Shit, would you believe it, some fifteen minutes later a pickup truck stopped. I cannot tell you how grateful I was for this simple deed. But once again I have to mention this because the same thing happened. The very people that got me out of a mess werenít even from here at all. In fact, this time my rescuers werenít even from this continent. They were from Hungary. These continual coincidences never ceased to amaze me.
I jumped into the back of the pickup and the first thing I did was close my eyes. If it wasnít such a bumpy ride I think I would have fallen asleep right there on the spot. The truck then sped along the roads and around the many corners that followed. Shit, I was finally out of that mess. Never again would I come back and attempt to hitchhike any part of Alaska. Once had been enough for me.
Half an hour later we stopped at some road works. Shortly afterwards, the driver quickly got out and said, ďWeíre going into Canada, do you have your passport and papers.Ē After nodding he jumped back into his vehicle again. I smiled when I listened to his accent, I liked it a lot. It took me right back to when I lived in Holland. This was wonderful because I now had the reassurance that I didnít have to cross the border by foot. That was one thing I didnít want to do.
I was so relieved that I didnít have to walk to Tok, which at one point I really thought was a reality. Iíd envisioned myself arriving in a week, with a full-grown beard and smelling really badly, with holes in my shoes. Itís funny what we think about at times when we really get desperate but thatís how my brain had started to think. In all of my hitchhiking escapades, that had to be the worst situation I was ever in. More so because there was nothing around me; there were no houses or stores that I could revert to or some kind of shelter where I could rest. The absence of cars didnít help much either. My only advantage really was the fact that I had a river next to me, which kept me alive.
At Tok we quickly stopped to get some milk and cookies but soon after we left again. I will say one thing here; it was certainly an experience lying in the back of a pickup truck as it sped along at god-knows what speed. Occasionally when I did turn around to look at the dash, the odometer read 85 to 110 mph.
As the evening set in, it became a lot colder. To compensate this, my companions stopped and wrapped me up in a heavy boiler suit for warmth. What with the addition of padded gloves, some thick boots and an insulated hood, I felt like I was a giant caterpillar who was being transported from one exhibit to another.
So, this was how I was dressed when we approached the Canadian border. Man we must have looked a sight! What with me in the back of this pickup truck wrapped in a thick womb of protective canvas and being driven by two men with funny accents, Iím sure the officer didnít know what to think! On this particular evening the official was alone. He gave me one quizzed look, went through my passport quickly and gestured that we go on.
Shortly after crossing the border my companions pulled over again. The passenger got out this time and he wanted to know how far I wanted to go. ďPrince George,Ē I said and he quickly jumped back into the truck again. I had no idea if they were just going up the road or for a couple of hundred miles. I later found out that if I wanted to I could have traveled with them all the way to Seattle. Wow, I wasnít expecting that at all. Getting me to Prince George was enough. For most people in the western world, the thought of sitting in the back of a pickup truck (if Iíd of gone from where Iíd been picked up, to Seattle) and sliding around for 2,379 miles or for forty-four hours would seem unbearable, but I welcomed the idea!
My Hungarian friends were going all the way to the state of Washington but for some reason they were certainly in a rush to get there. This was all fine and dandy, but of all the things that the three of us had overlooked, it was the possibility of gas stations closing. Because of this we had no option but to stop.
The first one that we came to wasnít open and the next; which was ten miles further on, was open, but of all things it had run out of gas. Unbelievable, this could only happen in Canada eh? Having no choice in the matter we had to return to the previous location. Iím sure if we couldíve purchased gasoline right there and then, these guys would have gone straight through to Seattle. That night I slept in the truck while my comrades relaxed in their tent.
The following morning while we waited for the place to open, I got to know my companions a little better. Ironically I never did catch their names. They told me how expensive it was to live in Hungary. They said that a phone list could be fifteen years old before its updated. Theyíre both U.S. citizens now and they have no desire of going back.
When they first migrated to the States they lived in St. Louis, Missouri. They said that the city started to give all the blacks there, $2,000 a month in welfare and so many went on this program, that the metropolis declared bankruptcy. I later learned that a lot of what these two guys said and did was questionable but Iíve included it because it was part of my story.
