbor sighed and said his family had given the hitchhiker a lot of help in the past, and they were, frankly, burnt out.

It’s Christmas morning, my brother’s here, we’re about to eat breakfast, he told me.

I was a little stunned. I realized not everyone was as excited about getting the woman’s backpack to her as The Man and I were.

I suggested the neighbor contact me later when he wasn’t so busy. He said he would think on the situation and try to figure out a way to help.I got off the phone and updated The Man. We agreed there was nothing we could do until we heard from the neighbor again.

The Man and I talked for a while, ate a few more Christmas treats, then decided to start the movie. He was hooking up the DVD player to the television when my phone rang. It was the hitchhiker’s neighbor. He’d decided the best course of action was for us to meet him at his house. He thought he should ride in our truck with us and direct us to the hitchhiker’s house. Once there we could simultaneously hand over her backpack and retrieve mine.

The neighbor had just begun to give me convoluted directions to his place when the hitchhiker’s phone began to ring. Hang on a second, I told the neighbor.

Answer it! Answer it! I directed while gesturing wildly at The Man.

He answered it while I explained to the neighbor what was happening.

The hitchhiker was on the phone. I could just barely hear her voice and understand what she was saying. It seemed that she’d found someone to let her use their phone so she could call hers.

Yes, we had her backpack, I heard The Man tell her. Yes, we could meet her on the road where we’d dropped her off the night before. We could even meet her at her house, he offered. She must have declined because he said, Are you sure? then Ok.

After flipping the phone shut, he told me the hitchhiker didn’t want us to go to her house. (I wasn’t surprised.) She wanted us to meet her on the road we’d driven down before we dropped her off.

Photo by Jason Abdilla on Unsplash

We put on our cold weather gear and headed to the truck. The Man drove. The bright sun hitting the white snow was blinding, and we both wore our sunglasses.

It was slow going on the bumpy main road. When we turned off onto the road where we’d meet the hitchhiker, the ride wasn’t any smoother.

There she is! I said when I saw the short woman wearing a puffy purple coat.

I waved, and she waved, and The Man brought the truck to a stop next to her. I got out of the truck and handed her backpack to her amid much thanks. She said she’d gotten home the night before and opened up (what she thought was) her backpack only to find–instead of her keys–a bunch of hats. That’s when she knew she had the wrong bag. She’d had to break into her own house since she didn’t have her keys, but she said it hadn’t been too difficult.

While the hitchhiker talked, I looked about her person for my backpack. She wasn’t holding it, and she didn’t seem to be wearing it on her back. Where could it be? Had she left it at home?

Do you have my backpack? I asked timidly.

She told me she had left it safely under a tree and pointed to one of the few in the area. I thought it was a little strange that she had abandoned my pack under a tree, but whatever. I would be happy to have my pack and my hats again.

I went to the tree she’d pointed out and looked around. No backpack.

I don’t see it, I called out to her.

Oh, maybe I left it under that one, she said.

I didn’t know how she could be confused about what tree she’d left the backpack under. There were only two in the area! I didn’t ask any questions, just walked down the road to the other tree. Yes! There was my pack, nestled in the snow at the base of the tree.

Thanks and Christmas wishes expressed, I got back in the truck and the hitchhiker went on her way, up the hill again.

Christmas Hitchhiker

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It was Christmas Even and The Man was driving us home. Although it wasn’t quite 8pm, the sky was midnight dark, and we saw no house lights in the distance. Wind tumbled fat snowflakes in the space ahead of our headlights. When the snow hit the ground, it stuck. The Man drove slowly through the slush on the road as I looked for our turn.

Photo by Jessica Fadel on Unsplash

Is that it? I asked again and again, thinking each driveway was maybe the road we were looking for. I’m always amazed by how different the landscape looks at night. I’d been down that road hundreds of times in the last eight months, but I was having such a difficulty finding it in the dark. Finally we saw the road home, and The Man made the turn. We were within a few miles of our little trailer.

Unfortunately, the snow and poor condition of the road kept us moving slowly. It would be a while more until we made it home.

At one point the road drops and one’s vehicle ends up at the bottom of a small hill. I call the area “Dead Man’s Hill” because the road is narrow and when going up the hill, it’ impossible to see if another vehicle is coming down. A driver going too fast and driving too far to the left could become involved in a head-on collision.

That night we weren’t going very fast. As we descended the hill, I saw the headlights of another vehicle approaching in the distance. We weren’t the only fools out on this snowy night.

