"The world does not reward honesty and independence, it rewards obedience and service. It’s a world of concentrated power, and those who have power are not going to reward people who question that power."-Chomsky

"The trouble with self-delusion, either in a person or a society, is that reality doesn't care what anybody believes, or what story they put out. Reality doesn't "spin." Reality does not have a self-image problem. Reality does not yield its workings to self-esteem management." -J.H. Kunstler

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."-Dylan

Sunday, August 24, 2008

8/24/08: Greensboro, NC-Stalked!

It was a long process finding a place to camp. After walking back to the main road I was trying to decide between three different spots when from the woods, I spied a car driving by-- very slowly. This woods was between the two ramps leading to 220, and the car proceeded to stop just before the entrance to the southbound lane. I was on the phone with Laina, and slowly crept out of the woods to see what he was doing, thinking at first that he had somehow seen me. The car just sat there, lights on, for about 10 minutes. No activity that I could see or hear, so I figured he was lost or waiting for someone.

I hung up and continued to go about my business when
another car drove slowly by; slow enough for me to see in the limited light that it was the Sheriff. I dove for cover then, when I realized that he was pulling in behind the mystery car, I crept closer to play the role of spectator thinking that I may see some high- drama from the woods. This was weird, not your typical stealth- camping experience!

I watched as the cop cautiously approached the driver’s side of the car, and spoke with the driver for what seemed like eternity. Odd. Cops are generally to- the- point and it went on so long that I re-entered the woods and decided where I was going to sleep for the night while periodically peering out to check in. Cars would drive past regularly, yet still no flashing lights.

Just as I was getting ready to set up, I heard voices. Even from the woods, it was obvious that the cop was giving him a sobriety test. It was Saturday night; “typical” I thought. Just as I went back into the woods, the lights came on- scaring the hell out of me. The cop was back standing at the driver’s side door indicating the operator was back inside. This, again, went on for what seemed like forever. I just wanted them to leave so I could stealth in peace!

By now, I had gotten used to the scenario, so I went a bit deeper into the woods to be certain of avoiding detection. Just as I removed the bivy from the backpack, I heard a car start and take off—
fast. I assumed it was the cop, but as I hunched back toward the road, I saw the other car FLY past me, heading east toward Randleman. Then, I heard the cop-approaching, siren blaring. Hot Pursuit! The driver had gone loco, and was trying to escape! I had visions that I would see the drunk (I presumed) crash and burn, but no such luck. The chase went directly past the intersection and through the red light that led to Walmart, and into downtown Randleman. I sat by the road and listened to the siren for quite awhile. First to the north of town; then south. This chase was obviously dramatic. I could still hear the siren fading off to the south as I climbed into the bivy at about 2am, laughing at this day! I never learned anything else about the chase, and thankfully saw no more of law enforcement.

I slept quite nicely after that, in what I thought was a very secluded area beneath some pines. When I awoke Sunday morning at about 10:00, I was shocked to see that I was actually in plain sight. Under the cover of darkness I was fine, but only 75 feet off the road, and the pines had less coverage than I thought. It was too late to stress it and I figured that everyone was either sleeping one off or in church.

I thought I had been prepared the night before, bringing extra water so I would not have to walk back toward Walmart and restock first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, I had lost the Gatorade bottle searching for the spot, and since it was already hot…back to civilization I went, loading up on water and on- special Gatorade figuring that it was going to be a long day just sitting.

I began to contemplate the wisdom of continuing to hitchhike after the experiences of the past two- days, and the results I had seen from walking. I knew Old 220 went all the way to Greensboro or, with some creative navigating, could take me around it to I-40 skirting the city all together. Again, I could not bare the idea of walking back to where I had just come from, so I settled for another day of hitching hoping that with some luck I could get into Greensboro early, swing another ride OUT of the city, and get through Raleigh.

This ramp was much better than the others in North Carolina. It was long, wide, and had a natural pull- out for people to use if they took pity on me sweating in the sun. Just as the last two days, I laid out on the pack, strapped on the headphones, and prepared to wait all day. I knew that I had NEVER gone a day without at least ONE ride, so I was relatively certain I would see Greensboro again by day’s end.

I sat on the ramp for 3-4 hours, only moving to heed Nature’s Call, or stand to awaken my sleeping--posterior. As I was returning from a nature break, a rickety old van pulled over and a woman who looked to be in her mid 50’s jumped out and asked if I needed a ride. “
Hell yeah!” I said, trying to seem “confederate”. It is rare for a single woman to stop, and I was glad that I did not look threatening enough to scare her away! As I recall, this was only the fourth woman to pick me up, and the first since the bus stop in Portland.

Jo opened up the rear doors, and warned me to be careful as I loaded the backpack because she was charging a car battery back there. Something I had never seen before. Jo seemed outgoing, and a bit odd. She resembled a few aging hippies I have met; the
original ones that I respect. I immediately liked her, and we began a vigorous, mostly one- sided conversation immediately after I settled in the van. Stop me if this story- line seems familiar…

Jo was nearly 60, and a few years back had a stroke. And guess what. She had been fighting health insurance companies, the state, former employers… you
have heard this before, right? I laughed aloud, shook my head, and told her that she would be amazed at the number of people I had run into with similar story lines. The insurance companies and the State had essentially thrown her away after the stroke, despite the fact that she had lost use of the left side of her body, the ability to speak, and much of her short- term memory. However, Jo was different. Jo was old school. Jo had lived through the 60’s, and on the right side of them. Jo had never sold out. Jo was a fighter.

She told me about rehab, regaining use of her left- side, and re-learning how to talk. She told of how during all of this, the insurance companies were doing everything they could to avoid pay outs, and that North Carolina wanted no part of her disability claim, nor could she get assistance.
Human Kapital.

Apparently, Jo had been quite the little radical in her day, and still was. Sufficiently recovered, she began berating the health- care officials, local media outlets, and anyone else who would listen to her story—thereby creating quite a stir, and negative publicity for the state and her insurance providers. So much so, that the local officials had told her that if she did not ‘
shut up or move’ they were going to ‘destroy’ her. She told them exactly where they could take their threats and publicized them. Eventually, and I believe it was with a change in administrations, the state issues were resolved. She got limited assistance.

I was now in love with Jo.

