Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Long road

There have been various times in my life where I used hitch-hiking as a means of travel. Sometimes out of necessity, other times, well, just cuz. There was a time in the 70's when I was in Jacksonville Florida with a bunch of friends who were really starting to annoy me and I just wanted to get away from them. I mean, afterall, there's only so many times that belching the alphabet or lighting your farts can be funny when you're young. After a while, you just need more meaning in your life. Not that I was on some philosophical journey. I just couldn't stand the smell anymore. So I grabbed my backpack and acoustic guitar and hit the open road. I figured that I would head back to Michigan and visit some old friends. I stopped at a place called Happy Jax to get some supplies. I don't know if they are still in existance, but at the time, they were a chain store scattered throughout Jacksonville, making it convenient for anyone in the greater Jacksonville area to obtain their Devil's Cider of choice without having to travel more than a mile. So after loading up the ole backpack, I was ready for my journey. (Just a side note...Jacksonville was the place that I experienced my first brain freeze by trying a new product called "The Slurpee". )

So I was on my way, my friends gave me a ride to I-10 and wished me well. After about 3 hours, I finally got a ride from this lady in a pickup truck. She gave me a ride all the way to I-75 which was the main highway back to Michigan. She was really nice and, for some reason, tried to convince me to stay in Florida. She told me I would like Florida so much better than michigan but all I could think about was how humid it was and that the cockroaches that had wings. Not to mention all the lizards and other amphibious wildlife that the state allowed to roam freely. So after thanking her for the lift, I was back on the road. This time, headed north.

I had to walk down the entrance ramp to I-75 and at the end of the entrance ramp there was a large area for people to pull over. I assumed that this was for people who think they may have taken the wrong exit or needed to let their vehicles cool down or for whatever. It was full of shredded semi tires, car molding, rusted and broken car parts and about 15 other hitchhikers. "Crap", I snorted mentally. I was never going to get a ride with all these other people here. Especially since I was only 19 and had no experience like these other people here. There was one hobo, I call him that because I am kind, who did feel compelled to teach me the fine arts of hitchhiking. He told me that you have to keep moving your arm in a forward to backward motion with your thumb extended showing the direction that you want to go. Somehow, he believed that if you weren't moving your arm, you weren't going to get a ride. After watching him demonstrate for a couple of minutes, I decided that he was a moron and that this looked really stupid and if I was driving, I would never pick up anyone doing this. So I moved on. I next met a guy who did have some useful information. He said I should have a sign. This would indicate that I have somewhere to go and that I wasn't a psycho and that it would increase my odds of getting a ride. This made sense to me, so I took a notebook that I had in my backpack and , in big black letters, scribbled Michigan on it and drew a picture of a thumb as well. I also knew that I was never going to get a ride with all these people hanging around so I attached the sign to my backpack and started walking nort on I-75. This was the smartest move I could've made because I got a ride within the next 10 minutes. The couple that picked me up told me that they didn't stop farther back on the freeway because there were too many people back at the intersection.

This couple said they were from Ohio and would give me a ride all the way to Toledo. I thought, awesome, but soon changed my tune. They told me that they were on their honeymoon in Florida and were catching snakes. What a strange thing to do on your honeymoon I thought to myself. To each his own I guess. Anyways, we were traveling north on 75 and they happened to mention that one of the snakes that they caught had gotten loose and they couldn't find it. They assured me it wasn't one of the poisonous ones(as if that would make me feel any better) and that if I saw it to just let them know. I don't know about you, but snakes kinda creep me out. I wouldn't squeal like a little girl if I saw one but if I don't know what it is, I'm definately going to do my best to avoid it. I used to play with Gardner snakes when I was little, they were harmless enough but anything over 2 feet and I'm outta there. So I tried to remain calm while thinking, "Please be in the exhaust system snake, please please please". I had somehow managed to fall asleep in the back seat. When I woke up, about an hour later, I opened my eyes to a snake hovering right above my head and looking at me. I'm not sure how exactly but the snake had worked its way through the door casing and was halfway out of it on the top of the door just kind of casually looking around. I was silently screaming in my head and let out a firm"Hey, I think I found your snake" Frozen in my seat and eye to eye with the snake, the driver pulled over and gently grabbed the snake and placed him in the trunk in a bag that he had back there with about 10 other snakes. He then told me they were getting tired and they were going to stop in Atlanta and get a room and I was more than welcome to sleep in their car. I thought that sleeping with the snakes was not my cup of tea and told them that I was going to move on and thanked them for the ride.