As we got to the bottom of the hill, something in the sage to my right caught my eye. There appeared to be a small person (a woman, I thought) standing in the arroyo just off the road. As we passed by, she waved her flashlight, as if trying to catch our attention. It took some dedication to be hitchhiking at night, especially on a cold Christmas Eve while snow was flying.

That’s a woman! I exclaimed. Most hitchhikers I encounter present as male, so seeing a female hitchhiker is always something of an event. As a woman who’s done a bit of hitchhiking in my time, I always try to pick up gals looking for a ride.

Does she need a ride? The Man asked.

Yes! I said with conviction. Anyone standing in an arroyo in the dark, in the snow, on Christmas Eve needed a ride as far as I was concerned.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Man slowed the truck even further.

I’m going to use that little pullout to turn around, he said indicating a wide space in the road.

He pulled into the turnout, then began backing out. He misnavigated and ended up putting our back tire in the icy low spot next to the road. Despite the four-wheel drive being engaged, the tire couldn’t gain traction.

My spirits sank. Were we going to be punished by the Universe for trying to do a good deed?

While The Man tried to get us out of our predicament, the car whose headlights I’d seen earlier approached. The vehicle (an outdoorsy station wagon type, maybe a Subaru or a Jeep) passed us, then stopped just ahead of us. The hitchhiker stepped out of the sage and approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. She was carrying at least one bag and was wearing a dark rain poncho with the hood up.

By this time, The Man had put our truck into reverse and was easing back. I think the slight downward slant of the road let us roll backwards until the tire touched a bit of earth that wasn’t quite so icy. The traction gained allowed us to get back on the road. We were soon going forward again, and we pulled up behind (put not too close to) the station wagon.

The hitchhiker left the other vehicle and came up to The Man’s window.

Do you need a ride? The Man asked. He told me later he was quite confused because he couldn’t believe anyone would be hitchhiking from that spot, at night, while it was snowing so hard.

She said she did need a ride. She told us the area where she lived, and my heart sank again. She lived nowhere near us. We were going to have to drive several miles out of our way in the dark and the snow to get her home. We had already almost gotten stuck turning around to pick her up. But what other choice did we have? We couldn’t leave the gal alone in the dark and snow by the side of the road on Christmas Eve. The only right thing to do was drive her home.

I leaned over to speak to her through The Man’s open window. Come over to this side, I told her.

One of the flaws of our truck is that the front door has to be open before the back door can be opened. Even with the front door opened, it’s difficult to open the back door without getting out of the truck. 

I opened my door and hopped out of the truck, careful not to slip on the icy ground under the snow. The air that hit my face was cold.

Photo by Tom Morel on Unsplash

I opened the back door and saw I’d need to move some things so our passenger could sit. We had a couple of bags of groceries back there and the backpack where I keep the hats I’ve made before I sell them. I pushed everything over to the driver’s side.

By the time I’d made some room in the back seat, the hitchhiker had approached the passenger side of the truck. With the hood of her rain poncho pulled up, he face peaked out at me, but I couldn’t distinguish her features in the dark. I couldn’t guess her age, but I could see she was wearing eyeglasses. That she was short—no taller than I am and maybe shorter—was obvious. She was carrying a disposable plastic bag and a backpack.

I noticed the other vehicle was still stopped in front of us.

What’s that car doing? I asked the hitchhiker since it had appeared that she’d talked to the driver.

I think they’re going into town, she said.

I wondered why the car was still stopped if they were going into town, but figured they must be waiting to see if she got safely into the truck before they left.

The hitchhiker got in the backseat, and I shut the door firmly. Then I climbed back into the front seat and closed the front door behind me. While I was fastening my seat belt, I realized the car in front of us was slowly back up.

What in the world are they doing? I wondered aloud, but no one knew.

The driver backed up the station wagon until it was quite close to us, then stopped. I was perplexed. I think The Man was perplexed too. I don’t know what the hitchhiker was thinking because she sat silently in the back.

Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

The Man pulled the truck to the left and passed the station wagon so he could get to a larger turnout ahead of us. From there he was able to maneuver the truck so we were once again pointed towards home. As we passed the station wagon, The Man heard the driver call out a woman’s name (presumably the name of the woman in the truck with us), and say, I want to hear her say it’s ok! I want to hear her voice!

(I heard the driver of the station wagon say something, but I couldn’t understand the actual words.)

When The Man told the hitchhiker that the driver of the station wagon wanted to hear it was ok in her voice, she said the other driver needed to let go. The Man kept driving.

