Free onions, tomatoes, and ICE CREAM!!!

State: Florida

When I got up I was pretty tired. I didn’t sleep well and the bugs really didn’t help. Even though I was completely covered in my sleeping bag, they still got in. I got a particularly painful bite right on my neck too.

Yet I thanked God that I had I nice secluded place to sleep and prayed the prayer I pray every day. For him to lead me on the path He’s set for me and to guide me to people I’m supposed to meet.

I set out north with my goal for the day being to get to U.S. 41. The following day I wanted to begin the 100 mile trek to Naples. This trek followed U.S. 41 through the Everglades and was essentially no man’s land.

I decided to stop at a laundromat to wash the clothes I was wearing the day before and my sleeping bags to kill any of the bugs in them.

As I was making my way toward the laundromat, a guy across the street with his girlfriend called me over.

“Hey what does you sign say?” indicating the sign on my back which says “Follow me as I backpack across America” then my website.

I crossed the street and started a conversation.

“I’m backpacking across America, all 50 states.” I said smiling.

“Whoa, that’s cool man.”

I noticed their dog which was an adorable looking pitbull and started to pet it through the fence.

“Careful, he’ll bite you.”

“It’s ok. I’m good with animals.” I said getting licked profusely.

“So when did you start?”

“January 2nd, been on the road a little over a month now. I started in Key West.”

“How’d you like the keys?”

“It was great! I’ve literally got a story for every day.”

“So you must have a lot of money saved up to do this right?”

“No, I’m not rich by any means. I actually get jobs along the way to help fund my trip. I try to get them related to the state, for instance Florida is famous for sailing and fishing, so I’ll try to get a job on a boat and like Nebraska is famous for corn. There I’ll try to get a job on a farm.”

“That’s cool man. You got instagram?”

“Yeah man. It’s TheOutsidersGuide. I’ve also got business cards if you want to watch me along the way,” I said and handed him one.

“Nice man, I’ll be watching. Here tell them what you’re doing,” he said holding up his phone to take a video.

“My name is Seth Stivala and I’m backpacking across America, all 50 states,” I said.

“There we go. I’m gonna follow you. Hey you hungry?”

“I could eat,” I said.

He whipped out a wad of cash and gave me a $20.

“Wow! Thanks man!”

“You just be sure to tell everyone a real Miami gangsta gave you a $20.”

“Alright man, I will.” I said and laughed.

“What were your guys names again?”

“Chico.” he said and shook my hand.

“Shenice,” she said.

I thanked them again and headed out to the laundromat laughing and thinking “It’s not even nine o’clock and God’s already blessing me.”

After doing my laundry, I decided to have a little fun. I got out my compass and found north. I was near the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, so I decided to just follow along side it. However, there was construction work so I got pulled East to get around it and then west again. So I zig zagged a few miles. Finally I found a street called Lingrand that went all the way up to 41. I got on it and stayed on it.

While I was walking I saw a farmers market with a “You pick it” sign. I stop at any farmers market I see because you can get fresh fruits and vegetables cheaper than a supermarket. I went up to the lady and got a bag. They only had tomatoes in the field, which I actually don’t like that much. Ironically, I love ketchup. So I only got two tomatoes (plus they are squishable, which isn’t the best for a backpack). I also grabbed two onions she had up front along with some other vegetables. The lady just waved me off indicating that I didn’t need to worry about paying. I thanked her and headed on my way with my free fresh veggies.

Now one thing I was really needing was an outlet to charge my phone, which was about dead. I came to a strip mall with a good selection of places to eat. Almost went to subway, but then I saw they had a Coldstone¬†Creamery. I can’t tell you how long I’d been craving ice cream, so the choice was obvious.

I went in and ordered a large bowl of mint chocolate chip and briefly told the guy making my ice cream about what I was doing since he saw me set down my backpack. He handed me my ice cream and we headed to the cash register to pay when he said:

“So when you are writing about today, you gonna write about how you got free ice cream today?”

“For real?”

“Yeah man,” he said with a smile.

“Dude, thank you! And yes I will,” I said and laughed.

I went and grabbed him one of my business cards and he gave me one of his. I found out his name was Nicholas (but he went by Nico) and that he was the general manager. He got a few more customers, so I went and sat down to enjoy my free ice cream and to charge my phone.

Later Nico came out and handed me two cards for free Chipotle burritos on Monday.

“I don’t know where you’re going to be on Monday, but a friend gave me these and figured it could help you out.”

He started to walk away and I said “Dude, come here,” and hugged him.

A little while later Nico came out from the back and said:

“So we’re all talking about you here in the back cause it’s pretty interesting what you are doing. What made you want to do the trip? And where did you start?”

I started to tell him and then asked: “Well, hey mind if I come back and tell my story?”

“Yeah man, come back and see where the magic happens.”

I went in the back and told everyone my story and one of my favorite stories from the trip (about my day one crew).

I handed out some business cards to everyone in the back and then more customers came in, so I headed back out to finish my ice cream. After waiting for my slow charging phone, I figured tomorrow I would be stopping somewhere for water and power to supply up before I started the 100 mile trek across the Everglades.

As I started to leave, Nico held the door for me and we got a picture together.

“For when you’re rich and famous,” and took the picture.

“Good meeting you man,” he said.

“You too. Thanks for everything.” I said and headed out.

After I left I quickly realized that I took a wrong turn and was yet again headed East. After another mile out of my way I got turned north again.

The long trek was getting to me, so I began to occupy my mind and started to work on a new road song titled “Millionaire in Memories”.

After a few more miles, I collapsed in heap beneath a tree on the side of the road to take a break. I actually had to talk to my legs to convince them that we only had to go two more miles and then we could rest all night and sleep in as long as we wanted. They finally begrudgingly agreed to help me make it the last few miles.

I made it to U.S. 41, but needed a place to sleep. I noticed on google maps that there was a park pretty close to where I was at. Once there I found no woods, but some bushes and a few palm trees. I was too tired to care and went to the side of the park, pretty much in plain view, unrolled my camping mat and laid down.

Everything hurt, even my toes. It took me a good 15 minutes before I could sit up and take off my shoes. I considered just sleeping on the mat, but my sweat soaked shirt and shorts were cooling me down, so I got out my fresh sleeping bag and bivy cover, which I’m glad I did because that night there was an unexpected rain storm.

But all in all it was a great day and I learned that hiking 20 miles minus a pint of blood may not be the best idea.

Forever your friend,

~The Outsider

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