Flaming Dangerzone

Thumbing to Amsterdam, part 2

It’s getting cold here. I hope we get a ride soon.—Martinho

Hondsiep was the name of the place; a small Shell station near the Dutch-German border. We were there for almost three hours unsuccessfully trying to get a ride. Our signs read “Amsterdam”, but after an hour and a half, we went for any settlement where we could find a place to sleep. We had tried several spots between the fuel pumps and the exit into the highway, and eventually decided to just stand by the pumps holding a sign for Nijmegen, which seemed to be the closest bout of civilisation.

Our wait ended when this Dutch woman approached us and asked if we wanted a ride to Nijmegen, first in Dutch, and then in English after realising we didn’t understand a word of Dutch. Federica and her husband were returning home after golfing and the car was full of golf equipment. We managed to arrange the clubs in the backseat so we could barely fit, and they brought us to Nijmegen.

They were very friendly; they told us a lot about Nijmegen, and a few things about Amsterdam. They even dropped us off by a nice hostel in Nijmegen. Despite the golf clubs sharing the backseat with us, that was a rather pleasant 15-minute trip.

Phew, we’re back on the road. I thought we’d be stuck here till the morning like that other guy we met.—Martinho

And there we were, standing in front of a hostel in Nijmegen. Two guests were just getting in as we stood there; we followed them in and found the reception. Empty. It was about twenty past ten, and the hostel closed at ten. We had been lucky to have gotten in because those guests we followed had a key to unlock the front door.

We didn’t give up, though. Joep, the person running the hostel, had left his phone number by the reception desk for guests to call if they needed to; we saw that and decided to ring him. He was not annoyed at all by our late call asking for a room. Five minutes later he was in the hostel, booked our rooms, gave us a map of town, and told us about all the interesting places around, including the official hitchhiking spot. We dropped our bags in our room and went out to explore Nijmegen.

Let’s find the spot the guy told us and bring out the sign for Amsterdam.—Martinho

Sometime around eleven the morning after we went to the hitchhiking spot and got our thumbs out again. The spot was right before the bridge leading out of town and had ample space for cars to stop and pick us up.

We got a ride in about half an hour. The driver stopped by the wayside some hundred metres past us, and we didn’t notice until some gardeners nearby called us out and pointed at the stopped car.

This guy has been silent for the whole ride. If he doesn’t want to talk, I won’t talk; we’re strangers taking a free ride in his car after all.—Martinho, thinking to himself

That driver didn’t say a word until he had to drop us off. It was rather weird and not in a good way. However, he had his reasons: he say he had drop us off a bit before Utretcht because he was going to a funeral! Our conjecture is that he picked us up for the company.

So he dropped us by the onramp, and there we stood for a few minutes until a Moroccan woman gave us our second ride that day. In the car with her were her mother and her daughter. She told us that her dad used to tell her to never take hitchhikers, and that this was her first time doing so. We chatted a bit about life in the Netherlands, but the way to Utretcht was short, and that was their destination.

How in hell will anyone pick us up here? There’s nowhere to stop. We should move to a better location. Let’s find another way out of the city and onto the highway.—Martinho

We were stuck in Utretcht for a while. The first spot we tried thumbing at was the one recommended by the HitchWiki, but we couldn’t figure out exactly where to stand to allow cars to stop and pick us up. It just didn’t make any sense. We stood there for about an hour and witnessed a bicycle-car collision right in front of us. Luckily no one got hurt, but the cyclist’s bicycle didn’t seem to be in a very good shape afterwards.

After that fruitless hour we moved to the second out of the three roads that lead to the highway. We stood right by a bus stop, since that would certainly give ample space for a driver to stop and pick us up. At some point a lady passed by us and asked if we were thumbing for fun or because we were broke. We laughed and told her we were just in it for the fun.

After about yet another fruitless hour we moved again. We stood at a roundabout exit leading to the highway. Cars need to slow down there and stop to give way to pedestrians anyway, so we thought it wouldn’t be an inconvenience to traffic for someone to stop and give us a ride.

Wait, is this a Tesla?—Yimu

The black car stopped just ten metres from us. When it stopped, for us it was “a car”; it had wheels and moved. We ran towards it, and Yimu tried to open the door, failing. There was no visible door handle. The driver reached for the door and the handle popped out. As we got in and said our customary hello and thanks, we finally noticed what car that was. It was a Tesla Model S. We got picked up by a Tesla.

The driver turned out to be a programmer that was on his way to Amsterdam! Our last ride!, we cheered. We chatted a bit about being a programmer, about Tesla Motors, and about Amsterdam.

I can’t believe we’re here, Martinho!—Yimu