1) I played my Savannah show on Aug 2 and stayed through the 3rd.
2) It is now Aug 16 and I've since hitch-hiked from there to Boynton Beach; played shows in Jacksonville, Cocoa Beach, Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville (and a couple back-seat shows on the way to Miami); been to the beach twice; been stopped by police while hitch-hiking four times; and got myself some killer locks in Orlando (along with the necessary du rag and beeswax).
Needless to say, there is much ground to cover. I'll try to keep it concise.
Hitching a ride from Savannah to Jacksonville was challenging. One of the guys I had stayed with the night before, David, left me on the side of I95 to hitch my ride to Jacksonville. It was not long before I was stopped by a police officer. After running my ID he told me he did not have a problem with what I was doing, but that if I didn't get a ride within 15 minutes or so to move on to the next exit (walking on the interstate is illegal, something he conveniently left out). Not more than five minutes later, a second police officer pulled up. He also ran my ID but this officer told me I had to leave. Understood.
As I walked toward the nearby gas station, a kindly black man in a minivan pulled over and offered to take me to the next exit. OK!
I hopped in and started chatting it up with the gentleman. He didn't take the interstate, which I found to be a bit suspicious, but he did indeed take me to the next exit using back roads.
I tried asking around the gas stations for a time with no luck. So I made my way back toward the I95 on-ramp (the one just beyond where the two police officers asked me to leave).
As I approached the on-ramp, another minivan pulled over beside me and offered to take me to Jacksonville! Score!
He had some things on the front passenger seat and perhaps was apprehensive about having me sit up front. So I sat in the back, trying to hold a conversation. He wasn't much of a talker, which I found odd considering his confession that he picked me up for the company. He was in the process of dropping off a company car and said that sometimes the loneliness is grinding. Understandably so.
He was headed to Tallahassee so Jacksonville was on the way. He dropped me off at the venue where I would be playing later that day. I was several hours early, which was great because it would give me a chance to get on a computer and get more work done for my tour.
The venue for the night was Anomaly/Underbelly - a small-time designer clothing store and bar/outdoor music venue! They also had some food (experimental veggie sandwiches) which they gave me to eat while I worked on one of their laptop computers. Excellent!
They took me to an art walk going on in downtown Jacksonville to promote my show that night. There would be tons of people, they assured me, and probably a great chance to street perform and make some money. I was sold.
We headed out there for an hour or two before my show (I made a few bucks) and rushed back to the venue just as the local support, a singer songwriter named Connor Hickey, was taking the stage. Lots of kids came out to see him and thankfully stayed afterward to hear me play as well. Yesss! They received my music very well and I had a great time!
I arranged to stay that night at the apartment of the bartender from Underbelly, Jimmy. He was very hospitable and accommodating and even offered to take me to Target the next morning - to buy dry-erase markers for my hitching sign and sunscreen (I was sun burned very badly after my hitching attempts to Richmond and Greensboro) - and to the interstate (295) on-ramp so I could catch a ride to Cocoa Beach for a killer house show.
I tried hitching a ride there for an hour or two, hoping to get a ride around the beltway and then south on 95. The guy who picked me up was on his way to a doctor's appointment so I had to hurry to get my things together. However, I don't think his doctor's office is anywhere near where I wanted to get to. He dropped me off in the middle of nowhere, miles from the interstate, at a gas station. Great.
I asked around whether anyone was headed south on 95. I was NOT in a good spot for this. One gentleman offered to drive me back to the interstate, since it would be easier for me to hitch a ride over there. I gratefully accepted, but he dropped me off back in the middle of Jacksonville. I had actually managed to backtrack. No bueno.
It was about noon by this time. I tried thumbing a ride here, but suspected that I wouldn't have any luck at all. So I got on the phone with Jimmy, since I remembered that he was headed down to St. Augustine for a friend's wedding that day. At this point, I figured it would behoove me to take him up on his offer!
