Hitchhiking Highway 1 (part 2)

[This is part two of three I plan to post in November]

I don't know too much about this guy who helped me so much on my journey.  He lived on a farm in Alberta.  He drove a large Dodge Ram that had been converted to use either natural gas or gasoline (he was annoyed that natural gas prices had skyrocketed since he had done the conversion ). He drove me something like 1500 miles and when he dropped me off took a snapshot of me for when he would tell his friends and family about his trip. At every gas station he would end up chatting with the workers or with other drivers.  Maybe because he was Canadian, maybe because he put people at ease one gas station worker after another opened up to him with a litany of bigoted comments I'd never heard when traveling in Canada.  I didn't even know that they had racism in Canada, and I barely knew what a Newfie was before that ride.  It seemed that there was a lot of concern in Northern Canada that "damn Newfie's are coming to take our jobs."  My ride neither supported nor criticized any of the bigoted comments.



At one point in Northern BC we spent the night in a provincial campground. There was a $10 fee to park there and we decided that we would flout the fee and try to leave early in the morning to make sure we didn't tangle with any enforcement.  As we rolled out of the campground at seven in the morning we gave a friendly wave to a park ranger on her way in. That was the point when my creative bedroll arrangement started to get moist.  I had on old cloth sleeping bag, printed with rustic hunting images of the style that were popular among outdoorsmen in the 50's.  I had taken it from the closet in my Grandma Junie's cabin on Lake Roesiger, near Snohomish, Washington.  I had used the sleeping bag during a previous adventure, my short stint as a long line crab fisherman in Dutch Harbor.  It probably had some little flecks of herring bait in it as a result.  For transport I rolled the sleeping bag together with a tarp.  When I slept during my journey, I would unroll the sleeping bag on top of the open tarp and then fold the tarp over the top as a crude bivouac sac.  My problem was that the tarp held in the moisture from my body when I slept and the old cloth sleeping bag absorbed it well.  I didn't feel like I had time to stop and dry the bedroll out, so I just lived with it.

The friendly Alberta farmer/Alaska fisherman who had taken me so far, dropped me off at a gas station near Edmonton.  I found a cardboard box that was conveniently protruding from a dumpster, tore off an appropriately sized square, and went into the convenience store to see if I could find a Sharpie. I got my Sharpie and headed outside to work on my project. As I passed the pumps I overheard the conversation going on between a thin man driving a beat up recent model American sports car and the teenage kid who was pumping gas.  I can't remember exactly how he phrased it, but the customer tauntingly called the kid a "Chinaman."  The kid replied, red in the face, that he was not Chinese but in fact Japanese.  The exchange repeated a couple of times before I was out of earshot.

My plan was to travel on Highway 1 across Canada until I reached Ottawa and then head south from there.  I used my new magic marker to write the word "Ottawa," as boldly as possible, filling as much of the square of cardboard as possible.  Below that, I wrote "please," smaller and in parentheses. I contribute my surprising success in hitchhiking to my relatively non threatening appearance and this sign.  Every ride I got commented on the sign, usually to say something disparaging about politicians.

With my sign in hand I walked out to the on-ramp of Highway 1 and stuck out my thumb.  I was beginning to feel very dubious about the spot when I saw a familiar car approaching.  It the same beat up late model American car that had been at the gas station.  Just as I was formulating uncharitable thoughts about the driver and his racism, the car pulled over.  He had a passenger with him that I hadn't noticed at the gas station.  It turned out they were Neufies who had come to work in the oil boom in Alberta. They were coming back from a party at a wilderness location and were severely hung over. One of them shared a long story about the party that focused on the vomiting, diarrhea and sunburn he had experienced as a result of his excesses during the party. The pair were very friendly with me on the short ride into Edmonton where they dropped me off.

I've heard various strategies for hitchhiking.  A friend's dad advised me that I should never walk while hitchhiking on the theory that people will be less likely to pick you up if they think you might get where you're trying to go on your own.  I generally feel the opposite.  I think people feel more inclined to help someone who is putting in some effort.  One place I always walk is through a city.  I generally don't even bother to try to hitch a ride in the middle of a city.  In Edmonton, I spent the better part of a day trying to walk through the city.  As dusk approached I realized that I wasn't going to be able to clear the city before night and started trying to hitch in an area I would normally not consider.  A lot of time passed and then I got the most surprising ride of the trip.  Knowing that truckers can't pull over because of Insurance regulations, I usually just drop the thumb and wave a friendly hello at them.  Because there were two lanes I had my thumb up as a cab-over Mac truck passed and then pulled over.

[This is part two of three I plan to post in November]
comments powered by Disqus