I once again awoke this morning to a knock at the door.
"Housekeeping" came a woman's voice in a strong southern accent.
I didn't reply right away and as I crawled out of bed in my boxers, she called out twice more. I opened the door, and my Mr Universe body had her a little startled. I figured she should be used to it, as she wakes people up for a living. I told her Id be ready in 10, and packed my crap up. Last night I was absolutely starving, and as much as I was tempted to go and try my hand at finding a meal, it was late, and I didn't just want to go ask for free food, and it was far too late to speak with a manager in hopes of maybe mopping or washing dishes to earn the meal. I just went to bed starving and woke up famished. I checked out and walked to the highway. I hitched for about 20 minutes, but got dizzy in hunger.
I walked down the street to the Cracker Barrel. I asked for the manager, and offered to do dishes for a few hours for breakfast. He told me he would be more than happy to be part of the production, and that I coudl have whatever I wanted free of charge.
Walking in and sitting down was kind of weird. Everyone was staring at me and my packs. I sat down and a lovely waitress named Brenda served me. I ordered the sampler. While I was waiting, another waitress, Deanna talked to me in curiosity. I can tell they don't get many backpackers, and most people didnt stop staring. Deanna was super nice, and promised to pray for me. The women I chatted with were amazed I was hitching, and thought it was too dangerous to comprehend. I assured them its not as bad as they think. My meal was brought to me, and I couldn't believe what I saw. A massive plate of eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, ham, sausage, with another plate of biscuits, bacon puree soup, a bowl of apple cinnamon slices, toast and OJ. I was so hungry and it was the best thing Id ever seen. I had no problem putting it all down. While I was consulting my map, a woman came up and told me she knows how hard life on the road can me and slipped a bill into my hand. I was shocked and said I cant take it but she insisted. People in North Carolina are unbelievably friendly. Deanna gave me a gift card to Cracker Barrel, and Brenda made sure I wasn't paying. I was blown away at the generosity of the people in the diner. It was the best breakfast I can remember, and I thanked James for making it happen.
I walked out and headed further down the road, to another ramp. I pulled the bill out of my pocket and realized she had given me two twenties. I couldn't believe it. I wish I had filmed it, because it was the epitome of compassion. I continued further down the road and had to shed layers. Just 24hrs ago I was in the thigh deep snows of Washington, and I was now in the warm sunshine of Carolina. Lumbarton NC was a warm, open place. I walked to my ramp, and posted up.
B1 and B2 evening out the tan lines.
It was a much better spot, and I knew it wouldnt be long before Id get my ride. I was ambitious, and hoped to get good distance. It was early, warm and sunny. I pulled out the book Davy had given me and started to read it. It was so nice out I was only in the Army T-shirt the Marines had given me.
A small pickup driving slowly down the ramp pulled over in front of me.
I opened the door and a strong smell of beer hit me. The driver was a fat, sweaty man with prison tattoos all over. He had 2 empty cans on his floor, and one in his hand. He asked where I was headed and I said Florida. He said he could take me to South Carolina.
He was sweating profusely and looked like Gacy, the serial killer. I could tell right away he was bad news. He asked how much the bus was to Florida, and I guessed about $50.
"Wanna work something out?"he asked.
"What do you mean?" I replied.
"Wanna work something out?" he repeated. He was driving, and I would be the one needing the ticket, so if he was implying that I would need to do something to get ticket money.....
It was the weirdest thing of all time. I could tell he was a total fucking psycho.
Drunk, lonely, stinky and weirder than old man with the whistles from Family Guy, I could tell if I was to get in this car, I would be dealing with some serious shit. The thought had honestly never crossed my mind from the minute I opened my door, but the way he was talking to me, trying to get me to go into his car was straight up f*cked. I thanked him, but told him I was going to try for that ride all the way through, and told him to drive safely.
He kept trying to persuade me to get in. It was now beyond twisted, and I just said drive safe, and slammed the door shut.
