Pack Prototype and Last Blast of the USA

A bus rolled me on down from DC to South Carolina, 2am to 6am I spent in a diner clinging to awakedness, then finally a connecting bus rolled me into Augusta, Georgia.

There's not a great many reasons for Augusta outside of a big golf scene, but like many pseudo-cities in the US a population promotes more population, fast food and franchises loom, people are born and home is home. Some people stay because it's what they know, other claim to hate it, but secretly fear the unknowns of moving more. Others surely escape, perhaps moving to the same city with a different name elsewhere, others truly finding their path and moving on.

Beyond the unprovoked judgement of an entire city, there I was, and like many times in generic populations I was there for the electricity of specific people rather than some momentous geographic or mass-curated cultural experience.

John was the guy I came to see, someone I'd met a year prior. He'd been following my blog and online stories before I'd met him, at one point he reached out and invited me to stay a night when he saw I was nearby, on my way to Savannah at the time, so gladly took him up on the offer. That night I stayed up talking with him and his girlfriend, Lilly, who were both gearing up to hike the Appalachian Trail. He'd been making some of his own gear, so naturally I brought up my idea for a backpack that would turn into a bivy or small one man tent, an idea I'd been tossing around for years. He liked the idea and said we could probably put something together one day, and now that day had come.

A week went by of intermittently putting things together, starting with a plastic mock up and finally a version with more legit materials. After the week the three of us drove up to a section of the Appalachian Trail (at this point the two had successfully hiked the majority of the whole trail up to Maine), and we hiked in to enjoy a night of camping, I was excited to give the new pack a spin.

I accidentally dropped a metal hanger at the very start, which in this prototype was meant to double as part of the pack frame and tent poles. Once we set up camp and I realized this I was still able to rig up a solution, which wound up spurring a slight design change idea. Meanwhile we downed shots of fireball to combat the cold and laughed our way through the night out there on the trail.

Come morning we pulled ourselves together, hiked on out and hit the road. I parted ways with them once we hit town, leaving the makeshift pack behind. John would work on whipping up a new one based on the experience with it and hopefully get it mailed to me somewhere in Florida before I skipped the country.

South America in particular was the next move, Colombia in particular and Florida being the launch pad to get there. Part of getting to Florida was linking back up with Marilyn who was now just north of me in Gatlinburg with her family. That day I made a hell of an effort to get there, but it wasn't meant to be.

I hitched six rides altogether heading that way: a short ride from a travel enthusiast, a girl with dreams of hiking the Appalacian Trail, a couple and their baby to Clayton, an older couple a little ways further, a Russian woman coming from a paddling trip and finally a ride to Cherokee from a guy who liked passing Jesus flyers out to hikers.

It was there in Cherokee, with just 30 miles of road between myself and Marilyn, that I became stuck. First I figured I'd be stuck since the sun went down, hitching rides come dark isn't always possible. I texted this to Marilyn, but she said she wanted to come and get me being that I was so close. The weather was taking a turn as well, but I figured I'd stand under a streetlight and potentially get the last little way.

Eventually, in the dark rainy night, a guy shouted out from his car telling me that the road was closed between us and Gatlinburg. Apparently what was rain here was snow on the road ahead, heavy enough to shut the road down. So that was that.

There was a little motel nearby that had a hiker discount, which I easily passed for, I was happy to stay dry and warm for the night, although that paled in comparison to the sweet digs Marilyn was at with her parents, citing hot tubs and so forth. That's how it goes, though, any bed is a luxury the way I look at it.

It was overcast in the morning, my destination now was Rome, GA where Marilyn would be heading to see her grandmother, just shy of 200 miles away. My first ride was from a retired cop, he got me to the main road after taking me out to a big breakfast, a pretty amazing way to kick off the day.

