Writings from my Youth

Riding By Thumb: A 90’s Guide

In the 1960’s when hippies and free thinkers were at their apex, sticking your thumb out for a ride was almost considered a rite of passage. As time went on the entertainment industry and media, along with a few real life horror stories deemed it too dangerous to ride by thumb. There were too many dangerous people out there. As we close in on the millennium, I think hitching a ride is just as an effective way to get from Point A to Point B as its ever been. All you need to do is stand by the road and follow a few simple guidelines:

1) Get out of the city. ***** I have found it impossible to get a ride out of any metropolis. If you are in a city, take a bus to the outskirts. Its your only chance because businessmen don’t stop, but fellow travelers will. This rule of thumb is an important rule of hitching….it is always easier to get a ride into a city than out of town.

2) Make it easy for the Driver to stop for you.***** As a guy who likes to return the favor and pick up hitchhikers, I find nothing more annoying than people who insist on thumbing from the most dangerous pick-up points—sharp turns, narrow roads, bad intersections. It is best to stand in highly visible areas, preferably with a large area to pull over in. An even better place is just past a stoplight so any vehicles that would give you a ride won’t be speeding along and have to slam on the brakes to give you a lift.

3) Be Clean. ***** Simple but true. If you are camping, wear your cleanest shirt. Got long hair, tie it back. Try to look your best because this may be your saving grace and get you that needed ride with that paranoid boomer who happens to be going to the same town as you.

4) Stand Tall. ***** Body language is important in everything. Make eye contact with drivers. A sign is a good idea. Something simple saying where you are going. “LA”, “Town”, whatever.
When you finally get someone to stop for you, check them out. Make sure they’re not drunk and ask them where they are going. You want to do this so you can think where this first ride will put you in relation to the next. Believe me you don’t want to be stuck on some highway where only two cars pass an hour. Its happened to me and it sucks!

When you get in the car, don’t yap the drivers ear off. Thank them for the ride and be quiet. Nothing is more annoying than giving someone a ride and having them smack their gums the whole time. Let the driver do the talking. Let them ask you questions at first, then once the ball is rolling, talk as if you were talking to a friend.

This is one of the best ways to get the true low down on an area from a local. It is also one of the best things about hitching. You get to meet some REALLY COOL people. It seems to me that most people who pick up hitch-hikers themselves were once warriors of the thumb, consequently they have some great tales of their own to share.

If your initial ride doesn’t get you where you want to go, try to get dropped off somewhere where you will easily be able to pick up another ride.

The most important thing about travelling by thumb is to leave yourself plenty of time. Sometimes no matter what you do, you might be at one point for a long time. Try to stay positive and know that eventually you will get picked up.

Hitching is one of the best and cheapest ways to get around the country. So stop being scared, get on out there and enjoy the experience!

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