This week we had the honor of picking up our second hitchhiker off the side of the road. We saw him as soon as we drove into Fort St. Nelson in the evening, but we were stopping to spend the night. I hoped he could get a ride (there weren’t many cars going North), but decided we’d give him a ride tomorrow if he still needed one.
We found a place to park the RV for the night and got on with our evening ritual of watching Dr. Who episodes before bed. A couple hours later, I noticed the hitchhiker walking down the street, alone and defeated looking for a place to spend the night. I made a mental note to look for him the next day.
He was a tall, lanky dude in his 50s wearing a heavy backpack and a black t-shirt. The next day we discovered that the shelter in town was full, so he had spent the night in the announcer’s box of the local baseball diamond, trying to fight off mosquitos. In this part of the world, the sun comes out at 2 to 3 a.m. and he was hoping for a ride until about 11 p.m., so he didn’t get much sleep.
Shacky and I drove into the Visitor’s Centre to use the bathroom and get some wifi before starting our commute. We spotted the hitchhiker on the side of the road again, and took bets on whether or not he would still be there when we came out of the bathroom.
When I got out of the bathroom, I found him already talking to Shacky. His name was Mike and he was a writer. He had worked as a newspaper reporter for most of his life, and now had a blog on Huffington Post. He was on a one-year mission to work at as many traveling carnivals as he could, currently on his way to Anchorage to see if he could work there (it would be his 3rd carnival).
Mike had no other income other than what the carnivals paid, which was less than minimum wage. His plan was to blog about his journey and publish a book about it at the end of the year. I packed a food bag for him, and he ate while we drove.
Mike told us all about his travels, the people he had met along the way, and asked lots of questions about our own lifestyle. He scribbled notes into a tiny notebook and helped us keep track of the wildlife we saw. He was bright and eloquent with some fantastic stories.
He described the majority of carnival workers as very poor, uneducated individuals (many not having finished grade school, and a few who could not read), eager to drink and party but also extremely hard workers who found joy in helping kids have fun. The irony was that many were away from their own families and children, and some had joined the carnival to escape their families (mostly abusive).
Instead of giving away Mike’s stories, I’ll encourage you to check out his carnival blog and follow his travels HERE.
We drove to Liard Hot Springs, where Shacky and I had planned to spend the night after a good soak. Mike wanted to continue his journey, so we said our goodbyes.
After dipping into the warmest hot spring I have ever experienced, Shacky decided he wanted to keep driving. Mike was still waiting for a ride, so he hopped back in and we drove to Watson Lake. We were definitely spending the night in Watson, so that was the last time we saw Mike. When we get to Anchorage, we’ll look for him at the local carnival.
Every hitchhiker we pick up confirms my suspicion that strangers are inherently awesome, trustworthy, and good human beings. I read on a blog somewhere (I wish I could remember names to reference it) about a woman who hitchhiked all over the world, and insisted it was one of the safest things she had ever done. She said that all the men warned her about other dangerous men, believing that they were the exceptions; each of them convinced that most people could not be trusted. We distrust our neighbors, and our neighbors distrust us, but dangerous men are more of a minority than we believe.
This does not mean that we should not be vigilant, aware of our surroundings, or that bad people do not exist. I just wish—with years of “don’t talk to strangers” ingrained in my upbringing—that I had spoken to a few more along the way.
Read Shacky’s account of our hitchhiker encounter HERE.
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