I have no idea what the driver of the station wagon was yelling about. Did he think we were kidnapping the hitchhiker? Hadn’t he seen her get into our truck under her own volition? The Man thought the hitchhiker had been in the station wagon and gotten out. I reminded him that the station wagon was approaching from the opposite direction when I first saw it. The Man said the driver of the station wagon had probably turned around to come back for the hitchhiker.

Didn’t you hear him call her name? The Man asked me, but I honestly hadn’t.

The hitchhiker didn’t offer any explanations and it seemed rude to ask too many questions. In any case, everything that happened with the station wagon and driver added weirdness to what was already a strange situation.

The hitchhiker chatted happily as The Man drove through the dark and blustery night. She’s been in town, exchanging Christmas presents with her son. It had seemed really important to spend the evening with her son, she said. Her eyesight wasn’t very good, she told us. She needed new glasses. She’d gone through a period when she had constant ringing in her ears, but an ear candle had taken care of it.

In all of her chatting, she didn’t tell us her name and didn’t ask ours. I was exhausted, and The Man was concentrating on the road, so neither of us said much.

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

When we passed our turnoff, I looked longingly towards home. Even though I knew we were doing the right thing, I was still a little sad to know we weren’t going home yet.

We stayed on the main road and went further back where most of the people in our neighborhood (and I use the term “neighborhood” loosely) live.

Where exactly are we taking you? I asked the hitchhiker, and she named a road The Man and I both recognized.

There is a phenomenon I have encountered in New Mexico and nowhere else. People are extremely guarded when it comes to telling others where they live. Many people I’ve met in New Mexico have refused to share details about the locations of their homes. I’d known one good friend for over seven years before I was allowed to know where she lived, and she only told me because she needed me to pick her up and drive her around to do errands. (I was not invited into her actual house.) Other people I became friends with told me I was always welcome on their property, but made it very clear that I was not to bring anyone else over or even talk about where they lived. All of this to say I wasn’t surprised when the hitchhiker wouldn’t tell us exactly where she was going.

If you can just get me up the hill, I can walk the rest of the way, she said.

The Man and I agreed it would be no trouble to deliver her to her door, but she assured us it wouldn’t be necessary. She said she would show us a good place to turn around where we could drop her off .

We finally got to her road and The Man turned the truck onto it. He drove us up and up and up. When we got to the top of the appropriate hill, the hitchhiker pointed to a wide spot on the left and said we should turn around there. We asked again if we could drive her all the way home, but she assured us she would be fine walking.

The Man stopped the truck near the turnoff. I unfastened my seat belt, opened my door, got out of the truck, and opened the back door. The hitchhiker slid out.

Do you have everything? I asked.

She showed me the plastic grocery store bag and backpack she was holding.

Let me show you what my son gave me, she said, setting the grocery store gag on the ground and opening it up. Inside was a plant.

Photo by Kyla Henry on Unsplash

It’s a jade plant, she told me, obviously pleased.

I made appropriate cooing sounds, as if she had just showed me a kitten or a human baby.

She gathered up her things and disappeared into the snowy night. I got back in the truck, and The Man turned it around. We headed home, glad we were able to help.

Do you think this is the end of the story? We did too. Alas, we’d be seeing the hitchhiker again, less than 24 hours later. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story of the Christmas hitchhiker.

Heather

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The Man and Jerico the dog had gone down to the river while I worked on my blog at a coffee shop. I’d nearly finished scheduling a second post when The Man appeared next to my right shoulder.

As he often does, he began in the middle.

She was down by the river, he said. She said she wanted to come to town, but I think she wants to go back.

I looked past him and saw a very tall woman with very short hair. The hair she did have was entirely grey. She was wearing a bright pink t-shirt and long pants. She said her name was Heather, and I introduced myself.

I told The Man I needed about ten minutes to finish what I was working on, and then I’d be ready to go. All the while I was talking to The Man, I could see Heather was looking over my shoulder at my computer screen. Uncool, lady. Uncool.

The Man asked me to open up some business stuff he needed to take a look at, so I went to the webpage he needed. While I was navigating the internet, Heather came around to my left side. I was sitting alone at a counter. There were several tall stools at the counter, and they were jammed close together. When I’d sat down, I’d only moved the one next to me slightly, so it was still close to me. Instead of moving all the stools over just a little, Heather left the one next to me too close so when she sat down, we were practically touching. As soon as she sat down, I could tell she was again trying to see what was on my computer screen.

