The Highway to Hell

As I made my way to Oregon, passing through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada, I was blissfully unaware of the stretch of road that was about to make my trip miserable.

It all started with a simple sign stating `Next Gas Station – 178 miles`. “Eh, that should be fine”, I thought to myself as I made my way down the highway with a full tank and a fine mix of Rammstein, Trentemoller, Smashing Pumpkins, and Bob Marley. It was dark out, and although I wasn’t able to see much of the landscape, the lack of lights revealed that I was in for some more ´nowhere´- driving. Since I had already crossed most of Nevada and was close to the Oregon border, I expected to be entering civilization again soon. Right…

Intently watching my Odometer, I wondered where on earth my next turn was. Many of the signs along the road where blank and when even the reflectors on the side of the road disappeared, I yelled a loud “Fuck!” and searched for a place to pull over. I found myself in complete darkness in the middle of nowhere and was slowly but surely running out of gas. Fantastic. After I drove onto a field, as there was no such thing as a shoulder, I stared at the useless piece of crap google calls a map and cursed myself out for having been too stingy to invest in a road atlas. I had exactly two choices: Follow the road and hope it ends up in some town or turning around. At this point I lost my cool and curse words were about all human language I was capable of producing.

As I was racing back on the so-called highway, I noticed a faint light in the distance. “Maybe that´s a house? Or a light pole. Or a human with a ….. Wait! That´s just a star”. Disappointed I directed my gaze back to the road and caught sight of the creature that was about to cause our deaths. I slammed into my breaks as hard as I possibly could and came to a stop several feet in front of the beast. A DONKEY? Seemingly unaware that I almost crashed into him going 70, the ass (pun intended) gave me an unimpressed look. After a short awkward moment, he went on his way.

At this point, I was growing gray hair by the second and felt the overwhelming urge to scream, cry, and strangle someone all at the same time. Fortunately, I found my turn shortly after escaping death and headed down the highway I hoped would soon reveal the gas station. Driving on fumes, I reached the pump after another 45 minutes. I was ready to kiss the ground and hug a few trees! I inserted my card into the machine, which in turn communicated “Card Invalid” on its little screen. I tried one card after the other and soon found myself punching the thing in frustration. This couldn´t be true! After another several minutes of pleading and inserting cards, I realized that I had found myself a private gas station.

It was windy and cold, past midnight, I had not had a signal for the past three hours and the only sign of life came from a assembly of trailer homes on the property. Axe murderer, kill me now! Reluctantly, I made my way to the closest home. It looked nice enough from the outside and even had some simple flowerbeds going on around it. I knocked on the door and as soon as the owner opened I began babbling of needing gas, being lost, and desperation. I flooded the poor guy with an half-unintelligible sea of words, including plenty of curse words, and then stared at him as he processed everything with a confused look on his face. “Yeah, there ain´t much out here. We don´t even live here, we are just here for work”, he said. “Pipes”, he added when he saw the confusion in my face. Although I had no idea what on earth he was talking about I nodded.

Long story short, the good man bought me seven gallons of gas and I made him write down his phone number so I could pay him back. We shook hands, and once more I headed off into the darkness. Exhausted I arrived in the next town about an hour later.

Since I had to take the same route on my way back, I took the chance to take some daylight pictures of the area. Interestingly enough, I did not see the private gas station nor the trailers again. Just endless naked nature.

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This picture was taken from the top of a mountain range. Notice the tiny looking road at the bottom right.

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A dust storm in the distance

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Catch me if you can!

A few nights ago, I took part in the most ridiculous cat and mouse game I´ve ever experienced. Due to largely unspoken rules and regulations, I am still not quite sure what on earth was going on. However, I do know that the whole situation didn´t make much sense. If you have any insights after reading this, feel free to leave a comment.

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My usual Friday night routine leads me south of town to a street just outside a neighborhood that makes for a half-way decent sleeping spot. In the morning, I typically head to one of the “No Overnight Parking”- Walmarts in order to get ready for work undisturbed. After a few months, it struck me that although signs are posted every few feet and a security vehicle patrols the lot, there are usually a good number of urban campers, RVs, and Semis. In the past, I´ve seen people being asked to leave by the security personal. Was there a loophole I had not discovered yet?

I decided to try my luck and headed straight for the Walmart. It was late and I could make out 6 overnighters. I found myself a decent spot, put up my curtains and made my bed, and began observing the parking lot. Sure enough, there comes a security vehicle. “Crap!” He slows down, glances at my car, and moves on. “What?” Now, not everybody makes an effort to hide their homelessness. In order words, a truck with blankets strapped over it´s windshield around midnight at a Walmart is obviously not there for a snack. However, the security vehicle simply kept driving through the lot, in a very predictable fashion, row by row passing the illegally parked vehicles, with lights flashing, and not doing anything.

The moral of the story: If you can disappear inside the bowels of your vehicle fast enough, you and your car become invisible (or maybe protected by an invisible shield the guards cannot cross?).

