Adventures from Portland to Arcata

I was told by a fried of a friend that it would be advisable to get to Arcata as soon as I could.  The first thing I did was check craigslist to find a ride share that would take me all the way to Arcata directly.  I really like ride shares because they’re more comfortable, faster, and cheaper than the bus.  I wasn’t able to find a ride, so I checked Amtrak and Greyhound.  Neither went directly to Arcata and instead stopped over in the San Francisco bay area to make the trip twice as long.

I opted for a bit of a creative solution to this problem.  I found that I could take an overnight bus to the city of Redding, CA and then take a regional transit service to Arcata.  This would make the trip much shorter and easier to manage.

Act I – Portland Greyhound Station

I’ve ridden some buses in 3rd world countries that had rusted out holes in the floor, drove excessively fast and dangerously, and usually had twice the occupancy than would be allowed in the United States.  I’m thankful that those buses exist though, because it beats riding the Greyhound even with the potential risk of blowing up, breaking down, or being machine gunned to death by the local thugs.

I have a love hate relationship with Greyhound.  I hate it because the buses are pretty rundown, the stations are usually in a bad part of town, and because of my amazing luck, I tend to sit next to convicts who just got out of prison more times than not.  I’ve had buses show up excessively late leaving me in the rain waiting, and once I was told the bus was going to be two hours late only to show up 30 minutes later leaving me behind at the bar.  I love the adventure though.  And I also love that Greyhound can get one from anywhere in the US to anywhere in the US.  It just won’t be on time or a comfortable experience.

Within the hour I was there waiting for my bus, I witnessed a fight with two people threatening to kill the other, someone with a gun in the station, a drug bust involving 5 police cars, and someone being chased on foot by the cops.  I’m not sure what that ambulance was doing just before we left, but I suspect it wasn’t pretty.  For the first time ever, I felt safer getting on the bus.  That feeling would end quickly though.

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Gazing out the window.

I boarded the bus early to make sure I was able to get one of those coveted spots where nobody sits next to you.  Things were going according to plan as an older couple got on board.  I don’t think they spoke much English and they clearly were looking for a spot where they could sit next to each other.  I of course was that poor soul who felt bad, gave up my seat so they could have the two, and then promptly sat down next to the craziest person on the bus.

Within minutes of our departure, it started.  The guy I was sitting next to who I thought was just a mild mannered hippie started talking crazy stuff.  You know, how Jews control the world, the US is like baby Israel, and lots of other things that I’d rather not type on here out of fear of attracting crazy anti-Semites from google.  He started off fairly quiet and harmless, but his words escalated until you could feel the tension.  Eventually someone had enough and decided to have a word with him and of course it was the closest person to him.

Words were exchanged, tempers flared, and things were getting exciting.  At some point somebody from the front of the bus had enough of this conversation and this large, loud, and intimidating man came to the back of the bus screaming “i’m sick of you talking shit back here.”  I thought he was going to punch the guy next to me but I was stunned when the next words out of his mouth were, “shut the fuck up, Jew.”  Yup, he was defending the other crazy guy.

Eventually things calmed to a reasonable level and the bus continued its trek to Redding CA, arriving 10 minutes early.  Way to redeem yourself, Greyhound!

 Act II – Redding, CA

I arrived into Redding unscathed by my my experience on the bus.  It was about 9:30AM and according to the bus route that I found on the transit site, the first bus of the 3 I’d take to Arcata would arrive in about an hour.  I hung out for the next 2.5 hours and asked everyone at the transit center what the hell was going on.  With no answers, I gave up and went to get some pizza.

The weather forecast said rain all day.  Not one to believe the weather forecast, I set off to explore the city.  Within minutes the sky tore open and I was subsequently drenched and looking like a wet cat.  I covered myself with a poncho and quickly got indoors where the pizza was all you can eat, and the roof was intact.

I started looking at options of how I could escape this problematic situation.  In decent weather, I’d just hitch as far as I could and sleep when I got tired on the side of the road.  In torrential downpour however, the desire to stay dry overwhelms all others.  I looked at craigslist rideshares, posted on couchsurfing.org, and read the horrible reviews of any hotel that was within my budget (not much).  I also considered a few options of where I could hide out in the city and stay dry.

I settled on scoping the bar scene and planned on charming my way into someone’s home.  It’s a fun little game I play where I go out with the intention of getting invited into someone’s home so I can sleep.  I usually only do this during inclement weather or when I feel like I’m in an elevated state to attract that outcome.  I used yelp to figure out where the hot spots where and headed off hoping to find some action.

The bar was empty so I sat down and ordered a beer.  I hung out for awhile before getting a call from a number that said on my iPhone was from Redding, CA.  I was delighted to answer the phone and hear a voice on the other side offering me a place to stay.  He even said his friend and him were on their way to a beer festival.  They would be there to pick me up in a matter of minutes off we went to the Beef and Brew festival in Red Bluff 30 miles away.

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Beef and Brew – Red Bluff, CA

I had a ton of great beer, tasty food, and lovely company with my 2 friends for the evening.  The Beef and Brew festival was a unique blend of celebratory beer drinking and community appreciation.  The businesses downtown would be given beer to pass out.  This got people into their businesses while also giving us samples of beer.  For $20 we got all of the beer we could drink, samples of food around town, and a drink a beer during the closing celebration.  I thought it was a more than fair value for what I got.  Even with the rain, it was a lot of fun.

