Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ATX - Redux: Luck o' the Irish

When last we met, Skip was in trouble, stuck in a far off land; injured, afraid, alone . . . hungry.

A decision was made. I would head back to Austin where the closest REI was to get my carrier fixed. This meant Hitchhiking for the first time in my life.

Flashback to 9:45 the previous night where a white truck swerves around me in the dark and an Irishman in a Camo-ball cap wonders what a mother is doing out for a power-walk that late at night.

Flash forward to 9:45 the next morning when the wheel on my cart breaks.

Flash to me saying, "awwwwwwww, F@#$@%#$#@k."

Flash to after the decision to hitch back when I have a plan. I walk into a small diner in Sterling City and ask where I can get a dry erase pen, I'm allowed to take any of a number of colors. I choose purple because it's my favorite color and it makes me feel pretty. Things are going my way.

Flash to a San Angelo Gas station where I am using the pen to write on the back of my normal sign:


Flash to traveling at 70 mph into Austin, me a giggling idiot drowning in Surrealism and a bad case of the 'weirds.'

Flash back to me walking through San Angelo to get to another gas station and meeting a man who saw me in the paper.

Flash to him letting me out at the same gas station in Wall that I got picked up from and dropped off at by B, my San Angelo host, when I was in town.

Flashback to the diner in Sterling City after I ask for a pen. A man offers me a ride into San Angelo in an hour if I'm willing to wait. I am. I sit down and talk with the girls that work there and show them Couchsurfing. The ride is fast and surrealism begins. I also get a free coke, which was cold, a luxury I haven't had in a while.

Flash forward to sitting on the side of the highway in Wall at the gas station I'd seen so many times from my San Angelo time. I sit for about an hour and half before walking back to the gas station where I chat with the workers, who know me fairly well by now, and then catch a ride with a Grandma, Mother and her 4 kids in a mini-van. Note that they were very patient as I deconstructed my carrier and tied it to the roof. 60 miles into Brady.

Flash to the phone calls I got all day from people concerned people wanting to help, but who were too far away. Thanks all.

Flash to walking to the outskirts of Brady and waiting for a ride minutes before sunset.

Flash to me having beers at 2 am with my CS host from last time I was here. They're running us out of the bar along with everyone else. It's last call.

Flash back to the Highway in Brady, we'll settle here, if it's been disorienting there's a reason for it. That's exactly how it felt. A truck rounds the corner a few minutes after sunset it's the time called magic hour in the movies where the light is beautiful and just about perfect for anything you might want to see. I can see something on the side of the truck and I almost don't throw out my thumb in case it's a sheriff, hitching is illegal and I'm not about to get arrested.

For the first time all day, someone pulls over for me. The rest of the day I picked up rides in diners and gas stations, this was my first true hitch. A man in a Camo-baseball cap gets out of the truck and he seems to have an Irish accent.

"Where are you going?" he asked. He had an Irish sticker on the back of his truck and an emblem on his shirt.

"Austin." I said and told him what I was doing and why I needed a ride. At first I wasn't sure he was going to offer me a ride but then he told me to put the carrier in the truck bed. Hitching with a stroller is hard, you need a truck or something that can hold you, it's much more for a driver to get involved in than simply opening a door.

I called my mom and left a message saying I got a ride.

"So let me tell you a story," Colin, my Irish benefactor, said. He proceeded to tell me about how he hadn't picked up a hiker for 6 years, because the first time it had been a bad experience. It had been a barrier he had wanted to break for a while. We talked for most of the trip, about fate mostly, and the strange coincidences that follow you when you stir things up. There was a lot more to it and I really should have written about it last night, but I was distracted.

We agreed to meet up and have a Guinness, the coincidence of being picked up by an Irishman on the eve of St. Patrick's, who was going all the way to Austin was enough for both of us, then he said he was probably going back through Sterling City in a week and he could give me a ride. Great fortune smiled upon me, and I feel like he felt lucky too. Over dinner he realized he had seen me the night before and swerved around me. It was about 9:45 when we were entering town, 24 hours later.

He dropped me off at my CS host's place and I let myself in and sat on the stairs in a surreal daze.

If you ever want a surreal experience, really, do this:

1. Travel slowly and deliberately in one direction for two weeks. Make sure you keep moving and that each place has only one specific memory associated to it.

2. Travel at a fast pace in the reverse direction

In normal life, you are in the same places over and over again, no place has any overpowering moment. Traveling like this, and then in reverse. You live the entire last 2 weeks in reverse at high speed. Very surreal. In addition to that, I was coming back to a place and people I had seen and met before. It was strange, I haven't really known where I've been in almost a year now. Suddenly I was somewhere familiar meeting people I knew.

It all was too much and it made me start to laugh, giggling to myself. When my CS host arrived home we did the hug thing and I was easily convinced to go get a beer (which turned into 3) despite my earlier desire to go right to sleep. I couldn't help smiling and laughing.

The thing about the day was this: Any given day, you don't know what's gonna happen, but you probably know where you're going to end up. If you are traveling you have an idea of where you are going, if you are staying in town than you know something too. But it had been a day, where contrary to everything I thought when I woke up, I was almost 300 miles away from where I thought I was going to be and doing things I had been sure I wasn't going to do. Doing things I had even lamented missing already. It was a day of true adventure.

And there I was, back in ATX, for SXSW.

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