HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America (book)
By Tim Shey
Copyright 2000 Tim Shey
It was the will of my heavenly Father to hitchhike in thirty-nine states. I did some hitchhiking in 1986 and 1987 and also from 1996 to 2000. In that time I went coast to coast fourteen times. The shortest time on the road was three days; the longest time on the road was eight months. There were times when I was forced to take a bus (like in Wyoming because hitchhiking is illegal); sometimes I would take a bus in cold weather or someone would buy me a ticket to help me out. But for the most part, hitchhiking made up 99% of my travels throughout the United States.
I was able to share my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with countless people, the Lord taught me many things on the road and much spiritual bondage was broken on my journey (hitchhiking itself is a type of fasting and prayer).
I am eternally grateful that the Lord protected me and provided for me in my travels. Because of my hitchhiking experiences, I have come to the conclusion that there are no accidents in the Kingdom of Heaven; God's timing is absolutely perfect. With God all things are possible—-like hitchhiking through a blizzard in the panhandle of Texas.
Luke 9: 23-24: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.”
Hebrews 11: 8: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”
I had been working on an apple farm in northern New Mexico when I thought it was time to hit the road. Or maybe I should say that the Lord inspired me to hit the road. As you grow stronger and deeper and more intimate with God, He uses your eyes, your ears and your circumstances to teach you things, and show you things and to point what direction you should go in. Who can resist God's will? I knew that I knew that I knew that I must go, so I headed north into Colorado and by that evening I had made it to a community called The Spiritual Life Institute of Crestone, Colorado where I stayed one night.
The next day I hitched to Leadville, then Vail and then stopped at Glenwood Springs, where I turned off Interstate 70 and headed towards Snowmass. There is a Cistercian Monastery near Snowmass where the monks let me stay for four or five days. It is a beautiful place up in the mountains. The first day there I helped put away some pipe and the remaining few days I did some work in the garden. I remember well that it was very hot--it was the first week of July in 1986--and every half hour I would take a towel and go to a nearby water hydrant and soak it in water and then wrap it around my head to keep me cool. The monastery is--I am guessing--around five thousand to seven thousand feet in elevation so the air is thinner and the sun is hotter than at lower elevations. It really wore you out. That's why many people wear broad-brimmed hats when working outdoors at that elevation.
I left the monastery and headed back to Glenwood Springs. There I got a ride with a guy in a van. The guy riding in the passenger side was hitchhiking and later on we picked up another hitchhiker--some guy who looked like he was long-term homeless. He looked in rough shape. I commented, "Hey, three hitchhikers in a van going west to who knows where. This is great!"
One of the guys up front said, "Heck, that's nothing. Yesterday we were going through St. Louis and we had five hitchhikers in the van."
I was dropped off in Grand Junction where I got another ride several miles out. It was hot and dry and I forgot to fill up my canteen in Grand Junction. I walked to an overpass and waited in the shade till this guy picked me up in an RV (recreational vehicle). He was about sixty-some years old and was obviously suffering from long-term bad attitude.
He said, "I've been married for thirty-five years—and I've had it!"
I think I said something like, "Thirty-five years is a long time."
"Too long. I told my wife that she can stay here and that I'm going to Arizona."
He offered me a beer and because I was so thirsty I inhaled it. He gave me another beer and I thanked God that I was out of the hot sun in an air-conditioned RV watching the beautiful red-rock formations of eastern Utah as we drove past. This guy kept complaining about his wife of thirty-five years. I sipped his beer and nodded my head and would say "uh-huh" or "yup" or "I believe it" to show some interest in his thirty-five years of hell on earth. I really don't drink much alcohol, but when a guy runs out of water, a cold beer sure hits the spot. And I have never been married, so I didn't think it was my place to give him any advice on such a controversial issue--so I thought it would be a good idea to keep my mouth shut, drink his beer and ponder the eternal moment.
We stopped at some RV park in Salina, Utah. He fried some fish for supper and we ate our fill. He let me sleep in the bunk above the driver's seat and he slept in the back. The next morning he said he was heading towards Flagstaff. I said I might be going north or west. I thanked him, we shook hands and I walked on down the road.
I tried to hitchhike north on US 89, but it didn't feel right. Then I tried to hitchhike on US 50 going west, but there was precious little traffic going that way. So I broke down and started thumbing on I-70 and soon this kid in a white van picked me up. He was coming from Baltimore and had a job waiting for him in Los Angeles.
"I work on cars," he said. "I'm a mechanic. I stopped in Grand Junction and washed dishes for two weeks to get some extra cash."
He drove me to the junction of I-70 and I-15. I sat out there in the desert sun for an hour and then this tractor-trailer put on its engine brakes and came to a stop about two hundred yards down the road. I ran up to the truck, opened the door and climbed in.
"Come on in," the truck driver said. "You can throw your backpack in the sleeper."
"Thanks for stopping," I said. "It was hot out there."
"No problem. I used to do a lot of hitchhiking years ago."
"How far north are you going?" I asked
It felt good to be in an air-conditioned cab and out of the hot sun. This guy was driving a Kenworth or a Peterbilt truck. The nice thing about riding in a tractor-trailer is that you sit so high off the ground that you have excellent visibility. We drove north and talked about the harshness of the desert and what it would be like to survive in it.
"God created us," he said. "He created the desert. Just use common sense: suck water from a cactus, eat roots--a man should be able to survive for a little while. Observe nature, be flexible, blend in. It would be a challenge."
"It would be tough," I said. "I'll stick to hitchhiking."
We pulled into a truck stop somewhere in Salt Lake City. He tried to get a hold of some trucker who was going into Idaho--trying to help me out--but was unsuccessful. I thanked him for the ride, grabbed my backpack and climbed out of the cab.
I got a ride or two north to Ogden and by then the sun had set. Even though it was July, the night can get pretty cool in the high desert and I did not have a sleeping bag. I walked out into this ditch in some high grass and put on some extra clothes that I had in my backpack. It got down to forty-four degrees that night, so I didn't get any sleep. I soon came to the conclusion that a sleeping bag is a hitchhiker's best friend. There was a clock/temperature sign just fifty yards away, so when it got to six o'clock in the morning, I walked back to the entrance ramp and within ten minutes I got a ride all the way to Boise, Idaho.
This guy didn't talk much, which was a blessing because I was so bone-tired. I slept all the way to Boise--which was around five hours. He dropped me off and it felt good to be rested and in a new state.
I had never been in Idaho before. It looked like good territory. I was an explorer--like the Lewis and Clark Expedition--I was observing all the details; the towns, the cities, the lay of the land, the customs of the natives. But most of all, I was thinking that when I get the money, I'm going to buy a sleeping bag. I'm sure all the guys on the Lewis and Clark Expedition had sleeping bags or bed rolls or just plain blankets, but I didn't--so I guess I wasn't a full-fledged explorer, yet.
I waited at the on-ramp for a little while and this car pulled over. I walked up to the car, opened the door and as a joke I said, "If you don't rob me, I won't rob you."
The guy laughed and said, "Don't worry. Look in the back seat."
Laying on the back seat was a handgun. "Go ahead," he said. "Take a look at it. It's a nine millimeter."
I reached for it and held it in my hand. It felt heavy, cold, deadly, efficient. It looked like it would come in handy if you got ambushed in the jungle, or you were on a trench raid, or hitching on some highway in Idaho.
"I do a lot of traveling on my job and I usually keep my nine mill in a holster on my left ankle," he said. "One time I was driving in Wyoming and I was getting sleepy, so I saw this hitchhiker. He was really straggly and rough looking. I had a bad feeling, but I thought, why not? I pulled over and he got in the car. We're driving down the road and he pulls a knife on me and tells me to give him all my money."
"Yup. I kept driving and made a quick glance to my right. He looked to his right, I pulled out my gun and pointed it at him and asked, 'What do you want?' He about had a heart attack. He threw his knife down and I told him that he had a choice: either I take him to the cops or else I could drop him off somewhere. So he said to drop him off anywhere. So I drove forty miles off the interstate to the middle of nowhere. I stop, tell him to strip down to his shorts and to give me all his stuff. Then I told him that I would drop off his stuff at the next mile marker. I dropped it off twenty miles away." He started laughing.
"Well, he got what he deserved, didn't he?" I said, laughing.
"Absolutely. Can you see this guy walking in the middle of the Wyoming desert with just his shorts on?"
We drove up into Oregon and then he dropped me off around Baker City. One or two rides later, this medical doctor picked me up and drove me all the way to Portland. His son was at a friend's house, so he let me sleep in his son's bed. He had to leave early in the morning to go to the hospital, so we left the house around six and he dropped me off on I-5. It took me a few rides to get to Tacoma and then one ride to Seattle. I got a short ride to Issaquah where I stood for at least three hours. Finally, this college student picked me up and drove me all the way to Ellensburg.
I found a job at a local company that exported hay to Japan. I stayed at a Christian hostel south of downtown. I stacked hay for a couple of days--they gave me a steel hook (to help grab the bales) and leather chaps (to protect your pants from wearing out)--and for the first time in my life, I felt like a real cowboy--and made some good money.
Ellensburg, Washington is a beautiful place. I felt at home there right away. Central Washington University is located there. You are about an hour east of the mountains and half an hour west of the desert. I suppose Ellensburg is considered semi-desert—-they do a lot of irrigation in the area. Lots of cattle and horse farms--and they grow quite a bit of hay. It is a very picturesque valley. I met a lot of great people there.
After staying in Ellensburg for a week, I decided it was time to head east. I stood on the entrance ramp to I-90 south of town and this guy with a bedroll came walking up to me. He said that he had been living on the streets of Seattle for quite some time. He looked in bad shape, but he was cheerful. His face was very red, so I thought he might be an alcoholic. We stood there for a short while talking when an RV pulled over and picked us up. This guy drove us to Vantage--just west of the Columbia River. On the way, we had a pleasant conversation and I gave the homeless man fifteen bucks.
"Don't spend it on any alcohol," I told him.
"All right," he said.
I later learned that you should never give money to an alcoholic or a drug addict because they might spend it on their addiction. It is better to buy them a sandwich and something to drink than to unwittingly feed their habit.
Two or three rides later I was somewhere in northern Idaho and by sundown I was closing in on Helena, Montana. I had enough money, so I got a motel room that night. There is a certain sense of freedom and luxury when you can get a motel room on a hitchhiking trip. Motels were built for people with cars. Shelters and missions were built for people without cars—-and without homes. In all my hitchhiking excursions, I never felt homeless or destitute or down-and-out because I knew that the Lord was always there taking care of me. I was never alone or lonely because my Father in Heaven always sustained me. Whenever God provided me with a job to raise a little money, I would seek out a cheap motel to get cleaned up, shave and a good nights rest. Another important thing about motel rooms is that you have access to a TV where you can keep abreast of weather developments--rain, snow, cold fronts—-weather that is not exactly hitchhiker-friendly.
The next day I got a ride with a kid who just graduated from high school. He played defensive back for his high school football team and we talked about football a little bit. We drove to Billings where he picked up a friend—-they were both going to Wyoming. At Buffalo (the interstate splits off) they were going south on I-25 and I told them I would head east on I-90. They dropped me off and I waited for half an hour and this guy picked me up.
He was going all the way to Florida. We had a good talk. He was a Christian and we talked mostly about the things of God and Scripture. I told him I was heading for a place in Oakdale, Nebraska called Tintern Monastery. I knew this priest who lived out there—his name was Fr. Clifford Stevens. This guy had never visited a monastery before, so he drove me all the way there. Fr. Stevens was glad to see me and he talked to the guy for quite some time. The guy left and headed towards Florida and I ended up staying at Tintern for two or three days.
While at Tintern, I asked Fr. Stevens if he could take me some place so that I could buy a sleeping bag—I had the money on me. So we drove to this store and I bought a sleeping bag for twenty bucks—one of the best investments I ever made. A sleeping bag is worth its weight in gold.
Tintern Monastery and Fr. Stevens are significant in my life. I had first read about Fr. Stevens and Tintern in an October 1985 issue of The Des Moines Register. Out of curiosity I drove to Nebraska in November of that year and stayed one night. Then in January 1986, I stayed a whole week. It was then that Fr. Stevens told me about this farmer who had a wire go through his eye, and the damage was so great that the doctor told the farmer that they had to remove the eye. So Fr. Stevens asked the doctor if he could pray over the eye to see if the Lord would heal it. Fr. Stevens anointed the eye with oil and prayed in the name of Jesus and the next day the eye was completely restored.
I was astounded. I had been suffering from manic-depression (or so they called it—it is really demonic bondage) for a number of years and so I asked Fr. Stevens to anoint my forehead with oil and pray over me. Immediately, it felt like tingly sensations or electricity going through my brain—it was a warm, healing sensation. Over the next few days I took long walks on the gravel roads of northeast Nebraska and I knew that I was getting better.
I told Fr. Stevens that there was definite healing taking place and all he told me was that it was the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over the next two months I gradually got off my medication and kept getting stronger and stronger. I finally left my home in Iowa and hit the road in April of 1986.
After Tintern, I headed towards northwest Iowa. I stopped to see a friend who ran a newspaper at Doon. After spending the night at Doon, I got a few rides to south of Sioux Rapids. This guy picked me up and he was working on a truck farm for his older brother who lived near St. Charles, Iowa. He drove me all the way to Ogden and told me that if I wanted to work and live on their farm for a while that it would be okay with him. From Ogden he headed south towards Winterset and I headed towards Ames.
In Ames I stayed with a couple of friends--John taught bio- chemistry and Jette, his wife, taught genetics at Iowa State University. Wonderful people. I first met them in 1983 when I was in school for a short time at ISU. They enjoyed literature, art and classical music—which for years were a big part of my life--so we got along very well. John also did much hitchhiking during his college years, so I enjoyed hearing about his adventures and the people he met on the road. He told me that there were many more people hitchhiking in the Forties and Fifties than there were now. I guess too many people got robbed or killed on the road.
I left Ames and hitched to Winterset where I phoned the guy who picked me up at Sioux Rapids. We drove to their farm where he, his brother, his brother's girlfriend and her son lived. I worked there for a month, and then headed back towards Washington.
I hitchhiked back to Ellensburg where I stayed at the Christian hostel for ten days. I spent some time with two students at Central Washington University who were aspiring film directors. They were doing a short film for the local public access channel. It was interesting. Doing films must take a lot of work. I don’t think I was cut out to be a film director. Maybe wandering and drifting are what the Lord wanted me to do--at least for a little while.
After Ellensburg, I hitchhiked back toward the Midwest. I got a couple of rides to Moses Lake where I met this other hitchhiker. We both got a ride to Spokane where we found a place to sit down. He gave me part of his sandwich. He was coming from Kodiak Island, Alaska where he and his younger brother worked all summer. It was now mid-August and they were planning on going back to school. He went to the University of Montana at Missoula and his brother went to Columbia University in New York. We both decided to split up and to meet him at his sister's place in Missoula. He gave me his sister and brother-in-law's address, we shook hands and we split up.
He got a ride before I did. I got a short ride to the outskirts of Spokane and then this guy picked me up and drove into Idaho. He lived outside of Coeur d'Alene with his wife and two sons--they also had a foreign exchange student from Holland living with them. He told me it was getting late and asked me to stay for supper. It was all right by me. We talked about the Word of God and spiritual things--he was a devout Christian. We drove to his place out in the woods and I met his family. They were very friendly and hospitable. His sons were teenagers and they were having target practice with a .22 rifle, so they let me shoot the rifle several times. It was a lot of fun.
We had supper and they told me it would be all right to stay the night and hit the road tomorrow. We got to bed around nine o'clock--I rolled out my sleeping bag on the floor down stairs. I was lying in my bag for no more than half an hour when the phone rang.
The dad ran downstairs, switched on the light and exclaimed, "Tim, wake up! There's a forest fire just down the road!"
I quickly got dressed and we ran out the door and someone gave me a shovel. We ran down the road maybe half a mile or so. There was a small fire blazing—about fifty yards in diameter. Several of the neighbors were already there. We shoveled and threw dirt on the fire for about two hours and finally it was out.
We were walking back to the house when the son told his dad, "You know, it's a good thing you picked up Tim on the road. I guess the Lord had you pick him up to help us put out the fire."
His dad said, "Amen.”
The Lord works in mysterious ways. I think it was then that I started to come to the conclusion that there are no accidents. God has everything under control. Those who are in tune with the Holy Spirit will have some understanding on the ways of God; those who are not in tune with God do not have a clue what is happening around them. Order and chaos; heaven and hell; light and darkness. How do people live without God?
I slept good that night. It was satisfying to have helped that family fight the fire. I think that was one of the finest families I ever met. They left a deep impression on my life. I thank God that I met them.
The next day I said goodbye and hitched to Missoula. I stayed overnight with the sister and brother-in-law of the guy I met the day before. I believe his name was John. Anyway, John got from Spokane to Missoula the night before. His other sister and brother-in-law were coming through Missoula the next day, so we rode with them to Billings where his parents lived. His dad owned a clothing store in Billings. They let me stay at their place overnight. Later that day, John's younger brother had just hitched in from Alaska. So we thought we'd have a celebration for the three hitchhikers who made it safely to Billings. We went out and bought some ice cream and brought it home. John's parents and family were very friendly and were fascinated with some of the things I had to tell about hitchhiking around the West. They thought it was great that I was able to help put out that small forest fire near Coeur d'Alene.
The next day John dropped me off outside of Billings and I thought I'd take a different route. I headed east on I-94 towards Miles City and North Dakota. I was somewhere between Billings and Miles City when this forty-something woman picked me up.
"You're the first hitchhiker I ever picked up," she said. "You were clean-cut and I had a good feeling about it, so I said, why not?"
That's one thing about hitchhiking. If a man tries to stay clean and shaved and tries to wear clean clothes--that helps out quite a bit. But mostly, I give credit to God for providing me with rides. Time and time again, someone will pick me up and say that I am the first hitchhiker they ever picked up. Maybe my calling is to redeem the tarnished image of hitchhiking in America.
This lady drove all the way from eastern Montana, through North Dakota, through eastern South Dakota and dropped me off within twenty or thirty miles of Doon, Iowa. I thumbed to Doon--stayed there overnight--and then hitchhiked to Ames. From Ames I headed back to St. Charles and worked there on the truck farm for a week or so and by now it was the first week of September.
I decided to head back to Washington state. My friends drove me up to Ankeny and dropped me off on the entrance ramp to I-35. I got to Mason City and this guy driving a pickup and stock trailer picked me up. We drove up to Minnesota somewhere near Albert Lea or Fairmont. He took me to a restaurant and bought me a big dinner. I thanked him and hit the road.
I got one or two rides to southwestern Minnesota. I was walking on the entrance ramp to I-90 when this car honked and pulled over. This guy was going all the way to Tacoma, Washington. I told him I was going to Ellensburg.
We stopped in Rapid City and gassed up. I drove and he slept. I drove through Wyoming and into Montana. It was sometime early in the morning and I was falling asleep at the wheel when I was pulled over by the Crow Indian Reservation Police. They told me I was driving all over the road. They let me go and we drove somewhere up the road. We stopped off the road and he slept in the back seat; I slept in the front. We must have slept for three or four hours and then he drove. We stopped at some flea-market type deal and then headed west. He drove me all the way to Ellensburg to where my friend, Jude, and his wife lived. Jude ran the Christian hostel.
Jude and his wife separated for a while, so Jude and I agreed that maybe it was God's will for me to live there and help out at the hostel. Shortly after I arrived, this Christian man who came from a Jewish family in Manhattan arrived. For the next three months the three of us had great Christian fellowship. We would read the Word and have prayer meetings and just talk about God every night. It was a time of healing and restoration for myself. I began to attend a small Pentecostal church outside of Ellensburg called Bethel Gospel Church. When I first walked into Bethel, I knew that something was different--it was the presence of the Holy Spirit. The most people to attend Bethel were around fifty. Pastor Coussart preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. I enjoyed going to church there.
So I stayed with Jude and the other transients and homeless types from September till the first week of March 1987. I did odd jobs while at the hostel: I raked leaves in the fall, shoveled sidewalks in the winter; worked on a couple of ranches helping feed cattle or sheep.
During that time I heard more and more about the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. I was not yet baptized in the Holy Ghost (sometimes I say Holy Spirit, sometimes Holy Ghost), but I was definitely sensitive to the leading of the Holy Ghost. I began reading more of the Bible at that time and I began spending more and more time with Glen and Laura McMurray and their family—they lived just two or three blocks from Jude. Glen was a pastor who was working as a carpenter waiting for a pulpit to open up somewhere. I asked a lot of spiritual questions to Glen who always emphasized the Scriptures and the Holy Ghost. Laura was a homemaker who also had a great hunger for God. They had two boys and four girls and sometimes they let me come over for supper. It was a lot of fun. Glen and Laura were great Christian role models for me and I am grateful that the Lord led me to Ellensburg to meet them and Jude and Pastor and Mrs. Coussart and others.
It was around December 1986--after church one Sunday--that one of the men at church asked me if I had been baptized with water. I told him, no. I had been saved since July 1982, but had never been baptized. I talked to Pastor Coussart and we agreed to do it sometime in the next few weeks. So on one Sunday morning after church in January 1987, a small caravan of cars drove to the Chestnut Street Baptist Church (they had a baptismal tank, Bethel did not) and there I was dunked in water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It was a powerful experience. My body felt like it was glowing when I came out of the water; I felt a strong presence of God all day long. It was incredible. And then after the baptismal ceremony, Luke and Andrew McMurray and myself had a big snowball fight in the parking lot. I remember that day well--the presence of God and a great snowball fight.
