A North American Hitch-Hiker’s Gathering
By: Bernd Wechner
A North American Hitch-Hiker’s Gathering
Author: Bernd Wechner
I made it to Seattle at last. Mind you, I had no time. I was busy day and night from the moment of arrival. I did win a Saturday free though, and it was not coincidentally, on the Saturday Morgan, undoubtedly North America's most proactive hitch-hiker, had called the North American Hitch-hiker's Gathering. We had a venue, Picnic Shelter 3 at Seward park, and the guarantee of five to ten people turning up. Or so I said to Irv, one of North America's oldest hitch-hikers, who laughed. Well it was November, notoriously cold and wet in this part of the country and not exactly ideal timing to lure hitchers out into the open. But it was all the time I had, and I was glad for the opportunity at last, however briefly to catch up with at least two of the most significant North American hitch-hiking icons I've come across, Morgan Sal'man Strub and Irving Thomas, and perhaps a handful more.
It was the the warmest, driest October on record I think, and Saturday offered fine, if chill, weather. I got a lift to Seward Park, Picnic shelter 3. No-one was about. Not a soul. Was I early? No wait, there was a sign. A large hand drawn thumb! I was in the right place. It welcomed arrivals to the gathering and invited them a nearby Airstream van for a cup of tea.
I'd never seen an Airstream before. An apparent icon among American caravans, a long metallic trailer that looked like it had been cut out of the fuselage of an airplane.
As it caught my eye, a dog came wandering over from the van with a woman not far behind. Krista was expecting me. I was the first arrival. She was Morgan's neighbour in Portland and ran the La Palabra Café-Press there. She'd brought a fried Anne, and offered to cater the event.
It was warm in the van. Morgan was there, Krista and Anne. I'd long wanted to see Morgan. An inspiring energetic passionate soul. We'd talked on the phone and corresponded for a year or two now and I think I saw in Morgan something of what I once was, or wanted to be. Here I was, with a full time job, working day and night, a baby on the way, about to buy a house, busier and more stressed than I could ever recall being - and Morgan was free, floating in the breeze, full of passionate ideals, energy and time to commit to them.
There were four of us, and I knew Irv was coming, so we had our five! I hadn't lied to Irv. He turned up not long after, ambling up the hill from the bus stop. I'd never met Irv either. I reviewed his book, Innocence Abroad, some years ago, we almost crossed paths unbeknownst to us in Greece in '91, we'd corresponded over the years, and I'd made friends of his friends in Europe, but we'd never met before this Seattle trip.
There was plenty to talk about - as if ardent hitch-hiker's are ever short of words!
Two newcomers arrived, Web and Sung, though they were interested really in the Airstream trailer and on working it into a science fiction film Web was producing. A friend had found Morgan's ad for the gathering somewhere in Seattle in which he'd mentioned the Airstream and new Web was desperately after one for his film.
John a reporter from the Seattle times was expected as well. He'd found Morgan's ad and felt there'd be a good story in it some time. When he did arrive, we was visibly a little surprised cum disappointed at the casual air and lack of numbers, but soon he found interest in our old salt Irv. With his local nature (Irv lives in Seattle), age and experience (over 70 now with a half century of thumbing experience), John rightly saw some story material.
Dogdave was was also headed for Seattle, but he never did make it due to a breakdown. He would have been the only true thumber from on-line advertising efforts to have turned up outside of our little triangle (Morgan, Irv and I).
A passing cyclist couldn't help but spot our sign on the shelter and the lingering crowd. We were eight now after all. He stopped for a cup of tea and we were nine!
The cyclist, John, was a global hitcher himself, back in Seattle for the winter. He brought our number to nine, and offered us a place to park the Airstream for the night at his place nearby. The fraternity of hitch-hikers seemed as strong as ever.
It was a wonderful day! A relaxing break from what was beyond any doubt the most stressful period of my life to date. A handful of lovely folk came together, for what we liked to think might be the start of a tradition of North American Hitch-hiker's Gatherings, thanks to the dreams and energy of one key soul I suspect - Morgan Sal'man Strub.
On account of my schedule, I glimpsed but a small window in a broader adventure that involved a Hitch-hiker's Philosophy Cafe the next day and the shooting of a science fiction scenes with the Airstream. Morgan does the whole period more justice with his photo-journal at Digihitch, than I can here with my meager involvement. Who knows, perhaps we'll see an article in the Seattle Times by