The Articles I read said hitching is more like walking with a possibility getting a ride; this morning couldn’t have been a grimmer day for walking/hitching, 4 -5 cm of snow had fallen last night and it wasn’t cold enough to keep it frozen so there was slush everywhere with snow still falling.
My first step was walking to La Lastrilla, where I would catch a ride from the on ramp of the 601 to Valladolid. Holding my sign and waving down cars several stopped to say they weren’t going that way or simply pointed down indicating they were staying in town. After about 2 hours of kicking snow and thanking passing cars for all the rides they were offering an old guy skidded his little white car to a stop, offering to take me about 8 km down the highway and drop me at a gas station where he said I may have more luck finding a ride.
The man could barely be understood; making it worse was the toothpick in his mouth that he was chewing to shreds. I tried to make some small talk asking him about the thing hanging from his mirror, that hand with an eye in the middle; it had some Arabic script written on it so I asked if he spoke Arabic but he just mumbled some words around the toothpick so I shut-up and waited till we got to the gas station where he left me.
Beside the gas station was a little church or chapel, it was for travelers. On one wall was San Medel and on the other was a prayer about letting the people along your trip be removed of mal-intent and be free from accident. I took the slow moment to eat my sandwich I brought from home and kicked more snow.
Seeing that few cars were coming into the station I walked a few meters from the turn into the gas station to maybe attract more chances. About 10 minutes after being there a “Guardia Civil” patrol car pulled up. The two officers said it would be safer for me to be at the gas station and not wanting problems I played the American, said thanks I didn’t know it was illegal to hitch on the main highway and walked back.
It was still snowing a bit and I was looking for refuge from the wind so I leaned up against the ice machine but it wasn’t spitting out warm air like it should have been since it was turned off. A nice BMW rolled in to the gas station with its passengers, a man and woman in their early 30s. I couldn’t believe my eyes; I was planning on doing the trip in various legs but this cars license plate said “##### GLC”. In Spain the plate letters say where the car is registered. I asked them if they happened to be heading to Galicia but they said no.
Turns out that only cars registered before the mid 90’s have a plate that indicates where they are from newer ones are just given at random. A half hour later a rusty tan colored old army issue safari jeep type vehicle loaded with five guys stopped to check on what looked like it might be a strange engine noise. They joked about me trying to “hacer dedo” (do thumb literally) and offered to take me about 25 km to Naval Manzano, near Cuellar where I work. Not wanting to be stuck in a one bar town I politely declined and gave them a peace sign and they sputtered onto the highway.
AAAAGGGGHHHH, almost 12 and I have only made it 10km… leaned against the ice machine again with my “Hacia Valladolod” (towards Valladolid) sign around my neck a few 20-somethings hopped out of the back of a new SUV to buy some snacks; a few minutes later the male driver hopped out. I said hi and asked if he was going past Cuellar, having resigned to going shorter distances. He said Valladolid! He told me to throw my bag in back, normally not a good idea but it was a family and the boy’s girlfriend from San Fransisco, CA so there was no room for it.
I’m on the road and it feels like I am flying. The boy had been to the US several times and studies Business management at the UAM in Madrid. Much small talk but nothing too revealing. I gave him my FB so I can let them know how it goes and they invited me to a drink when I come next time to Madrid.
In Valladolid they left me at a bus stop near where they were visiting the lady’s parents. Before leaving me the lady walked to the bus stop talked with a person standing there with a box that contained a nice cake. After assuring I would get the right bus they wished me well.
I took the 6 through Valladolid for 1.20 Euros but it was worth not walking for 45 minutes. The 9 year old kid in the front right seat on the bus kept eying me funny but eventually he got off the bus and so did I near the highway to Leon. Umbrella in hand I walked about half a km to a bus stop to hide from the rain while I changed out my last sign for a new “Leon” sign.
I threw my backpack on, holding my sign facing backwards I walked with traffic towards the on ramp which was still about a km away. Within 2 minutes of walking a Renault station wagon from the 90’s stopped. Fernando a long haired guy with a piercing on the bridge of his nose, between his eyes was driving and Nando was his buddy. The Tatoo artist, Fernando had hitched before so he figured why not pick up another looking for a ride. His buddy made me a bit nervous but maybe that’s just me stereotyping; he had a head shaved to the scalp with sideburns and a little goatee typed thing and had an always wrinkled brow.
We had some cool conversations about US building material choices, energy production and some others. Before arriving I noticed his “Sin Dios” pin on the head liner and another that looked like a Russian army pin. They left me “near” the 120 which would take me towards the A6. Getting to the A6 was going to be the final step of finding a one shot deal the rest of the way to Galicia since it is the main highway leading to the capital, A. Coruna.
I ended up walking about 5km to find the 120 on ramp. I needed a restroom so I camped out there buying a soda and looking for a ride but no luck after about 30 minutes so on I walked towards a traffic light in the distance, but this just put me more in the boonies, walking past graffiti covered buildings with busted out windows.
