Hitchhiking Canada – The Great Travel Adventure

Sun 14 – Mon 15 November 2010

Hung-over and tired; one of the nice things I found about not working is that on those hung-over days that inevitably happen I could just roll over and go back to sleep, but not this time. I was to start my hitchhiking journey so I forced myself up, splashed some water over my face in an attempt to wash away my hangover and attempted to cram everything into my bag.

I’m not a morning person, everything happens slower in the mornings. I’ve known myself to look back at what I’ve got done between getting up and leaving the house and wonder where half an hour or even a whole hour went. It was 10am before I managed to get out the door, I made my way to a bus stop and took a bus to the Mic Mac Mall, nearby was an on ramp for the 118 motorway and I figured this was going to be my best bet at catching a long distance ride.

From what I’d learnt talking to Hurly and Evan and my online research I’d ascertained that picking the right location to hitch from is paramount to getting a ride. Vehicles need a clear view of you in advance to allow them time to process the thought of pulling over and of course they need ample room to pull over into. Pick a location which gives drivers minimal excuses not to stop, they already have so many anyway:
“He might be dangerous”
“He might be nuts and talk about weird things”
“He might smell”
“His clothes or boots might be dirty”
Make sure they can’t use these location based excuses as well:
“I saw him too late to stop”
“It was too difficult to pull over”

I knew hitching out of a city was going to be difficult, I was looking for a long distance ride to Fredericton (6 hours away) or at least a ride to get me going in the right direction. However the problem with hitching from cities is that so many people are just leaving the city for their houses in the suburbs, there are too many different directions people are going to.
“It’s not worth pulling over when I’m only commuting 30 minutes to get home”

I thought I had a pretty good spot, there were traffic lights before the onramp which would give drivers ample time to look at me and read my sign, and there was a nice long gravel section to pull into.  Excuses eliminated, or so I thought.
“I saw him too late to stop”
“It was too difficult to pull over”

I held up my sign, put on my best smile and held out my thumb high and proud. I didn’t give any drivers the ‘finger’ or throw rocks at any car but it was all to no avail. For over three hours I stood on the side of the road and I didn’t get a single ride. With a sore arm, a stiff thumb and a hurt ego I returned to Evan’s with my tail between my legs. Was it the location, was it me, could it even be my sign? I decided to put it down to the time of day, I’d been hitching through the middle hours of the day, potentially the least likely for someone to embark on a longer distance trip.

[pe2-gallery class=”alignright” ] Hitch Hiking From Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada)-1.JPGHitch Hiking From Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada)-3.JPGHitch Hiking From Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada)-4.JPG[/pe2-gallery]

The following day I made an earlier start and took the bus out to the Mic Mac mall on ramp again, however this time the bus failed to stop when I pressed the button and before I knew what had happened I found myself on the motorway, but heading in the opposite direction.

This small stuff up proved a blessing as I was forced to find another spot to hitchhike from.  The motorway transitioned into a main city road and I got off at the first opportunity and looked around for a suitable spot. It was a straight road so I would be clearly visible to anyone who noticed, there were however three lanes (big excuse not to stop) and plenty of distractions provided by all the businesses and shops surrounding me. Fortunately there was a suitable place for a sharp driver to pull over safely into so I decided to give it a shot.

I was standing on the side of this busy road for around an hour and because there was such a constant stream of traffic going past my arm and thumb soon became getting seriously sore, I needed some kind of an arm brace.

I was close to the point of giving up when I was surprised to be approached by someone on foot, he asked if I would like a ride to Moncton (~3 hours drive). Could it be, was he going to piggyback me to Moncton? It turned out Paul had seen me when he was heading the opposite direction to get gas, having done some hitchhiking in his younger days he’d taken pity on me and my poor choice of location. Paul had a comfortable modern sedan, he was heading to Moncton for a business meeting and I found him easy to talk to. A perfect first ride, he even bought me lunch half way there then dropped me off at an excellent motorway location just outside of Moncton. I’d done the hard part, I’d got out of the city and now I was in a location where every single vehicle that passed by would potentially be able to give me a productive ride, none of those damn suburban commuters.

My First Ride - Halifax to Moncton.JPG

I walked for about five minutes along the side of the motorway to get to the other side of the on-ramp from Moncton so that I could also catch new traffic heading out of town, I’d barely got past the ramp when Dave stopped. Dave was also middle aged and also drove a respectable looking sedan, he said he could take me to Fredericton which was pretty awesome, seemed I was going to make my destination in only two rides. Turned out Dave was heading all the way to Ottawa, once we’d chatted a little he kindly said he could drop me at Fredericton, Quebec, Montreal or take me all the way to Ottawa! I wasn’t about to pass up such a sweet ride so I changed plans and decided to see Ottawa after all. Dave and I took it in turns driving throughout the day and through the night to arrive in Ottawa at around 3am. Amazingly I hitch hiked 1400km in my first successful attempt; I’d gotten on well with Dave and he’d offered me the spare bedroom at his house for a few nights and promised to show me around the city.

Dave and His Family.JPG

For the first time since leaving Peter’s place in Waterloo I had a nice clean bedroom to myself, I’d picked a good ride. The following morning while feasting on bacon and pancakes I met Dave’s wife and daughter before they headed out to work and school. Later Dave showed me around a bit of Ottawa, we enjoyed a coffee downtown, played some pool in a bar, drank some beers, he completed a few errands and then I had dinner with him and his family later that evening.

Comments

  1. Wow! I’m so happy that your hitchhiking was so successful. I was skeptical about how open Canadians are compared to Kiwis :)

    • I don’t think I could have had a better hitchhiking experience. I believe hitchhiking in Canada is pretty common and relatively safe and acceptable compared to other countries

      • I’m glad to hear this because I am wanting to hitchhike from Saskatchewan back to my home town Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was hoping to read something positive to keep me motivated with the idea, as we all know there are crazies out there. I’d love to go with someone but everybody in this town is born and raised here and have no need to come with my on my adventure. But, I’m open to invites who just wanna tour and check out Nova Scotia for themselves. I’ll be relocating there permanently, but the hitching in the summer sounds like a good time.

        • Best of luck with your hitch hiking, hope you have a great time. Check out couchsurfing.org for hitching buddies. Have you read my posts on Halifax? I had a great time in your hometown!

  2. I’m not sure if I would call it common – it depends on what part of Canada of course. It seemed much more acceptable in New Zealand. Then again, I’ve never tried it in Canada and I live in Southern Ontario :-)