So back to my stupid hitch-hiking story.
Bernie dropped me off on the south side of a little town called Portage la Prairie. I took stock of my surroundings and noticed a large cemetery just across the service road. I decided to stop for a closer look.
Now, located next to the cemetery, is a little park with facilities and picnic table and the like. I decided to take a little break and sit down. I suppose because the half hour car ride had left me somewhat lazy. See, that’s kinda a problem I have. My focus can easily be distracted by… well pretty much anything. I sat down and noticed a well built young first-nations fellow pull in driving a white van and smiled as he seemed a friendly fellow. He left almost immediately and I gave him no further thought till he returned a few minutes later. When he exited his vehicle, to approach the table I was sitting at, he was carrying some snacks in his hand. I assumed he and his passenger were planning to picnic there and prepared to offer him the table since I should have been on my way in any case.
This was to be the greatest moment of my short foray into the world of hitchhiking.
He stepped up and extended toward me a large bottle of cold water, a bag of beef jerky, and a bag of potato chips saying ” I thought you might want some COLD water.”
I was astonished! The man, having seen me carrying my bags had gone back to his nearby home, to retrieve the goods he now offered me purely out of concern for a total stranger’s well being. I thanked him and introduced myself, so surprised I am still uncertain whether he said his name Lyle or perhaps Kyle. We spoke a few words before he went on his way but I found myself thinking about his act of kindness ever since.
Lyle, (I hope I have his name right), exemplifies the perfect citizen of the Canada I want to be part of. Friendly, hospitable, and kind. I regard myself lucky to have met him and hope to meet him again one day.
After having snacked on the treats this great Canadian provided I headed back out on the highway and started walking toward the west, trying to thumb a lift to the next town. It was not to be. I walked, walked and then walked some more. It was evening by the time I arrived at the west end of town. I decided I best find a room for the night.
I walked into town. It was a Tuesday evening. I arrived at the first hotel around eight in the evening to see a sign declaring no room at the inn. Unworried, I continued on. The second was full as well and no stable in sight. I stopped and had a burger. Now, I WAS worried. My feet were killing me. I had twisted my ankle slightly while crossing a ditch earlier in the day. This was five miles ago give or take forty. Wearily I staggered on. Darkness falling fast with me falling almost as fast, I lay down on some grass as I crossed through a small grove of trees leaving the burger joint. I felt a chill creeping up my legs. My boots looked strangely dark. Gradually the realization dawned upon me that my boots were wet. An eternity passed while my exhausted mind calculated the reason for my boots being wet. The grass I was lying on had been watered earlier in the evening. It felt oh so soft and comfortable. Panic registered in fragments. “Get up Jake you’re in trouble. Hitchhiking was a stupid idea!” Every cell in my body wanted to stay there.
Slowly I rose to my feet. The chill hit my now dampened legs instantly, waking me enough to drag my pack back up to my raw shoulder. My will to survive kicked in and forced me to step forward with the realization that I would need to keep moving till I was dry.
A few blocks further and inspiration shone in the form of a Motel sign. I would like to say it quickened my step but that would be an outright falsehood. Having forfeited my pride twice this summer I cannot afford to lose my integrity. There was no quicken to put in my step. Then I saw a second motel sign and hope sang. Surely I would have a hot bath and a warm bed. My imagination luxuriated, soaking in a hot tub before dropping on a soft clean bed. I could almost feel it. I crossed the wide street as I neared the first motel and came around the corner where my hopes dropped into my wet boots. The office dark and the same awful sign hanging in the window.
But wait, there was another motel just a block farther. Surely there would be a room there. There wasn’t.
My entire body screamed for rest. It was near midnight by now and I was mostly dried off. I tossed my packs on the sidewalk in front of a chapel and tried to work out a plan using an apparatus that had long since ceased to function. I considered a dark alley to toss my blankets down. Risky in a strange town. The chill of night settled upon me as I noticed a familiar convenience store sign off in the distance. I had to keep moving to warm up. I made it to the store and used the payphone to call for a ride home. Enough of this already. I wanted a hot bath and warm bed. Nothing else mattered. I sat down on my pack at the end of the building to wait the three hours the ride was going to take to arrive, and leaning back began to doze off. A couple of cops pulled up. They were as friendly as they could be while maintaining professional authority as I explained myself as best I could. After they left I went inside and got a cup of coffee to keep me awake while the cops patrolled the street. I never did decide whether it was me they didn’t trust in their town or if they didn’t trust their town with a misplaced halfwit.
I might try a long bike ride again some time but no way in hell will I ever try hitchhiking again.