She apparently has spoken out against more than just the corrupt healthcare system. She has radical viewpoints that make me look like Reagan. She told of how before the stroke, she was involved in ‘Economics’, and that in 1997 she had seen indications that the country was on thin economic- ice, only to be rescued by the dot coms. Then in 2000 the same thing was happening and that without a major influx of something, the country would go bankrupt. She pointed out that in 2000, PNAC had long since begun planning the Iraq invasion, and of course the next year: 9/11 and the ratcheting up of the famous Military Industrial Complex, conveniently generating untold billions in corporate revenues. She is convinced that the World Trade Center was the 21st Century Reichstag Fire, and has been outspoken enough for the CIA to add her to their “Dissenter List”. Quite an honor! She even told how she found out about that; losing her mail or having it delivered weeks late, then a friend working for the Postal Service informing her that it was due to the government snooping through her stuff. That’s our Patriot Act; protecting us from 60-year old stroke victims!


Interestingly, she was also one of the few liberals I have met who have a strong religious
conviction…as the theme of religion continues. She spoke about thatSplinter”, the “Calling” (all unprovoked), and said she stopped because she sensed that I was on a "Mission from God." I left it there; I had had enough God for 24- hours. Nevertheless, the prevalence of southern religion, even amongst the heathens, struck me. This ride lasted only thirty minutes, and I did not do a lot of talking. In Greensboro, she gave me her phone number and invited me, not just to call, but stay with her whenever I was in the area. What an interesting person, and seemingly as emphasis to her memory loss, she almost left before I could get my backpack out of her van!

Jo dropped me off on the south side of Greensboro, at what they call the “spider web”, or “black hole”; I forget now, but something denoting that this is where all major highways converge. And, it was Randleman Rd./Old 220— the same road I had considered walking.

I was not exactly pleased with this spot.

It was perhaps the most urbanized setting to date, and it was nearing 4:00. It reminded me of Boise, and I tried to encourage myself with a reminder that I had been out of Boise in 20-minutes. I sat down beneath a tree at the Shell station where Jo had left me, and looked at the Atlas. In the two days, since Francesco had picked me up, I had progressed two miles. Sobering.

I was directly across from the ramp leading to I-40 east, so I crossed the street and assumed the position: lying against the pack with headphones blaring. I was encouraged because the traffic volume was extremely high and consistent. I was however in the ghetto; there were a portion of Greensboro’s projects directly next to me along the frontage road, and I was a point of curiosity. This made me a bit uneasy, not so much that I was there, but that I was attracting silent attention. Shortly after I arrived, a ragged woman joined me on the ramp, thumb in the air, shouting something to no one in particular. She kept rambling as she continued right past me, down the ramp, and on to the I-40 shoulder, her thumb still waving.

I was optimistic I would get out of there if I exercised some patience, so there I sat…and sat…and sat. I must have been quite the spectacle. A middle-age man in a Geo Tracker gave me short- lived hope at about 7:30 by stopping, but rather than offering a ride, said that he “wanted to take my picture, because I was the most relaxed looking hitchhiker he had ever seen! Bwaaaahahahaha!” I let him; he left.


At different times, I thought about following my crackhead contemporary in walking the grass next to the highway, if only to get a change of locales. The projects next door were beginning to be abuzz with life as dusk approached, and although they never said anything, it was apparent I was attracting more attention still. On the verge of moving, I remembered the ill-advised attempt Friday, and decided against it. That was a mistake.

Soon, the vibe turned VERY negative. As the sun fell, the looks from the almost exclusively black motorists went from curiosity and indifference, to something else. Then rather than ignoring me or just gawking, they began to get interactive. Cars actually began swerving toward me in an effort to spook me and force me to jump out of the way. I sat there like a stone, never flinching. I had seen this once or twice before and had come to half-expect it occasionally, but this was just different; ominous. It was not a time to sing Kumbaya, and mentally extol the merits of well-intentioned man. It was high time to get the hell out of there. There is a line between adventure, courage, faith, and naive, foolish, idiocy, and everything in my being told me I had crossed it. So, it was back to the Shell station for water and directions to the next exit.

It was now about 8:45, and almost completely dark. When I got to Shell, I was surprised to discover the doors already locked, and the cashier closing out his register. The store had closed before 9:00, even though the sign on the door said they were open until 10. I wondered why a Shell, right off I-40 in Greensboro, would close AT ALL, let alone 10…or NOT EVEN 10. Not all was lost though, as I looked around, I did see what seemed to be promising places to camp close to the interstate. I sat down leaning against the wall facing Randleman Rd., plugged in the phone, dug out the Atlas, and prepared for the employee to shoo me away when he left. Then the plan was to explore the ramp for places to sleep.

After sitting there for about ten minutes, I looked up to see five people crossing Randleman Rd., coming from the projects toward the Shell. As they crossed the median, they went in slightly different directions, spreading out a bit going toward different parts of the parking lot. One of them kept shifting their eyes from me, to the side of the store, to his left, right, then back—directly—to me. The others actively searching, but looking everywhere but at me--AVOIDING looking at me. They all looked to be relatively young, skinny, and hip- hopped out with the full, latest ensembles delivered directly from Stereotypical Ghetto Garb, LLC.

There was no conscious decision needed. I calmly, but quickly, unplugged the phone, shoved it in my pocket, and in the same motion, put the pack on and began walking toward the north end of the parking lot, directly in front of two of them, (neither of which were very large), and generally away from the others. That was the moment I knew I was not “just being paranoid.” Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the other three abruptly change course, toward me, while these two were sizing me up. They never said a word, and didn’t need to. I had no idea what they were after, but I was relatively sure I had just strapped it to my back. My knife was right there on my shoulder-strap, but what would that do against five? Other than perhaps find its way into my own gut? In a split- second, I realized that this was the FIRST time I had been in any real danger.

Then a stroke of luck. Two cars pulled in, both loaded with guys from Virginia. I needed friends at that moment, so I politely told them they might not be able to get gas because the station had closed early, hoping to start a conversation and open a window of escape. This temporarily stalled and apparently confused the Welcoming Committee. Apparently unable to improvise, they all began to congregate together on the far (south) side of the parking lot, leaving the north side open for me to get out of there. That is exactly what I did. I crossed over Randleman Rd. to the raised median and walked a short distance down the middle of this temporary divide. I then crossed the rest of the way over, to the east side of Randleman Rd. I looked back, and saw all five Committee Members following a measured, yet uncomfortably close distance behind me; maybe 75ft. I picked up the pace, thanking God that I had lightened the pack, and crossed over I-40. When I got to the other side and looked back, they were gone. I had no idea where, nor did I care. Just gone. Now what? I went in to a well-placed (for me!) BP station to catch my breath, grab a Coke, and process what had just happened.