The next portion of my journey is kind of a blur and I don't remember a whole lot of how I got to Knoxville Tennessee. Anyway, there I was just north of I-4o on I-75 in Knoxville. It was early sunrise and I saw this guy in front of me hitchhiking as well. That meant my method of walking while hiking was about to be deterred. As I got closer, this guy looked harmless so I figured I'd say hi as I passed him. He said hi and told me his name was Ew-wick. I was thinking that he had a speech impediment and meant that his name was Eric. He said he was headed to Kentucky. I told him that was nice and that I was on my way to Michigan. He wanted to know if he could play my guitar. He said he was real good and loved to play but had lost his guitar somewhere and didn't know where it was. I decided that I could use a rest and told him that would be okay. I had an imitation Ovation guitar called Applause which was actually a pretty nice acoustic guitar. I took it out of the case and handed it to him. He started to pull on the strings and snap them while bellowing out some sort of lunatic rantings that I couldn't understand. I told him he was awesome and proceeded to grab my guitar from him. He started yelling at me, shouting"That's my guitar" over and over again. I had managed to wrestle the guitar from him and was, basically, running down teh freeway and trying to get my guitar back in it's case while running. My backpack was sliding off one shoulder at the same time, but I did succeed in getting all my belongings back in order. He chased me for at least a mile, the whole time yelling "My guitar, my guitar" his arms flailing around like a madman. Fortunately for me, a guy in a pickup driving by witnessed this and pulled over and told me to jump in and we sped off leaving the loon behind us. I guess it probably was my fault tho. I should've realize who I was dealing with when I saw the white hospital type jacket he was wearing. The guy who picked me asked me what the heck I was doing hitching in an area that was posted do not pick up hitch hikers. He said there was a mental institution nearby and there was always someone trying to get out. He took me about 10 miles to a safer area and dropped me off.

I decided to eat at Stuckeys or whatever it was called. This was a place where the biscuits were the size of a semi tires and the gravy thick as mud. The plate was the size of half my torso and the portion of food I received, while very tasty, could've fed a family of 20 or so. All this for $1.25. The waitress, who was cute in a southern greasy belle sort of way with the southern drawl that is custom in Tennessee, seemed as if she was holding back calling me some sort of name because I barely managed to eat 1/4 of the food on my plate. Oh well, I was stuffed, that's all that I cared about. It was time to get back on the road.

I finally got another ride after hours of walking on the freeway. By this time it was pretty dark and I was pretty lucky that someone even saw me let alone stop. The folks that stopped were driving an old Chevy Biscayne. I think that bondo was holding the thing together. They had me sit in the front seat with the dad and his daughter. In the back seat was his daughters husband and the drivers wife. One nice happy family. After about 10 miles worth of small talk, the dad asked me if I smoked. I told him I did and that's when his daughter opened the glove box and a huge bag of weed fell out. He told me to go ahead and roll a couple up. I said that I had no experience rolling and he started laughing, calling me stupid yankee and the likes. Meanwhile, his daughter starts rubbing my leg and telling her mom that this one is cute. I looked toward the back seat and saw the 2 of them in the back. What I thought at first was mother and son-in-law making out, they were actually blowing shotguns to each other with the joint. I thought it was a little odd but decided to just accept them as being cool parents and out partying with their kids. The old man then asked if I had a place to stay that night. I told him no and he said I could say with them if I wanted too. He said they only lived a couple miles off the freeway and they could get me back in the morning. With his daughter rubbing my leg more intensely than before, I suddenly had this picture in my mind of a movie I had seen a few months back. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. All I could think about in my contact high buzz ridden paranoid mind was them carving me up for dinner. I declined yet he seemd real persistant but, eventually, I won the decision and was dropped off at the next exit. Not knowing if I missed a chance to party with a pretty hillbilly girl or barely escaped a gruesome death, I decided that I would head under the overpass, contemplate what had just happened and camp out for the night hoping that tomorrow was a better day.

The next day was much more promising. After a few short rides from gay guys who would drop me off after realizing nothing was going to happen, I got a ride from a trucker who reminded me alot of Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. He asked if I was into men and I told him no. He then said cool and opened up a cooler filled with mini cans of Budweiser. He said "Sit back and relax cause I'm headed to Detroit" And that's pretty much who I rode with all the way to the Motor City.

We didn't quite make it into Detroit when he had his exit so I told him thanks for the beer and ride and wa on my way. I figured I would be able to walk the rest of the way to where I was going. I didn't really want to hitchhike thru Detroit. The driver had dropped me off on 12 mile and I was headed to 20 mile and Gratiot. I figered about 8 miles. Turns out it was more like 20 or 30. Thank god I had called a friend and told him where I was. He came and picked me up. I think I slept for 2 days after that. I have to admit tho, it was a fun journey. A little freaky at times and a little scary but fun.
You Are 87% Grown Up, 13% Kid
Your emotional maturity is fully developed, and you have an excellent grasp on your emotions. In fact, you are so emotionally mature - you should consider being a therapist!
How Emotionally Mature Are You?