Tuesday 18th November. Frederick, Maryland -> Faber, Virginia, USA
The weather forecast was looking dismal. On the satellite photo, heavy rain was coming in from the west, and severe weather warnings were current from Texas across to Louisianna. Poo on all that. No way I was going to spend the day standing in the rain, and today wasn't due to be any simple hitch either. My next destination, the small town of Faber, in Virginia, is only 169 miles away but it's not a straight run in hitchhiking terms. I'd have to hitch west on the 70, turnoff south onto the 81, then east on the 64, then south on the 29. Phew! That's a lot of changes in direction. Maybe I'd better swallow my pride and catch a bus. I'm getting soft, you say? Maybe, but in the end it was all academic anyway. The smelly dog would cost $40 one way, and take - wait for it - seven hours!! *smelly dog = Greyhound*
It wasn't more than a couple of hundred yards' walk from Andy's apartment to highway 40, a smaller highway that parallels Interstate 70 to the west. Within minutes I was on my way, picked up by a father and son on their way to work. They were hoping to finish a fence they were building, before the weather closed in. They dropped me at the intersection with I 81, which runs south through the Shenendoah Valley and crosses the Shenendoah River. *life is old here, older than the trees* Only about six cars passed me before I had a ride again. This guy wasn't going more than about twenty miles, but dropped me at a huge truck stop. It should've been a great spot to hitch from, but oddly that was where I had my longest wait. When soliciting a lift from the truckers and motorists failed, it was back to the on-ramp. The guy who eventually picked me up from there was a Native American from the Cherokee tribe. I regaled him with my story of being invited to take a sweat with Tom Yellowtail, the famous Crow Indian Medicine Man. I guessed the old man would be dead by now- he seemed ancient when I met him eleven years ago. Surprisingly, my driver said that Tom was still alive and well.
Another truck stop, another cup of coffee, another bunch of company truckers who aren't allowed to take passengers. It was three o'clock and I was still a hundred miles away from my next host, and still two highway changes to make. I was going to phone them to let them know I'd be late, but then I remembered they'd said there'd be no-one home until five. I continued to canvass the motorists until I got a ride with a skinny little black guy. Little did I know that in a few minutes time, I'd regret taking that ride.
The driver was a pentecostal preacher from Togo in West Africa. His name was Selestin. Selestin spent the next one hour, nine minutes and forty-five seconds waving his hands and thumping the steering wheel, laughing, crying and trembling, as he relayed to me the experience of finding Jesus. In all that time, the only thing I had the chance to say was "uh-huh". I counted down the mile markers, and stared at the speedometre, willing him to drive faster. This ride was a life saver, it'd be dark by five o'clock and then I'd have been stuck. The question was, would I rather sit in the car and listen to this ranting, or sleep a rainy night in the woods? Staying in the car won out for the moment, but it was a close contest. Finally we reached the junction of Interstate 64 and I interrupted him.
"Excuse me, but this is where I get out" I said politely. He said he didn't mind going out of his way a bit, and took the turnoff towards Charlottesville, over thirty miles away. It was almost pitch black outside now, and a heavy mist spotted the windscreen, but his kind offer still felt like bad news. The only reason I didn't make him let me out, was that the highway junction was designed such that there is absolutely no place to hitchhike. In fact there was a large sign with a stylized picture of a thumb, a red circle around it and a diagonal line through it.
Selestin stopped his hysterical preaching when we hit a thick blanket of fog as we passed through Rockfish Gap. I'd never seen fog like it. We couldn't even see the next guide post. Anyway, we reached Charlottesville safely, Selestin dropped me at a gas station and tried to force me to take a bible with me. I told him that I could take it if it made him feel good, but the first thing I'd do when he drove away was throw it in the bin, so he'd be better saving it for someone who had space for it. Well, at least I was honest. It was five o'clock, and I thought of calling my hosts Chuck and Jane, who live twenty miles out of town. First, I'd ask that guy in the white pickup if he was heading down Faber way, and would you believe it? He was. He actually lived just a few miles from Chuck and Jane, so by five-thirty I was walking down my hosts' driveway.
Jane met me at the door, flabbergasted that I had hitchhiked! She and Chuck had figured I'd be driving. *oops! It looks like they haven't spent much time on my website* It was well and truly beer o'clock by my watch, and Chuck handed me a bottle of 'Yuenling', a Pennsylvania beer that I first tried in Pittsburgh. We just had time for a chat, before dinner was served. It was a delicious meal of chicken and fresh veges, served with beer biscuits. *yummy* It was my first food since yesterday. I guess with the pressure of trying to keep moving, I just hadn't thought of eating during the day. It sure felt good to eat!
Chuck and Jane are good friends of Karen and Ron, who I stayed with in Washington state. Remember Karen and Ron, the lovely couple who, after poisoning me with eleven-percent-alcohol beer, and making me soil my pants in a supercharged mustang, tried to make it up to me by taking me out on their new boat. I was hoping that a stay at Chuck and Jane's might be a little safer. They're members of Eldertravel and Evergreen, hospitality exchange groups for crusties... I mean seniors. They showed me a photo album full of people they've met through these groups.
They're both retired- Chuck from selling life insurance and Jane from many years as an EMT- but I get the feeling they lead quite an active life. They are heavily involved in Literacy Volunteers, Chcuk is an insurance councillr, and they're both local ombudsmen. Chuck was proud to show me his workshop, where he crafts things out of timber. His current project are some carvings that'll be Christmas gifts for friends. He was going to make two of them, but Jane tells him now that they need five.
"She gets these ideas" he said, "and they're nearly always good ideas". He grinned. He and Jane have been married for forty-five years. I asked them if they've run out of stuff to say to talk about yet. They thought that was pretty funny, and probably thought I was pretty stupid. But hey, what the hell could you talk to someone about forty-five years? Unless you were the Pentecostal preacher from earlier in the day- he could talk that long without drawing breath!
After another seven day break in transmission, so to speak, I've manged to upload my latest journal updates. Chuck and Jane were kind enough to let me log on with my laptop through their dial-up account, so unfortunately I in my room staring at a screen for over an hour instead of spending time with my hosts. I'm going to have to get away in reasonable time in the morning too, so there's not going to be a great amount of time for my hosts and I to get to know each other. That's obviously a problem with a one-night stay, but at this point there's not much alternative. I have to get to Florida where I've been offered a little work. Stay tuned though, because I may just have a little treat for you tomorrow from here in Nelson County, Virginia... a special treat for those of you who watched television in the seventies. Can you guess? G'night Johnboy.