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Tales from the Road – Colorado home

by Mark Kneeskern

Trains and coyotes echo in my thoughts this morning. They put me to sleep last night once I’d zipped myself off from the mosquitoes. Denver International Airport sent and received their minions on a trajectory over my bedroom, strangely silent, like vultures kettling home to roost.

I carry my pack to the I-76 entrance ramp. Graffiti on the bridge over the train tracks reads “JESUS KICKS ASS.” The sun rises and blinds most of the traffic which comes my way. Drivers can only see my silhouette … the tall, gaunt shadow of a man with long hair and a beard, ringed by the glow of ethereal light. This could be to my advantage, the whole JESUS KICKS ASS thing and all.

A real estate man takes me a couple of exits up, to Hudson – another entrance ramp to the interstate, looking like so many entrance ramps on so many interstates. Industrial buildings, gas stations, power lines, trash, concrete, rushing traffic, and big trucks blasting polluting clouds out from their stacks.

A big flatbed truck pulls over after four “exhaustive” hours. I open the door and stare into the face of an ogre … bald, greasy, tattooed, bug eyed, and strong. Looks like a rejected circus strongman who’s been run over by a herd of midgets and rubbed down with gasoline. He yells through the gap in his front teeth, “Gess in, we gossa move!”

Rumbling down the interstate, I ask Strongman where he’s headed. “Oh iss jussa nex exssitup. Gossa pickup atruck ‘ere.” I look at the map. The next exit is basically nowhere. I’m thinking about how to ask Strongman to take me back to where I was without tempting him to crush my noggin betwixt his meaty mitts. The man looks like an ogre, but it turns out he’s a nice ogre. He’ll take me back. He’s going there after he picks up the truck anyway. As he drops me off back in Hudson, I offer him my hand and tell him my name. He tells me his. It’s “Big John.” Almost as good as “The Great Belzoni.”

Here I am again. Hudson. Same crappy entrance ramp, same crappy view, same crappy American garbage. But I’m smiling, because I have a dark sense of humor.

A crappy sports car jerks over within the hour. The driver says he’s on his way to a place by the Platte River. He must be going to Nebraska, where most of the Platte River is. I’m disconcerted. We’re doing 95 while the driver talks on the cellphone and looks at a map, steering with his knees and smoking a cigarette … heavy metal gnashing through the speakers. And we’re heading towards Nebraska. What really disconcerts me though, is that I just heard him say he’s taking the next exit. Nowhere. He was lost and had to head southeast.

I convince him to go back to the exit where he picked me up and head southeast from there. Fortunately, the driver is pretty relaxed about it. He can go twice as fast on the interstate, so he won’t lose time.

Now I’m back in Hudson at the same exact spot for the third time today. If I was in any other place than by the interstate I’d be quite amused that I had been caught in a cosmic wormhole. “It’ll be fun to write about,” I’d tell myself. But here, next to Plastics Colorado Limited, Conoco, Valley Bank, and Buffalo Liquors, I’m not thinking about what great fodder I’ve stumbled upon.

Maybe that liquor store will come in handy.

My mental cry for help is answered in short time. Jackie. My first female driver of the trip … how refreshing. She picked me up for Karma’s sake. Jackie says she hitched around a lot in the Eighties when she was a Wild Child, and she’s paying off the loan, so to speak. Thanks Jackie. Thanks Karma. Thanks Colorado. I’ll continue to hitch through Colorful Colorado until the wheels fall off.

Look for more thumbing adventures in future editions of Colorado Central. When you’re in Salida, stop by The Book Haven, where you can find my first book, “The Last American Hitch Hiker.” I guarantee laughs, deep ponderings, and no road rash.