On Hitchhiking Across America

Many of you know that I’ve spent a year and a half of my last 7 years backpacking across America.  What you might not know that one of the skills that one must learn on these long hikes is hitchhiking.

Dick Wizard and Train on one unsuccessful hitch at Marias Pass in Montana

Dick Wizard and Train on one unsuccessful hitch at Marias Pass in Montana

When I was a youngster, I did a lot of it.  Before I was old enough to drive, I used to hitchhike to and from high school, in order to play sports. There was no late bus, wait- there was also no bus. It was about a 10 mile hitch.  I once hitched from Massachusetts to Georgia.

There are conventions and “rules” for any activity and hitchhiking is no exception.

I had a really bad experience hitchhiking from Massachusetts to DC, when I had a gun pulled on me and was shaken down for gas money.

Some of the worst and the best experiences that I’ve had while backpacking occurred on hitches.  If you think that you can avoid hitchhiking while on a long thru-hike, you are in for a surprise.  I remember hearing an interview with a renown thru-hiker,  Billy Goat, when he said that a thru-hiker has to be prepared to do things one would not do in real-life, like eat out of a dumpster.  I have done that, several times.

I had to hitch-hike too, and last did so numerous times over the 5 months in 2013 when I thru-hiked the Continental Divide Trail.  I can assure you, it is not easy for a 63 year old man to stick out his thumb and get a ride to town to buy food and maybe rent a room.  What makes it worse is that when I need to hitch, it is usually after I have been in the woods or the desert for a week or more, and am filthy, sweat-stained, unshaven, and often sporting torn clothes. I am carrying all my worldly my possessions on my back-  and often mistaken as homeless, or one of those sorry individuals who have lost their licenses to an Operating Under the Influence conviction.

Sometimes no cars come by, other times many cars go by and ignore you.

Me- begging for water, or a ride in New Mexico

Me- begging for water, or a ride in New Mexico

Sometimes the first car picks you up- It’s just like gambling-  we psychologists call it engaging in an intermittent reinforcement schedule.

Famous people occasionally hitchhike as well, just for the experience- Film maker John Waters has been in the news lately due to his new book.  His comments about his recent hitch across America is a worthwhile read- Check this out, from the NY Times–>>John Waters on Hitchhiking Across America – NYTimes.com.

About Tom Jamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, the Continental Divide Trail in 2013, the Camino Portugese (2016), and Newfoundland's East Coast Trail (2017) . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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3 Responses to On Hitchhiking Across America

  1. Bad Influence says:

    I’d pick you up any time. You look like a story waiting to happen.
    Take care.

    Like

  2. Dave Nunley says:

    I have three memorable hitchhiker, 1) 1981 in April after hiking through the Smokies a two hitch ride from where the AT crosses the interstate in Davenport Gap to Gatlinberg. 2) January 1982 from the Carter Notch trailhead to Pinkham Notch, not a long ride but in the back of a pickup in ten below weather. 3). Summer 1981 Agusta to Portland, I got picked up by an Army recruiter who had to make it to a meeting in 45 minutes….he got a speeding ticket.

    Like

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