The First of Many Wild Rides

Impulse and risky choices have taken me on all kinds of adventures. This story epitomizes who I am.

After graduating from college, I struggled to find illustration jobs. Every month or two, I drew promotional advertisements for an upscale women’s clothing store where I worked selling clothes. The intermittent opportunities paid a meager wage. I made more money selling clothes than drawing them.

Esprit Girl

Then, I had a brilliant idea. Madison, Wisconsin is only a few hours away from Chicago, so I took the Van Galder Bus to the Merchandise Mart. I hoped to find a few businesses willing to pay me to draw their clothing and accessories.

With an art portfolio held tight in my hand, I knocked on doors all day, but only found one interested company. I showed the owner my drawings and paintings. She picked a purse from a pile on a table and said, “Draw this one.” She handed me a #2 pencil, a piece of typing paper and escorted me to her desk. She and her staff watched as I drew. Perspiration dripped from every pore on my body. Somehow, I managed to finish. She smiled and paid me $10.00. It covered less than half of my bus fare.

Purse Illustration

I took the elevator down to the lobby and stepped into the chilly spring air. After reorienting myself, I made my way to the bus stop. I thought about my career choice and if it would be worth it to travel to Chicago again.

While I stood shivering on the curb with my back against the Lake Michigan wind, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and a thirty-something, unshaven man in a light jacket and jeans asked, “Are you waiting for the bus back to Madison?”

“Yes,” I said and nodded with curiosity.

“How would you like to fly home?”

“Fly?” My heart skipped a beat and I laughed. “What do you mean?”

“Just give me the money for your bus ticket and I’ll fly you back to Madison.”

I didn’t hesitate. I handed him the twelve dollars and followed the stranger.

He asked a few more people. A young man and woman locked my gaze. I shrugged my shoulders the best I could with an oversized portfolio in my hand and said, “I’m going for it. Why not?”

The four of us shuttled out to the tarmac while making small talk. The pilot explained that he flew down to Chicago on a regular basis with deliveries. He enjoyed meeting new people and the extra cash helped pay for gas.

We arrived at the 4-seater Piper aircraft. The pilot loaded our possessions and unlocked the door for us. I could barely breathe as we climbed inside the small hull. I had only flown once and loved it. On that trip, I enjoyed the landings and takeoffs so much, I was thrilled to have a layover.

Piper aircraft

He started the engine and we ended our conversation. The noise and vibration of the engines reverberated through the hull and my skull. None of my girlfriends would do this. 

We ascended towards the sky while I white-knuckled the arm rests. I marveled at the view through the cockpit from the row behind. We arrived in a magical world of billowy clouds which swathed the windows in a wash of heavenly ribbons. White puffs flew by the passenger windows. We rose above them and for a while enjoyed the clear skies and smooth ride.

A towering mountain of thunderclouds brewed up ahead.  Instead of climbing in elevation, we headed straight for the center of the massive storm. I exchanged a nervous glance with the young woman next to me. I smelled rain.

We pierced the stormy wall. Rain pelted the windshield and windows and then came down in sheets. The rain-filled clouds tossed our tiny airplane around like a volleyball. Turbulence and pressure seemed to crush the metal structure. I took deep breaths, hoping to keep the vending machine sandwich in my stomach. My legs tensed with the roller coaster ride. Thunder rumbled and lightning flashed causing momentary blindness. It occurred to me that if the plane crashed, no one would know what happened to me.  It’s too late now.

The plane broke through the heavy clouds. It rose a bit with the release. We hummed along for a while and then jet turbulence from the Dane County Airport pounded the craft. Finally, we started our descent. Minutes later, we three-point landed on the runway. I let out my breath.

The pilot shut off the engine, but my head continued to buzz. I floated down the steep steps on rubbery legs.

As we walked to the terminal, he asked, “Does anyone need a ride home?”  I had already hitchhiked a ride on an airplane from this stranger. What the hell?”

After he drove me to my apartment, I phoned my friends and family. They thought I was crazy. They would never hitchhike a ride in a car let alone an airplane.

Sometimes acting on impulse creates an opportunity for a thrilling adventure. I am a Wild Rider after all.

Have you ever hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker?

Piper Aircraft photo courtesy of Wikimedia

Daily Prompt – Let’s Go Crazy

132 thoughts on “The First of Many Wild Rides

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  1. Yes, I had lots of “wild thoughts” long ago. Drove at night with a crazy kid driver on dark, curvy roads in the mountain while working at an overnight camp. Never told anyone about that. Had a boyfriend going to college in the south (I lived in the north) and he hitchhiked on a weekend to see me. But, I was with him the whole time! In spirit. Wanted to join the Air Force as a Lieutenant after graduating nursing school, but it didn’t work out. Lots of risky dreams. Good going, Susie. Sometimes we have to enjoy dreams through someone else. Yours turned out so well!