Oddly enough, I would not define any of what I felt as “fear”. The decision to leave the Shell was instantaneous; instinct. The rest was adrenaline, a sharpening of senses & quickening of thought, and almost literally involuntary action.

The reality did not really set in until I got to the BP. I quickly began to realize the gravity of the situation, and realized that if I was not VERY smart about the next few moments I could have real problems. I needed to either find a place to get out of sight, or get the hell out of this area.

A quick survey showed that, on this side of I-40, there was nothing. There was nowhere suitable to hide for the night, and I had cut off my known escape route by crossing I-40. I looked up Randleman Rd. and saw nothing appealing, but by now, my survival instincts were in overdrive. Not the paranoid  ‘instincts’ I'd had in Rawlins, Wyoming mind you; real ones! I was estimating everything—buildings, cars, semi- trailers, houses, yards, trees—anything I could use as shelter. However, those survival instincts also told me that my young stalker friends knew the area, and since I had no idea where they had gone, they could be watching me even then, waiting for me to make a move. Paranoia? Maybe. Justified in this case? You bet.

It was becoming painfully obvious as I was at this ghetto BP that I was in a bind. If I left this sanctuary, I had no idea what I would find; knowing nothing of the area other than what street the bus station was on. Like quicksand I realized, desperate, unmeasured, and irrational action could make things much worse. It was now shortly after 9, and this BP closed at 10. Fortunately, I had a 45- 50 minute haven where I could think.


I’d had enough of Greensboro. Enough of North Carolina. To hell with the Atlantic Ocean. It was reminding me of Ft. Morgan, where just getting to Nebraska was bordering on impossible. The difference being that, in Colorado, it was Mother Nature (tornadoes) seemingly blocking my path, rather than roving bands of Ghetto Kings. I already had the bus information, thanks to Friday’s drama, and knew I was relatively close to the terminal. I called Laina again to tell her about this little adventure and to try to get some perspective.

Her assessment: “You need to get the fuck out of there!”

I agreed. We discussed the ticket, and since I still had the $20 Will had given me the night before (forgot to mention that, didn’t I?), I had cash for a Taxi if I needed one.

The attendant inside was very helpful. I asked him how far it was downtown, and when he told me it would take a couple hours to walk, I asked how much the taxis would charge to get me down there. He said he could not imagine it being more than $10, so I borrowed the phone book, wrote down the number, and thanked him. We then chatted for a few minutes about the trip, as he was intrigued by where I had been, and how far to this point. I left what had just happened off my list of anecdotes. I am not sure why, other than it was the ONLY example of its kind, and it seemed like a shame to bring it up. When he asked me why I was taking the bus, I again ignored the obvious, in favor of “I’m just tired.” Not entirely a lie.

The clerk had to get busy closing, so I went outside and on a whim decided to give calls to Ken & Cesar, on the off chances that they may be in the region. A slim chance, but it was a slim chance when I called Ken from Denver the last time. I had really hoped that I could get a hold of Ken. He had made an offhanded comment on the way to Nashville that if I ever got a ticket to Tampa, I could hang out, and perhaps ride out with him. Not only would I get to see Tampa, but also the trip would continue, and the ticket would cost less than Albuquerque would! I got voice mails for both of them, so called the taxi and after 20 minutes, it came and took me downtown to Greyhound, costing me $10 even.

As I got to the desk, and began pricing different locations (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Denver, etc.), Ken called back. Good timing! I quickly gave him the rundown, and said that if the offer was legit, I could come to Tampa and see what happened. Ken said that he was actually planning to leave the next (Monday) morning so would be long gone by the time the bus got there. He suggested instead that I go to Atlanta, where he was almost certain he would be picking up his usual load, and then heading somewhere that he would learn early Monday morning. 

Perfect! I could get the same bus out of Greensboro tonight, get to Atlanta at 7am, meet up with Ken, and then ride off to Parts Unknown and perhaps continue this little adventure, with another fun, spontaneous little wrinkle in it! At the very least, I figured I could ride back toward Denver, and if that was were where I wound up, the ticket home would be a fraction of the cost. The only slight reservation I had was, what if something happened the next day, and he DID NOT pick up in Atlanta? Atlanta is not a good place to be stuck, although if I were stuck it would be at the terminal, or a truck stop. I was taking a slight risk, but the odds were heavily in my favor.

After getting some vague directions from Ken on where to meet him, I bought the $71 ticket from Greensboro to Atlanta and left at 11:40pm. I was happy that I had gotten a hold of Ken and was not just heading to New Mexico, although a significant part of me just wanted to relax, and begin to process everything that has happened over the last three months, which was daunting! 

Nevertheless, with September fast approaching, and with it yet another 29th birthday, I concluded I had better keep going; make use of the time I have this summer. Again, I was astounded at the progression of the day: I had woken up in woods near Randleman, North Carolina hoping to get, finally, back to Greensboro then to Raleigh and toward the Outer Banks. 12 hours later? I was was aimed toward Atlanta.


The ride to Atlanta? Other than stopping in Charlotte, the driver being half-crazed, the bus being over packed, riding through Hurricane Fay’s remnants, and the door flying open in the middle of the night? Uneventful. Typical “Dirty Dog”. I dozed off half-hoping Ken would not show up, so I could follow Sherman’s March to Savannah, and stick my smelly feet in that damn ocean just to spite it.

In the end, these events in Greensboro did not faze me much. Ultimately, they were my own fault. I have purposely avoided urban centers for exactly this reason. I never conferred with Jo when it could have mattered, and that is no one’s fault but mine. In Colorado, Wyoming, California, Oregon, and most of Idaho, I was VERY good about this, but after pulling off my “urban stealthing stunt” in Pocatello, then getting lucky with the location in Winston-Salem, I lost sight of common sense.

Secondly, I lingered there long after I realized the setting could get dicey; long enough to where it was too late. I relied, again, too much on getting a ride, and should have simply walked out. There is a reason that this was the only significant danger I have ever found myself in on this journey, with the exception, some would say, of the freight train. It is telling that it was due to a failure of discipline and common sense.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

8/23/08: Asheboro & Randleman, NC-The Lord's Bikers

The bivy performed like a champ. It was warm, spider-free, and allowed me to leave the sleeping bag packed. I awoke Saturday morning at the usual time of 8:30, but decided I was going to take advantage of the perfect spot and catch up on sleep. I attributed much of Friday’s ‘pissiness’ to fatigue, so stayed in bivy until 11. It was great. I would need it.

