Hitchhiking and Beer Sipping From Florida to NYC To Catch Berlin Flight

South America had provided several weeks of good times, but also included breaking up with a girl I'd been with for over a year, getting the sickest I'd ever been and getting my phone and cash stolen from me as I got mugged for the first time while hitchhiking in Peru.

A flight to Florida put me in position to take care of replacing what the mugging had done, but another impulsive plane ticket purchase gave me exactly one month to get to NYC to catch the Berlin bound flight.

I spent a few nights with a laid back couchsurfing host there near Fort Lauderdale. I managed to get my phone replaced and get some other things in order between hanging out and making a much needed brewery visit after the South American beer drought.

Then I was on the highway again, armed with my backpack and thumb facing northbound. A bit of a plan was now coming together, my first stop was to be Augusta. I got four rides the first day on the road, the last of which was from a trucker going all the way to New Hampshire, it was almost painful to hop out just outside of Savannah to make the the Augusta turn, how sweet a ride that would have been if I was on the direct plan to New York City.

Augusta was worth it, though, I arrived there the next day after seven separate rides I hitched with some walking in between. I spent just shy of a week in town with a friend who'd been helping with my BivyPack design. I'd been traveling with a prototype all through South America and this was a good time to make some updates on the design.

Besides the BivyPack I also got crafty making a my own leather notebook, then went through the tedious process with a razor blade to hollow out the pages as a hiding spot for my phone - mugging proof I figured (later perfected using power tools at my dad's). It was a decent idea, but I wouldn't travel with it for that long. Besides that I made myself a fold up white board for sign-making while hitchhiking.

Feeling productive I got back on the northbound track, but still I had some stops before NYC. Since leaving the country Sierra Nevada Brewery had opened up their new eastern brewery to the public around Asheville, North Carolina. Upon seeing it was open I also saw they were having a Burly Beer Festival in the time frame I could be arriving... this was a must.

I'd sent a request out to a couchsurfing host there who'd made mention to beer in his profile only to discover that he was not only into a beer, but actually brewed professionally in Asheville and would be pouring his beer at the very festival I was going to. Perfect.

The first ride I hitched out of Augusta in that direction came from an ex-gangbanger from Cleveland.

"I was on my way to kidnap and murder his girlfriend", he told me in the midst of one of his stories involving the Medellin cartel. This ended with them getting the jump on him, he survived a several gunshots somehow, including one to the face. He'd since turned his life around and was living with his mentor on a nearby peninsula on the lake, a place he showed me briefly as we paused for a few minutes before he dropped me back on the main road.

My next ride came from a chicken salesman, we actually stopped near Greenville where I got a small snack in a grocery store while he was next door at a bar frying up some sample of his chicken trying to make a sale. We kept cruising after that and he dropped me off in a break in the rain where I managed to get my final ride from an accountant heading to Asheville, he helped me even further by dropping me directly at Altamont Brewery which was nearby to where my host lived. Few things are better than getting dropped at a brewery after a day of hitchhiking.

He arrived shortly with his wife for a night of chatting beer and getting to know each other. The next day was the festival, I took the free shuttle from town to the brewery for an hour long cold and very much worthwhile wait for the gates to open. The brewery itself, although I never got inside, looked like a castle in the forest, a beacon of beautiful beer and good times.

The beer in the festival was a amazing, the headline for me being Flying Dog's barrel aged imperial porter, the Gonzo. I was in my zone. After several hours of drinking great beers I had several hours remaining, as the festival ended I was shortly in a van with my host and other brewers sampling even more beers, then on route to some other breweries in town, back to his house, back to the brewery, bouncing and bouncing through the day and night.

I had a day of recovery before thumbing northbound again, spicy fried chicken and steady beers even me out. After a long walk the next morning I caught my first ride from a girl who worked at a zipline place up the road.