I believe it was the first week of March that I decided (the Lord told me) to go and hitchhike to Chicago. I had been corresponding with a Christian lady since June of 1986. I met her at a monastery in northern New Mexico. She was from Chicago. Her name was Kathleen. She was very beautiful and very feminine--I was definitely attracted to her. I thought it would be nice to stop by and say hello.
So one morning I walked to the entrance ramp on I-90 and stuck out my thumb. Right away this guy pulled up to me and asked, "How much money you got?"
"Four bucks," I replied.
We drove to the gas station near the on-ramp and I gave him all my money. He drove me to Moses Lake where his car was back on empty. He let me out and I got a short ride east of Moses Lake.
There I got dropped off and met a guy who was thumbing for a ride. He was real nervous and looked worried. I walked up to him and asked, "Where you going?"
"I'm trying to get to Kentucky," he replied.
"I'm heading towards the Midwest."
"I just got out of jail in this small town just west of here."
"Yeah. Three days. I guess they don't like hitchhikers in that town."
It was hard for me to believe that they would throw some body in jail for three days just for hitchhiking. It had to have been for something else. Soon this car pulled over and the guy motioned for both of us to get in the car. He was a medical doctor who went to school at Iowa State and then to med school at the University of Iowa. He was driving to somewhere near Spearfish, South Dakota.
When we got into western Montana, he said that either he was going to stop and get a motel room or else we could all take turns driving the car. So we all took turns driving the car while the other two guys slept. It worked out pretty good. We stopped in Missoula, Montana and he took us to a restaurant that served blueberry pancakes. Those were good pancakes. We drove through Montana, Wyoming and finally into western South Dakota. He gave us his phone number just in case we couldn't get a ride and it got too cold. We shook his hand and thanked him and headed down the road.
I was walking down the interstate about a hundred yards ahead of the other hitchhiker when I turned around and I saw him jumping up and down and yelling.
I ran back to him and asked, "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said. "I just found a twenty-dollar bill in the ditch.”
A twenty-dollar bill in the ditch. Wow. That's pretty incredible, I thought. God sure does provide. Manna from heaven; twenty dollars in the ditch. That's pretty good. I walked ahead of him for a while, and when I looked behind me, he was gone--he already got a ride.
I got some rides to near Wall, South Dakota. The wind started to pick up and I started to get cold. I suppose it was around thirty degrees plus a forty-mile-per-hour wind. I started reciting Psalm 23 to my self and began asking God to get me out of the cold. About an hour passed and this white van slowed down and pulled over. I walked up to the passenger side of the van and there was Bill, a transient I met back at Jude's place in Ellensburg.
I exclaimed, “Bill, what are you doing here?"
He looked at me and said, "Hey, you're Tim. Aren't you Jude's friend? What are you doing here?"
I couldn't believe it. Bill passed through Jude's hostel twice in the past several months. He was very quiet. I think he was burnt out on drugs. He would stand in the corner all night and would eat very little. He was thin as a board. I got in the back of the van and tried to talk to Bill, but he said very little. His brain was fried. The driver was friendly. He used to work for the Governor of South Dakota for Indian Affairs. He was an Indian himself and told me that the Sioux Tribe was really the Lakota, Nakota or Dakota--it depended on what side of the Missouri River you were on. He was very interesting and, I thought, very wise. He dropped me off near a bar across from a Union Gospel Mission in Sioux Falls. I phoned the mission from the bar because the mission was closed--it was around midnight. They let me in and told me to take a shower and then they gave me a bed. The next morning, I had some breakfast and walked back to I-90.
I hitchhiked across Minnesota and got to La Crosse, Wisconsin that evening. I met this hitchhiker on the entrance ramp and he said, "Hey, man, I got some money. Let me buy some supper for ya."
So we walked to a nearby restaurant. I wasn't that hungry, so I had him buy me a cup of hot chocolate. This guy had been on the road for a while. He told me, "Whatever you do, don't get stuck in Butte, Montana. I was stuck there once for three days."
Butte, Montana. I made a mental note of that. I had been through Butte at least two or three times and I didn't have to wait too long for a ride. I met another guy a few years ago that told me that he got stuck in Arizona for three days. The longest I waited for a ride up to that time was three to five hours. So I know that God was looking out for me.
I thanked the guy for the hot chocolate and walked uptown for a while. I tried to sleep behind this building, but it was too cold. When I left Ellensburg, I didn't take my sleeping bag with me, and I gave my backpack away to another hitchhiker. He was a real pain in the butt while he was at the hostel, so I thought, if I gave him my backpack, he would hit the road. I gave him my backpack and the next day he was gone. Finally, I saw a Salvation Army and walked up to the door--it must've been eleven o'clock at night—and I knocked. To my surprise the door opened and a lady smiled at me. They let me stay the night and gave me breakfast.
As I hitchhiked my way to Chicago, I had this casual thought: wouldn't it be neat if I saw Kathleen on the street. So I got into the northern suburbs of Chicago--Hoffman Estates—and it was snowing. This truck driver picked me up. He spoke with a thick eastern European accent; he was driving a straight truck. We got on the JFK Expressway and he asked me why I was hitchhiking. I wanted to see a friend in Chicago, I told him. We had a good talk. It was rush hour—just past five o'clock in the afternoon. I told him I was heading towards Belmont Avenue. I remember going to the library at Central Washington University and looking at a detailed street map of Chicago to locate the street that Kathleen lived on. She lived near Belmont and Lake Shore Drive. The truck driver dropped me off and gave me a ten-dollar bill to take a bus to Lake Shore Drive. I thanked him and walked all the way to Kathleen's apartment.
I rang the bell, but no one answered. I walked to a pay phone and phoned her apartment, but no one was there. I walked west on Belmont towards a Salvation Army several blocks away. On the way I saw Kathleen walking towards me. She walked past me not noticing me and I turned and said, "Kathleen?"
She turned quickly and replied, "Yes?"
"I'm Tim Shey."
She was absolutely flabbergasted (and so was I). She exclaimed, "Tim, what are you doing here?!"
"I just wanted to see you, that's all. I hitchhiked all the way from Washington."
We were both pretty shocked and surprised and I think we didn't really know what to say to each other. Then Kathleen asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Well, maybe a little bit."
So we walked to a nearby cafe. We sat down and I was pretty nervous. I didn't know what kind of reaction I would get from Kathleen. She shook her head and smiled at me. I kept thinking that this was some sort of miracle. I didn't write to her to tell her I was coming. God's timing is so perfect it leaves you in awe. She asked me if I wanted something to eat, but I told her I was too nervous to be hungry. We stayed at the cafe for a little while—we may have had some coffee—and then we walked to her apartment. I carried her traveling bag—she was an airline stewardess. She let me sleep on the living room floor. That evening I phoned a retired English professor up in Evanston that I knew. I talked to his wife; she said that Lou was asleep. Lou was a Shakespeare scholar. I used to be a Shakespeare addict years ago and that's how I learned of Lou Marder and The Shakespeare Newsletter.
I stayed with Kathleen for three nights. She was very gracious and very patient with me--she knew that I was attracted to her, but she was not interested in me and I guess a guy has to find out about these things sooner or later. So I stayed with Lou and Mrs. Marder for five weeks and I shuffled paper for him and his newsletter.
I left Evanston in April and hitchhiked through Wisconsin and then back to Iowa. After staying with some friends in Ames, I hitchhiked back to Ellensburg. My first day back I helped Arvin Marchel and his younger brother work some cattle at his brother's ranch. I went to church at Bethel and everybody was happy to see me and asked me how the hitchhiking went.
The Lord wanted me to go back to Iowa, but I really didn't want to. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obeying God is not the same thing as obeying man or some manmade church. If you develop a relationship with God, in time your spirit will be in tune with the Holy Spirit—and when He speaks to you (in the Spirit)--you know His voice. To put your trust in some dead, organized, manmade church is idolatry. I am not an idol-worshipper; I obey God. When the Lord tells me to jump, I ask how high. And it looked like I was going back to Iowa.
The trip back to Iowa went fast. I left Ellensburg at around six in the morning. I got a ride to Moses Lake and I was sitting down on the entrance ramp when all of a sudden this guy was standing right next to me.
"You need a ride?" he asked.
"Yeah. Where'd you come from?" I asked.
"I parked my car on the road. I saw you sitting here. I was getting sleepy, so I thought you could drive for me."
We got in the car and took off. He had a nice, sporty car; it handled well, was very comfortable. This guy told me that he used to hitchhike from Montana to New Jersey where he went to college. One time he was thumbing through Pennsylvania when this guy in a Corvette stopped and picked him up. He drove to a nearby airport where he had his own plane. This guy invited him into the plane, they flew to Indiana, he got out and kept hitchhiking.
“Now that's hitchhiking," I said.
"Yeah. That won't happen again in a million years."
We were going through Montana and I guess I was speeding because a state trooper pulled me over. I had enough money on me to pay the fine and the trooper asked me if the owner of the car had insurance. I told him that I was sure that he did-—I really didn't know. The trooper let me go and I got back in the car.
I was driving down the road when I asked the guy, "You got insurance on this car, don't you?"
He let me out in Missoula. I got a short ride outside of Missoula and this guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Sioux City, Iowa. We pulled over somewhere in South Dakota--he slept in the back seat, I slept in the front. On the way to Iowa, we talked about the things of God and he asked me what church I went to. I told him I went to a Pentecostal church back in Washington.
He looked at me kind of nervously and asked, "Do you speak in tongues?"
"No, but I have heard others speak in tongues," I answered.
Some people get uneasy when you tell them about the Holy Ghost and speaking in unknown tongues. I told him the truth: I did not speak in tongues at that time. It wasn't until September of 1988 that I was baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. I've always wondered what would have happened if I told him I DID speak in tongues. Would he have kicked me out of the car? Who knows? In my experience, the more you are submitted to the Holy Ghost and obey the Holy Ghost, the more people reject you and avoid you. At least no one nailed me to a cross.
So he dropped me off on US 20 at Sioux City and I got a few quick rides to Ames. That was one fast trip. I guess it was God's will for me to get back to Iowa in a hurry. I stayed with some friends for a night or two. Then I hitchhiked to another town and stayed with some people for a few days. I then hit the road and headed back to Washington.
I don't know what was accomplished by my going back to Iowa, but it was my Heavenly Father's will to do so. In a field of battle, the General knows the strategy and has access to intelligence—the private does not. The General gives orders; the private takes orders. I wasn't a General; I was a private or maybe a lieutenant. My Father in heaven tells me what to do and I do it. Maybe in time the Lord will reveal to me the reason why.
I stayed at Jude’s place for a short while and I told him that I was probably leaving again—probably permanently. The Lord had been showing me over the past six months that He wanted me to go back to Ames. I didn't want to—I liked Ellensburg so much: I had a family, friends, a church, I did odd jobs—it was such a beautiful place to live. But who can resist God's will?
I believe it was the 3rd of July 1987 that I left Ellensburg for good. I was heartbroken. Never again would I experience the Christian fellowship that I had experienced at Bethel Gospel Church. I learned so much there—and so much healing took place in my life while I was in Ellensburg. God had it all set up in advance and I was grateful.
I got some good rides all the way to Butte, Montana. After ducking into a convenience store to get something to eat, I walked two miles out of Butte and jumped over a fence and bedded down for the night. There were fireworks in three locations in the Butte area. I was sleeping in a pasture—I had the best seat in the house.
The next day this guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Rapid City. We had an intense talk about social, political and religious issues. He was pretty liberal and I am pretty conservative and he got so frustrated with me he finally blurted out, "Well, I don't see what's so Republican about hitchhiking during the day and sleeping in the ditch at night!"
I looked at him and said, "I'm a Populist Republican." He just shrugged his shoulders and drove on.
The truth of the matter was that at the time I was a registered Independent. I didn't become a Republican till 1988. I told him that I liked Ronald Reagan--that's probably why he thought I was a Republican. Well, anyway, this guy dropped me off in Rapid City and I told him I would continue hitchhiking till sundown. He was going to get a motel room that night. He told me that if he saw me on the road tomorrow that he would pick me up.
I got two or three rides till I got to Wasta, South Dakota. I jumped the fence and walked out in this pasture and slept there that night. It rained a little that night—I got wet, but it wasn't that bad. About thirty mosquitoes bit me. The next morning I was ready to move on.
I was on the interstate for ten minutes and the same guy picked me up again and we resumed our intense conversation of the day before. He dropped me off at US 81 just west of Sioux Falls where I proceeded south through Yankton.
At Yankton I crossed the Missouri River on a very unique bridge. It was the first bridge of its kind I had ever seen. The traffic going south had its own span and the traffic going north was on another span above it. Passing through, I thought Yankton was a pretty nice place. Lewis and Clark passed through there in the early 1800s, but there were no bridges, no highways, no fence lines—just wide-open territory.
I headed south towards Oakdale, Nebraska. I stayed with Fr. Stevens for a few days and then I headed east towards Iowa. Going east through Nebraska, twice I noticed this tractor and tanker drive past me. When I got outside of Sioux City, this same trucker picked me up and said, "I saw you twice in Nebraska and I said to myself that if I saw you again that I would pick you up.”
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
We drove to Fort Dodge where he shut the truck down for the night. He let me crawl into the sleeper, and he slept at the wheel. It rained that night, so I was grateful to be high and dry.
He dropped me off at US 20 and I-35. Two rides later, I was back in Ames. The Lord provided me a place to stay and I detassled corn for two days till I got my job back at Hanson Lumber Company. I got my job at Hanson Lumber a week after I got back to Ames. If the Lord wants you to live and work someplace, He will most definitely provide for you.
From July 1987 till April 1996 I was employed at Hanson Lumber. I did a lot of work in the saw shop so they called me "Sawman". It was a good place to work. I also started back to school at Iowa State University in the fall of 1989. I got my Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in May of 1995. In the spring of 1995, I had a short story published in Ethos magazine; the title was "High Plains Drifter". The title was taken from a western film directed by and acted in by Clint Eastwood. It is one of my favorite westerns—it came out in 1973.
Psalm 91:7: "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee."
In the latter part of April 1996, I quit working at Hanson Lumber Company. The Lord told me to hit the road and in May I ended up in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The presence of God was very powerful the day I left Santa Fe. I got a ride to Albuquerque and then I got a few rides all the way to Amarillo, Texas. The Lord directed me to go north, and by that time the sun was setting and I started walking north past the railroad yard. I thought of hopping a freight train. I had ridden two freight trains before—back in 1980 and 1983. It was fun, but you don't know when or where the train would stop. So I thought I would stick to something more civilized—like hitchhiking.
I walked several blocks till I saw this gas station. It was still open so I walked up to one of the employees and asked him if there was a mission in town. He said, yeah, up the street about ten blocks and to the left. I got to the mission, but it was closed. I saw this pickup parked outside the mission, so I jumped in the back and unrolled my sleeping bag and went to sleep
That night and the next day I had a good feeling walking about Amarillo. I felt comfortable there. Amarillo has wide streets. It's not a big city—maybe around 170,000 people--but it was a perfect size for me. I liked the dry air and the way the light of sunset shone on the downtown buildings. I met a lot of friendly people in Amarillo.
The next morning I woke up around six o'clock. I walked to the mission and asked the people if I could wash up. They said, no, that they were closed. So I walked north of Amarillo and started walking and thumbing on US 287. I got a few rides to Guymon, Oklahoma. There a guy driving a straight truck picked me up. He was a Christian and we started talking about the Word of God. I told him what happened at the mission in Amarillo.
"You're kidding me," he said.
"Nope." I shook my head. "All I wanted was to wash my face and hands. I didn't ask for food or anything else."
"You wanna get cleaned up? I’ll take you to my place in Meade--up in Kansas--and you can take a shower and then you can hit the road."
"That would be great," I said.
We drove into Meade and to his house. His wife and kids weren't home, but he talked with his wife on the phone while I was in the shower. I shaved and he let me wash my clothes. He said that his wife suggested having him take me out to eat. We went to the Pizza Hut where he bought me lunch. Then he put me up in a motel that night. It was unbelievable. What hospitality! It was about ninety-five degrees that day, so it was nice to sleep in an air-conditioned room and sleep in a bed. I watched To Kill A Mockingbird with Gregory Peck on the TV and then I fell asleep.
The next day the guy picked me up and drove me to US 83. His mother-in-law made me four big sandwiches for the road. He dropped me off and thanked me for the inspiring talk about God. I thanked him and I headed north.
My second ride north, I jumped in the back of this pickup with another hitchhiker. This kid was sixteen years old and he was coming from Canada. I thought he was sure young to hitch all over the country.
"I left Canada and went down to Florida," he said. "I'm heading towards Vancouver, British Columbia. I got some friends I'm going to meet there."
"I'm heading north into Nebraska," I said.
"Where you from?"
The guy driving the pickup dropped us off north of Garden City. He gave us both a twenty-dollar bill and he bought me some Gatorade. It was really hot outside. I shook his hand and thanked him for helping me out. The kid from Canada headed west and I headed north.
It wasn't long before I got a ride. This guy was an engineer for a construction company down in Alabama. We had a great conversation all the way through western Kansas and into Nebraska.
He said, "Tim, here's my card. Whenever you get done traveling the United States and want to settle down for a while, you have a job waiting for you in Alabama. You'll start out at seven dollars an hour.”
"Thanks. I'll definitely think about it."
"I like your attitude. We could use a man like you on the job site."
He dropped me off near Elm Creek, Nebraska on I-80. A cold front was coming through, so I quick ducked into a truck stop and bought a long-sleeved sweater. I got a short ride north to US 30 and then these two high school kids picked me up.
We talked about Nebraska football. Iowa State and Nebraska are my favorite football teams. Iowa State manages to beat Nebraska once every ten or fifteen years, but I guess that's better than once every twenty years. They dropped me off at this grain elevator. I thought it was going to rain, so I thought I should get near some buildings for the night.
It was just after sundown and the wind started to pick up. I found a corrugated steel culvert about three feet in diameter, so I crawled in there with my sleeping bag and stayed slightly warm that night. It rained for a while and blew very hard. Even though it wasn't the most ideal place to sleep, at least I didn't get wet.
Next morning I got a ride to Lexington with a truck driver. I then thumbed my way to North Platte, where this guy driving an RV picked me up. He drove me all the way across Wyoming to Evanston—close to the Utah border.
He dropped me off at a truck stop at around eight that night. It was cold and the wind was blowing pretty good. I walked out to the entrance ramp and within a few minutes I was shaking with the cold. I had a sweater and a hooded sweatshirt, but the wind chill was probably twenty degrees. A few minutes later this tractor-trailer pulled to a stop. The cab was warm and I thanked God and the trucker for helping me out. He was going all the way to Salt Lake City. We pulled into Salt Lake and he drove to this place looking for his wife. She wasn't around so he parked the truck at his company parking lot.
"You can sleep in this truck and I’ll sleep in that truck over there," he said.
"Okay by me," I said.
It rained that night and the next morning the trucker took me to a McDonald's and bought me some breakfast.
"If you take the city bus you can go all the way to Provo which is around thirty miles south of here," he said.
He dropped me off at the bus stop and I took the bus to Provo. From Provo I got a ride with a young man, his wife and his two kids in a club cab pickup. Real nice people. They drove me all the way to Cedar City. We drove through some higher elevations on the way; there was a lot of snow on the ground. I got a ride to St. George—I was there for about an hour. A few more rides and I was on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Three or four rides later I was through downtown and then outside of Las Vegas. I got a ride to Boulder City and then I started walking. I walked maybe two miles on US 93 and it was close to sundown. There was this sidewalk that went under the highway, so I walked down there into the tunnel, unrolled my sleeping bag and fell asleep.
It must've been about three o'clock in the morning when I heard this shuffling noise at the other end of the tunnel. I heard someone mumbling and talking to himself. I started to get nervous. Then I heard him relieving himself against the wall and then he started shuffling my way. My heart started pounding so hard I thought my chest was going to burst. This guy was obviously drunk. He shuffled up to my sleeping bag, kicked it a couple of times, discovered that there was a body in it and shuffled out of the tunnel and into the night. Man, I tell you, I was shaking all over. My heart was still pounding. That's the last time I am going to sleep in such a public place, I thought. When I go to sleep, I want to sleep and not be messed with. I'll go off the beaten path and sleep in the bushes. No more public sidewalks.
The next day I walked on down the highway and then got a ride all the way to Kingman, Arizona. We drove across Hoover Dam, which is quite an engineering feat. On the other side of the dam I saw a homeless man shuffling along the highway. He looked like he was mumbling to himself—that was the guy who violated the air space of my sleeping bag last night. I wasn't resentful--he was destitute, probably an alcoholic. He's just trying to do the best he can—just trying to survive. I would like to think that the Lord used him to teach me a lesson—no more sleeping on or near a public walkway. What if a bunch of teenage gangbangers were walking through there at night? It would have been a different story.
At Kingman I got another short ride to another exit. Right away this big tractor-trailer pulled over and I climbed aboard. This guy was going all the way to Montreal, but I had him drop me off in Oklahoma City.
This guy was from Illinois and had been driving for several years. He must have been one of these hard-drinking, two-fisted types--he had been thrown in jail thirty-three times—that's what he told me anyway. We drove to somewhere in eastern Arizona and he parked the truck at a rest area so he could take a nap. He set his alarm clock to go off in two or three hours, so I thought I would go take a walk. I jumped over the fence and explored the desert for a while. There were these big rocks maybe a quarter of a mile away, so I walked over there and looked at different plant life and rocks and what have you. I killed as much time as I could and then I walked back to the truck.
