Escape from Arkadelphia (updated with pictures!)
Here’s an adventure story for you. And since it largely happened on the 12th it’s completely expected. (I wont go into why my aversion to the number 12 is literally the ONLY superstition I hold onto. Suffice it to say multiple broken bones are involved.)
After the Crater of Diamonds experience I had Jim drop me off by the side of the road in a town called Arkadelphia (you can’t make these names up) figuring I could catch a ride to Texas or grab a bus. Unfortunately, I quickly learned there was no such thing as buses in Arkadelphia, or trains…or people willing to offer a personable guy a ride.
Five hours later my “TEXAS PLEASE” sign had elicited no rides but it was such a beautiful day I really didn’t mind. In fact I even got a message from Chase in Nashville asking how things were going to which I said, “I’m stuck again but at least it’s a nice night.”
Five minutes later the wind picked up and suddenly my “TEXAS PLEASE” sign was more like an unfurled sail ready to drag me to Texas by whatever means necessary. Slightly inconvenient but not enough to kill my good mood. Cue the thunderstorm. Finally the combination of the pouring rain and the wind drove me indoors.
After adding a few corollaries to the sign, “I’m stuck. I need to be in TEXAS PLEASE. Texarkana is far enough,” I set up shop in the entranceway at a local 24 hour Wal-Mart with my sign and took care of some work on Charley. Pity ensued.
One guy offered me money thinking I was just too broke to leave town (and although that is in many ways true, there’s a huge difference, in my mind, between donations made because someone appreciates what I’m doing and money just given out of pity) and a couple other interesting people just stopped to talk.
Eventually Elena stopped and explained that there really was a train station in town and even gave me a ride so I wouldn’t have to walk through the still pouring rain. It was now around 10pm. The next and only train of the day going in my direction was scheduled for 4am. So I sat.
At one point Elena came back through with a travel mug full of tea and totally made my week. I love it when people prove my belief in the kindness of strangers to be well founded! Then I continued to sit.
At 4am I called Amtrak. “Train…2…1 is delayed…1…hour…and 20…minutes,” Julie the automated service representative announced. So I sat.
At 5:30 I called Amtrak. “Train…2…1 is delayed…2…hours…and 10…minutes.”
At 6:42 after being awake for nearly 24 hours and sitting in the cold for almost nine, I heard the train whistle and gathered my belongings (both of them) and stood next to the train tracks, dreaming of a place to curl up and sleep for 14 hours…as the train sped past without so much as slowing down. (It was an unmanned station and since no one was getting off there they just skipped the stop to make up for lost time.)
So I sat. This time more because I didn’t know what else to do. Out of ideas I pulled up a map to the interstate and just started walking, hoping for the best. Instead I got stopped by a policeman who asked me a barrage of clever questions.
“Do you have a weapon?”
“Take your hands out of your pockets.”
“What are you doing walking around?” (This one was my favorite.)
“Any bombs in your backpack?”
After calling in my ID and being assured I was who I said I was, Robbie, the officer, offered to drive me to the interstate…so I got to ride in the back of a cop car…again.
“Robbie, Is it even possible to leave this town if you don’t own a car?”
“Well, hitchhiking is illegal and so is soliciting a ride at a gas station…but that’s really the only option. I’ll drop you off at this station where the owners are more laid back and I’ll let them know what’s going on. I’ll call the PD too and let them know you’re out here.”
The first guy I asked had a Texas license plate and a car full of stuff, looking like he might be headed home to Texas for the holidays.
“Do you happen to be headed west on the 30?”
After another twenty minutes or so of asking around, the first guy, who was waiting on some friends, fessed up and offered a ride to Texarkana and freedom. JJ, a football player at the local state school, actually turned out to be really cool and the drive time flew by. PLUS, just getting me away from Arkadelphia makes me think I probably owe him my life.
Then it was just an easy three mile walk through the pouring rain to get to the bus station and dry off my clothes in front of a hand dryer before a seven hour bus ride!
This got really long but I didn’t want to break it up because it was all one continuous adventure for me. In fact I’m going on my 43 hour without sleep (besides nodding off a couple times on the bus ride from Texarkana to Austin) as I keep slumping over my keyboard.
As long as it’s not out of pity feel free to…
‘Tis the season to build karma.
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