Feeling bored again so I thought I would tell you all a little story.
Back in 1996 I spent a few months travelling through Western Mexico and to make another much longer story short I ended up penniless and sleeping in a bus station in a town called Mexicali, waiting for my American friend to come and rescue me. Well he never did, so I crossed into Calexico (Mexicali-Calexico-haha) and ventured onto the highway leading into San Diego. Those of you familiar with hitchhiking are aware that state troopers will pester you if you're on the main highways, and I looked silly anyway with my sunburn and huge backpack carrying pretty much everything I owned at the time, so I stuck to the secondary roads, the disadvantage being it was tougher to get rides. This was in May I believe and it was unusually hot for that time of year. I recall waiting for hours, and being told by a local farmer that he had "seen guys stand there all day", but I didn't care much because I was in that state of mind of feeling let down on the one hand by my friend from San Diego (I had met him in Mazatlan and travelled with him for the last month) who said he would show me around and get me a job there, and feeling that mix of trepidation and adventure that comes with being in a new land (it was only my second time in the U.S. and my first time ever in California). It was too boring to just stand there, so I walked westward for an hour or so until I came to a "T" in the road. I set down my pack, lost and exhausted, and wondered what to do. I believe I had a map buried deep down, but I couldn't be bothered to dig for it. It was getting quite hot, 100+degrees, and I was fast running out of water. Then something happened that made it seem like God had stopped whatever he was doing and looked right at me.
A young couple in a big van came and slowed right down, then stopped- across the street. I was confused, because if they were going to pick me up, they would have stopped on my side, no? The lady rolled down her window and asked me something like "Where are they? Are they coming?" I just gave her a dazed look.
Then more cars came, slowed down, and parked all around me. Whole families poured out- kids, grandmothers, teenagers, black people, hispanics, you name it. After about 15 minutes my little lonely intersection on some bullshit secondary road in the middle of the desert was teeming with about 50 people. And what was strange was they all acted like I wasn't even there; like I was just part of the party (despite having a huge 70+ backpack lying next to me and a look of hopeless despair on my face). Some guys from a radio station showed up in a Pepsi truck that had a big loudspeaker mounted on top and started selling Pepsi over the loudspeaker. These were like real bigshot DJs from the city. The police and state troopers came with their motorcycles, trucks, and vans and squeezed their fleet of vehicles the best they could into my once deserted corner. People brought out their lunches, pop, and cigarettes. I didn't know what to think. I just looked at everyone with my jaw dropped and my bewildered expression.
Then came the great parade, the armada of various other state vehicles, firemen, and various businesses with their logos everywhere. As you might have guessed, it was the torch runner for the Atlanta Olympics, and what was odd was the person carrying the torch wasn't even running; she was just standing inside the back of some huge specially outfitted motorhome. I doubt that many even noticed her. Some heavy set security guys standing in the motorhome gave me a cold look. Well after the strange vehicle went by, all the people gradually began to disperse. Many people bought their discount Pepsis off the radio guys, and I felt embarrassed to ask someone for a drink, but luckily a little girl who saw me walked up to me and gave me hers. She must have been only about ten years old. I asked her if she was sure she didn't want it and she said "I want you to have it." Oddly enough, she was one of the only ones to notice that I wasn't exactly there for the parade.
So I stood there refreshed, watching with interest as everyone got back into their cars and drove away- East, West, North. It didn't even occur to me to ask someone for a ride. I was just happy and savoring every ounce of my giant Pepsi. Over the past half hour or so, that lonely patch of desert had been transformed into a grand party with an international theme, then back again to nearly nothing. It made me think about the country I had just wandered into and the way things tend to happen there, regardless of the individual lives and motives of its people. A young hispanic guy asked me where I was going, and I told him Canada. So he pulled up in his car, I picked up my pack and hopped in, and we headed North.
Well for any of you that are interested, then let me continue the story, but I'll jump ahead about 6 weeks.
By June of that year I was on the highway just West of Spokane, Washington. I was going to go up to the Okanagan valley (British Columbia) to pick cherries (and hang out with the sexy Quebeckers who go there every year-these were back in my hippie days).
