There was not much between Amarillo/West Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Flat desert with the occasional plateau. Indian reservations. Emptiness. I don’t recall how I arrived in Albuquerque, but I was tired and impatient to get to my girlfriend. I remember temporarily surrendering to the easy thought of just buying a bus ticket to L.A. I figured that I could coast the rest of the way on a Greyhound or Trailways bus, sleep, maybe gain some control in an air conditioned environment. I walked in from the highway and found the bus station. I asked for a ticket to L.A. “Certainly, that’s $75.00” I was stunned. “Huh? That’s what it cost to get on the bus in Alexandria, Virginia. I’m three quarters of the way to L.A. and I have to pay full price?” No sale. I was pissed at the inequity of the bus fare and the fact that I had wasted a couple of hours and walking energy in the heat of the day only to be served a cat litter enchilada of bad news. I stomped off. The sun was going down as I put my thumb up again. A beautiful barren purple mountain stood guard over the other end of Albuquerque. “Good bye, hard to spell dusty city.”
A couple of chumpy rides took me back into the desert west of Albuquerque. It was not looking too promising for me, when a van full of uranium miners pulled over and picked me up. Yep, uranium miners. They had been drinking in town. I guess it was Sunday night and their weekend was over. Back to the radiation exposure. I wondered if I had a geiger counter if they’d be clicking like a room full of typewriters. (Those were early computers without the ability to do anything but process words. Blogee, I worked part time at the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper as a copy boy during college. Newpapers were replaced by webzines and other internet vehicles in the early 21st century. Anyway, they had a big room full of typewriters that clacked a lot.)
I was not sure about these uranium miners. They probably could have killed me by just breathing on me. We rolled on into the night desert. No lights, nothing but stars. Way out there, they turned right off Route 40 and onto a dirt road. They told me I could die in the desert, “So take any ride anywhere.” Off they went. For the first time on my adventure I felt absolutely vulnerable. This was quiet beyond the lush green humid quiet of the North Carolina mountains. This quiet was boundless and arid and had dead Indians’ spirits swirling in it. I could hear trucks coming long before I saw them. I sat by the side of the road, which was still warm from the heat of the day. The air was chilly. It was pointless to walk and waste energy. I lay down a bit farther from the pavement after a while. I thought that I’d sleep for a while. I tried to think of a way to lay there and sleep while keeping my sign up for drivers to see. But what sane driver is looking for a hitchhiker in the middle of the New Mexico desert in the middle of the night? I began to fear the desert sun like a slug fears salt. Would I collapse and melt like a dead possum into a piece of jerky? My clothes wouldn’t change, but I’d be a Slim Jim mummy in jeans and flannel shirt. Not afraid yet, but certainly concerned.
I caught a couple of unmemorable rides and wound up in Gallup, N.M. It was midnight, I think. I just recall being so tired that I walked over to a hotel and asked how much for a room. I recall it was Motel 6. The guy at the desk told me $30.00. Once again my irrational mind told me, ‘The night is half over. It should be half price.’ Reluctantly I passed up the room and went back to the highway. Unbelievably a drunk Indian dude drove up and propostioned me for sex. Not an Asian Indian, let me be clear. A drunk Native American schllurred something to me about doing sex together. I passed up this lovely offer. I was beginning to think that there were a Hell of a lot of folks out having lots of nasty sex on our interstate highways. I mean, I’m one guy on one road, and here is the third or fourth sexual come on in four days.
Another unremarkable ride put me in the unpropositioned desert again.
Somehow I slept briefly. I did not realize that in my sleep I had managed to drop my wallet. I had cash in my pockets but traveler’s checks in the wallet. ( No worries, Blogee, I could redeem the checks in L.A. as long as I had their numbers.) Groggily, I resumed my desperate vertical position. A single guy stopped. Was he the New Mexico desert serial killer? I didn’t care. I ran to his car. He said, “What in the Hell are you doing? You’d be dead by morning if I didn’t pick you up.” I thanked him a bunch and told him that the uranium miners had told me basically the same thing, so I knew it was a truth. “Now listen, don’t take a ride unless it takes you to a specific town where there is something to drink. Got that?” He was being very proprietary with me, and I was okay with it. He did not want me to wind up like a strip of burned bacon in a condor’s claws come late morning.
We drove through the night. As the sun came up, I felt the deadly sun. It was August near Death Valley. What kind of fool would walk along a desert highway without water? The kind riding shotgun in this Buick. He dropped me in Needles, California and headed north to Vegas. I walked to a gas station and bought a soda. I drank it and was thirsty right away. I drank another soda. Still, I was on the edge of thirst. ‘So this is what it’s like, the dehydration, dying of thirst thing.’ I got it. The thermometers read 110 degrees. Wow, I got it.