In less than five minutes after meeting Heather, I knew she had some problems with boundaries. Not only was she physically closer to me than I found comfortable, but trying to read my computer screen was really over the line. Most people in our society know to keep a physical distance from strangers and not to read over anybody’s shoulder unless invited to do so. Either she didn’t recognize these boundaries at all or she simply chose to ignore them.

I wondered why this person was with The Man. I suspected he’s picked her up hitchhiking. She probably needed a ride to the other side of town, where we were going anyway. No biggie. Hitchhiking is a time-honored tradition in Northern New Mexico, and The Man and I both pick up hitchhikers whenever we can.

The Man and I finished looking at the business stuff, and he went off to get another cup of coffee.

I sure could use a beer, Heather said, and that was another red flag, as it was only eleven o’clock in the morning.

I know I shouldn’t judge, but drinking alcohol so early in the day always seems like a bad idea to me. I suppose maybe Heather hadn’t had a beer in days and was ready for one despite the early hour. I suppose she could have been awake since 4am and was ready for a beer after seven hours of consciousness. I suppose a lot of things are possible, but what I’ve witnessed has shown having a beer so early in the day often leads to trouble.

When The Man came back with his coffee, Heather immediately asked him for a drink, which I thought was a bold move. The paper cup from my earlier coffee was still sitting next to my laptop, so he put about a quarter of his fresh coffee into it and handed it to her.

I was still trying to finish my blog post.

I like your Crystal Bible, Heather said to me.

It took me a moment to realize she was talking about the reference book by Judy Hall I’d left in the truck.

Oh yeah! It’s a good one! I said with a smile, then turned back to my work.

Heather said she needed tobacco and asked if there was a smoke shop nearby. I said I didn’t know, then remembered there was a vape store just down from the coffee shop. I mentioned the vape shop, but said I didn’t know if there was tobacco for sale there.

Heather must have gotten bored because she said she was going to wait in the truck. I didn’t know if that was going to work out for her. The Man had probably locked the truck and Jerico was probably going to bark at her if she approached the truck, but I was confident she would figure something out.

Once Heather went outside, The Man filled me in on how he’d met her.

He was down by the river. Heather started following him from a distance and watching him through the trees. When she got closer, he asked her how she was doing. She said she wasn’t doing very good. She said she’s had bad dreams. She told him she was camping nearby, but she didn’t feel safe there. She said she wanted to go into town. She asked The Man to give her a ride. He agreed. She grabbed her meager belongings, and they got into the truck.

They hadn’t gone far down the road when Heather asked The Man if he had seen the woman with the dreadlocks. He said he hadn’t seen her. Heather wondered if the woman with the dreadlocks had come to help her, and if she (Heather) should go back to the river. The Man said he’d bring her back to the river if that’s where she wanted to go. Heather said she wanted to go into town.

They’d gone a little ways further down the road when Heather said, Pull over! Pull over! She said she was having a panic attack. The Man maneuvered the truck into the next pullout on the mountain road they were traveling on. He told Heather again that he would take her back to the river, but she pulled herself together and said she wanted to go into town.

The Man started driving again. He heard the distinctive sound of his water bottle being opened. He looked over and saw Heather taking a large gulp of water from his bottle. She hadn’t asked permission; she’d just helped herself. Of course, The Man didn’t begrudge her the water, but he didn’t care to have a stranger drink straight from his bottle. I wouldn’t either.

At this point, The Man didn’t know how to help Heather, but he didn’t know how to get away from her either. He told her he had to pick up his girlfriend (me).

She asked me if I had a place where she could camp, The Man told me. I shook my head. She’d already crossed my personal-space boundary, my privacy boundary, and The Man’s drinking-from –his-water-bottle-without-permission boundary. What would she be like if we took her to our home? Would she lie down in our bed and wear our clothes? Would she demand we drive her back to town as soon as we pulled into our driveway? Taking her to our place seemed like a very bad idea.

I finished up my blog post and started packing my things. In less than an hour, I was supposed to show up at my new place of employment to do my new-hire paperwork.

We can give her a ride wherever she needs to go in town, I told The Man. Getting ourselves any more entangle with her seemed like a very bad idea.

By the time I finished packing everything and went outside, Heather and The Man were both milling around near our truck.

I walked up to Heather. She towered over me.

Is there somewhere in town you need to go? I asked her. I can give you a ride somewhere in town.

She said she thought she’d go back to her campsite near the river. I explained we weren’t going that way for a while. I told her I had to do a thing for work and didn’t know how long it was going to take. She said she didn’t want to go any further into town but  was hoping to get some toilet paper and tobacco. I told her I had some toilet paper she could have. I walked around to the other side of the truck, grabbed the roll of TP I had stashed in the truck’s door storage pocket, and gave it to her.

