Pouring rain. I'm standing at a huge péage outside Toulouse.
A truck with Portuguese license place is heading my way and I see the driver make a gesture that says "I wish I could give you a ride, but I can't." Surprisingly, when I look behind I see him pull over and rush to the truck. A tattooed man with a big grin welcomes me and explains "In my company it's forbidden to take hitchhikers because of high fines for additional passenger. But I thought, it's raining." So thanks to the downpour I'm enjoying my first ever ride with a Portuguese, all the way to my destination.
I've had conversations about different strange and less strange topics but this time the first thing Ricardo tells me about is his love for marijuana.
"I smoke cigarettes only when I can't smoke maria but I have to smoke something. When I finish this driving job in December, I'm moving to The Netherlands and I'm going to start selling marijuana there. Quite good business. Every time I'm there I spend a lot of money on the best stuff. My boss doesn't send me to The Netherlands very often because he knows I'll always stop at some coffee shop."
He tells me about his marijuana tree at home that is taller than him and I tell him about smoking marijuana with my hosts in Denver, fully legal "alternative medicine" in Colorado, smoking great weed at Woodstock and my Biology lessons in primary school when we used to go for a walk to collect some plants for herbarium and went to a place where, besides of some ordinary plants you could also find some marijuana. He shows me some seeds and asks me if I'd like to have some. I don't know if I ever make use of it but he gives me a small package anyway.
We take his regular break of 45 minutes. He lies down, I play solitary on his laptop but eventually fall asleep too. 45-minute break becomes two times longer but I feel much better now. After two hours of driving we have another break, this time for the dinner.
He pulls over once again, fills the bottles with water. When he fills the main tank, he points to some compartments: "Here I have everything for the time when I drive. I always take plenty of food, especially when I drive through France because the food in a restaurant is so expensive here. I'll show you."
Just at the moment he tells me about his supplies, I recall some stories of my friends and I'm happy that what I've only seen in their photos so far, I'll have a chance to experience right now. For the first time in my life I enjoy a meal with a truck driver.
It's a simple dinner, potatoes with eggs and canned vegetables. Ricardo pours some Italian wine he got from his friend and I'm happy that even on the road once in a while I can eat like a queen and not like a peasant.
From the very beginning I see we can talk like old friends so I ask him about his tattoos. He has 5 of them: map of Bermuda, where he lived for a year, a lizard, representing his football team, Sporting Lisboa, viking, the writing "Vive Vida" with some picture around it and a little tiger. Every tattoo has some meaning for him. I ask him what he thinks about tattoos a name of a partner and he says "Never. Kids yes, but I'll never get a tattoo with the name of my wife."
Just like with every truck driver, I'm curious to know what he thinks about his job. "I've been doing it only for the money for 8 years. I finish at the end of this year. I don't really like it, you drive from place to place but you never have a closer look at these places, you see the world just from the car and the world passes by. I'm at home every 8 days for 2 days and that's not enough for me. My daughter is growing up and I can't be with her during important moments in her life. I tell my boss 'I'm done with this s**t, I'm not working for you anymore'."
The ride itself was not the longest I've ever had but without a doubt one of the most interesting ones. During 6 hours, rolling or taking breaks, I never felt bored and wished I could go with him all the way to Coimbra. But my first stop in Spain came just 20 km after the border.