Hitchhiking in Dallas - I Survived

Central Expressway in Dallas
Central Expressway in Dallas | Source

Running on Empty

My sister and I were on our way to the airport at Love Field that cool morning in Dallas. She'd been diagnosed with breast cancer and we were headed to M.D.Anderson hospital in Houston hoping for a second, more optimistic opinion. Getting that sort of news tends to change one's entire outlook on life, work, and relationships and can lead to potential danger in a big city.

When the truck I was driving began to sputter and slow down unexpectedly, I pulled off the Dallas Tollway onto the shoulder of the road, I knew one thing for certain. It was essential that we get to the airport in time for our flight or we would miss our scheduled appointments at the always-busy diagnostic center.

Wikimedia Images, Creative Commons
Wikimedia Images, Creative Commons | Source

We had just entered the tollway. I could still see the entrance ramp behind me as I left my sister waiting in the passenger's seat and told her to keep the doors locked. She'd always been the one to admonish me about safety and here I was putting us both in danger.

We had a tight schedule and couldn't afford to be late for our flight. There was no choice in the matter when it came to finding some gasoline for my pickup truck. There was no way I'd leave it on the shoulder of the road and leave town. There was also no way we could keep our appointments with any lengthy delay. I considered it a matter of life or death to get back on the road.

By Thomas R Machnitzki ( (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
By Thomas R Machnitzki ( (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

I made my way to a side street before the first car slowed down to take a look at me. Dressed in my traveling garb, I neither looked like an office worker, nor a homeless person.

I could feel a set of eyes pressed to my back as I put my head down and walked faster.

All my life I'd heard horror stories about the dangers of hitchhiking. As far back as I can remember, we were told about the time my Dad picked up a hitchhiker who pulled a knife on him, robbed him and could have left him for dead. Instead, he ended up with a permanent scar across the cheek of his face.

I Was Running Down the Road...

Have you ever hitched a ride in a big city like Dallas?

  • Yes, I do it all the time.
  • Yes, but I'll never do it again.
  • Yes and I lived to tell about it.
  • No, that would be dangerous.
  • No, for other reasons.
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The Citadel in Charleston SC

The quiet streets of Charleston SC where my sister lived at the time.
The quiet streets of Charleston SC where my sister lived at the time. | Source

The previous months at work were fraught with tardiness and delays after the fuel gauge on my truck stopped working. It took a lot of mental calculations and watching the odometer to know how many miles I traveled since my last fill-up. At twenty miles to the gallon, I figured I could drive about two-hundred and eighty miles on a tank of gas. Sometimes the calculations were off a bit if traffic stalled and we sat idle for any length of time. This was one of those times. According to my calculations, I should have had enough gas to make it to the airport. But my math was off and the tank was empty.

For that reason, I had started carrying an empty gas container, one of those red, five-gallon plastic jobs with me in the bed of the truck. I slammed the driver's door closed, waved goodbye to my sister and grabbed the can heading for the exit ramp a few hundred feet behind us.

By Nicolas Britto (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Nicolas Britto (This image is from the FEMA Photo Library.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Leaving the tollway area put me directly into a residential part of town. As far as I could see there were no visible gas stations anywhere nearby. I picked a direction, put one foot in front of the other and started walking. Not fond of jogging or running track, my body was unused to that sort of vigorous and sustained activity. Within a few blocks, I was drenched with perspiration which further frustrated my predicament. The thoughts of getting on a flight smelling like a ripe gymnasium was foremost on my mind when a car pulled over to the curb in front of me.

The passenger, a man in a business suit, got out and stood blocking the sidewalk. I froze, trying to decide if I would continue walking or turn and run away.

Running on Empty - Jackson Browne

Images of kidnappings, murders, rapes and violence from the TV shows I frequently watch flooded through my head. Crime scenes with detectives asking the camera, "Why would a young woman get into a car with someone she doesn't know?" The subsequent homicide investigations painted a lurid picture in my mind as the man approached and stood about ten feet in front of me.

"Do you need a lift to a gas station?" he asked.

I looked ahead at the rows of houses, the rush hour traffic whizzing by on my left and thought about my sister waiting in the hot truck for my return and hesitated for a moment before saying, "Yes."

