Maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the thought of enrolling in school for 2 years. But here it is! That time of year I find myself idly perusing the cost of flights elsewhere, past writings that took place in other places, looking around and wondering how I got so much stuff!
It’s common enough scenario with me. I flip flop consistently on the whole want to be settled/desperately want not to be settled thing. There’s no place like home indeed. But home is where the heart is and my heart doesn’t necessarily want to beat in one place forever. I could throw in a cavalcade of catchphrases arguing both sides of my dilemma but I would still be in the same place of wanting.
My hope was that a recent hitchhiking trip would satisfy a certain part of the travel bug, but it turned out to be so incredibly grand in one direction and so frustrating from the other, it’s only served to reiterate the perfect balance between going away and staying home. I shall elucidate…
The to trip.
Every single ride was a delightful exchange between hiker and driver. Every driver a sparkling individual with a brain, a sense of humour, a lust for life and a joyful point of view of their everyday existence. I never waited any longer than 40 minutes in any one spot, in some instances being picked up by the very next car that came along. The weather was sunny and not too cold, considering it was January and I had bundled just the right amount to maintain comfort while moving from warm car to wintery air. A trip that would take approximately 8 hours driving straight through took me 10 hours hitchhiking, with almost an hour wait in osoyoos. So technically 9 hours.
I did end up walking for about 4 hours or so at the far end of the journey because of a misunderstood text message, but my pack wasn’t too heavy, the night wasn’t too chilly, the terrain was easily manoeuverable and to be fair, I’ve been talking for some time about needing more exercise. Once again, when making blanket statements to the universe, be as specific as possible. Otherwise you may find yourself wandering a country road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Before too long, unless 4 hours is too long, my friends found me and brought me to my destination and I had a lovely time visiting with them.
The fro journey however….
Getting out of Vancouver is a difficult prospect at the best of times. It’s difficult to judge whether to jump on the highway at grandview and hope that someone gets you past all those still in the city exits is a better idea than taking transit out past langley and trying for a ride that way.
This trip I went with the Langley option, forgetting of course, it’s been so long since I was a passenger and not a driver encapsulated by my lovely Nina Yakuza 4runner, that it takes a good 1.5 to 2 hours to get to the other side of langley via transit. That’s with the new skytrain stops and everything.
But there I was and happy to be and before too long I got a ride with a young nursing student, but only as far as Chilliwack. But moving forward is moving forward and the realization that with the sun going down around 5pm, my eight hour trip starting at 11am (after buses and skytrains, 9am if you count those) would certainly be half spent in darkness, it’s difficult to not wish for longer rides.
But it was not to be. From Chilliwack to Hope, Hope to the junction, the junction to sunshine valley, sunshine valley to manning park, manning park to princeton, princeton to keremeos, keremeos to cawston, cawston to osoyoos. For anyone who has driven this highway, they would understand that these are the shortest of the hop skip rides one can achieve while travelling this route. Why would I take such short rides? Because there’s always the hope that at the next stop will be the longer ride. Forward movement is movement forward, after all. Even when it’s insanely frustrating. The wait between rides this time around was also not something to be impressed by. Especially once I was stuck in Cawston (that was a ride I should not have taken. In Cawston there is one streetlight and it is a stretch of highway that you only drive at a reasonable speed on if you are planning to stop because you live there. My time there became an attempt to hitchhike either side of the highway in the hopes of getting back to Keremeos or forward to Osoyoos. By this time it is very dark, it is getting colder and I have run out of time on my cellphone outside of a store that only takes cash, which I have none of.
This is one of the only times in my life I have ever considered calling someone to bail me out. It was likely the darkest moment of my entire hitchhiking career which spans more than 20 years of my life. I had to be back in the kootenays for work the next morning, staying overnight was not an option. Getting out of this spot was proving to be troublesome at best, impossible at worst. I hadn’t bundled properly this time, having started from a balmy Vancouver, rather than a wintery Ymir and was starting to feel very very cold. I didn’t have a whole lot of snacks or water with me, unlike the trip out. I felt like a neophyte being slapped in the face with the reality of the outside world. It’s very humbling to find oneself in a situation like this, especially when one has spent years having the arrogance (confidence?) to describe hitchhiking as one of their “superpowers.” Finally I got a ride from a most unsavoury character as far as osoyoos. Friendly enough, but not quite the kind of friendly I was in the mood for at this point. Or any point for that matter. After a most inappropriate proposition, a vehement declaration that I would rather be left in the darkness on the side of a highway to be eaten by wolves, a slightly guilty decision to drive me to somewhere with civilization, or at least streetlights and some reeeeeally awkward small talk, I arrived in osoyoos, where I would be stuck for almost 3 hours.
I know the hiking veterans out there might be thinking “3 hours? Whatever bitch, I got stuck in Wawa for 3 days!” Yeah, well, haven’t we all. Okay, to be fair, I never got stuck in Wawa for longer than a day and a half, but I know what it’s like to be stuck. Being stuck somewhere when you have to be somewhere else within 12 hours and functional worker bee as though you’ve had some sleep the night before tend to make things feel a little more desperate.
So there I was, on the verge of asking friends to drive for 4 hours to get me, them on the verge of booking me a hotel room because they couldn’t abide the idea of me trapped on the side of the highway in the middle of the night in the middle of winter (thank jeebus it was osoyoos where winter doesn’t really happen in an extreme way, not that there wasn’t snow on the ground, just not super freezing temperature action) and the little hitchhikers voice in the back of my mind yelling “Next time we are SO taking the car!”
Being on the verge of giving up in a situation where you don’t have the option of giving up can be somewhat freeing. The idea that there is potentially no relief coming makes one reassess what it is to rely on external forces to get it done. It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s you and your thumb and the hope that one of the cars driving past you every 15 minutes or so is going at least to the next town and is carrying a person open minded enough to invite a stranger into their car.
Fortunately, one was. He drove past me, came back and got me. And drove me all the way to Nelson. Where my friends were waiting to pick me up. Rescued on both ends by people I love.
No matter how much this trip made me realize that I am ultimately responsible for my own course, whether it involves staying put for the time being or selling off everything I own and running away (anyone looking for antique typewriters?) how amazing is it to have loved ones on either side who will drive through the night in search of a crazy firegypsy who can’t sit still for some reason. When I do decide to cast off for lands unseen, at least by me, I’ll be sure to make more friends like the ones I already have, because the notion that there is someone on the other side of the journey who will catch you if you need them to is extraordinarily reassuring.