Time: About 6:00 pm (Colorado Springs to Denver)
Wait: About 1 and 1/2 hours
From: Uintah Exit
This particular hitchhiking experience has been absolutely incredible. Not to underrate the other ones at all, but this one was awesome. Just. Damn. Awesome.
I set out to Uintah exit at just a smidge past six o’ clock on the dot, and the day could not be any more spectacular, the sun shining, birds chirping, some thin white clouds, sprinkled by thick marshmallow fluffs, peppering the sun’s reflection that formulates nothing outside of the non-threatening clouds, nothing but blue skies. It actually feels like Spring.
I’ve only been at the exit for less than five minutes when a biker comes by on a Harley, handlebars stretched out to the sky, his goatee swaying with the wind, his black leather vest decorated with badges, comes rumbling by. The bike engines growls and the ground moves like a lowly-registered Richter scale tremor. I give him a head nod, an unspoken non-verbal sign of respect, the common connection to the road between biker and hitchhiker. We trade casual salutes, and it’s at that moment after that he takes a deep drag off the joint he was smoking, gives me a smile, maybe a wink I can’t see behind the sunglasses, and he slows down just a bit, and flicks the joint perfectly to the shoulder in front of my feet. I can only imagine the perfection of that flick could only come with one spending years of intensive practice.
It’s like something straight out of a movie. I pump the guy a thumbs up as he rides away into the sunset, like some spaghetti Western, except this guy rides a Harley, not a horse. The easy rider looks into his side mirror, and he gives me a solemn nod, disappears over the bank.
You know, maybe I’m a bit more trusting (some may say this modest) than most, but remember, the first mistake that a person that judges makes is that they are actually right. So I don’t think twice after glancing at the still lit joint nestled perfectly at my feet, and I pick it up. I feel like fate tossed it down there, and this is just another small choice that will forever change events.
The landscape changes as the sun sets; the former blue skies transforming into a cacophony of cotton candy an warm tones of fire. The slight wind brings this in, and you can hear the sun calling that the day is over.
I notice three robins hopping about along a piece of land between the merge ramp and the interstate; all the signs and symptoms that spring is here are prevalent. I’m watching the robins peck at the ground and chirp, when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I catch movement. It’s funny how things in nature have a way of hiding themselves to the untrained eye.
To my surprise, it’s a mother fox, who has dug a den for her two young cubs right on the path of land between the merge ramp and highway. At first, I have to do a double take. From my vantage point across the road, I can’t tell if it’s a fox or a bobcat. Bobcats don’t typically make their dens underneath dirt though, usually in caves and rockier areas and they tend to live in solitude even more so than the fox. The way it’s staring at me right now, I’m really hoping that it’s not a bobcat, because looks could kill. The snout seems short, so I almost conclude that maybe it’s not a fox, but then it turns to its’ side while doing a “cat stretch” (even though it’s not a cat), and reveals itself, undeniably a fox.
While waiting for a ride for nearly over an hour and a half, I watch this small fox family in their daily routine. It’s incredible to think of all the cars that are just zipping by, not even aware about anything but their mobile gadgetry and their destinations. Aimlessly moving, and oblivious to their surroundings, they pass by things like fox dens and hitchhikers as if they were statues sunken to the ocean floor.
I watch the two cubs move about, although mother watches closely over and ensure that they do not go too far. It’s as if they are completely ware that there is a definitive boundary, and they cannot venture into the road. Mother instructs best, and the cubs follow. Mother Fox watches over with bold authority, resilience, and crystal clear alertness; all for the sake of her babies. The cubs chase the robins around playfully, yet is is apparent that they are not mature enough to pose any real threat to the birds. It’s probably only a matter of days until one of them gets its first bird in its’ mouth, making mother proud.
Later, as the sun is close to being set, the mother drags a small dead carcass from inside her den. At first, I assume it to be a raccoon, or some small rodent of similar species, but it’s curiously hard to tell without binoculars.