Please Allow Me to Introduce Ted Bundy

Photo of serial killer Ted Bundy in court.
Photo of serial killer Ted Bundy in court. | Source

I got into the backseat of the car with the five gallon gas can on the floorboard next to my feet. From where I sat, I could watch the driver for any sudden moves and make it difficult for the man in the passenger seat to look at me without twisting around. My right hand remained firmly on the handle of the door.

The driver weaved his way into the relentless traffic and headed down the tree-lined street. "Where do you want to go," he asked.

"I need to find a filling station," I told him.

He introduced himself as the President of the Local Chamber of Commerce and the other man as an executive of the organization. I felt somewhat better knowing that they were likely on their way to the office at that hour and hopefully, not looking for trouble where I was concerned.

The Road

We drove around for a few minutes before locating a gas station a few miles up the road. They waited in the car as I pumped gasoline into the can, then helped me lift it into the car. We pulled back into traffic and they headed back to the Tollway entrance where my truck was located.

During the short ride I prayed continuously for my safety and for a positive outcome for my sister's visit to the Cancer Center in Houston. My needs seemed small in light of what she was facing. I was never so relieved as when I saw the highway ramp ahead and the car began to slow down.

On the Road Again - Canned Heat

They offered to take me all the way to the vehicle but it would involve them having to travel up the toll road a full exit and making a u turn to come back to the street they were taking to work. I was happy to walk the last few dozen feet to get back to the truck.

I was spared any sort of detour or diversion or worse as they pulled to a stop and let me out. The filled gas can, which weighed about forty pounds, felt light as a feather as I approached my familiar red truck.

Luckily, my sister remained safely inside, dozing in the early morning hour as her horrendous day approached. She would later be probed, examined, quizzed, and poked by medical people for the rest of the day in hopes of receiving a different diagnosis than what her physician had told her.

I tapped on the window to let her know I was back. As I poured the liquid gold into the tank I sent a prayer of thanks to the Lord above for taking care of my needs and for sending me two kind gentlemen whose only objective was to help.

That was my first miracle of the day.

© 2016 Peg Cole

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Comments 33 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 12 days ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

A harrowing tale! I'm glad you found good people to help you. I think many times we have guardian angels that look out for us.

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

You write so well. What an experience. So, glad it worked out. I hope that was only one of many miracles to visit your family in the coming days and months.

Lots of great song selections also!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

That's exactly what I thought, Rebecca. Sometimes our guardian angels keep us out of harm's way. I believe this was one of those times. Thanks so much for your encouraging comment.

annart profile image

annart 12 days ago from SW England

You sustained the suspense well and it was such a relief to find out all was well and that those men helped you. The suspense, however, teaches us that it could've turned out so differently.

From the hint ref. the miracle, I presume your sister was given a better diagnosis later in the day.

Great piece!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, Mike. What a wonderful comment! Yes, since that day we've had so many miracles it's hard to keep count. I still count my blessings on that one. Later that day the news was not as good, but the years that have passed since that time have proven to be a miracle for my sister. Sending a wish for miracles in your life as well.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you so much, Annart. Yes, the day could have gone so differently. As it was, we made the flight and made it to the multiple appointments. Her diagnosis was grim that day, but the years that have passed since have proven that miracles do happen based on the time line of the higher power.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 12 days ago from The Beautiful South

Very interesting things happen to us in life, I have never had to do that and am sure I would not have fared so well. Glad you shared this and happier it had a good outcome.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 12 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Jackie, I've had a fair few close encounters with highway breakdowns when traveling. I made the journey from Florida to Dallas (1200 miles) by myself at least four different times, each time with its own set of difficulties. Thanks so much for the upbeat and thoughtful comment.

annart profile image

annart 12 days ago from SW England

Glad there have been more miracles since then.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 12 days ago from USA

So glad angels picked you up! Whew! If people were honest they could tell their own tales of risky moves they've made sometimes for unknown reasons.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 12 days ago from southern USA

Great writing as always, Peg, and I know the Lord was watching out for you that day. You are a brave woman. Women are pretty good with their intuitive skills to alert us something is not right. I've had many miracles on the road of life too.

We lived in Ft. Worth/Dallas area for about two years back when my husband was stationed at the Air Force base in Ft. Worth. The MetroPlex is what they called the area, I believe, and it was so huge to me even back then.

Peace and blessings, sweet lady

Jodah profile image

Jodah 12 days ago from Queensland Australia

Thank you for sharing this wonderful story, Peg. You certainly took a risk, but you had no choice. You needed to do it for your sister. This was very well written.

marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 11 days ago from Jeffersonville PA

Oh my gosh, I held my breath throughout this happy indeed that two kind-hearted men crossed your path.

