The Naked and the Dead End

How I learned to not only pay attention to where I am getting picked up but where I am going to ask to be dropped.

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It was close to 1am when I finally was able to make it to Marco’s home in Montreal.  He was happy to be waiting for me as, with most couch surfing hosts, he does so for his pleasure.

Even when they don’t wear clothes.

Yep, Marco is a nudist.  Or naturalist as he prefers to be called.  As I always say, when in rome…or when in Montreal…

After a little idle chit chat (or as idle as you can be when when you’re naked around a stranger) he gave me the key, pointed me to the bed I’d be sleeping in and said good night. Hitching is a beautifully exhausting process so I laid down my naked body…and so, to sleep.

In the morning I met my fellow surfer briefly, Nanzi, a communications student from Erie, Penn who is in love with Montreal.  Our singular meeting was brief as he had a friend to meet and was quickly dressed and out the door.  I did not get the impression he was anywhere near as self-conscience as I was with the house of skin.

I spent the day exploring Montreal and eating…alot.  Montreal has some great food.  I even tested one of their supposedly world’s best bagels.  Don’t even hold a candle to New York Bagels.  Sorry, Montreal.  The boost doesn’t hold up.

The following day we were joined by Alexander, another naked surfer from Hamburg, Germany.  A talented artist, Alexander is switching jobs and is taking time to see Canada in the opposite direction as me.  And he’s not hitching.  He’s flying.  And rightfully skipping Regina.  Good call, Alex.

The following evening we enjoyed a fine Duck Poutine then climbed to the top of the steps at Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal and got a pleasant view of the city.  After our outing, I took a little while planning an escape route from the city for the next day.

I awoke in the morning to see my young naked German friend cooking his special apple & Muslix pancakes he’d boosted about the evening before.  As I watched him prep and fry in the buff, I wished only that I had bought a pound of bacon the night before and requested he fry it up while starkers.  Bacon grease and nudity.  Hilarious!

I said goodbye to my host and boarded the Metro bound for the eastern most part of the city.  Once again, the escape from a city proves to be more stressful and time consuming than the actually thumbing of rides. I rode transit all the way out to Longueiul Station and transferred to the RTL.  The ticketing agent understood what I was doing and told me to ride the bus out to the Ikea store and assured me that I could cross to the Trans-Canada after getting off.  I don’t know if he made an honest mistake if he was deliberately screwing with me but after exiting the bus and walking toward the freeway I was confronted by an impassible ravine, forcing me to turn tail back the IKEA mall and walking to the TCH via the roadways.  1.5 hours down the tube.

I took up position on the on ramp like a good hitchhiker, willing to obey all the laws.  I was swore at for the first time from a passing vehicle.  Hey, buddy, my french sucks but I understood that!  After a couple of hours, I pulled out my phone and could quickly see what the problem was.  Only 2 kilometers up the road was a MAJOR interchange.  The Trans-Canada, 2 provincial highways AND the off-ramp to the United States. Of course no one is stopping.  It would be total guess work where I was going.  I packed up again and started walking east on the freeway.

My theory proved correct as within a few meters of passing the interchange, Justine, a young lady who works at Staples pulled over and I was rubberized again!  justine

It was a quick ride but I was grateful all the same.  Justine said her boyfriend would be jealous because she always finds the hitchhikers and he never does.  I suppose they have an informal contest going and she’s way ahead in scoring us side-riders.

Less than 10 minutes on the thumb and ride two was Daniel.  I think he was a little sour that my French was even worse than his English.  But 50 km is 50 km and I’ll always be gratful.

My next short hop was the opposite.  An SUV towing a dirtbike pulled quickly Danny stopped for me even though he’s never picked up a hitchhiker before.  He said he’d had a great day on the track and just felt that he should do something nice for someone else.  He was sad that he couldn’t take me further because he said he’d enjoy practicing his English, which was impeccable, with me.

Danny

It was starting to get late and as I walked down to the next interchange I started looking toward the woods for a good place to pitch my tent.  But again. luck and generosity was on my side as Dimitri and his friends, a group of four Brazilian jiu jitsu students, returning from a test to gain their blue belts pulled over.  The car was less than a compact and the passenger was at least half a foot taller than me, yet still he offered me the front seat and they offered to drive me to Quebec City.  Woo Hoo!

dimitri

Quebec City was my goal for the day.  Once there, I felt Halifax was hitchable within the day rather than the three days I had left.

