"We're headed out west. Could you give us a ride? said traveler A, the older one to a trucker passing by.
"No I'm not headed that way. Sorry." said the trucker and he continued on to his truck in the fuel lane.
Feeling sorry, I walked up to them explained that I couldn't give them a ride, but I had some canned food that they could have. I brought back the food and took the opportunity to ask a few questions about them. Traveler A explained that they were travelers or "homeless", but they prefer the first term.
Traveler B, the younger man was new to traveling as you might have guessed. He had just left his home in Oklahoma city and was headed out on the road for some excitement and adventure. "True freedom," he said. He had just met traveler A who had felt sorry for him had taken him on as an apprentice. Traveler B had brought a tent along and traveler A was very grateful. "I always try to keep a roof over my head, whether it means sharing a tent or sleeping under a bridge." Traveler B had gotten in a fight in one of the first cities they had stopped at and picked a nice big black eye. He was very proud of his first battle scar.
Traveler A had quite a different story to tell. He was kicked out of his home as a kid and had spent most of his life out on the street. At some point he had managed to go to college and start a degree in psychology, but had changed his mind and become a mechanic instead. At some point he decided to return to what he was familiar with - traveling from place to place.
I asked him about traveling.
He said, "Most of us prefer to work. We like to work small jobs where we can, things like laboring, gardening and harvesting. It can be hard to get work like that, its not common these days and the government really doesn't like it. Panhandling is where most of us wind up. It's not pretty, but it does give us food."
"We prefer to stay out of the way of gas stations and truckstops and travel on the trains. Traveling on trains is amazing. You don't get the views from the road that you do on a train. Box car is the way to go. You can stay warm inside and open the doors for the view."
"There is always suicide ride," said traveler B who grinned.
"Suicide?" I asked.
"It's when you pick a nice flat car, lay down and grip the side and hope you don't fall off. Or you can wedge yourself between cargo and hope it doesn't move and squash you," replied traveller A, "I would rather walk than do that,"
I asked them whether they ride in semi trucks often.
"No," replied traveller A. "It's never a good option. Most of the decent truckers won't give us a ride and the ones that do usually want something. Money or a "favor". Most of us travelers avoid semi trucks for that reason. People that travel in cars - college kids or church groups are usually the best option if you can't get to a train.
I asked him his favorite place to go.
"Tijuana, Mexico was the most exciting, but I prefer the friendliness of the people in Olympus, Washington. They don't judge you there. Most places people won't even talk to you if you don't look and act like them," said traveler A.
I saw on TV one time that you have community cities is that true?
"Yes, they are our there. Various places dotted about the country," said traveler B.
Do you get many escaped prostitutes among the travelers?
"No, most of the woman out here are really smart and tough as nails. You don't mess with them unless you want a knife drawn on you. They come from rough back grounds, but I have never met a prostitute before."
Do you get many runaway children in your groups and how do you handle them?
Unless the situation is really bad, runaways are returned to their parents. We don't need kidnapping charges going around out here. And we most definitely want the authorities involved with us. If I ever met one I would personally return them home to their parents after giving them a dose of reality."
Thanks. I replied and left it at that.