We were driving through Montana in the bus when I saw him coming down out of a hill ahead of us. It was a pretty steep hill, and he was using his walking stick to keep upright, a big canvas pack on his back. The pack was what caught my attention. It was one of those old military ones, from like twenty years ago, that old people in the villages still have. We pulled over for gas, and when we got back on the freeway he was right in front of us, thumb sticking out.
Of course we stopped. “Where you going?” He looked up at us suspiciously.
“Where are you going?” I was just as suspicious. It was right after RedFox. “We’ll take you fifty miles. More if you behave.”
He climbed up the steps and sat on our couch, his walking stick across his knees. My girlfriend was driving, and I sat in the rocking chair, intensely curious about this guy. He was silent for the first thirty miles or so. Later he said he was just shocked to come down out of the hills after a few months and climb right into an old bus to find bookshelves, couches, rocking chairs, and me making him a cup of tea.
When he did start talking it turned out that he’d been on the road, hiding in the hills and deserts and swamps, for thirty years. Thirty years of hiding from the government and big oil, because he’d been a little too involved in a few things that would replace gasoline. We’d been trying to get the bus to run on veggie oil, so I had a lot to talk to him about. He wasn’t too clear on feul injection, but he was some kind of wierd math wizard. I drew him a picture of what we’d done and he pointed out our fatal mistake, or what would have been our fatal mistake if we’d used it.
He drew me a diagram of how to use a certain airplane engine in the bus and run it on electricity from the wind of driving, and drew me a map to a guys house in North Dakota who could show you how to run a car on water.
His hands were all dark and his beard ran down inside his shirt and poked out the bottom. His pants had been sewn together hundreds of times, and his hair was one big dreadlock. He said he was happy. He said he loved living on the road, nights in truckstops and weeks in the woods. I guess that’s what happens when you spend thirty years hiding from the government.