Wild Young Minds: Hitchhiking our way across west USA - part 2

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Hitchhiking our way across west USA - part 2

The alarm clock went off on Saturday morning and all I could think was: we have to leave this drug hole. Garberville had been quite the experience, but we had had enough adventures the previous day, so now it was time for drinks, music and good-looking people. Off to Portland! ''Think positive and you will attract positive'' is what the Hitchhiker's Safety Guide on the Internet had taught us. Let's say that sort of turned out to be right.  

Pretty quick, we were picked up by a guy in a dirty looking car. Though he didn't look that proper – unshaven, circles under his eyes and lots of cigarette stubs on the floor of his car – the guy appeared to be nice. He was from Portland, so he'd love to help us on our way up there. This turned out to be the most interesting ride of all. The guy, we forgot his name, was the owner of a weed farm and made a good amount of money doing this. He told us all about the business, his friends, his co-workers and the dangerous people in the mountains. Apparently a guy was killed very recently in his street. After all, he lived on the other side of what was called Murder Mountain. Alright... Then, he started telling us about his brother, who was in prison because he just couldn't stop robbing banks. But hey, he was a good guy, extremely charming and handsome. I almost felt sad because he didn't have a picture of his brother with him. A sexy criminal straight outta Oregon. Something different than your average tv-character!
The guy dropped us off in a place about one hour up North. This spot wasn't the best for hitchhiking. However, a very, very cool lady stopped after an hour and told us she could take us to Arcata. Hell yeah, I thought. This was what I had been waiting for all along! I loved her style (long, gray hair, velvet jacket, beautiful jewelry) and I just knew she'd hitchhiked in her youth as well. And yes, she had. In the sixties and seventies, she used to hitchhike all over the country and she would do the stupidest things with her friend, such as showing their boobs to truck drivers in order to make them stop and form a row. Hilarious, they thought. We had to laugh very hard, meanwhile thinking how crazy and cool it is that this was possible back in the days. Nowadays, somebody would probably call the police, which would arrive within a few minutes. The woman, we forgot her name too, told many inspiring stories and was visibly intrigued by two young girls hitchhiking. We were the first hitchhikers she'd picked up in 35 years. Honored as hell!
The lady dropped of us in Arcata, which turned out to be an awesome, laid-back hippie town with a farmers market and friendly people. We had breakfast and made our usual way to the freeway entrance. After 40 minutes or so, a guy of about 25 stopped. This was Stephen and Stephen would be our buddy for seven hours. He drove us through most of Oregon, since he was going to visit a friend in Pacific City. Stephen was a modern day hippie, very relaxed and cool. We got along well and talked about everything, stopped at beautiful Pacific Coast sights and listened to the Gorillaz and A Tribe Called Quest. Just like a father, he drove around Newport until we, the hungry kids, were satisfied with a nice restaurant. The restaurant was not fancy – as no eating place was during our hobo hitchhiking trip – but it was fine. A huge burrito with guacamole and cheese, all I could wish for after such a long ride. I almost felt sad when Stephen had to drop us off, but we had to leave, because we'd arranged a Couchsurfing place during our ride!

