I had made the mistake of taking a ride headed off the main route. That was lesson number one on how not to get home faster. So instead of cruising up I-5 I was stuck somewhere in southern California with a sweaty palm pointed north. Or at least I think it was north. It'd been hours without a single ride and I had almost finished the gallon of water I bought a quarter mile down the road. That meant it was time to start plodding down the highway in the hot sun with a full pack on my back.
Luckily a few miles down the road somebody graciously stopped. I climbed in and they proceeded to tell me I'd be wiser standing by the gas station. Reluctantly I followed their advice and promptly wound up back at square one. After filling my jug again and waiting another couple of hours I checked the gas station map and made up my mind to cut across the hills hoping to clip a few miles off.
Now I learned how small and easy maps make traveling look. The hill was a steady climb, up over some barbed wire fences, with less and less vegetation. Soon I heard and saw the distant sounds of four wheelers racing around the dusty trails circling the balding hill. When I finally reached the area, still not at the crest, one of the racers skidded to a halt.
"You okay man?"
"Yeah, just, you know, out for a stroll."
"Um...ok, just checking."
There was my last human contact for the next 24-ish hours. Step after step I gradually got to the top. Then noticed the wonderfully steep decline to railroad tracks, scattered with a gravel-sand mixture, and dotted with boulders. The idea of death by rolling all the way down settled firmly in my mind, however I'd come to far to turn back. I slowly picked my way day, zig-zagging to remain above the larger rocks, sliding on my butt intermittently. I imagined losing my footing and tumbling down, like a meatball falling off a heaping pile of spaghetti. That made me laugh: possible death ahead and I'm thinking of pasta.
With the exception of a few scrapes near the end I landed feet first next to the tracks. Now it was time to cross to the freeway, even though the afternoon wanned. Still nobody stopped. A mile passed. Another. Near the third I saw a road sign and it lifted my spirits since I was nearing the end of my water supply and craving some more human contact. Giddy, I picked up the pace to a near jog. It could only be about a mile from the sign to the exit. Almost there...almost...
Instantly the sign told me why not a soul took a second glance at me.
California State Penitentiary Next Right -- DO NOT PICK UP HITCHHIKERS