A biker’s guide to hitchhiking
The time I accidentally biked over 30 miles
“That is quite the bike, girls.”
This was the only warning my friends and I received before we departed on
a bicycle trek through the Irish countryside to arrive at Mount Errigal — the highest peak in the Derryveagh Mountains. We rented bikes from an older man — the gears barely shifted and the brakes were finicky.
We set off without a map and soon learned that “quite the bike” was code for “a 50 mile round trip next to speeding cars on a hilly route completely devoid of signs giving directions.”
After 30 minutes on the bikes, my right calf muscle cramped up, forcing me to hobble onto the side of the Irish highway and wait until I was able to move again. At this point, I ignorantly assumed we were about halfway there. Little did I know, we were still 20 miles away.
A bit later, we thought we must have missed Glenveagh National Park, which housed the mountain peak, so we stopped at an auto store to ask directions. They told us to go just a bit farther, and we “could not miss Glenveagh.”
We followed these directions and found ourselves at a fork in the road without a building anywhere in sight or a sign pointing us in the right direction. We got off our bikes, sat down and waited for someone we could flag down and ask for directions.
First, a man in a car told us, “I think yer standin in it. EXPLORE GIRLS!” He had no idea.
Then, a man driving a tractor informed us that we were, in fact, not standing in the park. At least we had that established.
The third encounter told us that Mount Errigal was still about five miles away, “mostly uphill.”
I knew I was in no shape to hike a mountain after our journey, but since I constantly thought I was almost there, I had continued forward so my friend and I could see the national park.
When we did finally arrive at the mountain, we realized we now had to do everything all over again. There was no option of quitting because there was no other way back to our hostel. We had some sort of irrational hope that the way back would be shorter than the way there.
And then God sent us two wonderful souls whom I will probably remember for the rest of my life.
A car pulled over in front of me and the driver rolled down his window to ask if everything was alright. I responded, “Yes, everything is alright, we are just very far from Dunfanaghy.” He then asked the single most relieving question I have ever heard, “Would you like us to take you there?”
When we got into the car, the couple told us they had seen us biking earlier in the day and when they passed us again, they were concerned we had gotten a flat tire. The four of us spent the ride chuckling at the ridiculous day we just had. I told them I had decided not to go on the hike after my muscle cramped up and “it was all downhill from there… but not literally. Really it was mostly uphill.”
After a 30 minute car ride we returned safely to Dunfanaghy. We told the couple there was no way we could express how grateful we were, to which the man said, “It is what we would have wanted others to do for our kids if they were away.”
“I am happy to see you smiling,” the woman said.
My experience with our own personal good Samaritans only reinforced my desire to help anyone whom I am able to help, even if it takes some extra time and effort. This couple’s willingness to turn around, pick up two girls they had never met and whom they will never see again, driving miles past their actual destination, was truly touching.
They will never get repaid for this act of kindness — it was purely out of the goodness of their hearts. I only hope I will someday be able to put my own plans on hold and do something as meaningful for someone else.