I first had the dream of buying land and building a community that is self sustaining in 2009. The dream has not changed much, but I have. I first had the idea my last year in the US Army. As I was preparing to depart from the military I wanted to find a way to continue to serve my country and help the world as a whole. Because we are all brothers and sisters no matter your creed, color or country. My dream is a grand one, if not a bit crazy. The first goal I had when I left the military was to see the country I went to war for. I wanted to meet the American people. As a veteran we can sometimes feel separate from civilians. Because a civilian will never truly understand the sacrifice our military men and women make everyday. This is a good thing. For the sacrifice these men and women make will hopefully protect Americans from the horror that is war. So I set out to meet people. I traveled from the east coast to the west coast visiting friends and family. I put myself out in the open, living life out of a backpack. Early on the voyage I had funds provided to me by selling my stocks and vacation pay. This lasted me a couple months. But what I truly wanted to experience was how our people treats our poor. I wanted to hitchhike, my worldly possessions on my back, no money in my pockets just me and hope that I find good people at the next hop. Before I began the trip I feared there were no good people left in America. I was pleasantly surprised.
After holding up in Long Beach, Ca for most the winter, I set out North toward Washington state. I got a bus ticket, gifted by a friend I believe, to San Francisco. This would be my introduction to the Drifter life. I arrived in San Francisco with maybe $10, also gifted to me, and little to no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I found my way to “People’s Park” and was astonished at the community I found there, a haven for travelers, drifters, hobos and bums. Food was plentiful at this park and I quickly lost many days talking, joking and learning all I could from the people who inhabited this park. Before I knew it days started turning into weeks. I forced myself to leave this sanctuary lest I never leave.
The world can seem like a huge place sometimes. Then it can also show you how small it really is. My first objective when I left peoples park was I wanted to see some of the city but my real desire was to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. I made my way threw the city and made camp at the base of the bridge. The next morning as I aired out my sleep gear and packed my bag at a near by picnic table, I notice a man doing the same at a near by table. I, having plenty of food left I gathered at “People’s Park”, approached the man with the gift of food. He declined but we began to talk. Something was familiar about this man. It didn’t take me long to find out why. I had met this man seven years prior when I took a trip one summer to visit a friend of mine in Hemit, California. I asked the man if his name was Greg, a little surprised and hesitant the man grew suspicious. After explaining who I was we both rejoiced in the small wonder of stumbling into each other. We talk a while, even discussed traveling a bit together, but I had my sights on crossing the bridge. He walked me to the bridge entrance and we parted ways. It still amazes me that I would meet a guy I met seven years earlier as a teen.
Crossing the Golden Gate on foot was awesome. The view was spectacular and I, being fond of engineering, marveled at the bridge it self. I walked as far as the side walk and the road would allow. Eventually coming to a point where I must find a ride to continue moving forward. The sign I flew was simple, all it read was North. I did not have to wait long before I got picked up. My first hitch was with a white Buddhist woman with a shaved head in complete Buddhist attire driving a VW Van. Being my first time hitch hiking this seemed to be a promising sign of things to come.
I slowly made my way north, preferring to take buses if available. Soon I found myself in Fort Bragg, home to a glass bead beach. It was raining when I arrived and luckly I had a few dollars in my pocket. So I found a local pub to relax a bit and gather info on the area. Several people bought me drinks as I probed people for information. Once I felt I had the information I needed or till my cup ran dry, I made camp in the woods near where I felt I should post up the next day in search of my next hitch. Just so happens that two women from the bar the night prior were on a road trip as well. As they departed Fort Bragg they scooped me up and I layed out in the back of their truck as we drove into the Red Woods of Northern California. A splendid sight to view the large trees white with snow and a view of the ocean off in the distance. My destination was Humboldt county, many people should know what that area is known for and it lived up to its reputation.
My two angels dropped me off in downtown Arcata, a small hippy town where weed was plentiful. After sharing a couple cigarettes with the locals and each person giving me a handful of green I was over stocked on smokeable. I spent roughly two weeks in the area. The weather was terrible and I still being an Oogle, newbie who only knows what he googles, I sought shelter in emergency shelters during most of the bad weather. Up until this point everything was smooth sailing so I was due for some hardship. After a scary trip into Eureka, a neighboring town full of meth bums, I decided it was time to move on. A local veteran assistance program gifted me a bus pass that I intended to use to get out of town. After sneaking into the local college to use the internet and to check in with the site that I was using to gather knowledge and network with other travelers I found two things that pointed the way to Redding. Several people were planning a get together in Redding and a person was seeking help for her grandmother with help at her diner. The get together was canceled due to rain but I did end up working for the grandmother for a month. The first two weeks I slept on a hill by the railroad tracks and did dishes in the diner. That is till I narrowly avoided getting ambushed by people waiting to jump me as I left for work. After that incident the grandmother let me sleep in the greenhouse in her backyard. Two weeks went by like this till my sister invited me to come visit her in Idaho. Now this was a big detour from my goal of Washington but she is family, I love her and her birthday was close at hand. So I accepted the invitation and she bought me a ticket to Twin Falls, Idaho. She even managed to get me some work on the farm she was working for. Unfortunately the other employee’s got scared I would take their jobs from them, they complained and I was no longer able to work. Next my sister began being very hateful and mean. I had a buddy recently get out of the military and was driving home to Washington. He decided to detour and visit me at my sisters. An action I bet he still regrets. My sister made a huge scene and ruined the whole experience.
