Hitchhiking Vignettes: Love in Every Gum

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Denturist Eric’s gives his views on America. He says he is “delivering love with every set of dentures.”

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” Dorothy Parker

Hitchhiking out of Butte, Montana on I-15, I was seeing few cars and wrote in my notebook “Ninety degree heat. No cars. No water. No food. No fun.”

Then came that burst of euphoria when a car pulled to the side of the road.

I often compare hitchhiking to ice fishing for sturgeon. You sit there looking down into an ice hole, doing nothing for hours. Then your mood swings instantly when you see a shadow in the water.

Eric the denturist was on his way to Great Falls, along some of the most beautiful highway in America.

We’d spend the next 150 miles speeding alongside the Rocky and Big Belt mountains, the Boulder and Missouri rivers. The few clouds in the sky added shadows to the forests and refracted light to the waters around rafters and swimmers.

I was hitchhiking from Chicago to an Alaska carnival. I asked big questions, about America, his work, his passions.

Eric is a former professional snowboarder who has gone through several transitions, his latest incarnation is as a denturist, a licensed healthcare provider fitting dentures and other mouth prosthetics.

“I’m delivering love with every set of dentures,” he said. “It’s hard to let dentures go after I’ve worked so hard on them. They are like my children.”

He’s a serial entrepreneur, having started several businesses in photography, construction, carpentry, cleaning services. This one is doing well and he was traveling to Great Falls, he said, to consider opening a branch office for his business.

“If you are going for the glory, you have to do it full throttle,” he said.

He has two guiding philosophies.

“One is ‘This planet is spinning, just try to hang on,'” he said. “Two is ‘Life is tough. You have to fight back.'”

Before I get out of the car he lets me know he is focused on living life to the fullest, not getting “trapped in the lifestyle of self-indulgence.”

“For folks like me, it’s all or nothing,” he said. “More speed. More air. That’s a pretty simple recipe.”

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