We'd hoped we'd make it to Portland on Saturday, but since it got dark so early, we wouldn't make it that day either. We didn't want to spend another $100 on a motel, so we looked up everyone that lived in comparatively big cities in Oregon. We found a host called Heather, a woman of 58 that responded super quickly and offered to pick us up in Newport and host us for the night. Heather was amazing, she had many interesting stories to tell, bought us some wine, cooked breakfast and most importantly, offered us a warm bed. She looked after the cutest kittens, had two dogs and two turtles and was a very caring, considerate woman. Thank god for the Couchsurfing community!
The following morning was our lucky morning. Had we become hitchhiking pro's or was Oregon simply a state filled with friendly people? We never had to wait more than five minutes for a ride. The first driver was Jessica, a PhD student specialized in plankton, the second was a guy who hitchhiked in the nineties with some sort of rainbow group and the third was a mother with a young kid (never thought that would happen!) who was all into Bernie Sanders and wore a little bit too much make-up. But hey, she brought us to Portland and jeeees, were we happy when we arrived there.
During our rides, we'd heard the best things about Portland. It's hip, cool, upcoming and most importantly, there were handsome guys everywhere. Since we had been complaining about San Francisco's lack of those (I know, what's up with that? Perhaps Amsterdam had spoiled me over the past few years), Lavi and I took every chance to go to coffee bars, parties, the art museum and cool streets. We arrived in Portland on a Sunday and were sad about this at first, since we missed the weekend, but it turned out that Portland is alive every night. Many young people working in the service industry live here, which means that they mostly work on Friday and Saturday and can go out on Sunday!
We didn't have many problems finding out where to go, because I had found a really nice host on Couchsurfing, Jennifer Marie, who lived in a fabulous house in the Northwest (hip) area of Portland with four friends. They told us where to go for good and cheap falafel, thrift stores, live music and they even let us borrow their bikes. Since I hadn't cycled for more than two months, I couldn't wait to put my feet on the pedals again. Even though the saddle was waaaaay to high – Jennifer was German and her height showed it – I managed to stay alive. Someone else didn't, unfortunately. When we were cycling across the bridge from the East to the West, Lavi stopped to take some pictures. She looked over the railing and had the most disgusted look on her face ever. And I can tell you she's made quite some interesting faces during the last few months. This was different. ''I. Just. Saw. A. Dead. Body''. Whuuuuut? Apparently, a boat passed the minute she looked into the water and there was a dead body on deck. Slightly nauseous, we got back on our bikes.
That feeling only lasted for a little while, because we fell in love with Portland a few moments later. Despite the rain and the cold, we enjoyed cycling around, discovering little stores and good food. Portland is the place to be for foodies, almost everyone is either vegetarian or vegan there, and every bar or club is obliged to serve food. Strangely enough, we saw more food trucks in icy Portland than in sunny San Fran! Portland is as alternative as Amsterdam, but more industrial (and less historical, as any American city). It has the artsy and cultural vibe San Francisco lost when it sold its soul to Silicon Valley. José, the weed trimming girl that picked us up in Santa Rosa, had advised us to go to ''A Roadside Attraction'' and so we did. We ordered whiskey coffees, sat near the bonfire and met the most amazing old people.
Jonathan was a guy with a huge beard who worked with furniture in an art center and guess what, they organized an open house that same evening with a potluck. Free food and art vibes, what else could we wish for? He gave us a tour, showed us all his work and even introduced us to the city counselor. The other older person we met at ''A Roadside Attraction'' was the wife of the owner of the place. I'm not sure if she was super drunk or just very friendly, but she seemed to have fallen in love with us the minute she met us, because she kept saying how great it was to meet us, how sad that we already had to leave and she hugged us several times. As a distant Dutchie, this was an unusual experience at first, but since I'd gotten used to the American friendliness for quite some time already and I'd finished my whiskey coffee rather quick, I embraced the moment. One love, right? 
On Tuesday morning our trip in Portland had already ended, which was sad and sensational at the same time. Sad, because we felt so at ease in the city, met awesome people (Jennifer worked in a bakery and gave us fresh pastries for breakfast) and wanted to discover more. Sensational, because Seattle and Vancouver were scheduled next. And we felt like hitchhiking again. However, we didn't do this from Portland to Seattle, because our next Couchsurfing host had offered to bring us. He visited a concert in Portland the other night and was driving back on Tuesday morning anyway. For a moment, we were in doubt. Hitchhiking had been so much fine, why would we let down another opportunity? On the other hand, it would save us a lot of time and waiting. The last argument won and so off we went to Seattle, the city where Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix spent their first moments of fame. More about that in the third and final part!

No comments:

Post a Comment