Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Thumbs the word

I’ve never had very good luck as a hitchhiker. Does anybody still hitchhike, besides serial killers?

All my hitchhiking attempts were in Britain in the ’70s, when trying to snag a ride was a reasonable travel strategy. You heard of people getting one ride all the way to Scotland from the foot of the M1 in Brent Cross. You go there with your bud expecting to wait ten fifteen minutes for that miracle ride, but two hours later you’re still standing there in a drizzle that’s like cold needles. Finally some salesman stops and says he can get you to Luton, so you’ll have to try your luck there.

I was traveling in Ireland with two girls, again standing in the rain on the side of whatever trunk road from Dublin to Wexford, again meeting with the indifference of locals tired of American youth loitering on their thoroughfares. At least the Irish drivers signaled with their hand that they were making a turn up ahead so no point in picking us up. That was nice.

We all knew that if it were just the two girls, they’d have had a ride in minutes. I was the liability. Plus the idea of three riders in a tiny sedan was pretty ludicrous. What were we thinking?

Yet, it was on that leg of the trip that we grabbed the best ride possible. After a horrendous wait that had us thinking we’d be sleeping under a bus stop canopy, the magnanimous Joe appeared in a van big enough for us all. He was a fisherman who lived in a small town near enough to Wexford that he wouldn’t mind taking us there. After, that is, inviting us into his own home along the way to meet his wife and serve us a little bit of tea, after the chill we’d had.

And that’s what he did, and I’ll never forget him for it. His house was a small whitewashed cottage in the countryside surrounded by that green green grass, and his wife was kind and cheerful and didn’t mind a’tall having three strange Americans in her lounge. And after our tea and a few biscuits (cookies, that is), we were off to Wexford.

We decided we’d never do better than Joe, so from then on out we took coaches and trains around the island.

My worst experience hitchhiking, though, was in Wales. I was trying to get to a youth hostel in Port Enyon, near Swansea, but having rolled into town late in the day it was going to be tricky to get a ride out that way. But I was young and optimistic, so I posted myself along the A4118. It was about 6 pm, I believe, and fairly soon an older couple stopped for me. They were headed a few miles toward Port Enyon, to an inn where they’d have dinner. From there, I stood a decent chance at a ride for the additional seven or eight miles I had to travel before the hostel closed its doors at nine.

I stood in front of that inn for more than two hours, friends, and not a soul would pick me up. Partly because no one was heading outbound. All traffic seemed to be heading back in toward Swansea. When eight-thirty rolled around and it was clear I wouldn’t get to the hostel in time, I crossed the road to hitch back in myself. Who do you think finally gave me the ride?

The same couple who brought me there. They’d finished their dinner, saw me standing there with my pathetic slump, and said, “Hop in, mate.”

They weren’t going all the way to Swansea, but they knew of a bed and breakfast I could try. Luckily a room was available there, and I wound up spending more than I wanted for a good bed and a bad movie on TV.

And that, I’m tempted to say, was the last time I tried my hand at hitchhiking. If I don’t have wheels or a plane ticket now, I’m content to stay home.

[Image via Pixabay.]

10 comments on “Thumbs the word

  1. islandeditions
    October 26, 2017

    I’ve never done much hitchhiking at all myself, but given the amount of prairie driving (sometimes 8 hours at a stretch) I did when I was a sales rep in Western Canada I certainly passed many hitchhikers – but never, ever picked them up! One time I remember seeing a guy who was dressed up as a monk, complete with a staff in hand, walking on the right-hand shoulder going the opposite direction I was heading. He was not hitchhiking. When I drove back to Calgary a couple of days later, I saw him again, making good time, it seemed, but still with quite a distance to go before he slept. He may have walked 100 miles while I was off selling books in Saskatchewan. (And although he was not the inspiration for this, I did write a short story about hitchhiking and posted it here on my blog … if you will indulge me. https://islandeditions.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/road-trip-to-edmonton/)

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 26, 2017

      Great story! People would be a lot different if they thought anyone they met could actually be God. 😉

      You might recall that God pops up in Fascination too. He looks like Matt Damon.

      • islandeditions
        October 26, 2017

        God is a bit of a chameleon (as well as a comedian!) that way. I particularly like the Facebook God these days.

  2. John W. Howell
    October 26, 2017

    Same deal for a friend and I. We thought we needed a break after winter term at college. We had a drive-a-way car (We drove someone’s car) to Jacksonville Florida and then a hitchhike to Miami where we were to crew aboard a three-masted schooner. Long story short, it took so long to thumb to Miami we missed the boat. No money, no place to stay, no job. We slept on the beach and finally found work. Got my butt back to the university as fast as I could in the fall.

  3. jilldennison
    October 26, 2017

    I love your hitchhiking stories, and as I always say, great minds think alike, for my post this afternoon was also about my hitchhiking experiences! My friend Herb is a hiker and is hiking the Appalachian Trail, so he is often hitchhiking back to his car from one point or another, and he, too, has many stories to tell! Thanks for the chuckles … glad you gave it up, though!

    • Kevin Brennan
      October 26, 2017

      I liked your story too. Your 8-year-old instincts were right to tell you never to hitch again! 😉

  4. pinklightsabre
    October 26, 2017

    Nice story, mate. ‘Didn’t mind a’tall.’

  5. Ilona Elliott
    October 31, 2017

    I envy you the experience Kevin. Makes for great stories!

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