The Nomad is a series of stories, fascinations, encounters, observations, experiences, joy of the moments by me, Ulrike Reinhard – all around my travels. Stay tuned!
Ulrike Reinhard is The Nomad 🙂
It was Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.
I had arrived in El Paso, Texas the night before. I cam in from Chihuahua, Mexico.
My final destination was Santa, Fe, New Mexico. And my plan was to go by bus.
I called the bus company in the morning to assure that the bus was running.
They said: “Yes. Come to the bus station and get your ticket there!”
I walked to the bus station. Only to find out that all the buses were sold out.
What a bummer! I wanted to be “home” in the evening.
A new house was waiting for me.
I walked out of the bus station not really knowing what to do next.
I was sympasizing with the idea of hitch-hiking.
But then doubts set in. Would it be safe? it is a long way. 600 km.
Would I make it in a day?
Outside the bus station a shabby taxi was waiting.
A big Mexican guy was sitting in the front.
My decision was made. I sat into the car.
And I asked the driver to drop me at Interstate 10 (I-10).
He said: “Where do you wanna go?”
I replied: “I am going to Santa Fe. I am hitch-hiking!”
“Excuse me,” he said. “That’s interesting. But are you serious?
I think you are nuts, Mam!”
He starred at me with his eyes wide open. He shook his head.
“Bring me to the highway,” I said. “I need a good spot to catch the first ride!”
He literally was stunned. “OK, Mam. If you say so!”
He dropped me at an exit of I-10 which was still within El Paso.
And he wished me well.
My hitch-hiking tour began.
It was 9 am. The bus would make the distance in 6 hours.
I was optimistic that I can make it until the evening.
I was in a good mood.
And I stretched out my right arm with my thumbs up.
My silver suitcase plastered with stickers was standing in front me.
I carried my newly bought rainbow-coloured backpack over the white blose I was wearing.
And I rocked my Santa Fe hat with pride!
What could go wrong?
If you think about it, actually, a lot could go wrong.
But I wasn’t in the mood to think about the negatives.
I wanted to go. And I wanted to go fast. Aand I wanted to show it!
It didn’t take that long until th e first car stopped.
It was a SUV. Young parents with their daughter. Going to Sunday School.
And helping in the community.
They were awesome. Very open-minded people.
And more than ready to help me out and get me to Santa Fe.
We had a lovely lively chat in the car.
The lady suggested her husband to drop me at a truck spot.
I liked this idea. It was a bit off their way. But they didn’t mind.
They wished me well. And off they went to Sunday School.
In the early 80ies I hitch-hiked in the USA.
All the way from Florida to New York City.
All by trucks. Long nose trucks. I love these vehicles.
Via radio the truck drivers secured my next ride at a truckspot.
And I hardly had any waiting time.
So I thought once I am at a truck stop, all will easily work.
Little did I know how wrong I was.
Here I was at the truckstop in the outskirts of El Paso.
Asking the truck drivers if they were going North.
Nope. They all were going West – towards Los Angeles.
And they were rather distanced. Something had changed over the years.
I felt they weren’t willing to give me a ride.
And that going west was rather an excuse than the truth.
I found out later, from a truck driving lady, that they are no longer allowed to take riders.
Here went my plan!
My chances to reach Santa Fe before the evening were shrinking if I had to rely on private cars.
I was stuck for more than an hour at this truck stop.
I went from the drive-up way of the highway to the petrol pump to restaurant.
Asking the people for a ride.
My high spirits were beginning to wane.
I started thinking, maybe I have to go back to El Paso.
And spend another night there.
Something I really didn’t want.
Finally, a Mexican guy with a black pick-up truck agreed to take me anotehr 10 miles North.
He was heading to Anthony, Texas. Another truck stop and service point.
It started gettingt hot. It was 11 am.
And I had only made 25 miles so far.
My new location was good, because I could stand in the shadow.
While I was waiting for a car to stop.
If I would go on in this speed, I thought, I won’t make until the evening.
I felt a bit displaced. And a bit silly.
What would be wrong with another night in El Paso?