I tried to rest for a while, but I wasn't that sleepy. Finally the alarm went off and the trucker woke up and we were on our way east once more. We drove through New Mexico and the panhandle of Texas and we stopped at a truck stop in Oklahoma City. I thanked him for the ride and I jumped out.
It must have been an hour till I got a ride. This guy in a pickup stopped and drove me through downtown Oklahoma City. He was a Christian and we had good fellowship. He asked me if I wanted to see the site of the federal building that got blown up. I said, all right. He told me that his girlfriend was driving her car and she stopped at a stop sign about a block or so from the building, and when the explosion went off, her car jumped three feet in the air. That's quite a shock wave. We drove past this fence where there were a lot of people walking around looking at the barren site where the federal building had been. There were flowers and wreaths and other things that people stuck in the fence as a memorial to the one hundred and sixty-eight people who lost their lives there. My heart caught up in my throat—I wanted to weep, but I didn't.
This guy drove me to the other side of Oklahoma City and we kept talking about the Word of God and living by faith. He asked me if hitchhiking was dangerous and I told him that God protected me. I told him about Psalm 91: "a thousand shall fall at thy side, ten thousand at thy right, but it shall not come nigh thee." He gave me his card and told me that if I was in the neighborhood, to give him a call. He gave me twenty dollars and I hit the road.
I got to somewhere in eastern Oklahoma and it was near sundown. I jumped over the fence and slept in this meadow in some tall grass. I slept well because it wasn't too hot and there were no mosquitoes--maybe it was too early for mosquitoes or too dry.
It took me all day to get through Arkansas. Arkansas is really beautiful—so many trees and hills—very friendly people. I noticed a lot of rice fields going across on I-40. I think I read somewhere that Arkansas and Mississippi were big rice producing states. I got through Memphis and then to west of Jackson, Tennessee where I slept in a ditch.
The next morning I walked to a nearby gas station and asked the lady at the cash register if I could use the restroom to shave. She said it was okay with her. So I went into the men's room and looked in the mirror and there were three ticks sticking on my face. I picked them off, washed my face and hands and shaved. If felt good to be clean. I thanked the lady at the cash register and walked back to the interstate.
I waited for quite a while and then this guy driving a pickup and trailer stopped. He drove me through Nashville and down into Chattanooga. A couple of rides later this guy picked me up and he said that if I needed a place to stay that I could stay at his place. He had just divorced his wife and was living in Marietta, Georgia. He was originally from Connecticut; he spent four years in the Air Force.
We got to his apartment and I rolled out my sleeping bag to look for ticks. I took a shower and washed my clothes and we drove to the grocery store to get some food. We had supper, watched some TV and then I rolled out my sleeping bag in one of the bedrooms upstairs and went to sleep. The next morning, he dropped me off somewhere in Atlanta and I hitchhiked through Macon and then to Savannah.
The ride I got to Savannah was interesting. I told this guy that I was a Christian and he said, "Oh, you're one of those. I know somebody at work who's a Christian and you know what he does? He goes to work, he goes home and reads the Bible and maybe watches a little TV."
I looked at him and said, "Me, too. I used to work at a lumberyard. I would go home and watch a little TV and read the Bible and maybe take a walk in the woods someplace."
"You Christians live such boring lives. You know what I do?"
"I party, go to bars, take drugs, chase women, have lots of fun--every weekend."
What I failed to ask him was how much money he spent on having such fun. I don't have to spend any money to enter into the presence of God. He dropped me off and I wandered around Savannah till close to sundown.
I asked someone if there was a mission close by. He pointed me in the right direction and I stayed at this place where we slept on mats on a concrete floor. I was the last guy to come in and a couple of guys asked me where I came from. I told them I just hitchhiked from Las Vegas. I stayed there that night and headed north on I-95.
The next day I covered quite a bit of territory—I got all the way from Savannah to Washington, D.C. I slept on somebody's lawn behind some bushes in some suburb in Maryland. I thumbed to Baltimore and then this truck driver drove me through Delaware and into Philadelphia.
I got a few rides through Philadelphia and then I was somewhere in Bucks County between the city and the New Jersey line. It was very hot--ninety-five degrees--and I was stuck on that entrance ramp to I-95 for five hours. It was torture. These people would drive by and yell at me and give me obscene gestures. One car swerved and acted like it wanted to hit me. The Lord was getting my attention--I was heading in the wrong direction. I walked back to the place where I could get a ride into Philadelphia and a short while later this guy in a white van picked me up.
He couldn't believe that I couldn't get a ride. He said I was clean-cut, had clean clothes--I sure didn't look like a bum. He stopped at a convenience store and bought me a gallon of water and gave me a few bucks. The water was a real blessing. He dropped me off and then this other guy picked me up and took me to the city center. I was standing there for a short while and this car with four guys pulled over.
"Hey, man. Where ya going?" one of the guys asked.
"West. Towards Pittsburgh," I said.
"You need a beer?"
"No. I really don't drink."
One guy got out of the car, opened up the trunk, grabbed a six-pack of beer from an ice chest and got back in the car.
"Hey, man, if we had the room, we'd give you a ride."
"I'll get a ride eventually."
"Sure ya don't need a beer?"
"No. I got water.
“You be careful."
"Thanks a lot." They drove off and I waved at them.
Soon this guy in a van pulled over and motioned me to get in. This is where things got confusing. He told me he was going to Airport Road. When he dropped me off, he told me to go in a certain direction and that I would hit I-76. I must have misunderstood him, so I started walking and every so often I would ask someone how to get to I-76.
I was lost in the big city. I finally saw this city bus stop and I walked up to the door of a bus and asked the driver where I-76 was. He told me and I walked several blocks till I found the place. I must've wandered for three to five miles before I got to where I needed to go. I stood at the entrance of I-76 for fifteen minutes and this guy had just stopped at the stop sign. He saw me and yelled, "Hey, man! Where ya going?"
"Pittsburgh!" I yelled back.
“Pittsburgh? Hold on!"
He did a u-turn and picked me up and said, "Hey, man, I don't know if you know this, but where you were standing is the last place in Philadelphia where a white man should be hitchhiking."
"Thanks for helping me out," I said.
"No problem. Where you from?"
"I got a cousin going to school in Iowa City."
He drove me several miles and gave me a few bucks for the road. He dropped me off and I stood thumbing at the freeway entrance. It was almost sundown.
This taxi pulled over--I guess he thought I was hailing a cab. I got in anyway. I told him to drive me out of the city and into the suburbs--I would much rather sleep in the grass or in a wooded area than in an alley in the city. I told him I wasn't hailing a cab, but that I was hitchhiking.
"What is hitchhike?" he asked in broken English. He looked like he came from India or Pakistan.
"Hitchhiking is when you stick your thumb out and hope somebody stops and gives you a ride," I explained.
"Oh, I see. My name is Sammy."
“My name is Tim." We shook hands.
I looked in my billfold and I had twelve bucks on me. We were driving into the suburbs and I looked at his meter and I told him I only had twelve bucks.
"Don't worry." he said. "I want to help you."
The meter now read thirteen dollars and I pointed at it.
"Don't worry, don't worry," he said again.
Finally he stopped and I gave him my twelve bucks and he gave me six dollars back. I protested, but he said that I should keep it because the journey may be long. I shook his hand and thanked him over and over again. He drove off and I waved at him and thanked the Lord for getting me out of the city.
Two or three more rides and I was near King of Prussia, PA. I found a nice patch of grass just off the exit ramp, rolled out my sleeping bag, crawled inside and looked up at the stars. I wept for joy that the Lord had delivered me from between a rock and a hard place. It was great to be off the streets and in the grass.
For months, and now years, after my "Philadelphia Story", I am reminded how the Lord was with me and how He protected me. I keep thinking about the friendly Philadelphians who helped me out. I almost forgot: when I first got into Philly, this guy driving an ice cream truck saw me get out of the car and he stopped his truck. He smiled at me and said, "Looks like you could use something cold to eat." He motioned me over to the truck and gave me an ice cream bar. I thanked him and shook his hand.
I remember when I was down on Airport Road that there were these four little kids—they were washing windows of cars stopped at the stoplight. One kid came up to me and asked, "Hey, mister, do you need some money?" He held out his hand, which held two, or three dollars worth of quarters.
"No. I really don't need any money," I said. "I just need to get to Pittsburgh." All four kids came over to talk with me--I think they could tell that I was lost.
"We gotta help this guy." one kid said. "He's gotta get to Pittsburgh."
I talked with them for a while longer and then I started walking. Just the simple act of them coming up to me to talk with me--a complete stranger—was such a great act of kindness. They made me feel human and welcome--a stranger in a strange land.
Philadelphia is a famous city with lots of history. I am a student of history. When I think of Philadelphia, I think of the Revolutionary War and the Founding Fathers and George Washington and Valley Forge and the Constitutional Convention. May God always bless and protect Philadelphia. It was an honor and a privilege to be lost in the City of Brotherly Love.
The next day I did some walking and got a few rides to the outskirts of Coatesville. It was evening and these two girls picked me up. They asked me if I was hungry and if I wanted to go to their dad's farm where they were having a family picnic. We stopped at the farm and they introduced me to their relatives.
They had plenty of food and I ate quite a bit. I had a good talk with the grandfather of one of the girls. We talked about the Word of God for a little while and then it was time for me to leave.
They dropped me off a few miles down the road. I got two or three rides to York and there I slept in a parking space at a trailer court. The next day I got a ride across the battlefield and town of Gettysburg. I got rides through Chambersburg and Bedford and then I had to walk around eight miles up this mountain to Jennerstown. Then I got a few quick rides to Ligonier and Latrobe.
It was seven in the evening and I was standing outside a Salvation Army store when I began talking to this guy. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was hitchhiking around the country for a while--I had just quit my job. He told me he was the Chief of Police and that Ligonier had a program where the churches got together and helped out people passing through. So I rode back to Ligonier with the Chief of Police and they put me up in a motel that night--they also gave me supper and breakfast.
I was grateful. I took a shower and then I filled the bathtub about a quarter full of hot water and threw in a couple small bars of soap with my dirty clothes and washed them and let them soak for a while. I rinsed them out good and hung them out to dry. The next morning, my clothes weren't real clean, but they sure smelled better. They were damp, but they would dry out eventually. I walked to the police office and left a message for the Chief of Police thanking him for his help.
I hitchhiked to a truck stop somewhere outside of New Stanton. I wasn't there long till a tractor-trailer stopped and I climbed in.
He was going all the way to Davenport, Iowa. We stopped somewhere in Ohio or Indiana and he bought me a piece of apple pie. It was around two o'clock in the morning when he dropped me off outside Davenport near I-80. I slept in the ditch that night. It was a bit cool because the dew was so heavy and my sleeping bag got wet.
I got a ride to Iowa City and then to Cedar Rapids. I headed west on US 30 and got a few rides to Marshalltown. I had to walk for seven miles and then I got a ride with a veterinarian. He had to stop at a farm and give a dog a shot and then he dropped me off in Ames near the Red Lobster Restaurant.
I knew this homeless guy named John who lived in the woods behind Red Lobster. So I thought I would stop by and say hello. I walked back into the woods and there was John and Steve (a part-time homeless guy) sitting around the campfire sipping on some beer and cooking something over the fire. John was sitting in his chair, drunk, with a beer in his hand.
"John, how's it going?" I asked.
John was clearly shocked. He squinted his eyes and said, "Sawman, is that you? Where in the hell have you been? I've been down at the lumber yard and they said you quit."
"Yup. I am most definitely retired from the lumber business. I've been hitchhiking around the States."
John kept staring at me.
“You are the first friend I have seen since I hit Ames," I added.
Tears were coming down John's cheeks. He took another sip of his beer.
"You mean you came to see me before anybody else?"
"Sawman, you don't know how much that means to me. I am really touched." John stood up and walked over to the fire. "I got some spaghetti and meatballs here for ya. Eat up."
He handed me the plate. Why is it that anything cooked over the fire tastes better? Maybe I was just hungry. John kept looking at me and would smile and shake his head and say, "Sawman, Sawman, Sawman. What're we going to do with ya?"
As John sat down, Steve and I talked a bit about a lot of things. John would sip his beer and stare at the fire and look at me and smile and shake his head. "Sawman, you actually came to see me first. You are such a great guy," he said.
After I finished eating my spaghetti and meatballs, John and Steve took me over to a local restaurant and bought me a cheeseburger. It is a rare thing to have two homeless guys take you out to eat at a nice restaurant and buy you a cheeseburger. You might say that I was homeless, but I never felt homeless; I never felt destitute. I was doing the will of my Heavenly Father and sharing my faith with as many people as I could. I stayed in Ames with some friends for a few days and then the Lord impressed upon my heart to go west--towards California.
A friend of mine, Steve, let me stay with him, his wife and family for one night. Steve was in five classes with me at Iowa State--two literature classes, two creative writing classes and one military science class. He was a former drill instructor in the Marine Corps for nine years. Captain Fulton and the rest of the military science class appreciated his input because of his experience in the Marines. I always enjoyed talking with Steve. He had a very good grade point average and was accepted into a law school in Topeka, Kansas. I think Steve's wife thought it was a bit odd that I was hitchhiking around the country so much, but Steve would say, "Ya gotta do what ya gotta do." I know that there have been lots of people who thought it was crazy to hitchhike so much, but when the Holy Spirit leads you, you will always be peculiar in the world's eyes.
On Saturday morning, Steve and his wife drove me to Boone. From Boone I got a good ride to Sioux City. From there, I got a few rides to Laurel, Nebraska and there I started walking. I walked till sundown and I went into this bar in this small town called Belden. I had a couple of Cokes and walked a couple of miles outside of town and bedded down for the night in a soybean field. I had a new sleeping bag: Steve traded me his for mine. The bag he gave me was water-resistant, so it was definitely an improvement from my other bag.
The next morning I walked several miles to Randolph and got a motel room for a night. Before I left Ames, Steve gave me some money for my trip and I was grateful. It's nice to sleep in a bed once in a while.
After a night in Randolph, I walked four miles to the intersection of US 20 and US 81. I remember the presence of God was very strong there and soon a truck driver picked me up. He was a Christian and we had a good talk. This guy drove me through Norfolk to Columbus. Later I got a good ride with a trucker all the way to Concordia, Kansas. I went through Salina and got into Lindsborg just as the sun was setting.
I was led by the Holy Spirit to go west, so I took Highway 4 and was walking outside of Lindsborg looking at a wheat field (as a possible sleep site) when this car pulled up to me.
This young man—around nineteen—asked me, "Do you need a ride?"
"Yeah, you bet," I said.
"I'm only going up the road about four miles and then I'm taking a left."
"Every little bit counts."
The Holy Spirit was very powerful in that car. We started talking about the Word of God and that we must not be conformed to the world. We had the best fellowship. Praise the Lord! This guy ended up driving me all the way to Hoisington, which is sixty miles away—and it felt like fifteen minutes! Praise God! Time really flies when you are in the Holy Ghost!
We stopped outside a motel in Hoisington and we had a short prayer meeting. He gave me a few bucks and then I got out. The Lord works in powerful ways. I had more Christian fellowship with that guy than I had with some roommates that I had for four years! There are Christians and then there are Holy Ghost Christians. How do people live without the Holy Ghost?
The next morning I hitchhiked to Pratt and then a young lady outside Greensburg picked me up. There was this honking sound and this car had stopped thirty yards down the road. I ran up to the car.
The lady rolled down the window and said, "Um, if you don't kill me, I'll give you a ride."
I paused for a moment and then said, "Well, uh, well, I guess—okay."
"I drove past you and I thought you had an honest face, so I stopped and backed up the car."
"I appreciate it."
"Now, you're not going to kill me, are you?"
"No. I'm a Christian."
"You're the first hitchhiker I ever picked up."
We had a nice talk and she stopped at a convenience store and bought me two Pepsis. She dropped me off near Bucklin. At Bucklin, I waited for fifteen minutes and this big, honking Peterbilt stopped to pick me up.
The driver's name was Charlie and he was a great guy. We talked a lot about the Bible and Christianity. He was divorced and his ex-wife lived in Southern California. Charlie was going to drop a load in Liberal and meet his dad there—his dad was also driving a truck. After we unhooked the van, we pulled up to a motel. He told me I could stay with him at the motel. We stayed two nights there--his dad came up the next day and stayed a night. I was so bone-tired from being out in the hot Kansas sun for so long--I stayed in bed for almost two days. Charlie picked up a load of beef headed for Compton, California and he said I could come along if I wanted to.
We drove on US 54 to Tucumcari, New Mexico and then went on I-40 heading west. We stopped at a truck stop in New Mexico to get something fixed on his truck and then drove into Arizona.
Around three o'clock in the morning, I was sleeping in the sleeper when Charlie woke me up and said, "Hey, Tim, wake up. I'm falling asleep. You gotta drive."
"But Charlie, I've never driven an eighteen wheeler before." I was nervous.
"That's okay. We'll keep it going around seventy miles per hour. I'll get out of the seat and you get right in."
The first hour of driving I was very tense. I didn't do any shifting—I just steered it and kept it going around seventy. Somewhere on the other side of the Arizona border with California there was this big, long hill. I didn't know how to downshift, so I pulled the tractor and trailer over onto the shoulder and stopped. I woke up Charlie and he drove it over the hill and then let me take over. I drove all the way to Barstow and then he took over.
"You did a good job," Charlie said.
"I don't know," I replied. "I was pretty nervous for a while. I used to drive a straight truck for several years at the lumber yard, but nothing like this."
We pulled up to the dock in Compton and I helped Charlie unload the many boxes of beef tongue that were going to Japan. He paid me some money for helping him and then we drove over to his mom's house in Riverside.
I met Charlie's mom, his stepfather and Charlie's younger brother. I showered, shaved and washed my clothes and stayed the night. Charlie's family was so friendly and his mom thought it was great that he picked up "such a nice, young man from Iowa". The next morning, Charlie phoned the company that he worked for and told me that he was going to New Jersey and that I was free to come along.
"I think I'm going to take a bus and head north to Salinas," I said.
Charlie drove me to see his ex-wife and son. Then he drove me to the bus station. We shook hands and parted. The bus to Los Angeles was going to leave in five minutes. God's timing is perfect. So I took the bus to LA and then to Salinas--it was a long ride. We got into Salinas around eleven o'clock that night and I walked around town till I found a semi-secluded place in an alley near the employment office. The next day I put in an application at Kinko's and decided to leave town.
I went to the bus station and got a bus ticket to Gilroy. From Gilroy I hitchhiked to I-5. Right away I got this ride to a rest area near where I-5 splits and you can go to either the Bay Area or Stockton. I was there all afternoon and I couldn't get a ride and it was hot and I was getting sick of the traffic and I was developing a strong bad attitude, so I walked through this field, jumped over the fence and started walking down this irrigation canal.
Sometimes when a man has all he can take, you just got to jump over the fence and do something completely different. It was so peaceful walking down that canal--no interstate, no noise, no bad attitude—just canal and sky and my Heavenly Father. So I kept walking and then I got onto a country road. I walked down the road and then turned into a place where there were farm buildings, but no house. I found a water hydrant and drank a ton of water. Then I was walking and saw this hyoomungous rattlesnake—my heart just about leapt up into my throat. Man, my heart was pounding, but upon closer inspection, I could see that its head was cut off. Whew! What a relief! Somebody obviously had caught it and killed it. So I found a machine shed and slept there that night.
The next day I walked back to the interstate and right away got a ride to Sacramento. It took me most of the day to get from Sacramento into Nevada. I was on US 50. My last ride out of California, this guy and his girlfriend in this van picked me up.
"All right! A hitchhiker!" he exclaimed. "Hop on in. You're the first hitchhiker I've seen in a long time."
His girlfriend gave me some cookies. He worked for a commercial construction company in San Francisco. They dropped me off at Lake Tahoe.
I got rides to Carson City, Nevada and I found a place behind a Wal-Mart to sleep. The sun was setting and I had to get some rest. I found some cardboard and slept on that till around one o'clock in the morning. This light shone on my face and I looked up and this sheriff's deputy was asking me for my identification. They ran my ID to see if I was wanted--then they gave me back my ID. They told me that I shouldn't be sleeping right here and that I should go outside the city limits and find a place. So I walked two miles to the city limits, found a place in the sagebrush and went back to sleep.
The next day I got a ride to Reno. And then I got a ride from Reno all the way to Salt Lake City. This guy was interesting: he had degrees from Brigham Young University, Cal-Berkeley, Stanford and some other place. He had a law degree and a Ph.D. in Philosophy. He had a teaching job waiting for him in Utah. We talked about social issues, politics, religion, the Bible and other things. He dropped me off in Salt Lake and I walked two or three miles to a better exit and then I got a quick ride out of the city. Two rides later this middle-aged woman picked me up.
I asked her, "Where you drop me off, is there a place where I can get some water?"
"You need water? I'll just take you home."
We drove to her house in the next small town and she gave me a plastic container with ice water. She also made me three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gave me some carrots. She dropped me off at the interstate and I ate like a king. I found a place in some tall grass to sleep--it was about fifty yards from the interstate. I unrolled my sleeping bag and slept there that night.
