What you can learn from a ride

Posted 6/26/20

You rarely see anyone hitchhiking, and if you do it's unlikely you would stop. It wasn't like that when I was in my teens and 20s. Hitchhiking was a respectable form of travel, and if you were driving you returned the favor; you felt guilty if you

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What you can learn from a ride


You rarely see anyone hitchhiking, and if you do it’s unlikely you would stop.

It wasn’t like that when I was in my teens and 20s. Hitchhiking was a respectable form of travel, and if you were driving you returned the favor; you felt guilty if you didn’t.

John Cavanagh, who had taken a break from working on his boat at Pleasure Marina, agreed. He recalled hitchhiking to get around town and in particular a series of rides from the Canadian border to Bangor, Maine, in a snowstorm. After being dropped off midway on a 90-mile section of highway known to the locals as the “Airline,” since it is great navigating feature for aviators, John waited hours. It’s not that cars or trucks weren’t stopping. There was nobody on the snowy road. He finally got a ride.

I remembered similar experiences from my days of hitching – the longest trip being crossing the country, during which I spent one night in jail thanks to a cop in Ohio who took pity on me and offered me a place to sleep.

John and I agreed few would think of hitchhiking today and surely parents wouldn’t allow their kids to do it. Not only are hitchhikers wary of who might pick them up, but people on the road are fearful, too. Those reservoirs of trust and “returning the favor” have been depleted.

I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking to my grandchildren.

It’s too bad.

Hitchhiking is so much more than a ride. It’s an education in meeting and communicating with strangers. Not all my rides, or the rides I have given others, are fondly remembered. Yet I learned a lot about others and of myself from them.

John, whose son is in college, and I agreed that had times not changed, today’s youth could benefit from such a trusting environment. Rather than being guided by fear, they might open to others and venture forth. Instead – and generalizations have a way of being false – we concluded today’s youth live in to a narrow world defined by their friends.

A day later I was proven wrong.

It was serendipitous that I should be leaving the Beacon office Saturday evening when I spotted an AAA service truck pull into the parking lot. A young man, quickly pulling a mask across his face, hopped out of the cap approaching a white Volt parked alongside my car.

My assumption was that somebody had pulled in to use the mailbox and couldn’t get their car to restart. Another young man got out of the car. He pulled on a blue mask. The two went around to the front of the car to look down at the right tire. It was flat and was split across the rim. The driver didn’t have a spare. The car would have to be towed.

The AAA driver offered the young man a ride, but he said he could walk. It wasn’t that far.

“Where are you going?”

“Home,” came the reply. As I learned, home for William is Colorado, but for the time being it’s Pleasure Marina.

“That’s not exactly around the corner; I’ll give you a ride,” I offered.

“You know Pleasure Marina?” William asked incredulously. I told him I had been down there earlier in the day to step the mast on my day sailor. William grabbed his knapsack from his car and we headed for Oakland Beach.

My curiosity as to where he was living was answered when William told me he had bought a Sea Sprite and was staying aboard her. The tale went on. He and a friend want to sail to England.

My next question was, how big is the Sea Sprite? The answer is 23 feet. Indeed, smaller boats have made trans-Atlantic trips, but this is not a vessel to attempt such a voyage. William agreed. He pointed out that he thought the Sea Sprite would be a good boat to learn how to sail.


That’s right, William isn’t a sailor.

So, what does he do?

William said he left his business in Colorado to follow in the footsteps of a friend to volunteer for a Providence nonprofit seeking to find housing for the homeless. The friend died from an overdose and William wanted to pay tribute to him by carrying on his work.

We arrived at Pleasure Marina. William jumped out but not before trading phone numbers.

I vowed to find him a slot crewing aboard a sailboat. Instantly, I knew who that would be. John Cavanaugh knows what it’s like wondering whether he’d ever get a ride. There could be no better mentor.


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Ride...and write...on, John!

Saturday, June 27