Hitchhiking: the thrill of the open road

I am not one to advocate hitchhiking — it’s one of those ‘try at your own risk’ kinds of things, and in some cases it can be very dangerous — but I will admit that I’ve hitchhiked many dozens of times, with no bad experiences at all. Sometimes, unless you’ve planned a pick-up, or are hiking a loop, it is almost impossible to avoid hitching.
I’ve hitched in California, Oregon, Washington, Kentucky (to no avail) and in Mexico. In fact, the biggest challenge I’ve faced is the fact that people were usually too scared to give me a ride because I used to have a very large, curly, red scungy beard and smelled really bad.
In my experience, it’s easier to get a ride …
1. if you are hitch-hiking with your girlfriend and not all by yourself. (People might think you are psycho if you are hitch-hiking by yourself. And if you’re trying to hitch-hike in a large group of guys, forget it.)
2. … if you shave off your frightening beard
3. …If you cover your body odor with powerful masking lotions that smell like Ivory soap.
4. .. if you target large, wheezing Vans or buses with “steal your face” stickers all over the windshield and license plates with winking references to either Grateful Dead or Phish lyrics. The drivers are usually hitchhike-friendly. On the downside, the drivers get pulled over by the cops with alarming frequency.
5… if you choose a hitchhiking area where many religious fundamentalists happen to live. Say what you will about religious fundamentalists, but they are the most likely to take pity on you when you are standing by the side of the road. As I mentioned somewhere in Cactus, without religious fundamentalists, many of us backpackers would rot on the roadside in patchouli-scented piles.


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