The next morning, I got a ride to Evanston, Wyoming. I was stopped by the highway patrol and they checked my ID. He said that hitchhiking was illegal in Wyoming, but since I wasn't causing any trouble that I could go ahead and hitchhike. Fifteen minutes later the sheriff stopped by and told me it was illegal to hitchhike. I told him that the highway patrol just stopped and checked me out and he said it was okay for me to hitchhike. The sheriff started to get all bent out of shape and left in a cloud of dust. I didn't know what I should do, because I didn't want to be illegal. A few minutes later this guy in a club cab pickup pulled over and waved me inside.
"I heard your name over the police scanner. They ran a check on you, and since you weren't wanted for anything, I knew you were all right."
God works in strange ways. This guy drove me all the way to Casper--that was a good trip. He did some rodeoing for a while, went to school at Boulder and got a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He now worked in the gas fields working on computers. We stopped at his home on the way and he introduced me to his wife and his five kids.
Driving down I-80 he asked, "Do you know what they call this highway?"
“Because they find all kinds of dead bodies just off the interstate."
"Well, God protects me—that's all I gotta say about that."
He dropped me off in Casper and gave me some bread and lunch meat. I got another ride to Glenrock and there I jumped over the fence and slept out in this pasture.
The next day I got a ride to Lusk and this truck driver picked me up and took me to Valentine, Nebraska. It was a good long ride so I asked him if I could crawl in his sleeper and get some sleep. It was okay with him, so I slept most of the way to Valentine.
At Valentine I met this hitchhiker who was coming from Seattle. He had been waiting there for four hours. I stuck out my thumb and the first car that came by picked me up.
The hitchhiker from Seattle said, “Man, I can't believe it. You stood there for two minutes and you gotta ride. They must think you're from Nebraska."
Well, to tell you the truth, this guy from Seattle was a good guy, but he had very long hair, ripped pants and some psychedelic shirt. When I hitchhike I try to be as clean-cut and clean-shaven as possible. I like to keep my hair short and my clothes clean. There were times when my clothes did get ragged, but eventually the Lord would provide through another person and I would get another pair of pants or a sweatshirt. The key to hitchhiking is having a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. He provides for His followers.
From Valentine I got rides all the way to Sioux City, Iowa. I walked the bridge that crosses the Missouri River and then walked up to an overpass. There were storm clouds coming in from the west so I started walking faster. Just five minutes passed after I walked under the overpass and it rained cats and dogs. It rained so hard that cars stopped on the shoulder—the visibility was terrible. I walked up to where the concrete-and-steel girders were and slept like a baby--nice and high and dry.
The next morning I got a ride or two outside of Sioux City and I am guessing that this guy picked me up near Correctionville. I was the first hitchhiker he ever picked up. We had a really good talk. He stopped and bought me a sandwich. We drove down US 20 and we saw this woman hitchhiking. We looked at each other and said, why not? So she got in the pickup with us.
I'm not sure, but I don't think her elevator went all the way to the top. She was coming from Washington State and going all the way to Ohio. We drove to I-35 and there the guy took a photo of the woman and myself. We shook hands and said goodbye and I was headed south.
I got to Ames pretty fast. My last ride dropped me off at the Thirteenth Street Exit. I walked two miles into town and straight to the bank—I still had about fifty bucks left in my account.
On the way back from the bank, I noticed Don Berrett, who is a foreman for Harold Pike Construction Company. He and his crew were having a break outside the old police office building in downtown Ames.
"Hey, Don, how's it going?" I asked.
"Great. Where you been?" he asked. "I haven't seen you at Hanson Lumber."
"I just hitchhiked back from California."
"California?" Don started laughing.
"Do you guys need any help?" I asked.
“Sure. Just go down to the office and talk to Harold."
I walked down to the Pike Construction office, talked with Harold and in five minutes I had a job. I would start to work on Monday morning. It was Friday, 21 June, when I got into Ames from out west. I had been on the road for about a month. I stayed at a shelter for three weeks at 225 S. Kellogg till I found an apartment. I worked for Pike Construction till the first week of October 1996 and then I headed south towards Texas.
I Kings 17: 3-6: "Get thee hence, and turn eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shall drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the Lord: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook."
I took a bus from Ames to Austin, Texas and I took my tool belt and tools with me. I got to Austin, took a taxi to the campus of the University of Texas and got something to eat at Hardees. I looked in the newspaper and the rents were too high, so I took a taxi back to the bus station and took a bus to Waco. I stayed in Waco for three nights at a motel and I was looking for work, but the Lord was not in it. I bought a bus ticket to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The bus stopped in San Antonio, El Paso and then I got out in Cruces.
It was around ten o'clock at night, and I was wandering around Cruces looking for a place to sleep. I found this Baptist church and slept behind this brick wall that ran along the sidewalk in front of the church.
The next morning I walked quite a ways till I got to the entrance ramp of I-25 going north. I was grateful that I sold my tools and tool belt at a pawnshop in Waco--less weight to carry. I would have been better off giving my tools away--they didn't give me much money for them.
I got a few rides all the way up to Mountainair, then another ride to a very small town. I stood there for about an hour and a profound and overwhelming sense of peace—that surpassed any understanding--came over me. I believe that the Lord was telling me that something good was about to happen. In my experience, when the Lord is about to do something special, I either experience a powerful presence of God (some people call it the anointing of the Holy Ghost) or else I will experience a great calm or sense of peace deep in my spirit.
A little while later, this pickup pulling a flatbed trailer stopped and picked me up. There was this young man, his wife and two little kids.
I climbed into the cab and he said, "You want to help me haul some railroad ties?"
"Sure. No problem," I replied.
This guy worked as a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad. He would buy railroad ties from the railroad and resell them to people for landscaping purposes. We drove quite a ways to a ranch, parked the pickup near the railroad tracks and started loading up the trailer with railroad ties. He warned me about rattlesnakes, but we didn't see any. We finished loading the trailer and we drove to his trailer home in Fort Sumner.
I stayed for supper and they invited me to stay the night. I slept on a foldout bed in the TV room. I was thinking, here I am, a complete stranger and these people are making me feel right at home. I do believe whether you are a Christian or not, that after you talk with somebody for five or ten minutes that you know if they are okay or not—either you feel comfortable with certain people, or you don't. There have been times when someone would invite me over to his or her house and all the alarms would go off inside me. I would politely decline the offer and keep hitchhiking or sleep outside someplace. There are some shelters and missions that I would not stay at--because sleeping outside is safer and more adventuresome. Its fun sleeping out and watching the stars and listening to the coyotes yelping in the distance. It's like being a cowboy, except I didn't have a horse—I had two healthy legs and a thumb—that's all I needed. But it was nice to sleep in a bed now and then.
The next day we hauled two more loads of railroad ties. It was Sunday and we visited some friends of theirs. The next day, I told them that I was going to hitchhike to Lubbock. We shook hands and I thanked them for their hospitality.
I hitchhiked to Lubbock and stopped to look at a newspaper. I looked at the want ads for jobs and for rooms for rent. The Lord was not in it, so I started walking. I got two or three rides to Snyder and the sun was setting. So I walked down the road a few miles, saw this place that had all kinds of used farm equipment, found a grain wagon and slept inside it that night.
I got a ride through Abilene and then to Stephenville and then I got this ride all the way into Dallas. This guy hauled health supplies or pharmaceuticals and he said I should apply there as a driver. We then stopped at a lumberyard in Irving and put in an application there. I talked to the yard foreman and he said that he would like to hire me, but that the State of Texas did a background check on new employees. We drove to this guy's apartment and I met his wife. I looked at a picture on the wall--it was he, his wife and a horse.
He saw me looking at the picture and said, "That was taken on a farm near Story City, Iowa."
"What?" I exclaimed. "Story City? You gotta be kidding me! I'm from Ames, Iowa! I used to haul loads of lumber to Story City all the time! This is incredible!"
"Yeah. We used to live there for a short while; we helped this guy raise horses."
The Lord had spoken: looked like I was heading back to Iowa. There are no accidents in the Kingdom of Heaven—things like this happen to me time and time again. God's timing is so perfect; it’s hard to explain it to other people. When you are in tune with the Spirit of God, these things make sense—but to non-Christians and lukewarm Christians, they think you're crazy. It is the age-old problem that exists between spiritual men and carnal, fleshly men: Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, King David and King Saul, Zion and Babylon, True Christianity and False Christianity. I am a spiritual man--I will always be a peculiar man in this world, a pilgrim on this earth--a stranger in a very strange land.
So I told the guy to drop me off on I-35—it looked like I was heading north. I got a couple of rides to Denton where I slept on the grass outside the Greyhound Bus Depot.
The next day I got a ride with a Christian all the way to Oklahoma City. This guy was really open to the Holy Ghost; we had great fellowship. I tried to hitchhike north, but after an hour I decided to walk. I saw this Goodyear tire store, so I went inside and asked them if I could use the restroom.
On the way out of the store, this lady saw me carrying my bag and she asked, "Where you going?"
"Iowa," I said.
"Our car is just about fixed; you can come with us."
This lady and her brother drove me to Tulsa. I got some rides through Bartlesville and into southern Kansas. Then I got a ride with a guy who raised cattle and had his own sale barn. I told him I grew up on a cattle farm in north central Iowa. Then we started talking about the Bible and the things of God.
He would say, "I'm not a Christian, but my wife and my son are Christians"; he said that several times on the way to Kansas City. For a non-Christian, he sure knew a lot about the Bible.
This guy dropped me off in North Kansas City where I got a motel room. The next day I hitchhiked into northern Missouri where I got sick of thumbing on the interstate and jumped the fence and started walking down a gravel road. After a couple of miles, this farmer picked me up--he was hauling corn or soybeans--and drove me two or three miles to a blacktop. He was in a hurry to get home because his grandson had a football game that night.
I stood on that blacktop and soon this guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Ankeny, Iowa. From Ankeny, I got a quick ride to Ames with a guy who worked for Story Construction Company. He said they were hiring, so I kept that in the back of my mind. I didn't think that Pike Construction would hire me again because I told Mike Tinkham, the supervisor, that I was going to leave in a week—but I left the next day. Sometimes when a man's gotta go, a man's gotta go (when the Lord tells you to go)--and there's not a whole lot you can do about it.
I stayed at the shelter on Kellogg Street for a night and then I walked towards the Pike Construction warehouse. If things didn't work out there, I was going to try Story Construction. Well, Mike hired me and I worked at Pike Construction till April of 1997. Mike told me that if I quit again that they wouldn't hire me anymore. I told Mike that I understood him loud and clear.
Acts 8: 26-29: "And the angel of the Lord spake unto Phillip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Phillip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.”
In April, I quit Pike Construction and took a bus to Amarillo. I looked around for work, but there wasn't much there. I took a bus to Santa Rosa, New Mexico and I thought it would be great to hitchhike down to Fort Sumner and see that couple that helped me out last October. God was not in it, so I got a motel room and decided to go back to Amarillo.
At Amarillo, I stayed at the Word of Faith Mission for one night. The next day I walked north of Amarillo and got rides all the way to Guymon, Oklahoma.
I was standing on US 54 just outside this sale barn. When I left Amarillo it was around forty-five degrees; when I got to Guymon, it was around thirty degrees and it was sleeting and blowing pretty good. I got real cold and finally this kid from Santa Fe picked me up. We stopped at a cafe and I offered to buy him some lunch. I was so cold I quit shaking--I didn't feel right. I bought some tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, but I still wasn't warm. We later stopped at a couple of gas stations and I got a cup of hot chocolate at both places and finally I started to get warm. I believe that was the closest I ever got to hypothermia. This guy was driving all the way to Lawrence, Kansas to see his girlfriend. He worked as a waiter in a cafe in Santa Fe.
At around Wichita we switched places and I began to drive—he wanted to get some sleep. We drove to Lawrence and it was raining pretty good. We walked up into his girlfriend's apartment and they hugged and kissed.
She was making us some supper when I told her, "Your boy-friend saved my life down in Oklahoma. Man, it was cold in that wind." She smiled and kissed him. Some women have such beautiful smiles. She was beautiful even if she didn't smile. They thought it was pretty neat that there was a hitchhiker in the house and that they were helping me out on my journey.
Later on the guy came up to me and spoke quietly in my ear and asked me if I could sleep in the car. He hadn't seen his girlfriend for a few months and they would like to be alone. I said, no problemo. So I slept in the driver's seat and the windshield leaked and part of my legs got wet and cold and I didn't sleep very well—but that's life on the prairie.
The next morning I walked all over Lawrence in the rain and got completely soaked and then I got this ride with a truck driver. I climbed into his cab and it was nice and warm. He had a load going to Kansas City and he stopped at the dock of this warehouse for an hour or two--time for me to get dried out and warmed up. He dropped me off in North Kansas City and I headed towards Iowa.
I got some good rides and made it back to Ames. I remembered what Mike Tinkham said, so I didn't go back to Pike Construction. I walked onto this Story Construction job site on the ISU campus and they hired me. I worked for them for two days, but it was not God's will for me to be there, so I quit there and hit the road.
Earlier that year, in the February/March 1997 issue of Ethos magazine, I had two poems published. One was called "A Prophet’s Eyes" and the other was called "Shiloh". They were both inspired by the Holy Spirit—especially "Shiloh".
Psalm 18: 19: “He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.”
In May of 1997, I hitchhiked west towards Nebraska. I have always loved going through Nebraska. In all my travels, I believe that the people of Nebraska and Texas were by far the best people I have ever met. Nebraska was in my comfort zone. Whenever I had been wandering out west and came out of Wyoming and into Nebraska, I felt that I was back on my home turf. The people of Nebraska are gold, silver and precious stones.
I got some good rides all the way to Osmond, Nebraska. It was getting close to sundown when this guy driving a tractor picked me up.
"You can sit on the fender if you want," he said.
"Sounds good to me," I said.
He drove me to Plainview and we talked about the things of God and the Bible. He asked me what I was doing. I told him that I just quit my job and thought I would hitchhike by faith and see where God would take me. He offered me a job right there. He had his own construction company and lived on a farm with his wife and kids. I told him I would love to work for him, but that God was calling me out west for some reason. We stopped in Plainview and we shook hands. I hopped off the tractor and I got a motel room.
The next morning this tractor-trailer picked me up.
"I'm going all the way to western South Dakota," he said. "I got five drops: three in Nebraska and two in South Dakota."
We stopped at three places in Nebraska and I helped unload his van--he was hauling some small trees and shrubs. We got to a truck stop near Kadoka, South Dakota and he told me he would buy me some supper.
We were eating supper when he looked at me and said, "You know, right before I picked you up I saw this man pointing at you. It was like he was telling me to pick you up."
"What?" I exclaimed. "I didn't see anybody out there. I was alone.”
"I saw him plain as day. When I picked you up I didn't see him anymore."
I was flabbergasted. So I sat there and wondered and looked out the window and asked him, "Do you think he was an angel?"
"He must've. It was the strangest thing I ever saw."
On our trip we talked a lot about the Word of God and certain preachers on TV. He lived in Sioux City and was very well self-educated. I enjoyed talking with him. After supper he said he was going back to the sleeper and get some sleep. I took a long walk—for two or three miles—out in the country. Lots of grassland; it was beautiful.
I walked back to the truck and the trucker was sound asleep. He had a double-decker sleeper, so I got in the top bunk and turned on the VCR. From midnight till four in the morning I watched two films. The first film was The Professional—it was about the life of a mafia hit man and a twelve-year-old girl named Matilda. It was very good. I forget the other film.
The next day we stopped in Rapid City and Spearfish and we unloaded his truck. He bought me breakfast and I hit the road. I hitchhiked to Gillette and a highway patrolman stopped me.
He ran a check on my ID and told me, "If I see you out here again, I'm going to have to put you in jail. It is illegal to hitchhike in Wyoming. "
So I asked him where the bus station was. I walked a few miles to the bus station and bought a ticket to the first place in Montana. The bus pulled into Hardin around nine o'clock. It was raining, so I ran to a nearby motel and got a room for the night.
The next day I got a ride outside Billings and this guy in a pickup gave me a ride. We talked for about ten minutes and he asked me, "Hey, you want to help me dig up some tree roots?"
"Put me to work." I said.
We drove up into the mountains near Bozeman and dug up this tree stump and its roots. We drove back to his house where he lived with two other roommates. One guy was a carpenter; the other guy was a diesel mechanic.
The next day we drove to Bozeman, rented a boat and some hip-waders. We took the boat down the Yellowstone River looking for tree roots. He made coffee tables out of the roots. We saw a bald eagle soar above us. It was a beautiful spring day on the Yellowstone.
While we were going down the river, I asked him, "Do you always pick up hitchhikers and have them help you dig up tree roots on the Yellowstone River."
He smiled at me and chuckled. "No. I knew you were a good guy. You can tell a person by what comes out of his mouth. I have picked up hitchhikers before, and if all they did was swear and use foul language, I would just drop them off at the nearest exit."
We dug up one bunch of tree roots and then we called it a day. I stayed one more night and he drove me all the way to Three Forks. From there I got rides to Butte and then to Missoula. In Missoula, I stayed at a mission. I didn't like it there at all, so I said to myself, no more missions (like this one); I would rather sleep outside. The next morning I walked around Missoula and I knew that the Lord did not want me to stay there and that He wanted me to move on.
I got to Spokane and headed south on US 195. Just outside Clarkston I stood for an hour. The presence of God became very powerful and soon this small car pulled over.
I got in the back seat. There was this young mother with three kids—a boy and two girls. She said she saw me and knew she had to give me a ride. She was a Christian and we had very good fellowship. I was sitting next to her daughter who was in a baby seat strapped to the back seat. She was smiling at me and singing to me and rubbing my shoulder.
Her mom looked in the rearview mirror and said, "That is absolutely incredible. You are a total stranger and she is so at ease with you. She really likes you."
"Maybe it's the power of the Holy Spirit," I added.
We drove to her trailer where her husband and her family lived. They lived in a small town on US 12. Her husband was back from work-—he was a logger--and we sat down and talked about the Gospel for a while. Just before supper, I took the little girl in a stroller and I walked up the street with the other two kids. It was like I was part of the family.
We had supper and I asked the father if he needed any help with logging. He said he couldn't use me for two weeks. So I said I would be hitting the road the next day. After sundown, I unrolled my sleeping bag on the lawn outside their trailer and slept well that night. Before I went to sleep, the father stepped outside and gave me a twenty-dollar bill. He thanked me for preaching the Word and sharing my faith with him.
The next morning the wife drove me to the next town and I got a couple of rides to Pendleton, Oregon. Somewhere outside Pendleton I got a ride with a truck driver. He drove me all the way to John Day. A couple rides later I got a ride to Seneca, which was around five thousand feet in elevation--so it was going to get cold that night. It was close to sundown when this guy in a pickup pulled over. He drove me all the way to just outside Reno, Nevada. We drove through Lakeview, Alturas and Susanville on US 395.
I got some quick rides through Reno and Carson City and then waited at Bridgeport, California for two hours till I got a ride with a young couple—they were going to Lee Vining. A ride or two later, this guy in a small station wagon picked me up--he was out fishing. He stopped at a lake and tried to fish, but nothing was biting. We stopped at a casino and I stayed in the car because I am not into gambling.
He came out of the casino a little while later and said. "Tim, I just won two hundred fifty dollars. I'm going to take you out to supper and celebrate."
We drove to a nearby restaurant and he bought me some supper. We headed south towards San Bernardino, which was where he lived.
"Are there many construction jobs in San Bernardino?" I asked.
He looked at me square in the eye and said, "You don't want to live in San Bernardino. It's a cut-throat drug town."
I thanked him for the tip and I looked on my map and told him he could drop me off at a place called Four Corners or Kramer's Junction and then I would head east into Arizona. I fell asleep.
About midnight, we stopped at the Four Corners and I thanked him for the ride and was getting out of the car when he asked, "How much money you got on you?"
I said, "Ten bucks."
He said, "Here, this is for you." He handed me a hundred-dollar bill. I couldn't believe it. I thanked him and he drove off.
Does God provide or not? I had been planning on sleeping outside in the desert that night, but I was able to get a motel room instead.
The next day I got rides to Kingman, Flagstaff and then to Winslow where I got a motel room. Just after I walked into the room I turned on the TV and the film Forrest Gump starring Tom Hanks was on. This is one of the greatest films of all time. Forrest may not have been real intelligent, but he had a heart of gold. He was loyal and courageous. He always stepped out in faith and God was always there to take care of him.
I remember I was at Hanson Lumber and I was telling the guys some of my hitchhiking stories when Matt Stipes came walking up to me and said, "You know who you are, Sawman?"
"You're Forrest Gump."
"That's nice." I just shrugged my shoulders. I really didn't know what he was talking about
"Haven't you seen Forrest Gump?"
"You gotta see it. Great film."
For the next few days, Matt would walk past me and say, ”You're Forrest Gump."
So one day I walked up to Matt and I said, "Looks like I'm going to have to see Forrest Gump eventually."
"I tell you what," Matt said. "Tanya and I will invite you over after work sometime and you can watch it at our place."
So I went to Matt and Tanya's place and watched Forrest Gump. After the film was over, I remarked, "You know, Forrest Gump is just like me." They both laughed.
After Winslow, I got a ride with a man and a woman driving a truck all the way to Oklahoma City. Just west of Oklahoma City, they dropped me off around two o'clock in the morning and I jumped a fence and unrolled my sleeping bag in a wheat field.
The next day was hot and I got sunburned pretty good. I was standing on I-40 in eastern Oklahoma when this car coming east had its tire blow out almost where I was standing. I took evasive action and ran into the ditch. The car came to a stop and I walked up to the car and the driver, who was standing beside the blown-out tire. We were both looking at the rubbery mass which used to be a tire. Some of the tire was lodged up in the wheel well and you couldn't pull it out with your bare hands. So I dug into my shaving kit and grabbed a pliers and pulled the rubber out of the wheel well. I helped him change his tire and he told me to get in. His girlfriend was sitting on the passenger side. They drove me thirty miles down the road and we stopped at a convenience store where he bought me an ice cream cone.