Then I wonder, why would a mother fox bring her kill into the den without first breaking it up for her pups to eat? Since she is dragging it out, I can only assume that one of her cubs of the litter has most likely died. It’s in her body language, and the story she tells by moving it to one spot, then watching over it, intently, licking it, and then repeating this motion, moving it yet again, which leads me to believe that she is a mother fox desperately wishing that her baby were still alive. It’s a rough life for the young, and not all of them make it.
I call my brother to come back and deliver the camera, so I can get some pictures.
I ask myself: Why would a fox decide to dig her den and give birth right along the highway? Isn’t this unwise for the mother, extremely dangerous, considering how much wooded areas and forest and trails are in the area of Colorado Springs? Building a fox den right alongside the highway seems to have about as much risk involvement as sticking your thumb up for a ride. One must consider the risk vs. rewards analysis.
A mother fox scouts out an ideal location for a nest based mostly on smell, I theorize. So even though this seems like a dangerous spot to me, or any other human, in the fox’s mind, it is not. Her perception is almost entirely based off of smell, and think of all the humans that wander the expanse of trails in Colorado Springs. Think of how pungent the trails must reek of human scent to Mother Fox’s nostrils. To her, the highway bank is a safe haven because humans never roam there, according to what her nose tells her. She’s also spot on, as only a few people out of a couple hundred cars actually notice the den as I observe them passing by.
The fox eyes me intently from across the road, guarding her den like her life depends on it, as it does. She gazes at the train as it passes as if she’s used to it, and simply regards it as the blended scenery. Her coat blends in with the dirt and grass enough to make a chameleon embarrassed.
A guy in a Jeep pulls over, but is only traveling a few exits, so I decline, careful not to get stuck at dark at some random exit. Another guy pulls over in a sleek black car, wearing a business suit, introduces himself as Charles. We chat for a minute, and there is some familiar feeling about him that I can’t pinpoint, on the tip of my tongue.
“Are you from Michigan, or the Midwest?”, he asks. Michigan, I tell him.
“No way!”, he says, laughing. “I’m from Michigan too. You haven’t lost your Michigan accent, people tell me that I have one too.” I stay true to my roots, I tell him, we laugh.
He shows me with his hand (only Michiganders can do this) where he is from, somewhere in the Northeast Lower Peninsula, of which I forgot the name of the town. Charles also is only going a few exits, but he offers to give me a lift some other time, which I do hope actually transpires. We mention Michigan things: four definitive seasons, smelt dipping, Bob Seger, Mackinac Island fudge, Eminem, fishing, Detroit, Michigan culture. Or maybe we don’t actually have to talk about them, it’s already in our psychic Michigan wavelength, there is an understanding that does not need to be spoken.
So I have to cut it short with Charles, unfortunately, and try my best to get a ride as the fireball lowers behind the mountains. He drives off, but I know we’ll meet again.
So it’s now been an hour and a half, the longest I have waited to obtain an actual ride departing Colorado Springs. The sun is almost completely set, and vehicles are beginning to switch on their headlights as they approach the highway. I’m the unstoppable hitchhiking freak, and plenty happy having the amazing experiences I have already had, although it would be beneficial to me to make it to class tomorrow morning, and if I miss this chance, I probably won’t make it.
The last rays of the setting sun are mocking me as they disappear over the crest of Pike’s Peak.
Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, in for the save, comes a guy named Nate. He’s driving a Pathfinder, or something like that. The inside of his vehicle is cluttered with expensive studio gear: tripods, cameras, random equipment. I help him move the items from the front seat into the back.
Nate has long red hair and a warm laugh and smile. “What’s up man”, he says. “Man, it’s been a crazy weekend. I had to get out of Colorado Springs”, he tells me as we drive off. Why’s that?, I ask him. “I’ll tell ya in a bit”, he tells me.