After her came Neil, a guy who'd just come back from seeing his sister in the hospital. He was heading up towards Harrisonburg, VA and told me that he might drop me off somewhere along the way just so he could have some peaceful time alone driving. He stopped and grabbed us a couple road beers and somewhere before the end of those bottles his idea of alone-time had changed to a phone call to his wife clearing that it was ok for me to stay in their trailer for the night.

We got to his town where we paused at his trailer first, then he took us out for burgers and beer before heading back for sleep. Come morning he dropped me off at a nearby truck stop after getting me a snack and a coffee. Hitchhiking is fun.

I got a couple decent rides amidst intermittent rain as my day got started, New York had my full focus at this point. My third ride, however, was heading into Philadelphia. I'm not one to turn down a pause in Philly, I messaged a friend from grade school I hadn't seen in a while who was living in the city and he said he was definitely down for hanging out and had a couch to crash on.

I was greeted with beer and bumps of coke, then a trip to the good beer store to keep me busy while he had to go on a date. I told him I could make myself scarce he if needed to bring the girl back, but he returned alone an hour or so later and we headed to a nearby bar to keep the night going. Many many beers, there and back at his place later until around 5am apparently, swapping nostalgic memories for new developments in our respective lives sandwiched with grey areas in memory thanks to the amount of drinks going down.

Come morning, or afternoon rather, I began to come back to grips with reality, sipping an unfinished beer on the coffee table next to me. After a shower my mind was set on food, I marched to the terminal for what Philly means most to me, which is unreasonably amazing sandwiches.

Next I was heading to the liberty bell of all places. A text conversation I didn't remember from the night before lead me to meet a girl there whom I'd apparently been in touch with the night before. Hair of the dog seemed like a good call, so we went to one bar first and then another bar for good measure. It was at this bar that I began to execute my exit, not for lack of interest in her, but wanting to catch up with my friend some more before heading to NYC the next day. As it turned out, she knew my friend, and as it was revealed later, this fact had also been established the night before.

So, he joined us. We went to another bar as many beers went down. We walked in the direction of my friend's place, but by this point it was clear that I had more business to address with this girl. He found his way home and she called a taxi that took us back to her place.

In the morning we rolled around again until my feet found my shoes and I left her to go back to sleep, I meandered down the Philly streets back to my friend's place closer to downtown, he was taking a sick day to relax it all off himself. By this time I'd decided on taking the familiar Chinatown bus to NYC which left every hour, so I was happy to sip another stout and catch up a bit more before making the two hour hop.

Once in New York I made my way to my good friend's place in Astoria for a relaxing night to kick off what would be a couple weeks in the area before my Berlin flight.

I spent several days north of the city at my dad's place, a night in Connecticut with my step dad, then it was back to the city with my friend in Astoria again before staying with a different friend on the upper westside. I stayed there several nights without seeing her as our schedules varied. In the meantime I was catching up with other friends, getting my needed city fixes like a cheeseburger at Shake Shack and many beers at the Gingerman.

One night a guy who reads this blog and lived nearby got in touch, we had a good night catching a few beers and some pizza and he then handed me an envelope as we parted ways in front of my friend's building. Up the elevator I went, my friend still nowhere to be seen, but in the envelope was eight bucks. Amazing.

On the day of my flight I woke up and my friend was there finally, she'd taken a day to "work from home" so we could finally catch up after several days of me getting in late and her leaving real early. Her apartment was swank (doorman, elevator, the works), we sat on her rooftop terrace and sipped a couple beers while getting caught up.

One last slice of pizza and I was making a run for Union Square to help my friend's fiance carry some things, I also wanted to leave my laptop with them to further experiment traveling without it. They'd be getting married in less than a year, so I knew I'd be back to reclaim it if I wanted it again.

With a good blast of NYC behind me I was off to JFK, Berlin and whatever else I wanted ahead of me. The coming months would be even more amazing than I could have sketched up, it was time to get to it.

March 17, 2015 to April 17, 2015