daily archive: 11/01/2008
My best estimate is that I hitch-hiked for 25,000 miles, generally in 800 mile chunks ( the distance from D.C. to Jax). Don’t hitch-hike. It has become far too dangerous both for driver and passenger. My father would always pick up men in uniform wishing to get from base to home. And I also followed.
But here are my worst stories from that time. I met many wonderful people on the road, but at some point in the early 70’s it became far too dangerous.
Wilson, North Carolina was by far the best spot to hitch-hike going either north or south. In those days, the interstates had not yet been punched through. Wilson was at the intersection of 17 and 301. There were two well-lighted gas stations at the corner.
A man picked me up at Wilson at 2:00 a. m. and carried me about 10 miles into darkness. At this point, he let me know that sex was the purchase for the ride.
So I got off in pitch black and tried to thumb another ride in the darkness. I do not begrudge him the request/demand for sex. Although I am unhappy that he took me from the best hitching spot to an awful spot.
What really annoyed me was that he sat in his car 15 feet from me for 20 minutes waiting for me to give up while I tried to hitch another ride.
So Fred and Julie and I were trying to hitch southwards. A man in a jeep needed a quarter mile to slow down to pick us up. He drove us the 50 miles from Fredericksburg to Richmond in about 20 Minutes without ever putting his hands on the steering wheel. His hands were engaged in tuning his transistor radio as he steered with his knees. It was an efficient ride.
Here is a story where I was not along. My friend with a bird-name was hitching with her other friend, Gary, when a whole bunch of Harleys with guys in black leather blew by. She said. “ Wow, -- the Hell’s Angels—I always thought they were a myth just like the mafia. The driver looked at my friend with a bird name and said—“You think the mafia is a myth?” He then popped the top of an attaché case filled with $100 bills.
I get a ride north with a reasonable gentleman. He has business at National (now Reagan) airport. He asks me to hold his three Great Danes outside while he does business in the airport. I was young then, but the three dogs out-weighed me by 50%. As he leaves, he tells me, “these dogs really hate n*ggers.” I was petrified as there was no way that I could have physically controlled those dogs. If you know Washington, you will know that several African-Americans walked by us. The dogs did not react. At the time, I thought that the dogs felt with me and that my non-racism calmed the Great Danes. I have since concluded that I was hubristic about my control of dogs and that the man was just funning me. He did give me a great scare.
When I was 19. I hitchhiked to FSU in Tallahassee one weekend to get some articles from their scientific library. My friend with a bird name (but without privileges in the modern vernacular) who allowed me to sleep next to her that weekend pointed out that some strange man the prior weekend had snuck into the dorms at FSU and murdered two coeds. It later eventuated that the strange man was Ted Bundy. I remain grateful that my friend was sufficiently trusting in a nerve-rattled environment to provide me with sufficient cover for my research.
Sunday evening I began to hitchhike back to Jax down US 90. At some point, I realized that I was truly terrified – for no particular reason.
I was sufficiently scared that I thought that I might be best off just sleeping by the side of the road. I climbed a farm-fence and lay down. And then I began to worry if there were a bull in the pasture. So I climbed back.
A man walked up to me on the highway and offered me shelter in a bedraggled shack. He told me that he was two days out of prison. He introduced me to his dog, which he had just acquired. It is my belief (and my beliefs are pretty decent in this area) that he was not asking me for sex.
When I scroll back through that evening, that man was Jesus.
So I have walked away from both bulls and Jesus and get back on US90 with my thumb out. I catch a ride from a largish guy in a pick-up in about his mid-forties. He takes me somewhere to which I do not wish to go on I-87, the big interstate from Chicago to Tampa. While there is plenty of traffic there, little of it is bound for Jax.
For about a half hour, he tells me how friendly he is with all of the local police forces.
He dumps me at an Exxon station in Jennings on the GA-FL border. As I walk down to try to catch a ride, a one-armed man runs after me and throws me to the ground and holds a knife to my throat.
You should understand the year to understand the story. It was 71 or 72. The one-armed man had likely lost his other arm in Nam (where I should have been regardless of what Aridog thinks). I had hair way down below my shoulders.
After maybe 20 seconds, a second man comes thundering after us. He hits me repeatedly – but he says, “I have a brother who looks just like you and I hate him just as much as I hate you.”
So while I continue to lightly hit back, I realize that this man is here to save my life. So he pulls punches and I pull punches.
Eventually, I walk down to I-87 and get a series of rides back to Jax. I arrived back at Jacksonville University and told a few people of what had happened. I was utterly emotionally and physically exhausted. The next thing I noticed was persons amassing weapons (baseball bats and knives and machetes) and designing cars for an attack upon Jennings GA. I was a Resident Assistant and oddly enough the boys upon my floor were fond of me. So I roused myself from my torpor and explained to the boys (after all I was 19 when they were just 18) just why it was that Jacksonville University was not going to make war on Jennings Georgia that night.
I continued to hitch-hike for a few years after that evening, but I never enjoyed it again.
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