I tried again for 20 minutes, one guy waved me up the street more, so I figured maybe he was telling me that there is a better spot if I walk more. So add another 3 km and I arrived at another gas station. A few meters back from the station two roads merged meaning there were tons of cars coming at me.
But since the drivers had to pay attention to merging I was creating a distraction and almost caused a few accidents. A group of street racer type cars flew past and another car pulled in but passed the station to stop, open the door and Lose their lunch on the side of the road.
I lost hope at this spot after about an hour and asked the station attendant if there was another town up the road. Still holding my “Ponferrada” sign, I took on the next 2 km to La Virgin del Camino, a small town along the Camino de Santiago (a hiking trip / pilgrimage across Spain).
At a bus stop I changed tactic again thinking I was being too ambitious. I picked the next closest town and scrawled, “Astorga” and didn’t even wait for a car. I just started walking along the side of the Highway. After about 45 minutes of walking and countless cars passing by, a bright yellow and grey box truck pulled over on the shoulder of the road.
A long haired brunette about my age hopped out asking where I was headed, her Spanish wasn’t great but when I said Ponferrada she was lost. Her response was a godsend, “we are headed to Santiago”. Me “Santiago… de Compostella. Can I ride with you? I put my bag in the box of the box truck and we putted off. Inside the cabs Joahan a goofy Parisian Musician was driving, Sputa, an only slightly smelly longhaired black dog was growling at me as melody, the girl from Nice, France who greeted me, held his mouth shut.
This vehicle was an old cart racing transporter retrofitted by Joahan himself. It felt like we were at a crawl.. mainly because we were only going 50-60 km/hour but that’s all this thing had in it otherwise we may blow the engine or over heat. I noticed they had no CD player and wasn’t sure the radio worked. But what the heck we were on the road and going in the right direction.
Johan in a Spanish with a French accent said, “we have police behind us”. Oh man! Did I just get these two a ticket? There were two one over took us and waved us to the side of the road and the other stayed behind. Before we were stopped I told them about the Spanish law that says it’s illegal to pick up hitchers or even stop at all on a main highway. When the police approached the car I just kept petting the dog as the police questioned away while Joahan played the “parle vu france” card although he speaks pretty good Spanish (and English). The police were so frustrated asking ten times in different ways why the car was stopped; they hadn’t seen me get in only us pulling back onto the highway.
Eventually they got fed up with the language barrier and just waved us on. Melody asked if I can sing as she was taking out two plastic eggs filled with rice (rattles) and opening a book of lyrics… apparently the radio doesn’t work. We “sang” backup while Joahan sang some French songs.
They were getting hungry so they said we will get off at a service area and eat. As we passed the restaurant I was a bit curious when we stopped at the boarded up “service station”but really I didn’t care because I was about to explode I needed to pee so bad. Joahan wandered into the abandoned hotel and I figured it safe if I just walk around the corner for a bit of privacy.
When I got back Melody had opened up the back living area and was firing up a camp stove. She was making rice with some soy cream sauce; I offered up my two cans of tuna and 3 apples. The tuna rice was put into one big bowl and set in the middle of the table. Melody took out a chunk of artisan goat cheese made in their town and offered me a piece; which was delicious as was the rice.
The inside of this van was awesome everything custom built by Joahan, not perfectly constructed but full of home grown spirit. Everything folded up compact and had its place; I was impressed by the transformation from when Melody first opened the door, they even have a gas hot water heater and a shower all built by him.
We enjoyed dinner and hopped back on the road, singing some American songs some French ones. Melody taught me the numbers 1-10 and the colors in French and Joahan and I taught melody the ones she didn’t know. I learned the lyrics to Mercedes Benz by Janice Joplin.
There were some of the most beautiful views, Galicia is very mountainous, with huge gorges which you cross on massive viaducts. The hills were covered in purple flowers and on the sides of the road there were fields of grape vines and what looked to me like peach trees full of flowers.
We turned off of the A6 on a road whose name I didn’t catch to use the restrooms and let the dog out. It was raining and cold so I was anxious to get back in the car and on the road since it was 11 and we were about an hour away. Joahan offered us two options we continue on to Santiago de Compostela and me having to look for a place to stay at 12 at night or they park the camper beside the motel and I get a room for the night and we leave in the morning.
This motel is like one of those Texas Chainsaw massacre looking places or maybe it is just that it’s dark and rainy outside. The downstairs is a bar/ restaurant and upstairs are a few rooms. They didn’t have a machine to charge my card so we had to walk to the gas station where they charged me the 15 Euros for the night.
The room is like any motel two single beds and a bathroom with hot water. The radiator sounds like a running water but at least I have a TV since there is no WIFI. It’s 1:15 I have traveled between 300 and 400 km today for only 1.20 Euros I as well as many others thought that this would be next to impossible. Let’s hope tomorrow brings more positive energy and that my French friends haven’t decided to leave me at this motel.