So the last 24 hours have been pretty crazy, finally left the comfort of staying with people I know and actually took the plunge that I have been preparing for these last 6 months or so. Hanging out with Mette and Nick in Palm Harbor has been awesome fun, and I met alot of really cool people in Clearwater and Dunedin, but this is why I came to America! To do something stupid!
Amanda and Abby had just messaged me out of blue on couchsurfing.org, asking if I wanted to hang out and maybe grab a beer as they saw I was travelling and in the Tampa area. We exchanged a few messages, and it turned out I actually needed to stay in Tampa to make it Gainsville in the time period I had set for this leg of my trip. So I sent them a message asking if it would be possible for me to crash at their place, and a date was set!
Nick dropped me off where I thought I was ment to be 2 days later, and I call Amanda, turns out im on the wrong street, but hey gives me an excuse to skate a bit! We get up to the appartment and I meet Abby. We proceed to hang out a bit, get to know each other, you know basic stuff; where are you going where are you from ectect. As we talk I notice that there is some rather interesting glasswork on the corner table, and the Bob Marley posters start to make sense. The 3 of us are smoking and talking in the kitchen, whilst Amanda is cooking dinner, very relaxed, got some nice music in the background (some indy/hiphop mix CD I think, odd mix, but it works).
As we eat the conversation really starts to flow, talking about the meaning and the circumstances of our various tattoos, family backgrounds, favorite tv shows, you know, the important stuff. I think we ended up talking until around 1am, probably something to do with the fact that we started talking politics, and those discussions are NEVER short. At that point Abby declares her tiredness, and I realise im actually completely knackered, I just had not noticed as the conversation had been so stimulating. Abby hand me some blankets and a pillow, and I set my self up on the couch. Pretty comfy. Awesome night.
Hitchhiking out of Tampa
Everything I had read about hitching in florida had prepared me for how much it was going to suck, 8+hour long waits, random downpours, crazy people picking you up, getting ditched in the middle of nowhere, I was ready mentally to deal with all this; worst I had to deal with is some sunburn, and casual racism.
Time - 8.30am
Abby dropped me off at the exit ramp to the I275 in Tampa. I skate around until I find a likely looking dumpster and fish out some cardboard to make a sign. "GAINESVILLE PLEASE :)" Then I roll back over to the on ramp and set myself up to try and hitch a ride. The ramp is a long one, with some grass on the right side with a small amount of hardshoulder for people to pull up to, figure I should be fine. 30 minutes later I'm a bit less sure of myself. 1 hour later Im telling myself I have all day its no biggy. 1 hours 15 minutes later Willy picks me up! Yay! He takes me about 5 miles up the interstate to where he thinks there is a better on ramp to catch out from, I agree, simply because I was sick of that one. Willy dosent really talk much, other then asking me why I dont have a job. I tell him of my plans, and he seems to accept that I'm young and stupid enough to get away with it.
Next on ramp, 5 miles down the road. I set up on the edge of the concrete barrier here, faithfully holding my sign out to the 2 lanes of on coming traffic, not much hard shoulder here, hopefully it will be ok. After about an hour I see a guy about my age start walking up the on ramp to come talk to me. After talking to me for a little while, he says that he will be driving up to Gainesville tomorrow night, so if Im still stuck, he will give me a ride. Safety blanket aquired. Another hour or so of waiting sees a pickup truck with 2 hispanic guys in front. They offer to take me a few miles up the road, I take the ride, not from any practical point, but beacuse I want to ride in the back of a pickup. Yeah I'm lame.
Next on ramp is the worst yet. Plenty of hard shoulder, plenty of grass to sit/stand on. But no bloody traffic. Honestly at this point I was starting to feel like i was never going to make it to Gainesville, and I was going to have to call Austin to give me a ride the next day. However I stuck it out, and maybe 90 minutes after I arrive I get picked up again, by another pickup. This time I get to ride up front though. My driver this time around is a middleclass business owner, I forget the guys name, and to be honest all i can really remeber is how hideously racist he was. Everything wrong with America was the fault of minorities and immigrants in his eyes. I tried to introduce him to some alternate ideas in that field, he wasnt exactly having any of it, and I didnt really want to force the issue (hey I was in his car, and had seen his gun!) He drops me next to a truck stop on the edge of Tampa, and my energy for hitchhiking is renewed, from a truckstop, my next ride was certainly going to get me to Gainesville!
Got about half a litre of water left, should be fine despite the heat
Damn its hot.
Got maybe 2 swigs of water left. When it runs out I have problems in this heat.
Water just about gone, time to head to a cafe or something and fill my bottle up.
Lee picks me up in his truck!
To be continued...