He didnt leave right away, and I ignored him, just sticking the thumb out hitching. He rolled down his window, and said he can handle driving, he only had one beer. I told him no thanks, but he kept on trying.
I walked to his door and said if he didnt drive away, I was going to call the cops.
"Y'all dont need to do that, Im juss tryin' ta have some fun"
I told him go buy a porno, and to take a shower. I gave him the finger and told him to fuck off, the cops were on the way. He drove away slowly, and swerved into oncoming traffic.
It was the weirdest thing that Ive come across on the road to date, not just this trip(the only on this trip)
I pictured for a second being in his truck, having to pull my knife on him.
He was the nightmare of any hitcher.
Not 2 minutes later, I hear a car behind me, and didn't even know it had pulled over. It was a silver Kia with Florida plates.
As it reversed towards me, I could see the driver was an older woman, and she looked like a friends mother. She rolled down her window and told me she could take me to mid Florida.
Although I never would have gotten into the car with the drunken, gay creep machine, I just thought how funny life is. Now I have a ride with a very sweet woman, Cindy and shes going to take me almost all the way.
I climbed in, and she gave me a water, some pecans and cookies. She was around the young grandmother age, and a total sweetheart. We got talking, and I told her what had just happened. About 15 minutes down the road, we passed the man in the truck. There was 2 police cruisers, an ambulance and a fire truck. He had swerved off the highway and the truck was flipped over on the grass. I didn't tell her that was him, I was into much shock. I don't even want to think about it another second.
We talked about life, and she told me stories of her growing up. She was coming back from visiting her sister in NC, and was on her way home to Melbourne, FL. She was a lovely woman, full of life. She told me how she was a recovered alcoholic, and had met her husband at an AA meeting. They were enjoying life and she enjoys kayaking, swimming and surfing. She was such a great person to be around, with an infectious laugh. We drove on, talking about anything and everything. The 57 year young Cindy was my favourite ride so far, and it was great, because I could just relax, without any worries, unlike some of my previous rides. Even though they were all good people, Ive always got a small cloud in the back of my mind of hesitation. With her I was completely relaxed, and just enjoyed the company, and she did the same. Her daughter was a hitcher, and she told me she did back in the day too, and confided she was a hippie during the 60s and 70s. Now dressed in a typical grandmas sweater and orthopaedic shoes, I couldn't believe it when she told me she used to do all kinds of drugs. She was such a sweet little lady and looked like every grandmother Ive ever met. We drove through South Carolina and she asked if I would join her for dinner. I said OK, and she took me to this amazing seafood buffet place. I stuffed my face with crap, salmon, popcorn shrimp, butterfly shrimp, fried shrimp(have you picked up on my Bubba impression; Forrest Gump...duh) It was the best dinner in a long time, and with the breakfast I had earlier, was such a good day. Yesterday I had eaten a yogurt, bag of M&Ms and today I ate like a total king. I will never adjust to the mentally and physically draining rollercoaster on this trip.
Georgian palms! 24hours after snowy snow snow.
The sun set, and we pulled into a posh hotel in Darien GA. She told me to sit tight, and came back a few minutes later. She handed me a keycard, and told me she had gotten me my own room. I couldn't believe it. She told me she will be heading to mid Florida at about 6am, and I'm more than welcome to join. As much as I wanted to do so, it was too early, and I knew Id be up late. Its 3:44am as I write this.
The room is amazing, a King bed suite, complete with plasma TV, free breakfast and whirlpool. Its more than I could have ever dreamed of. It exceeded any definition of compassion. I'm laying here now, sprawled on the massive bed, happy to be caught up on the blog.
I had an amazing breakfast donated, a woman so kind to a complete stranger, she tossed me $40 without thinking, survived a possibly fatal accident, certainly an attempt at something worse(he would have tried something so twisted, beyond any doubt in my mind) and had the amazing Cindy feed me an amazing meal, take me to within a stones throw of the FL border and put me up in a swanky hotel.
I don't know how I'm going to repay it down the road, but I need to figure out something.....