One event that caught my attention that afternoon as I strolled along was a section of parking lot. It had been cornered off for entertainment. A small crowd had gathered around and I was intrigued to see what was going on. Racing around a circuit were some small remote controlled cars. They were traveling so fast that I really had trouble keeping up with them. CHAPTER 47
While I was trying to keep track and please excuse the pun there, an aircraft flew overhead. The whole thing was completely backwards. The larger wings were on the rear of the plane and the smaller ones were up front. I watched as it moved across the sky, it was certainly different.
Walking on, I finally came across a hard shoulder beside the highway. This would normally be an asset but unfortunately I was still way within the city limits. There were a lot of storefronts around and because of this I gathered that Iíd have to stroll on for quite some time. But to my surprise a car did pull over and a kind lady named Arlene, who was from Oregon, took me ten miles up the road. This helped immensely because it got me out of suburbia and I hoped from this point onwards it would be easier catching some rides.
It wasnít too long before my next ride appeared and ironically it was another lady. Now if that wasnít strange enough, after I was dropped off I was picked up by a third female. In all of the years that I was on the road this coincidence never happened again.
After sharing a beer in the car with my third female companion I departed her vehicle some twenty miles later. By this point I was really on a roll and I was sure that Iíd make some good headway before the day was over.
My next lift came from Bob who was a dishwasher from Wyoming. He told me that heíd moved to Alaska just a week before. His kind deed took me thirty miles down the road. During our drive I saw some moose running across a field.
My fifth ride was going back to his farm so that got me five miles further. After this I walked for a while before the next vehicle stopped. The driver, Steve, had passed me when he was going in the other direction earlier. Now he was on his way home. Glennallen, where Steve was heading was one hundred and twenty miles east. This had been a great afternoon for hitchhiking and I wondered how far I could get before that late sun finally set in the west.
Steve was a really interesting character and shortly into our drive he pulled out his Magnum gun from under his seat. Before handing it across to me I asked him to remove the bullets. It was so big and he told me it weighed over three pounds. While I was engrossed in his firearm he told me to look out of the window. In the distance was a huge glacier by the name of Matanuska. It was millions of years old and I was in awe as I stared at it. The huge expanse of ice looked like it was only five miles away but I knew it was much further than that.
The scenery had also changed and from what had once been nothingness had now turned into a dense forest that contained countless hard and softwood trees. Steve also pointed out some tundra weeds and he said that a lot of them grew in this area.
At Glennallen I was dropped off at a gas station, where I got a glass of water before I continued on. I look back now and the mistake that I made was using a sign that read Tok. This was a town that was further up the road and Iím sure that most people who passed me had no idea where it was. I should have used a sign that simply read, ĎCanada Please.í Sadly this error caused me to walk a long, long way.
By now traffic was few and far between and I was lucky if I saw a car every five minutes. If this wasnít bad enough, shortly into my walk came the rain.
I did get a ride from a couple of American Indians but the drive was nerve raking to say the least. They were fine but it was the way they were drinking and of course driving, that scared me the most. Some fifteen miles up the road they dropped me off at a junction. Big Delta was to the north and Tok was to the northeast.
Sadly this road was even quieter than the last. As I started to walk along it, I had this feeling that it was going to be very hard, getting out of this place. On top of the slow traffic and along with the dreary rain, came the colony of mosquitoes that followed next. It was horrible and wherever I went these bastards were there. The only satisfaction that I got out of this unbearable situation was when I managed to kill a few.
It only seemed like six at night but in reality it was ten. There were no cars now and I knew that my hitchhiking spree for the day was definitely over. In my last five miles of walking only eight cars had passed. The sun was gone for good now and I had to find a place to rest. As I hiked along I passed an old abandoned gas station and near to this was a bridge. After crossing it I came to a place called the Gakona R.V camp. Apart from this, there was nothing else around, whatsoever. I had to find somewhere that was enclosed soon, because by now the mosquitoes had become intolerable.
Nearby I could hear a JCB (digging vehicle) moving around within the camp. As this was really my only hope of finding a place to stay I decided to enter the premises. After venturing through some trees I came out into an open area. About fifty feet away I could see the JCB and standing near to it was another worker. Walking over to the noise, I reached the man and got his attention. It wasnít long before I was explaining the predicament that I was in. But this was a hard thing to do considering there was a noisy machine roaming around at our side.
