Columns » Urban Archaeology

A hitchhiker's guide to leaving town

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I found this sign in a grassy strip along West Main Street, across from Duke East Campus. "Anywhere But Here": It could be a modern version of "California or bust!," the mantra of fortune-seekers headed West during the Gold Rush.

Judging from the drawing, this 21st century hitchhiker yearned for snow-peaked mountains and rolling byways — Asheville, in the winter, perhaps? Or the Rockies? Or all the way to the Sierras?

I know how the hitchhiker feels. Eight years ago, my husband and I were living in San Antonio, Texas, during the Summer of Perpetual Hell: A drought was killing everything except the rocks, and they weren't looking so good. The temperatures consistently hit the upper 90s and low 100s. Even the birds panted.

I was out of work. Vandals slashed two tires on our Geo Metro. Then thieves stole all four wheels off our Honda Civic (but they were thoughtful enough to leave the chassis on concrete blocks). One morning shortly before dawn, I saw a pack of dogs maul one of our cats in the street. On another afternoon, a rabid possum stumbled around the yard and eventually died under the house.

We've got to get the hell out of here. Anywhere but here.

Finally, our streak of bad luck ended. In late August, on a 101-degree day, we rented an RV, left Texas and headed East, to North Carolina.

I hope the hitchhiker found a safe ride that took him to a place he loves. Just like we did.

Urban Archaeology documents found objects, photos, overheard dialogue, poignant scenes; the small, everyday true moments that define life in the Triangle. Contribute to this column at editors@indyweek.com.

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