Hitchin' a rideHitch-hikers — we don’t get many of them back in Chicago. Everyone is moving too fast. City people in cars are wary of people walking down the road with a thumb out,;there’s a real danger associated with picking up hitch-hikers.
By: Jan Kent, Lake County News Chronicle
Hitch-hikers — we don’t get many of them back in Chicago. Everyone is moving too fast. City people in cars are wary of people walking down the road with a thumb out,;there’s a real danger associated with picking up hitch-hikers.
But up here on the North Shore, we’ve picked up walkers quite a few times. And, we’ve been rescued by kind drivers when our car broke down or when we locked ourselves out of our vehicle.
Several of our hitch-hiker tales are associated with the Superior Hiking Trail. One Saturday morning, coming back from picking up our mail in Finland, I passed a young couple walking down Highway 61. They were loaded down with camping gear and were walking slowly, slowly, slowly. One of them held out a hesitant thumb. I pulled off onto the shoulder (such as it is) and talked to them through the car window. They had gotten off the trail on Highway 6 and had walked down the hill to 61. They needed to get to the Caribou River parking lot to get their car. From there, the Caribou River is a long walk, but a short drive. I took them there, turned around and came back to the cabin.
Another time my husband and I, again in Finland, came across a man from the Twin Cities with his young son. Their car was in Silver Bay and the boy had hiked every step he could hike on the trail. He blamed it on his boots, but one look told us he was at the end of his energy. We delivered them to their car at the SHTA parking lot in Silver Bay.
But our strangest hitch-hiker story took place a long way from teh northland. My husband and I were driving from California to meet friends in Las Vegas. We were in that southern tip of Nevada where it was flat, hot and dry, with merciless sunshine.
We saw a woman with a cardboard sign standing by the side of the road about 125 miles west of Las Vegas when we stopped at a store on that desolate stretch of highway. We were looking for two things, lunch and restrooms, but when we came back outside the woman was standing next to our rented car. She asked if we could give her a ride to Vegas. My husband and I looked at her and at each other and at her again, finally nodding to each other over the top of the car. Okay.
She settled into the back seat, a smallish woman with stringy, wind-tangled hair and a sun-burned face. She gave off a faint sweet/sour smell.
“I have fifty cents and a can of Spam,” she told us, offering either or both in exchange for the ride. We declined and I broke my peanut bar in half and passed a piece back to her. I asked to look at her sign. Turned out she had two signs. One said: “Need a Ride to Veges Thank 4 #Any help.” The other read: “Anything help’s God bless. Need work hungry.”
During the several hours we spent together we learned some things about her. Her name was Raychil and she spelled it out for us. She said she had an uncle in Las Vegas who would let her stay at his house. She had two sons and a daughter but their ages didn’t compute with her age. She philosophized about her life and religion and the state of the world in general and gave us some words to live by: “Who’s gonna kill ya — Santa Claus or Jesus. I don’t know.”
When we got to Vegas we talked about where we should drop her off. That fast-food place coming up was just fine, she said. We got out of the car to stretch and my husband gave Raychil some money to buy dinner. She went into the restaurant. As we watched, she walked through the restaurant, out the opposite door and back to the highway. A sad ending, but not really a surprise.
It’s much more satisfying to pick up tired hikers in northern Minnesota.