I ask him what the cameras are for, and he says that he just got finished shooting for a documentary, as he does a lot of side jobs. “This job kinda sucks, but it pays”, he says. He tells me this one covers some guy who is doing some kind of fundraiser, something to do with organ donors. “To be honest, the whole thing seems a bit self-serving to me”, he says, regarding the man he is filming in the documentary. “But it pays the bills.”
“Check this one I just did though”, he says, handing me his Iphone to watch a YouTube video of a recent documentary he has made. The video is called “A Nickel and A Nail, the Original Hobo Story.” You can find the actual video here:
The video follows and promotes a man who once owned a record store in Colorado Springs called LeechPit, which was owned by a Adam Leech. After his business closed down, he decided to drop what he was doing and hitchhike from Colorado Springs to south Florida. “The colleges ended up wanting to do something with the land that his store was on”, Nate explains. “He could have relocated, but he just didn’t want to always hear customers say, ‘I like it better at the old place’ kind of thing. He got bored of it, maybe, so I think that’s the reason he set off hitchhiking.”
Adam Leech paid for his trip using the documentary that Nate created, launching a fundraising page on the Crowdfunding website. Through selling coins to people that he hand-chiseled himself, he was able to self-fund the trip.
“Together, we made 25,000 off of Crowdfunding, 2,500 which had to go to the website, but he got the rest for his trip.” It was at this moment a light bulb went flashing off in my head, and I told Nate that perhaps I should have him make a documentary in the future for a world trip I’d like to do. Dreams can happen.
I tell him about the biker and the joint, he cracks up. “Just make sure it’s not a Jeffrey”, he jokes, referring to the movie Get Him To the Greek. A Jeffrey joint, according to the online definition, is a joint consisting of mostly marijuana, with opium, heroin, peyote methadone, crushed up ecstasy, some unidentified drugs, and hint of angle dust. That’s some scary stuff!
Well, it is a Jeffrey, I tell him. It was given to him as a gift! We are both laughing pretty hard.
It’s at that moment when Nate says, “Do you wanna know what my real job is?”, and I say, “yeah what d’ya do?”, and he says, “I work for Dog the Bounty Hunter.” An image of one of the last American bad asses on cable television pops into my head, like some lost pedigree of the American breed.
At first, I think he’s joking. “Really?”, I ask. Then he tells me more details about the man Dog than any liar could ever tell, and I’m without a doubt convinced. I imagine him thinking he might have picked me up thinking he might luck out and find one of Dog’s targets, only to find and easy-going nerd like myself. (This is only a joke, I really think he did because Nate is a great dude.)
He tells me that he has known Dog for a long time, and he works behind the scenes for the TV show, staying up till nine in the morning, merging the audio and visual work together, splicing the excess film that they do not intend to use for the show. “It basically makes the editor’s job way easier”, he tells me. “I get to it before they get their hands on the film.”
“I’m actually the only Colorado native that works for Dog, the rest of the crew being from LA. Dog and his wife Beth live in Castle Rock and have another home in Hawaii.”
I’m intrigued, I ask questions.
“A lot of people don’t realize how Dog got famous”, he says. I tell him that I don’t know how he got famous.
“He arrested a well-known guy that owned this jewelry store, for murdering someone”, Nate explains. “Not even the entire army of police could find him. So that put him at first in the spotlight, after he made the bust.” I listen.
“Dog has made over 10,000 arrests in his career of bounty hunting, which would most definitely be a record if anyone had been keeping track. Colorado is one of the last cowboy states, so you can legally carry a gun, as long as you have it visible in a holster.” I’m laughing and listening at the same time.
Nate pauses. “Heck, I might even consider becoming a bounty hunter eventually, since Dog could write me a letter of recommendation.”
Nate says that Dog, like any human being would, gets tired of people that constantly follow him around. “He and his wife literally have no privacy”, he says. “Even though they are his fans, he gets tired of people literally lining up outside of a bar just so they can buy him a shot and get an autograph. Sometimes, Dog will be like,’ thanks, but I had enough to drink already’, and some other guy in the bar will shot, ‘I’ll take that shot!”
