Date: Wednesday, September 17 and Friday, September 19, 2014
Where: From Denver to Fort Collins and back
Wait times: approximately 45 minutes and 5 minutes return trip
I’ve never hitchhiked from this exact spot before, having taken the bus from Denver to as far North as it will stretch along Interstate 25. I’m counting the cars that pass me by– 276, 277, 278…. the sun cuts through the sky like a warm fire from the sky, only a few clouds in the panorama. The traffic at this merge is lightning-fast; it’s not the best spot, but this will do. Patience eventually pays off, but you never know the price for your meditated time.
Car number 285 pulls over (a slightly rounded number perhaps) and smiles, I hop in. It’s been a while since I’ve hitchhiked and I’ve never hitchhiked from Denver to Fort Collins before. There is that good feeling when you first get in the car, the slightly-adrenaline-induced-what-am-I-in-for feeling as you put yourself at the whims of the driver, whoever they happen to be.
John appears trustworthy at first impression, a warm smile, a clean car, the glare of a Colorado sun to the west of his window.
John tells me that he lives in Fort Collins and has grown to love it. ” The culture there is really great,” he says. “Maybe it’s the fact that it’s disconnected enough from the metropolitan area of Denver to have room to breath. It has a college culture mixed in with outdoors enthusiasts. I love it.”
We talk about a range of topics, and it even brushes around the area of politics at times. “I think many Americans have become exceptionalists,” John offers. Exceptionalism is a mentality that a person or country stands alone from the rest of the world; a feeling of isolation, perhaps importance. John felt that many people in the United States had this mentality, mostly due to our history and being a conglomeration of many different faces and cultures historically. “This can lead to apathy, though,” he says. ” It’s dangerous in that the citizens of a country can start to think that they stand alone in world affairs, and their opinions matter more… and that’s a slippery, dangerous slope I think,” he states. Extreme independence in thinking has the potential to lead to exceptionalism?, I wonder.
John drops me off the Interstate, and I walk the few miles or so to my destination.
The return trip from Fort Collins to Denver goes exceptionally well. (no pun intended) It’s a Friday, early afternoon, so there is a fair amount of traffic, yet not that quickened morning workbound traffic. A man pulls over in a silver car, I hop in. He’s in his late forties, maybe mid-fifties, tells me that his name is Jim. He has an old-school vibe about him, and also a certain kind of secrecy in his demeanor; at first I think he might be an undercover cop, or maybe he has a profession of similar fashion.
He then reveals at some point in the conversation that he used to have work in “high-security” for the United States government. That does explain a bit and he talks about his thoughts on terrorism in the past and the future. “Did you hear about those Iraqi guys that the government trained and they went AWOL?,” he asks, slight humor in his voice. “Come to find out, they hightailed it to Canada! I hear that and was thinking, ‘why Canada?’
” My job used to have me tracking down big-time thievery operations and drug smugglers,” he said. “Honestly, the Russians were the worst ta’ deal with. The criminals in Russia were the most brutal.”
I’d like to dig a bit deeper, but Jim has things to do, and this is my stop to jump out of his car. It’s been nice to meet him and get a snapshot. He offers to give a ride a few exits passed his destination but I can tell that he is in a rush and just being nice, so I decline and hop out. Five minutes wait, and I receive a short lift from that exit to bus station.