Kiwi touring USA
New Zealand author’s travels bring him to Rawlins
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Tags: author, Carbon County, fridge, hitchhiking, New Zealand, Rawlins, refrigerator, Rob Cope, traveling
By Chad Abshire
RAWLINS — Mike Morlan and Rob Cope shared a hug before saying goodbye.
A real goodbye. The kind that says they might never see each other again and the kind that maybe only two complete strangers can really enjoy.
Morlan didn’t know Cope before he picked him up off the side of the road in Evanston, but seeing him piqued his curiosity.
Armed with a nothing but a refrigerator and some stylish sunglasses, Cope was looking for a way to Rawlins.
“When you see a guy on the side of the road in Evanston, Wyoming, with a fridge, it kind of catches your interest,” Morlan said. “Then he shows up at the bar and restaurant you’re at, Tumblin Tumbleweeds. And we were driving home and I said to my wife, ‘let’s pick him up and give him a ride tomorrow.’”
So they did.
While a refrigerator seems strange at first, it’s worth noting that Cope, a New Zealand author, recently penned his second book aptly named “If Your Wife Kicks You Out, Grab the Fridge and Run!”
So he did.
“A couple of years ago when I was going through my divorce in New Zealand, I had just I released my first book, “Men Wanted for Hazardous Journey,” and I wanted to go out and publicize it,” he said.
“And I wanted to do something crazy to stay sane. So I grabbed my fridge and hitchhiked 3,000 miles around New Zealand.”
Once wasn’t enough for Cope, who did the exact same thing the following year. A second hitchhiking tour notched his total to 6,000 miles across New Zealand. Afterwards, he wrote his latest book.
“It’s a look at my travels through divorce and hitchhiking with the fridge and mixing those two up and saying there is no right way to go through a divorce,” he said. “You’re going to face it whichever way you’re going to face it.
“My way of facing it was grabbing a fridge and hitchhiking around New Zealand,” he said. “And that was perfect for me. It got me in a really good headspace.”
However, “for other people, that’s probably not going to be quite so right,” he said.
Cope described his book as “funny stories on the road mixed with the emotional torment of divorce.”
“It’s a memoir piece going through the emotional struggles of divorce, learning how to date again after having not done it for 20 years, facing the first Christmas as a broken family because I’ve got three small kids,” Cope said of his book. “All that kind of stuff mixed with the humor of being on the road and hitchhiking with a fridge.”
As far as the reason for his divorce, Cope said “she just doesn’t like me anymore.”
“We were together 20 years and sometimes things just get old I guess,” he said. “I don’t know, it happens a lot. At least half of us are divorced. Seems quite normal these days.”
Cope met Morlan and his wife, Janet, in Evanston, but made it there via the people he stayed with in Utah. Being told it was illegal to hitchhike in Utah, he was given a ride to Evanston.
Beginning his journey about two weeks ago in San Francisco, Cope said he’s been to Reno, Nev., Tahoe, Calif., Yosemite National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City “all hitchhiking with a fridge.”
Looking to get to Casper from Rawlins, his next goal is heading over to Mount Rushmore for a photo op and then making his way to his ultimate destination, New York, for no other reason than to have simply traveled coast to coast.
His five-foot fridge, stuffed with his “giant waterproof backpack” contained his tent, clothes and “everything I need,” Cope said.
He bought it in San Francisco. It’s covered in various messages of support written by people Cope has met on his travels — with a few marks of profanity directed towards his ex-wife.
The authentic fridge, the one from the first two trips, is currently in his New Zealand kitchen. He was quick to note that it still works just fine.
Before coming across the Morlans, Cope said the folks at the Tumbling Tumbleweed let him sleep in a trailer, offered him a free meal and “everyone was shouting me beers, it was incredible.”
Shouting: A down-under term for buying or giving something to someone else.
He was also gifted $100 from a person who told him to find himself a nice place to stay.
“And since I slept in the trailer, I’ve got that for later on down the road,” Cope said. “Really generous, the people in Wyoming have been.”
Whether he’s couchsurfing or staying in a hotel, it all depends on where he ends up. And while not a stranger to Wyoming, he was new to Rawlins.
As were the Morlans.
“We don’t know anybody in Rawlins,” Mike said. “We just came up.”
And for the soon-ending companionship the Morlans and Cope shared, it was time well spent.
“He’s fun to chat with, very well mannered,” Mike said. “I wouldn’t have brought the wife if he wasn’t. We’d have gotten in trouble together. He’s a good guy. My wife was wondering about it at first, but she’s had fun.”
With reservations at first, Janet was convinced after a trip to Rawlins from Evanston with a — as a cardboard sign on the fridge says — Kiwi touring USA.
“I think it’s awesome, ” she said.
Cope’s books can be found on Amazon.com and you can follow his journey at Facebook.com/projectwildman
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