It took awhile for me to mobilize after sleeping so long, but after some cold instant coffee…a disgusting Todd Staple… I packed up and mentally steeled myself for a day likely spent sitting on my butt at the same gas station unable to get out of Asheboro. The on-ramp was no good because of North Carolina’s aversion to shoulders.

I climbed out of the palmettos, or whatever they were, and walked back to the
 gas station, to the wonderment of Saturday’s traffic. I’ve never grown tired of the looks of amazement when people see me walking places usually reserved for cars. I bought some real coffee, sat down where the driveway and road met--far enough back so as not to attract unwanted attention from Rosco, Cooter or the rest of Boss Hogg’s Band of Merry Morons.

I kept picturing Rosco morphing into Sgt. Schultz the night before: *I hear NOTHHHINNNNG!*

I put on the headphones and there I sat for most of the day. There was an occasional trip inside for coffee, water, and cigarettes, but the day was playing out as expected. It was hot too; low 90’s with the sun blazing, but
somewhere along the way I had come to enjoy sitting in the sun. Thankfully, I had brought my old stupid looking army surplus Desert Storm hat so my baldhead was not scorching.

The thought began to occur that I should consider alternate routes out of Asheboro and toward the coast. I had time to study the atlas, and began tinkering with the idea of going SOUTH on US-220/I-74. The Outer Banks had long lost its charm and, honestly, I couldn't have cared less about WHERE I stuck my damn foot in the damn Atlantic anymore! The trouble with rolling south from Asheboro was that it would take me into one of the most rural parts of North Carolina and, since I was feeling like the Happy Hitcher, that did not

It was then that I learned that there was ‘old’ US-220 running parallel to 220 back north to Greensboro. This road would take me directly back into Randleman and toward I-40 if I wanted to walk. Had I sat much longer, that is exactly what I would have done.

Hurricane Fay was something to consider as well. The weather forecasts were for a great deal of rain from yet another system on Monday and there was talk that Fay could make her slow-moving way into the Carolinas after she made landfall on the Gulf Coast. Insanely perhaps, this motivated me to get there! I still have an unnatural urge to ride out a hurricane and would definitely do a tropical storm in a good tent or a bivy. Just to do it. There was still too much uncertainty about the track of the storm but it would be hard to ride out a tropical storm hitting the coast sitting in ASHEBORO!

As the day wore on, I was content either waiting for a ride or walking. It did not really matter to me and at about 3:30, as I was preparing to hoof it, a red pickup truck pulled up next to me and asked if I was hungry.

Hungry? Really?

Most of the time when people asked if I needed money or food, it depended on the situation as to whether I would accept. My ride from Winston-Salem to Greensboro asked if I needed cash and I politely turned it down because, well, I really didn't and I hoped that would help to kill the freeloader stereotype in some small way. When Skeeter asked, (I’m not joking this time! That was his name! Cooter's cousin?) I was on the verge of saying no again but when he said that there was a barbeque going on and that they would have no problem with me joining I decided to accept. I needed real human interaction and this seemed like a possible gateway to adventure. Besides, it beat talking to the phone booth. One I'd already named Phil.

As we were leaving, Skeeter looked at me and asked if I was homeless. This took me slightly
aback, because NEVER had anyone asked up to this point. "Nope", I said wondering if I smelled like pee. He then gave me a look I will never forget. Either disappointment or anger! He actually hoped I WAS homeless! It would make perfect sense two minutes later. Skeeter asked me where I was headed. When I answered, "anywhere along the coast", he added that there were a lot of people who had come in from the coast for this ‘cookout’ and that I may be able to find a lift with one of them. I would later learn that to be a crock but, for now, this looked promising.

Skeeter (I love that name) pulled into a parking lot loaded with Harleys. There was a band onstage playing different versions of 'Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door', a dunk tank, lots of tables, and dozens of people milling about. 

It immediately became clear why Skeeter had stopped & why he was so disappointed I had a home: It was a church gathering. He was hoping to bring a hungry stray to the flock so they could feed and then save him!  

I dropped my backpack beneath a tree and, oddly, felt like I was doing a remote broadcast for a radio station. The moment the station arrives, if there is a crowd gathered they fawn over whomever exits the vehicle. 

Several of the parishioners went out of their way to introduce themselves and welcome me asking where I was headed and where I’d come from. When I told them I was from New Mexico, had gone up the Pacific Coast, hopped a freight train, then hitchhiked from Idaho, they, to a man, returned a look of horror!

Man, you’s gots ta be careful out there! There’s some crazies who will kills ya! Weren’t you worried ‘bout that?” 

These were Christians. Obviously very devoted to their religion, the word of ‘God’, Jesus; Peace on (White) Earth. All that. Yet they were utterly terrified of people. I was mildly surprised as to the extent, but not completely. This fed into my views of religion up to this point: that it encourages fear of the unknown thereby instilling a system of control, and perpetuates its own existence by providing conditional charity. 

Yes kids, a church gathering was an odd place for me to be.

I took advantage of the food and grabbed a few hot dogs, coleslaw, and cokes. 
"It was nice to eat warm food again as I mingled around trying to get a better gauge on this odd group of people. They seemed nice, polite, and very respectful but my initial fears were legit: that this little Christian biker mob was going to take turns violating me with their engorged personal testimonies in hopes one would inseminate me with Jesus. A few did mention their faith, but none tried to explore my spiritual leanings. Rest assured though, I was waiting for it, and plotting how to handle it if and when it came up.

The characters at this gathering made this the most interesting collection of people I have seen at any church. (Not that I've seen all that many.) There were reformed bikers, recent parolees, recovering addicts, teenagers, young children, and ordinary people. "Like any respectable cult!", I said to myself. All interacting normally and talking about Jesus. There was an inordinate amount of “Amen’s” and “Praise God’s”, even for
the setting. Several of them invited me to come to the service Sunday morning, and I replied that I just might if I was still (stuck) in town.

I also noticed something that astonished me considering the diversity: more blatant racism. Remember Titus & Stephen? Professing their belief in the word of God, but screaming, “take that nigger to jail!”  in the next sentence? There was some of that, though not as extreme, and I slowly realized that everyone there was white. There were no hispanics nor blacks despite the high percentage in the area. Several in the congregation gave 
no thought to expressing their negative opinions of minorities. The religious hypocrisy was staggering in its irony.

