Conversations, Part One

Random bits and pieces of conversations with people I’ve met along the way.

You’re Lying

Standing in McDonalds waiting for my coffee, wearing my backpack, trekking pole in hand. A woman walked up to me and said she saw me walking along the highway the day before.

Woman: “Why are you walking? Don’t you have a car?”

Me: “Yes, I have a car, but it is back home in Utah.”

Woman: “Where were you coming from?”

Me: “Lake Mary.”

Woman: “Oh, you’re lying. Lake Mary is a long way from here. No way any human being can be walking from Lake Mary.”

Me: “It took two days. 19 miles yesterday and 14 miles the day before.”

Woman: “Now I know you’re lying. Lake Mary is more than 33 miles from here.”

Me: “More on the highway, but I was on a trail going through the forest.”

Woman: “Through the forest? With snakes and wild animals? Now I don’t know if you’re lying or just crazy.”


My first ride coming out of Jacksonville FL. Father and son. Son got out of the passenger side to open the back door. He let me know they were in a hurry because they were running on fumes and needed to get to the gas station just up the road.

As soon as I got in the car …

Father: “We probably just saved your life, buddy. Niggers in this neighborhood will kill you for sure.”

Son: “Do you want a cigarette?”

Me: “No thank you. I don’t smoke.”

Father: “Where are you heading?”

Me: “North toward Atlanta.”

Father: “I-295 is right by the gas station where we’re going. We are doing you another favor. You can get a ride on the interstate real easy. And you know we saved your life back there. I’m not lying. Niggers around here will just as well kill you as look at you.”

Son: “Do you want a smoke?”

Me: “No thank you.”

As I was getting out of the car at the gas station …

Father: “You be careful around here.”

Son: “I have an extra cigar. Do you want it?”

Father: “He said he don’t smoke.”

The neighborhood where they picked me up is near the Amtrak station. I walked from the Amtrak station four blocks in the dark the night before. I had dinner in that neighborhood. I spent the night in a hotel in that neighborhood. I didn’t feel threatened in that neighborhood. Fortunately, I was only with those two peckerwoods for a couple miles before our routes split; I didn’t want to carry on any conversations with them.

He Didn’t Kill Me

Outside of Callahan FL a guy named Brian stopped to offer a ride. Before I got in his truck he showed me his semi-auto just to let me know he would be happy to give me a ride, but would defend himself if I meant him any harm. I rode with him for 30 miles and enjoyed a long conversation about life and the pursuit of happiness. Brian is black and he had a gun, but he didn’t kill me. Go figure.

Brian: “Where are you going?”

Me: “Toward Atlanta.”

Brian: “What are going to Atlanta for?”

Me: “Nothing in Atlanta. It’s just my next destination.”

Brian: “Where are you going after that?”

Me: “West and then south through Alabama.”

Brian: “You’re going north now. Why are you going to turn around and go south again?”

Me: “I’ve never been to Alabama.”

Brian: “It’s the same as here. Just the same.”

Me: “Sometimes things look the same, but they are really different. Sometimes things look different, but they are really the same. I just want to see for myself.”

Brian: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Like you and me. On the surface we seem much different, but I bet we have a lot in common. I bet what you care most about is being happy and making a good life for yourself and your family.”

Brian: “That’s right. We’re the same.”


Brian: “I saw you walking earlier today, way back there, but I was going the other way. Why do you walk when you hitchhike? Why don’t you just stand someplace and hitch a ride?”

Me: “If I just stand there and nobody gives me a ride I won’t make any progress. If I walk, even if nobody gives me a ride I will get where I want to go sooner or later.”


Brian: “So you are just wandering around doing nothing and you don’t know nobody?”

Me: “I do have some friends in Carrollton Georgia and I am looking forward to having Nepali food in Mobile Alabama.”

Brian: “What’s Nepali food?”

Me: “Food from Nepal.”

Brian: “Nepal Alabama?”

Me: “No. Nepal between India and China.”

Brian: “What do they eat?”

Me: “Rice and beans.”

Brian: “You want to go all the way to Mobile Alabama to have rice and beans? You can get that around here.”


Brian: “You weren’t afraid when I showed you my gun. You’re not afraid of guns?”

Me: “A gun is an inanimate object. I’m not afraid of a gun any more than I’m afraid of a chair. You’re a big guy. If you want to hurt me you could do it with a chair or a tire iron or probably with your bare hands. Besides, if you meant to use that gun on me you wouldn’t have shown it to me before I got into your truck. You would have waited. I trust my instincts and believe you to be a good man.”


Brian: “Why are you down here in the winter. It’s too cold to be walking.”

Me: “This is nice weather compared to Utah right now. It’s cold and snowing back there. My wife is home shoveling snow off our driveway right now.”

Brian: “What does your wife think about you walking like this?”

Me: “She is actually glad I’m gone. She knows that shoveling snow is one of the best forms of exercise. If I was home I would insist on doing it and deprive her of the opportunity to get the exercise.”

Brian: “For real?”

Me: “No.”

No Music When You’re Walking

A guy named Mark stopped to give me a ride. His truck was a bit “rough”. There was a 5-gallon bucked filled with an assortment of wrenches and bolts on the floor. I’m in Georgia. If there is a stereotype, Mark fit it – camo shirt and jeans, scruffy face, missing a couple teeth, heavy drawl. I would have expected to hear country western music when I climbed into his truck. But Mark only listens to classical music and knows his favorite composers and pieces.

Mark: “Where are you going?”

Me: “I hope to make it to Tifton today, then Macon tomorrow.”

Mark: “Why are you walking? Don’t you have a car?”

Me: “I have a car back home.”

Mark: “You should have brought it. Driving is easier than walking and you can listen to music while you’re driving.”

Me: “I know. But walking is good exercise and I find it to be more spiritual.”

Mark: “There was a truck stop back there. You could have asked one of them drivers if they were going to Tifton. Maybe even to Macon.”

Me: “Yeah. But then I wouldn’t get the chance to walk part of the way.”

Mark: “Why do you want to walk? Getting a ride would be easier and you could listen to music.”

Mark (as he took another drag from a cigarette): “I quit smoking cigarettes two months ago.”

Me: “Started up again?”

Mark: “No. This isn’t a cigarette. It’s like a cigar cigarette. Cherry flavor; it tastes good. Cigarettes are $4.50 a pack. These are only $1.75. These aren’t cigarettes.”

Mark: “I have another job delivering for Dominos. I like listening to music while I’m driving, even when I’m just delivering. There are 12 drivers, but I’m the only one who don’t use GPS. All them other guys use GPS. I don’t need it. I was born and raised around here and know every street. I just want to relax and listen to music. I don’t want to worry about no GPS.”

Mark took me a couple miles past his turn-off and apologized profusely for having to work that day, otherwise he would be happy to take me the remaining 60 miles to Tifton. He dropped me off at a gas station where he was certain I could catch a ride with someone. I should be riding, not walking, so I could listen to some music.

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