I only pick up hitch-hikers who remind me of myself in my early twenties, young adventurous types. That particular August morning, the two female hitch-hikers near Sunrise Glass fit the bill. They looked like they could be sisters, two very hipster sisters in their early twenties. They were both petite with hair shorn so that it was only a couple inches long but no garish make-up. Each had a 60 liter backpack, not yet dirty or dusty. They clearly had not been living out of them and had not traveled far yet. I could tell they were not down-on-their-luck hitch-hikers. They were clearly well-raised, probably from out-of-state.
I made a split-second decision while waiting to pull onto 1A. Forget working out at the gym, I would much rather help the hitch-hikers. I felt worried about their chances of catching a ride otherwise. At that time, drivers headed onto 180 from Sunrise Glass could be headed in any number of directions, either out towards Otis or towards Eastbrook. Since I had a couple of hours before I had to head to work, I wanted to help them get as far as they needed to go.
I made a u-turn and pulled over in the parking lot behind Sunrise Glass. The women looked at my car, with that “wow, did-we-actually-get-a-ride?” expression, and then they dashed across the road.
“Where are you headed?” I asked.
“Right now we’re trying to get to Route 9, but we will go as far as you can take us.”
“I will take you to route 9, I do not have to work until 10 on the Island.” Then, I drove a Toyota Echo that averaged 40 miles-per-gallon, so I did not mind the distance. Besides, I thought that they would have better chances being picked up on Route 9 next than anywhere in-between.
They threw their backpacks in the trunk. One sat in the passenger seat, and the other arranged herself around the rake and shovel on the backseat.
Once we had arranged ourselves in the car and taken off, we realized that I looked familiar to them and vice-versa. We exchanged stories, me first, me ever open and trusting to the right vibes.
Freshly turned twenty-seven, I lived at a sweet little cabin within walking distance of Beech Hill Pond and the best blackberry patch that I have ever found in Hancock County. I worked seven days a week on Mount Desert Island, a 45 minute commute (only worth it because of the cheap rent), gardening during the week and produce at Hannaford during the weekends. We decided we must recognize each other from the produce section, where I encountered every socioeconomic class in Bar Harbor, including College of the Atlantic (COA) students.
They had recently graduated from COA, and they were hitch-hiking to somewhere in the Maritime provinces for a homesteading skills conference. In my head, I contemplated hitch-hiking across the Maine-Canadian border, something that sounds braver than anything I have ever done.
Even with my eyes on the road, I could tell theirs were focused out the window. We passed blueberry barrens as far as their eyes could see, houses with so many additions and repairs and porches that the original structure appeared indecipherable, trucks and tractors and four-wheelers and snowmobiles that did not currently work but someone had not given up on them, vegetable gardens neatly weeded and watered, confined and unconfined animals.
“We have never been out here before, we have not really left the Island.”
“Well, welcome to the rest of Maine! There is hunting season out here in November so be careful.”
“This is so cool! It is so beautiful! Too bad everyone we know lives in Bar Harbor!”
This is the part that has haunted me for years, this is the part that compels me to remember and write about these hitch-hikers years after they may or may not have crossed into Canada. I re-live and experience this story every time someone says to me that they do not understand someone of an opposite ideology. I always want to shake them and say, “Really? This state is filled with political diversity, you should leave your little wedge and experience the rest of it.”
It was not my place that morning to be any more than a driver. When we arrived at Route 9, I pulled over at a visible spot and helped them unload their bags. I watched them stagger with their bags on their back as they walked down the break-down lane, and then returned southward in Hancock County.
Mission accomplished: I had given them all the help I could with their journey.