We had arrived toward the end of the BBQ, so I helped tear down and prepared to leave. I then learned that there was another gathering that night, up the road in Randleman, and they invited me to stop in if I got up that way. I had become very interested in this little group. I wanted to see more to learn how they reconciled their racism and xenophobia with Jesus! Plus, the idea of more free food sounded good and I still hoped I would snag a significant ride.

I was getting ready to hike off when Pat, the Asheboro pastor, offered me a ride a ways up 220 toward Randleman. I rode in the back of his pickup
until he dropped me off on Old 220, which was fine with me. I was probably 7-9 miles further north, closer to Randleman, and finally out of Asheboro. 

Here, I got the first sales pitch. He asked me where I “stood with Jesus”. Not wanting to engage in a Holy War in a gas station parking lot, yet feeling confidently combative enough to serve notice that I was not a potential ‘stray sheep’, I told him that we “define things much differently, have different views, but are on the same team.” 

I could see the wheels of religious intolerance whirling. He was not going to be content with anything except, “I’ve accepted Jesus as my personal Savior!” I managed to short-circuit the forthcoming sermon by simply saying I did not want to discuss theological philosophy with a pastor, but that I would try to get into Randleman later that evening where we could chat. That did not satisfy him. But, what could he do? He gave me directions, offered me money (which I declined) and we parted ways.

“What an interesting afternoon!” I thought as I walked into the gas station to ask for water (nope!) and get some cheapo cigarettes. I took a quick hose shower to cool off and prepared for the hike to Randleman. 

It was now about 5:30 and, while the sun was dropping, it was still in the muggy upper 80’s. I started north down Old 220 thinking I was in another town I had missed on the map. I was frustrated to learn that I was not even out of Asheboro! This was NORTH Asheboro! This befuddled me because now I had no gauge as to how far it was to Randleman. It could be as close as seven or as far as 15-20 miles. 

No. It never occurred to me to just stop to ask. 

The walk was sweatily exhilarating! I stopped regularly to rest, drink lots of water, and just watch the world around me. “This is SO much better than sitting by the highway!”, I thought to myself. I saw a water tower in the distance after walking a couple of miles but was not sure if it belonged to Randleman or “Way North Asheboro”! I held my hopes in check until getting close enough to read it an hour or two later: it was indeed Randleman.

There was a Dollar Store and Goodwill at a strip mall on the south end of town. I was getting pretty tired after walking close to 8-miles, plus my soft feet were blistering, so I stopped at Goodwill and occupied their bench contemplating the worthwhileness of continuing on to the church. Here I met a couple of very nice women, who took pity on me and my piss- warm water with ice-water from the employee lounge. They also warned me not to drink the water in Randleman; “something about the pipes has been making people sick”. They said Randleman’s ‘downtown’ was only another mile, so on I went keeping an eye out for places to camp in case Pat's directions were inaccurate: “Go to the fourth light, and, well… you’ll see where it is.” 

The fourth light came; I saw where it was. I was also glad to see that “HIS Place” was by an intersection of a road leading to US-220 where there was bound to be an on-ramp for camping.

"HIS Place"

It was still before 9 as I joyfully bounded inside knowing there was food to be had. I saw several familiar, smiling faces all warmly welcoming me and asking if I had walked from Asheboro. 

This group had a different feel than Asheboro's. More families. More couples. More cheerful. Fewer bikers. Maybe they had partaken in the wine before I had gotten there? Or, perhaps it was the fact that I had been walking that put me in better spirits. I'll let you decide, but regardless: I was smitten with Randleman. I mingled for a bit before helping myself to hamburgers and fries—inhaling them after walking off the hot dogs several miles back. As I was eating, a gentleman who looked to be about 60 came over to chat. 

Will wass originally from Michigan and had traveled the country the same ways I was. Will had walked and hitchhiked, but said, regretfully, that he never had the nerve to hop a train. He was one of the few people I had met here who were not convinced that everyone in the world was a murderer-in-waiting. He was also (coincidentally?) one of the few that had gotten out there to see it for himself. I wanted to chat more with him, but the pastor had interrupted the band to remind everyone that they were still in church, and that they should probably do some churchin’.


I really did not want to sit through this!

But, I settled in out of respect for the fact that they had welcomed me in and given me food. Twice. The least I could do was listen to what he had to say in hopes of maybe learning what bound this unique, diverse group together.

The pastor was a rough looking leather-clad biker type who clearly had not always ‘turned the other cheek’. And, looked like he could still “open the can” if needed. A regret I have is that I can't remember his name. Therefore, for the sake of the story I hereby dub him “Snake”. Pastor Snake. Nice.

Snake had an oratory gift and it was immediately apparent that this was not going to be the typical snoozer sermon. He began by criticizingmost Christians”. He condemned one of the things that irritate me most: loaded charity. Offering help only out of self-preservation & interest. Either as part of the Crusade or, as it pertains to my longstanding annoyance: because it will increase their standing with God! He verbalized it perfectly, bluntly, and to my amazement, with refreshingly appropriate anger! He pointed out that charity borne from self-interest is not charity at all; it is closer to a business arrangement: “I will help you only if it helps me!” To me, this has always stunk of the height of religious arrogance, hypocrisy, and deceit. Yet, not it’s only example.

Snake’s sermon then went on to topics that astounded and tingled my sense of synchronicity. He began to speak about several things I have been writing about since Ft. Morgan, and the things that Chris and I spent hours discussing in Denver. The “Splinter in the Mind”. Synchronicity. Self- doubt. And, amazingly enough, ignoring the institutionally-implanted idea that your life is expected to follow the course laid out for you by society. 

All of this? 

In church? 

Are you kidding?

It occurred to me that the excuse I had offered Pat in Asheboro, that “we define things differently”, may have been closer to truth than I had thought. Snake uses the term “Calling” for what I term, from the Bhagavad Gita (and The Moody Blues!) “The Voice”. He seems to believe, as do I, that everyone has this voice somewhere, but not everyone hears, or listens, to it. I have termed that being “tuned in”. The catalyst that enables most of us to “tune in” is that “Splinter in the Mind” that just will not go away, forcing us to listen to that "Voice"; the tuning process.

He also dove into one of my themes: self-doubt. He took an angle on this that, while a bit dogmatic for me, I was able to fit in to my own experience. According to Snake, if you are following a “calling” and are experiencing crippling self-doubt, it is "Satan" striving to knock you off course. He went on to offer that it is arrogant to believe that your own feelings of personal doubt in any way supersede "God's Purpose for You"; that if you’re following God’s Calling there is no way doubt should ever be a factor; God would never put you on a path you cannot complete. In Snake's eyes, believing that intellect (logic) and emotion are more accurate or reliable barometers than "the calling" is absurd. In fact, it's egocentric arrogance.

