Meeting Rebecca, Hitchhiking from Savannah to New Orleans

I sat down on the Savannah bench, a square of many squares in the Spanish moss covered city. This was the Forrest Gump square, as I learned, listening to makeshift tour guides passing by with well dressed couples. "See those girls over there, that's the bench where the movie was filmed", they said, pointing it out.

Before long, a skinny girl with bottle cap earrings was walking up to me, three bottle caps per earring, PBR, a look of recognition. This was Rebecca, looking only faintly like the pictures I'd seen of her. She had the model-like morphing quality, looking like a different person from picture to picture (which is the only way I'd seen her until now), even looking different day to day in person just by tweaking her hair one way or another and some other female trickery that's never been explained to me.

She slipped off her backpack and took a seat on the ground next to me.

She'd been in Savannah now something over a week. She'd caught one ride from a friend out Connecticut to South Carolina, stayed a night or so, then hitched a ride down here to where she sat in Georgia. Once in town she'd easily made some friends and found a place to stay.

She told me about he dirty rail kids who were followed by cops who didn't like their presence, about the guy she was staying with and how he'd accidentally locked her in his apartment for 9 hours one day.

She was clean, however, innocent even. Sure, she had a nose ring, a couple stars tattooed next to her left eye, throw in the crafty non-craft-beer earrings - but even so she looked like a Sunday school girl.

After some talking she left her spot on the ground and joined me on the bench and we talked some more. Her pack was brown and canvas looking, an external frame and she told me how much it weighed her down. It was easily lighter than mine, but she was even more easily tinier than me at ninety something pounds.

Now the way I'd come across this girl, was more about her coming across me. I never found out exactly how, but she'd stumbled upon some stories or something I'd written or otherwise posted. She had the travel bug bad, so contacted me in hopes that I could join her in some hitchhiking adventures, not wanting to go it alone at first. I accepted the offer, at the time not even being so certain if she was a serious one or not. I'd gotten such messages in the past, but nothing had yet panned out, until now.

We felt each other out, now both satisfied and ready to get moving. We wasted no time and got walking directly to the freeway entrance about a mile away, southbound. She was keen to see New Orleans and as flexible as I was in terms of time, open to whatever we could experience on the way.

It took less than thirty minutes to get a ride, a car pulled over with a couple army guys heading home. We chatted and told them our story, soon the driver was offering us a place to stay the night and a ride to Jacksonville in the morning. It was later in the afternoon, Rebecca also seemed pretty tired, so it seemed like a good move. Rebecca spoke a lot about her being narcoleptic, so her being tired turned out to not be such an isolated event.

Relaxing in the living room out in the country seemed a bit of an anticlimactic way to to start our adventure, but all the same it set the precedent for the type of generosity that is common on the road, also giving us a baseline rest before we really got moving.

Rebecca fell in and out of sleep while I primarily got my ear talked off my the guy's son who was somewhere on the autistic spectrum. He intricately positioned over a hundred little action figures on the table in a battle scene. He then showed me page after page after page of drawings he made of different characters he'd thought up in some epic story he was writing. Each character had their traits listed next to them, triggering more of their back story and place in his whole fantasy. This went on for hours. "I cannot believe your patience", Rebecca later told me, who I imagined was only feigning sleep half the time so as not to get sucked in as well.

At the end of the night we laid on a bed he'd set up for us, talking deep and talking nonsense, where we'd come from and where we might go. I sensed an attraction for her then, not only had we thrown ourselves into the wind together instantly upon meeting, but I found that we were talking about similar philosophies and stories from our past that usually wouldn't be delved into without knowing someone for a much longer time. I took note of it and drifted to sleep.

Our ride to Jacksonville in the morning became a ride halfway to Jacksonville in the late afternoon. The guy had been at work all day while juggling some complications with ex-wife related legal issues, it seemed like a bad day for the guy. Jacksonville or not, we were happy to finally get moving after the dragging day hanging at his house.

We caught a ride from a woman who thought we must've broken down, she took us a little ways. From the next spot we waited for a while, then decided to walk up on to the freeway itself since this particular ramp wasn't seeing much traffic. That worked out, we got a ride from another woman, a pretty quiet one, who took us just three miles shy of the Florida border.

It was dark now, Rebecca was anxious to be out of Georgia and enter the space of another state, any state. Florida was so close, but with darkness usually comes the end of a hitchhiking day. We paused for some fast food, there we decided that we'd just start walking along the freeway, perhaps the full three miles to get over the border and camp for the night.

On the way to the freeway I stopped in a convenience store and picked up a couple cans of beer, off we went. We walked just a mile or so when we came across a thick patch of trees and bush at the next exit. Still Georgia, but we decided we could stand another night of it, cut our walking and take advantage of the good spot.

We cracked the cans of beer as we took a seat in the thicket, the air was wet and hot in the Georgia night. It didn't take long for the mosquitoes to take notice, they came in full force, instantly making us question our intention to sleep in the hot open air. I had my bivy sack, but Rebecca had nothing, so we figured we'd have to both squeeze in.

Rebecca was pretty tiny, but even so it was a very snug fit. We laid there laughing, talking and sweating, I received the occasional mosquito bite and part of my arm that was pressed against the mesh panel.