I got picked up by 2 indians who belonged to the Yakima tribe. They were driving a rather nice Cadillac. I got into the back seat and in the other rear seat they had a 24 of beer. Although they weren't drinking the beer, the guy in the passenger seat was swigging from a bottle of rhum. He was apparently a chief of some sort-he looked to be in his sixties, and I recall seeing him shuffle at least once through an envelope he had that was full of thousand dollar bills. The driver appeared to have some authoritative position as well, although he was younger (30's?) and admitted to smoking crack, coke, and various other drugs ("I do all that shit" I remember him saying). They were on their way to Seattle for some kind of council meeting, but from what I gathered, the old guy was their main reason for going and when they picked me up he was already half in the bag. They had unintentionally strayed from the main highway and were on some little windy road that was snaking its way through the mountains. We stopped at a lookoff point, which I remember as being breathtaking because of the snow all around (in June) and the waterfalls. It was then that they decided to let me drive, since the younger guy wanted to get drunk too (either that or he was already on something and couldn't drive anymore). So I got in and drove them the rest of the way to Seattle, while they told each other stories and yelled at me occasionally for driving too fast (which I wasn't).
(Just as an aside its amazing that they trusted me, since that younger guy was a pussy and I could have easily taken them both out and stole their car and their money.)
Anyways, for some strange reason they decided to stop at an indian store in Seattle to buy a coat(?) So we all barged in and the drunken chief sat down by the cashier to bargain with her. He was taking his time and noone could understand him by now anyway, so me and the younger guy took the money and the beer out of his car and took a taxi to a hotel. I guess there was some kind of argument that I didn't understand. He didn't tell the older guy he was leaving or that he was taking all his money. Anyways, after we booked in he went off to the Casino while I drank beer and watched TV. At around 1:00 in the morning he came back rather drunk and had lost half the money. He was bitching and whining in a language I couldn't understand. He took out his bag of coke and did some lines on the coffee table. Then he was OK again and happy. So he went back to the casino as I continued to drink more beer and watch TV. Then, sure enough he came back again a few hours later and was down to about $500. Now he was worried and paranoid about the chief, whose money he had just blown. So we had to check out fast and then went stammering aimlessly along the streets of Seattle at about 4:00 in the morning, looking for a car to buy for $500 so he could take off and run away from the chief. He wanted me to buy a newspaper and read the auto ads for him, but by then I had had enough of his stupidity, so I smoothly hopped on a bus when he was looking the other way.
Which brings me to my other story.(I hope some of you find these entertaining; if not I kind of enjoy reminiscing so bear with me).
I know you are all anxious to hear about my adventures in Mazatlan, so I'll keep you waiting no longer.
I was staying at the Hotel Siesta, and for 50 pesos a night, I figured that was a damn good deal. It happened one fine sunny morning that I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and I was getting tired of eating cheap tacos, so I left my hotel and just went strolling. If you can afford to lounge around in the Mazatlan "Golden Zone", then by all means do it; you get plently of sweet American peso and all the Mexican stereotypes you could ever dream of at your disposal. But me, I was in search of a more genuine Mexican experience.
The zone outside the golden zone is downright gritty, and anything that isn't gritty is putridly touristy.
So I just went walking along the main street, not knowing where I was going, ignoring all the locals taunts ("eh Americano, we got some good stuff here", etc.)
When you arrive at the harbour in Mazatlan, things come into perspective, and you remember why you came. There is a seawalk, from where you can look out at the islands and reefs that dot the pacific, and there are relatively few tourists and few kids trying to sell you shit. It is beautiful, and it is sunny and pleasantly warm everyday.
There are ferries that can take you to a few different islands. They run all day and all night and cost less than a dollar.
This particular day, I took a ferry to an island which I chose to live on for 4 weeks. There was an ample supply of water, pot, and beer on the island, and my rent was 10 pesos per day. Without going into the details, I can say it was probably the happiest time in my life. I also had the opportunity to meet many of the locals who made their living as farmers and restauranteers, as well as artists and hatmakers.
