Monday 19th March 2012
Got up early after my last night of comfort and security at home. Said goodbye to my parents and took my mums homemade bag, which will hopefully come in handy at some point.
Took a steady walk up to Woolley Edge services, passing primary school children and their fussy parents. An elderly man who was making the most of the deceptively cold days sunshine by cleaning his car-boot wished me well and I felt uplifted and positive about the journey I was starting.
After scoping out various spots and asking some truck-drivers, I stood right at the very bottom close to the motorway on-ramp. On the back of a nearby lamp-post I saw previous hitchers who had left their mark with various dates, names and symbols. It was at this point that Dave stopped for me, in a small white van and said he could take me to Derby, which I gladly accepted, having spent 2 or so hours at that place. Dave was a project manager for some form of sewage operation, but was retiring in May, after which he had a cruise to San Francisco and Alaska booked. He was a nice chap and well travelled. Was told that the 'Dover' sign nearly put him off. Luckily not.
Dave dropped me just outside of Derby, at what I think were called Trowell services and having said what he did, I was going to change my sign to London, but before I even had the chance to salvage some more cardboard, a small grey corsa had stopped opposite me. Once inside the small vehicle, I'd like to say I got talking to Alison (or Alexandra in Spanish apparently) from Little Hampton (between Brighton and Plymouth) but I think I hardly muttered a word. The quirky revenue and customs lady talked non-stop about ex-boyfriends, travels, formula 1 racing and other topics until we reached Toddington services, just before the M25.
It was lovely weather still, although slightly and I was enjoying my first taste of proper solo travels. I had been trying 3 different points at the services but to no avail. Enquiring throughout the truck-stop also proved fruitless. After an hour, possibly slightly longer, a polite young chap picked me up. His names escapes me...Mark or Paul. He said he had picked me up after seeing me stood there for a while. He was, like Alison, going home after seeing his mother over the weekend. He told me he was a contractor for security at various events, gigs etc. and was a knowledgeable guy with some good views. He had travelled through Europe in a camper van and had camped at service stations in France without a problem, which is promising. After some confusion with directions, maps and sat-navs, he realised he was headed the wrong way and dropped me off at the first services, those being the South Mimms services.
Having spent a good three hours there, I had met some students from Hong-Kong studying at Warwick University, doing a charity hitch-hike to Croatia, a true hobo who was as polite as you like, he went to sleep round the back of the services with his dog. I didn't know his name yet but his demeanour was quite amazing, I was very happy to have met a true roads-person. I decided to try seek him out later, see what stories he had and if he was willing to share them. I gave in to hunger after nibbling chocolaty things all day, and, this being a motorway services, had to settle for overpriced fast-food. However there was another surprise in store, albeit minor. The friendly Eastern European lady at KFC (where I have vowed never to eat again after an encounter with an eye-opening book) gave me free chips with my burger and departed to the greasy backroom after telling me that good people get good things. I thanked her and devoured the small greasy package, while noting how strange it is to see 3 uniformed police officers eating chicken and playing on their iPhones. Peculiar indeed.