Friday, October 29, 2010


October 24th


Made it to California! Spent the last 2 days hanging out with an old friend of mine and his girlfriend. It has been really good to hang out with an Englishman from my generation. As great as Americans are they just don't seem to grasp the finer points of some things:- like marmite on toast, or the vibe Christmas has in England.

Ironically my first night in Cali was spent celebrating Oktoberfest in a large German bar. Aside from the facts that I am drinking Muller beer, and that the women are actually attractive, I could almost be at home. Sam introduces me to an American drink by the name of Four Loko. At 12%, and rocking more caffeine per m/l then Red Bull, its a party in an over sized can. After drinking 2 of those (huge cans, bigger then a pint), combined with gratuitous amounts of beer, my recollection of the evening is hazy. I do recall someone climbing on top of an RV for no apparent reason though.

Note :- I am writing this on the Amtrak train and we just passed through Fullerton!
That was Saturday night, Sunday was spent on Huntington Beach smoking pot and recovering from the mother of all hangovers. Whilst chilling out conversation turns to my next plan. having been so set on making it to California up until this point, I have no real idea what I want to do next. In our (slightly) stoned brains, the idea to walk up the coast to Santa Barbara to meet Sam there for the next weekend's Halloween celebration sounds like an awesome idea. I decide to set out tomorrow morning, with no preparation other then to buy a map of the Western States in a local gas station. (Such a map is near useless for what I planned on doing, as it is scaled for people driving across states, not idiots walking along the coast)

27th October

Made it! Ended up using public transit out to Santa Monica beach for $2 and then I started walking. On the first day I walked along the coast - literally on the beach for allot of the way, and the Pacific Coast Highway when not possible. As I got to the west side of Malibu the sun was starting to set, I found myself a small alcove on a private beach (probably slightly illegal) to sleep in. The waterline from the last high tide was about 15ft from where I rolled out my sleeping bag, and it looked like the weather was going to be good - had been a completely clear day so far. I had a stack of rocks to climb out of where I was with some ease. So if I had misjudged the situation, worst case scenario was I would get wet. I lay back and watched the sun set over the Californian coast line. Absolutely beautiful. I was completely exhausted from hauling my pack all day and fell asleep pretty much as soon as it was dark.

I woke up a few hours later to the sound of the waves crashing onto the sand and rocks a meters away from me. the moon was very big and very bright, making it easy to see on this completely clear night. I watched the ocean breaking so close I could almost touch it until I fell asleep again.

Woke up at around 5.30am just in time to watch the sun rise. After consulting my map and realising that it was going to take forever to walk to Santa Barbara I decide to go and climb in the foothills along the beach in the state park. I reach the top of my chosen mountain (probably nothing more then a small hill but shh) at around 1pm. In the baking heat atop this hill  I can see for miles in either direction along the coast, miles of rich blue-green ocean crashing against the jagged rocks and hills typical of this region. I stop for a while to meditate, absorb the moment, and smoke a little joint before beginning the walk back down the hill.

Back on the highway I walk in the right direction with my thumb stuck out, figure if I cant catch a ride I will walk, but I may as well try to catch one! Before to long a Mexican construction worker who calls himself Pedro stops to pick me up, and gets me as far as Oxnard.

Hiking out of Oxnard along the railway track that evening I pass by some strawberry fields next to the tracks. I snag a few for breakfast and set up camp amongst the lemon trees in the next field over. Again I fall asleep very quickly after sunset being completely exhausted from walking and heat, feeling slightly sunburned, and incredibly happy.

From my camping spot I could see the Highway a couple of fields over, so after a breakfast of strawberries I quickly pack up my things and start walking along the highway in the direction of the next exit, and its inevitable gas station primarily to catch a ride, but also to use the bathroom there! Brett picks me up fairly quickly in his black 4x4 once I get myself set up on the ramp. He is from LA originally, and is working there currently. He spends most of the year however in Idaho for the snowboarding and mountain biking. Brett is headed to Capinteria for a meeting. Capintera is about 15 miles east of Santa Barbara, I can walk the rest.

In Santa Barbara Brett takes me out for breakfast of bacon with fried eggs, potatoes and orange juice.  I am in heaven as it is the first real meal I have had in a few days. Over breakfast Brett tells me that he will be driving back to Idaho in a few weeks time, and if I want to, i am welcome to come with. He will sort me out with cold weather clothing so  I experience the winter sports in the Idaho mountains before I head home. Sounds VERY tempting.

