The day had arrived for Ben and I to say bye to the Windy City and hello to Minneapolis. We knew that hitchhiking out of Chicago wouldn’t be easy, but we weren’t expecting it to be impossible.
Little did we know that the last ride we would get in Illinois would be in the back of a cop car.
To avoid local traffic, Ben and I decided to go towards the outskirts of Chicago i.e. the suburbs. To get there we would have to take the local subway (CTA) for one and a half hours and then take the bus for about 25 minutes to the intersection of the US 41 and the I94. This was a great plan, so we thought.
It wasn’t after we got off the train and walked up to the CTA employee that we got our first bad news of the day. Apparently, buses don’t run on Sundays. How in the world did we miss that very important piece in our planning?
Anyway, Ben and I figured that maybe we could walk the distance, it couldn’t possibly be that long of a walk. WRONG!
According to Google Maps, it would take us about an hour to get there by foot. We were feeling pretty optimistic and decided to walk and try to hitch a ride along the way. As we walked along the street, cars after cars just passed us by. The drivers wouldn’t even glance at us, it was as if we didn’t exist. Forty-five minutes into our walk, someone finally pulled over and asked if we needed a ride. He told us that, “People around here are real snobby and they won’t pick up hitchhikers”.
In a matter of minutes, we were where we needed to be but of course it just so happened that a cop car was waiting right at the intersection. The driver felt our concern and offered to drop us at the next exit on the highway, and we gladly accepted not knowing any better.
Usually when you get off at a highway exit, there is an entrance ramp close by, but not in this case. With our awesome luck the entrance ramp was an hour walk away. How do we know that, you ask? Because we had to walk it and no, this time nobody stopped to give us a ride.
To make matters worst, when we finally made it to the entrance ramp we noticed a cop car waiting at the end of the street. I barely had enough energy to put my thumb out to hitch a ride out of Illinois, let alone have a cop tell us we couldn’t hitchhike here. We were in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, as we walked a little further down the street, the cop disappeared around the corner, giving us the chance to hitch our first real ride.
Three hours later, we were still in the same spot holding our thumbs out. The entire time we were waiting, only two cars stopped and unfortunately, they were headed in the opposite direction. We were getting restless, this was the longest we have waited so far. A few minutes later, a car finally stopped, but not one we were happy to see. The same cop that we saw early, had made his way back to inform us that we couldn’t hitchhike here. He asked us some routine questions and then pulled off. He didn’t even wait to make sure we left. It was as though he felt sorry for us.
So now we were even more desperate for a ride because we were on the cops radar, but that didn’t matter because 15 minutes later another cop pulled over to question us. The questions were no different. He told us that three people called us in because we were hitchhiking. So not only were the drivers ignoring us, but they were also calling the cops. This was just freaking epic.
Though this cop was friendly and tried to help us, he eventually gave us the boot and told us we had to get back on the street that ran along side the highway (same street we came from earlier to get on the entrance ramp) and head west until we hit the next town which was about 1.5 miles away.
We had no choice but to do it.
Twenty minutes into our yet again endless walk, a female driver that was actually on I-94 heading east, saw us and thought she would turn around and help us out. She took us to the next town and explained to us that this would be a better place to hitchhike from. Within 15 minutes of trying to hitch a ride from that spot, two cop cars pulled over.
They both seemed fascinated by our way of traveling but unfortunately they too had to give us the boot. Apparently, too many people were complaining about us hitchhiking in their little town. It was starting to get real annoying. People were snitching, and I couldn’t really understand why? If you don’t want to pick us up, all you have to do is keep driving. It’s that simple.
Just like the other cop before, these two cops told us it’s “illegal” to hitchhike in Illinois and we would have to leave this spot. They suggested we walk to the next town along the SAME damn street we came from but this time it was 5 miles away.
WTF, this couldn’t be real life. Yet again, Ben and I picked up our bags and started walking. As we headed towards a gas station to use the restroom, someone saw us and offered us a ride to another entrance ramp.
As we reached the entrance ramp, and placed our bags down, Ben started laughing hysterically. Barely able to speak he said, “There is another cop coming”. “You have to be shitting me, we weren’t even here for a minute.” Once again we were told that we can’t hitchhike here and we should keep it moving.
Sounds like your been reading the same thing over and over again huh? Well just imagine how we felt living through it.