As I got going Marilyn was sending me texts wanting to rendezvous somewhere on route, but I knew it wouldn't make much sense logistically, instead I just had to keep my thumb out and press forward. I got a ride next to a town ahead, then a ride from a musician to Murphy, I took a walk in some icy rain and then scored a ride up to the next junction where a marble mouthed Georgian guy got me a bit further to a busier road.

A pastor on his phone gave me a short ride after that, then a woman who sold windows, a couple older guys up the road after that, another guy for another short ride, then a big guy who claimed to have sixty something hot rods worth about two million dollars that he got up to 350mph, 100mph in reverse he said too.

I was basically scrambling between side roads and slightly "main" roads all day, junction after junction. I got a ride in the back of a pickup truck next and I was close, close enough where Marilyn was now nearby and said she could scoop me up. With her on route I was walking through town where I got one last unexpected ride a little further up, it was completely dark by that point.

Marilyn turned up all smiles with a beer awaiting me, I couldn't be happier to see her. We made a stop for some proper beers and finally landed at her grandma's place for the night where steak and mac n' cheese capped off the day of swirly hitchhiking.

I spent a day with her and her grandma, bouncing around town and checking out campus and so forth, delicious food at every turn and met some other relatives along the way.

The next day we hung around until Jeff showed up, Joe's brother, we were Savannah bound by way of Atlanta. Joe was a guy we met out in Las Vegas who traveled about as frantically as me, except by way of airplane and hotel primarily. We were meeting his twin brother for the first time now.

The way this all shook out was centered on South America. The cheapest way to get down there quickly were plane tickets to Colombia from Fort Lauderdale. Another one of Joe's main haunts was Miami where he had an apartment, so he'd offered up that as a place to stay prior to the flight, all prefaced by this ride he'd arranged from his brother scooping us up in Rome, scooping up some other friends in Atlanta and landing in Savannah for some kicks before road tripping it down to Florida.

Off we went, getting to know Jeff and scooping up a girl in Atlanta and finally hitting Savannah and finding the Air BnB that Joe had arranged. We sipped vodka for a bit and then hit a favorite bar while Jeff headed out to the airport to scoop up the arriving Joe, coming from wherever and whatever adventure he might have been jumping from.

He rolled in and we closed the bar down, then jumped to another one of his favorite spots to further get our kicks. The next day we ran all around with Joe, hitting breakfast spots, nature walks, bloody mary spots and a seafood spot and tearing up the night again.

It was the next day that we finally got Florida bound, the three of us driving down the coast, pausing at a brewery in Augustine for lunch and at last getting to his condo in Miami overlooking the American Airlines Arena. We met some of Joe's friends there and made a night of checking out the city.

The next day was about some more exploring, this after a plush hot tub chill in the swank building, then on to breweries, a lunch spot and skipping around spots in South Beach, then a night dive bars and so forth.

The next day was our last in the country, and also Superbowl Sunday. We rolled with Joe down towards Key Largo for a drive, hitting a seafood spot he loved on route, Alabama Jack's, then looped back hitting a brewery and winery before getting back up to Miami.

We watched the game at a friend's party, then hit a few more spots before the night was done. Back at the condo that night my backpack had arrived, a slightly different version John had thrown together. I futzed with it more in the morning, packing it up and leaving my other pack with Joe until whenever I may be back in the US again, I was eager to take the new digs for a proper spin.


We had some bloody mary's and got excited for our flight, overlooking Miami from up above. Finally South America would be happening.

Joe rode us to the airport and got us into the sky club lounge area where both drinks and food were free. We excitedly ate and drank up, buzzing off the good times of late and more so over the short flight that would soon have us in Colombia with the whole of a continent to traverse and explore.

South America would prove to be amazing as well as trying and overall a much different experience than either of us were projecting. Here we go, though, onward we went to the next big adventure.

January 16, 2015 to February 2, 2015

Comments

  1. When can I get the bivypack? I'm a outdoors person and this is a perfect idea for someone like me when I'm backpacking with my Scout troop

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