Archive for the ‘Hitch-Hikers Handbook’ Tag

New Camaldoli   6 comments

Back in April of 1983, I was working on a cattle ranch in western Nebraska.  After a few days on the ranch, I decided to hit the road and head west to California.  I wanted to see a lady who had written a couple of books of poetry.  She lived in Big Sur, California.  We had exchanged a couple of letters and I talked with her on the phone when I was living in Iowa.

I got a couple of rides from Nebraska into western Wyoming on I-80.  It didn’t take long to hitchhike across Utah.  Then I got a ride from the Utah-Nevada State line all the way to Sunnyvale, California.

This car pulled over to where I was standing and this young lady said, “I’m only going to San Francisco.”

So we drove across Nevada and talked about various things.  I slept part of the way to California.  She dropped me off in Sunnyvale; it was around four o’clock in the morning.  I thanked her for the ride and walked down this freeway (I think it was U.S. 101).  I found some bushes to sleep in for a while.

Just before the sun came up, I started walking down the freeway.  I saw this car parked on the shoulder.  I thought it was broke down or abandoned.  As I walked past the car, this guy in the back seat spoke up.  I was surprised to hear someone speaking from the car and I turned and talked with the guy.

“Where you going?” he asked.

“Santa Cruz,” I replied.

“Where you coming from?”

“I just hitchhiked from Nebraska.”

“Sounds like a long trip.”

I looked at his leg—it was in a cast.  “What happened to your leg?” I asked.

“I broke it while surfing.  You’re going to Santa Cruz?”


“You’re going in the wrong direction.  You’re going south—you need to go west.  Walk back to the next off ramp and take Highway 17 to Santa Cruz.”

“Hey, thanks.  I hope your leg heals up soon.”

“Me too.”

I don’t remember if his car broke down or ran out of gas.

So I walked back to Highway 17 and hitchhiked to Santa Cruz.  It was Providential that I met that guy with the broken leg.  He pointed me in the right direction.

From Santa Cruz I took a bus to Monterrey and then shared a taxi with a guy to Carmel.  I phoned my poet friend from Carmel.  She and her boyfriend picked me up a while later and drove me to her house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Big Sur.  She told me that it was a miracle that I arrived in Carmel when I did.  Two hours before I phoned her, Highway 1 north of Big Sur had reopened after being shut down for two months because of a mudslide.

I stayed at her house for a few days and then hitchhiked south to this Camaldolese monastery.  It is called New Camaldoli Hermitage; it is in the Santa Lucia Mountains.  As I walked and hitchhiked south on the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), I met this bicyclist from Austria.

“Can I get through to San Francisco?” he asked.  “I heard that there was a big mudslide south of Big Sur.”

“Yeah,” I replied.  “I just came through there.  I walked across the mudslide no problem.”

“That’s a relief.  I just rode my bike from Belize through Mexico.  I am heading to Canada.”

“Have a good trip.”

I got a ride to Lucia (I am not sure if this town exists anymore) and stopped at New Camaldoli for three nights.  The monks put me up in my own hermit cell. They gave me three meals a day.  Each day I would have fellowship with the younger monks in the chapel.  The older monks (hermits) would stay in their own hermit cells.  The monks I met were very friendly.  It is probably rare for a hitchhiker to stay at their hermitage.  It was a beautiful, quiet place built on the side of this mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Back in 1980, I had been working on a farm in County Carlow in Ireland for a few months.  I met this school teacher while I was there.  She asked me if I had ever heard of a writer named Thomas Merton.  I told her I didn’t.  Thomas Merton had gone to college at Cambridge and Columbia and showed much promise as a writer.  He later joined this Cistercian Monastery in Kentucky.  Eventually I read a couple of his books and thought that maybe I should become a monk.

I visited a couple of monasteries in Ireland and several in the United States.  I thought I should become a monk because I really didn’t blend in well with the world system.  I didn’t blend in well with the world system as a 17-year-old atheist.  I still don’t blend in well with the world system as 51-year-old hitchhiker.  Some people just don’t blend in well.

I remember back in 1982, some people dropped me off at the New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa.  I stayed one night to see what it was like.  I talked to a couple of monks about the monastic life.  As I left the monastery the next morning, this older monk smiled at me, opened the door and saw me off.

“Where you off to?” he asked.

“I’m going to hitchhike to Iowa City,” I replied.  “Thanks for letting me stay the night.”

“You’re welcome.  Have a safe trip and God bless you.”

That old monk had such a serene smile.

After I left New Camaldoli, I hitchhiked back north to Big Sur.  I got one ride with this man and woman in a pickup.  They told me that a friend of theirs had a vivid dream of an earthquake that hit California, so she immediately flew to Thailand.  A week after I heard about this earthquake dream, an earthquake hit Coalinga, California.  Things happen for a reason.

Wikipedia:  “The 1983 Coalinga earthquake occurred on May 2, 1983 at exactly 23:42 UTC in Coalinga,California. The earthquake recorded 6.5 on the Richter scale. The earthquake was caused by an unknown fault buried under the surface.”

“This earthquake caused an estimated $10 million in property damage (according to the American Red Cross) and injured 94 people. Damage was most severe in Coalinga, where the 8-block downtown commercial district was almost completely destroyed. Here, buildings having unreinforced brick walls sustained the heaviest damage.”

