When I was a single twenty-something, I worked in Denver, and I headed to Missouri dark-thirty one morning for Christmas holidays. Thirty miles outside Oklahoma City, my car blew a gasket or something and was belching black smoke out the tailpipe. I pulled over and hitchhiked into the city to a friend’s apartment. My car was towed to the dealer’s, I took a bus home for the holidays, and a week later when I returned to Oklahoma City, I picked up my repaired car and drove on to Denver.
I wrote a thank you note to the couple (a banker and his wife) who picked me up, and they sent me a Christmas present with a card that said helping me made their holidays more meaningful.
Fast-forward a few decades, and I’m alone again heading to Colorado to visit several sets of friends. I packed my car with too many clothes, shoes, cooler, and a paper atlas, plus I’d loaded my car’s GPS with the four addresses I’d need for the trip. I also packed courage.
I hadn’t gone on a road trip alone in… ever. My earlier trips home from Denver were one-day marathons. This time was different. I’d be gone over a week and traveling from one Colorado town to another and another.
I’m the little old lady no one wants to be behind on the highway. I set the speedometer at 65 and let everyone pass me. I’m not good at zig-zagging from lane to lane to make better time. (I allow for extra time.) I pulled in at a hotel after close to eight hours on the road, with frequent stops at rest stops.
At one rest stop, there were no other cars, just two semis parked on the truck side and no one in sight. I hesitated, but needing a restroom, I went ahead and parked.
What happened to the free-spirited gal who hitchhiked into OKC?
After grabbing the courage I’d stuck in the back seat, I decided to not live in fear of something happening. Of course, I trust woman’s intuition and Midwestern common sense to steer me away from unsafe situations, but imagining horrible events that probably wouldn’t happen is not something I want in my mind. (Okay, I’ll admit I carried my cellphone in my hand as I walked into the restroom.)
By the time I returned to the parking lot, there were three more cars near mine and lots of human activity. Maybe I’d pulled in just after others cars had made it back on the highway.
I want my innate courage and trusting nature back from the gal I once was. And I vowed right then to refuse to live in fear. Most people are kind and friendly.
I doubt I ever hitchhike again, but if necessary, I hope I’ll rely on the kindness of strangers.