Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The French Hitchhiker

Growing up the son of an FBI agent, my dad drilled one lesson into my brain.  Never pick up a hitchhiker.  He claimed a high percent of them were felons and you can’t tell what’s inside the package from the outside.   A corollary he included  -- never hitchhike yourself.   Thus, I obediently spent most of my youth following dad’s admonitions. Until he sent me off to college.

Most young people have to rebel from their parents authority at some point in order to establish their own identity.  I chose hitchhiking to make my secret statement.  And so, after semester breaks, dad took me to the bus station and handed me money for the bus fare back to Middlebury.  With that I would bid him farewell and simply purchase a ticket to the next town.  Hopping off the bus I’d stick out my thumb and chart my own course.  For return trips I’d hitchhike all the way.

I only had one reason to reconsider my choice.  The Vermont driver and his lady companion in the front seat had a love affair with beer and speed.  Fortunately their wheels clung to the road at every turn, but I exhaled a sigh of relief when they dropped me off.

My last day on the road, driving along Canada’s Yellowhead Highway between Smithers, British Columbia and Prince Rupert I saw at least one sign warning motorists not to pick up hitchhikers.  But, there he was, a young man wearing a beret with a big backpack holding a neatly lettered cardboard sign -- Prince Rupert.  

                         The Bulkley River below the falls in Moricetown Canyon, British Columbia

With Karen back in the midwest, lonesome best describes my feelings.  Without her or my former favorite travel companion (Niko), for the first time I had room in the car.  Canada always seems safer than the US and I remembered another time after college when, in my mid-20s, I held up a similar sign while carrying a back back as I hitchhiked through New Zealand.  I pulled over to meet Jordan, a Frenchman hitchhiking across Canada.  Prince Rupert was his finish line.

                                       Clouds partially obscure one of my favorite views near New Hazelton, BC

Jordan, it turns out, is a world explorer who will work for awhile until he has saved up enough for his next big adventure.  His cross-Canada odyssey was a chance to improve his facility with the English language.  I had an entire day to cover a half day’s distance, so having driven this route numerous times over the years, decided to play Jordan’s personal tour guide.  We didn’t miss any of my favorite landmarks. 

                  Seeley Lake Provincial Park includes a campground where Karen and I have camped in the past.

                     Another place where Karen and I once pitched our tent is Lakelse Lake near Terrace, BC.

Success -- Jordan made it all the way from Montreal to Prince Rupert. You can see more of Jordan's travels on his blog:  http://snailbreizh.tumblr.com/

In the end, as I dropped my new friend off at the hostel he would stay in,  I figured it was a fine way to end my autumn road trip.  Thus, at 2:30 AM the next day I once again sailed off for Petersburg on an Alaskan ferry.  Karen and I would soon be reunited.

                              A fine sunrise greeted me as the Alaska ferry motored north to our Alaskan home.

Meanwhile Karen began her long travels home -- although not necessarily a straight line -- chauffeured by cousin Connie from Three Lakes, Wisconsin to Solon, Iowa -- flying from Iowa to Minneapolis, Minnesota -- change planes to Seattle, Washington, overnight with our Mandy in Seattle -- fly from Seattle to Petersburg.  Whew.  

                                     Karen bid farewell to her beloved Four Mile Lake, Wisconsin cabin

                                      Farewell until next summer to her cousin, Connie Mutel and Sandy...

                            And Connie's Iowa home that she works so hard to maintain in it's natural state.

     And on to the highlight of the return trip for Karen -- an overnight with daughter, Amanda -- a student in Seattle.

     Amanda with her faithful Gigi and a tile she made this past summer.  Yes, Mandy has inherited Karen's art gifts.


Terri Mappin (Seasons 365 Project) said...

You are such a wonderful story teller Don! The words seem to just flow! Its funny that you mention 'parents and hitchhiking,' I think I was given the same talk. Only I was never brave enough to cross my Mother nor hitchhike!


I am very affected to read your article Don.
This moment we spent together at the end of my hitchike trip was very special.

I really enjoyed your company and all the stories you told me.
I hope one day, our roads will cross again...

All the best


Don and Karen Cornelius Artwork said...

Jordan: Yes, I too, hope our paths cross again. Incidentally, I mailed two Alaskan license plates to the address you gave me in Amsterdam. After a month or two, they were returned to me as undeliverable. Sigh!