He slightly lost me with his Satan reference. Nevertheless, is it a stretch to make the connection that, usually, self-doubt is NOT something that originates within? Is not self-doubt, and by extension fear, usually the voice of society, 'education', indoctrination, a critical parent, teacher, or friends? Or, even your own? In my experience: absolutely. How often can you really trace the nexus of fear and doubt back to something that authentically originates within? Not often, provided you have the courage to dig deep enough. Careful! That will bake your noodle if you let it.

One point where Snake and I have diverging views, as I do with most theologians and 12-steppers, is the view that people should NOT take responsibility for, and trust, themselves. Snake believes that having faith in yourself is folly, when all you have to trust in is God!


This thinking blew me out of AA (back in the day) because it prevents people from taking responsibility and control of their own lives. “I’m powerless! Help me!” “If I’m bad it must be Satan! If I’m good it must be God!” Externalizing both the good and bad in humanity, and ourselves. Suggesting that people are puppets simply here to have our "strings pulled" is a convenient thought to instill if you wish to eliminate critical thought and individuality. It collectively stunts intellectual (and spiritual) growth. It also eliminates the idea that each person is capable of not just critical, but original thought AND action; that we are capable of more than just having other people’s ideas and doctrine spray painted on our mind’s wall. When they mess up and come up with something successfully innovative, "God spoke to him!" If it fails? Gotta be that pesky Satan again!

I've said this before, but this is another of my major irritants: people assuming they are “educated” or “witty” because they can parrot someone else's material, but vapor locking when they are challenged to explain it or add something of their own in their own words. Looking at you, Moonbeam.

Externalization forces people’s ideas to be formed primarily by the status quo rather than teaching us to formulate our own as we go. Original ideas that are developed primarily independent of the standard,  failed, intellectual fare, then seeking out the thinkers, philosophers-- even religions-- that suit our developing, distinct appetites. 

Reading is great. Thinking is better. 

Combining both (not in that order) to develop your own, original, philosophy is best. Blaze your own trail if you must; that is the essence of individualism.

Yet, in an odd way Snake also challenged each of these parishioners to challenge the status quo as it pertains to social expectations, saying that The Machine will indeed try to stop you from following your “calling”; silence the “voice”. Did he mean, by verbal connect-the-dots, that The Machine is Satan? There are examples of this sabotage everywhere; some are institutional and some a bit more subtle. I call it the “Ministry of Standards & Practices”. Maybe I'll post that rant here. Someday.

Finally, and most interestingly to me, were his thoughts on Synchronicity. He described it as “God sending angels out ahead of you to prepare the path", as long as you are on the prescribed trail. If you are following your calling you will not starve. Snake and I-–and many others—are in complete agreement on this, and as far as I can tell, the ‘nuts & bolts’ and the ‘how’ are irrelevant. He takes the same viewpoint on adversity met along the path as many others have: obstacles to be overcome and challenges which strengthen and teach us. For people on my end of the metaphysical spectrum: "experiences". Life to be lived. Easy to talk about; hard to practice.

Now, I have no opinion on the existence of angels! However, I have experienced these synchronistic things repeatedly; so have Chris and innumerable others. Those who tell logic and the accepted “method” to go to Hell, and just ‘do it’. We quickly discovered that things just ‘happen’ at just the right times and in the just right way--even if we cannot see it immediately. This is Synchronicity. It exists, even if I cannot explain how or why! I can also tell you, and Chris and others will back this up, that you cannot simply lean and rely on it!

You will not become Synchronicity’s Welfare Mother. Or, turn Karma or the Universe into your bitch. (That expanded theme would return, in force, a year later.) 

You have to meet it at least half way. If you believe that sitting in your house, waiting for Leonard Cohen’s "Miracle to Come" is going to trigger Enlightenment and put you on that path, take it from me: you will wake up one day wondering how Pink Floyd’s “ten years got behind you” and asking why “no one told you when to run.” “You missed the starting gun” because WE are the ones who fire it. Or, you will find yourself stuck on the proverbial (or real!) lonely exit ramp. Trust me!

This was a powerfully unconventional 45-minute sermon, and lest ye be worried, I have not been converted. The sermon left me, despite the volumes written above, more convinced and certain about my previous stance on religion. What disturbs me is that I had missed these parallel ideas out of ignorance. Ignorance about the specifics in the Bible; which I have avoided like Herpes. The ideas appeal to me; made me realize that on some level we are all speaking the same but differently-coded language.

The final stroke of lightning came shortly after Snake’s sermon when Will and I resumed our conversation. I felt comfortable enough with him to divulge a bit more about my ideas and experience and, of course, he repeated Pat’s question about where I “stood with Jesus”. I told him the same thing, that we are on the same team but define and view things much differently. 

To my astonishment, rather than try to argue, or save me, I caught him slyly smiling and nodding his head. “What?!? Are you actually agreeing with me?” He knew exactly what I was getting at and, rather than argue for me to ‘get on board’, he continued asking about the trip and how I had gotten to be in Randleman. He asked about what triggered my traveling in the first place and when I used the “Splinter in the Mind” phrase, and quickly encapsulated the last four years, he looked astounded. He was convinced that I was ‘called’. If by “called” he meant that I couldn’t help what I was doing and that I was simply following my own steps toward singularity in mind, body, and ‘soul’, then yes, I agreed: I was called. 

I was NOT however acknowledging anything beyond that. I would offer that I had seen and experienced many things, had compared my experiences with those of others to be sure that I was not nuts (self-doubt), had challenged my own ideas whenever I could and, instead of coming out dejected and beaten, my ideas have only expanded. They've found new avenues to travel and expand themselves. Ideas like an appreciation for the ideas behind, but institutional disgust for, religion.

Then Will pointed out something that stunned me in my ignorance. He just smiled and said, “Todd, do you realize Jesus Christ was NOT religious? He despised organized religion! He called them “fornicators” because they were *whispering* screwing the word of God!” Screwing, manipulating, and bastardizing truth for profit, control, and power. Of course, I did NOT know that. But, that made perfect sense. I would expect Jesus to despise organized religion, or else I'd discount everything he had to say! 

I am now rather interested in this aspect of Christ. How much and why, exactly, did he despise organized religion? And, why is that so conveniently ignored? Or, should I get out more?! 

