Lying in the sand along the shores of Coney Island on the eve of my 27th birthday, echoes of laughter and music swirled through the warm night air from the boardwalk behind me as I gazed up at the moon, feeling as though I were in a dream. I’d spent the previous months traversing the roads of North America, relying on the kindness of strangers. No plan, no car, no money, no inhibitions. An experience junkie—riding the tide of synchronicity to see exactly how far it would take me, searching fervently for my next fix.
Two months prior in early July, I sat on the toilet of my Los Angeles apartment, thinking, music blaring, a song named “Boston” began to play. It spoke of a girl living in California, weary, she seeks a fresh start in a fresh place and heads for the East Coast to see the sunrise. It resonated with me. “That sounds nice…perhaps that's what I'll do.” I thought, passingly.
I was broke and in debt up to my eyeballs and I needed a quick way out. Word of mouth had it that Sturgis girls made bank tending bar up at the annual bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. “That's it!” I thought. “My get-rich-quick-scheme-solution to my problems”. I figured I’d show up and get a gig easily enough. I was a day late and a dollar short, quite literally, so if I were to make it there it would need to be fast as heavenly possible. Car-less and strapped for cash I scoured Craigslist seeking a rideshare East. A “grandfatherly gentleman” (as he called himself) named Larry said he was headed for Nebraska with room to spare, but I must get to Santa Barbara, CA in order to ride, so I arranged another ride there.
A few hours later a kid named Joshua pulled up in his beat-up jaloppy; windows tinted, reggae music blaring. This blonde haired, blue eyed, Rastafarian-beanie-adorning twenty-something stepped out sporting wayfarer sunglasses and a shirt that looked as though he’d just stepped out of Fear and Loathing. Introductions were short, I climbed into his car and we headed for gas, telling him of my plans along the way. He told me he’d worked the Sturgis rally before as a bar-back. “My uncle owns full throttle…well, half throttle now”. Arguably the most well-known biker-bar in town which had burned to the ground two years prior and had been rebuilt to half its glory…also the same bar I’d planned on working at. Josh had just quit his job and been dumped so, having no ties, he offered to drive me straight to Sturgis, reckoning his uncle could get us both work. I didn't have much in the way of gas money, but I could pay him in a currency I was sure he wouldn't refuse: the “green gold” of Sturgis, as he called it, Mary-Jane. He quickly fired off an email to his uncle and I called up Larry to cancel.
We piled down the desert highway for hours, life was boundless and I—delighted, by the sheer fortune of my day. As we neared Las Vegas, climbing up a steep incline, a thick white smoke began to billow out from under the hood—we’d overheated. Waiting, we spent the remainder of the day trying to get the car to run before deciding to ditch it. We mice, desperate for the elusive cheese. We gathered our belongings and put on our best hitchin’ outfits (his being a blues brothers-esque getup which made him look like a serial killer, but he was fond of it and I hadn’t the heart to break it to him).
Night fell as we thumbed the rest of our way to Vegas. I was exhausted and fell asleep on a bridge overpass while Josh stayed awake and kept watch over me all night, proving himself an earnest road-dog. The next morning, we found a ride headed to Idaho who’d agreed to drop us off in Wells, Nevada. We’d end up being stuck in this small, rest stop of a town for two days. Society—so convinced of the notion that hitch-hiking was dead and all who engaged, delinquents—I now felt it my personal mission to prove them wrong. We’d had few issues getting rides up until this point. Granted, hitching with two proved more difficult than hitching alone. I’d gotten a handful of offers, but wasn’t keen on ditching my new pal. One sleepless night in a trucker’s lounge later, after being harassed by several cops, we were desperate to get out of town any which way we could. We’d planned to split and meet in the next major city east. I’d sent out another S.O.S on craigslist and received a message from a man who advised me not to leave my friend. (This man we’ll call “Uncle Jeff” for now.) I’d heeded his advice and don’t you know it, soon enough we were headed to Colorado in the cab of a big-rig.
Josh climbed into the passenger seat and quickly fell asleep, as I sat cross-legged in the bunk behind, left to keep our host company. John was his name, but his CB handle was something odd and he proceeded to explain how he earned it “Somebody gets in this truck and I don’t like ‘em (his eyes get real big) well you sure don’t wanna know what I do to ‘em.” And he was right, I sure didn’t want to know. He was a Trump-lovin’, bible-readin’, conservative-mid-western, grizzly-sized man. I was a radical, shaved-head, Buddhist-loving, millennial. Furthermore, he was an ex oil field worker from North Dakota where I’d spent the previous winter protesting the pipeline development at the Standing Rock reservation. The rest of the trip he did his damnedest to “save” us, prodding with questions about our views on God, politics, whether we supported trump or believed in ghosts. In an effort not to have a firsthand account of the validity of his nickname, I remained neutral and harbored little opinion, which isn’t much like me. Hours later, Josh relieved me for my turn to nap and when I awakened we’d been parked outside a Mongolian restaurant where John treated us to lunch. Given shelter and ride and food by a complete stranger that I had absolutely the slightest in common, I felt an intrinsic interconnectedness one might feel on the road when a person who owes you no kindness, allows it to you. Half way to Grand Junction, fed and rested, we continued. We passed a brown bear and her cub along the road, which I took as a good omen. We approached a storm, heavy rain—not the California drizzle that I’d grown accustomed to. Crackling thunder and lightning that spider-sprawled across the open evening sky, washing everything anew. We arrived to a truck stop late in the night, said our farewells and figured we’d be beached there until morning.
