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Wandering USA: Twilight Zone

When I was about to cross into Mississippi, my engine started acting awkwardly (for lack of a better term). So I stopped at the 84 Quick Stop in Ferriday, Louisiana. I got out of the cab and lifted the hood, pacing while the engine cooled a little. I checked my oil and looked for more leaks underneath. You never know.. Negative. Nothing was leaking.

I started banging on the side, just behind the passenger door, muttering “Stupid f***ing motorhome.” There were people around, but I didn’t care. I was pissed.

Opening the door to the motorhome, I grabbed my phone and thought about the likelihood I would give up within a week. I called Papa.

“So, please help me. Tell me I can keep driving this stupid thing. My engine feels like it’s surging. My gas mileage sucks. It’s just getting worse and worse.”

“Could be the weather,” He sounded concerned anyway.

“It was like this in Texas, too… but without the surging. It was just bad on gas. I figured it was the weather then.” There were tornadoes in Texas while I was there. “But it’s not windy enough for it to act like this here.”

A hard breath escaped him. I heard it over the crackle of a poor cell phone connection and wished I’d be swallowed by the ground. His best guess was the ignition timing. Not dangerous, just annoying, expensive and an environment killer. Awesome.

A guy in a hat and sunglasses walked up and asked if I needed help. He was pretty cute, so I told Papa I’d call him back. He seemed nice enough, so I gave him a chance to take a stab at what could be wrong. As it turned out, he didn’t know anymore than I did, but his parents owned the place. They let me hang out while I let my engine rest for a little while.

Before sunset, I drove another 50 miles to stop at the nearest campground. Luckily it was my initial destination anyway: Clear Springs Recreation Area in the Homochitto National Forest.

I tried not to feel like I was driving into the beginning of a horror novel. The road wound around so many trees, old houses and cemeteries. Each cemetary had oddly cheerful flowers at every almost single gravesite. I tried to remember a recent holiday that would invoke such a display. None came to mind, and I was kind of terrified.

Once I reached the National Forest Signs I felt better, but on my way in I noticed an old oil drill. I figured it was just outside the national forest boundaries and attempted to ignore my hatred and the feeling of hypocrisy.

At the fee station a man yelled, “Ma’am!” and waved furiously for me to come up to the host campsite to check in instead. Legedu barked as usual.

I got out and greeted the most cheerful old man I’d ever encountered. He was happy to tell me all about how the Big Foot documentary had been shot there and how I’d hear noises I’d never heard before.

When he realized h wouldn’t scare me, he showed me where the best camping spot was, gave me the info about a 10 mile hike and sent me on my way to set up.

The next day I needed to find a place with WiFi so I could sit in class for almost 8 hours. The only interesting parts of the day were really strange. One was when a couple dogs chased me all the way around the entire town until I ran them off with a broom… That got me some weird looks. The other was after the library closed. I was sitting in class outside under the awning where I still had an internet connection, while a thunderstorm approached. Lightening stuck the street 30 feet away from me and my entire class watched me jump 3 feet in the air on a webcam…

Getting back to camp, I stopped at the host station again to check in. “Hey! I’m back.”

“Well hello there, miss Taylor Elizabeth Rose.”

“Hi Bryan.”

After my weird day, I wanted nothing more than a fire, but I had no firewood. As it turns out, the closest town you could buy it in was 30 miles away.

Telling Bryan my frustration, he offered to bring me some after the last thunder shower passed. You could hear it approaching and lightening flashed somewhere in the distance. Happy to have some good fortune I agreed and hurried down to a different campsite, with no people around and a better view. Right as I was finished plugging in the RV to the electricity, it began to pour. I ran back inside the door completely soaked already. So I decided to walk around outside and stand in the rain. It was really awesome to be engulfed by thunder.

Bryan brought the wood down in a trailer, stacked it up for me and taught me how to build a “girl scout campfire.” While he filled a can with white gas and stuck a paper towel inside it, he told me how he learned this trick. He’d been tricked by a girl into staying in the mountains during a snow storm, and she showed him how. He was filled with strange stories.

When I asked him about the hike and told him I was planning on going the next day, he insisted on me checking in and out with him because it was extremely dangerous. At first, I thought he was exaggerating a little bit because he had already told me a crazy story about Big Foot in the area. But, the next day I was proven a fool.

I went for about 4 miles before I stopped to let Legedu have some water. 2 miles later I hit a sign that said the name of the trail and “2 mi.” Impossible. I was starting to feel like I was in Dracula or a Stephen King novel. The hike ended up taking most of the day, and I ran into spiders constantly. They were everywhere. It was literally my nightmare. You want to meet a truly arachnophobic person? That’s me. I hated every minute of this hike.

After another 2 miles or so, I lost my focus on my spider hunt, expecting my hiking stick to cut down webs in time. I stepped down in front of a log and the ground sprung up. Screaming 3 times, I somehow teleported 20 feet away with Legedu. We were both unscathed and I spotted the rattlesnake coiled up under the log again. Still in the path, sleeping. It must have been as big as my leg.

There was another path to my right and I decided the possibility of getting lost was better than turning back or trying to go around Big Papa, King of all the Rattlesnakes.

Close to the end, I heard an awful sound that reminded me of death. It got louder and louder as I kept walking. Eventually I came up on another oil drill. I looked around, afraid I’d taken a wrong turn, but there was a trail map ahead. I was definitely still in the National Forest… I stood there confused for about 5 seconds until the sound of mosquitos and other bugs buzzing by overtook me once again. I found the entrance to Hell. It’s located deep in the south of Mississippi.

I thanked God for getting me back to the trailhead. I will never again go hiking in the south. As I sat on a bench wondering how close to death I was (I had no cell phone signal in the middle of the forest to call if I’d been bitten by a snake), two guys pulled up and got out of their car. One was wearing jeans and athletic shoes of some kind. The other was wearing shorts and sandals.

“I don’t think you should go in there without pants and close-toed shoes.”

“Why?”

“Aside from the bug and spider infestation, there’s a snake on the trail and there are bound to be more by now.”

“What kind of spiders and snakes?”

“I saw mostly garden spiders but I’m pretty sure I saw a few brown recluses sprint by me on the ground. Hard to tell, but I was told they’re here. The snake was a rattlesnake and it was huge.”

They assured me they’d be fine and I asked them where they were from. Belgium. As it turns out, they were Exxon Mobile engineers. I laughed and let them know that if they went around all 10 miles (which I thought was more like 13), they would find an oil drill too.



Profile photo of Taylor

I'm a 24 year old writer and full-time wanderer. My dog, Legedu (Leg-a-doo), and I just finished a trip in my 23 year old motorhome wandering through half of the vast USA. Armed with an annual national park pass, a camera and my pen, I'm determined to see everything this country has to offer. Next Spring I will set out once more to travel through the rest of the states.As a Master's Graduate at the School of International Service at American University, I'm fascinated by culture and societal conflict. This is the story of my ultimate global cultural immersion. I'll get to know the culture of my own country intimately and then set out to meet the rest of the world.



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