I give him my email and he hands me a card as he heads off. I start to walk towards the beach to chill out for a bit. I don't have a place to sleep tonight, but I really cant be bothered to worry about that right now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Orleans -> Arse End Of Nowhere

Monday 11th October

I left New Orleans early, catching a ride with Jerry back onto the I10. As he drops me off he wishes me the best of luck, the past 5 days have been full of alcohol fueled debauchery but its time to get on the move again.

Its 8.30am and the wind has put enough of a chill on the air for me to actually wear a hoodie for the first time since I got to the USA. After about 90 minutes my frustration and lack of sleep get the better of me, and I retreat to the shade of the overpass to nap for a short while, maybe sitting up all night talking about philosophy women and religion has had an adverse effect on my ability to stay positive in the face of this crappy ramp. That or the wine hangover I'm nursing. I return to the ramp after dozing for about 40 minutes feeling allot better about my lot in life, it  helps that the weather has changed for the better, I hope to quickly catch a ride and get on my way to Houston.

2 hours still not getting even close to a ride I decide to walk the 2 miles down the interstate to the next exit, by this point the heat has increased to such a point that I am sweating buckets hiking along the hard shoulder with no shirt on. Fortunately the next on ramp has a flyover to provide me with some shade. Its now 1pm and 4.5 hours have passed since I got dropped off, I make a mental note that hitch hiking out of New Orleans fucking sucks. Then I find out out why, my first real run in with the cops here. turns out that hitch hiking in the state of Louisiana is completely illegal - oops. Manage to talk my way out of a ticket, I think my accent and English ID help somewhat, however he tells me that if he sees me trying to signal for rides again he will arrest me, but I am apparently allowed to sit by the road. Stupid and idiotic is what I call it.

Half an hour or so later David and Jeff pick me up in their pickup full of what looks like trash, they are only going an hour down the road, and Houston is 10 hours away, but I need to get the hell out of this city before I get myself arrested. Jeff explains how he is in the scrap business - I guessed that from the busted fridge on his trailer. We discuss how society's obsessions with the acquisition of currency with currency will eventually be its downfall; finding people that agree with me is actually alarming. The guys feed me a couple of Tangerines and an apple, first thing I have eaten that day. They drop me on a scorching ramp somewhere in the arse end of Louisiana. With my new found knowledge of the illegality of what I am doing I am more cautious and decide not to fly a sign. Relying on my thumb instead.

I get a ride in an hour or so, Joe isn't going far, but I already gave up on making Houston tonight anyway. He drops me me at a truck stop just outside Port Allen, a shitty industrial town halfway across Louisiana. There is no where good to catch a ride out of here. Not that I have a choice though, make myself a sign - maybe a little reckless- and sit at the exit to the truck stop. In the rain. This really sucks. After an hour, and next to no traffic I retreat to the cover of the nearby waffle house awning to sit and read and hopefully wait the rain out, as it has got pretty intense.

Once the rain stops I go back to the road feeling slightly better and with new found resolve. My ride will come, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will come. 2 more hours and the light is fading so I decide to spend a few of my last dollars in the waffle house and get a decent meal as it looks like I will be camping tonight, and there certainly isn't going to be any dry firewood anywhere nearby.

I end up chatting with the guys working there extensively, for about 3 hours, something about my current lifestyle seems to really interest people. After bullshitting with Francis and Ian, a plan is born. They will both quit their jobs, they hate it anyway. Then we will pool our funds and drive to California, between us we have $600, what could possibly go wrong! Francis owns a slightly beat up jeep which needs some new brakes, so he will get that sorted tomorrow and we will leave Wednesday - the day after tomorrow.

Here I am sat on the counter of Waffle House writing and reading Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" ($3 - Maple Street Books, NOLA), and I feel that there is something strangely beautiful about my situation, and although I don't really believe that the guys are actually going to leave with me, their enthusiasm for the potential adventure (and a huge amount of food) has completely revitalized me. Plus I have a place to crash for a few days; and if they don't end up leaving I can always get a bus to Houston after dicking around here for a few days. I'm in no rush.

