Wednesday 19th November. Faber, Virginia -> Norfolk, Virginia, USA

Hitchhiking is unpredictable. That's why I like it, or at least that's what I tell myself. Some days can be great, some days can be lousy. Today was somewhere in between. The day started off on an unbeatable high, Chuck taking me to Scottsville for a photo stop at the original Waltons house! This is the house where the Hamlers lived- the family that the televison series 'The Waltons' was based on. In fact, the original Jim-Bob still lives there, but he's getting too old to take care of it, and the historic house is up for auction if anyone's interested. No, it doesn't resemble the house from the television, because the series, while set in Virginia, was actually filmed in California. If you go out and round up every episode on DVD, watch them carefully and you'll occasionally catch a glimpse of a palm tree in the background.

Jim Bob's house. G'night Grandma!

Nelson county is Waltons country. There's even a Waltons Mountain Museum *shudder* just up the road. David, who gave me a ride to Chuck and Jane's place from Charlottesville the other night, is a drinking buddy of Jim-Bob's. The real Elizabeth is teaches at the primary school in town, and Chuck pointed out the newly reopened soapstone factory where the real John Boy used to work! It was all just too exciting, and I had to get back to the interstate if I was to make it to the coast by nightfall. There wasn't much traffic going my way on the little backcountry road, but finally a car pulled over for me. The driver, Jim, was a United Methodist Minister, and he laughed when he told me. I asked him why he laughed. He said he predicts people's reaction, like they're thinking "Oh no. Here comes the sermon!" I assured him that I felt far more comfprtable with him than with Selestin, the Pentecoastal preacher from Togo!

Jim was a real cool guy, and we had some interesting converstaion considering the short ride. He dropped me at a gas station down the highway, far past where he was originally going. By now, the rain had turned vicious. I was sheltering under the huge covered fuelling area at the gas station, but I was still getting wet. The wind was howling and the rain was coming in sideways. There was no way I could be standing out on the on-ramp. I started asking motorists for a ride, and after an hour and three cups of coffee, a young guy in a van said yes, he was heading east, at least as far as Richmond. Turns out, there were four of them in the van, and some were unsure about picking up a hitchhiker. I left them to discuss the pros and cons, and finally one of them beckoned me to come back. We were on our way to Richmond.

Dana, Dusty, Alex and Eric are in a band. They're not the sort of kids who serve fries all week and play around with their guitars on weekends, either. These guys make their living from playing music, which for a group of twenty-three year olds, is pretty awesome. I've always been jealous of artists and musicians; being able to make a living by doing what you love is a joy that few of us achieve. I'm finally trying....I'll keep you posted on how it works out. While I'm on that subject, have you seen the fantastic little blue and white Paypal logo at the very bottom of this page? Check it out. It keeps the site going.

My new buddies from Florez were sad to say goodbye.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the four boys also known as Florez were a top bunch of guys. They gave me a copy of their CD, so I can listen to their music while I'm working on my journal updates. One of them had actually even studied for a while on the Gold Coast, just an hour south of my home city of Brisbane! I think they really liked me too. I guess I may be getting older, but I'm still hip enough to relate to the youngsters. They were sad to say good bye when they dropped me at a gas station outside Richmond.

My new buddies from Florez were sad to say goodbye.

Richmond was where my luck ran out in a big way. The gas station I was at seemed to be a locals only gas station. Everyone I asked for a ride, lived just a couple of blocks away."Sorry" they said. The there was a break in the rain, so I walked to the on-ramp. Then the heavens opened and I scurried for cover under the overpass. Then the State Trooper asked me to leave the highway. Then I walked back to the gas station, more than a little dejected. By five o'clock, I had to give up. A Greyhound bus was scheduled to depart for Norfolk at 6:45 p.m and I figured it was my last hope of reaching Norfolk. I phoned for a taxi, and called Jim and Nell in Norfolk to tell them I'd be late. Damn, I hate catching Greyhound. I don't know which I hate more; the expense, or the fact that it's an admission of defeat. Either way, it sux.

The bus didn't stink too much, but rattled and shook so much that I was sure any minute it would shake itself to pieces and I'd be left skidding along the blacktop on my ass. Jim said I'd recognize him easily at the bus station, and he was right. "I'm six foot five, and weigh nearly three hundred" he'd said. Although if he sticks to this Atkins diet that he and Nell, and most of America seem to be on, he might not be quite so conspicuous in the future. The Atkins diet is a new approach to weight loss, with its "all the butter and cream you want, all the steak and bacon and chops you want" mantra. Just leave out the carbs.....

Jim is a self employed lawyer *somehow I managed to restrain myself from telling lawyer jokes- maybe it was Jim's three hundred pounds that made me reconsider* and Nell manages an Emergency Room at a hospital in nearby Virginia Beach. They've got a beautiful place right smack on the beach. When I went to bed after midnight, a sudden howling gust of wind shook the house, reminding me that this was one of the hardest hit areas of Hurricane Isabel a couple of months ago. When I turned out the light at about two o'clock, driving rain was still hammering against the window.

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