I had a bad ankle after 6 1/2 days of walking over the Pennsylvania rocks
and so decided to hitch the 30 odd miles to Delaware Water Gap while Billy
and Ben walked and met me there the next day. The first couple of hitches
were fine- a college kid and a couple of teenagers. The fun began on Hwy.
209N- a guy in an old building van pulled up, a normal enough looking guy
called Troy. He was going that direction- he had a couple of stops to make
on the way but he would take me up there. He had his 3 kids in the back of
the van sitting on a bench seat he had bolted in for them. Katy- 3, Silus-
and little Troy Jr.- still a baby. He established he was a bit odd by
he couldn't trust me because he didn't know me. If I was any trouble "I've
got these" holding up his fists "and I've got a gun under the seat." He was
also 4 beers in but I am used to that living in the south. He also talked
about almost getting in to a fight on the AT with some hikers who are
generally not the aggressive type. "Well he's a bit odd but I don't need to
get another hitch so it should be fine", I was thinking. The first stop he
made was at a building supply place where he was returning something.
the kids will you. I'll be watching you and don't go under the seat." He
continued to make various stops for pizza, soda, cigarettes, aluminium foil
at one point(?) and some more beer- a separate stop for each. Each time he
said "watch the kids" before getting out. Each stop the kids were getting
more pissed off- it was a hot day and it was even hotter in the van. So I
started to ask "are we going to Delaware Water Gap next?" "Just a couple
more stops" was generally the reply. At one point he sees a friend of his
at a gas station and talks to him for a bit. I got the impression he might
have been on the run with the kids. He said "she's trying to take
man, all for a little domestic disturbance"- I could be wrong there though.
He had talked about his house on a lake in a gated community and his good
relationship with his Costa Rican wife previously. You decide. We got to a
town and I saw signs to Stroudsburg saying it was 3 miles away (Delaware
Water Gap was a further 2) so I was getting close. Our next stop was at one
of the 2 town sex shops where Troy could get a blow job for $15. "Watch the
kids- I'll be back in a bit." Watching a guys kids while he is in a sex
getting a blow job is an unusual experience. "Where's Daddy?" "Oh he's just
gone inside for a bit" "Where?" "You can ask him when he gets back." Katy
was getting annoyed at being strapped in for so long as well so the rest of
the conversation was "let me out" "No." "Why?" "because you're dad says so"
"Why?" "You'll have to ask him." "Let me out" and so on. Troy comes back
after about 15 minutes sweating unpleasantly with a hard core porn mag.
There was a money making opportunity for me there apparently- there was a
guy who would pay you $50 if you showed him your penis while he
Troy had done it before but I passed. He drives off reading looking at his
porn and we start along some country lanes. "Is this the back way there
then?" I ask. "One more stop and we'll be there." The next stop is his drug
dealer where he can get a good deal on 8 balls (I think) of crack if I was
interested. We get to the house. There are other houses in the area just a
distance away. It seemed like there had been some trouble between Troy and
Sean the drug dealer because he asked me to "go and knock on the door and
ask for Sean- tell him Troy is here." "Why can't you go?" "Because his wife
doesn't like me." So I nervously go and knock on the door. "Is Sean in?"
"Who's asking?" "I'm Will. Troy's here. He wants to see Sean." "I don't
no Troy." I relay this on to Troy. "Tell him I'm Jimmie's brother" which I
do. "Tell him to come in." Troy didn't want to go in- his excuse was he had
the kids in the car. Sean said " he's got to come in." Troy did go in and
came back with his crack. "Hey, would you drive the van for a bit?" I
imagine it is fairly unusual to hitchhike and end up driving the ride you
get in but I have done it. Of course it is difficult to drive, smoke crack
(with an aluminium foil pipe- Ahh, that was what it was for.) and look at
porn while your kids are in the back of the car so I had to drive. We start
off with him giving seemingly random directions but I had no idea where we
are so I keep driving. He suggests I take a hit . I say it is too
addictive- I don't want to try it. "That's what my wife said. She's fine. She only
it when I want her to." After such a convincing argument I still said no.
came to a sign which said Stroudsburg 3 miles to the left and he said go
right. I pulled the van over and said left was the way I needed to go. He
suggested we should pick up a couple of hookers and get a hotel room.
going to watch the kids?" I asked- "the prostitutes", replied Troy- Of
course how stupid of me. I declined his kind offer, took my stuff and
the 5 miles to Delaware Water Gap slightly scared he was going to drive by
and shoot me. He was shaking so much after the crack his aim probably would
have been off anyway.
- Will Schwalbe currently resides in London, England. At the time of Ben & Billy's 2003 thru-hike, Will lived in Savannah, GA. Being a lifelong friend of Ben's, Will joined the hike on June 28, 2003 in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania and left the A.T. July 20, 2003 in Salisbury, Connecticut.