Nothing actually. No one was waiting for me in Santa Fe.
And I could easily inform the people at the ranch that I would arrive a day later.
They wouldn’t bother. As long as I wouldn’t tell them that I was hitch-hiking.
Anyway. Another 30 minutes went by before anothert car stopped.
An Asian woman with her teenage daughter.
They were on their way to Las Cruces. To a maze.
The girl was all excited. She told me how despeartely she wanted to go to that maze.
And that she would meet friends there.
She looked cute with her two pigtails and round glasses.
Again very lovely people. Ready to help.
And to go an extra mile. Meaning a short detour in order to get me to the right spot.
At Las Cruces the I-10 makes a turn towards Los Angeles.
And the I-25 North starts. That was “my” highway towards Albuqueque and Santa Fe.
So whoever would stop, would go at least in “my” direction.
They dropped me at a place which wasn’t really ideal.
It was a less frequented road, no petrol pump, and no shadow!
But I was at I-25. I had made 35 miles in two and a half hours!
Another 20 minutes went by. A pick up car stopped.
With a trailer. He had loaded five goats.
A young man and his son were delivering the goats to a farm.
They hardly spoke any English.
They came from Lybia. Fleeing the war. And setting up a new life in the US.
They said. “We are going to exit 19.” We were at exit 1.
I had just crossed the border from Texas to New Mexico.
So I thought. Wow, that’s quite a way!
Unfortunately it wasn’t. It was max. 15 miles when they exit.
In the middle of nowhere. Literally!
He said he would look out for me in an hour or two on his way back.
If I was still standing here, he would take me back to Las Cruces.
That was promising.
I got off the car and walked down the access road to the highway.
So that I would have a chance to get the cars from the highway as well as from the access road.
I was hoping that I would find someone going all the way up to Albuquerque.
Which was another 230 miles. That was my dream.
Another 20 minutes went by when a small truck stopped.
He was coming down the access road.
And again, he went only a few miles north.
I started thinking if i am going on like this, I need 20 cars to reach Santa Fe.
Doubts were setting in. Maybe I should have stayed in El Paso for another night.
But now it was too late. Going back was as tricky as it seemed to go forward.
The truck driver was a sweet young man In slightly dirty clothes.
He apologized that he wasn’t going further.
He had to pick up a broken car and return it to where he was just coming from.
The pick up point was behind the border control station.
Within 100 miles from the Mexican border, the US has check points.
It was less than 8 miles away.
And he insisted, that I would go off BEFORE the border control point.
Maybe he was thinking I was illegally in the US.
He certainly was afraid to take me there.
Luckily there was a rest area within th enext 4 miles. He dropped me there.
Better than in the middle of the highway – I thought.
The rest area was almost empty. Only two cars parked there.
Better than nothing. For sure. And I walked towards a lady.
She was walking her three tiny little white dogs and gave them a break.
The dogs went wild when I came closer. Barking like big ones.
Protecting their “mum”.
I quickly realized, that wasn’t my car. These dogs would go nuts.
So approched the second car. Inside was an older couple.
It was a huge SVU and an even bigger trailer. A little house.
And I asked them if they would take me north. They agreed.
The man put my little suitcase in the back of the car and I kept my backpack with me.
It turned out they were very friendly. And very knowledgeable.
And knew all the details abou the area. That the desert was called The Deadly Desert.
And they knew all the names of the surrounding mountains.
And which military space actions were taken there.
They came from Las Cruces with their home on wheels.
And wanted to escape the city for a few days to the remote area of Hatch.
Which was 25 miles north.
Once we reached the exit at Hatch, I thought: OMG, this is in the middle of nowhere.
The driver said: ” I guess, only a few cars are coming here. It is really a small hamlet!”
I had made 60 or 70 miles. Now I was really in a remote area.
There is not much along the I-25 anyway. The next bigger city is Albuquerque.
No bigger towns, only a few small villages. Not even a hotel.
It was almost 1 pm. Time passed quickly.
And I saw my chances to reach Albuquerque or Santa Fe slowly drifting away.
Another 210 miles to go.
