All it took was two rides, plus a plane ride and a Metro Transit bus, and here I am back in Minneapolis, quite a different place from Twisp, Wash. But my luck closing the loop on this odyssey was as good as ever.
As we rode through the spectacular snow-capped peaks around Washington Pass and wound on down Hwy. 20 (sunroof--required equpment for a drive through the mountains) Hunter kept the stories coming. He's retired from about as many careers as a person can list: teacher, soldier, military trainer. He's a former semipro and college football player (Central Washington U). He's got permanent ringing in his ears from getting hit by a rocket while training troops in Iraq. He had a knee replacement two years ago. Doctors found four of his vertebrae had been shattered when he was younger, and grew back together. He's got some PTSD from his work in the Middle East, which cost him a romantic relationship. He lived 20 years in Alaska and has traveled all over the world training parachute jumping and other high-end military skills. The blue thing hanging from his rearview mirror? An "evil eye" from a recent trip to Greece. He's a gentle-seeming and curious guy who really loves driving his car, which he was happy to share with me for about five hours. . .Five hours, because he decided rather than wait in a long line to take a ferry to see his sister, he'd drive me all the way to the Seattle airport, then keep driving around the far south end of Puget Sound to his sister's place.
For me, it was a huge break. I wouldn't have to fight my way through the city down a crowded freeway to the airport, or find some public transportation. It saved me hours, probably. What was in it for him? We got to drive in the carpool lane through the heavy traffic on Interstate 5 in Seattle, he noted, and the conversation helped pass the time.
He gives hitchhikers a good once-over before picking them up, he said, adding that I looked OK. He hates it when a young woman is out there on the shoulder and he slows down, only to see the boyfriend and two dogs pop out of the ditch. And he's bugged by the same thing Dan from Idaho (Day 3, Ride 10) mentioned: hitchhikers asking him for money. I didn't. Then he offered me a sandwich.
Hunter was Ride 19 since last Saturday morning (not including Don's lift this morning). He dropped me at Sea-Tac at 3:40 p.m. PDT and I said I hoped to see him, too, next year. Which I do.
I still had no ticket, but was on a Sun Country flight to Minneapolis at 5:30. It featured a "picnic in the sky" -- complimentary hot dogs. Who knew? It was just after 11 p.m. CDT when I got on the light rail heading for downtown Minneapolis. It featured the usual loud Friday night kids. Hennepin Avenue was a shock, only half a day from Don's mountainside -- crowded, loud, garishly lit, gamy. The No. 4 bus was the same on all counts. So you can imagine the relief to get off at my corner -- not that I was home (though I surprised even myself by doing the trip in less than a week), but that I could hear crickets.