An excerpt from the book “Close Encounters of the Roadside Kind: A Hitchhiking Journey Around America in the 21st Century”:
I hitchhiked through the home of Wayne Gretzky, who has been often called the greatest hockey player ever. You can see why great hockey players would come from this area of Canada, with so many nearby small ponds and lakes that freeze over thick during winter. I was grabbed in traffic by a bloke from England, who migrated to Canada and never looked back. He said, “Years ago, me mate an’ I hitchhiked To France from England with zero dollars in our pockets. Best time of me life. I moved to Canada and like it here. The weather is better.”
One man that picks me up reminisces about his days traveling with his family as a kid. “My father worked in the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, so I was always traveling as a kid. One time I was in Africa and all these guerrilla fighters with machine guns jumped on the bus. I thought for sure, well, this is it, it was all nice, now I’m dead. Well, they grabbed the guy they were looking for and left! It was wild… These days I’m looking to buy a retirement house with my wife in the suburbs.”
My second night in Canada, I arrive in Niagara Falls, a breathtaking blue and white waterfall, a rainbow overhead. Niagara Falls has the highest flow of water in a waterfall anywhere in the world. Loads of tourists from all over flock to the site, snapping photographs, buying overpriced ice cream, tripping over selfie-sticks. Out of good humor, I ask a man struggling with a selfie-stick if he’d like me to snap a photo of himself and his misses. He politely refuses. Really, why carry these worthless products with you? The advertisers have realized how foolish consumers have become, what worthless products they’re willing to by—the selfie-stick proof of this phenomenon. Tourist shops surround the entire area of Niagara. I busk with my guitar and make a few dollars, a few compliments, a few kids dance, until a security guard politely tells me “sorry, you can’t play music here.” The area is excessively touristy at any rate; I’m happy to leave. Along Niagara Falls, just off the railing if one peers over the ledge, you can see heaps of trash that people have discarded over the seasons, never cleaned up: paper cups, cigarette butts, wrappers, faded tourist brochures. Therein is a problem that comes along with global tourism—people’s filth paraded alongside some of the world’s most amazing natural wonders.
I find a small piece of forested area alongside Niagara Falls to camp and fall asleep listening to the gush of the water rushing from Ontario all the way to the New York countryside. Tomorrow, I would follow the water into upstate New York, observe what the river led to.