Her things—a rolled up sleeping bad, a tent bag (presumably with a tent in it), and a poorly folded tarp—were in the back of our truck. The Man and I unloaded the items and set them next to a concrete barricade separating the parking lot form the street. Heather was heading to the liquor store next door.

She said something about wanting a water bottle, The Man said to me softly.

I don’t have an extra water bottle with me, I told him. I’ve got some water bottles at home…I trailed off. I don’t really want to give away my $30 water bottle (an Eco Vessel bottle I’d splurged on a couple years back while I was working and had some spending money.)

The Man admitted he didn’t want to give away his water bottle either. Instead, he took his now empty paper coffee cup, rinsed it, and filled it from the big drinking water tank in the back of the truck. He added the cup of water to the small pile of Heather’s belongings.

Heather was almost to the door of the liquor store. I was torn. Part of me wanted to let her go upon her way uninterrupted, but part of me knew I needed to let her know her things were no longer in our truck. What if someone stole her things after we left and before she made it back to the parking lot to retrieve them? What if something was left in the truck and she thought we’d stolen it? I wanted to officially relinquish responsibility of her belongings before I drove away.

Heather, I called out, and she came over. I pointed out her things and told her we had to go. Just as I’d feared, when I walked toward the truck, she followed me.

I sure do like that Crystal Bible, she started in again.

It is a good one, I told her again. I use it when I’m selling my jewelry and shiny rocks.

Oh, she said, sounding disappointed. Do you have another one? she asked hopefully. I really like it.

I don’t have another one, I answered truthfully, and I use that one, I continued, also truthfully.

Before I could get away, Heather asked me about a place where she could camp. I told her about the rest area where I stayed when I was homeless but let her know she would have to dodge the attendant who worked there during the day. She didn’t seem to like the idea of having to dodge a worker but then said she’d go to the rest area with us.

I told her we weren’t going to the rest area. I explained again that we were going into town. Then I hurried over to the truck, got in, and started the engine. Of course, other vehicles were leaving the crowded parking lot, and I couldn’t back out and make my hoped for quick getaway. I was stuck.

Heather went over to the passenger side of the truck where The Man was sitting. Mark! Mark! she called out, although The Man’s name sounds nothing remotely like the name Mark. His window was open, and she stood there and asked him for something. I’d stopped paying attention to her in my focus to back out. When The Man didn’t have what she wanted, she came around to my side. She stood so close to the vehicle, I couldn’t move when my time came.

Do you have a couple of bucks I can have? she asked me.

I fished my wallet out of my bag, but found only a single. I handed it to her and told her it was all I had.

Ok! We’ve got to go now, I said, trying not to sound unkind. Heather moved, and we left.

The Man and I spent the next few days wondering what we could have done to help Heather and feeling guilty for not having done more. Should I have handed over my water bottle? Would Mother Theresa have handed over her water bottle? Should we have dropped everything and driven her back to her campsite or the rest area? Should we have let her come out to our place? Is there anything we could have done to really help her? How do I help others (especially those who may be difficult to help) without jeopardizing my own mental health?

I think too often people tell themselves there was nothing I could have done to make themselves feel better for not having done more. I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t do all she can. Also, I don’t want to be cranky with Heather because she wanted and needed and asked for things. All that said, I still strongly suspect letting her stay at our place would have only led to grief.

I did put another roll of toilet paper in the truck, along with a Nalgene bottle filled with drinking water so I can help the next person who has those needs. I’ve also thought again about how grateful I am to be able to function pretty well in the society I live in. I may suffer from depression and anxiety, but I can typically move through the world without too many problems. Heather reminded me that many people don’t have that privilege.

Story of Hitchhiker (Guest Post)

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The Man recently came up with a great idea. What if you get people to tell you their wildest travel stories? he asked. Awesome! I thought and asked my friends and fans on social media to share those stories with me. I’ll share the stories with you, my readers, as they roll into my inbox.

If you want to share your wildest travel story, submit them at rubbertrampartist@gmail.com. Please note, I am unable to pay for any guest posts. I am NOT interested in or willing to run posts that are racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, or mean in any way. The post you submit should be finished and polished and ready to run immediately. Please include a brief biography at the end of the post.

Today’s story is about a cat, and a police officer, and a hitchhiker with only a vague idea of where to find the friend she wanted to visit,.

