2016, a new milestone and other adventures

A new milestone

As some, many, or maybe most of you know, I don't just hitchhike, but I also keep track of many details of my rides, using a few small self-written Pascal programs to process the collected data.

One of the many tables produced by the program, which is actually a set of four tables (or even more correct, two sets of four tables, one set for rides, the other for days) details the number of rides (or days) required to cover a set number of distances, and the actual four tables contain the results for the

set of rides/days to cover each set distance. The distances range from 100 to 1,000,000 km, and the last milestone passed before this year was 250,000 km, and that happened a long time ago, on 19 June 2006, during a 879.0 km ride (2039) from the border between Germany and Poland to Kaunas, where upon arrival, my hitched distance had reached 250,244.8 km, but I sadly am rather clueless about the time, and, based on the odometer reading at the border, slightly less clueless about the where (between Augustów and the PL-LT border), so when the next milestones, a light-second and 500,000 km approached I paid a bit more attention.

The light-second (299,792.5 km) was reached on 2 February 2011, at around 11:00, during a ride (2463) from Aire de Capellen in Luxembourg to aire de Bierges near Wavre in Belgium, and on 29 November 2016 at 0:57 during a ride (3880) from Rasttätte Buckautal Nord to Raststätte Rhynern Nord, 94.6 km after our departure, the next one, 500,000 km was passed. Realistically speaking, it's likely to be the last, as the next milestone is 1,000,000 km and that seems just a bit to much, even if I were to substantially increase the amount of exercise I give my thumb.

And with that sad reflection, let's have a look at the other weird (and wonderful) things I recorded during 2016...

Trip 168 - Fireworks in January

The year started with a bang, a quite cold bang, like a -24C bang, the temperature on 3 January 2016, when I got onto the first of the two buses that would take me to Gariūnai. A short walk later I arrived on the A1, and a mere five minutes later the third car didn't pass me, but stopped, and, as half-expected, only four more followed before I reached Oostende, just 23:06 after the start of the first ride. (As for the half-expected, 3 January was a Sunday, and I was pretty sure that a lot of Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and Poles would be returning to Western Europe to start working again on Monday) The first relatively short ride from Vilnius to Kaunas was followed by a 869 km ride with an Estonian on his way to Berlin, a 662 km ride with a Pole working in the Netherlands, a 236 km with another Pole on his way to Manchester, and a final short 14 km ride with a guy who worked in the port of Oostende)

The trip back took 15 rides,

Trip 168 - Dashed hopes

dashing my hopes of finally making a trip where the average length of the ride would exceed 300 km - my current, AD 1986(!), record is 295.2 km, the result of hitching from De Bilt to Athína and back in just 20 rides. However, I did get

Trip 168 - A celebrity ride

a ride with Maciej Czajkowski, one of the first journalists sacked by the religious right-wing loonies currently running Poland.

Trips 169, 170, 171 and 172 - four so-so-ish trips

Trip 168 was followed by four distinctively so-so-ish trips, during trip 169 I was forced to spend the night on Raststätte Garbsen, although getting there via Hamburg made this somewhat bearable, distance-wise, and the fact that I got home to Oostende, via a little detour past Berlin the next day may lead to a future re-evaluation.

Trip 170 was just as so-so-ish, I took a Šakotis to Inga and didn't even make it back to Oostende. Yet this trip also had two redeeming features, I got my first ride with someone from Moldova, taking to 13 the number of former Soviet republics whose inhabitants have given me rides, the only two still missing are Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, and the last ride of the day was with a Greek driver, the first one after a Greek-less gap of 240,249.1 km.

Trip 171 was plain bad, I got stuck on Raststätte Frechen Süd and eventually walked to the other side of the Autobahn, and hitched back, and if it hadn't been for the Porsche that took me back to the Ranst petrol-station just before Antwerpen, it would have had no redeeming features at all, as it took me three more rides to get back to Oostende.

Trip 172 was the final of the four consecutive so-so-ish trips, although it also had a distinctively redeeming feature, a short ride with an Iranian woman less than half my age. The way she spoke about the outcome of the elections nearly brought tears to my eyes, I've rarely, if ever, seen someone so happy and full of hope for the future.

After these four so-so-ish trips, which shared the fact that all of them started in Oostende and two of them ended up not finishing there, the focus shifted back to

Trip 173 - it was 26 years ago that day

Vilnius...

... and the next trip (173) to Oostende. It wasn't as fast as the one in January, but it included the 18th 1,000+ km ride of my career. A day after my arrival in Oostende I already left for De Bilt, to visit my parents, and the trip back from them to Vilnius took, "Shock, horror!" (no not really), three days, because I decided to include a little detour through Germany, for which I was rewarded, on Autohof Dürrenberg, with my 19th 1,000+ km ride, to the Statoil petrol-station just after the PL-LT border, making it the first trip since trip 11, 26(!) years earlier, that a trip included two rides with a four-digit distance!