I got several rides to Conway, Arkansas and there I slept on a gravel pile for the night. The next day I got to just east of Memphis when these two guys picked me up. They drove me to Nashville where one of the guys was going to med school at Vanderbilt University. They were Christians and let me stay overnight at their place.
I got a couple of rides outside of Nashville when this guy picked me up. He just got out of the Army--he was stationed out in Kansas. He drove me to Columbia, South Carolina. I slept in a ditch just off I-20.
The next day I got a ride to Florence. I got another ride with a construction worker all the way to just north and east of Baltimore. I walked for several miles and slept out in the woods.
I got into Pennsylvania and hitchhiked on US 30 and then got a ride with a truck driver to just east of Columbus, Ohio where I slept in a cornfield. The next day I walked quite a few miles through Columbus and then got some rides to western Ohio. There I stood for three hours and finally got a ride to Kingdom City, Missouri. I slept behind a small building at a truck stop.
The next morning I got rides to US 65 and headed north. Just north of Princeton, Missouri this girl picked me up and drove me to Highway 2 in southern Iowa. I walked for a while and found a livestock building with a grain wagon parked inside. I slept inside the wagon that night. The next day I walked a few miles and somebody picked me up and drove me to the southern city limits of Des Moines—it was Army Post Road. I walked across Des Moines to north of the interstate and got a ride to Ankeny and then to Ames. I stayed at the shelter overnight and walked over to Pike Construction to see if they might hire me.
I talked to Harold and he hired me and I asked him if he could give me an advance on my first two paychecks. He asked me how much I needed. I said a hundred and fifty bucks. He gave me a check, I went and bought a tent and lived in the woods for the next three and a half months. In September, I moved out of the woods and got an apartment just five blocks from the Pike Construction Warehouse. I worked at the construction company till April of 1998.
Hebrews 11: 37-38: "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy;) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
In March 1998, the Lord told me that I would be heading east towards New York. I believe it was April 8th when I hit the road. It took me ten days to get to New Hamburg, New York. I walked to the train station and met this older man on the platform. We got on the train heading south towards Manhattan and we had the best talk. He told me that Jesus never did anything unless he saw His Father in it. “My Father works and I work.” He also said that when you are really led and are submitted to the Holy Ghost, that most Christians would reject you. I told him that that has been happening in my life for years. I told him how the Lord healed me of manic-depression back in 1986 and that the Lord had cast hundreds of demons out of my body--most people don't like hearing about that one. I got off at Tarrytown and stayed in a motel.
The next day I took the train into Manhattan and walked to Times Square Church on 51st and Broadway. For a few years I had given my tithes and offerings to David Wilkerson's church--I used to get his newsletter. Now I was actually going to visit his church.
I walked inside the lobby and met a few people and they thought it was great that I had hitchhiked all the way from Iowa. I sat down in the seat of the Mark Hellinger Theater and spent a couple of hours in prayer and meditation. The service that night would not start till seven o'clock, so I thought I would walk around Manhattan and kill some time.
As I walked outside the church and headed west towards the Hudson River, the presence of God became so powerful it almost took my breath away. To this day, I sometimes wonder why the Holy Ghost was so powerful that afternoon as I walked to a Navy museum on the Hudson. I spent some time looking around on this aircraft carrier and destroyer. I walked back to the church after four o'clock and people began to pour in for the night service.
The place was packed way before seven o'clock. They had an excellent worship service and a good message from a pastor who had just moved from Colorado. After the service, I walked back to Grand Central Station and took a train to Newburgh. There I slept in some yard of an abandoned house.
The next day I got a ride to southwestern Virginia. A couple of rides later, this young man picked me up and took me to his mom and dad's house near Pulaski.
The next morning I went to church with them at a Presbyterian church in the beautiful hills of southwest Virginia. It rained all day so the father said that I should stay with them another day till the rain passed. They invited their family over for supper and I fit right in.
It took me a few days to get across Tennessee. Then I got rides all the way to El Reno, Oklahoma. I got a motel that night and the next day this guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Blythe, California. He stopped to see his girlfriend in Deming, New Mexico. He dropped me off at the exit ramp, saw his girlfriend for two hours and came back and picked me up on the interstate. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad as a heavy equipment operator. He dropped me off around three o'clock in the morning in Blythe and I slept in this field that night.
The next morning I got a ride with a truck driver all the way to Mohave, California. A few rides later I got to Bishop and then to Lake Crowley.
My ride to Lake Crowley was significant. This guy used to work in Hollywood as a film editor. He worked on the film High Plains Drifter. I told him that was one of my favorite films. He got out of the film business and had a store up in Mammoth Lakes; he also had a ranch down in Mexico. When he dropped me off, I gave him a copy of my short story "High Plains Drifter". I solemnly assure you: there are no accidents in the Kingdom of Heaven.
I slept out in this pasture overlooking Lake Crowley. It got pretty cold—maybe in the lower thirties. I got a couple of rides to June Lake and then I stopped at a gas station. I had a few bucks on me and I bought a roll and some coffee. After I finished eating, I took all my pocket change and put it in the cup of change near the cash register.
I said, "I am now broke."
The kid behind the cash register looked at me like I was nuts. He was looking at me as if he were saying, if you are broke, isn't that bad? I knew that God was with me and that He would provide for me.
I walked out to the highway and within a few minutes this guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Havre, Montana. The night before he had left his sister's house in June Lake and he had driven fifty miles, when he discovered he forgot his shoes. So he parked the car and slept there that night. The next morning he picked up his shoes at his sister's place, stopped at the gas station to fill his tank, saw me and gave me a ride.
He was a Christian; his name was Matthew. He had a lot of interesting insights into the Word of God and life in general. We drove through Nevada and slept in the car somewhere in Idaho. We drove up to Montana and dropped me off in Havre.
I stood outside of Havre when this guy with a pickup and flatbed trailer picked me up. He took me out to eat and drove to his brother-in-law's ranch. We loaded up his trailer with some wheels and then we drove most of the night to his house in Riverton, Wyoming.
He was married and divorced and had two sons. We stopped at his house where I was able to take a shower and get some sleep for two or three hours. We loaded up some more things onto his trailer and headed to Casper. We drove to this warehouse, unloaded his trailer and then he dropped me off.
I got a few rides to Lusk and got a ride with a truck driver to Chadron, Nebraska. I walked a few miles outside Chadron and jumped over a fence and walked up into some hills and slept underneath some trees that night.
It took me all day to get from Chadron to Plainview. I slept in a grain bin outside of Plainview. The next day an older Christian couple picked me up and drove me to Onawa, Iowa.
From Onawa I went through Denison and these two high school kids picked me up. They knew someone I used to work with at Hanson Lumber—Jason Kolln. They drove me to Carroll. I got to Jefferson and this local cop stopped me. He ran a check on my ID and frisked me for weapons. He obviously didn't like hitchhikers and told me that hitchhiking was illegal in Iowa. I told him I had been hitchhiking in Iowa for years—and even got a ride from a highway patrolman. He didn't say much after that. Three rides later I was back in Ames.
My last ride to Ames, Dave the mechanic at Pike Construction saw me walking down the highway east of Boone and picked me up and drove me within a block of Pike Construction's warehouse. He was surprised to see me and I was surprised to see him. Dave told me that the guys at the company had a pool going to see when I would come back. I think John and Curtis won the pool.
I walked to a convenience store and phoned my landlord and I got my apartment back. I walked across the alley and Harold's car was parked outside the office. I walked inside, got my job back and went back to work the following Monday--I got back to Ames on a Saturday.
God sure has a sense of humor: I keep getting my job back. Someday they are going to hang a sign on the window at Pike Construction that will say "Transients need not apply". I tell the Lord that my life is so crazy, why does He lead me on the paths that He leads me on? Can't I live a normal life like the guy down the street? The Holy Spirit is not the world, so I guess my life will always be different. Look at the lives of John the Baptist, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the other prophets. They were also strangers (men of God) in a strange land (land of idolatry).
Acts 16: 6-10: "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them."
Sometime in July 1998, the Lord wanted me to take a bus to San Luis Obispo, California. Of course, it seemed to make not a whole lot of sense, so I said, why not? I took the bus from Ames and went through Denver then LA and ended up in San Luis Obispo. I slept in a motel the first night. The second night I slept on a hillside just outside the city. I was in a Burger King and the presence of God came down on me heavily and I believe the Lord was telling me to go to Santa Fe. So I got a bus ticket to Santa Fe.
I touched down in Santa Fe in the evening and walked to a motel room and I was not a happy camper. I have wrestled with the Lord before and I was really wrestling with Him now. I just couldn't understand why I had to take a bus here and take a bus there, hitchhike here and hitchhike there. Later, I calmed down and realized that God's thoughts are higher than my thoughts and that I have shared my faith with lots of people on the road. So I might as well shut up and put up. I am here to take orders. The Lord tells me to jump and I ask how high.
I started hitchhiking north out of Santa Fe on the road to Taos. I got a few rides to Dixon and stopped by to see Mike and Pat Johnson who owned La Chirapada Winery. I met them back in 1984. Nobody was home, so I continued north.
This guy picked me up north of Dixon and drove me north of Taos. When he dropped me off, he shook my hand and said that his name was Israel and that he was Jewish. He drove off and I stood there semi-stunned: that is the first time I have ever heard someone called Israel (except Jacob in the Old Testament, of course).
I walked up the highway for a mile and this older guy picked me up. He drove to his house just north of Questa and I said I would keep on hitchhiking. I stood there for an hour and then it started to rain cats and dogs. The guy ran out of his house and told me to get inside because of the rain. We sat down and watched some TV. We watched some Spanish tv and then a Christian station. He told me his wife and daughter were gone and that I could sleep on the couch if I wanted. The church he attended was just up the road and I was free to come along.
We went to church the next morning--it was a small Pentecostal church. The text that the preacher used was from Genesis 32:28: "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men and hast prevailed." My jaw just about hit the floor. Is God's timing perfect or what? Israel. Jacob. Israel. Lord what are you trying to tell me? Remember the guy yesterday whose name was Israel? Later I looked up the name Israel in Harper's Bible Dictionary and it said, "Israel: May God strive, contend or rule.”
After the service, I got a ride into southern Colorado and, later, into southwest Kansas. This Christian family picked me up outside Garden City and took me to Cimarron where they let me stay for supper. The husband drove me to Dodge City and we had a little prayer before I got out. I stayed in a motel that night.
The next day I walked out of Dodge five miles and this truck driver picked me up and drove me all the way to Hutchinson. He was a Vietnam vet and had married and divorced twice. He said something interesting: he said that if Jesus ever came back, he would hitchhike all over the place just to take a look around before our Father let Him be the King of kings. I thought that was pretty unique. You never know who some of these hitchhikers were; they could be angels—or ex-sawmen.
From Hutchinson I got a ride to Kansas City and then to somewhere near Kearney, Missouri. I got a motel room that night. The next morning I was walking on I-35 and this truck driver picked me up and took me all the way to Ames.
He dropped me off near the truck stop and I walked to the nearest Pike Construction job site (it was the First American Bank on South Duff) where Karl Streit was the foreman. Karl was surprised to see me and I walked into the job trailer and phoned Harold. Harold told me to come to the warehouse the next morning. To make a long story short, I got my job back and I worked for two weeks with Karl at the bank site. They later moved me back into the warehouse and I worked there till October.
Isaiah 53: 3-4: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted."
By the end of September 1998, I knew that the Lord wanted me to go back east. On the 7th of October, I was no longer at Pike Construction and was on a bus headed towards New York City.
At the bus station in Chicago, we had to wait an hour or two. There was this old man talking to this other guy. In his hand was an old photo of a black basketball team in the 1940s. I sat down next to him and listened to him. He was so proud of that picture--he knew everyone's name in that photo. He would point to one guy and tell me that that guy later played professional basketball; he pointed to another guy and he played for some other professional team. This old man had the face of an angel—his countenance shone.
It was time to board the bus and I thanked the old man for showing me his photo. We arrived in Manhattan a day or two later. I felt impressed upon my heart to take a train to Newburgh. There I took a taxi to some cheap motel.
I walked inside my motel room and the presence of God was so thick you could cut it with a knife. It was very powerful. I knew that the Lord was telling me something. Later that night, I knew that the Lord wanted me to go to Amarillo.
The next day I took a taxi to the local bus station and bought a ticket to Amarillo. From there I took the bus to Port Authority and then west.
We had to stop in Indianapolis for probably an hour and guess whom I saw? That old man with the angelic smile I met in Chicago.
Is God's timing perfect or what? There are no accidents. This was confirmation that I was on the right track. I walked up to him and shook his hand. I asked him if he remembered me--and he did. I told him I was heading south towards Texas. We talked for a little while and then it was time to get on the bus. He handed me a dollar bill--for good luck, he said. I shook his hand and he smiled. The face of an angel.
I rode the bus to Amarillo, but my traveling bag did not arrive with the bus. I got a motel and the next day I walked back to the bus station and my bag had arrived. I walked to the north edge of Amarillo and I got a ride to Dumas. I started walking west of Dumas and the presence of God became very powerful. I stopped and stuck my thumb out. Within fifteen minutes I got a ride with a guy in a Chevy club cab pickup.
His name was Richard and he was going to Colorado. Richard was married and had, I believe, four children. He had been a three-time state senator from the state of Louisiana. His hometown was Shreveport.
We had the best time. We drove through northwest New Mexico and up I-25 into Denver. Sports, politics, social issues, crime--we had an intense discussion about all kinds of things. Then we started talking about the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.
We stopped near Colorado Springs so he could talk with his wife on the phone. I quick ducked into a convenience store and bought a postcard that had a picture of Pike's Peak on it. It's not every day that a former and future employee of Harold Pike Construction Company could send a postcard of Pike's Peak from nearby Pike's National Forest.
We drove up through Denver and into Boulder. Richard was looking for a home—he thought that he and his wife would like to move up to Colorado someday. He was also interested in a teaching position--he taught school in Shreveport. We stopped at a motel in Boulder and we got a two-bedroom suite.
The next day we drove through Breckenridge, Salida, Gunnison and Montrose. Richard spoke of one of his daughters and he was concerned about her. I told him, well maybe we just have to hunker down and have a Holy Ghost prayer meeting.
We drove south of Montrose and we got into Silverton around sundown. Richard walked into the motel and the owner said that he had the last room in town. The room was listed at ninety dollars per night—we got it for thirty bucks.
We walked upstairs and into the room and I said, "Look at this place, Richard. A two-bedroom suite with a kitchen and a dining table—for only thirty bucks! Is there a God or what?"
I added, "We're going to have a prayer meeting right here at this dining table. That's why God put us here. Man, thirty bucks. "
Richard phoned his wife and a little later we sat down and began praying for his daughter. I was pleading the Blood of Jesus and praying in the Holy Ghost; Richard was praying for his daughter. It was a powerful time.
The next morning, Richard told me that he had a dream concerning his daughter. He knew it was from the Lord. God answers prayer in mysterious ways--sometimes through people, sometimes through a vision or a dream, sometimes through circumstances. The Lord answers prayer in various ways--we can't put God in a box.
We drove to Durango and we had breakfast at a restaurant.
We talked about the past two days and the prayer meeting. I told Richard that if my traveling bag had not arrived a day late, I would have hitchhiked a day earlier and we would have missed each other. God has everything under control, that's for sure. His timing is absolutely perfect.
I was going to head west for a while and Richard was going south or east. We shook hands and said goodbye. I walked less than a mile and got a ride to Cortez. From Cortez, I got rides to Gallup, New Mexico. I took I-40 west through Arizona and slept outside near Williams. The next day I got a good ride to Barstow and then to Kramer's Junction.
I headed north on US 395 and got up to Bishop. I walked outside of Bishop a mile or two and stopped. The presence of God became very intense. About a half an hour later this guy picked me up. I sat down in the cab of his pickup and I noticed on the seat a book by David Wilkerson. The title was The Coming Financial Holocaust of America.
"Hey, do you know David Wilkerson?" I asked
“Yeah, he has a church in New York," he said.
"I used to read his sermons. He's very prophetic."
We started talking about the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. We had great fellowship. We stopped in Reno where he was going to look up his older brother. After Reno, we drove to Sacramento where he was going to a convention. We got a motel room and I went to sleep right away. He stayed up and read David Wilkerson's book. The next morning he was up early and threw the book on my bed.
"It's a good book," he said. "I finished it last night. I think you'll like it."
Before he left, I wanted to say another prayer for Richard's daughter. We prayed, shook hands and he drove off to his convention.
I showered and shaved and walked a few blocks to a laundromat to wash my clothes. I left the motel and headed east on I-8O towards Nevada. A few rides later I was at the entrance ramp near Colfax. I was there thumbing for a ride for about an hour when I realized that the Lord wanted me to finish reading David Wilkerson's book. I began reading it at the motel room. I sat down on my traveling bag and read the book and finished it in two or three hours. Within fifteen minutes of finishing the book, I got a ride with a truck driver all the way through Nevada and into Utah. He took I-70 to Green River in eastern Utah and he dropped me off at a truck stop. I walked a few miles to the interstate and within five minutes I got a ride with a guy playing Marilyn Manson real loud on his CD.
"If you can stand my music, you can have a ride," he said.
He was driving a Trans Am and he averaged eighty-five miles per hour all the way through Denver and through Kansas where he dropped me off at Junction City. That was the fastest hitchhike from California to Kansas I had ever heard of. I hitchhiked to Topeka and walked all the way through the city. I got rides to thirty miles north of Topeka and then slept in some tall grass out in a field that night. The dew was pretty heavy.
I got back to Ames a day or two later and worked for Pike Construction for two days, but I knew that the Lord wanted me back on the road. It was the last week of October and I hitchhiked back through Des Moines and a couple days later I was some where in central Kansas.
This older guy picked me up in a late model club cab pickup. He was a devout Christian and we had great fellowship. After a while, he let me drive and he would sit there and read the Bible and share verses with me. We drove through southern Colorado, then we stopped at a rest area--I slept near a picnic table, he slept in his truck. We went south through New Mexico and into Arizona. He dropped me off just west of Phoenix near Avondale. We shook hands and he gave me a hundred-dollar bill--so I got a motel room that night.
The next day I hitchhiked all the way through Blythe and Barstow, California. Just outside Boron, this guy pulled up to me and asked, "Can you help me haul some trash?"
I said, "No problem."
We drove to his house, borrowed his neighbor's pickup and we hauled three loads of trash to the dump. He gave me ten bucks and I hit the road.
I hitched through Bakersfield, Paso Robles and down into San Luis Obispo. One ride later I got to Cambria where I slept on the beach that night. It felt good to sleep on the sand and listen to the waves break on the beach. I slept right under this thirty-foot cliff. I have slept on concrete slabs, dirt, grass, wood floors and steel floors, but I think sand is the best—you can mold the sand to the curves of your body and sleep like a baby.
The next morning, I walked ten miles and got a ride going north on Highway 1. The coastline was really beautiful. A few more rides and I got to Big Sur, and from there I walked another ten miles and slept in some pasture that night. I was near some lighthouse--it was called Point Sur.
The next day I got rides through Monterey, Salinas, up to I-5 and then was dropped off at this exit near Tracy--about a half mile from a state prison. I said to myself, oh, isn't this great: right next to a prison--I'm going to be here forever. A deep sense of peace came all over me and I knew that something good was going to happen. In fifteen minutes I got a ride.
This guy's name was David and he worked at the prison as a prison guard. The presence of God was very strong as we spoke. We started talking about the things of God and the Holy Ghost began to kick in. I was preaching up a storm and David didn't get much of a chance to talk. Sometimes a man's got to preach what a man's got to preach.
So David drove me north of Lodi to a place called Galt. He bought me a motel room and literally took the coat off his back and handed it to me, but I told him, thank you, no, I had a winter coat with me. We shook hands and he walked out. Earlier he had given me his business card and I later sent him a postcard from Iowa City.
Wasn't that spontaneous? I tell you, when the Holy Ghost starts moving, things happen. David told me that they are told absolutely positively not to pick up hitchhikers at that exit— they could be escaped prisoners. He told me that the Lord told him to pick me up. Who can resist God's will? I really don't care to hitchhike around the country and then get dropped off outside a prison, but God has a sense of humor and I am merely a pawn in His divine comedy. The ways of God are hard to understand at times. The main thing is to obey--even if the whole world thinks you're crazy.
The next day I got rides through Sacramento and then I took US 50 and headed east. I got a ride just west of the Nevada border with a Navy SEAL. I was honored and I shook his hand. I have heard and read about SEAL training and that it is the toughest in the world.
"You guys are great athletes," I said.
"No," he replied. "They train your mind to overcome obstacles. Sure we are in great physical shape, but the guys who survive SEAL training are mentally tough more than physically tough."
He asked me why I was hitchhiking. I told him the Lord had called me out on the road and that I was hitchhiking by faith. He sat there and thought about it a little bit and told me he thought that that was really great—hitchhiking around the country, sleeping outside, meeting different people, sharing my faith with people. It was great to be complimented by a Navy SEAL.
He drove me through Carson City and dropped me off in Reno. I stood at the on-ramp to I-80 for ten minutes and this husband-and-wife truck driving team picked me up and took me all the way to central Iowa. They were going to Chicago, but I thought it was time to head south. It was early November and it was getting cold at night.
