Hitchhiking from New Orleans to Orlando, first time back since school days

Shana made one last great breakfast the next morning, then Luke gave me a ride to an on ramp on St Charles. It was a bit of a late start, but there I was. The ramp wasn't the best as far as having room for cars to stop and pull over, so I made my way up onto the freeway and got to walking, this wasn't any better. I walked a ways in the narrow space of the elevated freeway, over big bridges and such, walking out of New Orleans.

I thought about it, I'd been to New Orleans three times and never had great luck hitching out. The first time I'd walked all day and slept under a big bridge, finally escaping the next day. The second time I'd taken the bus as far as Baton Rouge, and now this time I was still walking as the sun was going down, at least I was out of the city limits by this point and at a part of the freeway with a shoulder to pull into.

A car did pull into it too, I ran up and hopped in the backseat, it was two guys heading towards Biloxi. They lit a blunt as we crossed the bridge in the sunset, I was happy to be making some sort of distance.

They dropped me off at a truck stop, I would have stayed there too had there been some sort of truckers lounge or something, but there wasn't, so I went into the dark and unusually cold night to try and hitch a ride by street light.

After an hour, the lack of traffic and light steered me into the adjacent waffle house to warm up with some cups of coffee. I went back into the night after that, walking down the freeway in search of a place to sleep or perhaps to get lucky with a ride.

I scored a big double bag box of lucky charms, untouched on the side of the road, had probably just recently flew off a pickup truck I guessed, that went into my backpack. After a good amount of walking I found I nice spot to set up camp off into the trees far away from anything. It turned out to be a pretty cozy spot on soft leaves and just cold enough to feel good in the bundled warmth of my sleeping bag.

I had another full day ahead, I got to walking when the sun cam up. It took a bit of time, but my first ride came from a self proclaimed redneck, he only took me 7 miles, but the blast of warmth and good vibes was just what I needed.

My next ride was a jam packed van full of young guys traveling the country selling magazines door to door. Two of them started wrestling when I got in, arguing over space, it really was jammed in there tight with so many of them, and now me with my backpack.

We made a food stop in Mobile, Alabama, the main guy took off for a minute to pay his aunt a visit as long as he was passing through town. When we were ready to go we had to track down two of the kids who'd wandered off down a street looking to squeeze in a sale or two, we rolled by to see them getting turned down by a woman on her porch.

We rode over the bay, then turned off the freeway and down a road a bit and into an apartment complex, that's where they were fanning out to sell, and letting me out. I had to walk a mile or so to get back to the freeway, up the ramp and down the shoulder of the road I went.

After a bit a cop came and made me sit on his hood while he looked over my ID in his computer, then gave me a lift a couple exits down to a gas station with the warning not to be on the freeway. I let him drive off and headed to the on ramp, hoping to get a ride before he came back and to potentially discuss to technicality between the ramp and the freeway itself.

A ride came, a guy going a few towns over on his way to see his girlfriend. After that I caught a ride from a local guy, throwing my bag on his guns in the backseat and riding along hearing about the area. He told me how things were better now from the big oil spill, he was hoping people would stop with all the hate towards BP, "people make mistakes", he said, "no point in staying mad forever, there's a lot of scams going on with it too".

My next ride after that was from an old hippie, so he said, he'd hitchhiked the country for three or four years after high school and been just about everywhere. He was on a high now because of a promotion he'd got with a sort of construction team, he was to be a supervisor. He told me all kinds of stories from his travels.

One I liked, he repeated the Eagles lyrics, very steadily and with purpose, "I'm standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see. It's a girl my lord, in a flatbed ford slowin' down to take a look at me", after carefully saying that he went on, "that is exactly what happened to me, verbatim. I was  standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, hitchhiking, and she was slowing down to take a look at me. She picked me up and I got laid that night, one of the best nights of my life. Exactly like the lyrics, flatbed ford and all".

He had a lot of stories, especially about Oregon and a sort of commune he lived on too. "One day you'll reach a crossroads where you can stop traveling, if you don't, you never will, ending up never being able to escape, saying 'fuck this' rather than having fun", he told me he had to make a decision once and knew some people who never stopped and apparently fell out of favor with life.

