How to Hitchhike Across America: Thumbs Up Season 1 (Part 1/5)

Uploaded by vice on Jul 7, 2012


DAVID CHOE: Ass, cash, or grass, no one rides for free.
Thumbs up.
I'm David Choe, we're going cross-country.
We're going across America.
We accept all rides for free.
Hopping trains, hitchhiking on cars, flying on planes.
We're just not gonna pay for any of them.
Last time I did this was during the grunge period in
the early '90s, so it's been awhile.
And I only almost got raped twice, and so hopefully that
won't happen.
But I was like a lot skinnier and sexier then.
And you know a lot of sexual abuse victims, they put on
weight to make themselves feel unattractive and unsexy, so
hopefully they'll leave us alone this time.
I'm bringing Harry Kim.
This is my nephew.
We'll see how far two of the baddest gooks in K-town can
get across this wide America by any means possible.
HARRY KIM: Right now we're in the LA train yard, and we're
gonna head east and just keep going.

DAVID CHOE: All right, we should investigate which
train's leaving next.
Sometimes, I come back from train-hopping trips and people
are like, hey did you bring me a
souvenir, you're on vacation.
It's like, there's no gift shops, really.
But what is cool is, when you walk along the tracks, and you
see a piece of crap, it's not dog crap.
That's human crap.
And a lot of times, it's over 100 years old.
Still a nice souvenir for friends and family.
This isn't "CSI" or anything, but basically what happened
here was, he took a dump here, and then he wiped his ass on
the wall right there.
And then he used this rock and this [INAUDIBLE]
is covered in shit.
To wipe his ass.
HARRY KIM: (SINGING) We are waiting for the train to come.
Waiting for the train to come.
Waiting for the train to come.
DAVID CHOE: We're having a little of a rough time getting
out of Los Angeles because they're all heading to San
Diego, and we don't want to go to Tijuana.
We're here with Chicago.
He was walking his dog out here earlier.
What's going on with the train yard situation out here?
CHICAGO: Well, they're real anal.
You know, it's like the cops, they're real dickheads,
because they're not real cops.
So they try to do as much enforcing as they can.
So they'll fine you the first time $100.
No warning, no nothing.
From out of town, they'll definitely slap you with a
fine, each.
And the second time, you go to jail.
So, if we want to go to Vegas, we gotta go that way.
CHICAGO: No, you want to start that way and
then bend up there.
I just came back from Vegas yesterday.
HARRY KIM (OFFSCREEN): On the train?
CHICAGO: Yeah, I went to the Star Trek event.
HARRY KIM (OFFSCREEN): That's awesome.
CHICAGO: I'm a nerd.
DAVID CHOE: Do you like Vulcan stuff?
CHICAGO: I love everything.
DAVID CHOE (OFFSCREEN): Why do you like Star Trek?
CHICAGO: It's the way we should be as a society.
There's no money involved, you know.
You actually do the job that you were born for.
DAVID CHOE: So how was it?
How was the convention?
CHICAGO: It was great.
Really fucking awesome.
I got laid by this Klingon chick in full Klingon outfit.
It was like, unbelievable.
Gotta try it.
Klingon sex.
Be careful of the little towns though.
Because people are all crazy, man.
[INAUDIBLE] they all know each other, and they
will fuck you up.
So you gotta be careful.
People will try to hustle you out of whatever you got.
Don't ever, ever trust someone on your little adventure.
DAVID CHOE: I got Blackie Chan right here.
CHICAGO: You got each other, but you're not always gonna be
there, dude.
I'm telling you.
Be careful, guys.
Safe trip.
If you're out here tonight, man, I'll hang out with you
guys, you know, until--

DAVID CHOE: We caught and hopped a freight out here.
It slowed down, so we jumped on.
It's 2 o'clock in the morning, and here we are at the Burger
Den in beautiful Yermo, California.
This is pretty much the halfway mark between Vegas and
Los Angeles.
Any cops we should watch out for?
"LITTLE" RICHARD: Just plenty of snakes, man.
DAVID CHOE: And what about train hopping around here?
"LITTLE" RICHARD: Just be careful, man.
I've never done that, so I can't say how dangerous it is.
DAVID CHOE: But have you heard anything?
"LITTLE" RICHARD: Yeah, man, bums are dying and stuff.
DAVID CHOE: Bums are dying.
"LITTLE" RICHARD: Just I don't know why, but I guess they're
all train jumpers.
Probably they're all drunk and stuff, but, I don't know.
DAVID CHOE: All right.
Bums are dying.
Be careful.
Watch out for snakes.
You heard it from Richard at the Burger Den in Yermo.
We're stranded in Yermo for a little bit.
We've been trying to hitch a ride out and can't
seem to get a ride.
However, we found this abandoned hotel that looks
like it's being renovated and it's nice and warm in here.
And it doesn't look like anyone's gonna fuck with us,
so I guess this is home for tonight.

We tried to sleep at the little construction site hotel
in Yermo and they kicked us out.
Some highway patrolmen came by at like 4:00 in the morning.
So we walked a mile out.
I think this place is called the Calico Ghost Town.
Fucking guy decided to get sick last night.
I wanna get going, but I just wanted to leave a mark.
We're trying to catch a train out.
Hopefully we'll try to make it to Vegas by today.
But we wanna destroy this house a little bit.

