|July 12-13, 1989: Indiana to Arizona|
Dad dropped me off at 7:00 a.m. on his way to work. It was pouring rain, which seemed kind of appropriate, and by the time I made it to an underpass I was soaked. I took off my wet socks and changed into a pair of old black swimming trunks. The rain stopped, and I hit the road at 7:30.
My first ride was with a pipe-fitter named Jim. He'd been all over the world, Cambodia, Germany, Turkey, Australia, and all over the States as well, hitching for most of it. He'd adopted a daughter from an Indian tribe in Panama, where he'd taught latrine-building. "She might grow up to be a doctor some day, and go back to help her people," he speculated, "if they're not extinct by then."
Having kids put an end to his bohemian ways. Now his adventures were more planned. He claimed to envy me, but he didn't seem to have any regrets. When he dropped me off he said: "the good news is that I've had a great time talking to you; the bad news is that it's come to an end."
I stood at that Terre Haute exit with my thumb in the air for forty minutes before getting a twelve-mile ride with a mustachioed man who didn't say much. That put me just over the Illinois border.
It didn't take long before I got picked up again, this time by a trucker, "the Legendary Black Stallion." That's how he introduced himself. He was a 25-year-old man from Ohio, with his hair cornrowed back into a single tight braid. "Just call me Stallion."
I'd planned on taking 70 out through Denver on my way to Durango. But Stallion was taking 44 to Los Angeles, so I decided to hang with him 'til Gallup, New Mexico. We made good time. By 7:00 p.m. we were in Oklahoma.
Stallion's cab was loaded with goodies: a Passport radar detector, a Uniden CB, a tape deck, a miniature fridge. There was a bed in the back. Stallion told me that some husband-and-wife trucker teams would spell each other and take turns sleeping, stopping only for fuel.
We were riding high. It was fun to look down at all the little cars below us. There was a tiny window set into the very bottom of my door, right beside my ankles. It was close to eye-level for the average passing motorist. Stallion had a little license plate mounted there for their edification; it read : "LEGS MAN" and it was topped off by a chrome silhoutte of a naked woman, bobbing on a spring.
This decorative motif found an echo in the two air fresheners hanging from above, which depicted reclining women in transparent lace bras. Stallion invited me to look in back, where I saw more air fresheners pinned on to the black velvet wall above his bed.
"Hey, wow," I said, wanting to be polite. "That's great. Naked women."
"No," he said, "look on the side."
I looked again. There was a pair red silk panties tacked up over his pillow.
"Cool," I said. "So you're into lingerie?"
"Inside, man, inside!"
I put my hand in the panties. They were full of Trojans, 15 or 20 packets, ready for action.
"Gee, that's great, Stallion. Condoms."
He laughed. "You know why they call me the Black Stallion?"
"No," I confessed, "I don't."
"Because you can ride me, but you can't break me."
We made it to a truckstop somewhere around Clinton at midnight (Hoosier time). Stallion climbed back into his bad. I dozed fitfully in the passenger seat. I don't think I slept more than ten minutes at a stretch the whole night.
We got rolling again just before dawn. Sunrise was impressive on the big horizon. Coffee and a cigarette got me feeling wide awake. Soon we were in New Mexico. The mountains ahead were shrouded in cumulonimbus shadows, but sun shone bright on the treeless flat expanse around us.
I thought about sticking with Stallion all the way to Los Angeles. There was nothing to stop me; I could do as I pleased. But I wanted to get up to Durango and visit Seth, so Stallion and I parted ways in Gallup. He told me his real name and said that I should look him up if I was ever in Cleveland.