I then remembered my Muslim ride, “Z”, telling me that one of the four lines attributed to Mohammad in the Koran is something akin to “live your life as a traveler”. This piqued my interest in the fact that Christ, Mohammad, and Buddha all have ‘wandering’ as a theme.

Despite this experience, it is obvious to me that hypocrisy remains deeply entrenched throughout organized religion. The fact that they use "God" as a weapon to control thought and action while instilling, and then manipulating, fear is unavoidable fact. And so are the obscene, tax-free profits many evangelicals pull in.

“God’s watching you, keeping score!” “Do what we say, or you’re going to HELL! By the way, my flock, God spoke to me and told me to provide bigger tits for Tammey Faye. Pony Up, and let's buy bigger boobs! For JESUS!”

Further, take a gander at Focus on the Family or any of the other douchbags blaming Katrina on gays, or whatever group they hate this week, just so you will vote Republican! Many people are taking that gander. Religion is experiencing a Vietnam-like recruiting crisis with more and more choosing "Spiritual But Not Religious" as their denomination.

When it comes to a ‘relationship with God’, I like Ramtha’s analogy at the end of “What the Bleep Do We Know?” (paraphrase): "to think that one little speck in some remote corner, of a remote galaxy, in a remote corner of infinity, could do something that offends God? THAT is the height of human arrogance." I suspect that there are many more, and we probably make up the real "silent majority."

Will offered to let me help him on a roofing job the following week and when he learned about my radio experience, almost shrieked with joy. He is organizing a “Christian Woodstock” in North Carolina and needs help getting the stream online. Ultimately, I turned down the roofing job offer but said I would definitely consider returning to help with the show. And meant it.

I took a picture of some of those still left at HIS Place and as I rode out of town toward US-220 with Will, the intellectual enormity had yet to settle about what I had just experienced. There was intensity to be sure, but the thoughts and ideas were no more than implants on that Saturday night. It would take almost two weeks to processed them properly, if only partially. (Thus the delay!)

Will dropped me at the ramp to 220 again. I was again unmotivated to walk, even after everything that had happened; choosing to simply revert to habit! The night however was NOT quite over. But, since I am over 4,600 pre-edited words already, you will have to wait for this little Dukes of Hazard scene. 

4,600 is about the length of Obama’s acceptance speech, so kudos if you have made it all the way through; writing it was quite an intense non-stop 6 1/2 hours!

My hands hurt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

8/21/08: NC-Three Steves, Titus, and a Gun

The drive from Nashville to Knoxville was smooth, although the decision was not! Kim & Rich did not seem to care where they dropped me off. So, for some reason, I initially decided on Chattanooga, but five minutes after we left I had second thoughts, thinking the Appalachian Trail may be an appealing option once I neared Asheville. Therefore, Knoxville it was.

I slept a good part of the way, while Kim snapped pictures and Rich drove. We got to Knoxville in mid-afternoon, then found a decent truck stop where they could drop me off. We milled around a bit then began the process of saying goodbye.

I still had the Canadian Flag on the backpack, and a guy who was walking inside made a funny comment about it as he walked by. Not rude, just obnoxious. That was my first indication that the symbol of our northern neighbors may not attract the same affection as out west.

We took pictures, chatted, then when Kim & Rich finally got in the car to leave, the guy who commented on the flag, now back in his truck in the next parking place, asked me what I was up to. He had overheard the exchange and become interested in what I
was doing. About the time that Kim and Rich had backed their car up, Steve had offered to take me about 60-miles up the road, to Newport. I hadn't even left the sidewalk and had a ride.

Oh, Happy Day!

I glanced at Kim’s face and saw something akin to amazement. Or, was it fear? I’m not sure, but I got a kick out of it. She had been expressing misgivings about just ‘dropping me in the middle of nowhere’, and I was glad  she saw I wasn't stuck. I loaded the pack into the bed of the pickup, and waved once more to Kim as they drove off.
Steve was  middle aged and in the passenger seat of the truck and, judging by the equipment in the back, I used my Superpowers of Deduction to reason that they were heading home from work. His son was driving, also named Steve (Stephen). He was not there when his dad offered the ride, but seeing a stranger in the backseat did not faze him. We were quickly back on I-40 & heading east toward Newport, and ultimately for me, North Carolina.

This was the weekend of the NASCAR race in Bristol and I believe that Stephen was having visions of battling Darrel Waltrip for the checkered flag which, in his mind, seemed to be waving at the Newport exit since he drove 90mph the entire way. He was not reckless; just in a hurry. I was happy to be making good time toward Asheville.

Steve Sr. sat in the passenger seat drinking Bud Lights the entire way, with me resupplying from the cooler next to me in the back seat. He
seemed to be quite interested in my travels and I tried my best to describe them but the time off the road, which by now was more than a month, had stilted the easy- conversationalism I'd tapped into out west. That was clearly apparent to me, but I doubt that he noticed anything. He went on to tell me that they were from Michigan, from the Algonac area, and that they had relocated to Tennessee after the construction industry dried up, along with everything else in Michigan. They simply could not survive up there anymore and were doing only slightly better in Tennessee.

It was a pleasant, and thanks to Jr., quick ride to the Newport exit. Steve Sr. told me that I was now in the Appalachians, and with the ‘hill folk’, which immediately conjured up images of "Deliverance."

*C’mon Squeeeeal!* eh, H. H.?

I didn’t envision a canoe trip through the mountains, so I let this little glimpse of "Rebel Hell" fade away.

The Steves dropped me at a little gas station and were quickly on their way. I went to refill the water bottle, not having any idea how long I’d be waiting, and quickly learned another difference between east and west: getting water. The entire way--California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado--never do I recall being charged for water. Ice? Once. Water? Never. The truck stop in Knoxville had charged something like $0.35, and this gas station had only a sink to use. The “pay or fill up in the bathroom” theme would continue throughout.

Asheville was my goal for the day and only another 40-50 miles down I-40. I had been optimistic that I would get there since everyone I had talked to, and everything I had read, indicated that Tennessee was good for hitching. North Carolina? A bit shadier on the praise, while the inhabitants of Georgia and South Carolina were supposedly a folk not yet informed that the Civil War had ended, or that the slaves had been freed. Mississippi? I already knew that to be fact!

These were the thoughts as I left the gas station for the ¼-mile walk to the on- ramp. I was in another world; one more familiar than the west coast, and not all of it triggered positive recall! I was rather anxious to see how things would go as I sat down, lit a cigarette, and tried to refocus my mind to ‘Road’.

