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Hitchhiking America: Crashing A Wedding in Montana (Part 6)

Hitchhiking the United States

Hitchhiking America: Jack the Hobo

Montana, USA

The wild adventure continues as I hitch a ride in a convertible, crash a wedding, shoot some guns, and meet a real hobo in Montana.

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START HERE: Hitchhiking Across America

Day 17 of my hitchhiking trip across America starts early in the morning. I have a deadline today. An old friend has just told me he’s getting married and wants me to attend his wedding the next day. If I’m able to make it in time.

Walking a mile out to the freeway from Bozeman, I run into Jack the Hobo. He’s hitchhiking across America too. But much slower than I am. He’s heading to California to find temporary work picking fruit. Jack started in Louisiana 4 months ago.

He isn’t homeless though. Jack owns 21 acres in Louisiana. This is just the style he prefers to travel, and he’s been doing it for 20 years.

Travel is an experience for him, not a vacation.

Hitchhiking the United States

Ride #19: Chuck the Cattle Buyer

Ride #19: Chuck the Cattle Buyer

My sign today reads “Never Pick Up Hitchhikers”. A little reverse psychology! It works too, when 30 minutes later Chuck pulls over in his Kia Forte sporting a giant black hat and fancy cowboy boots. He’s heading to Billings, MT which is very close to where the wedding will be held.

Chuck buys cattle for a living. And apartment buildings. Not for himself, but as investments for his wealthy friends. He got into it after meeting some of the millionaire ranchers who call Maui home while working at a country club there.

He’s met quite a few celebrities too like Willie Nelson, Owen Wilson, and Woody Harrelson. When he lived in Seattle, he once let a junkie kid play his guitar for a bit, a few weeks later discovering the kid was the lead singer in a new band called Nirvana…

Hitchhiking the United States

Ride #20: Dani & Her Convertible

Ride #20: Dani & Her Convertible

In Billings I settled down at a cafe to wait for my next ride. Dani is a friend of the bride, and was passing through town later that day. She pulled up in a bright red Mazda convertible, walked into the cafe and asked some random customer if he was “The Hitchhiker”.

He was not. That would be me.

We sped off down the highway with the top down. Our destination? The rural farm town of Hardin where we would help with decorations for the wedding. Dani works for a small auto customization & videography company called Mob Theory that specializes in filming road rallies.

She’s learning how to be a rally driver herself actually.

Hitchhiking the United States

Ranch Life

Montana Cattle Ranch

Gabe and I know each other from college at Montana State University. We were DJs who teamed up to throw a bunch of parties around campus. But we hadn’t seen one another for 8 years. These days Gabe runs the day-to-day operations of a 35,000 acre cattle ranch owned by a Venezuelan banker.

I’ve never spent much time on a ranch before, and was very interested in how it all works. Their cattle are bred hormone-free, and shipped off to Europe. Because the EU doesn’t allow hormones in their beef.

The ranch also grows corn, wheat, hay, and other products too. But most of it is used to support the cattle operation.

So what do you do on a giant mega-ranch for fun? Zip around the property on 4×4 quads and shoot big guns of course!

Hitchhiking the United States

Crashing a Montana Wedding

The Wedding Crasher

On the day of the wedding, I became the official wedding mascot. Rumors of “The Hitchhiker” were spreading amongst the guests. It was a beautiful and unique ceremony, with Gabe singing his vows to his new bride! That takes major balls.

Even though I just met her, I could tell that Nikki is the perfect match for Gabe.

For fun, I made a cardboard sign to direct guests towards the reception from the side of the road. It was hilarious, but really only for us, because I think it just confused everyone else who wasn’t in on the joke.

After spending a few days on the beautiful ranch learning about high-tech farm equipment, meeting great people, and blasting away with 50-year-old Mosin–Nagant rifles, it was time for me to continue on my journey. ★

Have you ever been hitchhiking before? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments below!

Ellen Templar

Sunday 17th of January 2016

Hi Matt: I've been slow in following your hitch hiking stories but am doing so. Found this one about Montana and it brings thoughts of 'home' in Wyoming. Also, a family member used to work in Hardin! Very familiar adventures you had on the ranch. I've blogged a bit about Wyoming on the website and I recommend you venture back to Wyoming some time. You may have traveled part of the way through the desert (Hell's Half Acre) but it sounds like you missed the beauty 'as far as the eye can see' of the prairie that is filled with the grass that grows cattle and wildflowers, the mountains on the horizon (or drive through them--11,000 ft high outside of Centennial), lakes, rivers and streams (Sybille Canyon) I would love to see your take on a real Wyoming adventure some time!


Friday 8th of January 2016

If your breast pain is sudden, one-sided or extraordinarily severe, see a health care provider as quickly as doable.

Matthew Karsten

Saturday 9th of January 2016

Thanks for the advice Shirleen. I'll keep that in mind next time I have severe breast pain. Oh! Wait, I think I feel some coming on now...


Thursday 13th of February 2014

Great adventure and funny stories Matthew! I was wondering how you took the photo in the convertible? Very nice picture!


Tuesday 17th of September 2013

He let Kurt Cobain play his guitar? This is so awesome!

Matthew Karsten

Thursday 19th of September 2013

He did Tammy! But didn't know it until he went to the concert later and saw the same kid up there on stage. Actually, at first he said no. But Kurt was kind of annoying about it, so he eventually caved and let him.

Maria Alexandra @LatinAbroad

Saturday 14th of September 2013

great great characters this time--or as always really.

Cant believe the cattle buyer met Kurt Cobain back in the day! Crazy the people you meet when you hitchhike… Missing my own adventures from back in the day now!

Matthew Karsten

Thursday 19th of September 2013

I'm starting to learn that the people who DO stop to pick up hitchhikers are usually pretty damn interesting! My guess is it's only the boring ones who never stop. Which is fine by me.

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