What Are Thumbs For?

thumbMy left thumb has had a rough go recently. While working on a recent craft project, I promptly ran Lefty over with my sewing machine. The needle broke off inside my thumb and my husband had to pull it out with none other than the needle-nosed pliers.

Then, on Saturday, I sliced the same thumb with a peering knife. Nothing so bad that a Lightening McQueen band-aid couldn’t stop the bleeding, but it is still tender now.

But maybe my thumb is trying to tell me something. It must be itching for some adventure.

The first time I hitchhiked I was with my father. We had just finished a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail in Oregon and popped out on the road several miles from the anticipated ranger station with a phone. That was where we were supposed to call home for a ride. But as the rain was nearing, we decided to bushwhack our own trail, found the road and but found the first 20 or so cars less than willing to give two stinky, wet backpackers a ride.

And we were getting wetter and wetter. Finally, my dad (who is a big and tall guy) said, “I’ll go back and stand in the trees. You take your hat off so they can see you’re a girl and we’ll see if we can get a ride.” Sure enough, the next car stopped. And it was a father and daughter duo themselves who saved us that rainy day.

When we got home he told me stories about when he would hitchhike home for a weekend from his college. He would always carry a stack of text books so that people knew he was a student and would be more willing to give him a ride.

Later, I would hitchhike with friends if we couldn’t conceivable find another ride. As I count, I’ve hitchhiked in 4 different countries: Ecuador, Scotland, Canada and the U.S.

There is always a story with hitchhiking. In Scotland, I know with all my heart that the Scottish brothers who gave me a lift were speaking English, but I just couldn’t understand a single word they said in their brogue.

In Ecuador, my friend and I probably had trouble getting a second ride because our first ride had been in the back of a cheese delivery truck and we reeked.

And if you’re ski-bumming in a rural Colorado ski valley like Grand County and miss the employee bus because the happy hour special is really good, hitchhiking really is the only way to get home to take a warm shower before your shift at your second job starts.

Only once did a friend and I set out with a goal of hitchhiking somewhere. Our goal was to make it from Tacoma, Washington to Vancouver, Canada for a weekend of fun and adventure. Crazy, I know, but we did make some rules before we left to keep us safe. We always carried a pocket knife in our pockets, unless we were going through Customs at the U.S./Canada border. Then the knife went inside the backpack. And we would walk across the border and get a new ride on the other side – we sure didn’t want to be inside a car that was smuggling something and be associated with it. And, we would never, never, ever split up.

Well, we made it, had our adventures along the way and can now tell the tales.

But these tales are not ones I will be telling my children. In today’s world, when they are older, I will be telling them very different stories about hitchhiking.

“Never, never, ever pick someone up.”

“Always be prepared, have a plan and a designated driver so that you don’t have to hitchhike.”

Of all the lessons my father taught me, hitchhiking is one that I will not be passing on to my children. It makes me sad that today’s world is so different.

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