Thumb's Up

Ben reveals his first ever experience of hitchhiking and hints at how this short 72km journey may in fact change his life forever

The adventurer inside of me had long ago decided that hitchhiking across Canada could lead to becoming one of the greatest experiences of my life and a challenge like none other than I have faced before.

Though having never hitchhiked, the idea of thumbing it 6,000km remained to be just a little bit daunting.

But not wanting to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity I have spent a good deal of time in Alexandria trying to figure out how I could possibly prepare to take on such an epic adventure.

Then as fate would have it, my rather abrupt decision to leave Alexandria and return to Winchester provided the perfect opportunity to try out hitchhiking over a much more reasonable distance and perhaps settle some of the stigma I felt about using my thumb to solicit a driver in to picking me up.
That's right, I was going to try hitchhiking
So 12 hours after telling Mitch I would be leaving I was dropped off on the outskirts of Alexandria on Highway 11 where at the other end, some 70km away, lay Winchester, the home of the Fletcher's.

Highway 11
I set off at 09:27 and with a spring in my step began heading West walking along the side of the highway where with near clear skies and the Sun shining brightly, the temperature had already risen up in to the low 20s.

Filled with anticipation it would be nearly six minutes before I heard the first car approach and as it did I turned to face the oncoming vehicle and stuck my thumb out to indicate I could use a lift. Stood there as the car approached I must say I felt really quite awkward.

Unsurprisingly the car just drove on by, something that would be repeated two or three dozen times.

Finally twenty minutes later my luck appeared to change where with my thumb out, a small approaching truck begun to slow. Then as the truck's indicators began blinking my heart rate doubled and I became so excited I almost forgot the need to be wary. Upon reflection I am pretty sure the driver could have been sporting a mask with a sawed off shotgun... I'd have still jumped on in - I was that excited!

Thankfully my excitement drained as quickly as it came and as my senses returned to normal I realised the driver appeared to be harmless and trusting my gut I threw my bag in the front and followed in quickly behind.

The driver, Mark, was definitely younger than me, perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three and carried a very relaxed presence that gave me no reason whatsoever to feel anything other than comfortable in his presence.

Mark, who it turned out to be a student studying civil engineering was only able to drop me 10km or so but nonetheless I was very grateful and within 10 minutes was jumping back out on to the highway so happy I'd hitched a ride I didn't know what to do with myself!

Up next would be a middle aged guy who was returning to work from a routine hospital appointment back in Alexandria. The man, whose name I forgot, was unmistakably pleased it was over and done with and given that he had only been to have his blood sugar levels checked, I could only assume he had a fear of needles. Anyway, just like Mark before him, he was very friendly and before dropping me back off some 20km later he even went out of his way to buy an iced cappuccino from Tim Horton's!
90 minutes in I was half way to Winchester and feeling on top of the World
Half way to Winchester
So back on the road with my ice cold drink I was positively glowing and am sure that if it were a little cooler I would have probably skipped the remaining distance back to Winchester!

But alas, it was not to be and by 10.45 Larry was pulling on to the shoulder to offer me my third ride of the morning.

On his way back home to Finch, Larry was only too happy to spend the journey sharing with me tales from when he himself use to hitchhike across Canada. And I can only assume he enjoyed telling me these tales as upon reaching Finch Larry just kept on driving and didn't stop until we got to Winchester, perhaps 10km further than he himself had needed to go.

Back in familiar territory and with just 8km left to go I started walking only to be stopped almost immediately by Melanie who believe it or not I actually know from working with the Fletcher's at their business, Winchelsea Events!

So there we have it: 72km (45 miles) in two and a half hours - something that given the volume of traffic I thought was quite good going.

In all honestly though my trip back to Winchester was not about how quickly I could make the journey and it was instead about breaking the novelty and apprehension of standing on the side of a highway, sticking out my thumb and putting my trust in to the hands of a complete stranger. This I did today not once, not twice, but three times and honest to God I loved every minute of it.

Most importantly though is that tonight I go to sleep happy - for not only am I back home with the Fletcher's but that adventure of a lifetime I mentioned at the beginning of this post no longer sounds like an out of reach pipe dream.

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