As I began to set my sights on Washington again news came that my niece was to graduate high school the next month. So I had my sister drop me off in a town the general direction I felt I should go to get to my niece who lived in Cody, Wyoming. I figured it would take about a month to get there. After a month living indoors I was not used to traveling on foot with a 60lb bag on my back. I was having no luck with hitching a ride and ended up traveling mostly on foot. I tried to average forty miles a day. Unfortunately my body fought back. My hip began to hurt severely. I had hoped to get to a small town near the border of Idaho and Wyoming but progress was slow. Resources were getting thin. Just as I thought I could go no further a man approached me and offered to buy me a good meal. I graciously accepted. We talked a while and he offered me a ride to the town I sought. He even made some calls to get me in a shelter there. I try to avoid shelters but I needed some time to recover. After a week I began to feel a little better and began getting anxious to start my trip again. I gathered up my belongings and walked out of town, in search of a place to find a hitch going east into Wyoming. I walked as far as I could before my hip began to hurt again. The pain unbearable I sat on the side of road tears from pain turned into tears of sadnesses. Reality finally pericing my world. “You are a fool for doing this. Why are you doing this to yourself?” My thoughts begin to attack me. Close to the edge of breaking, a car pulls up. A Mexi”can” hauing a sweet muscle car pulls up and offers me a ride. He explains he is not going super far, but he will take me as far as he can. Any distance I could put myself away from the current darkness I found on that corner was welcomed. The gentleman smoked me out and dropped me off as far as he could. Miraculously the herb had numbed most the pain and I was able to walk. I walked for hours, thumbs up at each sound of a cars approach from behind. Eventually I stopped putting my thumb up, the effort to do so was more energy then I had. Content to my walk, I walked. “One more mile Tommy. You can do it. Just make it to the top of that hill and you can rest.” Motivating me to keep going, each time reaching my goal and extending it further. For I knew if I stopped I may not get going again. I came to a place I thought about making camp for the night. After sitting a while in contemplation, I stood up gathered my gear and set to walking again. There was day light left and I intended to use it. I only made it maybe a hundred yards before a truck pulled over. A Hispanic guy and his daughter. The man didn’t speak English so the daughter was our translator. He agreed to take me to the border but ended up taking me two hours out of his way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Upon arriving he gave me some cash which went towards restocking my food supplies. The next day I attempted to walk around town but my hip pain was getting the best of me. Reluctantly I entered the local shelter where I spent nearly two weeks recovering. After two weeks I was feeling better. I gathered up my bag and set north out of town. Before reaching the location I intended to hitch from a Native American man picked me up. I nearly declined his offer because I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to walk instead. He convinced me to join him. Thank God for that! Buffalo were not too far down the road and are known for their aggressive behavior. Next we entered a snow storm that was approaching. After we got past the snow storm he pulled over at a landmark on the side of the road. He had me read the sign. The sign spoke of a battle that was fought on a plateau between the Crow tribe and a conglomerate of tribes allied against the Crow. The chief of the Crow was killed and his heart was removed and placed on a spear. The chief who killed the Crows leader and took his heart was given the name “Crow Heart”. This is when my escort showed me his ID. His last name was Crow Heart and that was his grandfather. He drove me as far as he could and dropped me off at a major stop. The next ride was not as pleasant but nearly as interesting.
The next gentleman to pick me up was a 9/11 was done by our own government nut. I almost got out right away. After a wacky ride he dropped me off in Riverton, Wyoming. I went to local bar to gather information and seek a possible ride to next town. I was offered a ride but the ride bailed out last minute. I set out on foot and put many miles between me and Riverton before a blizzard hit. I made a hut out of tumble weeds on side of road and called it a night. The next day was bad. The blizzard was dropping tons of wet slush. Cars driving by were washing me in waves of slushy wet snow. To make matters worse my boots had developed a kink and was cutting into the back of my foot. After walking for hours making very little progress, with cold entering my bones and my foot ravaged by the boot, I had to admit when I was beat. If I remained on the road I would surly freeze to death. Beaten by the weather I approached the first house that looked occupied and asked of them to call for emergency pick up to a town. A policeman picked me up and delivered me to a shelter in Riverton where I sat out the storm. Once the storm cleared a lady from the shelter gave me a lift to Thermopolis, a town know for its hot springs. I fully intended to check out the hot springs but once there I quickly found a ride with a truck driver to my destination of Cody, Wyoming. The truck driver was a woman in charge of assigning bulls to riders at the rodeo that was set to begin soon in Cody.
Destination reached with a week to spare before my niece was to graduate. I found the VFW there to be very helpful and friendly. Not many veterans frequented the VFW so many took a liking to me. Only incident was when a woman accused me of taking advantage of people. I explained that I avoid asking for money and often I would decline offers because I was stocked with my needs. I got sick shortly after arriving so the bartender let me stay in her basement as I recovered and waited for my nieces graduation. I am thankful I was able to attend.
I began this in attempt to tell you about why I created “House 13oom”. I want to help people and I figured the best way to start is to meet people, to walk a mile in a poor mans shoes. It was an inspiration and motivating experience that restored my faith in humanity. It taught me a lot about the American people. It taught me that poor people are often the most generous and that rich religious people can be the most hateful. But the main thing I learned is that good people do exist and that getting out of your comfort zone is the only way to grow. I started my adventure with a goal of Washington and ended up in Wyoming. I was battered by family and loved by strangers. Family does not require blood ties. Family is a bond, a trust of cooperation. Family is love. I may not of made it to Washington, but I found where I was going. Life has detours but with persistence you will reach your destination.