Alabama, last stop until New Orleans
In the morning Karla dropped me off at the freeway in Tallahassee, hitchhiking was the thing once again, now I was set on getting to Mobile, Alabama; this would be my last stop until New Orleans.
The sky threatened rain, it wouldn't come until later. I waited on the fairly busy entrance to I-10 West, no one was stopping, until a soccer mom style mini van stopped. A woman reached a brown paper bag out the window to me, she couldn't give me a ride, but wanted me to have that, then drove away. I peaked inside - granola bars, juice boxes and a dollar bill.
After exhausting that particular entrance way, I got to walking down the shoulder of the freeway to the next on ramp. Once there I ate the granola bars and drank down the juice boxes, extremely satisfying. The woman had a kid in the backseat of her minivan, I wondered if I'd just enjoyed their school lunch.
My first ride of the day would be a couple guys in a pickup truck, the one in the passenger seat didn't speak much english at all. They built systems for lighting storms to prevent against surges, they were on their way to do an installation. The driver told me a story about being found with a roach in his car one time in Texas, he'd been sent to some sort of prison camp for 6 months even though he was a legit citizen.
My next ride was in a police cruiser, I'd been stopped for walking on the freeway, but once my license came back clean (no warrants), the ex-marine gave me a ride a little up to the road to an on ramp he said I could hitch on without being bothered again.
A small white car with american flags in the back stopped for me, I hopped in and met the older man driving. He talked like he had a couple dozen cotton balls in his mouth, maybe he did. I tried to decipher the words coming out, but only had to do so for a few miles as that was as far as he was going.
A town car picked me up next and took me around 40 miles further, they listened to a Jeff Foxworthy bit on a cassette tape, rewinding it several times to relive the laughs. They dropped me off when they made their turn, the sky was gray and threatened rain.
I got picked up again before the clouds could decide to pour, a pickup truck with a guy Jimmy at the wheel. One of the first things he told me was that he had a warrant out for his arrest. He had plans to turn himself him eventually, in the meantime though he wanted to enjoy as much of life as he could. He debated driving me all the way to Mobile, mentioning a brother he had there, but his gas tank wouldn't allow for it. He dropped me off at a store by the road, running in quickly to buy me a bottle of cobra malt liquor as a parting gift. A scruffy guy outside talked to me while I waited, asking where I was going, then saying this wasn't the friendliest place for hitchhikers. This is something I've heard quite a bit.
Friendly or not, I got another ride, a guy who only spoke Spanish on his way to Pensacola. He drove me the ways there and let me out at a busy intersection. I did a fair amount of walking to get past the intertwining of all the roads and back onto the straight path to Mobile. At one point along the freeway an 18 wheeler managed their way into the shoulder of the road about a football field ahead of me, so I ran for it.
As I got close, the trucker had come around and was walking towards me. "Sorry sorry!", he smiled with a bit of concern, "I just wanted to give you this", he had a big can of soup in his hand, "I can't pick people up in the truck, company policy". I gladly took the soup and told him I understood about the insurance issues and all, but thanked him either way.
I kept on walking, times like these I was happy to be occasionally obsessive about getting rid of things to lighten the load of my backpack, every ounce counts when it's on your back for miles of walking. A guy who looked like an old hippy with a busted tooth picked me up next, on his way to a dentist. Something to do with a drug deal resulted in him getting punched in the face, "but I didn't go down", he told me, "they thought they could knock an old man down, but you don't punch me unless you know you can knock me down". He took me just 5 miles shy of the Alabama border and let me out.
At last the rain was starting to drop a bit, I whipped out my rain layer and pack cover just as it really started hammering down. I continued my march down the freeway, back to traffic and thumb out stretched to my side. A small SUV stopped ahead of me, a guy got out and started making room in the back for my bag, I threw it inside and hopped in.
"You have to pick up hitchhikers in the rain, that's the rule", he said flatly, "and I pick up hitchhikers regardless". He'd hitchhiked himself a bit around Canada, he was from Toronto, and even down through the states. He'd be the ride to get me to Mobile, in fact he was going all the way to Costa Rica... tempting.
We shared stories about our travels and hitchhiking experiences, then he dropped me off at a gas station off the freeway close to where I was going, my next couchsurfing host actually lived just outside of Mobile on this side of the bridge. His name was Josh, he came and picked me up shortly thereafter.
We went back to his house and dropped my stuff in the empty room where he had a sleeping mat set up for me. He then offered me a tasty and satisfying beer from the fridge, we sat and got to know each other for a bit.
Soon his other couchsurfer arrived, a girl from Texas on her way to work on a farm in Georgia for a few months. The three of us headed to the store where Josh got some food for and whatnot, then we headed to a friends apartment for game night. This involved a group of us having a few drinks and playing game like pictionary late into the night.
We headed back to Josh's place, the Texas girl and I stayed up a while talking, sharing pictures and conspiring ways to see the whale sharks in Atlanta without having to pay. In the morning we found ourselves awake earlier than we may have thought, we went walking around the neighborhood while she snapped off a few pictures.
Josh woke up later and made a big german pancake breakfast, afterwards we went outside and tossed the frisbee around for a while. She hopped in her car afterwards to continue on to Georgia, excited to get to the farm life. Later that day Josh and I met up with someone else from town, first getting boiled peanuts, which I'd never had before.
We drove around a place called Bayou La Batre, a rural area with many houses lifted high up on stilts, some very big houses. It was close to the water, I'm sure it had it's share of floods from time to time. We landed back at Josh's house for dinner, then headed over the bridge again to downtown Mobile where we picked up one girl at her house, then waited at a small diner place for a friend to get off work. The group of us went to a bar afterwards in the wake of the cities mardi gras parade, beads were scattered about, some made their way around our necks at some point. We stayed for a few beers talking and called it a night.
The next day equated to a lazy sunday of lounging around, I pecked away at my failing computer backing up files. We made a quick run to the store to load up on what was needed for a chili recipe, then got to cooking that up. It was a massive amount of food, requiring two big pots to cook it all, and it was just the two of us who'd be eating it.
We both filled up on chili and slowly the night winded down. The next day I'd be catching a ride with Josh on the way to his shipyard to start hitchhiking towards the long awaited New Orleans, I knew I'd have a good week or so ahead of me there.