I didn’t sleep at all last night. Not just because I was literally surrounded by squirrels, rats, lizards and opossum (one that actually ran across my sleeping bag), but also because I was sleeping near the road….and the railroad tracks.
So needless to say I got an early start.
Despite the lack of sleep, I was feeling pretty good. It was a beautiful day and I was rocking and walking.
I set out with the goal to break my record on miles in a day for two reasons. One because I started early and was feeling it and two because I wanted to get as close to Tampa as possible because I was going to be staying with a friend from our church back home that had moved down here (Jim Ferguson) and I didn’t want him to have to drive far because he said he’d pick me up.
So I was determined to get as close as possible and I was making good progress and having fun doing it.
After awhile I sat down and called a couple of people for references because I’m applying to a workaway volunteer job and while I was on the phone, a car pulled up to me and asked me if I needed a ride. Being as that this has been a common occurrence on my trip and the fact that he had a dog, I didn’t think twice about it…
This was the only bad experience I’ve had on my trip so far. Before I begin to tell you what happened. Let me just say this, just because someone has a dog, does not mean they are a good person.
When I got in with him I introduced myself and he told me his name was Todd and that his dog’s name was Chelsea. After telling him about my trip a bit, he began coming on to to me. I immediately told him that he was making me uncomfortable and to pull over. He did and I got out and shuttered as he pulled away.
After awhile of being angry and disgusted, I prayed for him that he would get some help or be taken in for anything he’s done because I don’t doubt that he was a predator.
Also a heads up to all my readers, with my book I will be holding nothing back and keeping it as it happened.
Anyways, with that being said, my day had taken a turn and I wasn’t exactly walking on sunshine anymore. Once I had walked a few more miles, I took a break under a bridge and decided to read my bible because I’m trying to get into the habit of reading it everyday.
After I read and wrote my questions down, I was feeling a bit better and continued my walk.
While I was walking I noticed a farmers market. Now normally I stop at any farmers market I see because I can get fresh fruit cheap, but today I wasn’t going to stop because I was alright on food and I just wanted to keep moving. However, this guy waved me over and asked me about my trip. I told him about what I was doing and he asked if he could get my picture. I laughed and said sure. After he took it, I learned his name was Peter and he was the owner of the market.
“Do you want some fruits?”
“Yeah, definitely!” I said.
Peter then gave me a bag full of apples and oranges.
“Wow, thank you!”
“No problem. Keep you fed right?”
“Yeah! So where are you from?”
“I’m originally from Laos, but I moved down here from Michigan years ago.”
“What did you do in Michigan before this?”
“Well, I did everything. I worked in mechanical engineering, for nonprofits, gardening. Then I came down here,” he said smiling.
“Kind of a Jack of all trades, eh?”
“Yup,” he laughed.
After that I said my goodbyes to Peter.
If anyone is looking for fresh fruit and want to support a great guy’s business check out:
After I left Peter’s Fresh Market, I felt in better spirits and continued my Rockwalk.
When I was noticing how beautiful the day was I walked past these two guys loading up a truck.
“Beautiful day,” I said
“Gorgeous. Man, that is quite a load you have there.”
“Yeah, I’m backpacking all 50 states.”
“Yup, and I’m writing books along the way about my adventures.”
I walked up to them and offer my hand and shook theirs. I found out their names were Wayne and Robert E. Lee.
“You know this one over here used to travel,” Wayne said indicating Robert.
“Yup, I hitchhiked down to and around mexico,” Robert said.
“Wow, that’s awesome.”
“Yeah, it was a good time. Hey do you need a new hat?” Robert said indicating the hat he was trying to bend back into shape.
“Yeah, sure!” I said.
Robert handed me a wicker hat which is much more breathable than my wool Indiana Jones hat.
“Thank you,” I said putting it on.
“Looks good on you,” Robert said.
“Now they’ll feel sorry for ya,” Wayne said and laughed.
I laughed too.
“You know I saw you down the road and what caught my eye was your sleeping mat. You don’t look homeless and I knew you had some miles on ya,” he said.
“Thanks, I try to look my best,” I said and laughed straightening my hat.
“Here, wife gave me these. Their hard boiled eggs straight from the fridge,” Robert said.
“Well hey, thank you. Here let me get you guys my business cards so you can watch me along the way if you want.
After that I said my goodbyes and was back in high spirits. But God wasn’t done blessing me that day.
I continued walking and checked my GPS and realized I had already walked 15 miles and it wasn’t even 1pm yet. I smiled thinking, i’m going to beat my record today.
