I woke up from underneath my improvised billboard shelter to an amazing sunrise. I then turned on my nearly dead phone to check the weather.
The weather report was wrong like it had been many times before. I was lucky that it was because it was supposed to rain all day. The new report showed it wasn’t supposed to rain until around 2 o’clock, which gave me time to make some miles toward Naples.
I set about packing up my gear and went to put on my socks and found a rather large spider on one of them. I almost forgot one of the most important rules of survival…always check your boots.
When I got everything together, I started making my way on U.S. 41 again. About a mile in, I came to this place called Coopertown. I laughed when I saw the sign that said it had a population of 8. I was hungry and decided to stop in the restaurant they had.
There I met a man named Randy who asked where I was headed. I told him I was backpacking all 50 states.
“Can I give you $10?” he asked out of nowhere.
“Uh..sure. Thank you.” I said.
I met his wife Penny and I told them about my trip some more and then they headed out to go on their Airboat ride (which was the main business of the place).
I sat down and at a really good breakfast with the money Randy gave me. Previously, I was going to get the cheapest thing on the menu because I only had about 4 bucks in cash and I wasn’t sure if this place took debit cards.
After I ate, I got back on the road. I was still really sore and began using a method of one hour of walking and then a half hour of break. After a while, the hard miles began to get to me, I zoned out and tried to put myself in another place, keenly aware of every sore muscle, when all of a sudden I hear this thrashing in the water next to me.
I spied an 8 foot gator who I startled back into the water before it disappeared. It was the first wild alligator I had ever seen. It was huge! I was instantly taken away from my soreness and the hard miles I still had to walk and began watching the side of the river for more gators. I came upon a 2nd one shortly after the first.
As I walked, a car pulled over with a lady and this guy who looked like he had been hiking awhile in it. They were heading the opposite direction, but were curious about me. The lady’s nickname was shortcut and the guy’s name was Jake.
Jake had just hiked a big trail in Florida the whole way, we compared backpacks and laughed at how much bigger mine was.
“Yeah, I’m going to seriously reduce my load when I head up to Maine,” I told them.
Then a police officer stopped by and asked if they were broke down. When they said no, the police officer said you can’t stop here. If you want to talk, you need to go to a pull off.
Not wanting them to get them in trouble, I said my goodbyes (and gave them each my business cards).
After some more miles, the weight and the soreness was really getting to me.
“God, I’m not going to lie. A ride would be pretty sweet right about now,” I prayed.
About an hour later, there was this truck with a huge trailer that pulled off the road way ahead of me. I thought maybe he got a flat or needed to adjust the trailer or something. When I got up to him I was going to see if he needed any help.
I found out he had pulled over for me.
“Need a ride?”
“Yeah, man,” I said a bit stupefied. I really didn’t think he had pulled over for me.
“Here, throw your stuff in the back.”
I heaved my 70+lb pack in the back of his truck.
I found out that his name was Alex, short for Alejandro. He works for a company that hauls plants and on the side he farms watermelons.
“Man, what you’re doing is something I’ve always wanted to do. I would too, but I just had a little girl.”
“Congrats man. What did you name her?”
“Nova, like a super nova in the stars.”
“Nice man, I like unique names.”
“So what is your dream man?” I asked.
“I think to own a lot of land somewhere in the country.”
We talked for a good while more and he dropped me off at a gas station that was only 30 miles from Naples. But before he left he also asked:
“Hey you hungry man?”
“Yeah, I haven’t eaten in awhile.”
Alex then bought me a subway sandwich.
Thanks again man for all you did for me. Keep working towards your dream!
I then called my friend Paul who lives in Naples. His fiancé Lindsey came and picked me up.
That night we all played an epic game of Risk and got reacquainted because I haven’t seen Paul since I worked with him when I was working down in Port Saint Lucie.
Paul was the one friend I made when I worked down there and he is as good a friend as I remember.
“Dude, you can stay as long as you want. If you need anything just help yourself.”
Fully me casa es su casa and we hadn’t seen each other in years. I was extra happy because one thing I remember about Paul is that he is an excellent cook (he is making ribs currently).
I will be staying at Paul’s a week or two to rest up and so we can do the Python hunt that is going on down here in Florida. Today we decided on our team name…PYTHON PARTY!
So an unforgettable day, where I got to meet some amazing people, reunite with old friends, and see God in action yet again.
Forever your friend,