I was dropped off at a truck stop around two o'clock in the morning and it was around twenty degrees outside. I talked to the guy behind the cash register and he said I could sleep in the back seat of his car. He got off work at six in the morning and, if I were still sleeping, he would wake me up.
I got up the next morning and thanked the guy for the use of his car and headed south on US 63. I was walking down the highway, when this guy picked me up. He took me home and made me some breakfast. His wife and kids were still sleeping. We had a really good talk about God and certain scriptures. I think he went to a Nazarene church.
I got a few rides to southern Iowa near the Missouri border. I was standing there for a while and this bearded Amish guy driving a buggy and a team of horses passed me going north. I waved and he waved back. Wouldn't it be neat if some Amish guy would pick me up hitchhiking? Then I could die happy. I have ridden on a couple of tractors out in Nebraska, but never on a horse and buggy. If that ever happened, I would have to retire from hitchhiking forever—because it wouldn't get any better than that.
This truck driver picked me up and drove me all the way near Joplin, Missouri. The next morning I got a few rides to Bella Vista, Arkansas. I stood out there for an hour or so and the wind was blowing and I was getting pretty cold. Finally, this guy in a pickup saw me and backed his truck to where I was standing.
He was a contractor who built houses in northwest Arkansas. The name of his company was Out West Construction. One of his laborers was riding with him. Right there he offered me a job. I helped him hang sheetrock for two days. He let me stay at his house for two nights. He was married and had two kids. Really great people. He offered me a full-time job, but I told him the Lord was calling me south and southwest.
The next morning, one of his carpenters dropped me off at Fayetteville and I headed on south. At Fort Smith, this young truck driver picked me up. He was pretty wild--he liked driving fast on those narrow mountain roads. He also used to do some rodeoing--riding bulls.
"You couldn't pay me enough to ride a bull," I said. "Why do some people like to ride bulls?" I asked.
"Because they're crazy!" he exclaimed. "It's a real kick; gets the adrenaline going."
I used to think football was the toughest sport. Then I thought hockey was and rugby. But I have come to the conclusion that bull riding is the toughest sport.
He dropped me off in Shreveport and I tried to phone Richard, but his line was busy. I stayed in a motel in Bossier City and got a free haircut from a barber. He was a Christian and was in tune with the Holy Ghost. I met his wife—real nice people.
I got a couple of rides to just west of Tyler, Texas and I slept in some grass just off the interstate. The Lord had me change directions, so I hitchhiked back to Lindale and headed north. This Vietnam vet picked me up and took me home where I met his wife. He had been a Christian for a year or two and he wanted to make me some breakfast.
From there I hitchhiked to McKinney and got a motel room that night. The next day I headed west on US 380 from Denton into Lubbock and then into Hobbs, New Mexico. These two guys picked me up and asked me if I wanted to help sand down a car--he painted cars and did body work for a living. I helped sand down this Taurus station wagon for an hour and they left to go get some beer--it was around eight o'clock at night. They didn't come back, so I crawled into the back of the station wagon and slept in my sleeping bag. The next day I jumped the fence and headed on down the road.
I got some rides to Lovington, Artesia and then to Las Cruces. I got on I-25 by mistake and headed northwest to Hatch. From Hatch I got a ride with a couple of older guys who dropped me off in downtown Deming. One of the guys asked me if I had any pot on me. I told him I didn't smoke pot. He was disappointed, I could tell. The only drugs I take are Coke, Pepsi and sometimes Dr. Pepper. I'm really not into coffee--I hear caffeine leads to harder drugs—like espresso. I am an upstanding, hitchhiking citizen of the United States of America; I am not into abusing my body. Being sober-minded and drunk in the Holy Ghost are what I am all about.
I walked a couple of miles outside of Deming and stood there for an hour on US 180. I wasn't getting any rides when I noticed this sign that said "Grace Independent Fellowship Church". I thought I would check it out. I walked to the church and met an older guy named George. He offered me something to eat and we had a good talk. They let me stay a couple of nights.
On the second night, just after supper, George and I were walking out of the cookhouse when I saw this guy in a cowboy hat talking to the pastor. He drove a small, red station wagon and his wife and daughter were with him. His name was Charlie.
I could see he was talking with the pastor about the Word of God—his Bible was open on the hood of the car. I listened to them talk and then I went over to the passenger side of the car and talked with Charlie's wife. We talked about the things of God and certain scriptures and it was getting cold standing outside, so I invited them into the house where I was staying.
Charlie began to expound on some scripture in the Book of Ezekiel and I listened to him speak for a couple of hours. He really opened my eyes to some things. Charlie and his family lived up in Claunch, New Mexico. I believe he probably did some ranch work.
It was time for them to leave and I escorted them to the car. I shook Charlie's hand and thanked him for his powerful teaching--I had learned a lot. Certain passages in Ezekiel and Daniel and Revelation are difficult to understand, but the Holy Spirit can reveal to us what they mean. They drove off into the cold, New Mexican night and I thanked God that I could meet them.
I hitchhiked west into eastern Arizona and this truck driver picked me up. He drove me all the way to Rancho Cucamonga, California where he drove to a warehouse and we unloaded his truck. We stopped at a crowded truck stop at Ontario--he slept in his sleeper and I slept in the driver's seat. The next morning, I was dropped off near I-15 and headed north.
I slept in the Mojave Desert near the Four Corners that night. There was this tree—it looked like a Joshua tree—it was real old--there I slept in somebody's abandoned campsite. At three in the morning, my legs got real cold, so I rolled up my sleeping bag and found this old bus near this garage near the road. I slept on the floor and stayed warmer.
The next day I got rides to Barstow and Needles. Then I took US 95 south, cut across to Parker, Arizona, got a ride with a truck driver and he let me out on the west side of Phoenix. I slept in some bushes that night just a stone's throw from I-10.
After a couple of rides, this guy dropped me off and he gave me a ten-dollar bill to get some breakfast. I went through Tucson and got dropped off at Willcox. I couldn't get any more rides that day, so after sundown I looked around to find a place to sleep. I found this baseball diamond--I slept in center field that night.
The Lord wanted me to go back west and I thought that that was crazy. I headed west and then south and this guy picked me up and drove me home and his wife made me some breakfast. I listened to him expound on Mormonism and then I hit the road.
I got into Douglas and visited the U.S.-Mexican border. I tried to get a ride east, but couldn't. After four hours of standing there in the sun without a ride, I came to the conclusion that the Lord wanted me to go west. I walked across Douglas to the other side of town, stuck out my thumb and got a ride in five minutes. This guy dropped me off outside Tucson and I slept in the sagebrush that night.
I got some fast rides to just west of Phoenix and I met another hitchhiker there at the entrance ramp. He offered to buy me some breakfast at Burger King and that was okay with me.
He had spent a couple of years in prison in Texas. He said he was a Christian and we talked about different spiritual things. He told me he was drifting. I told him to trust in God and he will lead you to where you are supposed to go. We shook hands and I walked back to the interstate.
A few minutes later this big tractor-trailer stopped and the truck driver waved me in. He was going to Yuma and then to San Diego. We talked about a lot of things--but mostly about God. We stopped in Yuma and I helped unload his truck. He bought me a cheeseburger and we headed towards San Diego.
It was sundown and the truck driver stopped just north of San Diego. He shook my hand and said, “Ever since you got inside this cab, all you have talked about are the things of God. Thank you."
He gave me a cheese Danish for the road and I climbed out of his truck. He drove off and I surveyed the local landscape looking for a place to sleep. There was this hill to my right, so I walked up the hill a ways and camped out in the grass. There was this house about fifty yards from where I was sleeping and their dog started barking at me. Now I can see why God invented dogs—they were a great alarm system for homeowners. I hunkered down in the grass and held my breath and eventually the dog quit barking.
I got a ride to Oceanside the next morning and this guy gave me a few bucks. I walked to the Burger King and had some breakfast and read the paper. In the sports section, I read where Hayden Fry had resigned as football coach for the University of Iowa. I guess a guy can't coach forever. Three Rose Bowl appearances and quite a few All Big Ten quarterbacks--Fry was a legend in Iowa.
At Oceanside, this older lady picked me up and since there were two people in the car, she drove in the diamond lane. We made good time. She drove me all the way to Simi Valley. From there I headed south and east and got a ride to North Hollywood. I got a sandwich and walked several miles to I-210. A few rides later, I walked into Pasadena and hunkered down there by an entrance ramp for the night—in some little alley.
I was broke and thirsty, so I walked several blocks to a taco stand and asked for a glass of water. They gave me a glass of water and I walked back to my sleeping bag and got some sleep.
The next day I got a bunch of rides to San Bernardino. There this guy picked me up, took me to his home and gave me a Gatorade bottle and told me to fill it up and keep it for the rest of my journey. He had just got off work and was going to ride some dune buggies with some friends in the sand dunes somewhere east of El Centro.
He dropped me off near Indio and it was close to sundown, so I hopped over the fence and found somebody's campsite. There was a piece of plywood with three sofa cushions and a blanket on it. I thought I died and went to heaven. I slept like a baby out there in the sagebrush. Nobody stopped by to claim their campsite, so I guess it was okay to borrow it for one night.
The next morning was Thanksgiving Day--my favorite holiday. This guy picked me up. He was a Christian and we talked at length about the Word of God. He had a bag of apples and offered me one. I scarfed it down so fast he looked at me and asked me if I wanted another apple. I ate the next one just as fast. He then looked at me and asked me when was the last time I had eaten. I didn't want to tell him. He asked me again and I told him almost two days. We drove to Blythe, stopped at a Burger King and he bought me two whoppers and a milkshake. I don't know why, but I have always liked Burger King. Manna from heaven sometimes comes in fast food wrapping.
He drove me to Phoenix. A couple of rides later I was standing near Skyharbor Airport. This guy picked me up and drove me all the way to Tucson. He was an airline pilot and he was going home to be with his wife and kids. We talked at length about the Word of God and the Holy Ghost. We had good fellowship. He drove me to a truck stop and bought me two barbecue beef sandwiches and something to drink and dropped me off near a big patch of sagebrush on the edge of town. I ate the one sandwich and saved the other one for breakfast. I bedded down for the night and looked up at the stars and thanked God for such a beautiful day. Manna from heaven; Manna from heaven.
From Tucson, I hitchhiked to Deming, New Mexico. On the way, this young couple picked me up outside of Willcox. He was a scuba diver near Galveston, Texas. He did underwater welding jobs on ships. He said he could get me a job easy. We stopped at a gas station in Lordsburg and they bought me a Coke. They dropped me off in Deming and I stayed one night at the Grace Independent Fellowship Church.
The next day, I headed north to Hatch, followed I-25 and got out at San Antonio. This cowboy picked me up and dropped me off in the middle of the desert.
I slept outside and was sleeping pretty good when it started to rain. I quick jumped back over the fence and to a roadside shelter. I tried to sleep under the canopy, but the wind was too strong and the rain was coming in sideways. My sleeping bag was soaked, my clothes were soaked and I was developing a pretty bad attitude. I stood there in the rain till six in the morning and then I started to walk east on US 380.
I walked ten miles when this lady and the cowboy who picked me up the day before picked me up. They drove me to Carrizozo and bought me some coffee. They drove all the way to Roswell where they dropped me off. I walked across Roswell and this couple in a pickup pulled over.
"Ride in the back," the woman said.
So I hopped in the back of the pickup and they drove me to Tatum--about seventy miles away. It was around thirty-two degrees, I was soaked to the skin and we were going at least sixty miles per hour—bad combination. I was getting cold fast, so I gritted my teeth and shivered and shaked all the way to Tatum.
In Tatum, I walked to the police department and asked them if anybody could put me up for the night. The local Methodist church paid for my motel room and I was grateful--I was absolutely froze! I got to my motel room, turned the thermostat way up, stripped down to my birthday suit and hung out all my clothes and my sleeping bag. The next morning, after a good night's sleep, my clothes and sleeping bag were dry and I was ready to go. I stopped by the Methodist pastor's house and thanked them for helping me out.
I got some quick rides to the southern edge of Lubbock and then I started walking north and east through the city on US 62. I was walking and this guy walked through the ditch and came up to me and said, "Go up to the truck stop about three miles up and you'll get a ride." Then he walked off. I stopped and looked at him and wondered what had just taken place. He didn't say hello or where are you hiking to or anything--just go to the truck stop. I believe God had his hand in this somehow.
So I walked to the truck stop and by that time I had walked about twelve miles. My legs were tired; my feet were sore. Within ten minutes this young man named Jason picked me up. Immediately we started talking about the Word of God.
Jason looked at me and asked, "Are you hungry? Could you use some supper?"
"Sure," I said. "Sounds good to me."
"You gotta meet my dad."
We pulled into Ralls and we walked into the house. I met Jason’s dad, Charlie Burt, Charlie's wife, his daughter and a couple of grandkids. We had some supper and we sat down in the living room—or computer room--they had three computers sitting there--and watched Charlie's grandkids play some game on the computer. We didn't talk about much that night. Charlie invited me to stay the night—they had an extra bed upstairs. I was dead tired and went to sleep right away.
The next morning, I thought I was going to hit the road, but the Lord told me to stay—Charlie had something to tell me. I went back upstairs and asked Jason if I could stay one more night. It was all right with him. I slept the rest of the day till late afternoon. I was still very tired.
Charlie got back from work at five o'clock. When he got home, we talked about the Word of God for five hours. Specifically, we talked about the Book of Revelation and the Book of Hebrews.
We had been talking for quite some time when Charlie quoted something from Hebrews Chapter 10: "I come to do thy will, 0 God." When he said that, it was like something had locked-in deep inside my spirit. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I quickly told Charlie to freeze, back up and say that Bible verse again. "I come to do thy will, 0 God." I sat there dazed for a few minutes.
Then I looked at Charlie and exclaimed, "That's why God had Jason pick me up! I was supposed to hear that Bible verse! Man, this is incredible!"
I stayed one more night at the Charlie Burt residence and headed east towards Crosbyton. The Lord told me to stop and head west towards Lubbock. I started walking west, got a ride to Lubbock and headed south towards Brownfield, Seminole and then Andrews.
In Andrews, I stayed with a doctor and his wife overnight. They had also been to visit David Wilkerson's church in New York. We had a good talk that evening. The next morning, a good friend of theirs drove me to Odessa and I headed back west on I-20.
I got a ride to Pecos and stayed in a motel there. I visited the local museum and had a nice chat with a couple of ladies who worked there. I gave them a copy of my short story "High Plains Drifter" and then I drifted north on US 285. I got a ride to Carlsbad and thought I would head south on US 180.
I sat in the desert sun for an hour until this small pickup stopped. A lady and an old man told me to hop in the back of the pickup. I rode back there for fifty miles and they stopped. She was getting sleepy and didn't want to drive anymore, so she asked me if I would.
I drove through El Paso, Las Cruces and into Arizona. I drove into Tucson and then headed north towards Florence. They both lived in an RV park. Her husband was serving time in a prison near Florence--I believe there were two or three prisons in the neighborhood. They let me stay two nights--and I even got to watch a college football game.
The woman drove me out of Florence north to Florence Junction. I got some great rides on US 60 to Show Low and then all the way to Socorro and then to Roswell, New Mexico. I slept outside in some field east of Roswell.
The next morning I walked a ways east and got picked up by a guy named Jim Spradley. He was a cowboy who worked for an oil company. I got in the cab of his pickup and the Holy Ghost was right there. We started talking about the things of God and had the best fellowship. He drove me all the way to Plains, Texas. Jim gave me his business card and said, "My wife, my son and myself live on a ranch near Lovington. If you're ever passing through, give us a ring and we'll pick you up."
"Sounds good," I said.
He gave me a few bucks for breakfast and we shook hands. I walked into a place called the Cowboy Restaurant, had a good breakfast and started walking down the road. I got some quick rides to Brownfield, Lubbock and then to Ralls where I stayed one night at Charlie Burt's house. We had another good talk about some scriptures. God has given Charlie a lot of wisdom and I was always appreciative of the golden nuggets of wisdom that he gave me.
From Ralls I headed east towards Crosbyton. I got a few rides and I walked a lot. Somewhere east of Aspermont I was walking down the road when this big four-door pickup pulled to a stop. There was this woman, her grandson and an older lady riding in the back
I walked up to the passenger door and said, "Looks like you're all filled up. I can sit in the back of the truck."
The woman driving said, "No, no. We got room. Just hop in."
I climbed in and we headed towards Rule.
The woman said, "It's just past five o'clock, so why don't you forget about hitchhiking anymore today. You can stay with us at the ranch if you'd like."
"Thanks," I said. "That would be great."
They had a two hundred acre ranch somewhere near Knox City and O'Brien. Her husband was a truck driver and was gone that evening. We had a big supper and watched a film that night. She let me sleep on her bed and she slept on the couch. After breakfast the next morning, they drove me to Haskell and I headed south.
I got all the way to Donna, Texas. After a night in a motel, I started walking west, got a short ride and then walked through Pharr and McAllen. Close to sundown, I spotted a place where they sold trailer homes. I waited till they were closed and walked around till I found a repossessed trailer home. It was unlocked and I walked inside. In one of the rooms there was a mattress, a blanket, and a pillow. Thank you, Lord. I rolled my sleeping bag out on the mattress and slept there.
I did a lot of walking the next morning and got a couple of rides to Laredo. This guy from Mexico picked me up and could speak good English. He had a Spanish Bible and I started looking at it and asked him what certain words meant. We had a good talk; I learned a little more Spanish. I got out in Laredo and walked several miles till I found a patch of grass off the road where I could sleep.
The next morning, I walked a couple of miles and then stopped. I was tired. I hadn't eaten very much in the past couple of days. I walked a couple more miles and stopped again. I was definitely getting weaker. It was just a few more miles to a truck stop. I finally got to the truck stop and I reached down in my pocket and pulled out fifty cents worth of coins.
I walked into the truck stop and jokingly asked out loud, "Hey, you guys got anything for fifty cents?"
One guy replied, "Yeah, back in 1950 you could buy something for fifty cents."
All of a sudden, some guy walked up to me and said, "Hey, man, are you in trouble? Here, here's three bucks."
"Hey, thanks." I said, surprised. He quickly walked off.
I bought a sandwich and some milk, sat down on my bag and looked out over the northern horizon.
After eating, I walked to the entrance of the interstate and within ten minutes a lady picked me up. Her name was Cathy and she was a Christian. She said the Lord told her to pick me up. I was so tired and weak. It was great to sit and rest. Cathy was very open to the Holy Ghost and we had great fellowship. After about a half hour she asked me when was the last time I had a meal. I told her I had a sandwich at the truck stop. Then she asked me when was the last time I had a real meal--like beef, mashed potatoes and gravy and vegetables. I hesitated and told her maybe in two or three days.
"The Lord is telling me to buy you a good dinner," Cathy said.
So she drove all over the place looking for a place to eat. I was thinking Burger King or Joe's Burger Joint. Cathy finally pulled up to a big, honking restaurant (every thing in Texas is big: big cars, big four-door pickups all over the place, big ranches and big restaurants). We sat down and Cathy told me to get anything I wanted.
I looked at the menu and said, "That hamburger looks pretty good."
Cathy said, "That T-Bone steak looks good."
"But it costs fifteen bucks!" I protested.
"That's okay. I want to help you out."
Wow, a fifteen-dollar steak. Maybe I should hitchhike out of Laredo more often.
After the restaurant, Cathy drove me to her place in Houston and I was so tired I stayed in bed for almost two days. She really took care of me and fed me well. Cathy bought me a bus ticket from Houston to Abilene via Dallas.
When I got to Abilene, my traveling bag didn't arrive, so I had to sleep there at the bus station on a bench. My bag arrived the next day and I was going west. I walked ten miles and got a ride to Sweetwater.
I got a ride to Snyder and looked across the railroad tracks and saw several warehouses. I walked across the tracks and looked around and found a warehouse with a hole in the door. I climbed through the hole and had a look around. There were a few big bales of cotton, a truck and a flatbed trailer. I rolled out my sleeping bag on the trailer and slept pretty good.
The next day I walked outside of Snyder a few miles and this guy drove to Lamesa and then to Hobbs. From Hobbs, I got a ride to Lovington. I walked to an Allsups convenience store and phoned Jim Spradley's place.
Jim's wife, Judy, answered the phone and told me that she would get a hold of Jim on the cell and that I should just wait there at Allsups. Within a half hour, Jim arrived in his pickup and waved me inside.
I stayed at the Spradley's house for four days. The first day I was bone-tired, so it was nice to get some rest. It seemed like three times a day—breakfast, dinner and supper—we would sit around the dinner table, open our Bibles and have great fellowship. Jim and Judy were really in tune with the Holy Spirit. It was near Christmas and Judy's parents came down from Ralls, Texas and the owner of the ranch came over (she was also raised for a while in Ralls—it's a small world, isn't it?) and we had a big Christmas dinner. Jim and Judy's son got a 30.06 rifle for Christmas and the next day we drove out on the range and did some target practice. I had never shot a 30.06 before. It was fun.
The day before I left, we were watching the weather forecast and a snowstorm was coming in from the west. I told Jim and Judy that I better be hitting the road before the storm gets here. The next day, Jim and Judy took me out to eat at the Cowboy Restaurant in Plains, Texas and drove me to Brownfield. That four days of fellowship did me a lot of good--I was so energized and rested and ready to go. Never underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit. I said goodbye to the Spradley's and I headed north towards Lubbock.