This is a character piece. I have long thought you are beautiful from the inside out...this is a stellar example.

Now I can listen to your spot on musical selections...and hope for an eventual compilation of your life's journey. Love you, Maria

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Flourish, You're so right about risky moves. Looking back, that was certainly one of them. I was quite fortunate that day. Thanks for stopping by.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Faith, too bad we didn't know each other when you lived in the MetroPlex. My mom is from Fort Worth and so is my Auntie. She used to make loads of trips to the commissary at Carswell when they were still open. I recall that you had a close encounter with this same illness and truly believe yours was a miracle healing. My sister is a survivor after 17 years, thankfully.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Jodah, how nice of you to visit and thanks so much for the kind words about the story. Thank you.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

It's an interesting thing, hitchhiking. It's something we did all the time as teens and young adults back in the mid-60s and early 70s....never worried about it at all...until a guy named Ted Bundy came along, in my hometown. I haven't hitchhiked since. Glad you are okay.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 11 days ago from southern USA

Oh, yes, Peg, I believe we would have been best of friends! I made plenty of trips to the commissary at Carswell myself back then.

I did have a close encounter over five years ago and I have been healed for five years! Praise God. I know without a doubt it was a miracle healing. I'm so happy to know your sister is a survivor too. What a miracle and blessing for all!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Maria, I truly appreciate your thoughtful and kind comments about the story and the situation. It is gratifying to hear that you were in suspense and thanks for liking the music selections, too. They're some of my favorites. Love and hugs to you and yours.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hi Bill, Yes, I think about my friends who traveled by thumb back in the day. We're in much different times now. I hadn't realized that TB was from your hometown. That's interesting. Tex Watson is from my little suburb. Small world, isn't it?

SusanDeppner profile image

SusanDeppner 11 days ago from Arkansas USA

Peg, I could only read this in the first place because I knew you survived! Seriously, bless your heart, what a horrible situation and what a miracle, too. You structured this so well with the Ted Bundy pic and the music, making it a very entertaining read. Who knew I could chuckle while holding my breath? Hope things turned out well for your sister. Blessings to you both.

BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 11 days ago from Victoria, Australia

Such a well-written story that was full of suspense. I was so relieved when you arrived back safely and I hope the two 'angels' felt pleased to have done their good deed for the day, too. I do hope that the next miracle was good news for your sister.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 11 days ago from New Delhi, India

A nicely written hub but a terrifying tale!

I'm glad you found good people to help you. Yes Angels do look out for us when we need them the most.

Thanks for sharing and a very good day to you!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Susan, thanks for venturing into this story and for your caring thoughts. I laughed at your comment about chuckling while holding your breath. Good one! And thank you for the warm thoughts about my sister. She is a survivor and it truly was a miracle.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

BlossomSB, your kind thoughts warm my heart. I hope those two men were blessed following their act of kindness and I was truly grateful for their help. Thank you for your meaningful comment.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 11 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

A very good day to you ChitrangadaSharan. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 10 days ago from The Caribbean

I held my breath until I was sure it was okay to exhale. I join you in celebrating God's goodness. Hope everything else went well that day.

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 9 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, MsDora, for your compassion and loving words. The rest of the day was tense and trying for my sister. She faced some terrifying news but managed to prove the doctors wrong. God is good.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 6 days ago

You certainly had a special angel assignment sent to you from above. Glad it turned out well for you and you sister. What a story!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 6 days ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Thank you, teaches12345. I appreciate your comment and agree there were angels involved.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 2 days ago from Central Florida

Wow, Peg! I can imagine you must have been inwardly shaking in your boots. Thank God for the kindness of strangers! I take it by the last line in this story, you and your sister received good news later that day?

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 47 hours ago from Dallas, Texas Author

Hello Bravewarrior, The news that day was not good - no definable margins, stage IV, couldn't accept her for treatment at their facility - but - the miracle was in the making and she is a 17 year survivor, thank God.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 45 hours ago from Central Florida

Peg, that's bad news and good news. So happy to hear your sister has kicked it to the curb!

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    Peg Cole (PegCole17)1,333 Followers
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    Peg traveled extensively during her time as a flight attendant and as a project manager on telecom projects in the US.

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