Hitchhiking Colorado- Swing-Dancing Greg

Date:  Sunday, July 7, 2013 (Colorado Springs to Denver)

Time:  About 1 hour total


Having told myself that I would refrain from attempting to hitch on a day that I worked again, I set off to hitch on exactly that– an evening I had a scheduled shift.  This is what happens when you have an adventurous weekend involving hiking in Vail and good times all around.  When the clock rolls over and informs you got get back to “reality”, nobody wants to check in!

I carry my backpack and newly-crafted Colorado Springs/ Denver sign to Uintah Exit, made with cardboard and some hazard-construction tape.  The sun beats down on the Earth relentlessly, cloud coverage a scarcity in the sky.  The train roars on by like a giant centipede-mechanical-slug- thing twenty minutes later.  Alas, a blue van pulls to the side of the merge ramp.

In the front seat is a woman in her mid-thirties and a younger woman of age to be her daughter in the passenger’s seat. 

“Ya gotta get in on my side”, the driver says.  “That door doesn’t work.”  I wait for traffic to pass by and hop in on the other side.

“This car’s a piece of crap,” she says as I get in.  “We’ve had two mechanics look at it and nobody seems to know what’s wrong other than it’s a piece of crap.”

I don’t mind in the least, I tell her.  Happy to get going and out of the sun.

She tells me that they are from Detroit, Michigan and they would rather live in Arizona where it is “always warm and you can bicycle year round with only three months of extremely hot weather.”  We both agree that no snow seems to be a better preference to 8 months of crap weather in the North.

Her daughter changes the music playing through her Iphone and the country song of which I do not know the title to that goes “If you’re going through hell, keep on moving, before the Devil even knows you’re there” blasts through the speakers.  The van shakes and it feels to me like there are loose motor mounts as the van wobbles and bobbles on down the highway.

They set me off at Briargate Exit, which turns out to be an ill-suited hitching point with the fast-paced traffic.  “I hope you get picked up quick”, she says as she drives off. 

There is no shelter as I scan the place for shade and car after car just zips on by.  The only thing that is going me is that traffic on the highway side is congested and creeping by me at the speed of thick, slow-moving syrup.  I lean against a highway sign with my thumb and sign out and watch the citzens of Colorado pass me by like a plastic bag blowing in the wind.  Hurry-up-and-wait seems to be the collective mentality.

At some point I realize that my cell phone must have fallen out of my pocket in the last Samaritan’s vehicle.  After thinking it over for more time than I would have liked to, I conclude that the plane is probably gone for good and I’ll be buying a new plastic-electronic gadget.  For too long I stand there, Fretting about getting to work at six, getting a new phone, and how much the 300 people passing me by kind of suck.  It’s hard to have a positive outlook on humanity at this moment, and trust me, I’m really trying.

Suddenly, the same van comes racing up the merge ramp and pulls over.  “Did you forget a cell phone?”, she asks.  I must have had the widest smile on my face.  I thank her and she smiles brightly, hands me the phone, and they drive off.  That’s another thing about hitching– the nicest, most sincere and genuine down-to-Earth people pick you up and the shitty people just pass you on by.

At almost the same moment, a green car pulls to the side of the road off the highway.  Apparently, the traffic jam has worked in my favor.  I hop in. 

“Name’s Greg,” he says.  “I’m heading to Fort Collins. ”  Greg tells me that he just recently graduated from CSU in Fort Collins and has landed his first career job with his business degree.  “I’m making 40,000 a year for the first time in my life and now I feel that all I do is work and sleep most of the time,” he says.  The trade-offs of our modern-day vices, I suppose.

The car becomes a confessional booth, as it often does.  “So I’ve got this girlfriend who I’ve been serious with for awhile and made the mistake of moving in with.  We’re supposed to go to Disneyland with her parents soon and I don’t want to just lead her on, but I’m not feeling it anymore… it’s hard… I just don’t know what to do.”

I tell him that I’ve been there and the best thing might to be to just call it off, in my humble opinion.

We talk a bit about movies (World War Z) and entertain the idea of the coming zombie apocalypse.  He tells me of his experiences picking up a 300-pound, stinky, sweaty, cigarette-stained, homeless hitchhiker who was heading from Texas to Wyoming at a leisurely pace.  “Man, that guy stunk so bad I dropped him off at a McDonald’s early,” he says, laughing.  Greg says he once swiped up a girl in Boulder who hitched to work in a town that was 45 minutes away from Boulder, and she did this four days a week.

“Do you want a cigarette?,” he asks, hands over a pack of Menthols.

“No thanks, I don’t smoke,” I tell him.  “But I don’t mind.”

“Well of course you don’t mind,” he cracks,” It’s MY car!”  We both get a good laugh.

“Well you know, some people say that and I agree with you,” I tell him.  “It’s kind of like having guests over to your place and then in your own house asking ‘may I use the bathroom?'”

Greg tells me that one of the things he enjoys the most is going swing dancing, and has become well-practiced enough where he can now feel comfortable leading the dance, or being the first on the floor, even without the influence and false-pride of alcohol.  “There is a country club in Fort Collins called Sundance,” he tells me.  “You ask the locals, they either love it or hate it.”  It appears that Greg loves it.

Greg drops me off at Colorado Boulevard Exit and heads further North.  I thank him and Greg just shrugs his shoulders and says, “well I was going the same way.  It’s not right to just pass another person by.”

Apparently, there are a lot of great people in Fort Collins, and Greg must be one of them.


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