Hitchhiking America: Trucking Across the Heartland (Part 7)

Hitchhiking the United States

Hitchhiking America: Life of a Trucker

Colorado, USA

After hanging out for a few days in Denver with a friend, I get picked up by a trucker couple from Tennessee and spend 30 hours living in a big-rig.

Day 20 of my hitchhiking trip through the United States starts in Montana. While crashing my friend Gabe’s wedding I meet his cousin Curt who plans to drive South to Colorado soon after. I explain what I’m doing, and he offers to give me a lift.

Hitchhiking the United States

Ride #21: Curt the Jail Builder & His Wife

Ride #21: Curt the Jail Builder

Curt and his wife Cody pick me up at a gas station near the highway in a Nissan Armada. They’re heading home to Fort Collins, CO through Wyoming. Curt owns a company that builds jails all over the country.

He bids on contracts to construct jail cells for state & local law enforcement. Cody works as a Dental Hygienist.

There’s not much to see in Eastern Wyoming.

The highway scenery consisted of rocky desert wasteland visible in all directions. It’s beautiful, in a desolate kind of way. We passed through the cities of Sheridan, Casper, and Cheyenne — stopping a few times for food and gas.

I slept in the back of the comfortable SUV for most of the 6 hour drive.

Hitchhiking the United States

Ride #22: Morgan with her Pepper Spray

Ride #22: Morgan the Hygienist

Fort Collins is a cool little town. But I’m only there for an hour before my friend Morgan picks me up at a coffee shop and we drive down to Denver. Morgan also works as a Dental Hygienist. I Couchsurfed with her for a few days while she showed me around.

Denver is a bike-friendly town. We spend a day touring the city on bikes while visiting local restaurants and the beautiful Denver Botanical Gardens.

I’d left Montana with 2 giant t-bone steaks from the ranch (payment for my wedding mascot services) which we decide to grill up one night. The fresh hormone-free beef melted in your mouth like butter. Best steak I’ve ever tasted!

Eventually Morgan drives me to the suburb of Aurora where I’ll attempt to hitch out. But it doesn’t go as smooth as planned. Turns out Aurora isn’t exactly the best town to hitch out of.

I proceeded to spend the next 3 days either working on my computer at McDonalds or standing on the side of the road for hours (sometimes in the rain) before finally getting a lift.

Hitchhiking the United States

Ride #23: Will & Debbie the Truckers

Ride #23: Will & Debbie the Truckers

It was early in the morning on the 3rd day when I hopped onto a city bus to try my luck from a different on-ramp. I bought myself a slick $20 cowboy hat at a Flying-J truck stop, hoping it would help. It does.

After just 1 hour of waiting, Will & Debbie pull over in a giant maroon colored tractor-trailer truck. They are long-haul truckers from Tennessee who work as a team. Debbie drives at night, Will drives during the day. This partnership allows them cover great distances in a short period of time.

They work for a trucking company, which means if they get caught picking me up, they’ll be fired. Insurance doesn’t cover hitchhikers in an accident. That doesn’t stop some drivers from doing it anyway.

Truckers have been picking up hitchhikers for decades.

Hitchhiking the United States

Inside a Modern Big-Rig

Modern Long-Haul Trucking

Will & Debbie are hauling a 26,000 lb. load of shipping packages from California to Ohio. We begin the journey cruising East through Kansas on I-70 in their brand-new 2014 Freightliner. It’s fascinating to see all the technology in the truck.

The rig is super fuel efficient motoring along at 7 miles per gallon!

But in the trucking business, that’s actually pretty good. Most trucks only get 5 miles per gallon. The dashboard is full of digital gages, a GPS unit, push-button gear shifting, and bluetooth connectivity for making phone calls.

Like all semi-trucks, the seats each have independent suspension systems, making for a comfortable ride. You have enough head room to stand up and 2 sleeping bunks are located in back.

They also have a microwave, refrigerator, and storage cabinets for food & clothes.

Hitchhiking the United States

Bunks, Microwave, and Refrigerator in Back

Life as a Trucker

Over the next 2 days we make our way through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio while chatting at length. I learn about Will’s time in jail for DUI and how Debbie’s pet bobcat could only be handled with welding-gloves.

There are more ridiculous stories too; lounge lizard (hooker) tactics, horrific truck accidents, and hauling strange loads like used tampons, dynamite, or rolls of US currency paper.

A tire explodes in the middle of rural Kansas forcing us to wait for repairs. We pull over at truck-stops to eat, shit, and shower along the way. We all take turns sleeping on one of the bunks in back.

The top bunk is spoken for — it’s holding an inflatable hot tub they just bought for relaxing at home.

Hitchhiking the United States

Stealth Camping in Columbus

Welcome to Ohio

My new trucker friends drop me off at a Walmart in Columbus after traveling together for 1250 miles through 6 different states. They fed me, entertained me, and probably shortened my life a bit with all the chain-smoking, but I had a great time.

Later that night I set up camp behind an industrial building in the pouring rain.

The next day it was time to wash my clothing at a laundromat before heading to the office McDonalds to research municipal airports in the area for the next leg of my adventure. ★

More Information

Route: Hardin, MT > Denver, CO > Kansas City, MO, > Columbus, OH
Distance: 1769 Miles
NEXT: Hitchhiking on an Airplane (Part 8)
PREVIOUS: Crashing A Wedding in Montana (Part 6)