He dropped me off around sunset when he was turning off. I stood on the side of the freeway by the ramp until the sun went down around the same time a friendly old cop drove by, "You can't be up here on the freeway, we get people doing this once in a while and have to run 'em down to the bottom of the ramp, you'll have to hang down there". I was fine with this, at least there was a streetlight down there.

A guy in a pickup truck scooped me up, he was a head engineer on an oil skimmer, on his way home to Atlanta. We both thought he was going through Tallahassee and onto to I-75, which would have been a great ride, but his GPS ended up telling him otherwise, so after 30 minutes the ride stopped short for me in the middle of nowhere, seemingly.

It was somewhat early, but as dark as the night gets already. I stood under a streetlight on the freeway as small clumps of traffic whizzed by. Each truck blasted me with huge gusts of ice cold wind, smacking me about a second and a half after they passed. After I'd had enough of that, I got to walking, looking to find the best place to get in my sleeping bag and stay warm for the night.

After some walking, I saw a sign for a rest area just a couple miles further and decided to head all the way there. I passed over the Appalachian River and saw a sign that said I was entering the eastern time zone. The rest area was pushed far back, up some winding twisty roads. It was the biggest rest area I think I've seen, I couldn't imagine why, they even had security guards walking around. I got myself out of the way and into the woods where I camped for the night.

I got cleaned up in the morning, I had the gigantic bathroom to myself, then headed down to the freeway. I walked a while, but it was a nice hike through the trees and up and down hilly road. After sometime I stopped to take a seat on a guard rail for some rest, lazily sticking my thumb out still, that's right when a car stopped for me.

It was a guy involved with designing for marching bands, he was heading towards Sarasota, coming from Houston. He told me about his marching band gig, how he used to live in Houston and loved it, and was now moved to Florida for his job which he didn't like quite as much. He'd moved to Houston right when it was up and coming, so had a certain attachment there.

It was a good ride, we cruised and cruised, stopping once for sandwiches, then at last he dropped me off at the split that went towards Orlando. I walked a ways until I was in the straight away, then got picked up a guy heading all the way to Winter Park, offering to drop me off directly at my friends house. It couldn't have been any better, he was an interesting guy too, he was a builder with top secret clearance so got to work on things like military bases and safe houses. He told me about his own little paradise tucked away in the hills a bit, run by solar power and things like this.

He dropped me right off in Sun Key apartments, the apartment complex I lived in when I'd gone to school there just over five years ago, coincidentally where my friend Nick was living now, going to the same school. It was great catching up with him, after a bit of talking he took me down to campus where I saw how much they'd grown since I was there, taking over most of the neighboring properties, even the grocery store was now no longer, being turned into classrooms and studios. I got a chicken sandwich at a familiar place to cap the trip down memory lane.

That night we went to a little christmas party where I met some of his friends and classmates. I got to hear more about the film they'd been working on for class and talk travel with a few people too. Earlier I'd gotten a bottle of Rouge Yellow Snow IPA, so that was a huge plus too.

The next day I caught up with an old friend I'd graduated with who was still living in the area, he was engineering at a really nice studio by Orlando and gave us a tour of it. They had great sounding rooms and even better equipment, it was nice catching up, we grabbed some food afterwards and swapped stories too.

That night we went to an Irish Pub that Nick was a big fan of, nothing like some pints of Guinness, or in his case, Smithwicks. The next day I got to go into his class and watch the raw footage from the short film they were making, it was a story about a military invasion on a planet where resources were needed, ending with a crash landing from a smaller ship into the planets desert, which is revealed to be Roswell, a nice little twist, I'm still looking forward to seeing the final edit.

The next day I was off to Connecticut, I'd found a girl online who was going all the way in one shot. I met her early in the morning and we cruised up all in one shot, only stopping for gas, and even then it was pulling the pump out of the car and driving away just as quick. She dropped me off at my parents house well before midnight, then sped off towards Norwalk with thoughts of vodka and food on her mind. I spent the night catching up with the family, ahead of me was the holiday season in the Northeast.