It was now 5pm and we had gotten nowhere, we pretty much walked most of the way. We needed to figure something out because the area we were in, was way to busy for us to pitch a tent. Eventually, we decided it would be best if we just head back to Chicago and take a 6am bus to Minneapolis because there was no way we where getting out of Illinois by hitchhiking.
So we used google map to find the best way to get out of our little nightmare and it’s best suggestion was to walk four and a half hours to the train station we initially came from.
Though we had more than enough time to catch the 6am bus, the CTA trains stopped working at midnight and would start running again at 5:30am, which meant we needed to catch the train that night or else we would miss the bus.We had about seven hours to make our four and a half hours walk to the trains station with our heavy ass backpacks.
For the first two hours we stayed positive, we took breaks when we needed too, and gave each other high fives when we made it to our next break point. We even laughed about the situation we where in. Actually, I was laughing so hard I was crying because it was just too funny. Nonetheless, we were optimistic and sure we were going to make it.
By the third hour, our legs barely wanted to move anymore.
We got to the point where we started emptying out our bags and throwing away “useless” things just so our bags would weigh less. But that didn’t help much. With every step those bags got heavier, our legs were ready to give in, and to make matters worst it started to rain.
This was starting to feel like we were characters in Daniel Handler’s book a “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. At some point we were putting our thumbs out in hopes of someone calling the cops on us, just so they could give us a lift to the train station. But of course, when we actually wanted the cops to show up, none of them did. Matter of fact, about six cop cars passed us by but not a single one even acknowledged us.
It was 10pm and we still had an hour to go and Ben and I had lost faith in our legs. There was no way we were going to make it.
However, just as we were about to give up, a cop car came to our rescue.
With his flashlight pointing in our face and nearly blinding us, he asked us if we where hitchhiking, because some people called us in. Surprise, surprise!
Before we could even answer, three more cop cars with their flashing blue and red lights pulled over. Suddenly, there were 5 cops standing around us, asking us questions. It was starting to get confusing for both them and us. I felt like we were in an interrogation room, being questioned for a crime we didn’t commit. We were just too tired for all of this.
Eventually, they told us that they would give us a lift to the train station but we would have to ride in separate cars and be padded down to make sure we didn’t have any weapons on us. It seemed like the only reason they offered us the ride was because they wanted us out of their town, but who cares about the reason. We were finally off our feet, and we were going to make it to the train station before 12am.
But the best part was that we hitched a ride in a cop car :D.
When we finally made it to the train station, I swear a tear ran down my cheek. I felt like kissing the station floor, that’s how ecstatic I was.
We gladly got on the train but as we sat down, I felt a sense of disappointment. We wasted the whole day trying to get somewhere just to end up back to where we started, and not only that, we damn near walked the entire time. This day was just unbelievable and we will definitely never forget it.
Ben and I decided to sleep in Union Station that night, that way it would be easier for us to catch the 6am bus to Minneapolis. However, when we got to the station, we found out that Union Station closes at 1am and doesn’t reopen until 5:30am.
Great there we were with no place to sleep.
We tried contacting the person that hosted us the previous night to see if we could crash at his place but he didn’t answer his phone.
At that point I had no energy left, I dropped my bags and sat down on the floor. I was so exhausted I could barley keep my eyes open. The only option left for us was to sleep in the subway station for the night.
For the first time on our trip, I felt like a true hobo.
Just as we were about to get “uncomfortable”, a train heading to the O’Hare Airport stopped in front of us.
Light bulb. Why not sleep at the airport? We grabbed our bags and hopped on the train.
After finding a spot to sleep, I pulled out our sleeping bags and was ready to knock out when Ben had one of his crazy ideas again, “Baby, have you ever wanted to walk into an airport and just buy a ticket to wherever?” “Yeah I guess, but …” “Then we should do it”, he quickly responded. Seconds later he was on the phone looking for cheap flights to well….wherever.
Eventually, we were down to two options, Cancun or Mexico City. We flipped a coin and Cancun won.
It was 4am when we booked our 8am flight to Cancun. One minute we are going crazy trying to hitchhike a ride out of Chicago, the next we are on a plane heading to Cancun, Mexico.
We had a shitty ass day and because of it we landed in Mexico. Though things didn’t go according to plan and Ben and I have to put our hitchhiking tour of the U.S. on pause, we are really excited about being in Mexico.
Have you every had a shitty day that lead to a spontaneous travel decision? If so we would love to hear from you.