My friend Sherrie moved to Peshtigo WI without giving me a forwarding address before there was any such thing as a cell phone. Being my free-spirited self and the fact that Peshtigo is rather a small town I hitched a ride up with my black cat following behind me everywhere I went. It wasn’t far between DePere and Peshtigo, only a little over an hour on the highway. The rides were fast and easy because who wouldn’t pick up a gal and her cat? 


My ride dropped me off right at the beginning of town as requested. I didn’t know how I would find my friend but I was going to at least give it a try, hike around and see if I could maybe stalk her. I started my hike noticing there were no sidewalks in this rural area. The houses were spaced a good distance apart and I had only walked through about three or four front yards when a lady opened her front door and stared at me. Right away I thought ‘oh God she’s gonna yell at me for being on her property or walking on her yard’ and sure enough she started hollering at me but she was yelling my name! As in “Grimit?!”  (my nickname) in a questioning tone. Then, “Is that you Grimit?”


I was totally floored! It was my friend Sherrie’s MOM! I couldn’t believe the luck! After several questions about why I’m in her front yard with my cat and much laughter she directed me to my friends new place across town on the opposite end of Peshtigo! 


I set out again hitchhiking sporadically and walked only about a mile in when the Peshtigo police officer pulled up complete with lights and sound. He told me hitching was illegal within the city limits and after checking my ID he would give me a ride through town and set me free on the other end near my friend’s place. Lucky me again, I’m not getting busted! 

I gladly accepted the ride but explained to him that since he had done the lights and siren thing for a moment when he pulled up my cat had scurried up the nearest tree for safety and I couldn’t just leave her here. He understood my dilemma and turned everything off, engine included. We just stood outside his car silently waiting for about two or three minutes, and she came right down.


We rode through Peshtigo with me in the front passenger seat and my cat on the back of the seat between us like the princess she was! We, all three, totally agreed it was one of the most interesting rides we’d ever had! ….and I found my friend. We still laugh about how I ended up in her mom’s front yard!    

The end! 

It’s just me and Louise now, a dog follows me instead of a cat. Just sign me Maryl (not Thelma) and Louise. marylgrimmett@yahoo.com

Photo courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/arm-asphalt-blur-close-up-400536/.

Elder

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It’s not much of a story, really. The Man and I picked up an elderly Native man in Gallup, NM and gave him a ride downtown. It was a small kindness.

We’d left Flagstaff early, before the sun came up. We’d had coffee, but no breakfast. Somewhere after Winslow I announced I’d be pulling into the first Taco Bell we came to. The Man was agreeable. We both like the potato, egg, and cheese Fiesta Potato grilled breakfast burrito Taco Bell sells in the morning. It’s a lot of breakfast for a buck.

Close-up Photo of People Holding Usa FlagletsI think the Taco Bell was off the first eastbound I-40 exit to Gallup. I took the exit, and soon we saw the sign proclaiming the town “The Most Patriotic Small Town in America.”

What does that even mean? we wondered. Who decides such things?

After doing a little research, I found out the distinction was based on a contest sponsored by Rand McNally in 2013-2014. Ken Riege nominated Gallup in that category and did a lot of work to help the town win the honor. You can read the whole story of the contest on the I Am New Mexico website.

We saw the elderly hitchhiker just after we saw the sign. He was obviously Native, with short hair and clean clothes. I though about stopping to give him a ride, but we were only going to the Taco Bell, which wasn’t even half a mile past where he was standing. I hoped some other driver would stop for him and take him where he needed to go.

We had quite an experience at Taco Bell. None of the “open” signs were lit. Was the dining room open? Was the Black And White Photo Of Clocksdrive-thru open? Why was there only one car in the parking lot? Why was caution tape crossing each of the dining room windows? What time was it? Had we experienced a time change when we entered New Mexico? Wasn’t the time in New Mexico an hour ahead of the time in Arizona? It was past 7 am in Arizona and New Mexico, so the Taco Bell dining room should have been open.

Just go through the drive-thru, The Man suggested.

I wanted to order inside for several reasons. I wanted to use the restroom and add ice to my water bottle. I wanted to eat in peace, without Jerico the dog sad-eyeing my breakfast and silently begging for a bite. Also, since the window on the driver’s side of my van doesn’t go down, a trip through a drive-thru is a major hassle. I have to open my door and usually put the van in park and get most of the way out to pay for my purchase and receive my food. It’s a real pain in the neck. But I didn’t know what else to do because the dining room did not appear to be open.

