55 RIDES TO CROSS THE COUNTRY – part 2
55 RIDES – part 2
It was an easy walk getting back to the freeway from where we stayed over. I got rides to Indianapolis, on Interstate 70, then a good ride past Columbus Ohio, to Zanesville, almost to Interstate 77, where I planned to go south. I was pretty close to my grandparent’s house.
It was late afternoon and it was clouding up to rain. Which it did just as a young couple picked me up, smiling as they said, “they didn’t want my guitar to get wet.” They were going to the girl’s family cabin at a nearby lake. They invited me to stay the night. I had dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Next morning after breakfast, they drove out of their way a few miles to drop me off on Interstate 77. They were very nice, and I was grateful. I was rested and well fed.
A couple of rides and sixty miles later, I was in Parkersburg, West Virginia, where I picked up State Hwy 50 east. It was just about noon. My grandparents lived in Bridgeport, only sixty more miles.
At this point in my trip, I was over three-quarters of the way across the country, five nights out from L.A., and at ride number eighteen.
I got to my grandparent's house very late, just a stone’s throw from the highway. And having arrived unannounced, instead of waking them, I fell asleep on the couch on the porch, where my grandmother found me early the next morning.
She took me for an itinerant hobo, or some such, which, I guess I really was, looking for an easy spot to bed down. Then she recognized me. It made for a good laugh, even more so in a way, as I had slept crooked on my left leg and could hardly walk. It was numb most of the day before it woke up. It was good to see her and Pop after many years.
I stayed with them a week, liking the small-town feel. I saw a few aunts and uncles I hadn’t seen since I was a child. I was kind of hoping something like a job might develop where I could stay for a while.
But it came time to move on. Uncle Charlie dropped me off early morning at the edge of town and I was headed for parts unknown. I would be through here again next year on my motorcycle trip south to see my family in Louisiana.
The next three days were a blur. Hitching on the interstate had been easy compared to the numerous short rides I was getting now. My ride count rose sharply. Adding to it was the fact that I had decided to fast for a few days, thinking I would save a few bucks.
My first night out I spent on Hwy 50 deep in the forests of western Maryland. It was desolate. Getting through Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, took most of the next day.
I spent the night with a group of partiers partying somewhere on the Jersey Shore. Onto Interstate 95 the next morning through New York City, which I found amazingly huge, and a guy who had missed his exit was backing up on the freeway. We barely missed him.
A Yale University student named Dave, picked me up outside of New Haven. He said if I was looking for a job, I should go to Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, and look up Brian, who ran the golf course at the Eastward Ho Country Club. He might be needing help now that many of his workers had left for the school fall semester. It sounded like a really good idea. It was just a couple hundred miles away.
Now I had a destination. I felt relieved and wanted to take it easy. I got off of 95 at Hwy 1 leading down to Long Island Sound and the fishing town of Mystic. A young lady with a mentally challenged little boy picked me up. She was going to Mystic, which was indeed, picturesque.
Two young gals going to Pawcatuck (not Pawtucket,) on the Connecticutt and Rhode Island border, pulled over to give me a lift. It was just a few miles away, on the Pawcatuck River.
They invited me to a picnic dinner with some of their friends, and a place to stay for the night. It had been a long two and a half days since I had eaten, and I was famished. I ate a lot of spaghetti, and slept soundly.
The next morning, I made it up to Providence, where I picked up Interstate 195, eastward to Hwy 6, leading to Cape Cod. Crossing the Cape Cod Canal towards evening, I was on the last leg of the trip to Chatham, and the golf course.
I got a ride from a fellow going to Provincetown, at the northern tip of the Cape, but he took me a ways toward Chatham, advising me that the town would be pretty much closed down for the night. Not knowing what I would find upon arrival, I decided to get out at a crossroad outside of town. I thanked him and he turned around headed back to the highway. He was nice.
It was now dark, and after a long day and numerous rides, I decided to bed down where I was. For the first time on the whole trip, I pulled out my sleeping bag and slept at the edge of the woods.
Up early on a very cool and crisp morning, I hiked the short distance into town. It had one traffic light, blinking yellow. I went into a small, bustling café and ordered toast and refills of coffee. After getting directions to the golf course, I headed for the road I needed and stuck out my thumb. I had twenty dollars, the same amount I had started with.
I got a ride from a construction worker headed to Orleans, the next town north, a few miles away. The Country Club was on the way and he dropped me off.
I saw no one looking like club personnel, but it was still early. A group of golfers were out on the first tee. I hung out at the maintenance building and was playing my guitar when a man pulled up. I said, “Hi, I’m Ron. I’m looking for work. Dave said to see Brian.” “You’re hired!” said Brian.
And just like that, I landed the best paying job I ever had, in a beautiful place on a highland overlooking Pleasant Bay to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
My trip took fifty-five rides and nine overnights, plus the week stay at my grandparents. It would be four years before I made it back to California.
End part 2, part 1.