When I was younger I always had the dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail with a group of friends from start to finish. I even remember thinking about how I would sneak my dog Ace onto the last mountain top at the finish line (that didn’t allow dogs). I planned the trip out many times but never took the leap or found anyone to go with. After a few years of homesteading and farming I grew a bit restless and this idea started to surface again.
After drawing up several different plans and testing a few theories I decided on head south with no idea where I would end up. I tossed out all my plans, sold everything, threw a bunch of crap in the burn barrel, built a trailer for my motorized bike, and walked out the door. I ended up about half way across the USA when I realized that heavy trailers, motorized bikes, and mountains don’t mix. When I built it I maintained the idea that big hills I could just pedal up if the engine stalled, what I didn’t plan for is going DOWN hill. With the weight of the trailer it was almost impossible to manage and left me in one very dangerous situation I have yet to figure out how my dog and I managed to escape unharmed. A brake system for the trailer was required to make this trip. My bike was busted up from this near extreme pain experience and in the end I decided to just give it away.
Luckily where I ended up was a nice little camp ground on the edge of river in a small Missouri town. I wanted to give a little back story to my hitch hiking because attitude is the biggest issue for most travelers. They expect everything to be perfect in every way. The reality is, a good adventure often times starts with tragedy. After over coming this obstacle with the help of an older couple I met at this camp ground. My adventure truly started.
They where extremely nice, open, and respectful. You would never imagine them picking up a hitch hiker, as they were very reserved and I would say politically conservative. They couldn’t help but notice my sweet rig and it sparked up some conversation. This comes to my second tip for hitch hiking. Be respectful and helpful even if you don’t see the immediate benefit. You might not realize the missed opportunity if you’re constantly thinking about yourself and YOUR adventure. After eating dinner with them and enjoying some awesome conversation they offered to let me sleep in their truck. I reserved and slept in my setup and in the morning we had coffee and enjoyed the day. They brought up their destination about going to a blue grass festival and ended up inviting me! We threw my rig in the back of the truck and took off with a 5th wheel behind us.
Ending up in a small town, Mountain View Arkansas, with beautiful scenery everywhere we stopped at a small RV camp ground on the edge of the city called Mountain View RV Park. If you are ever in the area, tell them the owner of the motorized bicycle says HI!
This was truly a town out of a post card. In the center was a huge field with tables and chairs like a park with restaurants and ice cream shops bordering it. Every weekend people would just randomly show up with their instruments and start playing music. For hours! Adults, children, kids, and even a toddler would stroll in and play their instrument with the group and the entire town was filled with this energy. At the courthouse building they would have another band playing and singing with a crowd gathered. The main street had shops of every kind leaving you with an amazing time.
After the music festival was at an end we said our good byes and they dropped me off on the edge of town. With nothing but a crappy bag and all my gear from the trailer stuffed in, and a lot left in the dumpster, we hit the road. I was picked up and we ended down in the middle of no where on our way to Little Rock. I got stranded here not being able to find any rides. This comes to my next tip. Don’t be afraid to walk a bit and COMMUNICATE with locals. I ended up at a few different gas stations on this trip where people would give me free food and drinks, the owner would know a regular shopping in the store and ask him to give me a ride and explain the situation. Being open and honest with people and getting to know them while sharing your story too opens you up to so many more opportunities. In this instance they got me a ride and it was right to where I needed to get in Little Rock to meet up with a buddy.
He lived in an apartment complex that bordered an organic food and plant nursery with chickens and a beautiful property. Here I spent a few days relaxing and enjoying the view. Talking with a few pretty girls in the garden over some of my home brew cannabis tea and getting a new backpack from town with my buddy. It was a nice friendly little town and I met a nice man from India as well. He had moved here to start a new life and was applying for jobs. After a few days of relaxing in Little Rock it was time to hit the road. He dropped me off at the edge of town at a gas station and I started my regular preparations to catch a ride.
