STATUS UPDATE: “The Un-Bearable Weight of Travel”
(This is an account of our travels, but not an excerpt from the novel- Just thought I'd let you fine people know)
So me and Bryan are here and safe in the sunny state of Florida- Daytona Beach to be exact. How we got here, was of course- quite a journey in itself.
We were dropped off by the great MARK OLSEN, an essential character, whose profile will be up soon, but must be done with perfection and thoughtfulness. Me and Bryan found a ride share on CRAIGSLITS (as always) from a guy named “BILL,” who was on quite a road hall himself. He was in S.Florida the day we contacted him, and was taking I-95 ALL THE WAY back up to Philly for a court date he had, involving the custody of his children at 9 in the morning. We packed our bags and waited all day, because he told us he would be calling us as soon as he left Philly and was on his way back down I-95 again (this is REALLY quite a long drive, to make it back to FL again)
Where we were, in Jacksonville, was about an hour and a half or 2 hours from Fayetteville. Fayetteville was the closest city that I-95 ran through, and we would have to make it to I-95 in order for BILL to pick us up, since it would be way out of his way to go ALL THE WAY to the E coast to get us in Jacksonville- we’re a bunch of broke moochers, what the hell would be his incentive to do all that if we didn’t have extra money to give him?
Mark was good enough to give us a lift to Fayetteville, and with me and Brian having our bags packed to the brim, and our stomachs a bit unsettled with the reality of finally being left to the forces of nature- he took us to a liquor store to get some much needed whiskey, and dropped us off somewhere near 95 and a set of railroad tracks.
Me and Brian could barely walk with these bags on, and we looked at each other with unsure apprehension. Bill wasn’t answering our calls, and we had no clue what we would do since it was past nightfall, and therefore- practically impossible to hitch-hike. We found a patch of woods near the train tracks, and settled our fears with a few good glugs of cheap whiskey.
Our plan at the time, was to just start walking down 95 headed south, and possibly pick up a ride, even though it wasn’t likely. If need be, we would duck into the woods and pitch our tent, or just rest until the sun came up. What other options did we have? Get a motel? HA not in this life.
We sipped at the whiskey a bit more, and before putting the bags back on, we figured it couldn’t hurt to try calling BILL one more time. Luckily for us, he picked up his cell this time. He said he had finally gotten out of court, and that he was being escorted out of the state. This seemed kinda funny, and most people would have freaked after hearing this; but I’ve been in my fair share of trouble with the law, and I’m a pretty decent guy. I shouldn’t judge any more than I hated being judged. PLUS, what the hell else were we gonna do? I had talked to him on the phone a bit the day before, and he seemed like a straight shooter who was just going through some shit with his wife. The REAL problem, was that he was hitting the state line for Pennsylvania, and wouldn’t be getting to Fayetteville NC until around 2 am- it was about 6:30 or 7 at the time.
We figured fuck it- we had to get used to walking with these bags anyhow; we weren’t planning on taking rides everywhere, so let’s do some backpacking, and hike to 95.
95 ran outside of Fayetteville, and not just a mile or so- it was QUITE a walk, at least ten miles. So with a new challenge now in mind, and a serious consequence if we didn’t make it- we started hiking.
I cannot even begin to describe what it was like walking with these bags, especially with this sort of distance, and it being our first day. What I didn’t realize, was that what I was feeling then, would be nothing compared to the next day.
The first half hour, I thought there was no way I would be able to endure this journey with the setup we had, but I kept on walking. After the first half hour, I began to feel a spurt of energy, and even inspiration upon realizing I was capable of actually doing this, I just had to keep going. This went on another 2 hours or so, before I began to really start hurting.
It helped that within that first short grip, where I was really feeling hopeless- a kid in a pickup slowed down at a turn, and bent out his window to ask us what we were doing. We explained that we were planning on traveling around america, and seeing the sights and meeting the people. He really dug the idea, and was very excited for us- you could see it in his eyes. He had said he just finished reading a book about a guy who had done the same thing, and I laughed telling him that I was writing a novel about our travels too.
He reached into his pocket fingering through different odds and ends, and he handed me 2 wrinkled up dollars explaining that he was sorry he couldn’t give more, but he really wished us good luck and happy travels.
