Crackhead and a Swift ride to Jacksonville

I woke up on the couch in Savannah, memories from the night before flowing in, I hopped in the shower to start transitioning my mind to the road ahead. Jim was home when I got out, we talked for a bit before I headed for the road with hopes to beat the supposed rain storm coming late afternoon, I wanted to get to Jacksonville before that.

The closest on ramp to I-95 wasn't far, I got there and stuck my thumb out. Strange texts messages poured in from a number I didn't recognize, I guessed it was the blonde girl from the pizza place, distracting my thoughts from manifesting a ride. A car finally did stop though, it didn't pull over, just stopped in the middle of the road; the guy driving motioned for me to hop in back as the front seat was covered in trash and whatnot.

I told him I was headed for Jacksonville, he pondered this for a second, "Jacksonville... OK, I can do that. Do you have any gas money?". I didn't, and that didn't seem to matter, he said he'd take me there while hinting at Tampa being another place we could go.

The window in the back was stuck open, making it difficult to hear everything he was saying at highway speed; I leaned forward to keep up. He handed me a plastic "bag" he wanted me to open so he could smoke his crack, or whatever was in there. It was the smallest tiniest corner of a plastic bag the size of a pin head that looked to be sealed shut with a lighter, I couldn't open it, it didn't even seem big enough to be an open and closable thing. He eventually managed it on his own and got to smoking, my eyes shifted more to the road and cars than anything else.

We stopped at a gas station, his demeanor slightly changed, because of the wind I only picked out words like "panhandle" and assumed he was going to ask around for gas money. He went inside the station and I waited around. He soon came out in what seemed like a bit of a rush and went straight into the car, from the cracked window he told me to start pumping. I didn't see any indication that he'd prepaid or had any intention of paying; I asked him how much I should put in which seemed to frustrate him, "just pump!"

I pumped in about 78 cents before stopping, not wanting to be involved in what could have been a pump-and-run situation, I asked him again how much I should put in and he got more upset. I went around and to the back door, reaching through the stuck window to unlock it and grabbed my backpack, I told him I'd go ask the lady inside; really I figured I was going to give her 78 cents. I did ask her, she smiled when I pointed at him and said he'd given her a dollar and change.

At that time my phone started ringing, the number was the same as the text messages from earlier, I picked up. It was some girl from Savannah who thought I was someone else or didn't know who I was, I talked to her for a minute watching out the window as the guy got out of his car and started trying to pump the gas himself.

I headed out and started walking down the road, I was through with the guy and his cracky gas vibes, he wasn't getting anywhere. I hung out down the road to regain my thoughts, my head was cluttered from hungover flashbacks and the sketchy crackhead; I walked back to the on ramp when I was set and figured he'd moved on.

I waited a little bit with my thumb out until something happened I thought never would - a Swift truck pulled over. Swift is a big trucking company, about as corporate as they come, certainly not allowed to pick up hitchhikers; 25 year veteran hobos have told me this is something that would never happen, but here it was. The driver was a long haired 23 year old dude heading to see his girl near Orlando hauling an empty load.

We shared stories all the way to Jacksonville, well, just west of it. I called the girl I was to stay with, Liz, after some walking and calls back and forth she was picking me up along the freeway with a newfriend of hers, a french cook from a boat anchored nearby. We went to her house where I met her two laid back cats, I answered questions with stories regarding my apparent unusual lifestyle, then caught sitting Zs on the couch while they cooked or cleaned in the kitchen.

We were soon in her mini van heading for a free classical music performance she knew little about, with some sparse directions we managed our way to the church and slipped into a seat in between songs. After the performance we headed in the room with the free food tables, darting around folks mingling, they were all a buzz about the performance and default mingling topics. Liz's friends were there, the ones who'd alerted her of this free music in the church, I met a few of them while munching on crackers and potluck style free church food.

The group of us slipped away and hopped in cars in search of a destination, we landing in a wine focused restaurant. The french cook had lead the way, now we had selected the wine. When the bottle came, he was the one to take a taste, the group of us, waiter included, waited and watched as he swigged it around his mouth and paused for what seemed like quite a while with a blank stare. Finally, he looked at the waiter with approval, the waiter breathed again and poured us all a glass, we joked at the intensity with entertained appreciation.

We sat a while and enjoyed the wine, I remained mostly quiet watching them make snappy rhythmic quips back and forth. The cook covered the tab, he wouldn't have it any other way, happy to have brought a group of people together. Liz and I headed back to her place where she gave me the run down, her keys, and signed off to sleep.

Liz worked late the next couple days and they were fairly tame for me. The first I woke late and wandered to downtown Jacksonville along the water, enjoying a beer at a cafe on the way back. The second I made my way to a museum nearby with old paintings, statues and gardens, a few stood out.

In the morning I'd be ready to continue along my way to New Orleans for early mardi gras action and the superbowl fever, Tallahassee would be my next stop on this path.

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