Next Stop, Tampa

There were some interesting experiences in Petersburg.

“Interesting” is a term usually used in narratives like this one to describe muggings, lost baggage, or other disasters.

It wasn’t that bad. However, I do need to pass a few travel tips along. If your bus or transportation plans take you through Petersburg, there is nothing to see here. Move along.

I’ve got equal responsibility of stupidity here, or more than equal. Pulling into a strange town, you never know what you’re going to have happen, how the travel gods will finger you like a post-forty proctological exam. No matter how much the travel Gods tell you to just try and relax, it can be at best, uncomfortable.

I pulled in on a bus sometime after five on Friday. I went over to the ticket counter to see what the next leg of the trip was going to cost, or how far I could get for around twenty bucks.

I didn’t even make it bast the ticket counter. It was closed.

This is a weird thing for Greyhound. I popped open the laptop to see if I could book a ticket online. No wireless access.


Somewhere in the back of my mind, I think Warren Zevon had the inspiration for the lyrics to “Carmelita” while stuck in Petersburg, particularly the line about Alvarado Street and the Pioneer Chicken Stand. It is a town that looked to have a good manufacturing base…about 30 years ago. Now, It’s just another dead relic hulk of an American city, trying to put lipstick on the proverbial pig with an unmanned, closes at 5:00 Ten Million dollar transportation terminal.

I trudged through town, still half asleep. It was getting darker, and a bit of foresight had me Google-Map the area. I walked about a mile outside of town, and found a small stream near a railroad overpass to “jungle-up.”

If you’ve never “jungled-up” before, there are rules. Get as far away from the road as possible before putting up anything. Try to stay off the radar of the local residents and folks with thumpy nightsticks. If the area is a dry one, don’t cook.

I put trusty hammock up between two trees, and a running line overhead for a tarp. By that point, I had been on the go for about fifty hours with no sleep. Unfortunately, that leads to stupid decisions like “the weather seems to be clearing up, I guess I won’t have to put up the tarp.”

Dumb. I was so tired I slept through the storm, waking up soaked through the sleeping bag at 2:30 in the morning.

The luck had run its course. I was dead broke. No place nearby would take credit or debit cards. I spent a few hours trying to hitch-hike my way out.

You would think, from the speed folks drove by, that escaped mental patients frequently hitch-hiked out from that spot.

I was desperate. I HAD to get out of Virginia. I called my buddy Curtis, who fronted me the money for a ticket to Jacksonville, Florida…and some scratch money on the side as well for incidentals.

We both got bitten by the “what the hell?” bug. Ticket sales online get cut off two hours before the bus leaves, so the best that could be done was to buy a ticket for the following day. “Isn’t that something the clerk should have told you earlier?”

We both wondered aloud how the “Dirty Dog” (Greyhound) justified this type of stuff while still lamenting the lack of folks riding the buses in this era.

There is a tale in the middle of this I’ll call “The Angel Of Petersburg.” I’ll hold off on it for a few days, as I want to forward it to the local paper there first. Something happened, and some recognition needs to be handed out.

The bus to Jacksonville was crowded, not a single seat left on the first leg of the trip. I had taken the “next-day” ticket and wheedled the clerk into making it a “today” ticket at the last minute, subject to space available rules.

For everyone on the bus, the same thought occurred. “I should have gotten something to eat before getting on this mother.” The dude sitting next to me seemed to have a hunger you could paint as a picture, almost openly drooling as we passed McDonald’s, Burger King’s and all other road food familiars.

We pulled into J-Ville around 3:45 AM. The only thing open was a 7-11 and the nightclubs. It was pretty warm, though. The next leg takes me on to Tampa, centrally located for a few of the job prospects that suddenly appeared on the horizon in the last couple of days. About those jobs: While in Maine, I had circulated my resume a LOT looking for work in Florida, but with nary a single reply. It wasn’t until I was stuck in a “Pilot Flying J” truck-stop for forty hours with WiFi time did the job fairy deign to turn a magic wand in my direction.

I applied for six jobs. I know I’ve already covered this, but it bears a re-visit. Within eight hours, I had two exceptionally interested prospects, with a third nibbling at the line. Three for Six gets you into the hall of fame. I also had a weird inquiry from an insurance company back in Portland, wondering if I’d consider doubling back.

In the words of a sage of our age, Si from “Duck Dynasty”…”NAH.”


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