Overall it was a wonderful experience, and once I figure out how to make money without actually working I intend to move there permanently.
here's a not so nice hitchhiking story. I was 18 and hitchiking with my future first husband from Maine to Illinois. We were somewhere (?) and got a ride with a trucker who wasn't supposed to pick up hitchikers. He had no passenger seat in the truck, but had a sleeper. My boyfriend got in the hole that was supposed to hold the passeger seat and I got in the sleeper. 'Course, i fell asleep. Woke up to a $100 bill on my pillow. i, being 18 and stupid, thought "jeez, this guy shouldn't leave his money around like this". Reached out of the sleeper to get the tobacco to roll a cigarette and saw that my boyfriend was asleep. Rolling away and a hand comes back through the curtain with another $100 bill. I'm starting to catch on. I push his and back and continue with my rolling. The hand comes back with $400 and once again I push it back. My boyfriend is still asleep. 10 minutes later we pull into a truckstop , and my boyfriend wakes up. The truck driver says to him why don't you go get us some hotdogs and coffee." He starts getting out of the truck(cause he's been asleep through the whole money exhange thing). I shoot out of the sleeper like a pebble out of slingshot and say "you're not going anywhere without me". We grab our bags and head into the truckstop as the driver practically squeals out leaving the place. Very near miss. Jesus.
I hitched a ride to Berkeley once, from Corvallis, Oregon, and spent a long weekend with some friends there which got kind of crazy. On tuesday morning of the following week I regained some measure of lucidity and decided I'd better head home - problem was, I was in a booth in a McDonald's somewhere in San Francisco and my friends were nowhere around.
I bought a cup of coffee, staggered into the restroom and cleaned up a bit, then walked out to the street and started hitching. It took all day to get out of San Francisco, but I finally caught a ride to I-5. From there it was easy - two rides and a couple hippies in a VW squareback wagon dropped me at my door in Corvallis in the small hours of Wednesday morning. Sweet!
I fell in bed, and woke up about mid-day thursday. After showering I decided to get dressed and head up to campus, when I realized I couldn't find my artificial arm. Spent about 10 minutes hunting for it, then got this hazy memory of taking it off in the restroom of the McD's to wash my pits. After that, no recollection of having it on.
Those damned things are expensive! No way I had the bucks to replace a $4,000 piece of equipment, not too mention I needed it, and getting one made is about a 3 week process.
I thought for a while, then called information for San Francisco, pleaded my story to the information operator, and when she got done laughing at my idiocy she gave me the phone numbers for every McD's in town.
I called 3 stores - when I got the manager at the 3rd store he said yeah, he had it, one of his employee's had found it hanging on the stall divider next to the sink in the men's room the previous day. I gave him my name and address, offered to western union a few bucks to cover his costs and troubles if he'd mail it too me. He refused the money, and mailed it 1st class that afternoon. Hell of a nice guy.
When I got the box on Saturday, my arm had been signed in magic marker by most of the store employees. Had a hell of a time scrubbing that shit off.
The moral of this story is - keep track of needed body parts at all times.
i was always scared to hitchhike, but i did a few times when i was a teen. one time, my friend and i got a lift from some guys around our age and they asked us if we wanted to go smoke some pot in a park with them. when we got there, we all got high and then one guy got out and opened his trunk and it was filled with guns. i don't remember how many, but several rifles and a few handguns.
this scared me, so i got my friend and we left.
i once picked up a hitchhiker and took him with me to my brother's wedding. he was some poor kid that got ditched by his friends in the states near the border town of bellingham, where my brother lived at the time. he saw my BC plates and asked for a ride home to Vancouver. i said that i couldn't because i was going to a wedding, and i actually drove a few blocks away before i turned around to get him...i was kinda worried about the kid, he was like 16 or so, and i figured what the heck, it's not some big wedding, just a service at someone's house. it was a little hard to explain who he was to all these people... but hey, whatever.
my best hitchhiking experience would probably have to be this one.
(just noticed that my other hitchhiking story is there, too, in more detail)
thanks plum, i liked your stories...tell us more about yourself and what you've done.
Well perhaps some of you are wondering what the young lad who was me was doing in Mexico in the first place. I was getting fed up with dead end jobs in Canada and the whole post modern life and attitude in general. But it wasn't so much a matter of wanting to escape as wanting to explore and lead a more adventurous life than that offered by modern civilization.
I first went to Manzanillo, a touristy town on the Pacific about 50 miles north of Acapulco. For the first few weeks I stayed in one of the smaller cheaper locally run hotels. It was nice because it was in the more bohemian entertainement district: lots of bars, specialty shops, dancing, people playing chess in the streets, etc. But I soon tired of it because I'm not much of a partier, and I was drinking too much cheap tequila due to its availability in every corner store (and the feeling that comes with being in a totally new country; somehow intoxication helps one to make sense of things and deepens one's self identity as being an intrepid Indiana Jones nomad). It didn't help that it seemed like everyone was drinking at all hours of the day and night in the streets and on the beaches. You always see strange things in these places. The state cops are always friendly and never seem to be doing much of anything other than lounging around all day and talking to people. The ones you have to be aware of are the federal cops who ride around on the backs of jeeps with submachine guns(they don't actually use them; it's just for intimidation). The prostitutes were nice, and at night if I was alone they would occasionally come up to me and start necking with me and feeling me up, just out of the blue.
