Gitchhiker makes 'brief' stop

He's hitchhiking in his underwear to raise money for below-the-belt cancer research

Michele Young / Kamloops Daily News
November 16, 2012 01:00 AM

The Gitchhiker, Mark McIntyre, puts his thumb to work in Kamloops Friday morning, looking for one of several rides en route to Truro, N.S. His cross-country underwear challenge is raising cash and awareness for below-the-belt cancers.

It takes balls to cross Canada in November in nothing but your underwear.

Or, for Mark McIntyre, it takes ball.

McIntyre is a testicular cancer survivor who is raising money for below-the-belt research - testicular and prostate cancers. The 43-year-old has aptly named himself the Gitchhiker.

He arrived in Kamloops Thursday, threw himself face down into a snowbank on a dare, sweated through a Zumba class at Let's Move Studio and slept like a baby.

By Friday morning, he was doing the media circuit, promoting his cross-country underwear odyssey and then getting his thumb up and working to find a ride to Revelstoke.

Sporting nothing more than a black toque, boots, tighty whities with a strategically placed thumbs-up logo, backpack and a phoenix tattoo on his back, he prepared to head back to the roadside for the third day of his journey.

Despite his curious and skimpy attire, the longest he's had to wait for a ride has been one hour. Some people have signed up online with offers of rides for various segments of his trip.

Once he's inside a nice, warm car, the conversation inevitably turns to what he's doing, he said.

"People want to know why I'm doing it, why November," he said.

He could have made the journey in August, but what would be spectacular about that?

"It's more interesting that I'm doing it in November."

Five years ago, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer - usually a young man's cancer. He was 38, older than is typical.

"Everything's great. It was detected early."

Two years ago, he and Canadian underwear manufacturer Stanfield's got together to do a fundraiser called The Guy at Home in his Underwear. It featured McIntyre in a social media campaign that involved him, on camera, in just his gitch/gotch/gonch for 25 days.

It included video chats, special guests and other features that saw him get 50,000 Facebook likes and $50,000 for cancer research.

He got his phoenix tattoo done during that campaign. He said he'd get one if fans donated $1,000. They did.

The phoenix seemed appropriate as a symbol of rebirth for someone who has lived through cancer, he said.

While the guy in his underwear gig seemed like it was going to be a one-off, apparently Stanfield's and Canadians can't get enough of McIntyre.

This time he's back and colder than ever.

While the thought of hitchhiking across Canada in nothing but a pair of tighty-whities gives most people shivers, McIntyre has learned there are some perks. Especially when there's charity involved.

In Whistler, he was welcomed by Bruce Croxon from the Dragons' Den. The two shared some disrobed time at Croxon's spa, with McIntyre getting a deep-tissue massage and pedicure to give him a little pampering before departing on his bare-bones? journey to the Stanfield's factory in Truro, Nova Scotia.

If he makes it in 21 days, he'll get $20,000 for his cancer causes.

McIntyre, who manages Second City comedy club and also does acting, has no doubt he'll reach his goal.

Standing on the side of the highway with nothing but his underwear and a cardboard destination sign in his hands does get him stares. His favourite so far was in Pemberton, where a line of about 15 cars went past, all of the drivers looking at him and then - at least by McIntyre's interpretation - looking away in disgust.

He has a 'support' team of two, who follow in what can only be called the gitchmobile. They carry all the gear, luggage, filming equipment and a supply of Stanfield's to be given out along the way.

If it gets too cold, he does have backup. Luckily for him, Stanfield's makes long underwear.

After a few 'brief' interviews, he was on his way.


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