As fate would have it, we ended up bumming a ride from none other than Larry as his trip had been delayed a few days. Also turned out he was a professional money launderer. How much does one really know about the people that they meet on the road? Or better yet, how much can one know about another until they’ve been on the road with them? Many were the ponderings of a waif. I’d begun to question how much I knew about Josh. There’d been a bizarre instance back in Nevada, when the cops had asked to see our identification. Josh had given the officer a different name than the one he’d told me, which at first, I didn’t think much of until the cop gave me the most peculiar look, asking how long I’d known Josh and if I were aware of his past. Unsure of what he was alluding to, I looked to Josh, his expression a cross of amusement and confusion, while we silently awaited his response. My eyes scanned back and forth between the two seeking an answer. Nevertheless, I trusted my gut enough to know that he would do me no real harm. We arrived to Denver and parted ways with Larry.
A week late to a two-week rally, we were neither here nor there, and Josh would end up ditching me in Denver, the swindler. I felt defeated, hopeless, lost and tired. I was down ‘n out and uncertainties began to creep in. “What in the world was I doing?” I chanced upon a local mission and eager for a warm bed I tucked in early. The next morning, I received a call from a local number. In desperation, again, I’d turned to the internet for help and two men had responded to my ad, Sturgis-bound as well. I met up with them at a coffee shop. Best friends, both around my father’s age—Jimmy a goofy, highly caffeinated ex vet, and Paul a dead-head-hippy, teddy-bear of a guy. They were like two crazy uncles that everybody wishes they had—said they’d been on the road for about a year riding the road, flyin’ signs.
A friend I had met in North Dakota the year prior happened to be nearby and agreed to organize a rescue. Everything seemed to be coming full circle. Hours later Freddie, with his family and camper in tow, saved the day and we were all Sturgis bound. Spirits were high, we were laughin’ and singin’, drinkin’ and smokin’ and cruisnin’-the motliest of crews. We spent the next 3 days in this manner. I was happy to have a place to sleep and a tribe, though we arrived to Sturgis with merely 3 days left. At this point, I’d decided all was out the window and I would enjoy myself and the remainder of the weekend ensued a debaucherous time, as one might expect at the largest bike rally in America. Hangovers to be had all around and crazy uncle Paul got cuffed and dropped off at church camp by the police after we got split up one night. When the rally had come to an end there was a quiet feeling of sadness that had washed amongst us, not quite ready to disband. “Well…you guys are welcome to join us.” Freddie had said of his next destination, Montana. I’d never been to Montana. “Mmm, what the hell…is it pretty?” And just like that we took back to the road.
This time around we had no money between the lot of us and had to gas-jug our way there, stopping every half tank or so to solicit a fill-up from a stranger. By the time we reached Montana, tensions were high, nerves worn by the amalgamation of quarks, habits and idiosyncrasies crammed into close quarters. Having a kid along, further complicated things. Freddie’s friends put us up for the week in their beautiful mountain cabin and took us snorkeling and boating—the party continued onward until we’d overstayed our welcome. I heard that the fair was in town and naturally, I gravitated there, requiring about work “What’s your name? Got any bad habits?” “Corrie…no…” “You got any belongings? Y’need a bunk?” “Uh yea..sure” and that was it, I was in. A bona-fide carny.
I brought my things the next morning and was shown my room-The Ring of Fire trailer which had belonged to a second-generation carny before me named Starbucks—born and raised in the circuit. I lucked out as he had quit in a fit of anger and left some coveted possessions behind: a mattress (which had been banned due to bed-bug outbreaks, but I was willing to take the risk) a heater for the cold nights, and a mirror. Each about the size of a porta-John and you could hear every sound whispered, feel every shake rattled and smell every cigarette smoked through the single ventilation system. Ornamented with booze cans, bottles, garbage, and vomit. There was a boy called Sunshine, platinum blonde, head to toe. We’d been talking one night, during a weekly laundromat run when he’d mentioned living in Denver. It turned out he knew Josh personally, ran in the same circle as him. The farther wide you spread yourself, the more connections you anchor and the smaller the world seems to become, I’d realized. He said he wouldn’t let it go unbeknownst by their friends and this was Karma in the working.