Trip 174 - the first ever start of a trip in Germany

Trip 174 takes its place in a small series of unusual trips, as one of the very few that both starts and finishes away from home, but does visit home in between. It's also unusual in that it starts with six rides where all of the drivers nationalities are different, which all by itself isn't that unusual (it has happened 17 times), but combine these six rides with the last two of trip 173, et voilà, eight rides with drivers of eight different nationalities, the second time that this happened!

As for the actual trip, it takes me from Raststätte Dresdner Tor Nord to Darmstadt, where I'm invited for the annual meeting of the IBM GSE "ISPF & REXX" group, and where all other attendees stay in the Ramada, I spend four nights C$'ing almost next to that place. After the meeting ends, I'm offered a ride with one of the other "gate-crashers" towards Dortmund, from where I hitch further to Oostende, to return, to Raststätte Dresdner Tor Süd, which turn out to be flooded by other hitchers taking part in a race to Prague. I'm picked up by Augustas, who's just dropped off two other Dutch hitchhikers he picked up in Dresden, where, at well past midnight, they would have had scant chance of getting away.

Trip 175 - "Tallinn, a ride too far..."

Trip 175 had one redeeming feature, I got my first rides, no less than six of them, with Latvians in Latvia. Sure I had crossed Latvia twice before, in 2000, but on the first occasion I crossed the country border-to-border with someone from Estonia, and Estonia, border-to-Tallinn, with a Lithuanian, and the second time, this time during the first trip with Audronė, we crossed Latvia border-to-border with another Estonian, and Estonia, border-to-Tallinn, with a Latvian; the purpose of this trip was to finally get rides from Latvians in Latvia and Estonians in Estonia.

Alas, I got as far past Rīga as the exit for Lilaste, and after walking, admittedly under the bluest of blue skies along one of the most gorgeous stretches of pine-lined dunes, for around two hours without anyone even braking, I turned around, and got a ride back to Rīga in about five minutes. In Rīga it took a tramride to the centre, and a long walk to get back to the start of the A7, and eventually, at 01:37, I managed to get back to Vilnius.

The worst thing about this trip was the fact that, at an average speed of "just" 94.0 km/h, it broke a series of 42 rides with an average speed in excess of 100 km/h...

Trip 176 - How fast can you go?

Trip 176 was the first of five consecutive Vilnius-Oostende-Vilnius trips (I did seven of them in 2016) and it will forever be remembered for ride seven (3790), which took me from MOP Nowostawy to a BP after exit Poznań Komorniki. We covered 212.7 km in 1:23, giving an average speed, 153.8 km/h, just a bit higher that what's legally (140 km) allowed, but at a somewhat quieter moment (26 July was a public holiday in Poland), the driver decided to push the pedal to the metal, or pretty close to it. The result? The electronic speedo of the car, a Mercedes AMG-E63, showed 300 km/h, and upon me telling him that this put me on the joint second place of The highest speed section on Hitchwiki, he made two more attempts to get me onto the top of that table, but the too high density of traffic sadly made it impossible to reach the 315 km he claimed the car had done in the past, and the second attempt actually caused us to pass my destination, MOP Tulce.

The result of missing this MOP meant an exit at a BP station after exit Poznań Komorniki and at 21:22 that was not a good place to get a ride. So I walked, and when I saw a car at the next petrol-station, I asked for a ride back towards the A2, and almost got there, so walked the last bit to the slip-road. Here traffic was minimal, so, you've got to be flexible, I decided to walk on to the Warszawa bound slip-road, and here I rapidly got a ride that would take me to MOP Kryzowniki, opposite the earlier missed MOP Tulce. Sadly the two MOPs aren't connected like many other MOPs on the A2, so in the end I took the only connection available, the A2 itself, don't try this at home...

After spending the night on MOP Gnilec, the next five rides were pretty unremarkable, but at Raststätte Lehrter See Nord I got a ride from two Polish girls on their way to play Ingress in Rotterdam, and given the route we followed, I ended up on the "Maatveld" petrol-station on the A20, which goes straight into Rotterdam, bad, bad, bad...

... actually, not at all, as a mere 27 minutes later a Dutch lady on her way to the UK gave me a ride, and, having some time to spare, dropped me off right in front of our house in Oostende!

The return trip to Vilnius was pretty standard, eight rides in just under 25 hours.

Trip 177 - What needs to be said has already been sa(i)d...

or should this have been titled "Trip 177 - A bad buddy?"? (Yes the two question marks are syntactically correct!) I still find it very sad that someone you've been travelling with for two days thinks you're a monster or pervert, because you happen to lock the front door for the night...

As for the V-to-O part of the trip that I made all by myself? It included the third 1,000+ km ride of the year, which could have been longer if it hadn't been for the fact that the driver needed to pick up a relative next to Bottrop, he was actually on his way to Belgium!

