My 3 days at the Rockingham truck stop started with me standing at the exit of the truck parking area holding up a sign like it was a fishing pole waiting for a nibble. It was long waits between trucks and with each rejection I gave a wave of “Thanks anyway!” My next plan was to place a sign on the door where truckers came in and out of the building. I found the manager of the store and got his permission to tape the sign to the glass door.
1 Man 1 Bike
Need Ride To
I put my phone number at the bottom, taped it to the door and headed to the trucker’s lounge and waited for the calls to pour in. Not to be.
After 3 days I said goodbye to David who had let me pitch my tent on his property just a paper airplane throw away from the truck stop and headed south toward I-95. The sky looked cloudy but cleared up later in the day.
I made arrangements to “Couch Surf” at the home of a woman in Bennettsville SC, 28 miles away. I-95 would be 22 miles from there. The hills were a lot more forgiving along Rt 38 and I made good time to my couch surfing host’s hometown.
After a few phone calls I was pedaling up to Melissa’s home where she sat waiting on the front porch that wrapped around both sides of the house. Once inside she showed me my room and the bathroom. I couldn’t wait to take a shower and relax. Melissa, an attractive and talented young lady, collects Swedish Gustavian antiques which are placed all throughout the house. Swedish Mora clocks line the long hallway that runs from the front door to the kitchen in the back. You can learn more at her website, Oyster White Interiors. My thanks to Melissa for wonderful stay in Bennettsville. I especially liked sitting on the front porch during the lightning storm!
The next morning I set out for I-95 in Latta, SC where I had two truck stops at the same exit! Upon arrival I scouted the area and checked both stops to see what they had to offer. My next step was to sit on the entrance ramp to I-95 South so I could catch all the trucks from both stops in one place. I leaned my bike against the guardrail and pulled out my cardboard DAYTONA sign and waited for the parade of trucks. Although the traffic was higher I still didn’t catch a ride and as the sun started to set I decided to go back to the Flying J truck stop and advertise my existence there.
As I sat on the bench outside the store a brightly colored RV with a brightly colored trailer attached to it pulled up to gas pumps and shut down. Just above the windshield, painted in white lettering, was WORLD FAMOUS FRISBEE DOGS. After a few minutes the owner, Lawrence Frederick, started bringing the dogs out two by two on leashes to do their business on the grassy knoll. He had 11 dogs with him in the RV and a few more at home. All his dogs are “Rescue Dogs” that he saved by adopting them.
I parked my bike just outside the entrance to the store and posted a sign on it with my phone number so I didn’t have stay in one place the whole time. I completely ignored the warning sign inside informing me that the lounge and shower areas were for professional drivers only and sat in the lounge to watch some TV. I quizzed any trucker that came in as to where they were headed in hopes that one would be going in my direction.
It wasn’t long before I was the only one in the lounge watching TV and eating Cracker Jacks. The truck stop had Wi-Fi but it wasn’t free so I played countless games of Free Cell and Mahjong that comes standard with Windows 7. I bought a small coffee and drank refills all night. Inside, the air conditioning was making me too cold to stay more than an hour at a time and had go outside to get warmed up again. At about 4 AM the temp outside was as cold as it was inside so I resorted to grabbing my size 34 jeans and an extra T-shirt out of my saddlebag and then moseyed on over to the truckers restroom to put them on.
Finally the sky started to show some light and drivers that spent the night in their sleepers started to trickle in for showers and coffee. I waited a while longer for more daylight then decided it was time to go stand on the entrance ramp to I-95 South and try again for a ride. I put my gloves on, checked my gear, unlocked my bike and started to wheel it out to the parking lot when a man, just a little shorter than I, asked if I was going to Florida. “Yep.” I replied, thinking he was just curious about my travels. “I got the blue truck over there. Let me just take care of this and we’ll get going.” he said while flashing some papers around. “You’re going to Florida?!” I asked like it was a chance in a million. “Yes! Florida! Orlando!” he said with a hint of his Colombian accent. “Awesome!” I replied with all my stored up hopes and wishes. I was suddenly energized again! “My name’s, Ron.” I offered as I held my hand out to shake his. “I’m David.” he replied with a smile that hadn’t been shaved in a day or two.
We both walked to the back of his refrigerated trailer and he opened one door and hopped up to grab my bike from me. Inside he had pallets of shrink wrapped cases of soda with a brand name I’ve never heard of before. He was coming from his home in NY to make a couple of deliveries in Florida. He slowly laid my bike on it’s side then climbed down and latched the door shut.
As I climbed up into the passenger seat of the Kenworth, I noticed he had a partner with him. “This is David.” David said. “Oh! This is your son?” I asked as though I was Captain Obvious. David and David both started laughing together like I just fell for their best prank. “My nephew!” driver David said, still laughing while looking back and forth between younger David and myself.
Many miles were covered with conversation about my trip and David’s job of driving from NY to Miami every week to support his family. After a while I asked younger David if he wanted to switch from the sleeper to the front seat. I told him I could probably make better use of the sleeper than he could since I was up the whole night. He agreed and before long I was sleeping through an earthquake that shook four states.
When we got to Daytona it was raining while we pulled into the truck stop where my ride ended and David took I-4 to Orlando. In all the hustle of getting my bike out of the back of the truck in the rain, I forgot my sunglasses that I removed when I laid down to sleep. That makes 3 pairs of shades my trip claimed.
It wasn’t until I got inside the truck stop that I learned about the earthquake that struck in Virginia. Along with the hurricane I felt as though I made the right decision catching a ride home.
Now that I was in Daytona I could collect on the offer that my friend Ron Alley made when I started my trip back in June. Upon my return home he would make me a lasagna dinner. Or, more realistically, his mother would make me a lasagna dinner. Either way, I was here to collect!
I got to meet Ron’s mother, Patsy, and see his new home in New Smyrna where I stayed for two nights. If nothing else, we all have NASCAR racing in common. And lasagna. Thanks Ron and Patsy (mom) for a great, long awaited lasagna dinner and a restful stay.