This really helped fuel me in moving on, and I thought about what it was exactly that made so many people want to read about other people that did something along the lines of this journey we were after right now. I was no different as a youngster, books like that fueled my current determination in fact. I also considered the fact that the excitement and dream of doing this sort of traveling, was something that was so fun to dream about, but not nearly as “fun” to actually do. I have found countless rewards in our journey so far, even though we have much to do yet; but something I learned very hard in Minnesota, was the fact that it wasn’t a vacation, and that misery and discomfort were just as prevalent in these experiences, as joy and enlightenment. There is very much I have to say on this whole notion, as it is such a complex experience to endure, but I will cut this idea short for now, in order to give you guys the low-down on me and Brian’s current position.
So we gladly took the two dollars, even though we really wanted to ask him if he knew where we might score a joint for our travels- I simply couldn’t do it though, for fear of us damaging his admiration of our spirits and determination.
We walked and walked and walked, and after spending a good 2 hours walking back in forth through Fayetteville in search of the highway, we FINALLY made it, and began hiking down the highway.
We hiked into the night with our thumbs limply extended, and eventually, I just gave up on it. I was determined to make it to 95 on foot. Everything was hurting, especially my hips, ankles and knees. On the bright side though, when I am done with this expedition, I might actually have a butt! Something that just doesn’t seem to run in the Irish male side of my bloodline.
Finally, after hiking through the dark highways and pine-tree lined roads for long enough- Brian was ready to collapse, and I was painfully trekking on with an adrenaline buzz that ended up seriously damaging my knees for the next few days. Brian was convinced that we were on 95, and I had somehow missed the sign. Although I was as beat as can be, my head was rushing with the excitement of finally being on the road and moving again.
We decided to rest our legs so I could take a look at our atlas and figure out where we were, since it was only approaching midnight and we had a while before Bill was going to be coming past our neck of the woods. We defeatedly climbed a steep hill covered in pine trees, and up at the top, sheltered from the traffic below, we put down our bags and got out the atlas. I began to look at the map, and Brian who had seen the sign and was sure we were on 95- fell asleep in a bed of pine needles within the first two minutes of lying down.
We had a good hour or two before Bill would make it here, so I decided after finding out that we had in fact made it to 95- that we should hike our way to the next exit, so we could give Bill a simple coordinate to pick us up at. I woke Brian, who unhappily rose from the comfortable spot, and assured him that once we got to an appropriate pick-up point, we could sleep until Bill got there. Before heading back down to the road, I called him to make sure he was en route to Fayetteville, and he confirmed that he would be rolling through in the suspected time frame of 1:30-2:00. We put our packs back on with an all new type of pain and soreness and with that- we trudged down the hill which we had climbed with difficulty, and I felt my ankles beginning to weaken and my knees start to wobble.
We walked until finally we came to exit 44, which was an identifiable spot for Bill, and after ducking into the woods, we found another spot that seemed to be cushioned just for weary travelers such as ourselves. Brian tactfully arranged the pine-needles into a shape that would fit him properly, and after about 5 minutes he was once again comfortably snoozing.
I knew that with Bill’s trips between Florida and Philly, he would need someone to be driving for him. I stopped sipping at the whiskey and managed to keep myself awake for the next hour or two, whereupon Bill picked us up right next to the #44 exit. I took over at the wheel and me and Bill made small talk until he managed to share the same sleeping state as Brian.
I drove on and on, stopping once for coffee and Mountain Dew, and by the time Bill woke up, we had made it all the way to Jacksonville Florida. Daytona Beach was only an hour and a half from there, and Bill woke up and took over. I had driven the tank from full, all the way to empty, and when Bill woke up and filled the tank, I told him all I had was 20.00. He said that was fine, and Brian continued to sleep in the back.
Bill went on and on about his domestic/financial issues as we drove to Daytona, and as nice of a guy as he was, I was sooooo tired and not really lending him a very thoughtful ear at this point. Plus, the last thing I cared to hear about was celebrity divorce details that of course, transitioned into his own problematic financial situation with his wife.
