Sunday, May 29, 2016

A man, a bicycle and a dog on US Interstate 5

The blogster did not take the decision to write this post lightly, because there may well be a small chance that European tourists take to US freeways en masse because, well, because they can.  It is a little known fact that non-motorized vehicles are actually legal on many American freeways.

To alleviate any future feelings of guilt and to avoid getting arrested because you misread the map, here is our advice to Europeans: don't do it. 

What you should do, though, is pick up hitchhikers along the freeway - unless, of course, you just passed big warning signs that tell you to not pick up hitchhikers because the nearest human settlement is a big prison.

A large billboard by the freeway in Roseburg, Oregon, said that Umpqua College thanked the community for its support.

Acknowledging the grief of the community after the media circus moved on.

The next billboard advertised "Weed Exit <number>".


The town receded as the slopes moved closer to the freeway. At each exit, more passenger cars and SUVs got off. Soon, the vehicle mix was back to "cross country", trucks and weighed down cars working their way up Grants Pass in light drizzle.

Is that a guy with a bicycle and a dog?

Pull over, ask if he wants a ride.

The man, in his forties or so, dressed in a combination of dark green and black, the uniform of the homeless and those we do not want to see, was struggling with the weight of the bicycle trailer, but his dog was obviously happy to see people. The big yellow dog overtook his person and arrived first. 

We managed to get the bicycle, the trailer, the dog and the lanky man called Tom into the back. And his 711 Big Gulp, too.

The introductions were quick and without much ceremony. He was on his way from Seattle, Washington, to Quarzsite, Arizona.

Quarzsite, the place with one gas station and a bunch of trailers?

That's where I live.

Did you have plans if nobody picked you up?

I was going to set up camp in a couple of hours.

Ashland, Oregon, was the requisite it stop before the long climb up into the desert of Northern California.

As he held two dollars in his hand to pay for the gas station coffee, we asked: Do you have money?

This is all I have.

The coffee is on us.

Thank you.

Four hours or so later, we were descending into the Central Valley after snow and ice near Mount Shasta. The man had eventually decided where he wanted to be dropped of: the Flying T truck stop just south of Redding. Having walked a grateful dog together, we parted ways.

Over here in the out of the way hills of Europe, hitchhikers generally don't do distances like that. A thousand miles would take you straight to North Africa: German summer: dodging deer and picking up drunks at 4 AM on Saturdays.

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