While we were talking, the gas station opened up its doors and shortly afterwards we filled up with gas. I couldnít really afford it but out of appreciation, I threw in twenty dollars myself. I was just grateful that these guys had saved me from a horrid walk and had been kind enough to take me across the border.
As I bounced along in the back of the truck I started to backtrack my whole journey throughout North America. I went through everything that had got me to this point. This was the first time that Iíd done this for such a distance, since Iíd arrived in the States. I visualized some of the places where Iíd walked or had waited to hitch along the way. I thought about all the wonderful people who had treated me so well during this trip. I closed my eyes and did a lot of thinking. It was a good way to kill some time and I certainly had a lot of that.
At Whitehorse, Yukon, we stopped for gasoline again. While we were there I made a quick call to my dad. He was well and many of the films that Iíd sent back to him had already been developed. Heíd even been kind enough to put them into photograph albums for me. I looked forward to seeing him but that was still a few months away. He also said that Blaine had paid him a visit and heíd looked through my photos too. Interrupting our conversation was the sound of a truckís horn and I had to go.
Half an hour before reaching Watson Lake, Yukon we stopped once again for gas. While I was lying in the back of the pickup I watched a humorous situation. Nearby the driver of a truck was yelling at his friend because the JCB that was on the back of their rig wasnít secured enough and the whole thing was jumping up and down. Iím watching the other guy while heís focused on the upset driver. While all of this commotion is going on, they are filling up their tank with fuel. Then it starts to overflow, and diesel is pouring out everywhere. This continues for quite a while. When the driver finally realizes whatís going on he looks across at me and smiles. Iím glad that he saw the humorous side of the situation.
Further south, about thirty-five miles north of Muncho Lake, B.C. a fierce river came into view. It was about a hundred meters wide and cut logs were barreling their way down its torrent. It was brutal and it was tossing these enormous logs around like they were mere twigs.
Just after this scene a strange fog engulfed the road. It came in from nowhere and then it caught up to the truck; it consumed us for a while, before disappearing into nothing. It was the oddest thing.
Mother Nature wasnít on our side at all on this particular afternoon. Shortly after the unusual mist, the skies opened up and it poured and poured with rain. I got absolutely drenched from head to toe in just a few minutes. What with a howling wind that ripped through me, all I could do was violently shiver. It wasnít too long before the bed of the truck was splashing around in two inches of water.
ďDavid at Muncho LakeĒ
The weather was so bad that the Hungarians had stopped twice in an attempt to get a motel room, before they tried again at the town of Muncho Lake, B.C. Leaving me in the back of their pickup they left on their mission to find any kind of accommodation that was available.
During their absence, a man with heavyset Native American features approached me. His name was David and we spoke for quite some time. It turned out that he owned one of the three lodges there. As we conversed, the Hungarians returned, fired up the engine and immediately left. I found their actions very rude and I was sure that David had felt the same. Pulling up at the neighboring structure they impatiently jumped out and gestured that I could sleep in the back of their truck.
Dumbfounded, I sat there in three inches of water as the rain continuously pounded down on my face. How could they be so heartless, assuming that I could rest in such outrageous conditions? I couldnít get any wetter if I tried! Standing up was like wearing a suit of armor, only this was of a saturated kind.
When I took the boiler suit off it instantly dropped to my feet, it was that heavy. Then I jumped down into the slosh and mud and tracked over to Davidís business. This was at Mile 463 of the Alaskan Highway. His lodge was about a hundred or so meters from the truck. When I got there I entered his domain. As soon as I walked in he asked his mom to bring me over some soup and a tuna sandwich. Concerned, he asked why Iíd returned to him so wet and cold. I sat down and began to tell him my story.
David patiently let me finish what I had to say and then he stood up. I donít think he even thought about what he did next. Taking a bunch of keys out of his pocket he looked at me and said, ďFuck them and their selfish ideas. Here, take my van and go and get your belongings, youíre staying here with us for the night.Ē His words were expressed with such loyalty, that I felt like he was a brother that Iíd known for years. This was one unique man.
When I returned, he said that business was slow that night and he showed me to a room. Handing me a towel, he told me to get myself cleaned up. Inside the shower, the hot water splashed on my head and trickled down my back. It felt so good to be warm again. As I stood there in a daze, I reminisced over the countless people Iíd met on my travels just like David, whoíd taken me in and had been so kind.
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