Quebec City would also end up being my hardest lesson.  But a simple lesson.  Check the damn map.

Dimitri and his pals dropped me right in the heart of Quebec.  Interesting fact about that town…you cannot safely walk out of it.  I tried for an hour in the dark.  Frustrated, I bit the bullet and, with the help of my cousin Allyson via facebook, took a hotel room for the night.

$137.00.  Ouch.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have plenty of money for this trip but the adventure is about doing it as inexpensively as possible.  I doubt I had spent $137 on the whole trip.  And here I was dropping $137 on a hotel room.  If I could have safely got to the highway, I would have happily slept in the woods for free.

My frustration would only escalate the next day.

Where Did You Find the Money?

Turns out it was behind the couch the whole time…

As more and more people discover my upcoming travel plans of hitchhiking around the world, the question I hear the most often is,  “How are you going to hitchhike over the ocean?”  After I resist the urge to smack them upside the head, I politely explain that I’m flying over the oceans and hitchhiking the land bits (and I suppose the smaller water bits but most European ferries have started charging per person as opposed to per vehicle)

A close second is, “Where did you get the money to do this?”  My favorite answer is, “Pocket change.”

I suffer from a rare disorder called “Coin Hording”. I doubt A&E will ever do a series about it. For years, my ex-wife used to call me the “Change Magnet.” She was convinced that I could leave the house with $20 dollars in my wallet, make two quick stops and come back with $3.50 in change.  I used to think maybe I was blacking out and reverting to my alter personality, a hobo who would stand on the corner and panhandle whilst whistling Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”.

The simple fact is that I’ve always seemed incapable of reaching for change when paying for an item of any value.  I’d go into one store and buy something for $8.20.  Eighty cents went in my pocket.  Three minutes later, I’d be buying a 75 cent donut using a five dollar bill. Later in the day, I’d buy $72.56 worth of groceries and pay with a hundred.  I wouldn’t give it a second thought until I got home, got undressed and all my change would end up on the nightstand.  None of it ever found it’s way back into my pocket.

The disorder was serious enough while I was living in the United States.  Things really took a downward spiral when I moved home to Canada. In the States, they have pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and the rarely used Kennedy half dollar.  But here in Canada,  although we phased the penny out of use in 2012, we have Loonies and Toonies! ($1 and $2 coins).

Loonie-Toonie

Too make matters worse, every day at work I collect two tip envelopes for my prior day’s hours. One for the night hours and one for any graveyard shift time.  In these envelopes is between 25 cents to $4.75 in change as well as, fortunately, plenty of folding money as well. And where has the change been going?  Right into my pocket, of course. Then right onto the night stand.  My disorder was at a new low.  22 Months at my current job. Night after night, the change built up. I was keeping it in boxes, in zip lock bags, in nightstand drawers.  Eventually I was keeping it all in plastic Dryers Ice Cream Buckets in the top drawer of my dresser.  One evening, not long ago, I opened the dresser drawer…and the whole thing capsized from the weight.

When I first started thinking (dreaming?) of this adventure, I knew the change was going to be play an important part.  I estimated I had a little over $900 in change.  Well, even a novice sneaker-tramp knows you can go a long way with $900 on the open road.  So I started sorting.  And counting. And sorting.  And Counting.

I stopped sorting and counting once I reached about $1500CAD in just Loonies and Toonies. There was plenty more not even including the two buckets of dimes, nickels and quarters.  It was time to get serious.  I got stacks of coin rolls and started rolling…and rolling…and rolling.  My girlfriend came over and joined in the fun and within a couple of hours…Behold!  The Great Pyramids of Badger!

rolled
If you’ve ever wondered what $2288 in change looked like…

My fingers already hurt and I resigned myself too the fact I’d never get through the nickels, quarters and especially the dimes (Canadian dimes are VERY small and thin) so we made a quick run to the Coinstar machine where I begrudgingly gave up an 11.9% fee in exchange for a five minute quick sort.

20160525_192403
And for 11.9% fee, I doubt I’ll use it again

For a grand total of $2516.68.  Over and above the cost of airline tickets, insurance and equipment (which so far have run me about $1200) I think $2516.68 is an excellent budget for a two month, worldwide hitchhiking adventure.  But don’t worry, I have more than enough in case of emergencies.

The moral of the blog is even you want to do something, the money is there.  You often just have to turn over a rock, or a couch cushion or two.

cha-CHING!