Category: The Amateur American Hobo

The Amateur American Hobo: Palm Springs, CA to Oakland, CA (Part XI)

A warm desert night closing in and the two days of sleep deprivation from the Greyhound wearing on us, we set out to find a place to sleep in Palm Springs. Walking the nearly deserted streets Bob and I found a large dirt lot across the railroad tracks that looked dark and inconspicuous. Near the eastern end of the lot were stacks of giant cement pipes that looked like a good place to roll out for the night. Spotlights in the distance and the echoes of amplified music told us that the Coachella music festival was in full swing not far away. A gruff “Can I help you?” erupted from one of the tubes as I started to climb in. We weren’t the only ones who thought they were a good place to hide out for the night. I don’t generally like to sleep in proximity to people I don’t know on the road, so Bob and I abandoned the idea of sleeping in the pipes and set out in search of another place. Soon we found another vacant lot next to a mini mart, and a hollowed out space under a clump of small trees that kept us out of sight of the road. The area didn’t have any signs of recent residents so we rolled out our sleeping bags, bought some beer from the mini mart and retired to our cozy tree-tent for the night.

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The Amateur American Hobo: Tulsa, OK to Palm Springs, CA (Part X)

Soon we rolled into the driveway at Clark’s parents’ house for a quick visit. After his mother gave me a bunch of Clark’s old books without his permission we were on our way over to where Clark’s house closer to down town Tulsa. The neighborhood was quiet and comfortably run-down. It was reminiscent of what I remember of growing up close to downtown Salem. We spent a whole day just resting and relaxing. Bob and I washed our socks in the sink in Clark’s bathroom which rendered every visit to the head that day a gag inducing foot-odor festival. Clark treated us to some of his patented cooking which was a welcome break from our mostly gas station and fast food diet of the past few weeks since leaving the Appalachian Trail. Some ingredients were purchased at the friendly local mystery food mart called the Jackalope. The Jackalope market is an experience in itself – having the amazing ability to stock only one half of a meal at a time. Peanut butter, but no jelly. Pasta, but no sauce. Hot dog buns, but no hot dogs. Another visit provided the experience of watching a crackhead lady question everyone who would listen about where the owner was. Unfortunately we missed the ribs the day of our fist visit.

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The Amateur American Hobo: Memphis, TN to Tulsa, OK (Part IX)

Around 3am the Greyhound bus rocked me to sleep despite the chatter from the other riders. I woke up as the sun rose and realized that I’d slept though all of Arkansas. We were starting to make our way into Oklahoma. It was still a few hours to Oklahoma City so I drifted back to sleep, watching the billboards and waffle house signs pass along the side of the highway. The bus continued rattling down the road into the dull landscape.

The next time I woke we were in the middle of Oklahoma City, turning around the corner by a park and stopping at the bus depot. The streets seem empty – of cars and people. Bob and I shuffled through the line of groggy passengers waiting to get off the bus and get their bags. After retrieving them we high tailed it to a park on the edge of downtown. We lay out some of our belongings still soaked from Memphis and called our friend Clark.  Bob and I were happy to be in a new city. We soaked up the intermittent sunshine, spread out in a patch of soft green grass. After the closed-in dirty downtown of Memphis, Oklahoma City had a refreshingly open feel.

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The Amateur American Hobo: Memphis, TN (Part VIII)

Bob and I were waiting for a train that we had heard about that would take us to Kansas City, where we could transfer to the BNSF and ride southwest to Tulsa, Oklahoma. We watched empty coal trains come and go for most of the evening but were waiting for our hotshot. The abandoned buildings by the tracks looked like prime junkie hideouts so we opted for a quiet stand of bushes behind a closed warehouse and waited. It wasn’t very cold, and the first evening passed easily with our apprehension for the coming train adventure to a new city. Around midnight our train finally pulled in for clearance. We shouldered our packs and climbed over a few strings of cars that were between us and our train. After about ten minutes of walking down the line, cursing the constant repetition of the unrideable containers on flat cars, the train aired up and crossed the great river without us. We sauntered back to the bushes defeated.

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The Amateur American Hobo. The NC/TN Border to , Memphis, TN (Part VII)

Hoping for a ride on the gravel service road in the middle of the mountains was a bleak endeavor. Bob and I were flipping a coin on our direction, eager to get out of the rain and cold. A pickup truck passed us by, headed to North Carolina. I was forty or fifty paces from Bob, who was standing under the tarp we had strung up between two trees to keep one of us out of the rain while the other tried to thumb a ride on the road. The second car that came by was a grey SUV which slowed pensively then finally stopped. The driver rolled the window down. I explained the situation Bob and I were in. We were just two hikers unprepared to deal with the coming freeze trying to get to a town with a cheap motel that we could stay in for a night. They didn’t have a bunch of room and were headed to a funeral, but agreed to drive us to the nearest town. Bob and I sat with our packs and listened to the old man sitting in the back seat with us tell stories from a lifetime of living up in the mountains. His spirits were high despite the funeral and seemed to be happy to have someone new to talk to. Thus we descended from the mountains into Tennessee. Continue Reading…