When I said to Hannah that I was done with our long distance relationship and wanted her to move to Arizona with me, she was all in. She had already quit her teaching job, for in her mind she knew she was not cut out to be a teacher. I drove West for Tempe in August of 1971 and she planned to drive out in September.
When I returned to Arizona that August, under the cloud of being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam War, I took a position at Dan’s Car Wash on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe. My parents must have been so proud that their son with a college degree was making $1.25 per hour vacuuming the floors at a car wash.
With Hannah’s mid-September departure from New York coming, I quit that job to return East to drive with her to Arizona in her Ford Mustang. Hannah was even cool back then. Coincidentally, Dave, a good buddy from high school, was driving from Phoenix to Atlanta at this time and offered to take me the 1800 miles to Georgia. Though that was not a direct route to Hannah, I then could hitchhike the 700 miles north from Atlanta to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio where Hannah would be staying with her college roommate Sian.
Arriving in Atlanta about 6P Friday after three days on the road, I found I just couldn’t fall asleep thinking about meeting up with Hannah the next day. She always had my heart. Unable to sleep, I thought, What the hell? Why not just start hitchhiking tonight?
Even though Dave justifiably doubted my sanity, he dropped me off on I-75 north of Atlanta near midnight. On six lanes of highway in the pitch black with the cars whizzing by at 65 mph, I started walking to an exit for a better chance at a ride.
Amazingly a car stopped and I jumped into the backseat. Husband and wife turned and looked at me and he said, We picked you because we thought you were a girl. My hair was longer, nearly to my shoulders, but not long enough to have a ponytail. Though I disappointed them on my gender, they still drove me some 35 miles north to Cartersville, Georgia.
They were good and decent Southern folk. At one point, they asked me if I had any money. Even though I had five dollars at the time, I said I had none. I had hitchhiked before where drivers expected me to pay for being picked up. Even though they didn’t seem to have the money, they still gave me $2.50 for breakfast.
Thanking them deeply when they dropped me off, I figured there was no way I was getting a ride in the pouring rain in the middle of the night in this little town. Spotting an all-night diner, I walked in to wait til dawn.
Tomorrow, learn more about Southern hospitality that came my way.