This week began with frustrating hitchhiking but ended in a beautiful apartment in Miami for Sarah’s BIRTHDAY!
Hitchhiking becomes stressful when you have a time limit and with only one day in Atlanta, the pressure was on to get there as fast as possible…
We started this day’s journey just south of Chattanooga, at a gas station off exit 1 of interstate 75. It was only a two hour ride to Atlanta so we were hopeful it wouldn’t take too long. We were in a seemingly good location – lots of traffic and close to the interstate. Although there was a weird vibe surrounding the MAPCO gas station; knowing our luck we were probably stood in the middle of some drug bust. Loads of men were stood in a row across the street, staring at us. Everyone seemed super shifty; saying they’d give us a ride and that they just had to make a phone call or wait for a girlfriend or whatever other excuse … but no ride.
Finally, hours later, Chris pulled up and said he could drop us down the road in Ringgold. Excited to change locations we jumped at the offer, only to be dropped in probably a worse location, at a Krystal fast food restaurant 9 minutes down the road.
Our spirits were diminishing as we stood by the side of the road, sporadically being beckoned at by men in trucks – they wouldn’t drive over to us, they would park in the Krystal car park and then yell at us to come over. We would eagerly run over, keen for a ride, only for them to ask what we’re doing! We’re hitchhiking, what does it look like we’re doing? Their response was always something like “oh well we work here in Ringgold so we can’t help you”. With a seedy glance, looking us up and down, they would pause, contemplating asking if we would be up for doing something else…
Nearly four hours had passed since we started the day in Chattanooga on a two hour journey to Atlanta. We were groggy, hot and hungry. Another guy calls us over. We sigh and not-so-eagerly approached. This is Greg and he’s lovely, he says that he watched us this morning (ok that’s a little creepy…) at the MAPCO gas station in Chattanooga and when he saw us again, he took it as a sign that he should help us. He started by buying us breakfast at Krystal’s (strange square food but FOOD – kind of – nonetheless) and then explaining that he has a daughter our age and he would hope that people would help her the way that he helped us.
Greg thought that the best thing would be to drop us at Groome Transportation and buy us a bus ticket to Atlanta airport. But turns out the bus station was right next to the bloody MAPCO gas station in Chattanooga that we’d spent all morning at! LOLOLOLOL. What a legend though.
The bus arrived in international departures. There wasn’t really a great spot to stand to make it easy enough for cars to pull over but as there was no walking route out of the airport, we didn’t have much choice. After a couple of hours a cop car pulls up but he doesn’t pull up beside us, he pulls up about 20 metres away and decides it’s necessary to communicate with us over the PA system! Awesome, an obnoxious cop, just what we need.
The cop proceeds to explain that hitchhiking is illegal in Georgia. We argue and explain that it’s not, as long as we are stood on a sidewalk (which we were). He gets super shitty, “don’t tell me how to do my job” … well if you knew the law, we wouldn’t have to would we! He told us to get the train to Atlanta. We said we didn’t have any money (ok, slight lie but didn’t really want to explain the whole trip to him). We explained that it’s literally impossible for us to leave the airport without hitchhiking because there is no walking route. He told us to get the free bus to domestic departures where we can get a bus to the city. Fine, let’s just get away from him.
Domestic departures was insanely busy. Trying to hitch in a crowd is no easy task! It felt weird. We were just in everyone’s way! Finally, Geoff waved to us from across the road and told us to follow him. We hopped on a bus to the car park where his pick up was. Geoff travels a lot for business and works with swimming pool systems that detect when someone is drowning and alerts for help. We were extremely grateful to finally be heading into Atlanta City, around 10 hours after departing Chattanooga.
We headed straight to a Starbucks to use the free wifi as we still hadn’t found a place to stay for the night. Roughly 50 requests on Couchsurfing later, we receive an accept from a guy called Chris. Phew.
Chris. Where do we begin with Chris. Anyone that followed us on Snapchat would have witnessed the screams that came out of Chris’ bedroom that night. Oh boy. That girl was either having the time of her life or she was a really bad actress. I vote for the latter. Pretty hilarious to host people on Couchsurfing and then hook up with a screamer…but Chris was so cheeky that he could probably get away with anything. We had a lot of LOLs with Chris and he was a great Couchsurfing host. His split level apartment was beautiful; it was classical in design and each room was a nook or cranny, it felt like a little english cottage.
What’s amazing about Couchsurfing is that it can completely change your perspective of a city. Wandering around on our own, I wasn’t impressed with Atlanta. After meeting with Chris, he took us around Ponce City Market – very East London – with small galleries, restaurants, bars and boutiques. The following morning there was a Farmer’s Market on at Piedmont Park, opposite Chris’ apartment. Chris showed us to all his favourite spots in the park, including one open area of grass where you can view the whole of the city skyline. Suddenly we saw a different side to Atlanta and it actually became one of my favourite US cities.
At the end of August, on the 31st, Sarah turned 25 so we celebrated with a few days in an AMAZING apartment in Florida – courtesy of the brilliant Neal Kutner! Neal is a family friend of Sarah’s and allowed us to stay for a few days respite away from hitchhiking and scrounging. We still spent no money, but that’s one hell of a lot easier when you can spend the day chilling round the pool…THANKS NEAL!
James & Stefan
It was amazing that James and Stefan could join us for Sarah’s birthday. I was intending on making her a cake out of Tootsie Rolls and Hostess bread but Stefan’s cake was WAY better. We spent the night partying in West Palm Beach (including getting kicked out of a club a couple of times) and it wouldn’t have been the same without these two. Thanks guys ❤