I was standing on the highway thumbing for a ride when this guy drove up through the ditch and said, "I thought maybe you could use a cup of coffee. Thought you might be getting cold." Then he drove off.
I got rides through Lubbock, and when I got to Plainview, that's when the snowstorm hit. The wind was blowing pretty good and the snow was getting pretty thick. I quick ducked into a convenience store and put on a sweater that Jim and Judy gave me for Christmas. I bought a snack to eat and I walked out into the blizzard. Some people at the convenience store were looking at me kind of funny—what's this guy doing--hitchhiking in a blizzard? I walked out to the interstate and within five minutes got a ride with a couple from Amarillo.
“What are y'all doin’ hitchhiking in this snowstorm?" the wife said.
"The Lord told me to go north, so I'm going north," I said.
They were Christians and we had good fellowship. They took me home in Amarillo and she made me some hot dinner. He drove me to Wal-Mart and bought me some long underwear and wool socks. They put me up in a motel that night. The next day he picked me up and drove me to Pampa. He took me out to eat. After dinner, we shook hands and I walked to the east side of Pampa and got a motel room--it felt too cold to hitchhike that day.
From Pampa, I got some quick rides all the way to Springdale, Arkansas. One of the rides, a trucker who picked me up in Oklahoma, said he used to work for Sam Walton. Sam had a ranch in Oklahoma, and this guy would be fixing fence or doing some other job, and Sam would drive up in his pickup and tell him to drop everything because they were going fishing. I guess this happened quite often. If Sam Walton wants you to go fishing with him, then I suppose the fence could be fixed some other day. The poor fence will always be with us, but Sam Walton will not always be with us.
The truck driver really liked Sam. He said even though he was worth a few billion dollars, he was a normal, regular everyday kind of guy. Going back to fishing: I was never really into fishing, but to some people--whether they are worth five thousand dollars or five billion dollars--fishing is eternal.
The truck driver dropped me off in Springdale and I had enough money to get a motel room. The next morning, I phoned the contractor who owned Out West Construction in Lowell, and he drove down and picked me up and put me to work. I worked at a house doing some cleanup. I slept in the job trailer/office of Out West Construction that night
I headed north and got rides to Kansas City. I was walking on I-35 when this lady picked me up. She was a Christian and the Lord told her to pick me up. She drove me to Liberty, Missouri and bought me a motel room. I was dumbfounded. It was going to get cold that night and I was looking around to see where I could sleep. Now I had a warm motel room. God is great
I got to Ames, picked up my paycheck, cashed it and got a bus ticket to Amarillo. I hitchhiked back down to Tatum, New Mexico and phoned the Spradley's and stayed with them for three days. I headed back to the northeast and got rides into Oklahoma. Just outside Joplin, Missouri, these two ladies picked me up and gave me a ride to Marshalltown, Iowa where I stayed at a shelter for the night. I then took a bus to Iowa City and then hitchhiked to Cedar Rapids.
I got a job working for Eastern Iowa Supply stocking sheetrock. That was very hard work. I used to haul sheetrock for Hanson Lumber Company back in Ames, but these guys at Eastern Iowa Supply—they hauled sheetrock! I saw these two guys carry four sheets of four by twelve by five-eighths sheetrock from the truck into the house. They told me to give it a try. I said, no thanks. Two sheets at a time is more my speed; I knew my limits. I worked for Eastern Iowa Supply for four days, cashed my check, bought a bus ticket and headed south. I got to Amarillo and hitchhiked to Ralls where I stayed at Charlie Burt's place for one night.
I then hitchhiked east and got a good ride from a truck driver into eastern Oklahoma. I slept outside in some grass overlooking US 69. I couldn't believe it: it was February and I was sleeping outside—it was only forty degrees, so I stayed pretty warm.
I hitchhiked up through Kansas City and back to Ames. I was at the shelter for a day or two and headed south again.
I got good rides to Chillicothe, Missouri where I slept off the road someplace. The next day, I got to just west of Springfield on I-44. I stopped at a convenience store and got something to eat and then I started looking around to find someplace to sleep--it was getting close to sundown.
I walked back in these woods and found a four-door pickup that had the front end bashed in. It had obviously been junked, so I thought I would borrow it for the night. I slept in the back seat.
The next day I walked several miles to somewhere near Republic, Missouri. I got a couple of rides and then ducked into this Burger King and got something to eat. I stood on the road for several minutes when this guy in a van picked me up. He was a carpenter and I asked him if he needed any help. We started talking about the Word of God and we arrived at his jobsite.
I helped clean up the job site and then he put me to work using the air gun and putting in bracing in the rafters. We worked there most of the day and then we did some finish work at another house.
We drove to his house where his wife and daughter lived. He told me to wait in the van while he talked to his wife to make sure it was all right for me to stay. When you think about it a little, it is a bit unusual for people to pick up complete strangers and let them stay overnight in their home. But he was a Christian and I was a Christian—so we weren't strangers. I had lived in a so-called Christian household in Ames for several years, and believe me--we were definitely strangers! Some people have no hunger for God, so I guess that's their business.
They let me stay overnight and, after supper, we sat around the supper table for a couple of hours talking about the things of God. They were really open to the Holy Spirit. It was wonderful fellowship. I worked another day and stayed another night. The next morning we went to a prayer breakfast in Branson and then I hit the road.
I got to Alma, Arkansas—near Fort Smith--and got a motel room that night. I made a little money working for that carpenter up in Missouri—it felt good to have some bucks in your pocket. The next day I got to Oklahoma City and stayed in a motel room.
After a couple of rides the next morning, I was somewhere on the west side of Oklahoma City. This guy picked me up--he bought and sold pickups in Amarillo. We had a really good talk and we drove to his business called Diamond D Motors. I met his son and later we drove back to his house where I later met his girlfriend. I stayed one night and headed south.
I made it to Tularosa, New Mexico and stayed in a motel that night. The next night, I stayed at the Grace Independent Fellowship Church in Deming and headed west via Silver City and Lordsburg.
Just outside Lordsburg, a truck driver picked me up and drove me all the way to near Skyharbor Airport in Phoenix. I walked a ways to an entrance ramp to I-10 near the airport. It was February and it was eighty degrees and I was without water and very thirsty. I couldn’t believe how hot it was. Finally, I got a ride with a couple that took me to Quartzite.
They were devout Christians and we had excellent fellowship. He told me to help myself to a can of pop in the ice cooler. I inhaled it. I ended up drinking three cans of pop in several minutes. They dropped me off at a gas station in Quartzite and give me some bread and lunch meat.
Quartzite is an interesting place. In the wintertime, there are tons of RVs, campers, buses—some are really expensive. Most of these people are coming from up north to get out of the cold. It seemed to me such a quintessentially American place. America is such a mobile society--cars, freeways, railroads, interstates, secondary highways--hitchhikers, hobos, transients and people who just plain like to travel. Here at Quartzite was the culmination of a mobile society--a city of RVs and RV parks--plus a hitchhiker sitting on his traveling bag eating a sandwich. I was reminded of Elijah being fed by the ravens in the wilderness. The ravens were feeding me, too.
I walked to the entrance ramp to I-10 and the presence of God became very powerful. I knew that God was up to something. This guy soon picked me up and we had an intense talk about the things of God all the way to US 395 near Hesperia, California. The Holy Spirit became very powerful and I was preaching very loud till the driver told me to tone it down a bit because his ears hurt. This guy told me that just a week before he had prayed to God to bring him somebody he could fellowship with and there I was. We are just pawns in a divine chess game. Who knows where the Holy Spirit will lead us to or what people we will meet.
He dropped me off at a truck stop and I slept outside on a patch of ground near a warehouse. The next day I headed north on US 395 and then cut back to I-15. I got to Victorville and then jumped the fence and took a shortcut across the desert and some hills and got to a better exit. I got a ride to Barstow and then to outside of Needles and slept out in the desert that night.
The next day I got a ride to Needles, stopped at McDonald's to get something to eat and waited at an entrance ramp for two or three hours.
There I met another hitchhiker and she was heading back to Kingman, Arizona. This lady got a ride before I did and I waited another hour or so and then the presence of God became very powerful.
Soon this guy picked me up and he was going all the way to Albuquerque. He was a Computer Science major at the University of New Mexico. He was a Christian and we talked at length about the things of God. His mom and himself escaped from Cuba back in 1992 or 1994. He was very grateful to be living in America. I didn't know much Spanish, but I asked him if the dialect spoken in Mexico was different than in Cuba. He said they were. I guess it would be like comparing English spoken in America with English spoken in England or Australia. He dropped me off on the east side of Albuquerque and I slept in some park that night.
The next day was very windy. I walked ten miles east out of Albuquerque and I thanked God that the wind was at my back. I finally got rides to Clines Corners and then I got to the intersection of US 54 and Highway 55 that went towards Claunch and Gran Quivira.
I walked seven miles that night and listened to the coyotes howling in the distance. I slept somewhere off the road and got pretty cold. Every so often I would rub my legs to get them warm again. The water in my bottle froze that night.
The next day I walked all the way to Claunch, which was another fifteen miles. There was very little traffic on that road—maybe a car every two hours. I ran out of water on the way and I walked up to an abandoned ranch house.
The place was falling apart. I walked to a building behind the house and found a bottle of water that was two-thirds full. I thanked God and drank it. Nothing like a little water from the rock when you're wandering around in the desert. That water did me a lot of good let me tell you.
So I headed into Claunch with the idea that I wanted to look up Charlie and his wife—the people that I met at the church in Deming back in November. Well, I didn't know his last name and I didn't know exactly where he lived. I got to Claunch, found an old church that had a water reservoir out back, and filled up my water bottle. This lady saw me walking around the church and she gave me some bread and lunch meat. I knew it was going to get cold that night—maybe below twenty degrees—so I asked the Lord to help me out.
Not far away, I found a stack of hay bales. I jumped over the fence and walked over to survey the bales. I made a trench of bales and put bales on top. I crawled into the trench with my sleeping bag and got so warm I had to take a bale off the top of me. I was at around six or seven thousand feet in elevation; the air was cold and the night so clear. The stars were so bright and crisp against the black backdrop. I slept well that night.
The next day, the husband of the lady who gave me the bread and lunchmeat found me on the road and gave me a ride to US 54. I asked him about Charlie— the guy who drove the red station wagon.
"Oh, yeah, Charlie Powell." he said. "Charlie was working on a ranch a few miles outside of town. He moved south someplace a month or two ago."
Well, at least I tried. Maybe I'll see Charlie and his wife on some other trip. I got good rides to Alamogordo and then to Roswell where I slept in some field. The next day I made it to Amarillo and stayed with some friends. I hadn't had a shower in several days, so it was great to get cleaned up again.
From Amarillo, I got to Alma, Arkansas and got a motel room that night. The next day I got great rides all the way to Des Moines, Iowa. I walked north of Des Moines and slept in the post office at Ankeny. The next day I hitchhiked to Ames and stayed for a couple nights at the shelter.
I was walking around town when I thought I would stop by the Pike Construction jobsite at a fraternity on the ISU campus. I talked to Mike Jordan, the foreman, and he said, why don't I stick around for a few weeks, work for Harold and make a little money. I walked back to the warehouse and Pike Construction hired me again—I think it was the seventh time.
I worked at Pike Construction from the first week of March till the last week of May 1999 and then I hit the road.
I Corinthians 4: 9-13: "For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death; for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day."
Sometime in May 1999, I knew that the Lord wanted me to head west. I began hitchhiking on US 30 and headed towards Nebraska. I got a ride from South Sioux City, Nebraska with a guy in a pickup. He told me that if he saw me on the road tomorrow that he would take me to Casper, Wyoming. I got a motel room in Laurel and that same guy picked me up in his tractor-trailer near O'Neill and took me all the way to Casper.
After staying in a motel that night, I tried to hitchhike out of Casper, but the sheriff saw me and told me that if he saw me out there again that he would have to take me to jail. So I asked him if he could drive me to the bus station. He said he would, but that he would have to handcuff me. So he drove me to the bus station in handcuffs—I had never been in handcuffs before, so I felt pretty extra special. Wait till I tell my kids about this one.
So we stopped outside the bus station and I got out with these handcuffs on my wrists. The sheriff unlocked my shackles, shook my hand and told me to have a safe trip. The lady inside the bus depot looked on in horror as the sheriff drove off. What kind of criminal have they dropped off at my bus station, she later told me. She quickly got out her pepper spray.
So I walked in there like John Wayne and started acting like I owned the joint—but not really. She was nervous, but after we spoke for a few minutes, she felt at ease. I had to stay there for several hours to wait for the bus that went to Montana. We had a great conversation and she even bought me some lunch. Finally, the bus arrived, we shook hands and we said goodbye. The bus went north to Buffalo and then dropped me off at Hardin, Montana. There I slept in a ditch near the on-ramp of I-90.
I got good rides to Butte, then I headed south on I-15. I got to Pocatello and this man driving a four-door pickup pulled over. He had his three young sons with him. He had me hop in the back of the pickup, and after about ten or twenty miles, he pulled over and let me get in the cab in the back seat. It started raining very hard.
We started talking about the things of God and he later told me that his son in the back seat told him that they should pick that man up that was standing on the road. The young boy smiled at me. The dad told me that his son was going to have surgery and I told him that I would like to pray with his son. Even if the Lord did not heal his son, at least his son would have the strength to go on with the surgery.
We stopped at Burley, Idaho and we had a powerful prayer meeting at this truck stop. I thanked him for the ride and we shook hands. He gave me a little money for the road and I got a motel room that night.
The next day I got some great rides up to Ontario, Oregon and then headed west on US 20. Somewhere near Riley, a very coarse and obnoxious fellow picked me up.
His girlfriend was driving and he was drinking. I got into the back seat of the car and it smelled like a brewery. For the next hundred miles I passed him three or four beers from the ice chest in the back seat and listened to his noise pollution. He put me down, didn't understand why I should be hitchhiking, called me a bum. Poor guy. He couldn't help it. He once took a big swallow of beer and then spit it all over the front dash and over his girlfriend. She didn't say anything. He worked at a lumber mill up near Redmond and he was probably the butt of everybody's jokes at the mill, so he had to take out his frustrations on me—it made him feel better. They dropped me off north of Bend some place. I slept in a haystack outside of Redmond and headed west.
I got to Salem and went down to Corvallis and made it to Newport that night. I walked several miles south of Newport and found an abandoned house just off the highway. I slept on a couch in what used to be the living room.
I then hitchhiked south on US 101 and the Pacific coastline was absolutely beautiful. I got dropped off at Port Orford and looked around and walked on the beach for an hour or two, then I headed south for a few miles. I found a place in some grass near the edge of this hillside and slept there.
From there I got rides to Gold Beach and then to Brookings. These two guys in a pickup pulled over and told me to hop in the back. They drove several blocks and pulled into a driveway. They got out of the truck and invited me inside for some lunch. This was a Christian mission and they said it would be all right for me to spend the night.
I helped this guy haul some furniture for a little while and then we drove back to the mission. I showered, shaved and washed my clothes. That evening we had a prayer and worship meeting—and a local Baptist minister stopped by for a visit. It was good fellowship. I stayed there one night and headed south.
I walked from Brookings to Crescent City, California. In Crescent City I got a hamburger or something and kept walking south. Nobody was picking me up. I later learned that there was a high security prison near Crescent City. I walked for quite a ways and got a short ride to somewhere. I then walked up into the redwood forest. I walked at least twenty-five miles that day. My legs were very tired and my feet sore. I couldn't walk anymore, so I walked into the forest about fifty yards from the highway and crashed. The forest floor was spongy with pine needles—it was like sleeping on a mattress. It felt good to rest. It was cool and moist sleeping in the redwood forest.
The next day I walked a while and got a ride to Klamath. I must have walked several miles south of Klamath and I ran out of water. I asked the Lord to help me find some water. Five minutes later, I walked up this hillside and there was this drainage pipe with water running out of it. I filled up my water bottle. The water was very cold and refreshing. I had not eaten for about twenty-four hours and I asked the Lord to help me out and get me something to eat. Five minutes later, I found in the ditch a jar of peanut butter with a copy of the novel Ben Hur and a few other things. The peanut butter jar was a quarter full. I thanked God for providing for me, and since I didn't have a spoon to eat it with, I took my toothbrush and used the handle as a spoon. The peanut butter tasted good and gave me strength to keep walking. Water from the rock, manna in the desert revisited.
I walked several miles and slept in a ditch. The next morning I woke up to the sound of cattle grazing. I opened my eyes and not ten yards to my left were a herd of elk casually walking and grazing. I popped my head out of my sleeping bag and a few of the elk stopped to look at me as if to say, "What are you doing in that ditch, you idiot?" They walked on down the road like they had seen this all before and they disappeared into the woods. Elk are big, impressive animals--I'm glad they weren't too annoyed that I was sleeping on their turf.
I walked several more miles to Orick and then rode to Arcata. I got a ride to Willow Creek and then this lady picked me up. Just before she picked me up, the presence of God became very powerful. She was a Christian and she drove to a grocery store and bought me a sandwich. She then drove me where she and her dad lived out in the country.
They let me take a shower and we had some good fellowship. They were open to the Holy Ghost. She drove me down the road to Weaverville and gave me some money. I got to Redding and then this guy dropped me off in the woods somewhere near Shingletown. It was now sundown and I slept in the woods that night.
The next day I walked several miles and this young couple picked me up. I was the first hitchhiker they ever picked up. They were very friendly and they drove me to Susanville and bought me a hamburger. They dropped me off in Reno and I got rides all the way to Elko, Nevada.
I walked outside Elko for a few miles and then I jumped over this fence and walked up this hillside. I slept out in this pasture that night—I could hear cattle mooing in the dark. I slept pretty good till it started raining. I quick got up, rolled up my sleeping bag and walked a mile or so in the darkness till I found a concrete culvert to duck into. It was now four or five in the morning, so I waited in the culvert till daylight.
Daylight came and the rain lightened up a bit. I walked to this store and hung out there for an hour and drank some hot chocolate and had a hamburger. I headed east on I-80 and walked several miles. I was getting pretty sleepy because I didn't get much sleep the night before because of the rain. I was dead tired, so I walked to the side of the ditch and slept there in broad daylight for an hour or so. Then I heard this honking sound. I quick woke up and these two men in a pickup had stopped to see if that guy on the side of the ditch was all right. I waved at them to show them that I was okay and they drove on. Who knows? Maybe they thought I was dead. I appreciated their concern and I got up and started walking.
I had walked a few miles when I casually looked behind me and I saw these black, hyoomungous storm clouds coming up behind me. I started walking faster and spotted this overpass. I quickly walked under the overpass and, within a few minutes, it was raining cats and dogs. God's timing is perfect.
It rained for about a half an hour and then it cleared up. It was nice and sunny, so I took some of my clothes and my sleeping bag and laid them out on a concrete barrier. Within half an hour they were dried out and I was on my way. I had just left the on-ramp when this guy in a big pickup pulled over. He drove me to Wells and then south to Ely.
From Ely I got a good ride to the middle of nowhere and walked for several miles and then hunkered down in a culvert that night. The next morning this old codger in a pickup took me to a bar/restaurant where I got a couple of candy bars and filled up my water bottle.
I walked east on US 50 and probably walked close to ten miles. I was in the middle of the desert and my water was getting low and there was a ton of traffic, but nobody was picking me up and I started to develop a bad attitude. I walked a while longer and the Lord told me to stop (because I was grumbling quite a bit) and open my little New Testament that the Gideons hand out. I opened to Psalm 18 and began to read. Then I came to verse 19: "He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me." It hit me like a ton of bricks. God's timing is so perfect. I felt better and kept walking.
A little while later, I ran out of water and I told the Lord that He had to help me find some water. I saw this cow-calf herd about a quarter of a mile away, so I jumped the fence and headed towards the water tank. I filled up my water bottle and headed back down the road. I was real happy. A full water bottle really helps the morale.
I walked several miles and it was getting close to sundown, so I hunkered down and camped out in this culvert. I sat down and looked out over the beautiful desert valley in front of me. Concrete culverts are some of the best places I have slept in. You are out of the wind and the rain. It's nice and cozy.
The next day I walked up the road and there was this house and a couple of buildings. It was early in the morning, so I jumped the fence and filled my water bottle at the water hydrant and headed down the road. When a man's got to get some water, a man's got to get some water.
Finally, I got a ride to the Nevada-Utah border. There I got some peanut butter and crackers and tried thumbing for a while. I was there all afternoon and didn't get a ride. This kid pulled up to me on his dirt bike and told me that he could give me a ride for two miles, but I declined. So I walked to this ditch and slept there that night. The next morning I thumbed for two hours and had all that I could take of standing and watching the sagebrush dry, so I started walking. The next town was eighty miles away.
I had walked for a couple of miles and heard this tractor-trailer coming up behind me. It started to slow down and began to downshift. This big, old Kenworth pulled up beside me and stopped. I walked up to the door and opened it.
There was this old guy with a bushy, white beard and baseball cap and he exclaimed, "Son, what are you doing walking out here? Are you trying to commit suicide? The next town is eighty miles away! You're gonna die out here! Get in this truck!" He waved me in.
I was grateful. It was just like in the movies—except there were no producers, directors, or scriptwriters. Just God, myself, a truck driver and living by faith. The truck driver kept shaking his head. He just didn't know why I was out wandering in the desert. I have often wondered that same thing myself. We drove all the way to Goshen, Utah where I jumped out.
