Sunday, April 10, 2011


Salt Pond, Long Island, Bahamas 23º21.4N | 75º8.23W

Chip surviving a high speed ride in a pickup bed.
As Americans, we are just naturally averse to hitchhiking, certain we'll be kidnapped, tied up in a damp basement and/or just plain disappeared. But we're on Long Island in the Bahamas, where hitching is just offering locals a chance to say hi.

Every day, with Chip (the best reporter's assistant in the world), I hitchhike 20 miles from our boat to Dean's Blue Hole -- and back -- to work on my article about freediving. We average three rides each way. If the folks here can't pick us up, they stop to apologize and explain why.

"Sorry. I'm turning off at the next street."

"Oh, I'm only going up here to the liquor store! I'm sure someone will be along soon."

Others take us part way and then wave down relatives to take us the rest of the way. A few have driven several miles off their path to make sure we get to our destination.

Dean's Blue Hole is a good mile off the highway down a sandy road. Every day we've been delivered all the way down the road, right to the edge of the blue hole.

"I'm not supposed to take riders, but my boss is on the other end of the island," the guy from the power company told us.

He laughed as he talked about his rambunctious 5-year-old son. He cried as he told us about his 8-year-old daughter who can't walk and barely talks because of a genetic disorder. We cried a little too.

Later that day, our same power company friend picked us up once again. Old friend.

A regatta boat builder and captain took us to see Rupert's Legend, a four-time winner of the national regatta, where we chatted with Edsel, one of the owners, and his daughter Savannah.

"Are you gonna help your dad sand the boat?" I asked Savannah.

"No," she said emphatically.

"What if he changed the name to Savannah?"

"YES!" she said in a hell-yes sort of way.

Rupert's Legend getting new paint for the regatta.
We rode in rusty, rickety compact cars, souped up pickups, tricked out SUVs, family sedans, working vehicles, everything. We met fishermen, government workers, chauffeur moms and real estate developers. We shared laughter, tears and stories.

The only common thread running through the diverse bunch of drivers is their pride in this beautiful island of theirs and how very glad they are that we stopped by to see it.

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