The work hand was a plumber from New Mexico and after listening to what I had to say, he said that heíd talk to the owner who was also his friend. A few minutes later he returned and said that I was more than welcome to stay on a couch. This was in another building which was nearby. I thanked him and he accompanied me to the place that heíd mentioned. I asked him to pass on my gratitude to the owner as well. Once we were inside and he showed me where I could rest, he left to continue his work. I had shelter for the night and I didnít care how noisy it was outside, just as long I didnít have to deal with those retched mosquitoes.
After catching up on my journal the owner came in for a while to chat. He was a nice man and after our brief conversation he left and thatís when I went to sleep.
At 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 29th, the plumber came in to give me a wakeup call. I quickly got my belongings together and soon after I was hiking back through the undergrowth towards the road again. I hoped to reach Canada before the day was through and catching a ride across the border was what I hoped for the most.
Outside the property I continued my walking escapade. Again I held out my sign for Tok but just like the night before the few cars that did pass, simply ignored me. I didnít know it then but this was about to become the worst hitchhiking day of my whole career. It had nothing to do a bad ride it was based on the amount of miles that I walked.
I was on a hilly road that went up and down continuously. As I marched along, a few trucks passed on occasion but in general the traffic was pretty quiet. At one point as I strolled along I heard an odd noise and I knew it was close to me. When I turned around I was surprised to see two moose. They were standing right behind me and equally alarmed now, they turned and ran back up the hill. I was scared at first because up close these animals are huge. But it wasnít too long before my fear had turned into total amazement. I never thought that Iíd get a chance to see some moose that near. Shortly after, a deer walked by and was within a few feet as well.
As the morning wore on I was seeing about four cars every hour. By volume this had to be one of the hardest places that Iíd ever tried to catch a ride out of. I was literally in the middle of nowhere and if I walked for a whole day, statistically Iíd probably see about a hundred cars at most. As I strolled along this lonely road I wondered if Iíd be walking back to Canada!
On occasion Iíd run down to the river that ran beside the highway, to get some water. It was refreshing, but I hoped this ritual wouldnít last all day. As I continued on I reached mile marker fourteen. Having started at five, Iíd already walked nine miles since Iíd left the R.V camp. I hoped that I was wrong but I had this feeling that this day was going to get a lot worse. When a car did approach I tried my best to smile as I held up my sign. After a while I noticed that every driver that did pass me wasnít even looking my way. I always wondered if that was out of guilt or that they were simply that cold and uncaring anyway. I think itís probably more of the latter.
After walking for twelve miles a pickup truck finally pulled over. In the front was a teenager and he had two girls at his side. I didnít even ask how far he was going I simply jumped into the back. Even though the ride was only ten miles, it felt so good to rest. After I was dropped off, I continued on for another mile when the same pickup truck stopped again. This time I was taken five more miles up the road.
Jumping down from the truck at the thirty-five mile marker I continued on. By 3:30 p.m. Iíd been out on the road for nine hours and aside the two short rides in the truck, Iíd already walked some twenty-seven miles. By now I was really starting to lose my grip on reality. Iíve had some long hikes during my hitchhiking career which Iíve already mentioned in this book, but this one topped the lot. Eventually it got so bad that when a car did approach, I wanted to stand out in the middle of the road to make sure it definitely stopped. But I had ethics and I hadnít quite got to that point yet!
Tok was still one hundred and fifty miles away. The mile marker was now up to forty-nine and I was totally and utterly exhausted. The continual squeaking in my ear as the strap to my bag moved with my body as I walked along was starting to drive me nuts. My feet wanted to rest and all I could think about was sitting in a nice warm Jacuzzi for a few days. My throat was so dry that it seemed like no amount of water could ever satisfy its thirst. I started to pray for some kind of miracle.
By now I was starting to calculate how long it would take me to reach Tok. If I walked forty miles a day, if that was possible, I could get there in four days. I know it sounds ridiculous but that was the stage that my mind had gotten to in its thinking process. At 4:15 p.m. I stopped and decided to write out a new sign that read ďCANADA PLEASE.Ē Next to those words I put a big smiley face.
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