Rescued by an Indian; hitchhiking and couchsurfing in Canada

     Maybe my sign was part of the problem. It wasn’t my best work. My brushstrokes were too aggressive. The black/white contrast was too strong. I should have gone for a comic sans font. It couldn’t have been the flag. Everyone loves Americans, right? Right? Hello?

     Since Google, Hitchwiki, and anything else I looked for couldn’t give me good information about how to hitchhike out of Vancouver (which should have been an alarm bell) I decided to try for a rideshare to get a bit out of town. I also decided to be proactive and make my own Craigslist ad. Being proactive is always a good strategy, and a guy who had never used Craigslist for rideshare responded to my ad. He was a financial planner who was going as far as Merritt, only 80km before Kamloops.

     I paid $25 to go about 3.5 hours with his dog.

     When we said goodbye he said these fateful words: “I bet you’ll get a ride to Kamloops in ten minutes!” dooming me to an eternal wait. Oy vey. I waited and waited and waited. Three and a half hours I waited. There weren’t very many cars, but enough. Nobody knows better than I do that this is the nature of hitchhiking, the bad days along with when beautiful blonde girls in convertibles pick me up. It’s why I always always always carry water, food, toilet paper and a loaded gun with a suicide note—kidding!
     Hitchhiking in British Columbia has an infamous history. Eighteen women have disappeared on one stretch of highway in the northwest of the province, dubbed the Highway of Tears. There are plenty of signs on the highway telling drivers not to pickup hitchhikers. This doesn’t apply to hitchhikers like me standing on the onramps, but this distinction might be too subtle for most people with images of homicidal maniacs in their heads.

     An Indian picked me up. That’s what he called himself. “Indian” is a loaded word, much more than “eskimo,” and I asked him about it. In USA “Native American” is the nom du jour. Here it is “First Nations.” He wasn’t bothered by what he should be called except that he didn’t like the word “aboriginal”, explaining, “Normal, abnormal…original, aboriginal…see? Someone made a mistake there.”
     But that wasn’t the first thing he said. The first thing he said when I got in the car was, “Do you like snakes.” Snakes? He pointed to a plastic container in the back seat with a boa in it, and asked if I minded if the snake rode between us so it won’t be lonely or agitated or I don’t remember what. I was so happy to have a ride I would have enthusiastically agreed to have a few vipers around my neck.
     After the snake was made comfortable we blew down the highway in his little Honda at 150kmh (90mph). He broke a period of silence to say, “I’m kind of a spiritual guy” and then pushed it to 190kmh (115mph). I didn’t know what to make of this. Does he believe in reincarnation and he doesn’t care if we crash?

     My driver with his relaxed snake

     Vancouver was great, but it is a big, international city. Finally, (and after many months of traveling to the same places) I am in the real British Columbia, the interior, the Lower Mainland, the city of Kamloops.
     My CouchSurfing host, A native Englishwoman living in Canada for the last 20 years, picked me up and we went straight to the vet to pick up her dog’s ashes. OK! That’s how it is with CouchSurfing; you never know what you are in for, but it’s almost always great. As I write ad nauseum on my website, you just need to be open to anything with CouchSurfing, go with the flow, and find a way to fit in. I’m staying with a host and her two teenage kids, and there’s another CS host down the street who comes by, so it feels like I have two hosts. I tried to make myself semi-useful. I fixed a door lock, mowed the lawn, washed the dishes, and insisted that my host change her profile to mention that she now has only one dog, not two. Greatest guest ever.
     I wouldn’t have joked like this if she didn’t have a British sense of humor, and she gave it back to me, asking, “Do you have qualifications of any sort?” unable to finish the sentence without exploding into laughter.

     I begged my CouchSurfing host to put this photo of her teenage daughter’s room on her profile and say this is the couch.

     Kamloops! Kamloops is an ancient Shuswap Indian word meaning, ‘good thrift stores.’ It is incredibly spread out for a town of only 80,000.

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Rescued by an Indian; hitchhiking and couchsurfing in Canada — 4 Comments

  1. hahahahaha. My sharp British wit has been somewhat dulled by 20 years in Canada but I felt I was just started to hone my skills again using you as easy fodder. By the way the lock doesnt work so please don’t add locksmith to your list of ‘qualifications’. The young whipper snapper surfer did semi-fix my other door, which then prompted my friend around the corner to fix it properly to show the Americans how to do things right. Just saying.

  2. On a serious note (well I’ll try), great writing, very funny – it had me running to the loo for a pee anyway.

  3. For weeks we’ve been telling each other ‘we should hitchhike, come on! It’ll be fun’.

    You’ve JUST changed my mind – car share with snakes?

    No thanks!

    *Of course I’m joking, your hitch journey sounded great.

  4. If it is any consolation, hitchhiking is easy in lots of other countries! If I were to do it again, I would use a sign saying, “FROM CALIFORNIA TO BANFF “or wherever)”

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