California Earthquake
Hitch-Hikers Handbook
Sleeping at the Post Office in Bridgeport, California
Back in California
A Hitchhiker in Bakersfield
Branding Calves
Revival in Ireland?
Hitchhiking Stories from Digihitch

Featured on Hitch-Hikers Handbook

A Short Hitchhiking Trip   7 comments

Oregon Highway

Last Thursday, Susie gave me a ride over Cedar Pass to U.S. 395 north of Alturas, California.  I walked a mile or so and got picked up by a tractor-trailer.

The driver was Ken and he said that he had picked me up before a few years ago.  He drove me to Lakeview, Oregon and dropped me off near the library.

I walked into the library and asked the librarian if there was a barbershop close by.  She said there was a barbershop on main street.  I spent some time on the Internet and then walked to the barbershop.

I was sitting in the barber’s chair getting a haircut when this older man and woman walked into the shop.  Before they walked in, I gave Diane (the lady giving me a haircut) my card.  Diane gave my card to the lady who had just walked into the barbershop.

The lady looked at my card and we started talking about my hitchhiking travels.  Then she said, “I’ve read your book.”

I said, “High Plains Drifter?”

“Yes.  A friend of mine bought your book and then gave it to me.”

This was quite a surprise.

She later told me that I should go to the local newspaper and maybe they would do a story about my travels.

After my haircut, I walked to the offices of the Lake County Examiner.  I talked with Ryan Bonham, who is a reporter for the Examiner.  He told me to come back at 2 PM.

I walked to this motel in Lakeview and got a room.  I made some money working for John and Susie, so I thought I would get a motel room.  I ended up staying in Lakeview for two nights.

I walked back to the Examiner and talked with Ryan Bonham for about an hour.  The last time a reporter interviewed me for a story was in Hamilton, Montana in 2008–the Ravalli Republic Newspaper.  That reporter interviewed me for about a half hour.

After the interview, Ryan told me that the article would come out the following Wednesday or in the next two or three weeks.  We shook hands and I walked back to the library.

On Saturday morning, I left Lakeview and walked north on U.S. 395.  I thought that I would go to Burns and then head north to Washington state or head east towards Boise.

This guy named Chuck picked me up and took me to Bend and then to Redmond, Oregon.  He had pruned some trees for John and Susie a few years ago.  From Redmond I walked a couple of miles and hitchhiked to Prineville.

I got a room at the City Center Motel in Prineville.  I watched Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks and some other Irish gangsters while I was there.  I have always thought that Prineville was a real nice town.

The next day, I got two rides to John Day.  From John Day, I got a ride to Seneca with this old codger in a beat up pickup.  He was wearing a worn out cowboy hat and had a few bags of groceries in the cab of his pickup.  I asked him how old his pickup was and he said that it was a ’63.  He said it was built before I was born.  I told him that I was born in 1960.

In our conversation, he said that he had spent some time in prison years ago.  When he got out of prison, he did some hitchhiking.  For some reason, he thought that I said that I was born in 1946.  I said, no, I was born in 1960.  He said, you look like you are 46.  I then asked him if he was born in 1946.  He said, no, that he was born in 1929.  Yeah, I probably said, you look older than 46–you look older than your ’63 pickup which makes sense if you were born in 1929.  1960, 1946, 1929:  I guess it’s all the same thing–especially if you were born after 1990.  Sometimes details get confused when a hitchhiker who was born in 1960 talks to an old codger who was born in 1929 who later spent time in prison who thinks that the hitchhiker is 46 when in fact the hitchhiker is 52 . . . . .I think I’ll stop here before I paint myself into a corner.

The old guy then proceeded to tell me how I could steal gas out of other people’s cars with this device that you plug into your dashboard cigarette lighter–which didn’t make a whole lot of sense because I didn’t have a dashboard cigarette lighter and I didn’t have a car and I didn’t need gas.  Some people don’t make a whole lot of sense.  He was an old ex con who probably drank too much beer, stole too much gas and spent too much time in the pen.  He dropped me off in Seneca and I hit the road.

I walked a couple of miles and got a ride to Burns with a guy who was born in Massena, Iowa.  I told him that I was born and raised in Iowa.  He went to school at Iowa State and worked for the U.S. Forest Service.  I told him that my grandmother was born and raised in Massena.

I got dropped off at this truck stop on the west side of Burns (Hines).  I hit the road and got a ride to Riley with a couple of guys going to Bend.

From Riley, I walked a couple of miles south on U.S. 395 and then the sun went down over the western horizon.  I laid out my sleeping bag in the sagebrush near this fence line on the east side of the road and went to sleep.

Sometime after midnight, I woke up and the night sky was overcast.  It started to sprinkle a very light rain.  I packed up my things and walked back to Riley.  I walked to this horse shed next to the gas station and laid out my sleeping bag in the shed and slept there the rest of the night.  It began to rain much harder and I was grateful to be out of the weather for the night.

At sun up, the rain had stopped and I walked to the gas station and got something to eat.  I walked back to the intersection and got two rides to Lakeview on U.S. 395.  From Lakeview, I got two rides to Highway 299.  From Highway 299, I got two rides over Cedar Pass to Cedarville.


A Thumb and a Prayer
Author Pens Tales Reminiscing from the Road
Take Me Home, Country Roads