Monday, December 14, 2009

First Timers and Seasoned Veterans.

After a night we were trying to forget, we awoke to a wet, rain soaked tent and sleeping bags at what we figured was a decent hour. In hindsight, I remember not even being that grumpy, or frustrated. As crappy as our current situation was, we were on the road, and that cancelled any negative vibes we might have had.
Mike and I packed our belongings, reminded Walmart where they can stick it, and headed for some breakfast. We didnt have time to sit down to a proper meal, so we opted for the classic; McDonalds, which would prove to be a staple part of our diet as Mike and I both had a very serious love affair with 'the Don's'.
We finally made it to the highway at roughly 1030ish. It was still grey and miserable and the rain had soaked everything thoroughly. We also didnt find oursleves at a good spot on the highway, so we walked a few kilometers with our stuff to an on-ramp.
Despite everything, we were both in good moods, and were desperate to get the fudge out of Hunstville. No offense, but that place was about as appealing as a punch in the mouth. We could still feel how close we were to the start point and we were dying to change the scenery. We made our first sign, stating simply; "BC". Yeah, I know, we are creatively brilliant.
I dont know what it is in Ontario, but everyone acts like they're American or something....They drive by with their twisted scowls, judging stares and closed minds. They stare, mouth agap, as if they were looking at some astounding firework display or something. But its not a beauty stare like an insect flying towards the 'bright light'. Its more like a deer caught in headlights. "What the f*ck is that?" I can almost hear them asking, as if they had never seen a hitchhiker before.
It took us an agonizing 3.5 hours to get our first nibble. And nibble it was... a jeep swerved over for us, looked like a few young guys and their girls or something. As soon as I started to approach the jeep, they sped off, laughing and screaming at us. Not only was it beyond frustrating at that point, but I didnt know how else to feel. Que angry string of profanities skyward. As pissed as I was at those kids for doing that, whatever. I had done it in the car with friends before, and it was just another harsh lesson in the life of a hitchhiker. You have to be ready and willing to accept crap like that. It doesnt happen often, but it happens.
I was digging through my backpack for something when Mike yelled 'finally!'
I looked up, and sure enough, a guy around our age in what was clearly his parents old cadillac had pulled over for us. I remember there was rap blaring and I smiled, because I knew it would be a ride I could maybe sleep a bit in.
We tossed our gear in the trunk and hopped in. His name was Jason and he was on his way from Barrie to North Bay to visit his girlfriend. He does the trip alone often, and had NEVER picked up a hitchhiker. I was shocked when I heard this, as he was pretty relaxed with two dudes in his car, and for someone who doesnt do this, I was very surprised. Not only that, but he decided his first hitch would be with two guys bigger than him.
Jason was a quiet kid from a small town. He was our age and had never left Ontario. He lived with his Grandmother and visited his girlfriend on weekends. It wasnt my ideal lifestyle, but he was happy. However, he was blown away by our story, and the fact we were so well travelled. I think the fact we were his same age struck home, as he didnt say much, just listened aside from the odd 'thats so sick!' comments. I remember when Jason called his girl and put her on speaker to tell her he had picked up two hitchers. Her reaction was priceless, as it reiterated everything we had been thinking all along. She told him he was insane and that we were going to chop his head off. He told her how cool he thought we were and that we should meet her. She said, and I quote; "No f*cking way!"
North Bay wasnt very far away, and we arrived after about an hour of driving. He took us to the local mall, and we all went and grabbed a quick bite to eat, as we were starving by that point. It was McDonalds again. Yeah, thats right, we double dip.
When we split ways in the food court, it was easy to see Jason was almost torn leaving us. I dont want to judge, but it seemed like he maybe didnt have the biggest list of friends to choose from, and he kept talking to us, as if just to keep us around. Jason was a cool guy and all, just a little awkward. We went to the car, grabbed our belongings and headed out with our medium cokes.

Mike and I now had a seriously awful walk up 3 big hills to cross the city. We were on the East side of town, and had to get approx 7km to the far West side, the best chance to get a ride out.
We walked in the beating July sun, up the hills and to our spot. By that point, both of our panties' were in serious knots, and we werent happy campers. We indugled in a very large roadside stinky cigarette, and that made things much better. We did however fail to realize the Police station 40m away and were lucky to avoid any trouble.
We didnt wait too long(maybe it was the dandelions) but we finally got our ride. A lively construction worker name Mauricio in a pickup truck stopped for us. He had just finished his shift as a crane operator and was heading home, a small town just outside of North Bay. He picks up hitchers everytime he sees one, and you could tell. He loved it!
He told me to open the cooler beside me and grab us three beers. Even though Mike and I knew it was clearly illegal, we would never pay a price for this offence, and went along with it. He cheered our beers and told us a few stories. Mauricio was a great character. He was an Italian man hidden behind a big, burly moustache and he laughed at all his own jokes. He opened up to us immediately and told us a bunch of stories from his 'wild child' days. His tales were entertaining, and we swapped a few of our own.
This is one of the greatest mysteries of hitchhiking. How complete strangers can be so willing to open their personal stories and life events to complete strangers after 10 minutes of knowing them.
Mauricio asked us if it was ok that he stopped at the Indian Reserve to stock up on more cigarettes. He surprised us by throwing a carton on Mikes lap, declaring it was 'for the road'.
Although neither of us were actual smokers(we only did it when the going got really tough, like every waking minute treeplanting) we accepted his gesture. We knew we could sell these, or give them to appreciative, actual smokers.
Maurico took us into a his hometown, Sturgeon Falls. He drove us to the end we needed to get to, and dropped us off.
Right before we shook hands and parted, he pulled out a joint, and gave it to me. He told me that he wanted us to enjoy it that night, and he wished us well.
Mauricio was a man who most people would see and immediately tell he was a trademan, and probably didnt have alot of money. What they wouldnt be able to tell is that he was just about as nice as they get, and had lived a very impressive life. It was just another confirmation of my belief in hitchhike travelling.
Another town, another ride. Another great story to tell.