Mustang Challenge | The Irish Hitchhiker

It’s late at night. A mysterious man lays ahead, standing at the side of the road. His left arm is held perpendicular to the asphalt below, fist clenched. His thumb points up. Do we tempt fate and give him passage?

[You’re reading part of the Mustang Challenge series, a loosely bound concept that was created to inspire others to get out and explore the country in their cars. In this Mustang Challenge, two Canadians are touring the USA for the first time, traveling for 26 days through 13 different US cities while traversing over 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2016 Mustang GT. This is one post in a series of many. To read the previous articles and to follow the series, jump to the bottom of this page.]

Headed to Houston, We Meet Stranger Danger

One thing I said to Alex before embarking on this trip is that I wanted to pick up a hitchhiker. Now, I have seen many of the horror movies where during such an act of kindness, the good Samaritan driver ends up brutally murdered by the seemingly-innocuous-but-in-reality-psychotic ride along they just picked up from the side of the road. Not really certain as to why I wanted to do that (perhaps the thrill, the adrenalin of potentially being dismembered?), I think it would add a unique aspect to our trip, and of course would help someone else out immensely.

Anyway, with the thought in mind, we left Montreal, thinking if we were to pick someone up, it’d be later in the trip. Well, turns out, we made it 8 days before a guy we had never met before ended up in the back of our Mustang.

It was Thursday afternoon back in New Orleans. Alex and I were lounging in the hostel along with a few of our fellow tenants. All of us were doing the same thing – planning the next leg of our respective trips.

Alex and I, planning to go to Austin, had our laptop open and we were researching what would be the best route and a place to stay. A new girl had just arrived at the hostel but an hour prior, and she too was on her laptop. We got to talking (her name is Holly, visiting from the UK) and we found out that she would be leaving to Austin, like us, but a day later. Us, having signed up to drive at least 8000 miles across the country, would be taking an 8hour drive to get to Austin. Her, she booked a direct flight. We discussed back and forth where we would stay, and finally decided on the Firehouse hostel (turns out, Holly ended up going there too).

With our accommodation booked and route planned , we cooked a frozen pizza and then promptly took a nap.

A few hours later, awake but still in our room, Holly entered and asked if on our way to Austin, would we be passing through Houston. Yes, Holly, yes we would. Why are you asking?

She then launched into an explication of how she knew this guy also staying in New Orleans right now, would be leaving to Houston the next day either by bus or airplane. The bus ride would take 10hrs (must have a lot of stops) whereas the plane would take a cool hour but cost more. The spiel ended with Holly asking us if we could take this guy and drop him in Houston. She thought his name “might” be Sam. Although uncertain of his name, she was at least able to confirm he was Irish. She also definitely had his phone number.

Our immediate response was to ask just how big this Irish hitchhiker might be, and how many bags he had. Asking about luggage is pretty obvious – the Mustang was nearly full as it were, with just our stuff. We definitely had room in the back for a passenger, but maybe not their luggage, circumspect on how much they might have. Asking how big the Irish boy is may sound weird, but it’s important, especially if you plan on shoving them in the back “seat” of the Mustang.

“Four” Seats? That’s a Stretch…

Both Alex and I have ridden in the back of this Mustang, and we both agree, it is awful. We are just too big to fit comfortably, and we only had to sit there for 30 minutes at a time. “Sam” would have to sit back there for 5 hours, potentially with his own bags across his lap. The roof slopes down and contacts the top of our head, the legroom is worse than an economy seat on an airline and because they are bucket seats and not a bench in the back, trying to lay across the two seats forces the bolster into the small of your back. Not comfortable at all. Concerned for his safety and not wanting to have to listen to him complain if he found it cramped, we thought it very important we find out how big he is. We didn’t want to be known as the two Canadians who accept a ride along but then unduly torture them by forcing them to contort into the rear of the car, for 5 hours. Unfortunately, like his name, Holly wasn’t quite sure. She supposed he might be our size, or a bit smaller (we’re both about 6’1). Whatever, she gave us his number and her duties as the messenger were relieved – we could now contact our murderer directly.

Before I could message him, my phone buzzed with a text addressed to me. Ah, Holly was right. His name is Sam. Too late, I had already put his name in my phone as The Irish Hitchhiker. And yes, the bloke wanted to know if we could kindly drop him in Houston. I said sure, not a problem, but take a look what a Mustang is, and then envision yourself in the back seat for 5 hours, possibly with your bags sitting on top of you. The conversation ended with us agreeing to take him, and he’d meet us at our hostel at 9:30 the next morning. Both amused and slightly nervous about the contract we had just signed, Alex and I went out for a night on the town.

The next morning came around pretty fast. We were packing, trying our best to clean and organize the car when the doorbell rang at 10:30 (before going to bed, I messaged Sam back to come later. We had a lot to drink). Somebody else answered and in walked a pale, mildly red-haired Avatar. In a soft Irish accent, he said he was looking for two Canadians. Yup, this is definitely our hitchhiker – our potential road buddy, or, our potential demise. Only time would tell.

We approached tentatively and introduced ourselves in classic Canadian fashion (“how ya doing, buddy?”). We quickly showed him to his cell and gave him the legal run through that we would not be held responsible if he found the ride to be miserable and cramped, and that we had GPS tracking and top notch security systems in place in case of any funny business. We also mentioned our families were dirt poor, to avoid any ransom scenarios.

From Left to Right: Connor, Random New Orleans Hitchhiker, Alex Forster
From Left to Right: Connor, Random New Orleans Hitchhiker, Alex Forster

Very grateful for the ride, the Irish hitchhiker folded himself into the back seat. The engine burbled to life with a mild snarl, surprising our rear passenger. Alex, being the driver for the first leg to Houston, immediately ripped through first gear to give Sam a taste of American horsepower superiority. A large smile cracked his face. Was he simply gobsmacked, or was he thinking how much fun he’d have with the car as the authorities combed the countryside looking for our organs?

Luckily for us, turns out Sam is not some sort of psycho who takes sick pleasure in offing friendly Canadians. Rather, Sam is a really nice bloke. Immersed in good conversation and swapping stories about each of our respective travels, killer music playing on the radio and the 5 hour jaunt to Houston flew by. (We now have tentative plans to meet back up in San Francisco, as we’ll all be there roughly at the same time in the next few days). Looks like Sam really is just a genuine guy from Ireland, very appreciate of us folding him in the back for a fifth of the day. Or maybe he’s running the long con and is actually planning to snatch the car from us when we meet back up in San Francisco. Only time will tell.

I also wonder what he would title a piece if he had to write the experience. Would he say similar things about us, wondering if he had sealed his fate by riding with us? Did he send a message to his family that if they didn’t hear from him for 24 hours, then likely he’d been chopped up and thrown in our trunk as polar bear food? I really do wonder…

Follow The Series

Be sure to check back to the blog on Tuesdays and Fridays for updates. You can also follow Connor and Alex on their adventure by checking in on Twitter and Instagram @MustangMounties

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