One day I got mildly drunk and took one of the small buses a few miles away, to the far end of the town where the locals lives in what appeared to be ugly white concrete complexes, probably built by the government. I got off and didn't know where the hell I was, so I just went strolling. There were lots of noises coming from up a street, and I passed by a group of women who were giggling (at me?) Then I approached a group of about 10 teenaged boys, who were hanging around a bridge, smoking pot. They were delighted to see me. I was going to keep walking but they were like "Hey Gringo! Come and party!" So I walked over and got high with them. I quickly became the centre of attention. It was interesting how they would keep asking me questions, and although I spoke next to no Spanish, I was still able to communicate with them in some natural way. They appeared to have a charismatic leader who did most of the talking. Once we got very stoned, a couple of local cops pulled up quietly with that "we know what you're up to" expression on their faces. I got totally paranoid, but the leader guy waltzed over and was able to calmly ease the situation with his swagger. We all parted on amiable terms.
One guy I met who was working on a house pointed out to me a cabin on the beach that I should go to. So I walked over and there sitting on the beach was an American expat hippie who rented me a small flat in the cabin. He also became my regular pot supplier. He made his living making tripped out artistic collages on some kind of fabric (often stretching across an entire wall) and selling them to local restaurants or whoever else was interested that passed by. I think he was a little nuts, but he was always interesting to talk to. He was a drug fiend in Los Angeles before coming to Mexico to "dry out", some 20 years ago. We spent many evenings having strange philosphical conversations while smoking his cheap weed and looking out at the ocean.
I soon got a job from the local paper teaching English at an old run down school on the outskirts of the city. It was something that I don't regret trying, but I was never cut out for it. One thing that I noticed was how all the boys who attended my classes tended to be dumber than the girls, yet were so much more outspoken. The school owner (whom I remember being a marvellous and comedic, outgoing man) was very understanding that I didn't like teaching and paid me 1000 pesos for one week of classes. It was then that I decided to return to Canada.
If you have ever ridden the bus in a third world country, then it is an experience you will not forget. Chances are, you will be the only white person since most tourists can afford to either rent a car or just fly. The driver will stop the bus on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere at least once, and will freak you out and embarrass you by getting up and coming over to you to ask you for identification. And all the eyes on the bus will be fixed on you as you stumble through your bags to get it.
One thing that struck me as odd was the number of young women travelling alone. They spoke to noone and noone spoke to them. They didn't even read or eat or do anything; they just sat there hour after hour until they reached their destination.
Another disturbing thing was the movies they showed during the trip. They were all very low budget with the same old cops and robbers plot (horrible acting) and teeming with sexism. In one movie a gang of robbers took a young female bank teller hostage, and then took turns raping her in the woods, to the tune of 70's disco music. It looked real too. After the first guy did her, she tried to tie a rope to a tree to hang herself, but the next guy wouldn't let her. Overall the rape scene lasted about 10 minutes and everyone in the bus just watched with that "ho-hum" look on their faces.
All the small towns that we stopped at that weren't tourist towns reaked of poverty. The people didn't even have any decent wood to build their houses. They were mostly made of mud, cement, and ferns. Every time I stepped out to stretch and get some air, a swarm of teens would run over and stick cups of rotten fruit in my face, hoping to make a buck. I had to fend them off politely as I could while I looked for cigarettes, but could never find any.
Thanks for the hearts, but they seem to complement my "adorable pussycat" surname. I guess I'll have to put up with being the fluffy bunny for a while.
Thanks. I just realized that some people might think I'm gay also because "plum" is the name of a fruit. That never even occured to me. It looked better when I was using it in a physics forum and it was next to an atomic bomb avatar. That gave it manly singularity.
In case you were wondering, I'm quite heterosexual.
plum also rhymes with bum, but I wouldn't be getting worried about getting mistaken for a homosexual on this board, 75% of the membership are as camp as a row of pink tents, and 100% of the administration, as it goes.