Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Driven back by the rain.

The lows can get pretty low, but the highs can get just as high.

I started out yesterday with the intent to make it to the Oregon coast and hitchhike all the way down to San Francisco. Well, one day later, and I'm back in Portland. Part of the problem was that I didn't get out of the city until about noon. The rest of the problem is that nobody wanted to pick me up. I got off a city bus at the end of the line and started walking out into the coutryside filled with corn and dairy farms. A couple short rides carried me a few miles, and then a woman in a construction company truck offered me a ride in the bed. She was doing road work at the top of a pass halfway between Portland and the coast, and that's where she dropped me off. It was four o'clock, starting to rain, and I was in the middle of nowhere. I stood there for an hour watching the cars pass and getting bitter. The thing about hitchhiking is that every time you stick your thumb out, you're making a request, so you're constantly at the whim of other people's generosity. When the rides are good, it gives me an uplifting opinion of mankind; but when rides are bad, I curse people for their lack of compassion.
I had to get these thoughts out of the forefront of my mind so I started walking down the pass. I knew it was hopeless that I would make it to the sea by the end of the day, or even the end of the next day, but walking was all I could do to keep from going crazy. Every time I heard a car behind me, I'd make a half turn to stick out my thumb, but car after car after car just whizzed by. An hour of walking went by. And then another, and I was getting really discouraged--even a little unsettled. It was cold, wet, and getting late, and all I had for camping gear was a light sleeping bag and a bivy sac. If I had to sleep in the woods for the night it would have been very uncomfortable and possible hypothermic. For a moment while thinking about all these things, I noticed that my eyes were a little damp, and I wasn't sure if I had been weeping or if it was just from the rain. I kept walking. I was soaked and my spirits were gone, but I kept walking and sticking my thumb out, not knowing what else to do. When a car finally did stop--a lexus SUV--I thought I was hallucinating. You can't feel that kind of salvation unless you scrape the depths of experience. I assured the driver that he has some good karma coming his way.

My savior didn't take me all the way to the coast. He instead dropped me off at a diner about 10 miles inland. I was cold and hungry so I went in and had the best bad tea and carrot cake I'd ever had (the carrot cake was actually genuinely good). When I saw another customer paying his bill, I collected my things and waited for him outside. He was old looking man, but I think his lifestyle had aged his appearance faster than time had. I approached him and asked if he could give me a ride to Tillamook (Yes, it's where the cheese comes from). He said yes, but he looked a little bewildered as though he didn't know what he said yes to. I got in the old pickup with him anyway. I was anxious to get to town before it got totally dark, but before the man even put the key in the ignition, he talked for about five minutes about I don't know what. When he put the key in, he talked for another three before turning it, and when he started the engine he talked for another two before putting the truck in gear. Strangely enough though, he was rather silent on the drive into town.
Once in Tillamook, I was determined to have a hotel room. I checked one place that was supposedly the cheapest at $60. I left the office to go stew over the price in the street, when I saw two guys my age walking their pack laden bicycles. I walked up to them and asked if they knew of a cheap place to stay. They laughed, saying they were looking for the same thing. I debriefed them about the hotel I just checked out and offered to split a room three ways. They quickly agreed. One of them went to go rent the room that had magically inflated to $70 per night, while the other guy and I went to buy a six-pack of beer. We settled into our room around 7:30 and were in bed by 9:30.
I was planning to hitchhike down the coast and they were planning to ride back to Portland, but we heard the weather forcast, and we all decided to take a $10 bus back in Portland in the morning. Now I'm trying to set up a rideshare to San Francisco where I'm hoping the sun is shining.

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