Initially, I’d planned to jump ship once we made it to Washington and head down the coast. Rather, I found myself following the flow of energy I was on all the way to Red Lake, Minnesota where I found work at an Indian taco stand in the pow-wow circuit. An invite extended by another kid I met the previous winter. A serendipitous encounter transpired on my way to Red Lake, a significant incident which reassured the notion that I was on the right track and the universe was guiding me. I was thumbing down the highway when a man passing by asked where I was headed “Virginia, MN” I said. “Me too” His family came to pick him up and me with him, and now squeezed into the backseat they began to ask me about my travels, astonished. I told them the name of the friend I was going to see “That’s my nephew!” exclaimed Raymond’s sister. “Well, not technically..” but close enough, she explained. She had a fling with his father back in the day. “Are all these signs merely accidental?” I asked myself. I spent the next couple of weeks tramping around the northern states, sleeping on greyhounds, in bus terminals, or a couch when I could swing one.
I was staying with a friend in Detroit who had invited me to a film festival in Toronto, but after an unexpected emergency, she was unable to go but my heart was set. Open to the possibilities of the road as ever, I hopped on a bus to Canada. Upon boarding there were only two of us on the bus. We immediately took affinity to one another and shared a row so we could converse, both on our way to the Toronto International Film Festival, we discovered. This tickled me, as nothing quite surprised me anymore. I regaled him with my adventures. “Man, I wish I could live like that. You know what? I want to be a part of this, I’ll to buy you tickets to the festival if you haven’t already”. Our bus picked up more passengers before reaching the border, and arrived with half a bus full. Out of nearly 30, the border police detained two people, which happened to be my new friend Marcus and I. They didn’t care much for my fantastical stories, and who could blame them I guess. I told them about Jeff (Uncle Jeff would continue to check up on me from time to time after I’d told him how the kid he’d advised me to stick with wound up ditching me, and he was infuriated. Back in Chicago he had been nice enough to connect me with a friend and a place to stay, offering to do the same once I got to Toronto which turned out to be his home town. He too, quite the transient.) and they were convinced that I was involved in human trafficking seeing as I had never met this man. Questioned for over an hour, they went through my phone and all of its contents. Marcus and I shared a bemused glance from across the way, baffled by the situation. They eventually let us cross and once back on the bus, now full of impatient passengers that had been waiting on us, we broke out in a fit of laughter.
After Toronto, I’d scored a ride to New York. Uncle Jeff had rung again, this time linking me with his friend, Adrianna. She had a condo in Queens and was kind enough to put me up for a few weeks. I was walking down the street one day when I heard music playing from a nearby store, they were playing Boston, and I had realized that, whether subconsciously or inadvertently, the song or rather the Universe was guiding me there. Days later I received a message from Dillon, an old buddy of mine from California who found out I was on the East Coast “Come to Rhode Island!” My birthday was few days away and the city was pulling me closer.
Adrianna took me to Coney Island the eve of my birthday to celebrate. A magical place I had only heard of until then, reminiscent of a more spectacular Venice Beach. There was a pop-up rave on the boardwalk that had attracted an amass of people, dancing and joyous, the air perfectly warm yet crisp, the sky a marvelous array of bubble-gum, sunset-hews and the moon glowing brilliantly in all its crescent glory, and I—alive. “When’s the last time you jumped into the ocean with your clothes on?” I asked Adrianna. The hesitation in her response told me that the answer was possibly never, and I wouldn’t have it. “Come on!” I dashed into the water, which was especially warm, diving in head first because what other way is there? Adrianna followed suit. We swam and played and lie in the sand to dry off, stargazing, discussing the ultra-pressing-matters of the universe, of love and of life. A sense of renewal washed over me as I reflected upon the previous months, how I had entirely no notion of what would come to fruition, just an open-ness and willing-ness to venture into the unknown, following the breadcrumbs of the universe that I call synchronicities.
I hopped on the first bus to RI the following morning and my friend tells me he’s got to make a quick trip Boston. “Is that cool?” He asks. It was as though the universe had been listening to me all along, every unspoken thought, bottling them up and sending clues disguised as people and hardships, clues I must decipher in order to move forward. We arrived to Boston in the midst of the night ending my birthday, and as we drove back under the rising east coast sun I played my mawkishly sentimental song with a content heart—feeling genuinely re-born.
The trip home continued in a similar fashion as my wayward journey East; the cosmos shifting, stars aligning beneath each subsequent footstep. I’d attained invaluably more than what I had set out seeking. I had gained an inner knowing—tracing across the flesh of the land, my bare soul to guide me—a new understanding of the intricate interconnectedness of people, the energy that guides us, places, and adversity alike, all which propelled me further into the seemingly unfamiliar, yet closer to home—myself. I beat on, now, in a fluid, instinctive manner, unconfined by expectation, ebbing with the flow rather than trying to force it. I’d found Boston, and with it, my fresh start in a fresh place. All I could do was smile in knowing that if I trusted the universe, she would always take care of me.
This article was originally published on @cosmiccrusader