I’m writing this from a Motel 6 somewhere in Mississippi. I think Gulfport. My goal was to reach Texas tonight, but I guess the universe had other plans for me. I woke up this morning and spent a couple of hours uploading and backing up footage from the day before. On December 31, I was lucky enough to spend time with Carole, her husband Gary, and their friend Jean. Carole is the owner of Dad’s Restaurant in Lavonia, Georgia. I stopped off to have a quick bite to eat after leaving my campsite in Anderson, South Carolina. I was talking to my waitress about my trip and the people I’ve met. She introduced me to Carole and Jean. The two woman were kind enough to let me join them and capture our conversation on film. A while later, Gary arrived and the chat continued. These three are amongst the nicest people I’ve ever met. I will be back through just to reconnect with them.
I made it to Mobile, Alabama late last night. As I came over the Mobile River, fireworks erupted in the distance. The second I reached the other shore it began to rain. It was reminiscent of my midnight jaunt to Philadelphia. I spent the night in a Quality Inn after talking the desk clerk down on the price. Also because the Days Inn smelled funny.
I left the hotel this morning after plotting a route to New Orleans via US 90. I was so excited to get off the interstate and explore the smaller roads. Twenty or so miles outside Mobile, I tore off down a dirt road. By the time I reached the end, I completely lost pressure on the front disc brake. I remembered passing an ATV and lawnmower repair place up the road, so I limped the bike back in that direction.
I finally found it. It was hard to tell what was a mechanic’s shop and what was someone’s house. Most of the properties along that stretch had all kinds of items strewn about. I rolled through the chain-link fence and struck up a conversation with the gentleman standing amongst a sea of junk. With a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, he told me he couldn’t help, but to try up the road a little further. I did just that, but didn’t have any luck.
I eventually pulled into an auto parts store in a last-ditch effort hoping one of the employees knew a friend of a friend who might have a shop I could use on New Years Day. That’s where I met John. John, like Carole, Gary, and Jean, did everything in his power to make me feel welcome. I explained to him my situation and he, without hesitation, began making phone calls to his friends. When I asked if I could do the work myself in the parking lot, he gave me a resounding yes. John then went on to give me access to all the tools and supplies I needed. For free. There was an allen key I needed and instead of letting me buy it, he took it off the shelf and gave it to me to use.
As I tinkered away in the parking lot, John would come out and check on me to make sure I had everything I needed. When the sun began to fall and I started to get loopy, John helped me with the final steps when I started to over think things. Although my hours of work were somewhat in vain, I learned a lot about myself and the kindness of strangers. I walked into that shop a stranger and was instantly treated like a friend.
I motored off down US 90 with a patched motorcycle as the sun dipped behind the trees. I entered Mississippi and rolled through the casino lined street of Biloxi. Just outside of Gulfport I pulled over, walked to the seaside, and dipped my fingers into the Gulf of Mexico. Now, my motorcycle was parked along a roadway that used to be lined with homes, but since Katrina, the lots stand vacant. The nearest occupied buildings were close to a mile in either direction although the traffic was steady.
As I got my camera ready to take some photographs, a woman appeared in front of me. I didn’t see her approaching, which made the encounter that much stranger. She struck up a conversation about photography and informed me that she was a photographer herself. She then proceeded to show me pictures of cats on her cell phone.
At this point, I could tell something was different. I asked her if she would be willing to sit down with me and chat. For the next 45 minutes she told me about her time as a 12-year-old Latin King, her time spent as a Furry, her time as a shape shifter, her Facebook conversations with Justin Bieber, and her time in mental hospitals because she knew too many of the Government’s secrets. I stood there in amazement as she told me stories of this and that. She lives in a world totally unique from anyone else. At moments I found myself believing her, living with her in that world. As she painted this colorful world before my eyes, rain began to fall, grounding me to my own reality.
I pulled into the Motel 6 soaking wet.