Hitchhiking Lessons

To do something outside of one’s comfort zone is a daunting thing. I hitchhiked across America.

I just decided to go. So I went. Alone. Being alone is a marvelous, fantastic thing. A frightening endeavor. You should be prepared if you do shit like this but I wasn’t.

Yeah, with pretty much zero experience in long distance hiking it was my absolute first time. I’d thought about it plenty. Considered it. Dreamed of it. Finally, I had to have the experience rather than just imagine it.

I was afraid, tired and beat up nearly everyday. (Arr, the road be a harsh mistress!) I lost all my water once. Lost my mind a few times, too. But I kept going. Because it got easier everyday, too.

Through persistence, I gained new strength from each and every travail.

Tonight, you’ll find out the story of how I went from Greenbelt Maryland,

.new carrollton MD

all the way to the California coast!

california

 

Here’s the choice. Read articles based on journals I kept.- here

 

 

You can read a meandering, constantly evolving page I started to keep these memories alive in me and to share some tips, tricks and what-have-you about the journey.

– INSTINCT

I can’t say how often I took a ride, but I can tell you how many I refused. They were counted on one hand. Three.

Perhaps, this is an incorrect gauge, but I’m still here to share with you so my choices mustn’t have been that bad. You only have one life. Don’t gamble with it. Especially when hitching.

There are a lot of factors. All of them morph and change and become unique at each meeting of driver and hitcher. There are some baselines to go by, though.

PAY ATTENTION! Approach slowly, with caution. Don’t creep, but don’t rush.

When you and the driver make eye contact, whether through a window or an open door, that feeling is the one you go with.

Does your gut curdle and a sting of fear race through you?

Is there something not right about the situation?

One possible ride that stopped for me was a weird one. Large woman driver, Augustus Gloop looking kid in the back, and the passenger lady who got out to greet me had no front teeth and was wearing a baseball hat with devil horns on the brim, She REEKED of booze.

So, no. I declined the ride.

Each time will be different, like I said. You have to choose. If ANYTHING seems off, then DO NOT GET IN THE CAR!

 

– I WALKED FACING TRAFFIC!

The  rule is: you walk AGAINST (facing) and ride WITH (alongside) traffic.

Don’t you want to see it coming?

Think about it.

clarksburg wvAND if someone does stop for you, you get an extra bit of time to scope them out. Because most often the ones stopping will be going your way.

I walked with traffic ONCE. Figuring I’d give it a try and as soon as I made this decision an 18 wheeler blew by me and the draft caught my backpack and PICKED ME UP off the ground. My feet trailing along as I spun my arms and tried to land is not a experience I want to repeat. It’s was scary. Luckily, I stayed off the main drag and as soon as I touched down I crossed over again. Fuck that.

 

-RESPECT THE DRIVERS!

Yes, you’re the one traipsing down the road with a stick and sunglasses and a backpack and not a care in the world, but you can be smashed out of existence very easily.

When I was in West Virginia, the switchbacks and looping mountain roads made it nearly impossible to hear let alone see anything coming. The only indication would be the slight roar as the truckers hit the gas to go up the mountain.

So, instead of walking a bit off the road and stopping to await the traffic as it came around the bend in front of me, I tied a bright yellow bandana to my walking stick and held it out as I neared the turn.

Whoever came around the bend would see the bright color against all the green and shadow of the mountain in summer. This trick was rewarded as I would hear people slow as they neared, seeing the blowing bandana. It garnered me a few waves and more oft than not a friendly beep and a wave.

TIP YOUR HAT/NOD TO THE TRUCKERS!!

On long stretches of country highway, you’ll be able to see the big rigs coming. It’s your choice whether to shrink against the far side of the shoulder or try to go toe-to-toe with the monster draft they’re trailing.

I tried both and got blown all over the road, chasing my hat and various other things that got sucked away.

Then I touched my brim and nodded to one coming up on me. He didn’t use the air horn or swerve and I had to hold onto my hat but the next one, signalled and moved over into the other lane so as not to send me flying about. I tipped my hat.

To each and every trucker that passed. And after the first few, most slowed or moved over if they could. Doing the kindness of respecting them and the HUGE machine they’re driving made my walking A LOT more pleasant.

 

STREAMS & RIVERS ARE YOUR FRIENDS!stream

When you pound the pavement you’re feet are going to get beat up, no matter how comfortable your shoes are.

Now,, some people can walk farther than others but at some point your dogs will start barking and when they do the best thing for them is rest. Taking time to sit against the guardrail or a little bit off the highway is a welcome treat. It allows you to remove yourself from the hustle of your journey.

Once I began dipping my feet in water after walking for hours, I found myself actively looking for places farther on where I could stop and repeat the ritual.

It’s such a remarkable experience to unlace your boots and place your overheated stinky feet into the cool rushing heaven of a new river or stream. There are times when you hear the cartoon sssss as your feet go in. This allows you to become mindful of your feet as well.

You’ll be looking at them in the water. Lift up a foot and give it a massage maybe. Scratch one foot with the other underwater. Lean back on your hands, legs stretched out and the sun on your face and you’ll close your eyes and smile.  After however long, you’ll know when, it’ll be time to move on. Your fresh feet will give you a fresh perspective on your walk.

 

 

I will continue with this list in the future and update you as soon as possible. Thank you for stopping by!

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Hitchhiking Lessons”

  1. Hey you have some nice bits of advice there. I made pretty much the same trip this summer, east to west and then back. I found it rather easy and almost peaceful in a sense. I would almost always stick to the major interstates. I think that helped a great deal with getting rides. I would only try to get out at major exits or those blue exit signs that offer food, hotels, and gas. The only time I walked great distances was exploring a city or town even then I would always look for some form of public transit. When I was hitchhiking I mostly posted up at the nearest on-ramp with a sign and just waited. The longest wait for me was about 4 hours and it was me and a friend, so not that bad I’d say. The shortest wait was probably around 5 seconds; as soon as I set down my pack and turned around someone had pulled over for me. The whole trip I was very fortunate with rides.

    I like what you said about road safety when you were up in the mountains and walking against traffic. I can see how having your back turned can be pretty sketchy especially on tight winding roads. For me if I wasn’t posted up at an on-ramp I always walked with the flow of traffic towards my destination. I never felt in any real danger by being on the shoulder. I would definitely keep a solid distance from the white line but I think the trick for walking with traffic is always being alert and looking over your shoulder constantly. If you see or hear a car or tractor trailer coming always observe your position on the shoulder and turn around and face traffic with your thumb out. If there happens to be a group of cars then I would either stop and wait or just back peddle until all the cars passed. Then just repeat the process until someone pulled over. Never had an issue with that method either.

    I liked what you said about the streams and rivers being your friend, they truly are wonderful on the road. And dude the stinky feet can get pretty nasty haha, that’s why you have to rock the sandals! They are heavenly compared to heavy boots and much better then getting some nasty jungle rot!

    Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures my friend. Keep on keeping on and may the wind forever be at your back 😛

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment! I wondered if anybody actually read these. Wow, both ways huh? Damn! Yeah, I rocked the sandals but only in the towns I stayed in never on the road. And that one time I stepped in a bog and got soaked. That was fun. Underwear, socks and shoes tied to my pack and drying in the sun. What a sight I must have been!
      Good on you for traveling, man!
      May the road rise to meet you!

      Like

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