Hitching From Miami to New Orleans

Bridget and I left the organic farm in Miami all a buzz, our "Peru" sign dangling and ready for use. We had a short walk to the first freeway entrance where we held up our sign until a couple energetic girls pulled over and let us hop in.

"While you wait you're just collecting love", they beamed, "Everyone who drives by and smiles, everybody!", we darted through traffic like a New York City cab in a hurry, pushing north for a little ways until they dropped us off with more good vibes to take with us.

A lot of construction was going on, but we managed a quick ride from a guy, albeit a short one. More construction awaited at the next spot, but so did another ride from a family going up a little ways. They dropped us at a split on the highway and we walked down from there.

We walked for ages after that along a frontage road, pausing here and there, getting just one more ride from a woman, but that was only a few traffic lights up, at least it saved us some more walking. By the time we got to an entrance to the proper freeway again, I-75, sunset was upon us. A work truck pulled over, but he just asked us a couple questions and thought we had a broken down car somewhere.

Before it got too dark we made our way down the hill and into some brush in the middle of a field off the freeway to make camp. We munched on some sandwiches, then the mosquitoes became prevalent and we covered away into sleep.

In the morning I arranged three empty beer bottles alongside the nest we'd built in the brush, they were from a few good beers I'd drank back in Miami and liked. Once in a while I like to bury a few bottle caps and things like this in spots where people usually never go to, which are the types of spots I camp in when hitchhiking. Bridget became pretty offended, though, to the point of stressed voice and near tears. My art, future treasure hunt, surprise for the next hitchhiker - a disgrace to mother earth in her eyes. There was no logical explanation I could pull from her, what creature or plant would have a hard time with the bottles, just an ingrained sense of associated wrong, to stubborn to be anything except a blanket, unquestionable truth.

The bottles would end up back in my backpack for a stretch, eventually thrown into the trash at a gas station that would be taken who knows where, perhaps shattered on a different piece of the planet, blending in with other unwanted waste to avoid being a conscious travesty. All the same there'd be a bit of a lull in our energy as we marched back up to the freeway.

A bit of walking and then a sprint to a pickup truck that took a minute to pull over. The driver's face was that of confused suspicion, "Where's your car?", he asked. I told him we had none, he didn't want to give us a ride either, saying he was just going up a mile... which wasn't true since we were about to cross a stretch of freeway where there were no exits for a long while.

He drove off, but we quickly got a ride from a guy named Brian across the stretch. Out the windows we looked into the swamp and saw plenty of alligators lined up along the water side, I hadn't expected to see that many, it was pretty awesome.

A couple picked us up there and we continued making our way through Florida. They dropped us off by a lot construction, we tried northbound ramps on both sides of the big road, but the sun was taxing on us. We took a short break to get some food, this helped and we got back to the ramp and at last got a ride from a guy who'd been losing one of his legs to disease, having to chop more and more off, inch by inch as it continued creeping up.

Next we got a ride from a couple who was starting to get sick of each other, they'd been living the boat life crewing for some time. They were friendly, though, and they told us a lot about sailing and what could be expected. They dropped us off near Sarasota.

An islander in a big suv gave us a ride as sunset came upon us, he dropped us off before he had to split of to Saint Petersburg. We walked along the side of the freeway, coming across a couple sitting on a blanket in the grass. Their car had broken down and now they were patiently waiting for their help to come along, triple A or some sort. We offered them some food, but they were all set.

We got off the freeway and down to an on ramp where we thumbed the few cars from under the streetlight. This didn't last long, we made our way for the woods, hopped the barbed wire fence we found, then made camp under the trees. The sounds of nonexistent alligators, snakes, and why not panthers kept me on and off most of the night, but eventually morning came.

We got a ride from a South African guy really into rugby, at the moment he was living in Florida selling doors and windows. He informed us that it was Australian day, something I was obligated to give Bridget a hard time about for not remembering herself, but it was certain that we needed to be in a celebratory mood.

A young couple in a van scooped us up next, they traveled and worked for renaissance festivals. They were supping vodka and telling us stories, even offering to take us with them saying it would be no problem making a couple bucks by finding some position at the festival. It sounded like an adventure, but perhaps for another time. We grabbed some oil can sized Foster's beers as soon as we could find them (the "Australian" beer that you can't find in Australia), pounding them down before getting dropped off right around Gainesville.

We got another ride quickly, a short one, dropped at on ramp where we waited while a car was pulled over and watched and waited as the sheriff and other cops drove by frequently, but luckily gave us no problems. We got a ride from a small truck hauling a trailer with a few guys laughing having a good time, they shared some beer, rum, tuna, chips and other snacks with us as we cruised along, giving us five bucks as well when they dropped us off. We waited at the next quiet little on ramp still snacking, just a short while later they came back around saying they could get us just a little further.

The next spot they dropped us off was even more desolate, but the woods were thick surrounding the long curving on ramp to the freeway. Sunset was still a little ways off, but with the light traffic and a camp spot that seemed to good to pass up, we called it an early day on the hitchhiking and went into the woods to enjoy ourselves and camp out.

In the morning we headed straight to the freeway to be visible to all the traffic rather than wait at the bottom of the on ramp where just about zero cars were entering. It wasn't long before a cop came who didn't agree with that decision. He gave us a helpful ride about ten miles to a much busier spot with a warning not to be up on the freeway itself. Where he dropped us though, there was one older guy already hitchhiking and another guy pan handling on the off ramp while waiting his turn to hitchhike.

