The Gitchhiker - known to friends as Mark McIntyre - spent a night and day in luxury in Whistler, courtesy of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler and Bruce Croxon of Dragon's Den fame. The Vancouver resident said he felt surprisingly welcome and warm walking around the hotel in his performance boxer shorts and a pair of boots, which should give him some nice memories when he's freezing on the side of the road in a prairie snowstorm in a few days' time.
The "why" is noble - McIntyre, a testicular cancer survivor - is looking to raise money for below-the-waist cancers. The twist is that he plans to hitchhike every kilometre of the way in his "gitch," all the way to the Stanfield underwear factory in Truro, Nova Scotia, where the company will present him with a cheque for $20,000 if he can make it by the end of November.
When asked the other "why," as in "we get what you're doing, but why are you doing this in November," McIntyre shrugs.
"Oh, I'm going to hit snow, for sure. But I think it's a little more challenging and it brings a little more attention to the campaign and cause," he said. "It's a great campaign, and it's even better to get people behind you heading into the Canadian winter. During the summer people would say, 'where's the challenge in that?'"
The Gitchiker is taking donations and hitching rides as he goes, and will be shadowed by a friend in a vehicle who is chronicling the trip and keeping the internet updated. McIntyre doesn't plan to ride in the car at all or even use it to get warm unless it's life or death. He even caught a ride from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler staff to Pemberton on Thursday afternoon, with the goal of hitching his way to Kamloops by the end of the day.
You can sign up to give the Gitchhiker rides on Stanfield's Facebook page, and while there are a few takers, the vast majority of the journey will be made with his thumb out. He admits to being a bit nervous, but trusts Canadians to step up.
"I am a bit nervous," he said, "but I'm also excited to get started. It's going to be quite the journey."