Hitchhiking Colorado- “You can’t just walk to an outlet mall and say you can’t build this like this anymore.”

First of all, THANK YOU everyone who has subscribed and is following the blog. At this point, the small group of people following the blog is enough to convince me to keep writing about these experiences– your feedback, any kind of positive criticism are appreciated. Sometimes I have to write these in a rush through my schedule, such as today. There is a small classroom of 11 people following this right now (now officially documented) 🙂 , and I really appreciate all of you.

Thursday, June 6, 2013 (Colorado Springs to Denver)
Time: About 12:30 pm
Wait: About 30 minutes

Thirty minutes wait really isn’t too bad on a Thursday afternoon, considering that few people in traffic are actually traveling that far this early in the day. I’m facing traffic the other way; almost miss the person in the small family sedan that has pulled off some distance along the stretched merge-ramp to the highway ahead.
A blond haired younger guy hops out of the passenger seat, pops the trunk, and I set my two bags inside. ” We’re going all the way to Denver airport,” he tells me,” where exactly are you heading? As long as you don’t mind being crammed in with a couple other ladies that we are picking up along the way, it’s fine,” he says, laughs. Not a prob!, I tell him, drop me anywhere the light rail happens to have a stop.

The kid introduces himself as JR, and the mother’s name is Jane. “We’re all flying into Los Angeles,” Jane tells me as we drive along. ” We’re actually meeting a boat out at Newport Beach and flying out to an island from there.” Balboa Beach, California. JR and I make small talk about hiking adventures as we pass through Monument. He told me that he just recently peaked to the crest of Pike’s Peak with his friend a few weeks ago. We stop at a McDonald’s drive-thru; his mother and him talk back and forth about whether or not it is better to camp at the foot of the mountain, camp, and hike upwards the next day or to drive out in the morning and start hiking, as the added weight of the gear can be too much.

I have to admit that I’m slightly tight and sore from hiking to the top of the Incline in Manitou Springs on Tuesday evening. We got caught in some rain with a thunderstorm to the North, which came in on us as a light, refreshing mist at one point. Just recently, the town of Manitou Springs started charging 3 dollars an hour for parking to hike and climb in the area, somewhat of a controversy considering that it has been free all the time previous. ” There is a guy that climbs the Incline every day that changed it,” JR informs me. ” He works on the city council or something and is a tri-athlete too, and was complaining about all the people that are doing it, so their idea to lessen the amount of people was to start charging for parking.”

“So where’s their place at?,” JR asks his mom as we drive. ” No, we’re not using the GPS,” he says, laughs.” Last time that took us on all the toll roads.” He looks at me. ” The GPS companies have contracts with the cities, it’s no secret. They try to get you to fork out the most in tolls through every town.”

We make some pit stops in Woodmont, and JR picks up the other two ladies, Jane’s friends. They have the aura of old friends; they start laughing, gossiping and cracking small jokes, drinking magaritas as we drive on. They live in an upper-scale middle class neighborhood up on a hill that overlooks some of the town. ” I usually don’t drink that stuff,” her friend says after getting in the car. “Usually only in Mexico.”

We start talking about college, amongst other things. “I’m not going to college,” JR tells me. “To me, the economy is too unstable, there is no guarantee of a job afterwards, and it costs too much money… my mother and I have our own business.”

I ask him what his business is, and he laughs and pulls out a couple small capsules filled with golden, green nuggets of marijuana. ” The name of the store is Pure,” he tells me. “There’s a store in Colorado Springs, a couple in Denver too. He offers me some of his product, a smooth concoction of different buds. Turn right!, his mom tells him a few minutes later as we get off the highway to pick up her other friend. JR switches into the left turn lane. No, right, not left! He switches over again and laughs. Sorry, I’m high.

We get to talking about cycling, the differences in America and Europe, and other thoughts around that subject. He tells me that his dad is involved with developing infrastructure and city planning. There is a book I read recently about city planning and designing new infrastructure since America, if you think about it, was the only country that was originally built up with the backing of the automobile. All other countries, such as Europe, were laid out before the invention of the automobile, so the automobile was secondary. Now you have huge expanses that were designed for traveling in car, and not by bicycle or any other means of transportation. Also, the wide expanses in between cities and towns in America comes into play.

I think that you should design the infrastructure first, and people will come to it, I suggest. Not so much with voting on it– because the masses hardly ever want drastic change. Once it is there, people will realize that it is more convenient and will start using it.

JR agrees. “The Obama administration is actually experimenting with something called Smart Code planning,” he tells me. “My Dad knows, since he works so closely with the system. They’re implementing new codes for building, mostly in small towns and newly developing communities, only because you can’t just walk into an outlet mall say, hey, you can’t build this like this anymore… it’s really a quiet operation though with the administration, because people tend to get upset when there are big changes like that, but it’s necessary to make transportation in America better.”

I think about this, and it works a lot like building anything– be it an automobile, a computer program, writing a book, writing a song, creating a business model– you need the framework and grow outwards from there, and this applies to infrastructure too. It’s better to test it out with small towns, because they can grow any way they want– the town grows into a city, without any real arteries (streets, highways) yet. It’s harder to force new infrastructure ideas into something when it’s simply already built.

“It’s not just small towns they are building with the Smart Codes, but every newly developing city too,” he explains. JR tells me he had an idea to make a business where professionals that ride their bicycles to work could change out of their bike apparel, take a shower, switch into their business outfit, and store their expensive road bicycle for the day. ” I think people would use it,” he says. ” It’s something that people need.”

We drive on and JR and his mother with her three friends stop at the off ramp of County Line, and I jump out real quick at the red light, and grab my bags in a dash. I thank them for the ride, and they drive off towards the Denver airport. It’s not till they’ve driven away that it dawns on me that I’ve forgot my re-usable Denver/ Colorado Springs hitching sign that I’ve used on essentially every hitch experience so far– it’s kind of sentimental, and unfortunate I forgot it, but I’d like to imagine that these people will take it home and post it up on their wall and some kind of momento.

I sometimes wonder what kind of conversation goes down once I get out of the vehicle, her friends maybe saying,” who was that? Oh, a hitchhiker?! At least he wasn’t too crazy!”

“Yeah, my son wanted to pick him up, so why not.”

Maybe that’s not what happens, but it’s always interesting to think about.


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