Post Script - It is now the day after I wrote this, they both quit at the end of that shift, and Francis is off fixing his brakes now after dropping me off at the library to write this. looks like I am going to be in Cali within a week. This changes everything, again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

4 States, 1 day

Tallahassee, FL

Nathan (my couch surf in Tallahassee) arranged for his roommate Ian to drop me off on the interstate on his way to work, this one was lucky enough to have a barrier for me to sit on! I was there for maybe 90 minutes before Rex picked me up in his silver Toyota Camry. We were headed west, and he could take me as far as Pensacola, right on the Florida / Alabama state border, which suited me just fine.

Turns out that Rex is a retired drug smuggler who has in recent years turned to selling different metal compounds to various military divisions across 7 states to keep his income legitimate and the feds happy. Apparently driving across the Mexican border with tens of thousands of Valium and similar pills annoys the border control somewhat, who knew? We go on to discuss the recent developments in US drug laws, more specifically the recent ruling that decriminalizes Cannabis for recreational use in California, literally passed the day before. We both express our hope that such a movement continues across the states much like the medical legalization did before! As we cruise along the I10 at about 90mph Rex pulls out his glass pipe and some amazing homegrown which he tells me comes from a buddy of his who grows it in Georgia. Gets me buzzed for the 3 hour trip to Pensacola, so suits me just fine.

As Rex has an extra hour to go before his next appointment he agrees to drive me to the first exit out the west side of Pensacola, just inside the Alabama border, before he turns around and heads back for his meetings, gives me his card and tells me to call him if I am still stuck that evening, as he will be going to Mobil.


After having spent my last 4 dollars on some MTN Dew, batteries for the camera, and some candy for breakfast I set myself up on the on ramp and hope I get a ride pretty quick, the wind is blowing up some heavy dust. Trey picks me up after about an hour, hes only going as far as Mobil, but I'm desperate to get off this ramp and the dust storm I am sat in, so take the offer. Fairly uneventful ride, Trey tells me he is a Christian, who feels the need to pick up hitchhikers and help them out as part of gods work - despite the fact that his Mothers first husband was killed by a hitchhiker in the 40's! He gives me a kick down of $20 as he drops me off on the west side of Mobil; I might be in the middle of nowhere, but at least I can eat tonight.


At this point I was stood on the side of the interstate, somewhere in either Alabama or Mississippi with no real place to catch a ride out from (it is illegal to hitch on the interstate, you have to be on an on-ramp). I consult my map and come to the conclusion that the 4 miles to the next exit shouldn't take me to long, and it only being 3pm I should still be able to make New Orleans before it gets dark. BAD MOVE. Number one - walking/skating on the hard shoulder of the interstate SUCKS. Huge lorries racing past at 80mph cause huge waves of wind/air pressure to constantly buffet you, making skating a really bad idea, as it feels like you are going to get either pulled into the road, or pushed off it constantly. Small stones are frequently kicked up by the vehicles and get thrown into you at stupid speeds. 

Then come bridges. I encountered one, it had no hard shoulder, and was to long to try and leg it during a traffic gap, plus it was over a river, so not like there was a way I could go around it. So as a result I ended up walking nearly a mile down the river and then a mile back again. Through overgrown thorns and all kinds of other shitty plants that hacked my legs to shit. I was of course wearing shorts and vans, its still hot here. Oh and I had run out of water by this point. 

After the debacle with the bridge (and cutting my hand jumping a fence to get back on the interstate) I could see a sign for the next exit, it was only a mile away! I got to the exit at around 5.45, figuring there to be an hour or so of daylight left, I knew I had to get a ride fast. 

After 45 minutes or so I had just about given up on New Orleans, it was about to get dark and I was committed to the idea of sleeping by the side of the interstate and trying again tomorrow. At that very point Chris (I have actually forgotten his name, oops) picks me up. And thank god - he is headed to New Orleans! The drive to New Orleans (or New Orlins to the locals) takes about 2 hours, during the time Chris tells me about his 2 kids, a daughter (6) and his son (3) and his apparently beautiful wife. this ride lands me another $20 kick down, and Chris shows me around the French Quarter of New Orleans, buying me my first Hurricane; its a kind of fruit punch - rum - cocktail thing sold by the litre, and its awesome, and generally giving me a feel for the city before he heads off to meet his business partner. I think I have a tendency to meet drug smugglers, who meets a business partner at 10pm? 


I call my couch surf in New Orleans to let them know I made it, and whilst waiting for them to pick me up I meet Joseph the Hobo outside the casino. He sings me a song he wrote about Katrina, someone should find this guy and give him a record deal. Seriously.