Just up and around the bend

Alan Elliott
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Talk about a real shot in the dark. All a guy can say is good luck with that. I don't know as I'd be up to the task -- plus, I'm happy to say my hitchhiking days are pretty much behind me.
I was on my way to work, when descending the ramp onto the Trans-Canada near the big truck stop I noted someone walking on the right hand side. I maintained a slower speed thinking he might be looking for a lift. Sure enough, he looked over his shoulder and hooked his thumb to the side. I pulled over.
"Where you off to?" I asked as he settled in, thinking likely he'd just be on his way to town.
"St. John's."
"Wow." I thought of the trip ahead of him, all the way to the ferry terminal in North Sydney, across the water, then the long, long highway stretch from Port aux Basques to the Newfoundland-Labrador capital. "I'm not going all that far, just into New Glasgow, but I'll get you to the far end of town anyway. There'll be plenty of traffic headed that way."
That was fine with Mr. Hitchhiker, who seemed content with whatever might happen.
My mind cast back over some of my trips, thumbing for a ride: across Canada, occasionally getting a lift for a couple of short miles and being deposited in the middle of nowhere. There was the time I was stuck in the far end of the United States and started making my way east with only a few bucks in my pocket. I linked up with another traveller and we got our last ride with an off-duty police officer who got us over the line into Nebraska -- Kimball was the name of the town. Shortly afterward, a squad car came along, stopped where we were thumbing and the officer informed us that hitchhiking was against state laws.
Imagine -- the cruel irony was overwhelming. We were stuck, not sure what to do, thought of hopping a freight train, but someone informed us they didn't even slow down in Kimball. Eventually we both got in touch with someone back home and had funds wired so we could take the bus.
My passenger bound for St. John's -- I asked where he was travelling from. Alberta, he said.
I was curious whether he was on his way home, thinking how unlikely it would be to make an eastward trip for work. But his accent suggested he wasn't from Newfoundland. He began to explain.
"I'm looking for my mother." He went on to say that when he was seven years old his mom dropped him off to be cared for and simply never came back. He had just turned 30 and somehow decided he wanted to look her up.
"Well, do you have any clues?" I asked, thinking St. John's is a pretty big place. "Have you done any kind of research?"
He'd done some work on a website trying to narrow things down, but didn't go into detail on how successful that had been. He simply seemed like a man on a mission who was trusting things would work out in the end.
I then was about to remark that he was travelling light, dressed in a long-sleeved ball shirt and jeans and no pack or luggage. It was as if he'd read my mind.
"You're probably wondering why I'm not carrying anything. I got robbed the other night in Montreal."
I pulled in to my turnoff and said I'd look to see if I had an extra sweater or coat in the car. They sometimes get tossed in and more or less forgotten in the piles of junk I always seem to carry. No luck though. I offered him a car blanket, saying it would be chilly if he had to stand around in the evening. But he shrugged, said he'd be all right.
"Do you think you could spare some change for a coffee though? I see there's a Timmy's across the road."
I dug a little deeper, thinking under the circumstances I could afford to spare more than change. "I know what it's like to be a long way from home and broke," I said. He was much obliged.
And then all there was to say was so long and best of luck. He already had most of the miles behind him, but you could just imagine that the uphill part of the journey was about to begin.

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