It was two in the morning in Cartersville, GA some forty miles north of Atlanta this September of 1971. I had come from Phoenix with a friend and was now hitchhiking north to Ohio to meet up with Hannah. I had been dropped off at a diner as the rain continued to fall, which made the dark even darker for me so far from home. With no chance of getting a ride til morning, I sat down on a stool and talked with the all-night counter guy.
After chatting awhile, I looked for something to do while he worked in the kitchen. Seeing a broom, I began slow sweeping to kill some time. Once I sat back down at the counter, he set a plate with two eggs over easy, hash browns, and white toast in front of me. I looked up and said that I couldn’t afford it (I had $7 now, but needed to conserve my money for I was still 650 miles from Ohio). He said, it’s on the house.
Most grateful and very hungry, I ate and we talked through the night. By 7A the morning crowd was shuffling in, I thanked him for his generosity, and walked out into a light mist looking for my first ride north.
In minutes I was picked up by a rangy young man in blue jeans who was driving to Knoxville, Tennessee four hours away. He said he could use the company to stay awake. On this early Saturday morning, I learned he was one of 25 kids from the Tennessee mountains; a likeable guy, he at the age of 24 already had four girls himself. He drove to Atlanta each Monday evening to work in a steel mill and returned home after his shift ended early Saturday morning.
Things were looking up as I had a free breakfast and a sweet four hour ride to Knoxville. He dropped me off at his exit and as I walked on the grassy embankment on I-75, I proceeded to stick out my thumb. Ahead, there was an intersection with traffic lights where it would be easier to get a ride. Back in 1971, the Interstate system in Tennessee, as in much of the country, was spotty, a little here and a little there.
And then more good fortune: a cop pulled over to give me a ride to better a place to hitchhike. That had happened before during my hitchhiking years with my brother Richard in Ohio and two years before when I hitchhiked from Idaho Falls to Tempe, AZ.
And then all of a sudden he made a U-turn and headed back into town. He said, I’m taking you to the Knoxville City Jail. Hitchhiking is illegal on the Interstate.
Stunned, I wondered what the Knoxville City Jail would be like for this Jersey boy? Find out Wednesday in part 4.