By Foot and By Thumb: Day 1


Friday, October 20th, 2017; leaving Portland, ME

I had read somewhere that Friday afternoons were the best time to hitchhike. Something to do with morale and the end of the work-week and the buried sense of abandonment that stirs to rise when 48 hours buffer oneself and Monday.

On Thursday evening I had scouted out the nearby Back Cove Park as a potential place to sleep. It was not secluded enough for slumber, but it provided preferable access to that black tarry speedway I hoped to ride south to Boston. On Friday morning I left Deering Oaks Park in the direction of Back Cove. I collected some high-quality cardboard with pleasing dimensions from beneath an overpass. I scrawled “SOUTH” on one side with a fat-tipped black marker I found in the Appalachian wilderness. I turned to cross the intersection of Franklin St. and US HWY 1. It was early afternoon, I was ready.

As I moved along the crosswalk, a man with a grey shaggy beard, a pack, and a cardboard sign of his own called out to me. “You’re not gonna be able to hitchhike from there. No one will stop. If a cop sees you they’ll arrest you!”

“I’m gonna try anyway! Thanks, though!”, I called back.

I chose my position, held out my thumb, displayed my sign, and smiled.

Ten minutes passed. I began to question my personal placement.  I watched as a car swooped in to the near by lot and parked. The man behind the wheel was communicating loudly over his cellular device. He was alone in the car.

“Are you stopping for me?” I mouthed as I pointed to myself and moved towards the parked vehicle. He gestured in confirmation and I rushed aboard and buckled in.

And so it came to be that a union carpenter called Jay, provided my first hitch towards golden California.

He couldn’t take me far, just 20 miles or so to Biddeford. He dropped me at an ideal spot of asphalt convergence just shy of the Maine Turnpike.

“Thank you!” I cried, as I pulled on my pack . I headed towards a gravel driveway perpendicular to a strip of road behind a stop-light.

***

I was nearest the road’s turn-only lane. Every car in that lane would be headed for the turnpike. It was perfect. I stood, hopeful, sign proudly displayed, thumb erect.

Roughly fifteen minutes had lapsed when I heard a loud “HEY!” I looked to my right, to the SUV that fronted the line of vehicles in wait of green-lit permission to proceed. The passenger door of the SUV swung open. The head, neck, shoulders, and arms of a man appeared from within. He called towards me, waving his arms in gesture, as if turning an invisible wheel. “C’mon!”

I jolted. The back passenger door flew open.

I scanned the interior. Two men sat in the front seat, one in the back. The red stop-light shone with the pressure of impermanence. There was no time for hesitation. All my senses told me I was safe. I threw in my pack and followed quickly  behind it.

“Where ya headed?” I asked.

“South” One replied. “And you?”

“Well, I’m tryin’ to get to Boston.”

“Hey! We’re headed to Boston! It’s your lucky day!” A voice exclaimed from the front.

Brian the Ganja Man, John Lunar Richey, and Night Owl were a fine group of gentleman working in the farming industry. They were en route to Boston to partake in what they called Employee Appreciation Hour. Affiliates of Seal Rock Farms, a family owned farm specializing in Medical Marijuana, It was not long before the SUV filled with billowing clouds of sweet, pungent smoke, meaningful conversation, and laughter as we glided south along I-95.

I was elated. I could not believe my good fortune. I could not have asked for better company. As we neared Boston, it was time to decide where I would be dropped off. I was concerned that, interested as I was to see the city, it may be difficult to find my way out of a city center. I asked my new friends what they thought.

Upon realizing that I had never been to Boston, the group determined that I should most certainly come along. To quell my fears of city-centric inertia, they would drop me off somewhere outside of the city on their way back to Maine.

Oh my goodness, my life could not be more perfect!

We parked and made our way in to a bar. We sat in a row on bar-stools. I was introduced to the bartender and made to feel at home. Though I had mentioned a taste for whiskey, as I swiveled in the bar-stool and my mind whirled with the question of where I would sleep that night, I decided to stick to beer.

I sipped a cold draft IPA, a gift from my new friends. I welled with feelings of amazement and gratitude and confirmation; confirmation that my blind faith in humanity, well, it was certainly paying off thus far.

After much musing and a round or two, it was off for Mexican food. Again I was treated, this time to a burrito.

Then, it was time for my new friends to head back to Maine.

Though they roused that I should come join them on the farm (and though in an instance where I had not just begun a cross-country journey — I would have certainly considered it), it was now time to determine my next move in the venture at hand: where should I sleep?

In the end, I rested my head at Minute-Man National Park. It was a safe, quiet place just off of route 2. They had to drive a bit out of their way to get there, but they said it was worth it to deposit me somewhere that I would be safe for the night. I bid them farewell and watched the cars headlights illuminate their path from the gravel parking lot. 

***

I made my way from the dark parking lot to a paved trail. The trail ran between a large grass covered slope that reached Highway 2 , and a wire fence that guarded I know not what. I walked part way up the slope and positioned myself in the grass behind a tree. I finished my delicious burrito and snuggled inside of my sleeping bag, all vibrato with the thrill of trust, and synchronicity.

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