We decided to go get a bite to eat while that cleared up. We met another backpack hauling guy named Tony who'd spent the last couple years traveling after he'd lost everything, he said he'd cross the country twice and seemed like he'd found his peace. After talking to him it seemed like the other two guys had been down there for a while.

I looked at a map to see how far the next onramp was, it didn't seem like we'd get a shot here for hours or even days. The next entrance was over fifteen miles, so we decided we'd try to hitch through the towns to get there. A woman let us ride in the back of her pickup truck for a good ways, then we got a ride from a cowboy bent on alternative energy sources who took us to the freeway entrance up the way, snapping a picture before we parted ways.

We got another windy ride in back of a pickup truck, then waited while Bridget did some handstands that got a big rig trucker to pull over. Bridget came up just behind me, all excitement telling me and the trucker how she'd jumped over a snake in the grass running for the truck. We were off, cruising towards Tallahassee where the trucker eventually dropped us off.

The sky was threatening to burst by the time we got there, we were ready for the wet and hoping for a ride that would beat it. Handstands and the rest of it, still we waited. The Google streetview car passed us twice, I've checked and checked, but never saw us show up on their maps.

After an hour or two we finally scored a ride from Brad, a "country boy" as he called himself from a town called Sneads up the way. He told us that God told him to pick us up, and he seemed lie he'd done so reluctantly. He had a box with some pizza left that he offered to us, excellent for me, not so much for the vegan Bridget.

The rain began hammering down quickly after moving along with him. Reluctantly, again, he began to offer us a place to stay for the night. His father had passed away and the house he'd been living in was now more or less used for storage, and for tonight, shelter for Bridget and I. He gave us the brief tour and said he'd be back around 4am on his way to work in the morning and could bring us back to the freeway.

He drove on away, leaving us amazed and happy to be dry as we listened to the rain pound down on the roof above us.

He came in the morning as promised, it felt great having gotten some showers in along with a bed to have slept on. We cruised through the darkness and he dropped us off, along with a stash of socks and sweatpants and things like this we insisted we take along with us. He also wanted to say a prayer for us, then we were on our own, walking along the freeway staying warm, looking forward to the sunrise.

We walked a long good ways, at last coming upon a gas station as the sun was coming up where we got some much desired coffee to warm up and wake up. We waited for a good while at the on ramp until a preacher picked us up. He was all smiles and energy, blasting his Christian music as we cruised along. We picked up his friend and then went just a bit further until he let us out, giving us a few bucks each and saying a prayer for us.

Our next ride came from another church trio, one or two a priest and another a deacon they said. They got us just a little further up the road, also wanting to say a prayer when we stopped. Along with the prayer came a container of chicken rice one of them had cooked up, a good thing to snack on for a while.

A big rig trucker gave us a ride next telling some tall tales and loving having the company. I took a nap in the back as we cruised on and on, finally jumping out at a truck stop where he blasted his custom train horn as he rolled away.

Another ride, another priest  this one's name was Grover. He said he hadn't wanted to pick us up, but God made him. He soon became convinced that Bridget and I were an important mission from God, "Bridget speaks positively and you draw people in", he said, that we were a team being placed around strategically. He went as far as swearing us into Jesus.

Before dropping us off he tried finding a shop that would have a bible, but after not finding one he said he'd give us his. Along with that he handed us a twenty bill each along with a huge plastic garbage bag full of groceries. Bridget told me after that she just swapped the Jesus metaphor with those of light, love and the like and took it all in with that skin instead.

We got a ride from a tweaky drunk guy next, then a ride from a guy going to see his baby, he shared some beers with us on the drive and dropped us off with some extra, we filled a thermos up and shared sips in between sticking our thumb out. A pretty stoned guy gave us another short ride, but to an even less populated entrance, now in the midst of sunset.

Rather than waiting for the sun to go down, we decided we'd try our luck walking alongside the freeway, we were now really close to New Orleans and were hoping we could make it. We hauled our new heavy garbage bag, laboring down the freeway, darkness came quickly and now we were marching. An hour, maybe two, we finally got to the next more populated exit. By the point we were beat, "shattered", as Bridget put it, a long weighted walk with hundreds of cars passing us by whipping alongside us, rumbling trucks just feet away.

We plopped into a booth at a diner to collect ourselves. Afterwards, it was back to the freeway where we stood under a streetlight to give it another shot. At last, a woman with her kid in a minivan stopped to let us in. A cop had been waiting in the wings, flashing his lights and coming over as we were hopping in. He wanted to see our ids and check us out, but then we were on our way, the woman didn't seem to mind.

She dropped us off in Slidell, just a long bridge away from our destination of New Orleans. We stood in the dark, but a ride just wasn't coming, sets of headlights passing us by one after the next. We slipped away for food to ponder our situation, finally settling on using our day's preacher money to check in to the motel next door for the night.

The next morning we slept in and re energized, taking advantage of the rare motel room stay. Back on the on ramp we waited for more than a couple hours, somehow not getting a ride, the same ramp myself and other friends had hitched rides from in matters of minutes in the past. After a series of signs and hand stands from Bridget, we decided we'd just start walking. We didn't walk for more than a few minutes when we finally got a ride from a guy coming back from a hunting trip.

We'd made it to New Orleans! All was good, from where he dropped us off we were just a couple miles or so to my friend's coffee shop, we started heading that way, ready to jump into the next adventure.

January 23, 2012 to January 28, 2012