I was still waiting for the car which would take me all the way to Santa Fe.
Or at least to Albuquerque. From where I could take a train.
If I would arrive before 6 pm.
Again, I was standing in the sun.
It wasn’t that hot any more. But still hot enough. Maybe 30 degrees Celsius.
I had enough water! The man from Lybia had given me an extra bottle.
For sure I wouldn’t see him again. At exit 19!
My new location wasn’t that bad.
Cars had to make a sharp left turn to enter the drive-up way to the highway.
And I was just standing in that curve. They couldn’t go fast.
And there was enough space to comfortably stop!
The only remaining question was: Would any car come?
I wasn’t entirely convinced. I was very skeptical.. But what to do?
Here I was on my hitch-hiking tour back to Santa Fe.
It was my choice. And now I had to deal with it. OK, OK I said to myself.
I wasn’t bothered that my endevour was dangerous.
The people I’ve met so far where very friendly. And very helpful.
They wanted me to reach my destination. And they all wished me well.
I was bothered if I would make it on time.
Before it gets dark I wanted to be at least in Albuquerque.
Which was still a bit less than 200 miles away.
Here I was standing in that curve. Waiting for some cars to come.
I could overlook the road and see the cars coming.
And surprisingly there were cars coming. Quite a lot, actually.
I was wondering where do all these cars come from?
And I looked on the map. This road was a shortcut to I-25 coming from the west.
Instead of going all the way to Las Cruces on I-10 you could take this road.
And enter I-25 further up north.
My chances were increasing! And I was smiling again. It was exciting.
Once again. Right arm out and thumb up!
Cars were passing by. Many had trailers with horses.
Some people were waving towards me.
I thought: What is it? Why are you waving?
You should better stop. It made me slightly angry. Idiots!
Some people starred at me. Did I look that weird?
I could sense that some people were thinking to stop. But then drove on.
I looked after them, my head shaking in dismay.
I stood at this curve maybe for 20 minutes. My arm out, thumb up.
I was talking to myself and making comments about the people driving by.
I just let my thoughts flow. No one was here to hear them anyway.
When suddenly a bright red sportscar stopped.
The driver pulled back and opened the window on my side.
“Where do you go?” I asked. and he said. “Albuquerque!”.
Wow, here is my ride, I thought. He got out of his car.
It was an older guy, with long grey hair.
With a smile he said: “let me make some space for your suitcase in the trunk!”
He opened the trunk of this small car; it was filled with spare parts for cars.
Neatly displayed on blankets.
I put my suitcase inside. Sat down on the co-driver’s seat.
And off we went!
I was 1.10 pm and I was 190 miles away from Albuquerque.
Estimated arrival time he said, 3.30 pm. This was what I aimed for.
I was so pleased. And happy.
It turned out that the driver was repairing and transporting Legend race cars.
I didn’t know what Legend race cras are. Never heard of it. And I learned ….
The bodyshells are replicas of American automobiles from the 1930s and 1940s.
Powered by strong engines.
They promise ecxcitement at much lower costs than regular race cars.
So this guy was just on his way home to Albuquerque. He was coming from Tucson.
Where he had repaired one of customers’ car.
And he would fly out to New Hampshire on Tuesday (yesterday).
Where he had already delivered three cars for a race.
So he will be there for the race. And thenhe will drive the cars in a huge coach back to Alburqueque.
For his clients. The clients only fly in and out for the race.
This way, he said, he has explored 49 states of the US and has learned a lot about the country.
His clients are lawyers, contractors, doctors – they want to race, but don’t deal with the car.
That was his job.
And he seemed to be a happy camper, I felt.
He dropped me right in front of the train station in Albuquerque.
It was 3.45 pm.
I boarded the Rail Runner to Santa Fe. So I spent the last hour on the train.
In Santa Fe a dear firend was waiting for me and she brought me to the ranch.
To “my” new house where I will stay before I leave for Brazil.
I spoke out loudly and thanked everyone who had helped me on this trip.
I thanked them for bringing me back safely.
And I thanked them for being open and honest.
I was happy!
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