The Juggalo Experience
It was 2001, so I had just graduated from college. I packed up my Toyota Previa with all my crap, including A LOT OF BOOKS, to take what I would wrongly assume was my sixth and final trip across country (if you think that’s pretty cool, then you’ve clearly never driven it). I also had my ex-girlfriend at the time driving with me until Kansas City (I do not recommend this). There were also three other cars we were caravaning with, but we planned to split up around Denver.
We took off from Ventura, CA around 10 am, I believe, and we were driving straight to Kansas City with only quick stops for food, gas, and cigarettes. This is absolutely possible with two people if you take sleeping shifts even if it’s a bit miserable.
It was about the middle of Utah when I got exhausted and swapped with my ex for a quick snooze.
Now the Previa wasn’t the worst car I had in my day, but it did have upwards up 150K miles on it and after a few trips cross country that can take a toll on car and I think all the slow but steady up hill of Nevada and Utah with the heavy post-college baggage (double meaning intended) finally killed the transmission because I woke up to the loud whirring of a car stuck in second gear with the gas pedal floored. Naturally, we pulled over immediately because I didn’t want to completely destroy the transmission.
It was about 3 or 4 am and my car was stuck on the side of route 70 about 150 miles outside of Grand Junction, Colorado, and we had lost the rest of the caravan. Cell phones were only just becoming a common and, despite the fact that I didn’t have one, that area of the country is pretty barren so reception would have been pretty sketchy then anyway.
This is not a situation you want to be in since it could be hours until a car passes and, even then, you’d be lucky to have somebody stop. I mean, would YOU stop in the middle of nowhere at 4 am to help somebody you didn’t know out? Of course not! You don’t know what a person like that is up to!
Fortunately, I learned from a previous cross-country trip (which is a WAAAY better story than this one) that having a women with you can benefit a dude here: you won’t stop in the middle of nowhere at 4am to help a random dude, but you will stop to help an attractive lady.
So I sent the girlfriend out to the side of the road to stick out her thumb (I kept a close eye on her from the car). A handful of cars passed over about a half hour, but eventually one stopped.
I should note: these two Juggalos, much like anybody who is tattooed, isn’t necessary reflective of the whole. I’m not making value judgements here so much as describing what I felt at the time, just or unjust.
The Juggalo Experience
I can’t really remember the make of the car, it was too dark at 4 am, but it was a small two door sedan that pulled over and my girlfriend ran up to the car and talked to the driver while I eyed them cautiously from my car (remember, only nutters would actually stop in this situation). She point to my van, suggesting that I was in there I can only assume, and then waved me over.
My heart pretty much sank the moment I saw the drivers. Face tattoos weren’t exactly the norm in 2001 and I was a Princeton prep who just graduated from a pretty conservative Catholic college in California.
(I wish I could remember what the specifics of their look was, but I don’t. It was basically a wall of piercings and cheap tattoos. They didn’t have the silly face paint on, of course, because no one, no matter how idiotic, would ever wear that sort of things while driving long distances. You sweat too much, especially in cars with shitty heating/AC.)
I don’t really remember our initial conversation before I got in the car, but they agreed to take us as far as Grand Junction, CO, the next and only stop for miles.
There was trash all over the back seat, empty cartoons of food (so like me, they’d been traveling far) and a vaguely sweet smell I couldn’t quite place yet:
“Do you guys smoke?” one of the two, said.
“No” (the answer was yes, but when hitchhiking the answer should always be no unless the question is about an immediately obvious positive human desire), I said, the ex-girlfriend clutching my arm in a combination of glee and fear (she’s always liked weirdos).
“Good. The gas tank is leaking and the fumes are coming into the car.”
“125 miles to go,” I thought to myself and glanced over at my ex with a long face.
Silence for a little bit longer (you always let the drivers do the talking as a hitchhiker unless they seem to want you to tell stories.).
“Oh, you guys aren’t religious either, right? We had these two Mormon we picked up back in Nevada and they kept trying to convert us. It drove us so crazy we left them at a rest stop when we were getting gas.”
My Protestant self and the Catholic ex both answered with a resounding “NO, WE ARE NOT.”
Then the drive who’d been doing all the talking turned to his friend, “You know, we’d definitely wouldn’t play nice in heaven. As soon as I’d get their, I’d slit Saint Peter’s through, go rape the Virgin Mary, and then tell God to go fuck himself.”
It was at this point I started praying in earnest.
They started talking to each other, obviously so we would hear, about how when they get back to Minnesota they’d go and beat the hell out of Todd(?) and then slit his girlfriend’s throat because they were such assholes (it was a strange repetition, I thought, they must not be very creative).
It was at that point I realized ICP was playing in the background and I think they were coming back from some sort of Gathering. Maybe not THE Gathering, but they were clearly on the tail end of the road trip.
Knowing what sort of group they came form gave me a sort of comfort, but I was still trying to measure just how seriously they were about “Todd and his girlfriend” or whether this was just two dudes fucking with the hitchhikers.
The worry persisted until we saw the caravan and two cop cars on the side of the road. I very excitedly told the Juggalos to pull over which they did reluctantly, probably because of the cops, but it’s hard to resist an adult male yelling at the top of his lungs from the back seat.
We pulled over and explained to our friends what happened and that, no officer, my friends really were waiting for us, not making a drug deal, told our ride we didn’t need them any more and hopped in another friends car.
There’s actually a lot more to this cross-country story, including Canadian Geese, a googly-eyed mechanic named “Fran,” and some of the most terrifying questions the ex’s father could ask a recently graduated man.