After the September hangover, ( see Summer Camp ) I was a depressed mess. I skipped a lot of school and didn’t go home much. The depression was so deep that I would have done anything to claw my way of that dark pit. So I did.
My friend and I decided to run away and hitchhike to The World Expo in British Columbia. We agreed to meet at the nearby park at 2 am. I packed up all my stuff in my backpack, wrote the obligatory note stating that this was something I had to do and please don’t call the police so I don’t feeling I was being chased. I made 2 peanut butter and honey sandwiches; Had $7.35 in my pocket and sneaked out the back door.
I looked for my friend at the park, but he was not there. I waited an hour or so and decided to go on myself.
It was 3 am and in town, so I knew I wasn’t going to get any rides, so I walked and walked and walked out of town to where the (now closed) summer camp was. I lit a fire and went too sleep.
I was woken by 2 prisoners from the local minimum security reformatory. They were looking for “smokes” of which I gladly handed over. None of asked why the other was there. They finished their cigarettes and went on their way. I though it be a good idea as it was now noon. I walked out to the highway and literally jumped on shouting “THIS IS WHERE THE JOURNEY BEGINS !” and began my adventure.
I walked thumb proudly thrust out like a flag. Deciding that I was going to walk the whole trip backwards if I had to.I got my first ride about 2 hours later. It was a father and 2 sons, that decided to impress upon me the dangers of hitchhiking alone. I was sort of listening, all th while thinking about my P.B. and Honey sandwiches and my empty stomach grumbling away,
The ride with these fellows was short just a half hour down the road. (thankfully) I had a few more short hops until I hit the mother-load. A man driving to the hwy driving back to work in Edmonton Alberta. He was a hitchhikers dream ride. He paid for my meals and even my cigarettes. He was very talkative too. Telling me about the job he was going to at the Alberta uranium mines. The only conflict was when he wanted me to take over the driving for awhile while he got some sleep. He wasn’t happy when I told him I did not have a drivers license. I kept the information to myself that I was only 15 or I could see myself dropped off at the next town. He grumbled a bit more and stopped the car at a rest stop and got some sleep.
I am not sure how much sleep he got. I woke at a fuel station. My driver was in the restaurant so I got out to stretch my legs. We were close to Manitoba in this little spot on the map. I noticed a RCMP cruiser pass me by slowly.
What I didn’t know at the time is the police were called back home, and I had a Canada-wide warrant out for me. I dove back to the car and luckily the driver came back with a clubhouse sandwich for me. He also tossed me a fresh pack of smokes. I couldn’t tell him about the police or that would be end of the trip for me.
It is quite amazing as we drove from the Ontario border into Manitoba, the trees abruptly stop and the flatland begins. The prairies are pretty boring. You see one place, well, you have seen it all. It just stretches out for miles and miles. You get the Idea. We just drove on stopping for sleep,gas and food.
We got to the place where he would start heading for Yucon north, He tried to hook me up with a truck driver going straight through to Calgary, but I declined as I had learned by now if you find a safe ride stay with it. You never know what the next ride will put you through. Besides, I had a fear fear of taking the southern pass and getting stuck at the top of some mountain. (give me a break I was 15)
So north it was. The drive through the foot hills with the mountains to the west was spectacular. We stopped in Moosejaw for the usual supplies and he began to try and convince me to come up to the Uranium mines as they had lots of work. I declined because it was the open road I wanted, not settling for a northern job in the Yukon. We bid our farewells and he drove off, and I was in the middle of nowhere. It was the most freeing experience I had ever felt.
I ate another half a P,B.&honey and started my hike through the Alberta darkness. It was a dark no moon night and I had never seen so many stars in my life. I was mesmerized by how clear the sky was. It was cold out, but I was prepared with a winter jacket in my pack. Threw the jacket on and I was on my way on a cold autumn morning about 3am right smack in the middle between Saskatoon and Edmonton.
I pulled out a portable AM radio I had stashed in my pack. And not a word of a lie, Kenny Rodger’s song ‘On the road again‘ was playing. The other thing I learned about the prairies was how early the sun rises, and how bright it is. No wonder Saskatchewan opts out of Daylight Savings Time, they hold all the daylight.
Another problem with this highway is there were no cars.So, I just took on my attitude that if I don’t get I will walk there, backwards. one car did pass fast, really fast. Didn’t even slow to check me out. The next car actually stopped and offered me a ride. It was around 11 am and I was feeling pretty depressed by then so I just lay down in back seat of their station wagon and fell asleep. By the time I woke it was 4pm and we were coming up on Edmonton.
My drivers offered me a ride into Calgary as they were on there way for a coffee. I thought it strange to drive so far for a coffee but I had learned not to question why your ride was going somewhere. Just where they are going to drop you off.So off t Calgary.
I was pretty depressed by then, so I do not remember most of that drive to Calgary. When we arrived we stopped at a very busy truck stop, displaying a huge sign “Best Coffee in the West”. My rides got their coffee to go and took off. I was standing on a hill near the trans-Canada hwy looking over the city.