I assume that the guards a) do not have legal permission to disturb individuals inside their vehicle, or b) have been instructed to not disturb said individuals for safety reasons (and notify the police if necessary), or c) are there as a deterrent, keeping the drug dealers and criminals out and simply tolerating the inevitable group of car campers, or last but not least d) consist of a group of OCD stricken individuals who can´t help but drive a little white car through the Walmart parking lot in the same pace using the same route every single time until they run out of fuel.

Staying Safe on the Streets

As I read stories from fellow hobos and homeless individuals who have been mugged, disturbed during the night, or simply feel unsafe, I realize that my post on safety is long overdue!

Safety Starts with Awareness

While I do enjoy being outside, sometimes walking from A to B is nothing less than utterly boring, especially if one has walked a particular stretch hundreds of times already. I am guilty of reading, texting, and daydreaming during walks. The problem goes further than not being able to see who or what is coming your way, but predators look for distracted people; they know a distracted person makes an easy victim.

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  • The way you walk matters! Show confidence! Walk with your head high, make eye contact with people approaching you, and periodically scan your surroundings. Most importantly, walk with a purpose. Even if you are lost, keep a good pace and act as if you are in total control.
  • Be aware of your valuables! Running around with your new smart phone sticking out of your pocket or bragging about that new laptop of yours isn’t a good idea. Period.
  • Your clothes make a difference. Before you complain: Yes, I agree that everyone should be able to dress however one likes without having to fear negative consequences. However, here is a brutally honest reality check: If you are a homeless individual socializing in public with high heels, boobs ready to jump out of your shirt, and/or a skirt that has striking similarities to a belt, guess what! You are making yourself a target. Not only do you look as if you are into certain activities (I said, you LOOK like it, not you ARE like that), but you are also making yourself more vulnerable. I don’t care how good of a fighter you are, a tiny skirt and high heels will hinder your abilities to run and fight.

Be Prepared

I wish we could roam this world together peacefully and undisturbed. Unfortunately, the world isn’t half as safe as I’d like it to be. Being prepared for the worst means several things:

  • Ask What-If Questions. What if someone breaks into my vehicle while I am sleeping inside? What if there is someone out in the parking lot waiting for an opportunity? What if someone follows me to my sleeping spot? Don’t become overly paranoid and stress yourself out; just have a plan.
  • Attend a self-defense class. A lot of my knowledge regarding awareness and basic fighting techniques stem from self defense courses I’ve attended. A popular and highly effective program to learn advanced street self defense is Krav Maga.
  • Carry a weapon. Pepper spray and tasers can be highly effective weapons against your everyday criminal. Knives can also be useful IF you know how to use it. Carrying a gun isn’t something I’d suggest to everyone. Unless you regularly go shooting, know how to handle and disassemble your gun, hold a concealed  weapons permit where required, and can hide the gun effectively while carrying and storing it, it would be more of a hassle and danger to utilize a gun as protection.

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When shit hits the fan: Different types of predators

There are two main types of predators one should worry about:

Predator one is after your belongings. He wants your money, your watch, your cell phone, and maybe even your new Nikes if he is desperate enough. The safest option is to hand the robber your belongings and hope he leaves. Now, this is somewhat of a, excuse my language, white-middle-and upper-class advice. If you have just enough money to get yourself something to eat or if the predator is stealing your sleeping bag or other essential items, you are in serious trouble after the attack. Thus, consider the attacker: Is he “a kid” just trying to make some easy money or a junkie desperate for her next hit? Most importantly, is the attacker armed? If he has a gun, you´d be expressing a death wish by not just handing over the requested items. If she just threatens you with a beating, then you might have a chance resisting. Now, consider your options: Do you have your weapon of choice on hand? Do you feel confident enough that your fighting skills exceed the skills of your assailant?

Predator two is after you. This type of assailant wants to physically harm you. This could be someone you know who is trying to rough you up or force you into performing sexual acts. Or a stranger who sees an opportunity to satisfy whatever twisted longings he has. Don´t make the stranger danger mistake! Most violence occur between people who know each other! If  you are in danger of being raped, hurt, or killed, make sure to face the person (unless you can escape right then), establish eye contact, lift up your hands in a defensive-yet-confident-manner, and say loudly something along the lines of “Back off” and “You don´t want to fight me”. If you are being attacked, fight with every last thing you got. Don´t be an easy target. Rapists in particular tend to want easy targets; don´t think you are doing yourself a favor by simply giving up. FIGHT! You don´t just want to try to escape. You want to beat the snot out of the person and then run like hell.

What to do after an attack?

Before you do anything else, get to a safe place. If you’ve been hurt but can still move, try to hide yourself in a building, bush, heck – anywhere really. You don’t want the attacker, or another predator, to come back and find you. Then, call 911.

I am aware that this is a rather limited guide. Please be aware that these are the basics of staying safe. Here is another simple self defense guide.

Take care and stay safe out there!