The cat is out of the bag. I have a dog.
After a mentally and physically exhausting paddle down the Mississippi River, I was ready to be home. However, spiritually recharged, I was excited to invest time, energy, and hope in taking my time to get home. I was prepared to hitchhike home and rely solely on the good will and help of other people.
I spent more time than anticipated in New Orleans, cleaning and organizing the sell of my kayak, restocking necessary amenities for my hike, getting inked, investigating the soul-filled city, and journaling. A lavish song of praise and thanks is due to the ACE (a squad of teachers studying for their Masters at Notre Dame who are stationed in NOLA to teach for the year) community in New Orleans. They welcomed my stay, fed me, allowed me a much-needed shower, took me out on Saturday night, and gave me advice and specs of the city. I attempted hitching from New Orleans for about 3.5 hours. I didn’t have a lick of luck. I speculate that the traffic near the highway was exclusively local; there were zero truckers; it was a poor area of town; and I looked too clean.
Coming back to the ACE house for the night, the community decided to offer me a Megabus ticket that went through Mobile, to Montgomery, to Atlanta. I accepted their help as a means of getting out of the city, starting my trip, and counting this as “modern hitching”. I got off the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, hoping that the straight shot of I-65 will move me closer to Cleveland, Ohio, the ultimate destination. In the meantime, I met Michael, a bassist and fellow traveling soul. He was strumming his five strings with a sign “NEED GAS” on the bumper of his RV. I sat on the ground with him and picked his brain on the ins and outs of hitchhiking (he hitched for four years across the country). He assured me that you always get where you’re going whether by a friendly disposition/conversation, busking for a few dollars, searching for slightly damaged/expired fruits and veggies from grocery store dumpsters, and patiently waiting for rides.
Our bus stopped in Montgomery at 3:15 pm where I figured I could make my backpack a garage sale of sorts as my means of busking for dollars. I sold my headphones that worked only out of the left ear bud for $4! Then I hiked to the interstate where I waited for 4.5 hours on my first ride. In that time a very kind woman, Kay, insisted on my taking her $20 bill. Just before I was heading to bed, a taxi man, Thomas, and his wife, Jennifer, gave me a ride south to a truck stop where they assured me better luck. They gave me $10.
As I arrived to the truck stop I talked to many truckers in the diesel filling stations. With it being Labor Day weekend most truckers weren’t moving north if at all. Eventually I was greeted by Detective Montgomery – that’s just what I call him since he took his town seriously and I don’t remember his real name…though, he is an actual detective – who told me that I wasn’t permitted to be loitering for rides at night. Then he invited me to the trucker lounge that is usually exclusive access to truckers. I took advantage of mosquito-free sleeping quarters.
At 5AM Detective Montgomery gave me a wake up call. I moved to the McDonald’s for a breakfast of oatmeal until the sun came up. My first ride of the day came at 6:25AM from a black man in his early 40’s with Love, his <1 year old daughter. They took me to a warehouse area of town with lots of truck traffic. He was pumped to follow my adventures and took a few pictures of me with his precious daughter.
After I walked 2 miles toward the on-ramp of the interstate, Lu-Pu, Ashley, and a nameless man picked me up. They were all white and in their 30’s. They always pick up anybody who needs help. I was picked up while singing and dancing, my tactic for demonstrating that I was playful and kind – this typically got the best and fastest results, if not I got more smiles and honks. The nameless man sitting next to me said, “Dude, isn’t hitchhiking dangerous?” Lu-Pu, the shirtless man driving with tattoos up and down his neck/spine, said, “Yeah, but so is shooting up on meth like we do.” I knew that it was time for me to get out of the car. But he’s right, yes, hitchhiking is dangerous; though, it’s the experience and the high of getting a ride, like shooting meth, I guess.
My next ride was the most exhilarating. Two 19-year-old, fairly attractive girls pulled over asking if I needed a ride…
This story is to be continued. I’ve already maxed out on my 700-word limit for this post. Stay tuned. But, if you’re interested, I will conclude my posts with a bit of original poetry/prose that I wrote while cruising down the Mississippi River:
Mediocre through and through
Status quo and nothing new
I wrote this as I was paddling under a busy highway bridge on a Monday morning. I was thankful that I was on this side of the bridge fully living life as an anti-automaton. I would, perhaps, encourage you to find bits of newness whether in interactions and unusual conversations with trees, Starbucks employees, or yourself. I am basically begging you to become more you by entering into an existential crisis where you’re able to re(?)-discover yourself.