Unfortunately this would turn out to be a long day filled with a bit of anxiety. It was quite hot and I don’t like to look for rides mid day in the sun with my dog. Although he loves rolling in the grass enjoying the sun shine all day I get a lot of dirty looks from angry Americans while doing this. Keep in mind my backpack was generally filled with dog food, water, and a few tools and a blanket for myself. Most of it was geared towards keeping him healthy and happy. So after a long day of no rides I literally just gave up for the mid-day period. This is where I would suggest another tip. Don’t hesitate to take a break from trying to catch a ride and enjoy your environment. I simply made a sign and threw it on my backpack at a large gas station.
While I was here I received numerous conversations on top of free dog food, free food, free drinks, and more. There was even a moment when a police officer walked up and I thought, Oh crap, I’m busted, here comes the harassment. To my surprise, she offered me a bag full of food, handy items, hygienic things, and more. I told her I didn’t need it and had my own money, that I was doing this to find a new life. Not that I was homeless really, but by definition sort of. Anyway, she told me it was from her church and that I should keep it and use it and they had many more. I thanked her and told her I thought she was going to mess with me she laughed and we chatted for a bit. Many other truckers stopped and chatted with me and offered rides, only to admit their company literally had new policies about picking up hitch hikers. Many still contemplated but I never found one.
I was trying to get down to Texas at this point and it was turning out to be a rough place to hitch hike from. I was sitting on the side of the gas station talking to some of the employees when a truck filled with dreds and musicians pulled up hollering at me. Right at the moment I was really starting to feel a bit of anxiety for the night these guys rolled in. We chatted a bit and they were headed for Texas! The problem was they didn’t have room for me or the dog in the cab of the truck. Luckily they have a blow up mattress in back, with a topper on the bed of the truck. My dog and I enjoyed the comfort of a bed for 5-6 hours as we headed for Texas. I rolled up a few on the way and we passed them around enjoying the ride. We ended up crashing out in Dallas at one of their friends.
This was a beautiful house with a private rock style pool. The host was extremely nice and opened up his home to everyone including myself. We ended up sleeping out in the yard though under the stars smoking and chilling all night. In the morning we geared up and headed for Austin. After a few dips in the famous river that people swim in we headed for down town. First though, what most people don’t know, if you follow that river up to the head you can actually find a natural area of the river with no people. My dog enjoyed the swim and we all had a lot of fun drinking on the river. Beautiful clear water and sunshine for everyone. After getting downtown these guys showed me how they got top dollar food at bargain prices. We walked around and asked people for their left overs. Most people didn’t mind and the food was untouched from side meals or a perfect sandwich. Half of them said they were about to throw it out. These guys showed me a few life lessons I will never forget.
We ended up eating with the homeless people down under the bridges watching the police harass them. They left us alone and the people we were with so it was a bit of a victory for the night. It was constant harassment by police on people just trying to get by to the next day. They weren’t hurting anyone or messing with people but simply trying to catch some sleep. Most were dressed like they had job interviews daily but no luck. I will never forget one of these guys saying “I’ve never had a white dude eat off the same plate as me” to one of the guys I was with. This guy didn’t think anything of it. Race, color, social standing. He sat right now and they started eating together. This guy was a traveler himself, broke, and always needing food. Even in this moment this man still found generosity, compassion, and empathy to get food and share it. It was truly eye opening.
These guys showed me quite a bit about life on the road and I will never forget that. I was just a noob and they really taught me the ropes of traveling and being smart about it. Many times they would walk in to a McDonald’s and make some jokes and ask for a free ice cream. 100% of the time they would walk out with a free ice cream. They weren’t begging, rather using conversation and compassion as a trade for food. Other times we would sit at a gas station and play music. People would come over and want a conversation. They would give 5-10 bucks and everyone just enjoyed the music. Some ignored us and others where intrigued. We’d fill our gas cans and hit the road.
