The day had finally arrived! After months of planning, and saving, we were finally going to hit the road. Our adventure had officially started and it still seemed so surreal. August, 4th will forever be engraved in our minds as the day we started our “NEW LIFE”.
First stop was Washington, D.C. Instead of hitching a ride out of NYC (NYC is just to congested and it’s illegal to hitchhike there apparently) we decided to take a four hour Megabus ride to D.C. In D.C., we did all the touristy things, such as visiting the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Holocaust Museum, etc. and though this was the first stop on our trip, it didn’t feel like it was part of our adventure. Why? Mainly, because it felt like we were there to visit for a weekend and two days later we would head back to our old lifestyle. However, that feeling disappeared the second I put my thumb out for the first time.
Rocky First Start
After being in D.C. for two days, Ben and I set out to hitch our first ride heading to Cleveland, Ohio. D.C. was a great transition for us but it was time to get on the road. We were excited. Our hearts were pumping and our minds were racing about the endless possibilities, the things that could go wrong and all the great things that could happen.
Before we hitched our first ride, we checked on Hitchwiki for any suggestive areas we should hitch from. It advised us to take the Orange Metro to the last stop, Vienna, and then take a connector bus to an on-ramp to I-66 outside of D.C. But of course, Ben and I didn’t listen. We can be a little hardheaded sometimes.
After getting off at Vienna, we realized that the train ran along side the I-66, so we thought why the hell would Hitchwiki tell us to take another bus, which we would have to pay for (D.C. Metro is a complex and expensive train system) just to get on the I-66 when I-66 was right there. So we decided to ignore Hitchwiki’s advise and try our luck on an on-ramp that was located right outside of the train station.
We soon realized we were in a bad spot. There was little to no traffic and no space for a car to pull over if they were interested in giving us a ride. However, we said what the heck, let’s give it a try. After watching cars pass us by for I don’t know how long, we agreed that maybe we should take the bus to the on-ramp as Hitchwiki suggested.
So, we went back to the station, found the bus number and waited for the bus. Something told me to check the bus schedule for the next bus and to my wonderful surprise both the 632 and the 642 bus (which we were advised to take) weren’t scheduled to arrive for another 2 1/2 hours. This had to be a joke. There is no ducking way a bus takes two and a half hours to get somewhere. (I guess not everything can run as frequent as in NYC or Boston)
It was already 1:50p.m. and we haven’t even left the station yet. Mind you, we got out of the station at 12:30p.m. and now we had to wait another 2 1/2 hours.
Nope, I don’t think so.
So we checked the map for another bus that would lead us somewhat close to where the 632 or 642 would have dropped us off. But of course that bus wouldn’t be at Vienna for another 1 1/2 hours. I guess that’s what we get for not following directions. Anyway, we debated whether we should test our luck and try to hitch a ride from the on-ramp right outside of the station where cars could not pull over or wait 1 1/2 hours for this bus.
We chose to wait, after all, waiting and hitchhiking goes hand in hand with each other. Patience is a virtue, so I have been told.
The 640 bus finally arrived around 2:30, and it took us 15 mins to get to the stop where we wanted to go to. Time was ticking away and we wanted to get at least to the next highway intersection (I-81) before the sun sets. But clearly that was not going to happen because we wasted so much time waiting for a bus that took us only 15 mins out.
Now it was time to really start hitchhiking.
After Ben made our first cardboard sign, “I-66 WEST” (yup, I know real basic, but it gets to the point) we found the “perfect spot” to hitch from, so we thought.
It was 83 degrees outside but it felt like 98, plus I didn’t pack a hat, so it felt even hotter to me. The sun was beaming down on us, and we were sweating bullets as cars and trucks just passed us by.
After a while we realized that this spot was not as perfect as we thought. We were at the corner of a highway leading to another highway which meant cars were going way to fast to be able to stop for us and there was no traffic light to stop the cars, which would’ve worked in our benefit.
Ben ended up scanning the area for a better spot as I continued to hitch for our first ride. Ben walked off for about 5 mins before he came running back saying he found a spot that was not only great for cars to pull over but that there was also a traffic light that drivers had to wait for. Jackpot!
Nothing like the First Ride
As we were walking to our “jackpot spot”, a man in a red mini van, waiting at the traffic light screamed out of his window and asked me where we were heading? I quickly replied, “I-66W”, but unfortunately he was heading in a different direction. For a second, he got my hopes up. Either way, I said “Thank you” and ran to catch up to Ben.
We finally reached the spot and the sun was no joke, it was only getting hotter but we weren’t going to let this heat stop us, we were determined to get the first ride.
Ben was on the emergency stopping lane (shoulder) with his thumb out and our sign high and visible enough for everyone to see. I was standing just a few feet behind him with my thumb out when he turned around and said maybe you should make a funny sign. So, I made a sign that read “WE WON’T BITE !! HAVE A NICE DAY !” (not to funny but they got the point, it was too hot for me to be funny or sarcastic)
We watched as cars passed by, drivers nodded in acknowledgement, or shaked their head indicating that they are not going in the same direction. I also saw a couple of drivers laughing as they read my sign but no one actually stopped. We started hitchhiking at this spot at 3:17 and at 3:51 we still had no ride.
A minute later, we heard someone hollering at us, trying to get our attention from up the street, about 40 feet from where we were. We quickly grabbed our bags and ran to the car.
The next step, is probably the most difficult but also the most essential part of hitchhiking. You only have about 10 seconds to size up the situation, figure out where the driver is going, if they can take you to a spot that won’t leave you stranded, get their license plate number, get the model of the car and determine whether you want to ride with this person or not. Don’t forget, the driver also has the same amount of time to size you up and determine whether he or she wants to give you a ride.
As we ran to the car with our bags, I memorized the license plate number, and stopped on the passenger side where the door was already opened for us. In the car, was a female driver and in the back was her daughter, who seemed very excited to see us. Though the driver wasn’t heading in our direction, she offered to take us to the nearest rest stop on I-66W. It was really nice of her to not only stop but also to go out of her way to get us closer to our destination. (We later found out that she had to make a 4:00 appointment, and she still stopped for us. Wonderful lady.) I guess lady lucky was finally on our side.
We got in and closed the doors behind us. With seat-belts buckled, and doors locked, this was it, there was no turning back. We did it. We hitched our first ride. This was the start of something different, a challenge, and an adventure but most of all it was the start of our new life !!!
Continue Reading: The Start of a New Life: D.C. to Cleveland (Part 2)