The smog stinged my eyes, I was really hot, still wearing my winter coat from the north land, and the dust was kicked up by the trucks to the point I was choking in it. I went into the store there and bought three 17 cent stamps and 3 postcards. I wrote “Made it to Calgary and coming home.” I addressed one to my parents, one to my no-show friend and one to the school also asking to be excused the next few days. Only one of the postcards beat me home.
So I jumped on the Trans-Canada eastbound and almost stuck out my thumb when I saw the sign No Hitchhiking In City Limits.
“bugger” I said, and started walking and walking……Calgary is a Big sprawled out city and getting to the city limits took 5 hours in 40ºC temperature. I remember asking some construction workers, who were working at the side of the road, for some water. They actually said “No we just have enough for ourselves.” With a big smile.
I was finally desperate enough to stop by a cemetery and pour water from the tank they out for watering the flowers. Not The freshest water in the world but it was wet and re-hydrated me. I was really down by this point. the cars and trucks zooming by me started me thinking how easy it would be to just step out in front of a truck, when I saw a yellow sign in the distance stating in bold letters City Limits.
With souring spirits I jumped up to the side of the hwy and stuck out my thumb. I waited and waited, I even found a sign with Ontario scrawled on it. I guess it was a leftover from another hitchhiker who pitched the sign after getting a ride. I did make good use of it though. at least people will know where I am going as they zoom past me.
It was about the 6th hour in that heat when a car stopped. They said they were going to Winnipeg. I heaved myself into their car.
(My first tip off was 2 scruffy guys in a new model Chevrolet Caprice Classic.) But I was too tired to care and fell asleep. When I woke up I could see we were not at a truck-stop, but in a small town. The next thing I heard was “OPEN THE DOOR” as the 2 of them dove in, coins everywhere.
(My second tip off was the fact that they were committing petty larceny breaking into vending machines for gas money.)
We hopped from town to town. I played ‘lookout” while they would do what they do there. It was fun for a while playing robbers.
( My third tip off was when we pulled off the road for sleep and they told me to sleep behind the steering wheel. This was if the cops showed up in the night-I was the driver.
(That was the final tip off and the car only had 1700km on the odometer.)
Apparently these two Bird-Brains had stolen a car in Winnipeg, drove it to Calgary, and now they were driving it back to Winnipeg with it.
When we did reach Winnipeg I asked the to drop me at city limits. They did.
On the road thumb out. 5 minutes later I was picked up by a welder that let me ride in the back with all the explosive gas tanks. We arrived on the other side of the bi-pass I hopped off stuck my thumb out. Almost right away I got a ride going east that was the right direction for me, It fine, that is, until he starting asking for favors that I don’t give. He slammed on the brakes in the middle of the hwy and practically through me out of the car.
I traveled on a few short hops (carefully inspected first). then I got a good one into Thunder Bay. I was another wagon but the back was empty and he let me stretch out and sleep.
I woke to the driver shouting, “The Power of Christ Compels You” over and over again. I was still sleepy so I had no idea what was going on. “The Rapture is near prepare yourself, prepare”
I had to listen to that preaching for a couple of hours, well better than walking. It was night now, a foggy night. the headlights from oncoming cars cast an eerie glow into the sky as they would drive up the other side of the hills. Just as the preacher started in again about Jesus’s face showing himself in the sky and all the worthy will ascend to the heavens, I saw what looked like a bearded face in the mist.
The only thing was panic. I was ready to grab the wheel when the preacher ascended up. I guess I didn’t think I was one of the worthy. That is something to ponder another day.
He (thankfully) dropped me downtown Thunder Bay. Found a payphone and tried to call my Nanny but she wasn’t home. Too bad it sure would be a big surprise visit. I got a ride from a concerned fatherly type, worried that was up to no good, When he saw the backpack and I assured him I was just passing through, he seemed to relax and dropped my at a rather expensive motel. If there was one thing that is useless to a hitch hiker is a motel. I had 5 dollars to my name, and finally started to break.
I went to use a payphone in the lobby of the motel but it was out of order. I asked the clerk if I could use they’re phone for a collect call but he just ignored me and walked away. I was cooked, didn’t even have the energy to get back out there and find a ride.
Then, a very drunk moving van driver came to me and slurred “Do ya need a place to sleep for the night”
My radar immediately went up.
“the clurk iss colling the cops now, you would bee bst to take the offer.”
I agreed and to my dismay there was only one bed in the room and he insisted I strip to my underwear I gave up I stripped and crawled into bed. What he may have done to me it was in my sleep because that was it ’till morning. It was 11am when I woke up the next day. I dressed hurriedly and slipped out the side door. I wasn’t worse for wear so I guessed the van driver left me alone through the night. That was a relief.
I had a few short hops then (again) hit the mother-load. I was picked up in a green valiant packed to the roof with stuff. Not only was this guy driving through to Wingham, he was going to his mothers house where I can get rested cleaned up and fed. Then he was going to drive me home. I know, sounds to good to be true but that’s the way it went.
I was fed a magnificent roast beef dinner, slept (alone) in a big feather bed. I showed and cleaned the trip from my body. Breakfast was homemade waffles with maple syrup, I was Human again!
After breakfast, true to his word, he drove me back to Guelph and home.
Time on road: 7days
Money spent: $5.45
Distance traveled Edmonton – Calgary – and back