As I walked, I came across a gas station. I saw this guy pumping gas and mentioned something I’m used to hearing
“That’s quite a load you’ve got there.”
“Yup, i’m backpacking all 50 states.”
I walked up to him and got to meet one of the coolest guys I’ve met on this trip so far.
We shook hands and he told me his name was Don.
“So what do you do for a living?”
“I do everything. I’m a renaissance man. I paint, I write, I sculpt, I fish,” Don said.
We talked about our personal philosophies and Don said a lot of his in poetry form. Here Don shares some in my video:
When I shook Don’s hand, I noticed a massive scar and a large chunk of his arm was gone. He explained that he’d been shot by a 45 and was left bleeding to death. Someone had picked him up and carried him to the hospital saving his life. He never found out who and said he’d been paying it forward ever since.
Here is some poetry that was inspired by the event:
A few seconds later he asked me where I was headed.
“I’m working my way North toward Tampa.”
“Throw your stuff in the back and hop in,” he said.
While we were driving Don handed me his phone and showed me some of his artwork. It was incredibly good. He said he was self-taught and had won some competitions. He casually mentioned that he had sold some of his work in art galleries. I believe it. A lot of his portraits were of wildlife. While I was looking at a fish he drew, he said:
“Look closer at the scales.”
There were smiley faces in every single scale.
“Yeah, I do that with a lot of them. Although I haven’t painted in a while. After my heart surgery, I haven’t had the mind to do it for some reason.”
“Man, you should keep painting. These are great! Do you think you could post some of these or some of your writing on my page?”
“Sure, we’ll pull over up here and I’ll let you video.”
Don showed me his concrete sculptures as well and they were just as good as his paintings. He said he had given them as christmas gifts and often left them on jobs he did and that one time the neighbors saw his sculptures and all wanted one. So he made a whole bunch of concrete turtles and fish and sold them.
After Don dropped me off, I got to meet his friend Sunny. We sat and talked for a bit. He was a Native American from Arizona and just as friendly as Don was.
I then headed out and called Jim to let him know I was getting close. He told me that he would be getting off at 5:30 and then he could pick me up. I said I’d probably be in Tampa by then and laughed.
I kept walking and pushed through the soreness of my legs and feet. Then as I was walking up the 301 toward Tampa. Another guy pulled over and offered me a ride.
“Thanks man. My name is Seth.”
“Kelly. Where are you headed?”
“I’m headed North, but I can get you closer.”
I accepted and thanked him.
“Yeah, I saw your rucksack and was like that’s badass. I’ve got to pick him up.”
“Thanks man. Yeah, its been a great trip so far. Today has been epic. You’re the third person to pick me up today and the funny thing is I don’t hitchhike. If people offer me a ride in the direction I’m going I’ll usually take it.”
“So what do you do for a living?”
“I work with solar panels.”
I laughed “You’re the third person that’s given me a ride that’s worked with solar panels.”
“Well, sunshine state,” he said and laughed.
“Man, I wish I could do what you’re doing, but we just had a little one,” he said.
“Doesn’t mean you can’t, just got to plan. Have you ever seen those documentaries on Tiny houses?”
“Yeah man! Those things are awesome. You know, me and my girlfriend are living off of the grid. She was talking the other day about how it would be pretty easy to start a blog and go on the road in one.”
“Go for it man. Anything is possible if you’re willing to work for it.”
We talked for a good while longer about all manner of things, from website tips, to becoming astronauts in our lifetime, to AI enslaving humanity.
Kelly dropped me off and I said “Maybe one day I’ll see you guys on the road. Keep an eye out for the blog post because you’ll be in it.”
I continued my walk into Tampa feeling great despite my feet and legs hating me. I turned down Harney Road and got to take some of the best pictures on my trip so far.
As my battery was about to die on my phone, I got a hold of Jim and made plans for him to pick me up. The last few miles were brutal, but I was really happy that I had broken my record and had awesome stories from the day.
Jim picked me up and I’ll be spending the weekend with him and his wife Leanna. Both of them epitomize what it is to be a Christian and I’ll tell you more about them in my next post.
For now I want to again thank everyone that helped me out yesterday and everyone that has helped me on my journey so far. You are the ones that make this trip special.
Don, I can’t thank you enough for the ride and the awesome conversations. I’ve got a new goal to become a renaissance man just like you. I hope you will post some of your art and write here from time to time. Thanks again, Don.
Peter, thank you for the fruit and being an all around great guy.
Kelly, thanks for the ride and the awesome conversation.
Wayne and Robert, thanks for the hat and the food.
Forever your friend,