Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The last leg of the journey north

I've been meaning to write this for a long time, while the memories were still fresh, but, well, no excuses. Here is the story of our trip from Arcata to Seattle.

Alyssa gave us a ride to a busy 101 entrance in Arcata and we stuck out our thumbs. A passer-by told us we'd have better luck if we had dreads, but I think that would only be true in Humboldt County. Ten minutes later we had a ride with a long-bearded man and his schnauzer, Hagfish. He moved to the area from Illinois, got his medical marijuana card and described life in Humboldt County as "freedom." He dropped us off near McKinleyville, where we wrote and recorded what you've already heard of the hitchhiker's song.

A couple and their 7 kids picked us up next. They saw us and passed us in the first place. We remember them giving us the hand symbol for "little ways" and looking hopefully after them as they drove off. I guess our obvious disappointment that they hadn't stopped paid off, because they turned around and came back for us. Their kids were very well-behaved and the two or so year old sitting beside me adorably showed me her toys and her snacks.

They dropped us off just a couple exits down, at kind of a dead freeway entrance near Trinidad. We decided to walk out and stand on the grassy strip between the entrance and the freeway, so people coming from both directions could see us. About fifteen minutes later we got a ride with guy in a truck with Oregon plates. We were hopeful he might take us far, but it turned out he was just borrowing the truck from his brother and was only going a very short ways. I think it might have been one of our shortest rides, actually. We were only in the car with him for three minutes. His truck rumbled so loudly it was hard to carry on any kind of conversation. By the way, he saw us as he came down the freeway (Brendan isn't sure this is true, though) and pulled over onto the shoulder for us.

Still in the Trinidad area, we walked out again to the grassy strip between the freeway and the entrance. I don't remember if the next person that picked us up was coming from the freeway or from the entrance (entrance again, thinks Brendan), but in any case we got picked up fifteen minutes later by a guy headed to pick up his daughter from her mom's house. He had been out kayaking with a friend in the ocean that morning and had seen whales and dolphins and seals. It made me want to go kayaking so badly! He took us beyond his destination, to a spot where he often drops off hitchhikers.

He dropped us off where 101 reduces to 2 lanes from 4, and told us it's legal for people to walk along the road when it's two lanes. It really looked like an ideal spot. It had a beautiful view, for one, but more importantly there was plenty of room for cars to stop, and they had plenty of time to see us as they rounded a wide curve. Yet this is the spot where we began to record a video about how frustrated we were, because it took us more than an hour to get a ride. We couldn't understand it. Lots of people were passing us, probably 7-10 a minute, and we were in an area where a lot of people hitchhike. But just as we started to record the video, where we were going to say that sometimes there's no way to tell what makes a spot good or not, someone pulled over.

He was a 19 year old from Eureka who was on his way to Oregon to see a friend, a friend-with-benefits type friend. He could take us all the way to Roseburg, Oregon. We talked about a variety of topics with him at first, like what he was doing (trying to find a better job than the retail one he had, thus staying off pot for awhile so he would be clean for drug testing), what kind of music he and we liked (he also grew up listening to oldies and introduced us to the group Cream. I told him he would probably enjoy Three Dog Night), and what he was studying (Math). Somehow the conversation turned to religion, and we found out he was raised Jehovah's Witness and though he doesn't go to meetings anymore, he still believes in everything he was taught, or at least almost everything. He believes in the Bible and said he was staying "on the fence" about issues like evolution, because he doesn't know how that lines up with a literal take on Genesis.

It was a fascinating ride. I feel like I can usually tell pretty quickly when someone is religious or not, and I didn't think this kid was. I guess it's because he was open about how he smokes pot and was getting together with his friend to have sex, and those aren't things I think of Christians doing. But by his own admission, that was one of the problems he had with how he'd been raised--his inability to not have sex.

He was the most metaphorical person we've ever met. When I said I didn't want to get some job I only kind of liked, he said it's like oil and water. Even if you have just a little bit of oil in the water, the water is still not clean. Even if you only hate your commute to work and like your job, you still won't be happy with it because you have to make that commute every day. He had a metaphor answer for everything. Eventually the religion talk ended with him saying that some things just have to be taken on faith, an answer that has never satisfied us in response to the problems we have with Christianity. He said, though, that he expected the elders would have had better answers to our questions.

