Traveling in the palmetto state was sweet. But the heat and humidity were near unbearable. While standing on the ramp of Hwy.74/76 across the Cape Fear river from Wilmington, NC, I had a moment where I felt a bit nauseous and thought about retreating to some shade. But I held firm and made it as far a s Supply on Hwy. 17 south before finding a place to roll out by an old graveyard. The inhabitants were quiet and the mosquitoes not too bad.
Next day found me back on the shoulder, thumb out, refreshed with the relative morning coolness. My very first ride of the day was an older man driving an eighteen-wheeler. He was headed to some place I have now forgotten, but he went well out of his way to drop me in downtown Conway. It was a cool way to get going. He went the back roads, which is my favorite way to travel, and we had a good long talk about all sorts of things. I always have good luck with truckers, guess cause my dad was one. The big rigs are like a second home to me.
I walked across Conway after a water refill at a small bait shop. Finally a place came along where a vehicle could safely pull off the highway. The highway was two-laned but the shoulder had a curb that disallowed pulling over. Three good rides and I was almost into Florence. For a state that has made it illegal to hitch the interstate system, the secondary roads are great traveling. Florence is the gateway to I-20 and the west.
I had slogged it out on I-40 back in the tar heel state. It took me nearly a week to cross North Carolina! I am glad I took that shakedown run, it revealed a lot. Now I was taking the advise of a woman who had been part of a husband and wife driving team. She suggested that I take 20 because that is the most popular route for west coast bound rigs. So here I was flying across South Carolina. Nice.
The road system is a bit funky around Florence. I jogged north to the Pilot truck stop on I-95. Go north to go west, weird. No luck on the fueling line and a mouthy yard attendant put me off from the truck stop. It is the only truck stop that I have encountered such behavior. I still wonder why he was not saying anything to two cowboy dressed lot lizards that were working the fuel line!
By the side of the highway where the trucks exit, I made a crude sign from some scrounged cardboard. Tip: always carry a few pieces of cardboard and a fat marker for signs. From a service station across the way I saw the old two-tone Chevy suburban come out and across the lanes. It pulled to a stop by me. A middle aged black man leaned over and spoke across his wife, asking if I would like a ride. II replied I would, but I was heading to I-20. He said they were going to Spartanburg. Yes! And so I met James and his wife Cherese. They were from Fayetteville, NC and were going to visit relatives in Spartanburg. According to James, they tried to perform at least one good deed a day, and today I was it.
James is a preacher who runs a small mission that helps the homeless and downtrodden. They related their stories while carrying me down I-20. At soon as a fast food place came into view they bought me a meal and James slipped me five bucks for the future, “Man gotta eat,” he said. They had both been through a lot, living on the streets. Cherese had been abandoned by her own kin while pregnant. They new what real need was. I instantly loved them. We talked about all kinds of things from todays youth to JC. It was all a great hoot.
They new a truck stop in Columbia. They said there was a preacher for trucker's at that place who could help me. So I reluctantly parted company with my new friends and found myself in a non-descript little truck stop during some of the hottest weather in a long time. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my journey.