This is where another tip comes in. Not one I am proud of either where I let sex and a women cause drama between me and these guys. I won’t go into to much details but I allowed a women to trick me and it caused a real bad night for us and the guys. This fueled into a small argument and after a week together I decided I should hit the road again. The tip here is, bro’s before hos. Even when you think you’ve scored sex and a place to crash women are crazy. They do crazy things. They make you look crazy. Of course I was being extremely selfish but I had thought I pegged a good deal that benefited everyone. Boy was I wrong. Don’t chase tail on your adventures at any point. Always maintain YOUR adventure and never let a women or lust take you off your path. This can go both ways. Never change your path for lust.
Another quick tip, be careful with alcohol while traveling. The argument was mostly caused by alcohol as we were sipping some strong stuff downtown. I tried apologizing and bought some alcohol and stuff but he just couldn’t drop it. Deciding to go our own ways we did just that. This was one of the rougher nights on the travels and honestly probably my hardest. The whole time walking it was that constant thought of, man why’d you have to be such a douche bag. All to get some tail. Of course every hotel, every hostel, every motel, ect. was completely full. The one that was open didn’t allow dogs. I was screwed. We walked over 20 miles that night looking for a place to crash. Ending up sleeping behind a dumpster behind a hotel. It ended up being a pretty miserable nights rest.
The morning was beautiful though. We got up and into the sun and hit the road again. A cute little taxi girl sparked up a conversation and ended up taking me down to San Marcos Texas. She dropped me off at a beautiful soccer field complex next to a river. Absolutely beautiful place where my dog and I enjoyed an unbeatable day on the banks of this river. Swimming and fishing it was amazing. The river was clear mixed with a bit of that Cancun ocean blue. People were playing and enjoying the day and I had a lot of great conversations here. As the sun began to disappear from view I thought about sleeping right on the shore. This is when I met a man that was about to leave and head back to town. We talked for a bit and I hopped in and we headed off. This guy was one of the most humble guys I had ever met. We talked for hours and smoked some reefer. Once again, you’d never guess this guy to smoke. He was a business type guy with a good job, very smart, successful, with a nice truck ect. He had recently been screwed by his ex and had children involved too. This guy had a deep heart and had been screwed over. He offered to let me stay with him but I was already staying with a buddy in town.
Here I met up with a couple living in San Marcos. They were a lot of fun and his wife was actually from Mexico. They had lived there too and had traveled quit a bit themselves. We had a lot of good conversations and it was my last stop before hitting the border. This is where I took my first bus because it was kind of dead mans land from here to the border. I didn’t want to risk anything with the heat and my dog so I bought a cheap ticket and told them he was a service dog. We hopped on the bus and headed for the border. A few times the bus drivers laughed because he wasn’t a service dog but there wasn’t anything they could do about it.
After getting to the border at around 4 a.m. we wondered around trying to figure out where the bridge was and how to cross. After a nap on the bridge we ended up getting over to Matamoros. The contact I had in this city ended up ditching me. Which was a bit chaotic at the time and left me a bit out of place in Mexico.
I’ll leave my adventures of Mexico for Part 2 but I thought I would summarize some of the tips here. One of the biggest tips I can give is to respect people. To respect their way of life, to respect their situation, and their thoughts. At the same time, be willing to help others and help them grow by revealing truth about a situation. In this process you find yourself and your own growth. All of this ties into security as well. I never wore fancy clothes, shoes, watches, or jewelry. I wasn’t out to impress anyone or look down on them. I treated everyone I met with respect and was offered many times with food, housing, and mutual respect. Never one time did I feel threatened or scared to be in the situation I was in because I was ready to deal with while maintaining respect for those around me. Never present yourself as something you’re not or in a way that makes you a target. Keep your expensive items hidden. Have secret places to keep extra cash and other things. Inside poncho bags or beneath your fire starting kit. I have found camouflage is your best friend when it comes to staying safe. Camouflage yourself as a poor man. You’re not traveling to impress people. So why wear any fancy shit? Why paint a target on yourself? Most of the tips associated with safety and travel are common sense. Keep the mentality you are nothing but a homeless bum and it’s easy to maintain that mutual respect.
Also, it doesn’t hurt to carry a few knives in your self made elastic waist band created from an old pistol holster.