    1. Oh thank you! I keep knocking on wood. Youth is meant for some wild times, but I’ve had a few crazy experiences throughout!
      I am glad you survived your Wild Riding!


  2. You sure were one brave wild chica! Well, you still are. 🙂 We live in a college town and my father was a Dean at Umass so we used to pick up students who were hitchhiking and give them rides. I never did it though. I do remember getting in a car with a guy I met at a bar (he shouldn’t have been driving) and went to his house for a “party” that was never really a party. Luckily, my cousin was with me and we stormed out of the house and took a cab home. Phew! I would die if my daughter did that.


    1. Those stories seem to leak out as your kids get older too. I am wondering if my kids will read this!
      Sounds like you were very lucky. I think you either have pretty good radar for creepy people or you don’t. I’ve been lucky so far!

      I still pick up kids at the bus stop who are headed to the mountain to ski or board. We’ve met all kinds of grateful and interesting people!


  3. Great story, Susie! I had an airplane ride like that once, and had eaten a sandwich just before the stormy ride on a private plane. Very scary and wished I hadn’t eaten the sandwich! By the way, another storm headed to NY and elsewhere tonight. Wah! I thought spring was finally here. 😦


    1. Thanks so much! I’m glad you can relate to my wild ride!
      March is usually a big snow month here. Our weather has been fluctuating between snow and 70 degrees!
      I love the weather changes, but I hope our fruit trees don’t get nipped this year. We had snow every week last year until the END of May!!!


  4. What a great story! I actually think that the tales of terror from hitch hiking are mostly made up by nervous parents.

    In my teens, I hitched all around town. I met nice people who gave me rides, usually right to where I was going. I heard new music, talked of books and dreams. It was great.

    The only real danger would have come from my parents had they found out!


    1. Thank you!

      My mother would have been very upset too. My dad is not a worrier. He wanted me to get a motorcycle while I was in college. That would have been so cool, but my mom freaked out about the idea.
      I did turn down a few rides offered by drunk or super high drivers. Hitch hiking after 9:00 at night may not have been the best idea!


  5. My brothers and I hitchhiked all over the place when we were too young to be drive and certainly too young to hitchhike. Now that my kids are old enough to all drive their own cars, it’s safe to divulge that little fact.


  6. I’m very happy that you accepted his offer, Susie, because I found this story very entertaining, but if a stranger asked me if I wanted to hitch a ride on his plane, this jaded New Yorker would be very suspicious — and would like ride the bus.


  7. Now that if the definition of a wild rider! As Lameadventures noted we as jaded New Yorkers would laugh and take a cab, bus, or subway. Still, it gave you a great story to remember.

    Also, you have some great drawing skills!


    1. Oh hey, thanks!! It was fun to go through my portfolio.

      I think I went through a transformation in college. I gained a lot of confidence and became comfortable in my own skin. Trusting my instinct helped me when making quick decisions. Marrying Danny and moving to Colorado after one weekend of dating is one of them. Talk about a leap of faith!


  8. Definitely a wild experience! Man! Hitching a lift on a plane? How cool is that! In the 1970s, when I was a teenager & my family used to drive around New Zealand on camping holidays in a VW Type 2 transporter (the one from “Little Miss Sunshine”), my parents occasionally picked up hitchhikers. But we never hitched.


    1. How fun!!!
      We still pick up skiers and boarders headed for the mountain. One of my fantasies is to drive around some rainy day and pick up people from bus stops and drive them to their destinations! Wouldn’t that be a hoot????


  9. What a fabulous adventure! Although, that has to be a rare one…equally the makings of a romance or a horror story there 😉 I hitch-hiked a couple of times when I was young and fearless. Walking alone on some northern Queensland country road, I was picked up by a farmer and taken to a deserted beach, where I slept the night in my sleeping bag. Did I mention I was Alone? With the stories you hear about backpackers in Australia…I really don’t know how I made it out alive. But I just didn’t believe it was my time (I’m way less brave these days) 🙂


    1. WOW!!! That is fearless! I remember being more nervous about this guy driving me to my apartment than flying with him. The other passengers passed on the ride, so it felt a little more sketchy. He gave me his card. I should see if I still have it somewhere…


  10. Great story, Susie, and well written! You had us right up there in the seat next to you.
    When I was 21 and went to Europe for a year with friends, we hitchhiked all over the place … those were the days. But I didn’t admit that to my kids until they were adults. We met the most amazing people who often invited us to their homes and were happy to welcome strangers to their country. That was the beginning of my love affair with that part of the world.
    I smiled when you talked about picking up skiers and boarders … we do the same when we are at Whistler … it just seems right!