Turns out, we had simply stopped at the slowest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. There were no customers inside, making it look like the place wasn’t even opened. (The caution tape on the windows was actually part of the Halloween decorations.) No other customers were ahead of us in the drive-thru, and none pulled up behind us. I’m pretty sure the one car in the parking lot belonged to the one worker who took our order, prepared our food, bagged it, handed it to me, took my money, and made change. I guess while Gallup, NM is a hotbed of patriotism, it’s not a hotbed of Taco Bell action, at least not for Saturday morning breakfast.

Once we had our food, I drove around the front of the restaurant and parked on the side of the building. I pointed the nose of the van so the sun wouldn’t be in our faces, and we ended up looking toward the interstate. I could see the hitchhiker was still standing on the side of the road.

No one’s picked up that old man, I said.

We finished our breakfast, and I told The Man that we should go pick up the hitchhiker and drive him wherever he needed to go. We weren’t in any hurry, and The Man and I both think it’s important to help people when we can. The Man agreed that we should help the hitchhiker.

I said I was going into the Taco Bell to use the restroom and put ice in my water bottle. When I come back, we’ll go get that man, I said.

When I returned to the van, The Man was gone. At first I thought maybe he had gone into the Taco Bell to use the restroom too, but when I looked out the windshield, I saw him and the hitchhiker walking on the side of the road, heading towards me. The Man had gone to talk to the hitchhiker to make sure he seemed safe and to find out where he needed to go. By bringing the hitchhiker back to the van, he also saved me from having to make a U-turn and find a place to pull off the road where we could safely load the fellow into the van.

The Man ushered the hitchhiker into the front seat, and he and Jerico sat in the back. I asked the hitchhiker where he needed to go and he said, Just downtown.

I told him I wasn’t familiar with Gallup, and he pointed down the street that ran in front of the Taco Bell, in the direction away from the interstate. No problem, I told him, then proceeded to back the van over one of the parking lot barriers. The van was fine (it’s a beast, after all), and if the hitchhiker was worried about my driving abilities, he didn’t let on. I guess hitchhikers take what they can get.

Route 66 Printed on RoadAs I was driving, I realized we were on Historic U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66). According to the Legends of America website,

Known by several names throughout the years including the “Mother Road,” “Main Street of America,” and the “Will Rogers Highway,” Route 66 served travelers for more than 50 years, before totally succumbing to the “new and improved” interstate system.

Established in 1926, road signs began to be erected the following year, but, it would be several years before the 2,448 mile highway would be continuously paved from Chicago to Los Angeles.

I have a mild fascination with Route 66 and fantasize about driving at least the Arizona portion of it, so I was glad for the historic detour we were on.

It didn’t take us very long to get downtown. It was fun to see a part of Gallup I’d never seen before. (I’ve been through Gallup a few times, but never hung out there and hadn’t spent any time away from the I-40 corridor.) The downtown area looked cute, and I saw a sign for the Rex Museum, a place I’d like to visit. (The Rex Museum’s website says,

Once a brothel and later a grocery, the museum building houses exhibits detailing a wide swath of local history, exploring the culture of the area’s earliest inhabitants, mining and railroad activities through to present-day Gallup.)

The hitchhiker didn’t seem to want to talk much. I made some chitchat, and he gave brief answers to my questions, but I think we had some cultural differences regarding small talk. He did tell me where he wanted to get out, and I was able to pull into an empty parking space so he could safely climb from the van. He thanked us politely and we went our separate ways.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-people-holding-usa-flaglets-1449057/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-white-photo-of-clocks-707676/, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/drive-empty-highway-lane-210112/.

What Is a Rubber Tramp?

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I first heard the term “rubber tramp” in 2010. The guy who was my boyfriend at the time and I were talking to a young woman traveler. We told her we lived in our van and traveled around.

Oh, you’re rubber tramps, she said enthusiastically.

I was new to the lingo of traveling kids, so I asked my boyfriend later what she meant. He said a rubber tramps was a particular kind of traveler who lived in a vehicle. The rubber in question was that on the vehicle’s tires. As for the tramp part, well, he didn’t have to explain that.

According to an answer given by Belarafon on enotes, a homework help website, in regards to the book Into the Wild, a rubber tramp is something of the opposite of a leather tramp.

Brown and Black Leather Work Boots on Brown SurfaceA rubber tramp has a car or other wheeled vehicle, and travels on the rubber tires. A leather tramp has no vehicle, and travels on foot, shoes often being made of leather. The distinction comes from both ease of travel — a rubber tramp is more able to decide destination than one who relies on hitchhiking — and and an unofficial status: rubber tramps are sometimes seen as “less valid” than leather tramps because their vehicle is viewed as a luxury item.

