Soaring high upon the wings of a United flight
into Salt Lake City I looked down upon the
glistening world underneath my feet and thought.
Thought of those thousands of lives behind the
lights that pierced through the darkness, creating
a beautiful spectacle for my wide eyes. But those
lives, each one was unaware of my existence high
above their heads. My entering into Salt Lake
wouldn’t effect a single one of them, they’d all
continue on with their lives, in a state of ignorant
bliss. This got me thinking further.
My original plan had been to head from Salt Lake to Wyoming, where I grew up as a little tyke. I wanted to see some of the sights and sounds of my old stomping ground, for nostalgia purposes, along with a few old friends as well. But as spring break approached I began feeling a sense of longing in my soul. That perhaps a trip to the old hometown would be a wasted trip out west. After all, those were things I’d seen and experienced before, and what good would it do me to go back, other than seeing some people who I didn’t even know anymore. There lives would move on if I didn’t come, just like those lives behind the lights under me. I didn’t want to waste a trip, didn’t want to waste an adventure.
Prior to my trip I’d been inflicted by an ailment of sorts, you see I’d been bitten by the beat bug again. I’d just finished reading “On the Road” and “Howl”, both of which rocked me to my very core, vibrating every romantic and daring string in my body. And the thought of wasting this trip induced an element of unwanted melancholy into my realm of existence. By the time we touched the tarmac in Salt Lake City I’d made up my mind that this spring break would be a memorable one. One where I did what I wanted, and chased the adventure that was burning away at my linings.
So, I found the nearest hostel I could and began wrapping my head around how I was going to approach this trip, as it was kicking off the next day, no matter how ready for it I was. Lucky for me, and thank god for the internet, I’d recently stumbled upon an ehitching article, talking about new alternatives and safer ways to hitchhike around the country. Boom! found my means. Which opened up the west for me, but the question was where to go.
I’ve never hitchhiked much before, except for getting back to a vehicle after a couple day hiking trip the spring break before. So I didn’t know how realistic it was, or how far I could get on hitching in a mere week. The west coast seemed appealing, but I didn’t want to risk going to far in one direction and not being able to get back in time to fly out, which almost ended up being the case anyways. There didn’t seem to be to terribly much out East. South… well I didn’t really want to mess with the desert much. So all in all north seemed to be the best option. I figured I could make it as far as Yellowstone and the Tetons at least, and who knew, maybe even Canada.
The dawn of the next day was bright as I donned my backpack. Thanks to ehitching I’d already lined up my first ride by the time I’d finished the free breakfast at the hostel. I was to meet my first of many rides, Jordan, at Temple Square. A bit of public transportation and walking action later I was sitting passenger to Jordan. A 25 year old youth, with curls of ginger that fell gently onto his shoulders, and a smile and laugh that would make even the most inverted person feel welcome and warm. He was headed back up to Bozeman Montana, from which he hailed, as his spring break was just finishing up.
We talked at length the first leg of the trip as we sped past snow capped mountains, tall and breathtaking to behold. He told me of love lost and found, how he’d just recently fallen out of a long relationship, and had taken to the road to help sooth his broken heart, and rediscover who he was. Which he’d seemed to have accomplished by our meeting, or at least he wore his mask well.
Music blared hours later, as I was busy on my phone trying to line up where I might lie my head later that night. I had until Montana to figure out where and when such a task was to be accomplished. After hours of searching I finally stumbled upon my host via couchsurfing. A forest ranger for Teton National Forest, Max.
Jordan dropped me off in Jackson Hole Wyoming, an Eden from my past, and one of my favorite places in the world. It’s an unreal sort of feeling, nostalgia. Walking around Jackson, killing some time while I waited to meet Max by one of the famous antlered arches I was struck rather heavy-handed by that interesting feeling. Even though it’d been close to eight years since I’d last visited, I still knew what was around every corner before I took it. Wondering through shops I was stricken by flashbacks of another time, seeing familiar trinkets here and there. To be back in a place you’d talked about, dreamt about, and fantasized about for years since you’d first tasted the delicacies offered. It made the vision swim and the head spin, a dizzying sort of sensation.
I poked around the shops for a while that surrounded the main square of the little rustic town. I found myself meandering in a fossil gallery, complete with one of the few triceratops skulls available for purchase in the world, for only the small fee of $450,000 is all. After getting to see that gem I made my way into a small cozy coffee shop, manned by a barista that had found his way there all the way from the Czech Republic. He spoke of places that I had never been, but couldn’t wait to travel to, and I told a tale of an Irish summer. He poured my drink and I marinated in the fresh aroma of coffee that the place had to offer before following my feet elsewhere.
My remaining time in Jackson was slowly dissipating as I roamed the streets and boutiques, but not before I found myself in a one of the many galleries the town had to offer. My eyes turned to black holes, trying to eat up all the images I could as I slowly walked the perimeter with the art. Examining brush strokes that contained more soul then most mindless entertainment now a days. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly grateful as I stepped from piece to piece, knowing I was one of few who’d ever get to experience this arrangement and collection. For as the sands of time continued to move, pieces would be moved with it. Being swept off to homes and businesses both near and far, as the visual masterpiece acquired and put together on these walls would slowly be broken apart and sold off to others desires.
I stepped from the store and around the corner, and to my surprise was met by the likes of Einstein, Lincoln and Ben Franklin. Sitting in each others company, as their immortalized cold sculpted eyes stared off into the distance, examining some age old problem. I took a load off my weary feet and sat in their company for a time, thinking of all I’d seen that afternoon, and wondering where my journey might take me in the coming days. As snowboarders, granola folk, and tourists walked by I couldn’t help but feel joy. For I had taken a leap into the unknown and it was paying off marvelously so far, and the trip had hardly just begun. But the time had finally rolled around to make Max’s acquaintance under the antlers in the square.
(The story continues Wednesday in Part 2.)
Salt Lake City is beautiful, one of my favorite places in winter and summer. Hitching? I didn’t realize people did that, still. Good that Jordan was safe.