I realize this was a bit insensitive of me, but I was as beat as a person could be, and when Bill dropped us off at a seven eleven just off the interstate, I really didn’t give much of a good-bye. For a 20.00 ride, I could have been a bit friendlier, like I had been the night before, but I just couldn’t concentrate on anything except the bones in my knees grinding against each other with the weight of these packs, and where I could possibly set up my tent and rest as soon as possible without any disruption.
We didn’t know how far we were from the actual beach, even though we were in Daytona beach- but I literally couldn’t make it much further than a few blocks. I was completely defeated.
I limped with throbbing body and mind, until we came across a huge commercial type field that was near some giant bland corporate ant-hill type place. In the very center of this vast field, was a football field sized patch of palm-trees, and miscellaneous foliage- and we decided to go around the island till we were out of sight, and than set up our tent on the outskirts of this patch. We set up our 2 man camouflage tent, and as Brian decided to go head for the beach- I laid down my blanket, took off my shirt- and as I poured sweat like a pig in the blistering sun, I fell asleep NEARLY wishing I was as cold as my friends in Milwaukee.
At the time, I think I was at my ultimate low in how badly I wanted to be home, and how absolutely stuck I felt. I was so sore, that there was no chance of me putting that pack back on, and I just fell asleep with prayers that I would wake up feeling differently. I slept all day, finally feeling relief as I woke up periodically with the florida breeze cooling my back. As the sun began to go down, I saw Brian squatted down just outside the tent flaps- he was eating a Military grade M.R.E (Meal Ready to EAT)- a meal that marines are not too fond of, however me and Brian seemed to really enjoy.
I cracked open one of my M.R.E.’s, and slammed down quite a glug from my 2 quart canteen. As I saw the orange sun setting behind Brian’s silhouette, and looked around at our tiny 2 man tent- I sat up and realized that I actually did indeed feel much better. The temperature was starting to cool off, and the sunset slowly fell through the triangular opening of our tent as I ate my MRE. It wasn’t so bad at all I began to think to myself.
That evening, I put my boots back on, and me and Brian stealthily snuck away from the tent to go get some cheap beer. I could still barely walk, and as I limped along, I began to worry that maybe I had hurt my knees seriously instead of just being really sore. I tried my best to ignore that possibility, and we came back to our site with nice cold tall-boys of highlife, and a can of cola to use as chaser for the whiskey we still had. I put on the tight pair of green marine sweatpants that mark had given me, and with bare feet and callused blisters, we drank there- hidden among the vast fields, and underneath the bright stars. It was idyllic in contrast to my earlier feelings of hopelessness- and I began to really understand the bi-polar nature of life on the road.
Brians first little resting spot- he looks so adorable dosent he?
For lack of anything better to do, I started taking pictures from the woods haha. This one is the lights of a truck flying past.
The only thing cooler than my one dollar cowboy hat from wal-mart, is the same hat with a flashlight attached! How 'bout that Blair Witch type photo?
Heres B.O's second little resting place. We were so beat, that even if I HAD reminded him of the possible dangers of spiders and snakes, I don't think he woulda cared.
Heres a nice little shot I got as I was resting my head and managing to appreciate the looming forest-top above me. The moon was really quite nice that night, although it isn't in this photo...
Heres BILL as he enthusiastically raises his coffee in spirit of the "excitement" of being on the road. What he's really wondering, is if Im somehow going to use the photo against him, and take him to court. Bill wasnt too trusting,(he asked me several times over the phone if I was going to murder him- as if I would tell him if I WAS going to haha) but if he ever reads this, BILL- I Promise, I Won't Be Using This Photo Against You...
As you can see, I cant even contain my excitement for eating this M.R.E... For those unfamilliar with the "Meal Ready to Eat" I will soon have a HOW-TO photo manual on the site, for how one properly eats an M.R.E. I bet your excited too now!
Brian drinkin some beers at our hidden "camp site"
From far away, its pretty damn hard to see aint it?! Those marines are sneaky folks.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR ALL THE SUPPORT WE'VE BEEN GETTING GUYS, IT MEANS THE WORLD TO US, AND KEEPS US KEEPIN' ON!