Of course, I’ve never in my whole life heard of anyone referred to as a “leather tramp.” Nobody calls them that, The Man exclaimed when I shared this definition with him. You’d just call them a bum!

According to the Cyber Hobo website, people who consider themselves tramps might not like The Man referring to them as bums. The Hobo Terms page says a tramp is “[a] migratory non-worker” while a bum is

[a] non-migratory non-worker; [a] worthless or dissolute loafer who would rather beg than work for goods or services; [l]owest in the “hobo hierarchy.

The Cyber Hobo also weighs in on the definition of “rubber tramp.”

Rubber tramp – A tramp who owns a car, usually rusted out and undependable. They spend a lot of energy begging for gas money, but also provide transportation to other cities to bums, hobos and tramps for a fee. In a sense, they become a nationwide “taxi” service for transients.

I’m not sure where this definition originated (Cyber Hobo gives no sources), but I don’t know anything about rubber tramps being any kind of “nationwide ‘taxi’ service.” Personally, I have never charged a bum, hobo, tramp, traveler, hitchhiker, or dirty kid for a ride. I have accepted gas money from riders in my van, but I’ve never expected or demanded a fee from anyone I’ve let ride with me.

The Man says that in his experience, while rubber tramps may not charge folks a fee for a ride, there is an expectation of riders contributing to the common good. Each rider is expected to pitch in by flying a sign or panhandling for money and food or gas jugging and everyone sharing the fruits of the labor.

Did you know there is a Nomad Wiki which gives “info and tips for nomads about shoestring budget traveling”? I didn’t either until I started working on this post. The Nomad Wiki glossary gives the same definition of a rubber tramp as Belerafon did on enotes: car or other wheeled vehicle, rubber tires, possibly less valid because vehicle is seen as a luxury.

Of course, we have to check in with Urban Dictionary to see how kids these days define “rubber tramp.” Three definitions are shared.

[Top definition by RYM~Taistealaí with 154 thumbs up votes and 32 thumbs down votes] A person who travels and lives out of their vehicle (normally an RV, van, bus, etc.).  They stop and stay wherever they choose for however long they want, but eventually, so as long as there’s a way to put gas in their tank, move on.

[Second most popular definition by Starwatcher with 21 thumbs up votes and 153 thumbs down votes]  A person that lives in, and creeps around in a vehicle that looks like it’s barely held together with rubber bands, chewing gum, and chicken wire. They’re often seen parked in the back of supermarket parking lots, or hanging around public parks, alleys, shelters, welfare offices or liquor stores.

Most of the time, the person also looks as completely worn out as the vehicle does.

[Least popular definition by Follow your wanderlust with only 6 thumbs up votes but 0 thumbs down votes] A person that lives full time in their RV or Van and works and lives on the road to explore and follow their wanderlust.

I couldn’t find any information as to when the term “rubber tramp” was first used either verbally or in print. I know somebody keeps track of that sort of thing, but I sure couldn’t find anything online. I suppose I should put a reference librarian or an an etymologist on the case.

I also want to point out that not all people who travel in vehicles or live on the road appreciate being referred to Man With Luggage on Road during Sunsetas “tramps.” In the United States in the 21st century, the word “tramp” often has a negative connotation. According to Wikipedia, “tramp” has become something of a bad word.

Like “hobo” and “bum,” the word “tramp” is considered vulgar in American English usage, having been subsumed in more polite contexts by words such as “homeless person” or “vagrant.”

At the 2018 Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, I noticed many people referring to themselves and others as nomads. “Nomad” is a fine word, and I use it myself. Some definitions of the word (like the first one from Merriam-Webster) reference seasonality and a defined territory, but others (like the second one from Merriam-Webster) only refers to roaming about. Other synonyms I like for “rubber tramp” are van dweller, vagabond, traveler, rambler, and wanderer.

As for me, when I renamed my blog, I chose to call myself a rubber tramp because I didn’t want to sanitize my situation. While I do like those synonyms that I listed above, I thought “rubber tramp” conveyed some grittiness, conveyed my poverty and hand-to-mouth existence. I don’t feel like I have to pretend I’m anything more than I am: a woman with a van (and now a 40+ year old beat up stationary fifth wheel in the desert for winter living), thrift store clothes, and scavenged art supplies.

Photos of vans were taken by me. Other images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-and-black-leather-work-boots-on-brown-surface-60619/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-with-luggage-on-road-during-sunset-163688/.