As we described in our last post, our introduction to the United States was nothing short of dismal. Thankfully, our expectations were raised on our first day in the US. Laurent’s interrogation at the border led to an hour delay on the bus, and it was not until 7:ooam that we actually arrived in San Antonio, Texas. At that early order, our first order of business was straightforward- breakfast. In proper American style, Emily got an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s and Laurent got cheeseburger from What-a-Burger. We actually did look for San Antonio’s famous breakfast burritos, but most restaurants were still closed.
After getting our calorie fix for the day, we decided that we wanted to visit America’s prime outdoors shop: Recreational Equipment Inc., or more commonly known as REI. San Antonio has a surprisingly decent public transport system, so we took a bus there. As two outdoor gadget aficionados, we strolled up and down almost every aisle and we stocked up on some new outdoors goodies. The highlight of our purchase was a pair of lovely inflatable pillows from Cocoon. Also, Laurent got a great hat, which will be featured in a lot of photos from now on. The staff were also great and pretty hilarious- when asked where they keep the bear bangers, one of the staff replied that it was unnecessary to carry them in Texas; after all, it is legal to simply shoot the bear. She also remarked that it was probably easy for us to go hitchhiking in Texas, since everybody has guns anyways and the driver will probably not be scared of hitchhikers. The shopping made us hungry, and we had a light lunch at Panera Bread while we plotted our next moves.
With our investments properly made, we set off for our hitchhiking across North America adventure. The first location where we tried to hail cars just outside the shopping mall was a bad one, since there was no space really for cars to stop. We walked northwards for about 2 kilometers until we stood in front of a McDonald’s and there was a place for cars to pull over. On the way, a nice lady offered us her leftovers, which we politely declined. We waited for a bit, and a man in a pickup truck coming out of McDonald’s offered to drive us for a little bit. He drove us on the highway for a little, and advised us that we could probably hitchhike directly on the highway, given the generous shoulders available on Texan roads. Also, this is actually legal in Texas. In most other states you are not allowed to hitch on the interstates. After he dropped us off, it took us a while until another car picked us up and drove us another approximately 15 miles. The driver, an Iraqi immigrant, was delivering medication from city to city, and told us that he tries to give everyone a ride who needs one he sees. This very kind man also dropped us on the side of the highway before saying goodbye.
We baked in the sun for a bit and contemplated the flat grasslands next to the highway where we would be able to pitch a tent, should it get dark before a car stops. Luckily for us, at around 3:30pm, a couple in a blue SUV pulled over and helped us stuff our backpacks in their very full car. They introduced themselves as Dana and Chris, and they were driving from San Antonio to Trinidad, in Colorado. Along the way, we shared stories and got to know them better, and Dana offered for us to meet her friend in Utah. It was so nice to finally be able to easily communicate with the people we shared the car with. We drove with them until Amarillo, Texas, which we arrived at around midnight. They were kind and dropped us off right at a Kampground of America (KOA) tent site so we didn’t need to stumble around in the dark to look for a place to set up our tent. We were also wary of Texas’s extreme “Stand Your Ground” laws, and were grateful that we were brought here. It did cost us USD $29 to rent the space, which was quite steep given that we came from countries where for that money, we would have been able to rent a private room for the night with our own bathroom, towels, and air conditioning.
With our very successful first day of hitchhiking that brought us over 500 miles and in contact with so many friendly Americans, we got even more excited to see where we would end up and who we would meet on this stretch of the journey!