It was quite the thing to be wrapped up tight with a girl I'd just met and become a bit attracted to, and unable to do a thing about it other than lay there. She'd spoke of a boyfriend she'd more or less broken up with and another guy that she was more or less now calling her boyfriend, although all of this had transpired via phone since she'd left Connecticut and she hadn't yet done as much as kiss the new guy she spoke of. Still, it was barely enough for me to lay low, despite being wrapped up together with the occasional butterfly of someone new.

The morning came, several layers of each other's sweat covered us, little sleep had. We welcomed the the escape from the sack, stretching out and breathing some fresher air. Perhaps on a colder night it would have worked better, but it was still much better than getting wrecked by mosquitoes all night.

We got ourselves together and walked to the nearby truck stop, directly to the bathrooms to throw some fresh water on ourselves and so forth.

Back on the road we got a ride from a middle aged guy heading down to Jacksonville. Rebecca was excited as we finally crossed the border into Florida, out of Georgia and into a state she'd gotten to herself to once back when she was a young runaway triggering amber alerts.

The guy told stories of his trips down to Cabo in Mexico, an annual event at this point with his family. He went a little out of his way and got us to the far west side of the Jacksonville loop down to interstate 10 that pointed us directly towards New Orleans.

Thumb out from the side of the freeway and soon a truck pulling a trailer pulled over for us. The driver was a friendly guy, he made a living putting on scuba gear diving for golf balls at different courses, getting paid per ball by a company that cleaned and re-sold them. He had some leftover pizza he fed us as we cruised westbound.

We rendezvoused in a parking lot down the road where I helped haul the heavy sacks of golf balls from his trailer into another guy's truck. Afterwards he got us all another meal from a fast food joint before continuing on just a bit further.

We got two more short rides after him, landing just over a bridge in Pensacola at sunset where we tried at one last ride. The dark rolled in before another car did, so we called it a day on any more movement.

Nearby was a little gas station where I picked up a six pack, then we went back towards the highway where there was a large wooded area with several grassy clearings, a hitchhiker's camping haven.

We set up the bivy, but hung out sitting on the grass for a while enjoying the lack of mosquitoes, a nice change from the night before. We sipped our beers and got talking on our pasts, from running away to dabbling with strange drugs and being sent away to various "schools" growing up.

I told her about the attraction I'd developed for her, it seemed better to have that out in the open so she knew it was there and understood. I explained the ease in which I fell into that sort of thing, seems that every day a smile or glimmering eye catches mine, if even in passing. She admitted the feeling was mutual and we spoke more about the sort of love and lust that occurs on the road, from glances to dances and long term romances, on the go and from a distance. Once all that was out in the open I was able to free up my thoughts from butterflies and back to the typical ramblings of the mind.

The beer ran dry so we went back to the gas station for more, but they were closed. Rebecca picked through the ash tray for some cigarette butts, she was constantly sniping, scanning the ground for anything that wasn't quite smoked all the way down.

Back at our campsite we talked a bit more, then she got on the phone with her new guy and went for a walk. I crawled into the bivy sack and took advantage of the temporary spaciousness to get some comfortable spells of sleep until she returned for another cramped night, although not nearly as hot as the previous night.

Our first ride in the morning came from a guy who got us over the next state line into Alabama. He dropped us by a truck stop with a ten dollar bill that we immediately used to get some food into our systems.

All fueled up, we headed back to the road, kicking and smiling as we waited on the next person to yield to our thumb.

A sleepy guy in a pickup truck pulled over, he'd drove straight from Miami and was heading a good ways west. He offered us some beer straight away, it seemed to be the only thing keeping him awake, and now there was some conversation to help as well.

We crossed the long beautiful bridge into Mobile, then drove straight through and stopped on the other side. We went through a drive thru where he got us coffees and then gave us his phone number. He was off to find a motel to get some shut eye and said if we wanted we could continue on with him later.

We headed to the freeway to see if we could keep going, keeping his number in pocket as a fail safe. We managed to get a ride from a guy going to a car show, then yet another from a guy heading towards Baton Rouge, we hopped out of his car on the freeway where it split down towards New Orleans.

We paused a couple times to stick our thumb our, but it was fairly chaotic up on the freeway with the fast traffic and people merging from several different routes. We got to walking aiming for the next exit, not Rebecca's favorite thing to do with her cumbersome pack.

Suddenly a taxi cab was pulling into the shoulder of the freeway. I ran up to it ready to explain that we didn't have money for cabs, we were hitchhiking. He smiled, "I know, I'm heading to New Orleans to start my shift, I don't need any money".

Amazing, we gladly hopped in and got to talking with the guy. He was also had an Indian catering business in town and told us about it. As we got closer to the city he asked where we were heading and gladly took us to the exact address.

Byrdies, a coffee shop art gallery and ceramics studio wrapped into one, started by Heather, my first hitchhiking partner some years ago when we'd hitched from Connecticut down to her home there in New Orleans some years ago. It was a great adventure then and as my first time coming to the unique party city. It was great to be back, as usual, I looked forward to introducing it to Rebecca and kicking through once again.  

April 24, 2013 to April 27, 2013

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