Goshen, Utah. It is one of the most beautiful valleys I had ever seen. I was so grateful to be out of the desert and into the Promised Land. Goshen. Sounds Biblical, doesn't it? The Book of Genesis; the Book of Exodus; the Israelites. I sometimes wonder: when the Israelites left Egypt and went into Canaan, do you think they picked up any hitchhikers? Transients have been with us since the dawn of history. Hitchhiking could be the oldest profession. When Jacob fled from Esau and into Mesopotamia, who knows, maybe a camel caravan picked him up and took him part of the way. All of a sudden, I remembered Psalm 18, verse 19. I was so thankful.
From Goshen, I got rides to Provo then south on US 89 to Gunnison. I slept in this field that night. It was a very beautiful, irrigated valley.
The next morning, I got to Salina and walked east on I-70 till a truck driver picked me up. He drove me all the way to Fruita, Colorado. From there I went through Grand Junction, Delta and Montrose. I slept several miles east of Montrose near an irrigation ditch.
The next morning I walked a few miles and I was getting weak. I hadn't eaten very much in the past couple of days. I rested on my traveling bag for a while and started walking. The presence of God became strong and soon this guy in a pickup told me to hop in. I got to Gunnison and walked across town to the east side where the McDonald's restaurant was.
I stood there for a while when these two cars pulled over and stopped. I thought they pulled over to pick me up, but the one woman shook her head and waved me off to say no. The other woman in the front car got out and walked back to talk with the other woman. She talked to her for a while.
She looked at me and asked, "Where are you going?"
I said, "Kansas."
"Kansas? We're going to Colorado Springs. You can ride with us if you want," she said.
She was driving a van and her friend was driving a car. I got in the van and we had the best talk. Her name was Theresa and she and her friend took glamour shots of women throughout the United States.
Theresa was a Christian and we talked for a long time about the things of God. We stopped at Monarch Pass and she bought me a sandwich. We got into Colorado Springs and they had a motel room reserved for them. They let me use the shower, I shaved, washed my clothes and then Theresa took me out to eat. That night they let me sleep in the van and the next day we said goodbye and I was headed east.
I went through Kansas on I-70 and ended up north of Hays where I found a cab of a truck to sleep in. I then headed north into Nebraska and this guy picked me up at Schuyler and drove me all the way to Ames where he bought me a hamburger. I stayed at the shelter overnight and picked up my last paycheck. I talked to Dave and John and Mike in the warehouse and then headed east.
It took me four days to get to Washington, D.C. I visited the White House for an hour and then took the Metro (subway) to Virginia. I then hitchhiked through Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and back to Ames.
I slept outside in Ames and the next day I got some great rides to western Iowa. At Denison I got a ride all the way to Wiggins, Colorado. Soon I had rides to Greeley and Loveland. I walked for a while and slept out in the pasture to my right. It rained a little and the mosquitoes were annoying, but I slept fairly well.
I got a couple of rides to Estes Park. I headed south through Boulder, Leadville, Salida and headed east on US 50. Eventually I ended up going south on US 287 and into Texas. I got a ride from southwest Colorado to Lubbock, Texas with a Mexican who spoke no English. I didn't speak much Spanish. I some how told him that I was a Christian.
I would say "hey-zoos" or "Sangre de Christo" which are Spanish for "Jesus" and "Blood of Christ", respectively. So we were able to communicate a little bit.
We got to Lubbock and he got a two-bed motel room. I talked to the motel manager and the Mexican gave me the money. He drank a beer or two and crashed. I showered and used the motel laundromat and then went to sleep. The Mexican left early that morning and he said something in Spanish and I said "gracias" for giving me a place to stay. He was headed back to Mexico.
I later left the motel and walked to south Lubbock and the presence of God became very powerful. This guy in a station wagon picked me up. He was a Christian and did home remodeling or something. He took me out to eat and took me home. He was really into the Holy Ghost and we had excellent fellowship. I slept most of the day because I was so tired. I stayed there that night and his girlfriend from New Mexico stayed for the weekend. I stayed another night and headed towards Brownfield and then to Lovington.
I stayed in Lovington at a motel and slept most of the day because I was so tired. I switched on the TV and watched High Plains Drifter. I stayed there that night and headed west.
I went through New Mexico and Arizona and took I-10 to Blythe, California. I walked a few miles north on US 95 and found a stack of hay bales to sleep on. It was hot and the mosquitoes were bad, so I didn't get much sleep that night. The next morning I walked two miles north and this trucker picked me up.
We drove all the way to Bakersfield. He let me sleep for four or five hours in the sleeper. We got to Bakersfield and loaded up some used oilfield pipe, then we drove to a big dairy farm in Chowchilla. I helped him unload the pipe and then we drove to his ranch near Mariposa—near Yosemite National Park. He let me sleep in the truck that night. He lived there with his girlfriend.
The next morning he put me to work stacking some concrete blocks onto pallets. I did that for an hour and then he came outside and told me they had to take his girlfriend to the hospital—she was sick. He brought me inside and let me take a shower, shave and wash my clothes. He gave me a little breakfast and I read an article on Navy SEAL training in the August 1999 issue of Reader's Digest. To survive SEAL training has to be the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance.
I told him I should probably hit the road. He had offered me a job on the ranch, but I knew that the Lord wanted me to keep going. He dropped me off in Mariposa and gave me ten bucks.
From Mariposa I went to Merced and then on up I-5 to Stockton. From Stockton I headed east on Highway 88 and into the mountains. Somewhere past Pioneer I got tired of walking and stopped and stuck out my thumb. A little later I got a ride from a guy in a pickup.
He was coming from San Francisco and going home for the weekend to be with his wife and stepdaughters in Minden, Nevada.
We had the best talk. He told me he hadn't picked up a hitchhiker in a long time. He used to do a lot of hitchhiking years ago. He used to hitchhike barefoot. Now he was involved in a construction materials business. He was the same age as I was.
We drove to Minden and we went to a real nice restaurant. He told me to get anything I wanted. He went to the phone and called his wife. Several minutes later his wife and then his daughter and her friend arrived. We had a great chat and a great meal. I think his stepdaughter thought it was pretty cool that he stopped and picked up a hitchhiker.
They took me home and let me stay overnight. The next morning we had a good breakfast and we talked about various things and then they took me to Carson City and dropped me off. We shook hands and I headed towards Reno.
I took I-80 to Fernley and then to Fallon. I walked a few miles east of Fallon and it was sundown. I rolled out my sleeping bag in a ditch and crawled inside and soon I was attacked by tons of mosquitoes. I would take a breath and swallow ten mosquitoes. I started to develop an extremely bad attitude right away and said a few choice words and rolled up my bag and ran out of there as fast as possible. I walked down the road where I was in more desert and less irrigated land (less mosquitoes) and slept very little.
The next morning I walked east on US 50 for two miles and this retired military man and his wife picked me up in an RV and I was able to sleep for a couple of hours. They drove me to Ely and then I started walking down US 93.
After walking several miles, this trucker picked me up. He and his wife were coming from Utah hauling a load of furniture to Las Vegas. We started talking and he said he could sure use help unloading this furniture. I told him to put me to work. We headed south on US 93, then on I-15 and into Las Vegas. We stopped at a truck stop and he gave me a shower ticket. Then he and his wife and myself went to a restaurant and he bought me a steak dinner. His truck had a double-decker sleeper and I slept in the top bunk.
The next day we unloaded the furniture--he also hired two professional lumpers—and it took about eight hours to unload the van. He paid me fifty bucks and dropped me off near a truck stop and I wandered through North Las Vegas and found a barbershop. I got a haircut and walked north on I-15 for a few miles.
I saw some heavy clouds to the west of me, so I started looking around for a place to sleep. I wanted to get out of any possible rain. I finally saw this junkyard to my right, jumped the fence and had a look around. There were quite a few cars and trucks and campers. There was this small camper that I liked. I opened the door and there was this place to sleep with a mattress. I was grateful. There was a very small shower that night that didn't amount to much, but I stayed dry.
I got some good rides through Utah on I-15 and then took I-70 to Grand Junction, Colorado. I got to Colorado Springs and headed south on I-25 to Raton, New Mexico and then I thumbed my way back into the Texas panhandle. I got to Lubbock and headed west into New Mexico. I went through Roswell and ended up just west of Albuquerque.
I tried sleeping underneath an interstate bridge, but it was too noisy. I then walked out into this pasture and slept there till it started raining. I then spotted some tractor-trailer vans parked about a quarter of a mile away. I crawled inside one van and soon it was raining cats and dogs.
The next day I walked for a ways on a frontage road and a van of people picked me up. They thought it was pretty neat that I was hitchhiking around the country. They gave me a can of pop and we had a good talk about putting our faith in God. They dropped me off and then I got a ride with a trucker through Las Vegas and up to north of Las Vegas on US 95. I got dropped off at Indian Springs and slept out in a ditch that night.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of a drill instructor barking commands to his soldiers. I looked around and I must have been near some military base. I later realized it was an Air Force base because I watched these Blue Angels flying around and doing some fancy stuff. I walked several miles north on US 95 and ran out of water and I was in the middle of the desert. I walked a few more miles and noticed a vehicle parked to the side of the road up ahead.
I walked closer and this guy was putting away a tire jack. He saw me approaching and asked me if I needed a ride. I got in the cab and he gave me a Gatorade bottle full of water. I was grateful and thanked him. He dropped me off and I got another ride to Beatty.
I was outside Beatty when this older guy picked me up. He was around seventy-two years old and he was coming up from Mexico where he owned a home. He also had a home up in northern California where his ex-wife lived. In World War II he was a Navy Frogman and he told me that whenever the Marines were going to do some beach landing, he and some other frogmen would go onto the beach forty-eight hours in advance and cut barbed wire, do reconnaissance, sabotage stuff and whatever had to be done to prepare for the beach landing. He was wounded when some mine exploded. A bunch of frogmen died; he and another guy survived. He later worked for the Merchant Marine as a cook.
He told me later that he did one stint as a mercenary in Central America. He was hired to fly out some people or smuggle some stuff out of the country and somehow he was captured and spent time in a prison cell. He heard other prisoners being tortured, and he thought, being killed. And he thought that soon his time was up. He began to pray and a great sense of peace came over him. The details are fuzzy as I think back on our conversation, but he said he saw a vision of Jesus and somehow he knew that he was going to get out of prison. A few days later, by some miracle, the government of that country let him go free. He did no more mercenary work after that.
We drove north to Tonopah and Hawthorne and got into Reno and he bought me supper at a restaurant there. I was pretty hungry and I even asked him if I could have a piece of pie.
He was in bad health. He smoked a lot and he wore a bag on his side because his intestines were shot. His son was in prison for robbing convenience stores and his ex-wife used to be an exotic dancer. I came to the conclusion that this guy had lived at least two or three lifetimes--that's why he was so wore out.
We stopped at a rest area and he slept in his car and I slept on a picnic table. The next morning he dropped me off near Susanville and I headed north on US 395.
I walked quite a ways, got a short ride and then walked to Litchfield where I talked with a local grocery store owner. I walked maybe ten miles up in the high desert and ran out of water. I began to think that running out of water in the middle of the desert was turning into a bad habit. Before I started to develop a bad attitude about my present situation, this truck driver picked me up and took me to Alturas.
I walked from Alturas about six miles to the intersection of US 395 and Highway 299. I jumped the fence and slept out in some trees a few hundred yards from the road. The next morning I walked several miles and this car pulled over. Three teenagers around eighteen years old picked me up. I think they thought it was pretty neat to pick up a hitchhiker. They were going to Cedarville.
On the way, I told them that wherever they dropped me off could it be near a gas station so that I could fill up my water bottle. The kid driving said, no problem. He took me to his house and let me fill up my bottle at the water hydrant outside his house. He came outside and gave me a bag of cheese curls. Not to be outdone, this other guy had us get in the car and go to his place. He came outside with a bag of doughnuts. Not to be outdone, the third guy gave me a can of pop and put twenty dollars in my hand--so I gave him a copy of my short story "High Plains Drifter". We shook hands and they left me there on Main Street near the post office with a bag of cheese curls, a bag of doughnuts, a can or two of pop and a pretty good attitude.
I walked south and got a few rides to Eagleville and got a sandwich at the local store. I walked south and got a ride with a Christian who gave me a book written by David Wilkerson. He gave me a few dollars and dropped me off at this hot springs just below the road.
I was so grateful. I hadn't had a shower in a week or so, so I stripped down and bathed in this hot tub. There were pieces of soap lying around, so I shaved and even tried to wash my socks and underwear. I put my clothes back on and walked past this big ranch that I believe was owned by the Simplot family in Idaho. I had run out of water, so I filled up my bottle at the Bear Creek. I walked out a couple miles to just beyond the Nevada-California border and camped out in the sagebrush that night.
The next morning I walked several miles and this guy picked me up and drove me to Gerlach and bought me a hamburger. We headed south and he dropped me off at Wadsworth. I walked through Fernley and then got a ride to Fallon. From there I got a ride with an attractive young lady from Sacramento. She was going to be with her parents and camp out at Sand Mountain. I then got a ride to just outside Eureka. There I slept in the desert near the road.
The next day I was walking and this sheriff's deputy picked me up and took me to the sheriff's department and they gave me some breakfast. I walked about twelve miles east on US 50 when this SUV stopped right in the middle of the road.
This guy rolled down his window and asked, " Hey, man, are you thirsty?"
I said, "Maybe a little bit."
"Here, have a beer." He handed me an ice-cold beer and then drove off.
That beer tasted good. An ice-cold beer in the middle of the desert on the Loneliest Highway in America was one of those random acts of kindness that will stick with a guy for the rest of his life. Manna from heaven; water from a rock; ravens feeding Elijah in the wilderness; an ice-cold beer on US 50: it's all going to add up eventually.
Shortly after this ice-cold beer incident, I got a ride to Ely and then north to where US 93 branches off with Alternate US 93. It was sundown and I slept in a ditch that night.
The next day I walked a few miles and this woman driving a pickup stopped. She drove a cement-mixer truck out of Ely and she saw me walking on US 50 the day before, so she thought she should give me a ride. We drove twenty or thirty miles and she dropped me off. I got another ride to Wells and then I got a ride in the back of a pickup with a man, his wife and two children. His daughter—about grade-school age—opened the back window of the club cab and handed me some French fries. They drove me to Twin Falls, Idaho and they bought me a sandwich and gave me twenty dollars.
I walked and got a ride and then walked for a while and this attractive, young lady picked me up and drove me to Ketchum. I got rides to Stanley, Idaho and slept in some tall grass that night. It was July 25th and it got around ninety degrees that day--it got down to twenty-seven degrees that night. There was heavy frost on my sleeping bag the next morning. This is the middle of the summer! The sun came up and I rolled up my sleeping bag and put my boots back on and walked quickly to this convenience store and had a hot cup of joe. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but sometimes when a man's gotta have a hot cup of joe, a man's gotta have a hot cup of joe.
I walked to a laundromat and washed my clothes. I walked a few miles and got a ride with this old codger I met at the laundromat. I then got rides to Challis, to Salmon and then walked till I found a place to camp out near this river.
The next day it took me a long time to get to Missoula, Montana. A young lady picked me up and took me to I-90 and bought me a sandwich and something to drink. A few rides later I got to just outside Butte where I jumped the fence and slept on this hillside.
After sleeping there I walked to Butte and got some rides to Bozeman. There I got a ride with a young Christian man and we talked at length about the Word of God. We drove to Hardee's and he bought me a hamburger and we talked and had excellent fellowship. I believe his name was Eric Shade. We talked about the great strength one gets from reading the Bible. We talked about living by faith and the power of forgiveness. Eric gave me some money and I hit the road.
It was really hot and dry and windy-—around a hundred degrees. I got a ride to Big Timber and I stood underneath this overpass to stay out of the sun and soon a truck driver who had a load going to Bismarck, North Dakota picked me up. We pulled over by this truck stop and I slept on the flatbed trailer. We unloaded the trailer at Bismarck and we drove into Minnesota where he dropped me off at Fergus Falls.
A few rides later I got to Minneapolis. There I walked ten miles or so to the south part of the city and slept on this lawn outside this church. It was hot and humid, but the mosquitoes weren't too bad.
From Minneapolis I headed south on I-35 and got to Ames. The next day I attended a wedding of one of the guys I worked with at Pike Construction. I saw some of my co-workers there at the wedding and they were surprised to see me and glad that I was alive and kicking.
After staying at the shelter for two days, I headed east. I took I-70 most of the way out east and then connected with I-81 going southwest through Virginia. I jumped a fence and slept in a pasture that night. The next morning I woke up and saw these three crosses in the middle of the pasture.
I walked down the road for a mile or two, and this truck driver saw me and took me to a truck stop in Tennessee. He preached to me in the power of the Holy Ghost all the way to Knoxville. At Knoxville this guy picked me up and took me all the way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. We stopped at a truck stop in West Memphis, Arkansas around midnight.
This twelve or thirteen-year-old kid walked up to me and asked me to give him a ride to California. I told him he had to ask the driver. The driver got pretty upset and told the kid to go home to his parents. The kid walked off. He was pretty young-—it would be dangerous for him to be on the road. I sure wasn't thinking about hitchhiking when I was that age. Maybe he didn't have much of a home life.
I got rides from Fort Smith to Amarillo to Lubbock and then to Roswell. From Roswell I got a great ride from a truck driver all the way to Antonito, Colorado. I got to Alamosa and this lady named Nancy picked me up and she gave me a sandwich and something to drink. She let me off north of Alamosa and then I got rides to Salida and then to Canon City. There I slept under a doublewide home in a sales lot.
The next day I hit Pueblo, then Walsenburg and headed back west on US 160. I got into Del Norte and I went to the sheriff's office to see if someone would put me up for the night. A local church put me up in a motel. Nancy told me she lived in Del Norte, so I went to look her up. She lived close to the sheriff's office and she was surprised to see me. We talked for a while and then she drove me to Pagosa Springs.
I got rides to Durango and Cortez and then I was dropped off near Dove Creek where I slept in somebody's machine shed. It rained hard that night and I was grateful to be warm and dry. I woke up around four in the morning and began walking down the main street of Dove Creek. I found an old Kenworth or Peterbilt tractor and crawled into the sleeper and slept for two or three hours. The mattress of the sleeper was more comfortable than the dirt floor of the machine shed.
It was now daylight and I thought I had better get out of the truck before somebody walked up to it and drove off with it. That reminded me of the time back in July 1980 when I hopped a freight train in Fremont, Nebraska and I rode it all the way to a place called Chapman-—near Grand Island. This cop saw me riding on a flatcar and unfortunately the train stopped. The cop drove his car to where I was sitting and told me to get off the flatcar. So I jumped off the train and got in the police car. To make a long story short, the cop dropped me off at the county line and I had to walk six miles that night to the next town. The name of the town was Duncan and, by the time I got to Duncan, I had developed a pretty bad attitude. I was tired, thirsty and I got caught riding a freight train--I was not a happy camper. Anyway, I saw this pickup parked by the railroad tracks and slept in the cab that night. I woke up and walked to US 30 and stood there thumbing for a ride to Columbus. About a half hour later, I saw this guy walk up to the pickup and drive off in it. Sometimes it pays to get up early in the morning.
From Dove Creek I walked to a truck stop, got something to eat and walked several miles west. A truck driver picked me up and we drove through Utah up to Salt Lake City and then east to Wyoming. We drove north of Rock Springs and unloaded his trailer at a gas field. We then drove to northern Utah and loaded his trailer with steel. We drove back to near Farmington, New Mexico to his ranch where he and his dad lived. I stayed there a few days and helped do cleanup around the place. We then drove to Albuquerque where he dropped me off.
From Albuquerque I headed west on I-40 and got a motel room in Grants. From there I headed south and west on Highway 53 and then south on US 191 near the Zuni Indian Reservation in Arizona. I walked several miles and found this abandoned building by the side of the road. I jumped the fence and walked behind the building about fifty yards and camped there that night. I slept there in my sleeping bag and listened to the coyotes yelp and howl.
The next day I got to St. Johns, Show Low and then to Globe where I slept out in some bushes on a hillside. The next morning I got a few rides to downtown Phoenix and then I started walking. I must have walked ten or fifteen miles and slept somewhere off the road someplace. The next morning I reached Litchfield Road and got a couple of rides to Blythe, California.
It was a hundred and ten degrees in Blythe. In Phoenix the day before, it was a hundred degrees—-I stopped several times to fill up my water bottle. After an hour wait, this guy in a van picked me up. I got in the van and looked at the guy--he was rubbing the back of his head.
"What's wrong with your head?" I asked.
“I got robbed by a hitchhiker," he said.
"What?" I exclaimed.
"Yup. He hit me over the head at a rest area down the road and stole four hundred dollars I had on me."
"Then why did you ever pick me up?" I asked completely dumb-founded.
"I needed all the good karma I could get."
I sat there in disbelief as we drove up US 95 to Vidal. He was hoping that I had some money on me to help pay for gas. I told him I was sorry, but that I was broke. We talked for a while and then he casually mentioned that he had a box of Poptarts in the back seat. I hadn't eaten in fifty-two hours; those were the best Poptarts I ever had.
We drove to Vidal and we stopped at a gas station. There I talked with the kid that worked behind the counter. I told him that a hitchhiker robbed this guy, and that he was trying to sell some camping equipment so that he could buy some gas and get back to Ridgecrest. He said, no problem. He bought thirty dollars worth of equipment and we were off.
We drove north to Needles and headed west on I-40. Somewhere near Ludlow we stopped at a truck stop. He slept in the van and I slept on the ground. The next day we made it to Ridgecrest and I headed north on US 395.