Commencing this trip felt different than others. Within the span of a week I had just sold my car, moved my house, and left my job. Essentially a lot of letting go of stability. I was also looking at fifteen months of being gone. Six and a half had been my record thus far. And I had never really had to deal with leaving an entire house behind. It all definitely required a different mind space. As for the trip itself, I packed slightly heavier than I would prefer for a three month hitchhiking trip, but certainly lighter than I would prefer for living abroad for a year. Eh, balance. You can do without most things. As I’ve said before, convenience is not a priority in my life.
I kind of cheated the beginning of the journey. I caught a ride with a friend as far as Spokane, rather than hitching it. Upon reaching I-90 he said ‘we’re going to be on this for the next few hours,’ to which I replied ‘I’m going to be on this for the next few weeks.’
The lovely Renée (who used to be a friend of a friend, but now is just a straight up friend) offered to host me in Spokane, which I happily accepted. I spent a few days with Renée, her roommate, and his puppy. A few days of being indecisive. Communally. The first evening we got a pair of vanilla bourbon stouts (and I tried a vegan mac n cheese) and we enjoyed the Spokane evening. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this city. Probably more negative than positive. But I think it’s an attractive place. It’s filled with brick buildings, and the structure and spacing of the city is attractive. And the riverfront park we explored the following day was expansive and surprisingly multifaceted.
Renée is a yoga instructor, and I joined her on my second day in the city for my second ever yoga class. It was hot yoga, and let me tell you, it was damn hot. Despite heat being my kryptonite, I quite enjoyed it, and it definitely made me want to incorporate yoga into my life (since I left my running shoes in Olympia…I have *never* been good at running on the road.) But I think I probably should get started with non-hot yoga, so I don’t die immediately. My days in Spokane where a perfect balance of relaxed and active, chill and eventful. A really nice foundation for the rest of the trip.
I did a minimal amount of research on hitchhiking out of Spokane. And basically found nothing promising. Spokane is apparently, even for seasoned hitchhikers, not an optimal hitchhiking location. Indeed, the hitchwiki map showed only red (bad) dots. Despite how disheartening this discovery could have been, I refused to be anxious. I took that knowledge and decided since there were no good starting points, that conversely meant there were no bad starting points. I started at 9 the following morning, and headed to the nearest I-90 East on ramp. It was a twenty minute walk, and the weather was still cool. I had decided to use a sign (there are pros and cons) reading ‘Montana.’ Idaho is the only state on my itinerary where it is completely illegal to hitchhike. And I definitely didn’t want to get dropped there and get picked up by the police on the first leg of my journey.
I should mention again, that this is my first time hitchhiking in the States (something on my list of thirty-four things to do before I die). I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Despite not knowing anyone in the US who would pick up hitchhikers, I suspected it would be more or less similar to my experiences in Europe. After all, they didn’t expect anyone to stop for hitchhikers either. I felt mostly excitement. The kind where you can’t lose your grin. It was a beautiful morning, I had the whole day to travel a mere three hour distance, and my life was suddenly filled with newness. Okay Spokane, okay America, show me what you’ve got. There were a few waves here and there, which is always appreciated (sidenote: please at least wave or smile at hitchhikers, we’re not all weirdos or terrible people, and we appreciate being acknowledged. Nobody wants or is asking for a lift from someone who isn’t willing to give it. Hitchhiking isn’t a demand, it’s a request, and you as the driver have total control of whether or not you want to participate. We respect that.) It was roughly ten minutes before a man in a red pickup pulled over and offered to take me as far as Coeur d’Alene. Idaho. I hesitated, then explained about hitchhiking being illegal and whatnot. He was sympathetic, but thought I might have a better chance, since everyone heading east from there would definitely be headed to Montana. There was some truth to this. I piled in, still unsure whether this was the best decision. As we took off, we both decided that maybe it wasn’t. So he dropped me at an exit with a truck stop just before the Washington/Idaho border. The Kite Flyer was my first official US hitchhiking lift, and I told him as much. He wished me well and in turn I thanked him enthusiastically. However, immediately upon setting my bags down, I realized this was not an optimal hitching location. This happens sometimes. Never trust other people to understand the intricacies of good hitching spots. At this particular intersection, there was very little traffic, and two-thirds of the traffic that did come along, was not heading the direction I needed. Joy. I was reassured when I woman in a minivan offered me a ride to, yet again, Coeur d’Alene. And then again a couple in a huge truck. At least people were stopping. If it got to be late enough in the day, I might just take a ride to Coeur d’Alene. At some point, I noticed two older women behind me, motioning me over. So I grabbed my bags, and went to meet them.
“We just wanted to tell you, that you aren’t going to make it alive to Montana.”
“It’s not safe, and there are a lot of evil people out there. We’ll buy you a bus ticket. We’d be happy to.”
I explained that I’ve hitchhiked pretty extensively, and that I was willing to take my chances.
“Oh, but it’s just not safe. We’d take you to Montana right now if we could, but we can get you a bus ticket.”
I thanked them, very genuinely, but gently refused.
“Well then we’d like to give you a bible.”
Again, I thanked them, but assured them that I already possessed my own bible. They both hugged me before returning to their car. I still can’t quite figure out what the benefit of giving me a bible would have been, if they expected me to be dead by evening, but hey. I do appreciate people’s sweetness, in all of its forms.
Not ten minutes later, a red SUV pulled over, and the driver said the magic words “I’m going to Butte.” So I spent three hours with The Public Defender. Who had also triple majored in chemical engineering and two other fancy science degrees. He worked seventy to eighty hours per week, and described his life outside of work as a ‘nerdy game player’. That said, the rhythm of our dialogue was pretty laid back. I asked him about his opinions on how the United States handled criminals versus other countries, and I really liked his response. He said “every country has a little piece of the puzzle right.” As we came upon Missoula, I was shocked by the amount of trees in the city. I’ve never seen a city so filled with trees. It’s beautiful. It stands out hugely. My lift dropped me at the exit I needed, and that was the pretty non-eventful conclusion of my first hitchhiking journey in the US. I found a coffee shop across the street from my couchsurfing host’s house, and spent the afternoon logging hitching locations, eating delicious food, and drinking tea. A pretty stellar start.