The heat while I was in Columbia was terrible. Combine that with the relentless humidity and foul air and you had the makings of a miserable place. The light grey t-shirt I was wearing became so grimy from the air I through it away.
I briefly checked out the Trucking For Jesus place. A refurbished long haul trailer that served as office and meeting place. No one home it seems. Nearby was a camper trailer with roll out shade and cheap plastic outdoor furniture. And a picnic table. I dropped the pack and sat on the table while taking the place in.
A group of trucks sat idling on my current side of the little truck stop building. In front of the truck stop was the gas pumps for the four wheelers. A barrier separated that space from a small fueling line. Beyond that was a large gravel parking area for the rigs. more businesses lay beyond, mainly a large repair shop and slightly above the place in elevation a large building for washing big rigs. the truck stop had the usual set of scales and a small repair facility of its own behind the main building. All in all a typical layout but on a much smaller scale.
A young man emerged from somewhere and approached me. He had red hair and the type of fair freckled skin that is not made for a southern sun. He came up and introduced himself as Dennis from Kentucky. He claimed that he and his family had been stranded at this place by so-called friends the day before, and where waiting on some help from the Truckin’ for Jesus people. I explained what I was about and he said that most of the trucks that came here were locals. That didn’t sound good. He went on to say that he was trying to make his way to Florida where a potential job was waiting. But he had complained about the friends use of dope around his young daughter. So while he and family had gone to the restroom, the so-called friends had dumped their belongings out onto the parking lot and and sped away, leaving them here without any means.
I went around to the trucks that were at idle and looked to see if there was someone visible. I sure as heck wasn’t going to knock on the doors unannounced. No one showing. Went into the truck stop and moseyed through the little store and the adjacent eatery, then out into the horrific heat and the fuel line. No one there. Went over to the parked rigs. No one stirring. Walked back to the restaurant side and found a patch of shade to sit in. I braced for a long stay. It was a good thing I did. I had no luck at all the rest of the day. My fears of being stranded were beginning to get the best of me.
Just as I was about to get restless, the stranded family came around. The woman was on the large side and the little girl was covered in mosquito bites. They seemed more desperate than I was so I gave them the remainder of the fiver that James had slipped me earlier and I dug out my Burt’s Bee’s mosquito ointment and gave them that for the little one. Apparently they had slept out in the grassy area behind the truck stop and the mozzies had assaulted them relentlessly through the night. More forebodings as it looked I would end up there myself.
As the sun waned a large moving semi moving truck pulled in. As per usual I went over to it and asked if I could get a lift. They were parking for the night so no lift, but, they had some food left over they could not fit into their fridge and I was welcomed to that. Nice. Got to eat a second time that day. After woofing down the BBQ chicken wings and fries, I waited till sundown and found what looked to be a safe place to roll out in some very tall grass. The hill was bermed with old tires. That was where the mozzies were hanging out. I had developed a technique for protecting myself from the biters while on my shakedown run. Tonight would put it to a real test.
I slept in fits. Not because of the mosquitos though. My covering worked, but that irritating whine was in my ears most of the night. I gave up about four o’clock and put my rig back together. The trucks were starting up for the day. I tried all that had anyone around them and the fuel line without any luck. I took a stab at hitching the ramp but the damn thing was laid out badly and the no pedestrian sign was placed in a way that prevented me from being in a good spot. About nine I gave up and walked back to the truck stop and decided to give the Jesus folks a try.
They had gotten the stranded family a place to stay last night, so maybe they would be kind enough to get me down the interstate at least as far as a major truck stop. They hemmed and hawed about it. I gave them James name and number he had wrote on a piece of paper for me. Said they knew him. They claimed otherwise. Getting no where, I thanked them for their time and went back out to the fuel line. Lo and behold, a new truck was pulling in. I went to check it out.
They fellow was putting a hose in the passenger side fuel tank as I walked up. I asked for a lift west. He wanted to know where I was heading. I pulled the atlas from my pack and pointed to the spot where Green River, Utah would be if it was on the map. He said he could get me to Kansas City, Missouri. I was stunned. Did I hear right. Yes I did. Wow. He let me stow my gear and told me to meet him at the diner. A hot breakfast and then the road.
John was his name. He would not normally be in that area but needed some tires. Guess this was the ride I was kept waiting for. From that time on, I knew to just go with the flow. It always works out. Just be patient. Two days later we rolled into the big truck stop on I-70 outside KC. I had crossed the Big Muddy, seen the St. Louis arch and had been treated to good meals. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was having the time of my life.