At the time I called him, he said that he would be unable to pick me up where I was since he was busy getting ready for the wedding and would not have enough time. So I called Emily, the owner of Anomaly, hoping for a ride back to Jimmy’s place. I was in luck, because Emily happens to be a VERY VERY COOL PERSON!
She picked me up, along with Sterling (another Anomaly employee) and her son Holden (named after Mr. Caulfield!) and drove me back to Jimmy’s. I might make it to Cocoa beach after all!
Jimmy, his wife (?) Amanda, and I headed out of Jacksonville around 2p. I knew they were headed all the way to St. Augustine, but I figured I’d have better luck hitching the rest of the way from a rest area. So I had them drop me off at one not far from Jacksonville on southbound I95.
After a half-hour of soliciting rides, I was approached by a woman who worked at the rest area, presumably a supervisor of some kind. She seemed angry.
“You’re going to have to leave.”
“But… I don’t have a car.”
“Then you need to put your sign away. You can’t do this here.”
“But I don’t have anywhere else to go. No car. And I can’t walk on the interstate, it’s illegal!”
I could tell she was warming up to me.
“Well, I don’t know what you can do. But you can’t stay here. And you can’t do this. A state trooper will be here soon and he certainly won’t take kindly to your presence.”
“I understand, I’ll try to get a ride pronto.”
I think it occurred to her by this point that I didn’t want to be there any more than she did… or any more than that trooper would!
She didn’t want to be mean, she was just doing her job. She encouraged me to hurry.
After asking dozens of folks (mostly of the old variety) I asked a young (late 20s, early 30s?), brown, round-faced man who was walking briskly toward the restrooms whether he could lend a ride to a weary traveler.
He raised his sunglasses to get a good look at me. I looked harmless enough, I suppose, as he agreed to give me a ride and instructed me to wait a couple minutes while he used the aforementioned rooms.
When we both got back to his car, he started to shuffle things around the front passenger seat of his small SUV. He opened the trunk so I could put my gear in the back and took his seat. When I came back around to the passenger side, he said, “before you get in, I want to see what’s in your pockets.”
Upon later consideration, I realized this could have been very dangerous for me. He could have stolen my money or my wallet, my iPod, keys, phone. All of my most valuable possessions were before him, in full view, on the passenger seat. But he was only trying to watch his own back. I understand. We live in fear.
I put everything back in my pockets and hopped in. Onward!
We considered leaving me at the next rest area, but by that time there was a state trooper in position. I asked all the drivers that were there at that particular moment, but none were willing or able to take me. So I hopped back in the small SUV and continued on to a small city, still an hour or two from Cocoa, called Palm Coast.
I tried soliciting rides at a gas station here, near the interstate. After twenty or thirty minutes, I scored my ride when I talked to a young man in his mid-twenties who was on his way to the keys.
“Sure, I’ll give you a ride. Why not?”
A minute later, his brother walked up.
“Hey, guess what?! We’re giving Gio a ride to Cocoa Beach!”
Well this was awkward. I had asked his brother several minutes earlier, not knowing they were brothers or even together, and the brother had said “no, sorry, we’re actually going north.”
He apologized for lying and the other said “well, I’m driving so it’s my decision!” Excellent!
I hopped into their SUV and made small talk til it felt awkward. Ok, well I guess I’ll just journal.
I arrived in Cocoa around 7p, the time that my Cocoa Beach show was scheduled to begin. I had been very excited about this show for a LONG time, since it was 1) a house show, 2) close to the beach, 3) boasting 4 or 5 other local acts, 4) promoted with an AWESOME hand-drawn flyer, 5) sure to be EPIC. Indeed.
There was a buzz in the air about the musician from New York. I felt so… anticipated. Even before I played, everyone there was very supportive (“can’t wait to hear you play!”). Needless to say, I had an AMAZING TIME there. My hosts, Amber and Jetta (couch surfing hosts extraordinaire!), were super friendly and made sure that I was treated well – food, bed, shower, night-time escort to the beach! They were incredible!