    1. Thank you so much! That means a lot!
      We are two of a kind Pat. That sounds like a blast. Now that my children are in their twenties, the stories are slipping out…


  11. Small plane flying is a whole different experience. One of our group in grad school was a former military pilot. He had to get a flight time in to keep certification. We’d pool money, he’s rent a plane and we’d fly from wide spot in the road college to one of the big cities for dinner and wandering.
    But never dragged a portfolio along – those things are not only big and heavy, but so awkward it’s hard to look professional.(I think I remember that sweater! Nice.)


  12. Great story. My dad used to pick up hitchhikers all the time, even with wife and kidlets in the car. I once had car trouble on a dark and stormy night and got into the van of a man who offered to drive me to a pay phone (days before cell phones obviously). I didn’t hesitate until I got out of the van and started walking to the phone. “What the hell have I just done?” my brain screamed. I called my boyfriend who rescued me in about 20 minutes, but I didn’t even think about the dangers first. A van with no windows of all things.

    And more recently, on the flip side of the coin, my husband and I stopped to help a poor kid who’d swerved off the road and into a ditch. He had a puppy in the car and he was having a dickens of a time controlling the freaking out dog. We offered to drive him home so he could call a tow truck (he didn’t have a cell phone and neither did we at the time). It all turned out good and he was so very thankful, but it could have gone sideways I suppose.

    Nowadays it’s hard to know who to trust on the street.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


    1. It’s probably never been any different. You just have to trust your instincts! Good thing your boyfriend came to your rescue. Scary! Love your dad and how trusting he was!


  13. I am so opposite of impulsive! When I was reading this post I was saying to myself, “Susie, are you freaking nuts?!?” I could never entertain such an idea, but I know lots of people don’t worry about the dangers. Even these days, I see people on the street trying to hitch a ride. Young, pretty girls, no less. It really boggles my mind, but I guess, some peoples’ guardian angels are on task more than others. 🙂


    1. It’s in my nature and I am pretty trusting! So far so good! I don’t think I would hitch again, unless I had too. Dead phone. Dead car battery. Too far from everything. Whoa! Sounds like the beginning of a scary adventure!
      Yes. My guardian angel is EXHAUSTED!


  14. A lot of my youth was spent hitchhiking. We also picked up hitchhikers.It was a different time then. I have to admit though, all my adventures in hitchhiking were on the ground.
    You may have given me an idea for a post.


    1. Great! Glad to inspire you!
      It was a wild adventure that’s for sure. It was before cell phones so I couldn’t call anyone. Those were the days! Now it’s so much safer since we can stay in touch with people we know! (Takes the fun out of it!) 🙂


  15. Whoa. You really ARE a wild rider. I would never, ever in a million years do that – any of that. To walk in, cold, and sell your art, to get in a plane with a stranger…

    Good for you. No, great for you. What a zest for life you have, Susie.


    1. I didn’t realize how outrageous that was until I saw the comments. I forgot to tell Danny. He read it and couldn’t believe I hadn’t mentioned it. I thought I had!!!
      Thanks Peg! Stick with me girl and we’ll have all kinds of adventures!


  16. Hitchhiking is something I don’t admit to now that I have a teenage daughter, but there were a lot of good stories that came of them. Good times, indeed.
    As the old saying goes, you’ve come a long way baby.


  17. I have not hitchhiked or picked up a hitchhiker. However, I can say I did a 3-day road trip from the Midwest to San Fran with a bunch of people I barely knew and had a great experience. Needed an extra driver and I wanted to see California:)


  18. Mathair and I have never been guilty of picking up a hitchhiker, though we have picked up stranded friends. We have hitched before though. We were on a highway when our tire went flat, our cell had died and we were miles from any phone or gas station, so we hitched. It was very scary, but we met a wonderful young woman that helped us get to a gas station and stayed with us while we waited for my Nana to pick us up. Of course, you would be that bad ass, Susie. You’ve got brass ones, baby girl! Because I would’ve never had the spine to do something like that. LOL. Great post. 😉


    1. Thank you!
      There’s something about the thrill of doing something risky. Of course it’s important to live to tell the tale!!!! I’m glad your experience was positive too. No psycho killers on the highway that day.:)


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