Along the way to Roseburg we called Brendan's cousins to let them know where we were, and they said they could come to Roseburg to get us. That was over an hour out of their way and so kind of them. If they hadn't, we might not have made it to Florence that day because it was getting dark by the time we got to Roseburg. We got dropped off outside of a Rite Aid and Rita and Richard arrived to pick us up about ten minutes later. They were so hospitable. They have a guest cottage with its own private bathroom and we felt a little like we were at a hotel, but with better conversation. That night they made us quesadillas for dinner and provided all the wine and cookies we could want.

I wish we could have stayed with Rita and Richard longer, and they had hoped we could too, but we made plans to catch a ride from Portland to Seattle with our friends who had been rehearsing their show in Arcata, so we needed to get to Portland the next day. We had time to have a leisurely breakfast with Rita and Richard and for Rita to show us around Florence. Over the course of our visit with them we learned a lot about full-time RVing and about websites where you can find cool jobs, like coolworks.com. After showing us around, Rita drove us all the way out to Mapleton, another cute small town near Florence, but inland.

We got a ride about a half hour later with a middle-aged hippie and his snuggly basset hound, Otto. Our driver told us all about the rainbow gathering, which is a big hippie festival that happens once a year, in a different location each year, around the beginning of July. It sounds cool, kind of like Burning Man, but with less organization. This year's will be somewhere in New Mexico. Our driver took us to Eugene and dropped us off at a busy gas station. We found some cardboard and made a sign that said Portland, and walked to the nearby I-5 north entrance.

It looked like a busy entrance, but it turned out that most people driving past us weren't getting on the freeway. Finally, about 45 minutes later, we got a ride from someone headed to Brownsville. He worked at a factory, boxing briquets. He didn't like his job, but he was happy just to have one. He liked living in the area because he loves the outdoors, and fishing, but he sounded a little wistful about the idea of traveling. He told us hitchhiking is legal in Oregon, and it seems to be true. At least, we never saw any signs prohibiting hitchhiking, or telling pedestrians to keep off the freeway.

From where we got dropped off, we walked out to the side of the freeway and got a ride about fifteen minutes later with a very silent man to Albany. From there a woman in a pickup truck picked us up after 20 minutes, and we rode in the back of her truck. At one point some silly young people in a car driving beside us held up a sign that said "Show us your ya yas!" Does that mean breasts? That's what I figured. I gracefully declined.

The woman dropped us off along the freeway right by an exit, and as we hopped out of her truck we noticed a car pull over a little ways ahead. Could it be for us? We didn't really think that was possible. We've never had a ride waiting for us the moment we got out of another. But we walked up closer and waved at him to see if he wanted us to come over, and he motioned for us to come. It turned out he had seen us waiting on the road earlier, but had been on the phone and couldn't stop. Our driver in the truck was driving faster than him, so when he saw us getting dropped off he pulled over for us. He could take us to Portland!

He was a very informative and interesting person to talk to. He told us all about how he'd been making cider recently and what went into that process. He was as gas conscious as we were when we had a car. His car came equipped with a tool that tells you how many miles you're getting to the gallon, and he never drove more than 55 mph. It was fun to share tips of energy conservation with him. He took us within Portland city limits and dropped us off at a gas station. From there we called my cousin in Portland and he said he could pick us up there. We had made plans to have dinner with him, his housemate, our friend Kaitlin and her boyfriend.

It's become a Portland tradition that as we pass through, we will eat with David and Kaitlin at an Ethiopian restaurant. So we all met there and were sad to see the restaurant was closed. As we milled around outside it, though, someone came out and told us the bar below was open and that they served food from the Ethiopian restaurant. It was short shorts night at the bar, so we didn't quite fit in with our pants attire, but the bartender was forgiving. We had a yummy dinner with great conversation, then David and Britt drove us to a grocery store parking lot where we met Alissa and Claytie, our Seattle friends.

We headed north and it was so great to round that curve and see the Seattle cityscape. It's such a beautiful city! We headed to Alissa and Claytie's house on Beacon Hill (which no longer has a Grocery Outlet, sadly) and my sister Amelie picked us up there. We were going to surprise my parents, but by the time we got to their house they were in bed. It also turned out they already suspected we would be arriving a day early. It was great to see them in the morning, anyway. (Stina's mom even called us stinkers for trying to surprise them.)

We've been here now for two weeks. We were in Everett with my family from the 7th to the 16th, now we're cat-sitting on Capitol Hill until tomorrow, then we'll be apartment-sitting for friends on Lake City Way. The weather was kind of icky for several days, but yesterday and today have made up for it. We've been walking all over Capitol Hill and hanging out at the park, where all the pale Seattlites come out to play.

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