“Dog and Beth’s new show, Dog and Beth On the Hunt, is literally airing…”
Nate glances at his watch.
“In literally four minutes.”
Nate talks fast and animated, and he seems to have enough life experiences to fill this car till it’s overflowing and bursting out the windows for breath.
I tell him about my writing, my music, and he tells me that his friend has a fiction novel on Amazon that is doing well. “it’s like a Christian-themed fiction horror”, he tells me. “It’s called Seven X.” You can find the book for purchase, in electronic format at this link ( I plan on reading it myself):
He reverts back to talking about working with Dog, and tells me that on one particular day, they met in the morning with the wardens to discuss the day’s agenda in a small meeting room with a drawing board, similar to something you might see on CSI.
“The warden was telling us that the manhunt for that day was the involvement with a man who was a three-time convicted felon, a rapist, and a dangerous criminal known by the authorities to carry firearms”, Nate explains. ” The warden told us that this guy is ‘flight or fight’, meaning he is either going to run away, or fight until we take him down.” Nate laughs. “I shot my hand up, and was like ‘can I go?!”
Nate is humble, and downplays his job working for a celebrity though. He wasn’t “too good” to pick me up. “My job is mostly behind the scenes”, he tells me. “One camera man once got attacked by the convict’s pit bulls though, and dog had to shoot the dogs with a special gun that fires mace pellets. It’s designed for humans, but he had to use what he had before the dogs got to his jugular. That was… pretty wild.”
He still laughs about the experiences, and we laugh hard.
In regards to hitchhiking, Nate says that he once got pulled over after picking up a hitchhiker, somewhere in Colorado. “The hitchhiker reeked like pot, and this was before it was legal”, he says. “So the trooper was like, ‘ I’d like to search your vehicle, it smells like pot. So I told him, knowing what Dog had informed me about a cocaine and heroine statewide crackdown they were doing, that they had bigger fish to fry, and were looking for more than pot. I told him, ‘ Look, I know about this crackdown… you’re not going to find any hard drugs in here… and I really don’t want you tearing up my car. Maybe he has a joint on him or something, I don’t know.” (referring to the hitchhiker). With that, the trooper handed back his license and left him alone.
We’re just getting off the exit, and Nate says, “so you wanna know why I had to get out of Colorado Springs?”
Yeah man, I tell him.
“Well, this is really, really embarrassing to say, but we went out partying with my cousin and some friends this weekend”, he says. ” And my friend and I, we decided to slam a fifth of vodka together, and one night I blacked out. The next day, I was talking to my cousin, who happens to be a woman, and her friends if they wanted to go out again.” Nate pauses, recollecting the events.
“Well, I basically found out that I had tried to make out with my own cousin”, he says. ” I was in shock, and completely grossed out. There is no way I’ll ever be able to live it down. Colorado is a marry-your-cousin-friendly state”, he jokes. “But man, I had no idea what I was doing, and I want to puke.”
We’re both laughing about it. Yeah man, I tell him. Yeah, that’s pretty gross. But if it’s the worst thing you’ve ever done, I don’t think it’s all that bad, just really embarrassing.
I tell him an embarrassing about a gay guy in Houston, Texas that once came onto me and I had to push him off to even things out, and make the embarrassment mutual. He drops me off at Barnes and Nobles bookstore, and I tell him we should go grab a drink some time.
He laughs. “Dude, I don’t think I’m ever drinking anymore”, he tells me. I can tell he will, but for now, and maybe the next week or so, he is serious. I don’t think anyone wants to imagine making out with their own cousin.
Well, here’s my info, I tell him, and hand him a business card. I thank him for the ride and shared stories. Have a good night, I say, and he tells me, “try not to do anything stupid like make out with your cousin.”
Nate drives off, sins confessed, and a redeemed man, I can only hope. I’m still laughing as I walk off into the night.