It was a slight bummer only because I had hoped to stay an extra day in Asheville, which is a gorgeous city and part of the counry. On the other hand, I was stoked to play a show in Savannah. So I left Asheville on Sunday afternoon (the day after I arrived there), stopping for lunch in Hendersonville with a friend of my sisters (and now, of course, a friend of mine!).
I was on the I26 on-ramp by around 3p, hoping to pick up a quick ride to Columbia, SC to spend the night. I stood there playing my guitar, sticking my thumb out for passers-by. Within ten minutes, I was loaded into a station wagon with two other guys, a girl, a dog, a kayak-covered rooftop, and a trunk filled to the celing with all our respective gear.
These would-be olympic kayakers were on their way home - Atlanta - from a kayaking excursion near Asheville. They should have left me in Spartanburg, where I26 and I85 intersect, but none of us were really paying attention, engrossed in conversation. So they left me instead at a gas station in Greenville, where I could catch a ride on I385 toward Columbia. I tried my usual routine here but did not have the same kind of luck. I played guitar by the on-ramp for at least an hour with very little response until it started raining. I made a run for it, shacking up under the overpass. I tried thumbing a ride there by the interstate, though I knew it was terribly unlikey I'd get a ride there. I looked across the way to see a couple in a white car motioning me to come over. I bolted across the lanes and over the guard rails and median to the side of their car.
They had seen me playing earlier and bought food for me at Wal-Mart. I appreciated the gesture... but was also a bit disappointed. I needed a ride - not peanut butter sandwich crackers and a New Testament Bible!
Once it stopped raining, I made my way back to the on-ramp. Several people stopped to hand me money. I wasn't busking! I needed a ride! Was that so hard for people to see?!
It was getting late and I was getting worried - I know it's very difficult to pick up rides in the dark. At around 6p, a deputy sheriff rolled up in front of me. I continued playing. He ran my ID and informed me that hitch-hiking is unlawful in SC. He advised me to go instead to a nearby gas station to solicit rides and to be careful.
I had done this in other towns with some succes, so I headed that way. Before I made it there, a woman pulled into a driveway behind me, calling me over. She said she had seen me by the on-ramp earlier and then talking with the sheriff. She offered to give me a ride. YES!!!
She couldn't take me all the way, she said, but at least she could get me out of Greenville, which had not been treating me too great. She dropped me off at a rest area on I26 around 7:30p. The sun was making its departure and I was really starting to worry about whether I'd make it to Columbia.
After about ten minutes, a young guy drove up and parked his car with little more intention, it seemed, than to smoke a cigarette. I approached him as he rifled through the backpacking gear in his trunk.
I would make it to Columbia after all!
I stayed there with a couple - Yaki and Zach - who introduced me to their three curmudgeonly dogs, fed me, and beat me at Jeopardy. They also let me use their laptop, but I didn't stay up too late, knowing I'd have to head out early to hitch my way to Savannah.
Yaki left me at a rest area just outside of Columbia and I began trying to catch a ride from more SC drivers. Most people either 1) said, quite politely, "I'm so sorry... I would but my car is so full!" I believed them. OR 2) said, with varying levels of rudeness, "No..._____" (insert any number of denials. Of course, I don't appreciate the rudeness, but I do acknowledge that it is totally the drivers' perogative whether they want to take in a hitch-hiker. Of course I respect that and I don't hold grudges. However, there was one instance that I will never forget for its unparalleled rudeness.
"Excuse me, would you guys happen to be headed east on 26?"
No eye contact, not a word, they kept walking.
"I'm trying to get to Savannah..."
They passed me without acknowledging my presence or existence. I say to the backs of their heads, "Any way you can get me closer..."
At this point I am utterly infuriated.
"Thanks for your help! I really appreciate the personal attention you've just given me!"
Boy, I could not wait til they were headed back to their car. Oh, the snarky comments I would make!
As I vengefully awaited their return, I spied a group of two men and a teenage boy walking back to their car. I gave them my usual schpeil. They didn't seem to be quite sure about whether they were headed toward Savannah. Turned out they were headed to Orlando and would be passing right by Savannah! For the first time in my entire trip I would be catching a ride directly to my destination. Thankfully, I also would not have to spew condemnation anto those other two. Hopefully their own consciences have done that already.
I arrived in Savannah around noon yesterday and have enjoyed every single moment here since. My hosts have been so amazing, I love their home, spirits, hospitality, and all-around awesomeness. I am truly sad that I am leaving tomorrow, as I already feel that I have made lasting friendships - even family - here.
Without question, 1417 has shown me the best time of my trip and I can only hope to show them the same hospitality they have shown me these past two days.