I slept near the unincorporated Scott community in Johnson County. I picked a spot near a church on a side road. A spot I thought would be free of traffic for the remainder of the night. I was wrong. I was woken up twice by people asking if I was okay. How they knew I was in there, I don’t know. Lucky guess, I suppose.
I woke up early and drove into Wrightsville and had a bowl of cereal in an empty parking lot. And then I pressed on north.
The other thing about rural Georgia is that there are all these broken-down, abandoned towns replete with broken-down, abandoned buildings. Ivy runs up the barren walls. Windows are gone. The insides are carved out, overrun by vegetation. It’s apocalyptic almost and beautiful certainly. An object built by humans, devoid of all humanity.
For a while there (a week or more, I think), I was in and around Hinesville, Georgia. Hinesville is the county seat of Liberty County, but I spent a good deal of my time in Long County to the south. In fact, I made it a task to drive on every paved road in Long County. I may or may not have achieved that goal, but I definitively drove on far too many Long County roads. This is, I think, an unfortunate consequence of the humidity and my unwillingness to get sweaty. Driving becomes the only applicable activity because just sitting in your car or doing literally anything else outside (like standing) causes an inevitable accumulation of perspiration. I haven’t ridden my bike for two weeks and I’ve only gone on a few (carefully measured) hikes, because, without a shower to come home to, the sweat builds to a slime and then to a requisite stench. And I don’t like being around myself when I’m like that.
Five hours later, I woke up worse for wear. The sun was shining in my face, and the car was a veritable greenhouse, the air inside swampy and hot and altogether unfit for breathing. Quickly, I got out of the car, and walked inside the air conditioned Walmart. I sat on a bench in there for a while, trying to get my head on straight, but I was just so tired, and trying again to sleep in the car was such an unsavory proposition. In fact, sleeping at all, had become difficult. I decided to drive to a park where I would lay out under the shade of a tree and try to get some rest. I stayed there most of the day, falling into various states of half-sleep, watching the sun climb across the sky and filter through the leaves deliriously. I never once slipped into a deep sleep, and I left later that day with only a deep sunburn.
After all that, you’d think hiking would be the last thing on my list. And it was. But after a few random turns here and there, I happened upon a trail in the Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area near Kenansville, Florida. I hiked the whole 3 mile loop trail, spying a few bald eagles on the way, and came back feeling all right. I had taken 5 bottles of water, and I only went through one. I seemed less winded probably because the entire trail was shaded under these gigantic, sprawling oak trees. It was nice.
I spent most of my day under a tree in the parking lot because it was relatively secluded; no one else had come to hike the trail. It was around 5 o’clock when I left, and I made my way into St. Cloud. I had planned on sleeping in the Walmart parking lot, but the security guard seemed to be watching me. I thought maybe I was being paranoid, because I have a tendency to do that, but, in any event, I left and found a gas station with ample parking.
I left my uncle’s house at around 6:30 at night and I immediately went to the theater to watch Moonrise Kingdom (a great film; go see it). Then I drove east in the dark to a town called Okeechobee. And I realized how illogical it is to try to sleep in your car in the middle of a humid, summer, Central-Florida night. You can’t leave your windows down because of the mosquitoes, and, with the windows up, the inside of the car becomes a sticky-hot sauna. Sleeping sweaty is never fun.
From what I can tell, summers in Florida are the worst. There’s no point at which you can feel comfortable outside. The sun is hot, the atmosphere is moist, the insects are violent, and the thunderstorms and hurricanes are potentially fatal. The caveat to this, of course, is that if you actually spend a majority of your time inside, Florida is just as nice as anywhere else. I found myself wistful about the preceding month at my Uncle’s: the bed, the shower, the eternal air conditioner, the shelter from storms, and the ability to be outside in the heat for hours and come back to a home where I could immediately regain equilibrium.
I ended up camping out at Lake Meredith again. The fact that it’s free is fantastic; you just have to be prepared for mosquitoes (which I wasn’t). I have bites all up and down my body because I didn’t anticipate there being bugs. Live and learn.
In the morning, I decided to hike down to the water, because I had spent the last couple of days there without ever having seen the water up close. From where I was, the hike was nearly a sheer drop of loose dirt and rocks in varying sizes. Just glancing at it, it looks impassable, but if you’re careful you can make it down. I made it all the way to the shore where the mosquitoes, of course, are out in full force. I ran along the shore, waving my arms like a crazy man to dissuade the little buzzing leeches from sapping all my blood. I don’t know if it worked.
I have a tendency to be really long-winded when I write, so I’m going to try to cut down and summarize the trip all the way up to the present (I’m nearly a month behind as it is).
So, anyway, I stayed 4 days in Artesia, sleeping in a nice bed, showering in a nice shower, watching TV, playing video games, staying up late, playing with a dog, and eating way too much food. My aunt and uncle are always cooking. They make every meal like an event, and after having eaten nothing but sandwiches, fruit, canned goods, and fast food for the last month, I was grateful for the feasts.
I went to the Carlsbad Caverns with a cousin and her friend. It was amazing, expansive, underground. Stalactites. Guano. Iceberg Rocks. And stuff. Later, we watched Aladdin, and this is important information because Aladdin is a street rat, much like myself. I just wish I could have my own magical Robin Williams.