The night went on long after the beer festival wrapped up.  With 100% honesty, I was breathalyzed, burned with electricity, and had my nostrils waxed.  But those stories are for another time…

Act III – Next stop, Weaverville

I woke after a good night’s rest feeling refreshed.  I took a shower, had some coffee, and chatted with my host over a small breakfast.  I decided I’d hitch out that day and started working on my sign.  I spent too much time on it and it didn’t get the effect I wanted, but it was quite a lovely piece of art to look at it.  I was thinking of my friend who made a sign that had the same phrase on it, “aww, c’mon.”

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Welcome to Weaverville!

Around 2PM I was dropped off in shasta state park.  Shasta is a tiny little stretch of road that was part of a mining town of yesteryear.  Cars had to slow down through the town and would see me from a mile away.  They had plenty of time to stop and there was plenty of room for them and myself.  I had my sign in the air and I put on my show.

After some time had passed a woman was coming from the opposite direction slowing down as she neared me.  Her window was low and she said with a warm smile, “your dancing made me stop.”

Dancing is my number one tactic of getting a ride.  Dancing is great at disarming people, lifting my spirits, and creating a fun environment.  Dancing on the side of the road lets me build a human connection with someone without even speaking a word.  People often will smile and laugh with a surprisingly common reaction of taking their hands off the wheel and dancing with me.  It makes them much less likely to think I could possibly be a danger in their car.

I threw my bag in the back and hopped in the passenger seat of her pickup.  We took off heading east and talked about stuff people talk about when they hitchhike.  A couple questions I ask right away are about where they have been and where they are going.  Another is about if they’re from that area.  You can learn from the people you catch rides with.

She told me about her work with animals and how she raised a weasel with an attitude.  She is in the process of looking for land to buy so she can open her own bear conservatory.  She fights for the animals and after hearing her experiences with them, I could tell it was her true passion in life.  It was beautiful seeing her so excited when she talked about her furry friends.  She even told me about the time she saw a family of bigfoots while in a fire observation tower watching over the forest.

She dropped me off in Weaverville and I’d spend the rest of the day there.  I had an hour long phone conversation, took a stroll through town, and tried for a while to hitch a ride out of town.  After it got dark I decided to hit the local bar and see what would happen.  What happened was a pool game with 3 local folks.  We were playing teams and my team won both games.  Then my partner disappeared for awhile and I went on to play a game with the next guy in line.

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A friendly bar in Weaverville, CA.

At some point a drunk and angry old man came back into the bar yelling at me about how I “fucked up.”  He was upset that I “sold him out” on the pool table after he was so nice to me.  I thought he was kidding but I soon found out he wasn’t.  He got more and more angry and yelled louder and louder that I decided it would be best to leave the bar.  On the way out someone said, “This isn’t a representation of everyone here.  If you need a place to stay, I’m down the road.”

I slept on the floor of his garage, had some beers, and heard about his rough upbringing in Wisconsin.  He told me about his alcoholic father, the time he found his brother’s dead body, and all of the terrible things he had experienced.  He was a nice man and I hope he finds the peace that has evaded him for the 48 years of his life.

Act IV – Arrival in Arcata

The next day I decided I’d just wait for the 2:45 bus to Willow Creek.  I hung out in the grass, read a bit, and took it easy in the shade until the bus came.  I got on and had a pleasant ride 55 miles to the town of Willowcreek.  Coming into the town I noticed a lot of bigfoot statues and have learned that there it is the bigfoot capital of the world and holds an annual festival for it.  Our bus was an hour late and that gave me some time to explore the town a bit.

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Welcome to Willow Creek!

The bus to Arcata was nearly full.  A bunch of travelers with backpacks and a few older folks who have lived in the region their whole lives.  The device that collected the money was broken, so I was able to save $4 on the my ride by not having to pay!

Because of the laws of the universe, there had to be at least one crazy person on this bus.
 She was talking about how much she hates Chinese people and how unevolved they are and how blah blah blabity blah hate speech.  I asked if she could keep it down a little bit and offered to discuss all of in great detail when we got to Arcata.  She then asked my name, I gave it to her with the suggestion of googling me, and then she basically threatened to kill me for the next 10 minutes until I fell asleep.

The person I was supposed to meet in Arcata stopped answering his phone when I got here.
I hung out for a couple of hours waiting for him and eventually gave up and realized I was being flaked on.

    Bummer.

So I headed off to the bar and had some drinks while I decided what I’d do. I tried to go to a place called Everett’s and they wouldn’t let me it with my backpack despite the fact that there were 5 people in the bar and I had plenty of money to make it worth their while. Such is life and I moved on.

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The Alibi let me in!

I ended up getting a piece of pizza and meeting 2 other travelers. They had been on the road for only 4 days and wasn’t sure where to sleep. I took them to the community forest on the outskirts of town. We found a good spot and the three of us camped out amongst the redwoods. It was a beautiful night and a great end to this journey to Arcata.

To Be Continued…

Now that things have fallen through in Arcata, it’s time to head out and see what’s next. If you want to see where I end up, make sure you follow along on here or on my facebook page!

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Woke up in the forest!