The Hitchhiker's Guide to Canada: Day 2, Part 1: Misery Attracts...?

In the first of a two-part post, Ben reveals how his second day hitchhiking across Canada became a true nightmare experience

With the Sun shining brightly from 5am the absence of any blinds (or for that matter any other furniture) made for a rather uncomfortable night's sleep. In fact when I awoke, I found myself in the one place where the Sun wasn't and that was tucked up into a small cupboard set in to wall where with my beetroot legs petruding out in to the empty room I started the day feeling pretty sorry for myself...

...But with plans today to hitchhike twice the distance I covered yesterday I decided against hanging about in North Bay and almost immediately after Kim awoke at 11 I promptly said thank you and farewell and made my way out the door.

Happy Ben after a good night sleep
In the time spent waiting for Kim to get up I made the decision that I would start the day hitchhiking as close to the edge of town as possible and on the 45 minute walk up to my chosen spot I found myself questioning whether I perhaps have been a little ambitious with the distances I think I am able cover on a given day. In saying this, I have known since planning this leg that the hardest part would be these first few days as it would be this time in which I would get a sense for what is in fact realistic.

Sensibly then I opted to build up the distances that I hoped to travel in order to to try and break myself in to what for me at least is a relatively new form of travelling. So yesterday was the easiest of the three days with a target of just 200km (125 miles). Then looking at what lies ahead today I plan on more than doubling that to 450km (281 miles) before tomorrow taking on what I envisage being the single greatest distance that I'll hitchhike on this leg - a whopping 701km (437 miles).

- - - Thumb's Up in North Bay at 11:57 - - -

After perhaps not the most motivating of thoughts on the walk up to where I would begin from today I did at least distract myself from the fact that I worked up the most enormous sweat, soaking everything on me from head to toe. So as I cranked the volume on my "Motivate" playlist and stuck out my thumb I hoped secretly that it would be at least twenty minutes before catching ride simply so I could dry off.

Ride 007: Chris. 39km from North Bay to Sturgeon
The first driver of the day was Chris who thankfully picked me just as I had dried off and driving a 2012 Dodge I knew immediately he would have much needed air conditioning for the temperature outside was already in to the mid 20s.

Upon getting in the car the first thing to catch my attention was that Chris did not have the appearance of somebody who might be able to afford such a vehicle and did initially wonder if the car might in fact be stolen. As it turned out though Chris had just scored it lucky at work after being the man behind the roof supports that eventually saved the trapped 33 Chilean miners back in 2012 and as he said (or at least implied) "once you have that on your resume you can sort of charge what you like."

Ride 008: Gillett. 16km from Sturgeon to Verner
Just a fat bloke in an old truck with nothing to say other than his name.

Ride 009: John. 73km from Verner to Sudbury
I remember nothing of John and have nothing in my notes other than he was an "older gentlemen" who dropped me off at the Sudbury bypass. Sorry.

Ride 010: James. 70km from Sudbury to Espanola
It was about this point that I came to realise my mood was deteriorating pretty rapidly and given that it was starting from an unusually low point today I felt the answer had of course to lie with Tim Horton's where with a sour look on my face I continued to question whether I would make the remaining 230km to Sault Ste Marie (pronounced suu-say-ma-ree) before nightfall.

Now I'll spare you the misery but the next couple of hours continued to go downhill with the coffee it seemed having little effect to speak of:
"15:38 - Time for some tunes"
"15:44 - Here we go... thumb's away!" 
"15:46 - Whoops. Had my thumb out standing in front of the police station. Explains the funny looks I have been getting. Think I'll move on a little."
"15:26 Tim Hortons. Medium black coffee,
large iced cappucino, chicken club"

Ride 011: Ron. 40km from Espanola to Walford
Demonstrating a lack of attention I again only have written in my notes that his brother recently died of cancer. Let the fun times continue.

Ride 012: Tom. 27km Walford to turn off to Elliot Lake (Hwy 108 & 17)
Tom, aged 70, was driving from Toronto up to Elliot Lake where last weekend a large shopping mall collapsed trapping and killing several people. The "highlight" (a term used loosely in this context) of my time with Tom was briefly stopping en route at a cemetery where in his words he wanted to say "hi" to some of his buddies.

Ride 013: Keith. 30km from turn off to Elliot Lake (Hwy 108 & 17) to Blind River
Continuing with the misery my next ride was from Keith who dressed in full military uniform was on his way from Elliot Lake where he had been assisting with the ongoing rescue mission.

So Keith dropped me off on the near side of Blind River leaving me a little disgruntled with having to walk right the way through town before catching my next ride. From there I will simply detail what I have written in my notes (pay close attention to the timings) as I am not sure I have patience to relive the experience in much more detail than I have here:
"17:50 - After half an hour walking to the edge of Blind River I am sweating like a pig. With 134km remaining its looking unlikely I'll arrive as planned at 6pm" 
"18:00 - Out of Blind River but can't find somewhere suitable to hitch from"  
[whilst I had reached the end of town the highway was one corner after another with little in the way of a hard shoulder making it difficult for drivers to pull over and therefore less likely]
"19:14 - Still walking, still sweating and still nobody is picking me up! And those that are acknowledging me are mostly just blatantly laughing in my face. ****, **** and ****. Do I carry on trying to catch a ride or admit defeat and find somewhere to set up camp?" 
"19:38 - That's it, I give up. Found some free wifi at some lodge and emailed the Kirk family to tell them I won't be coming. Just now need to find somewhere to sleep the night." 
Then with my spirit as low as it has been since being attacked by black flies in Alexandria, my saviour it seemed appeared before me...

Ride 014: Kevin. 88km from Blind River to the middle of nowhere near Bruce Mines
Minutes from walking off the highway and into the shrubbery to set down my tent for the night I was finally picked up by a man named Kevin who stopped after apparently identifying me as a foreign traveller on the approach behind me.

So Kevin wasn't as it turned out heading all the way to Sault Ste Marie but he was heading to a friends' campground pretty close by and after being offered both a toke on his joint and a chance to join with him camping for the night I am pleased to say I accepted only the latter.

In the half hour or so en route to some place called Bruce Mines, Kevin and I acquainted ourselves to the point that I felt OK having just jumped in to a stranger's car, despite this is that...
...the stranger only stopped because he identified me as a lost tourist 
...the stranger is smoking drugs 
...the stranger has invited me to go camping with him
"Hmm" I thought. "Something about this just doesn't quite sound right."

My thoughts continued this thought as Kevin began driving ever faster away from the main highway and within a few minutes realised that out here there would be little chance of people hearing my screams. So as dusk began to set in I turned to my gut for an answer and whilst my head was screaming out to pull on the hand brake and make a run for it my gut seemed to insist that everything would work itself out.

That was of course until I heard the words that even my worst fears could not have predicted.

Said with the straightest face, Kevin simply turned toward me and told me

 "If I were you I'd be shitting myself"

At which point everything seemed to stop.

To be continued...

Enter your email address to receive the latest journal entries the moment they're published: