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The Hitchhiker Man: Chapter Four

Sudbury, Ontario. 0 km.

“Those who speak don’t know, and those who know don’t speak.”
—Lao Tzu

I packed my toothbrush into my bag before zipping it back up one last time. I said goodbye to my sister who I had been living with. She was sad to see me go, but made no attempt to stop me. Neither one of us knew if I would return.
It was six in the morning when I walked down the steps of my townhouse on my way to Ryan’s place. He was already outside waiting for me when I got there. We crossed the street and walked through the mall with all our possessions on our backs. I think it was the most depressing moment of my life, but there was no turning back. I had told too many people I was going to go. Staying seemed like a failure. An inability to carry through with what I had said I was going to do. I wondered if my ego had gotten the best of me.
Ryan and I took the city bus to the outskirts of the Sudbury, the place I had spent the last five years living while studying. At the last stop the driver pulled over and looked back at us. It was my last chance to bail on the trip and the thought was very much on my mind. I could simply take the bus back to my place, have a hot shower, and get back into my comfy bed like nothing had ever happened. It was the perfect plan, but for some reason I picked up my bag and I walked off the bus.
The weight of my backpack became obvious almost immediately. The short walk to the Trans-Canada Highway seemed like a trek through the Himalayas. When we finally arrived at the edge of the highway, my shoulders ached. But we smiled and put our thumbs out, excited to begin our journey.
Countless cars drove by while the morning sun rose into the clear blue sky. I felt optimistic, but as each hour passed my optimism began to fade. The pavement absorbed the sun’s heat and radiated it back up at us. By the time it was at its peak we were both drenched in sweat. I looked back at the city shimmering in the heat haze, the place where we had come from just six hours earlier. Even if we didn’t get a ride, I decided that I wasn’t going back there. I didn’t want to walk through the same door in my life that I had just closed.
At first I felt as if the people driving by were my fellow motorists, my fellow humans. The ones that I shared the road with daily. Yet after hours of watching cars pass by the connection seemed to disappear. Instead I could feel the motorists’ piercing eyes judging us, categorising us, and then forgetting us. As if we were trying to get something that we didn’t deserve.
What if they knew that I still had a car sitting in my driveway at home? Would that make a difference? Would they give me a ride if they knew I was a contributing member of society? None of that seemed to matter anymore. In less than one day I had become just another blank face to forget. It was hard to take it all in. In such a short amount of time I had become an outcast, a rebel, and a vagabond.
Ryan and I walked endlessly, desperate to cover some distance by foot seeing as the passing cars weren’t helping. The straps of my bag were cutting into my shoulders. One arm ached from holding my twelve-string guitar while the other hurt from holding out my thumb. After ten hours of hitching and no rides we dropped our bags on the ground, demoralised. But right then at the lowest point of our day a shiny red Ford truck pulled over. A young guy named Mike offered to take us a few km up the road.
As if the gates to a forbidden kingdom had just been unlocked, the doors of the hitchhiking world swung open in front of us. Then Mike kindly set us down in front of a burger joint some ten minutes later, where we celebrated our first ride with some food and tried to forget about the painful day behind us.
We had not travelled far, but in the short amount of time on the road my view of the world had already begun to change. For the first time in my life I understood how quickly somebody who escaped the claws of society could become alienated forever.
We walked back to the road with a new-found optimism, but again no cars stopped and again we gave up on walking. Instead we sat down on the warm pavement. I played guitar and worked on some songs, and we took turns putting our thumbs out.
At some point a blue GMC truck screeched to a stop in front of us.
“Where you boys headed?” an old man wearing a cowboy hat asked.
“Across Canada,” we replied.
“Well, I’m only going to the next town, but it’ll be further than where yer sittin’ now.”
We climbed into the truck. The guy driving was named Frank and he looked like a farmer. After a few pleasantries he dropped us off in the little town of Massey, Ontario, on the edge of Georgian Bay. As the last few rays of sun left the sky, we cracked a beer to celebrate our semi-successful first day of hitchhiking. We packed up and were about to head into the bushes for the night when a white Mazda four-door pulled over beside us.

Chapter 5 will be posted next week, or click on the book to purchase on amazon. 


Above Photo By: Karsten Wurth