This is the best seat in the house.
And we're basically sitting on a metal conductor for heat,
and my ass is burning right now.
It's fucking hot.

And that's the clickety clack.
When the force pulls, like all of them go, [TRAIN NOISES].
And so, we're in Yermo.
We just caught one out to--
we're heading out towards the beautiful Las Vegas.

I spent probably the last decade and a half of my life
being the worst thief on the planet.
I had a huge change of heart and a change of thinking in
the last few years.
I never thought I'd actually be a successful artist, but
when I'm selling paintings and making a decent living out of
it, I got aspects of why I'm stealing Starburst from 7-11.
So, it's more of a habit that was very tough to break in.
I guess, an addiction also.
So I fill that void in my life with Christ.
And so, God is still part of my life right now, but if I'm
completely honest, not as big as when I did have
the change of heart.
Slowly, yet surely, another thing that
filled my life is gambling.
And so gambling is a huge part of my life now.
So, last time I went to Vegas, I was delivering custom-made
shorts for a UFC fighter.
It's a long story, but basically there was like a
dead hooker in front of his room, and he was frazzled.
My friend gave me some money to put on a fight, and he lost
money on the fight with the leftover money that I wasn't
able to put on the fight.
I went to the Venetian and I went to the
high roller's room.
And I won $40,000.
And so, I guess I'm considered a high roller and they've been
calling me ever since.
They want their money back, basically.
So, I figure we're pretty fucking dirty.
We're pretty tired.
Might as well milk our opportunities.
Hi, Yvonne, this is David Choe.
I haven't been back there since probably a few months
and I was wondering if it's too late to cash in on one of
those rooms.
Wow, thank you.
Thumbs up.
I guess we're gonna go from rags to riches.
They got us a pretty nice room over there at the Venetian for
free because they want their money back.
Hopefully, I can remain cool and not become a degenerate
gambler and blow our entire budget for
the trip in one night.
We barely made it out of Los Angeles.
Hopefully, we'll make it out of Sin City.
Our train just stopped in literally
the middle of nowhere.
Harry's sick and he's almost out of water.
You know, it's very important to stay hydrated out here in
the desert.
So if he is to pass out, I will piss in his mouth.
Keep waking him up.
How you feeling?
HARRY KIM: Keep me hydrated.
DAVID CHOE: Feeling better?
HARRY KIM: Yup, feeling good.
We just stopped and we saw an open boxcar when the train was
turning, so that might be a more enjoyable ride.
It'll be a change of pace.
Complain to the concierge, get a different room.

It has taken us over 16 hours to get
halfway from LA to Vegas.
We're in a place called Kelso right now, still about 200
miles from Vegas.
What people don't understand is, during the 1920s and '30s,
the railroads were built on the backs
of Chinese and blacks.
This is the spine of this country.
This is the backbone.
Like everywhere the train went, that's where little
towns popped up.
You drive cross-country in a car, you see the 10 freeway.
You go through from LA to Miami.
You hit all these towns, 7-11s, Circle K's but, you go
on the train.
You go through some places that time has not touched in
50, 60, 100 years.
Some backwards towns, some of the most beautiful amazing
things you've ever seen in your life.
This is one of the last American frontiers, I think.
As every year goes by, it gets more and more harder to do
this kind of traveling, but it's a
great way to save money.

So here we are, in beautiful "Lost Wages." We just hopped a
boxcar out here.
I think there's a room waiting for us at the Venetian, so
time to gamble.

We're in beautiful Las Vegas again.
We just walked from the train tracks over to
the Venetian hotel.
I'm gonna get my free room, and hopefully get a manicure
and pedicure and a free sauna, and a happy ending and all the
good stuff.
Let's go, Harry.
HARRY KIM: Luxury.


Thumbs up.
I justify this behavior because it is
comped and it's free.
And I worked hard losing money to get that comp.
And I'm not comped anywhere else, so this will be it,
before we head off on the road again.
It's our one hurrah.

Familiar story.
Lost it all.
Took a cash advance out on my credit card to get back to
even money.
Lost it all.
I am the biggest loser.
I want to sleep till 2007 or just do a 2-hour drum solo.
That's how it goes.
One minute, you're up, one minute you're down.
Down and out in Las Vegas.
I guess fortunes change.
So, the situation is, we found out this morning that we
weren't comped for a second room.
My 20 minutes of play doesn't get me two nights.
Fortunately, I have a friend from high school that became a
pit boss at the lovely and beautiful Golden Palm Resort
and Casino, which is pretty much a dump and pretty much
only known for its karaoke which is
pretty fucking awesome.