The next morning, Amber drove me to I95 to hitch my way down to Miami for the family reunion. My first ride was a woman who offered to take me as far as Melbourne. OK! She had a tofurkey burger mysteriously sitting on her dashboard, which she offered me. Excellent!
She dropped me off a gas station in Melbourne. I tried hitching rides there for a few minutes, before an attendant came out to stop me. So I made my way to the interstate again. I tried hitching for a short while, until I decided that I wasn’t in a good spot to catch a ride. I gathered my gear and began walking to the next exit. I walked. And walked. And walked. At least three or four miles. When I arrived at the next exit, I decided to stop for lunch. I went to Denny’s and had a great lunch, including a Boca burger and the best ice cream float I’ve ever tasted (strawberry ice cream, Sprite, and blueberry/pomegranate flavors).
I can’t remember how or where I picked up my next ride, but apparently it got me to the next rest area, around Fort Pierce. I asked around for rides for about half an hour until I was approached by a dark, stern-looking man in a white t-shirt and very official-looking pants.
“That sign better be put away in about seven minutes.”
This was the kind of person that the woman outside of Jacksonville had warned me about.
I asked for rides until he came back again, this time in full uniform.
I had a similar conversation with him as the one I had near Jacksonville.
“I don’t have a ride… and you’re telling me I can’t walk on the interstate, I can’t solicit rides, I can’t stay here… so what options do I have?”
“Here are your options:
One – I call the county sheriff and report you as a vagrant”
(yes!!! Does he know about my tour?!)
“Two – I call the county sheriff and report you as a vagrant.”
As you can imagine, it was very difficult to restrain snarky comments at this juncture.
“The third is very similar to the first two. I call the county sheriff and report you as a vagrant.”
“Your fourth option is to leave the premises. Now.”
“Well, I don’t have a car and I can’t walk the interstate. Where can I go?”
“The boundary limit of this facility is just beyond that fence,” he said pointing south, toward the on-ramp for the interstate. I got moving.
One car stopped. “I can’t pick you up because I have kids in the back. But here’s some pocket money.”
I appreciated the gesture, but I would hardly call twenty bucks pocket money! That’s like… a week’s worth of groceries (believe it or not)!
I continued to wait for a ride. After a little while, I looked southbound over my shoulder to see a SUV backing up the shoulder toward me. Could it be? A southbound ride? I ran toward the car, the car continued backing up toward me. It was like those corny scenes in movies where two long lost lovers are running toward each other in slow motion. This was a couple, presumably in their thirties, and they were going as far as Jupiter; but they'd only give me a ride if I agreed to play them music in the back seat. Needless to say, this was a GREAT RIDE! They were very cool and friendly. So I gave them a private in-the-back-seat-headed-south-on-95 concert! Few people have the luxury of boasting such a thing.
They dropped me off by the interstate near their home and even gave me their contact info, just in case. Thankfully, it was not long before I secured another ride. This time I was standing (balancing) atop the guard rails, playing guitar, smiling big, and sticking out my thumb to passers-by. A young guy stopped behind me, he was headed as far as Lake Worth. Slow and steady wins the race! I hopped in and made good conversation up until his stop. I was now close enough for my sister to pick me up, but still a ways away. I might as well try for one more ride if I could get it.
A hard-looking woman in her lower twenties, probably younger than me (though she could probably kick my ass), stopped to pick me up.
“You were a white face with a guitar. I figured it was safe to pick you up… and you definitely were not safe where you were.”
She didn’t take me too far, just a few exits ahead in Boynton Beach; but I was now even closer to my sister, Amy. So I had her pick me up there and take me back to her crib where I could shower and wash off the day’s sweat, grime, and frustration. I finally made it to my childhood home and the southernmost destination of my Vagrants & Vagabonds, Outlaws & Thieves Tour – (Greater) Miami, FL.