I didn’t even get to finish the cigarette.

As I was sitting there in the muggy 90-degree sun looking for aspirin, a red pickup hauling a trailer loaded with welding equipment pulled over and asked where I was headed. I told them Asheville, using the ‘underselling’ technique, and they told me to hop in. THIS would be an interesting ride!

Titus, 22, and Stephen (yes, another one), 30, were from central Kentucky, and on their way to Winston-Salem, NC for work. They assemble water towers all over Kentucky, Tennessee, and NC, and were due in Winston that night.

Titus was a quiet guy, but you could tell that when he had something to say, he’d say it and mean it. He was seemingly content to observe me and go from there, striking up occasional conversation, but I was in the same 'look & see' mode he was. These two made me a bit edgy, especially after I let it slip that I was a “Yankee”, and Titus glanced at Stephen with what seemed to be an inside thing.

*C’mon Squeeeeal!*

Stephen: a southern caricature. Picture a well dressed, well groomed, racist, xenophobic Larry the Cable Guy. The perfect redneck (his description) stereotype, with such a thick drawl I could understand only half of what he said before I adjusted. And man! He loved to talk. Maybe that was why Titus was so quiet? Couldn't get a word in! As we passed into North Carolina, I began to discover why Stephen was so chipper. Care to guess?


Bud Light.

At this point, he was pounding ‘em at a rate of two every five minutes. And yes, I WAS keeping track; again I was the server! Perhaps this is the key to hitching down south.

As we approached Asheville, I began to feel much more comfortable. Just some good ol’ boys…never meanin’ no harm. Had been in trouble with the law since the day they was born? I’ll never know, but they reminded me of my youth and the people from around Hilltucky. They threw around ‘nigger and fag’ like I throw around the word “I”.

“I “sat in the back, and enjoyed the stereotypes displayed before me. Stephen would shout out the window, “Take that nigger to jail!” one minute, then talk about Jesus and his Christianity the next. And no Hippie, I didn’t say anything to them about it. And no, I didn’t get out of the truck. This was priceless!

Shortly before Asheville, Titus asked me if I was riding with them all the way to Winston-Salem. The beauty of “underselling”: It gives YOU a way out if the rides are unbearable, and it does not obligate the driver to take you far if they are nervous about picking you up. It then gives you the chance to sell yourself; show them that you are not going to be asking for money, cigarettes, food...whatever.

And to let them see you don’t smell like pee. Hear that Hippie? Try NOT to smell like peeee! (Upward inflection on pee)

Now, the hippies amongst us may ask, “Todd, why didn’t you speak up, or get out of the truck when you heard the racist comments?” (Up- inflections on “up”, “truck”, and “comments". Fun, eh?) There was another reason, beyond entertainment value. They had been laying down heavy, not so subtle hints that if I were to try anything, like pulling a knife, that they could “take care of business”. I had no interest in pissing off two Kentucky rednecks while riding in their truck through the Appalachians. Dig? Besides, I enjoyed the observer role to this point, and we were getting along just fine. Why rock the boat?

Allow me to now share why you don't rock it: Just past Asheville, Titus pulled what looked like a .44 pistol from between his seat and the console.

Awwwwww… Todd’s first gun pulling!

He did not pull it out for any purpose, other than to let me know it was there, and I never saw it again after he put it back, which was immediately. Strangely enough, this did not bother me. Then again, why would it? Just reminded me of Hilltucky. I knew that these two had no problem with me, and were not going to rob me. (HA! Rob me of what? Cliff bars?) What I found comical was that these two tough guys, as it turned out, were more afraid of me than I had been of them! The thing that, apparently, gave them the courage to stop in the first place was the two redneck staples: beer and guns.

After at least ten beers, Stephen took the wheel and from there the ride was great. Everyone relaxed, discarded the fronts, and somehow I was able to coax them out of their redneck, bravado dress up. Well, almost. We began talking about things like trust, fear, and how people should treat other people; the golden rule. Amazingly, they are BOTH passionate about these things, and the Bible began to come up over and over again.

God n’ Guns.

It struck me how ironic these ‘values’ sounded coming from a guy who had been yelling “Take that nigger to jail!” shortly before.

It is really a cultural thing, isn’t it? I have said it 1000 times, and seen it first- hand: they breed it into them. Therefore, Hippie…if I may return to this for a moment...all ‘taking a stand’ may have gotten me is thrown out of the truck at best, and pistol-whipped at worst. By keeping my mouth shut, I got some insight into their world, their outlooks (right or wrong), their disconnect, and it set a nice foundation for the major theme of North Carolina. Religion and its hypocrisy.

Do I have ANY hippies left by now?

The ride ended nicely, and they were treating me like an old (white) friend by the time they dropped me at a Holiday Inn Express in Winston-Salem at about 9:15. I came away thinking that these men were indeed good people. Despite the drunk driving, the gun, innumerable racial slurs.

It was late; I was out of practice. Late at least to be hunting a nest in an unfamiliar, urban area. I called Laina then found my way to the old standby: between the exit ramp and highway. It wasn’t perfect, but it was rather isolated and it felt good to be back on the ground again. Strange.

I had realized early on that I was not feeling entirely connected to what I was doing. I missed the excitement of new experience. I laughed quietly in the first Stephen’s truck when I realized how things had changed. I was getting through this day solely on experience. In California, the first days were navigated by blind excitement. I’d rather have the excitement! I attributed this to being off the road for so long, and hoped it would return soon.

And, by the way, where the hell was I going? How far I had unexpectedly come affected that. I had hitched a new personal record 270-miles on Thursday: I'd neither expected nor planned for that. I had planned to use the time around the NC border, near Asheville, to get my bearings and plot a route. I had done very little homework on Winston-Salem, or even I-40 beyond Asheville. I did not realize, to my utter shame, that there was a mini metroplex beginning with Winston-Salem and including Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham.

That damn ‘P’ word rearing its head again. No hippie, not “Progressive”! "Plan". (Ha!) 

I kid the hippies. Think they get it? Me neither.

I updated my journal then passed out, electing not to use the bivy. It was a beautifully warm, muggy night as I was dozing off so I did not even bother with the sleeping bag.

I should have bothered. I froze, and woke the next morning to the horrific realization that I had slept nearly on top of a spider den! Wouldn't be the last time that happened...

LESSON: Find the campsite BEFORE dark!

Lesson my ass. I never do that.