Wow, I don't know what to say because--
OK, so we come into karaoke night.
We find Lee, who takes care of all the odds and ends around
the Golden Palm.
But he's working in a tiny office, has a samurai sword,
all these video monitor cameras.
And the guy's also sleeping on the floor, and unbelievably
does the best Bob Dylan I've ever heard.
Quite a performer.
What are you doing here?
LEE: I am the hotel electrician.
I'm the resident musician.
I'm past my third marriage.
My daughter's 24.
She's in the United States Navy.
DAVID CHOE: Were you in the Navy?
LEE: Yeah, I'm third generation Navy.
I am a performer of petty miracles.
I played bass guitar since I was 18.
Took two lessons from Jerry Garcia.
I enjoy the karaoke forays.
DAVID CHOE: Well, tell me a little bit about the--
I mean, tell me the world of karaoke, is it a harsh world?
Do people know you in the karaoke circuit?
LEE: A lot of live musicians at point
and time in the past--
I had not actually rehearsed music, taking it into the
band, then the band would say, well, we don't think you can
really do that song, or we don't think we can do it.
But with karaoke, the CD disc is always gonna play the same.
It's always gonna be there.
It's not gonna talk back to you.
It's never gonna be late.
It don't get drunk.
Only thing you can do is do it worse, or better.
Make a decision.
I'm never gonna do that song again, or
yes, that's a keeper.

DAVID CHOE: The one plus side to the scalding hot weather in
the daytime is actually, at night time, it's pretty nice
and pleasant.
So Eric, my friend, is letting us sleep by the pool without
anyone bothering us.
And the security guard is keeping the hookers away from
pickpocketing us while we sleep.
It's a nice night out.
We'll wake up and take a bath in the jacuzzi and hitch out
of Vegas tomorrow and hopefully get the fuck out of
this town because I've been here way too long.

DAVID CHOE: I apologize in advance if I
seem irritable today.
Me and Harry slept by the pool at the Golden Palm last night,
and was rudely awoken by the sun in our face.
It's day four.
I wanna get the fuck out of Vegas.
This is really the city of Lost Wages.
Our goal today is to at least make it to Arizona and New
Mexico, if possible.
This place sucks.
We're gonna make ourselves a sign, right now.
JACK: They're standing out here with a street sign.
It says, towards Arizona.
These motherfuckers just wanna get home from work.
It's Friday afternoon.
They wanna get home, do their drugs, get
fucked, and watch TV.
DAVID CHOE (OFFSCREEN): That sounds like what you wanna do.
JACK: No, I'm honestly talking.
JACK: I'm out here just like you are.
DAVID CHOE (OFFSCREEN): You should come with us.
JACK: I gotta job, though.
DAVID CHOE (OFFSCREEN): You don't think anyone's gonna
pick us up?
JACK: I hope you guys get to where you're going, I do.
I'm pulling for you.
But in reality, no one's gonna pick you up.

Golden rule is to smile while you're hitchhiking.
No one likes a sour-puss face.
Just smile.
You'll look like a nice guy.

DAVID CHOE: Harry sweet-talked the nice lady.
DAVID CHOE: Gracias.
This is our first ride.
Thumbs up, America.

MALE SPEAKER: What's up, man.
Thanks for giving us a ride.
We appreciate it.
Were you scared?
Only when the police came?
Thank you so much.
One thing I forgot about fear and hitchhiking is, when
you're hitchhiking, and you talk to the people, and you
say, hey, how about a lift, and they're in the lane to get
on the freeway, and you know, they say obvious lies like,
oh, I'm not getting on the freeway, I'm going straight.
And it's obvious that you're not going straight.
It's weird because you start to build this hatred and
resentment towards people, and you're like, why are you
lying, man?
Why the fuck are you lying to me.
It's obvious you're getting on the freeway.
You just don't wanna give me a ride.
Like, hey man, just be real, just be honest with me.
But then, what would their honest reasons be?
And in life, when are people really honest with you anyway?
Oh no, I don't want to give you a ride because you smell
and you're dirty and you're chinky.
And then you think about it for yourself if it was with
the reverse situation.
If I'm honest with myself, I don't want to pick them up
because they're dirty, and they sweat, and I don't want
them in my car.
But, who wants to say that?
So, I have no one to be angry at with except for myself.
And Harry.

She's going our direction but I have no idea.
Do you have your flashlight, Harry?
HARRY KIM (OFFSCREEN): Oh, shit, dude.
DAVID CHOE: OK, so basically, we just got a
ride from a nice lady.
And it's a van, it's a little bit hot in the back.
We're heading east.
We don't know which--
this is sort of scary, actually.
I'm never gotten a ride in a van that's like--
DAVID CHOE: But it did say "God Bless America." And there
was only like, two scary guys that are sitting in the back,
so I think we're all good.
HARRY KIM (OFFSCREEN): So, that's our
way out right there.
There's no way we can find out where we are or anything
that's outside.
The windows are black and all the lights are taken out.
DAVID CHOE (OFFSCREEN): What do you think this is?
Feels like an arm.
Dude, someone's arm.

Oh, phew.

HARRY KIM (OFFSCREEN): That's the last person's clothes.
The last person who got picked up.
They just left that here.
DAVID CHOE: If this is the last you ever hear from me,
mom and dad, I love you very much.
And I tried my best to be the best son I could.
To my girlfriend, Milan, I love you very much.
I'm sorry I was like the worst boyfriend ever.
Can you guys hear me?