Trip 178 - Variations on a theme, a fifth V-O-V

Trip 178 was supposed to be yet another Vilnius-Oostende-Vilnius trip, but thanks to another hitchhiker suggesting travelling from Liège to Brussel via Namur, I actually went via Luxembourg, and only got to the K+R at the Brugge railway station. The trip back went via the normal road, but the Lithuanian driver of the minibus who picked me up after a very long night on Raststätte Michendorf Süd wasn't exactly a speed-freak, and it took him 15:01 to cover the 983.9 km to the petrol-station on the A1 just after Kaunas. Here more bad news arrived, the petrol-station was no longer open 24 hours per day.

Fortunately, just before closing time a young couple stopped and "of course" they were on their way to Vilnius, to the airport. They sadly couldn't bother to stop at the Savanoriu round-about, forcing me to walk back some 3 km. Obviously there were no more buses running, and walking the next 19 km back home would have been a bit silly, so Audronė SMS'ed me a bunch of phone-numbers for taxi companies and I was royally screwed by the one that eventually drove me home, and he was, after a phonecall by Audronė to his company, forced to drive back to our place the next day, and refund me the amount he had overcharged me, or be blacklisted.

Trip 179 - More variations on a theme, a sixth V-O-V

Trip 179 was similar to trip 178, but in stead of taking a bit of a detour on the V-O leg, the O-V leg went through the Netherlands, the long way, via Breda, Utrecht and Hengelo, and rather than hitching all the way to Vilnius, I ended up taking the train from Kaunas to Vilnius, after having been dropped off next to the Kaunas station after a ride that had started at 2:08 in the morning on MOP Zalesie and didn't include a lot of sleep.

Trip 180 - Seven is a lucky number, but what about eight, or five or two?

Trip 180 was the seventh and final V-O-V trip of 2016, and again it wasn't exactly a V-O-V trip, as I was dropped in Bredene on the outward leg. However, it was the trip that took me over the 500,000 km milestone, but there was more, and it's almost as if the more was there to give extra shine to reaching the milestone...

So what's the meaning of the other numbers in the title of this section?

The last ride of the trip (and probably the last ride of 2016) was also remarkable. After having been dropped off at the MEGA shopping centre in Kaunas, I ended up walking with an outstretched thumb to the Aleksotas exit, where I finally got a ride, to the petrol-station just 3.1 km further, and when another car stopped there after about 40-or-so minutes, I asked the driver, a young woman, if she happened to be going to Vilnius and could give me a ride. Somewhat to my surprise the answer was an unqualified "Yes!", but she asked me to wait for a few minutes so that she could get something to eat and drink. She also told me that she smoked, which elicited my standard reply, "It's your car, you're the boss!".

Once we approached Vilnius, she asked me where I wanted to be dropped off, which elicited another standard reply, "Somewhere next to a bus-stop that's on your way.", I'm on my way to Ožkinių. It turned out that she was going (more-or-less) past the Santariškis hospital, on the way to her boyfriend, which would have allowed me to get out at the stop for bus 35, but, remember the words "extra shine", she actually offered to take me home, an offer that was gladly accepted!

Some final thoughts about hitchhiking in 2016...

On the positive side

Looking back on the 41 days, 222 rides, 35,012.0 km I covered in 2016, I'm a pretty happy bunny, the first five rides that took me from Vilnius to Oostende in January were simply amazing, and being dropped off next to your house at the end of what was likely to be the last ride of the year was equally great. But there were others, like the ride with the Kurdish and Romanian guys who were constantly arguing with each other when they took "her" and me from Raststätte Tecklenburger Land Ost to Gronegau Süd, the couple who stopped for us in Piątnica, seeing an "LT" sign, and then finding out that they didn't stop for Lithuanians, and reluctantly giving us a ride. The ride with Maciej Czajkowski, the five 1,000+ km rides (with, there's the extra shine again, me driving the driver for a total of around three hours during the last one).

And while not on the road? A new host for my blog, logs, and, at long last, some z/OS material, all on Neocities, a free web-hosting site set up with the goal of Making the web fun again. (No, I'm not a member of the "Cult of $uckerberg", and just as little interested in "Twatter", a site for twits)

I also took a step away from code page 437, into the brave new world of Unicode, added a few more tables to my statistics programs, dropped support for the program, but created , which builds the summary and all "logyyyy" pages on this site.

And of course the 300 km/h...

On the negative side

I missed out on a third consecutive virtual circumnavigation, my attempt to get rides from Latvians in Latvia and Estonians in Estonia only half succeeded, I got a ride from a Greek driver, but for the 16th year in a row I missed out on hitching in Greece, I missed out hitchhiking on 22 June, which would have made June the first double-covered month, but...

... all of these events pale into insignificance when compared to real life, and the deaths of Audronė's godmother in January and her real mother in August...

Last updated on 18 February 2017 (Changed round-robin forward link)


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