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A non-hitchhiking hitchhike from Nashville to Kansas City

The destination: Kansas City friends!
The destination: Kansas City friends!
Sally Boyce

In recent years, to make up for my inability as a young single female to drift on the roads of the southern U.S. unattended, I have devised a network of friends with reliable cars.

One such fellow road tripper has never ceased to amaze me with the great distances he will traverse across our not-so-vast city for the sake of a mere coffee date or chiropractor appointment. In fact, he is such a dedicated driver that I know I can count on him—if he is in town—to be game for almost any destination.

New Year’s Eve 2008 was just a week away, and I didn’t know how I was to get to my beloved young adult conference in Kansas City. Eight hours and the risk of snow and ice had put my rather defunct ’89 Volkswagen on the shelf for this journey, and I needed a plan.

How I chuckle now at the plot that first arose: five 20-year-olds crammed into a five-passenger Oldsmobile sedan, one of them my treacherous ex-boyfriend. Good or bad idea? You guessed it: not happening.

When my situation was realized, I whipped out my likewise decrepit Samsung phone and jogged to the 'R's.

A week later, Roddy Magiver pulled into my driveway, followed by a monster box truck and his friend Jason. Obstacle number one: “Can we park this in your backyard for a few days?”

Not withstanding a brief smirk, I quickly appealed to my father, who readily agreed; he had seen my anxiety and foiled attempts at getting on the road and wanted me to have fun.

I clamored into Roddy’s big white Explorer, anxious to be on my way to glorious reunions with friends.

Alas, I realized this was not the road I had chosen when Roddy pulled onto I-65 South instead of I-24 West. I inwardly shook my head, outwardly beamed, and we were on our way.

First stop: the home of the boys’ ministry director and owner of the golden free gas card. That’s right folks, I not only had a ride, but I had a free one! Didn’t have to pay a cent for gas, and good thing, because by the time I got to Kansas City, I had about $40 to my name.

Second stop: Well, the boys decided they were hungry, and seeing as how it was almost two P.M., I couldn’t deny them. We scurried over to the closest gyro stand on Franklin Road. We crunched tangy fries with our succulent gyro wraps, ducking our heads to avoid the sheer wind that insisted on buffeting our picnic table.

We chatted for an hour with the ministry director, and I tried to force the knots out of my stomach as each minute ticked by. “Roddy, let’s go!” I screamed in my head, to little avail.

Finally, at three-thirty in the afternoon, Roddy slammed on the accelerator and whipped us onto I-65 North faster than I would have expected from my friend’s seeming love for leisure. I grinned in earnest.

The remainder of the journey—until dark at least—passed without commotion. I connected Roddy to one of my friends by phone. We stopped at a Taco Bell and gas station to fuel up. I learned more than I wanted to know about young mens’ strategies for picking out a wife. Things like this.

As the night wore on, and Kansas City loomed ahead like the proverbial dangling carrot, never seeming to get any closer, friends began calling my phone. My phone died several times in the attempt, nearly driving me out the window with anxiety and excitement, but Roddy calmed my nerves with his surprisingly soothing kumbaya demeanor.

When the familiar exits to Red River Road rose from the asphalt like beacons of sheer hope, I couldn’t help turning to my brethren road trippers and awkwardly hugging them.

Ice covered the road in a threatening sheet. At one A.M., it was no wonder. I sucked in my breath and tensed my legs as we swept down the exit ramp, hoping Jason knew how to turn on the 4X4.

Finally, slowing with caution, Jason pushed the huge SUV up the hill to the House of Prayer where my friends waited in their trusty Minnesota car.

As we neared their car, Jason, Roddy and I made last minute arrangements to meet up again before the conference was over. As soon as Jason made a semblance of stopping, I was out on the asphalt and in Bobbie’s arms. I hadn’t seen her for more than half a year.

Roddy faithfully unloaded my copious baggage and said his goodbyes. He and Jason seemed sad to see me go; we’d had such lively discussions of male mating habits after all.

I chuckled to myself as I climbed into the back of the brimming sports car, wondering at the network of “hitchhikers” I had developed.

In one car and out the other, it had been a sweet adventure, and although I would (probably) never be one of those classic thumbers on the side of the road, floating from friend to friend was enough for me.