On The Road In The 1960’s – a travelers guide

There was no doubt. It was a piggish indulgence. We sat, each of us holding a pint of ice cream and a jelly jar of maple syrup. Said Bill, ” …and as Saint Augustine said…it was wicked, but I loved it.” I just nodded my palate and brain, too frozen to speak in return. It was five AM, and the skies were beginning to lighten. Bill’s cousin was a strict Christian woman, so there was no alcohol in the house, but there was a freezer chest full of homemade ice cream, and a pantry well stocked with maple syrup. We were discovering that not having beer as part of a celebration was not a bad thing. It was wicked, and we loved it.
The previous day we had hitched rides up to Motters from Baltimore, to see Bill’s aunt Tessa and uncle Roland. Now, as the day was breaking, we headed north to Gettysburg, then east to Lancaster, and eventually ending in Philadelphia. The stops along the way were the homes of friends who had spare couches or porches. We could count on a meal, shower, and a roof for the night. We called these Frolicking Detours. On the very best of them, we met interesting people, saw incredible scenery, and came away with the impression that the world and the people in it were generally principled and decent. On the worst of them, we hid in the woods to evade local police, attempted to scare off resentful dogs, got soaked, and ate nothing but cold beans from a can.

Want to try it? If you’ve never done it, think twice before indulging. Here’s some advice.*
It’s tough on your shoe leather. If your feet aren’t comfortable, the rest of you can’t be. Make sure that you have enough cash on you that you’re not picked up for vagrancy. I’ll guarantee that you’ll see an America that you’d never see from the interstate. But, here’s some advice on the interstates: look for rides clear of the on-ramps. Police might ignore you at the base of entry, but on the ramp, you are about to cause an accident, and you’re sure to get busted. Try to avoid getting let off from a ride on the interstate itself. State cops will pick you up.

Try to get rides to take you to where you can make a good connection for the next ride. Many people think that truck stops are great places to get a ride, but that’s only in stories. The gas stations and stores in the stops don’t want vagrants begging rides, and few truckers will pick you up. That last thing is an insurance issue.
Don’t try to soak a ride for a buck. It can have nasty results, like getting dumped on the side of an interstate.
Now it may seem obvious but leave your stash behind. Getting mellow is not worth the hassle it will cause with the law.
About rides. That would take a dissertation. For starters, watch out for people who are angry before you even get in the car. Please don’t put your pack in the trunk of the auto; they can drive off with it or hold it hostage. Talking about your pack – bedroll, tarp, emergency food, shaving gear, toothbrush, odds and ends of camping gear and spare clothes. No valuables. The camping stuff will do if you are stuck out at night, but mostly they are alibi material -” well, sir, I’m looking for a campground.”

Getting back to the issue of having the last ride drop you in a good place for your next connection – this offers you the liberty of turning down rides you think are iffy. I prefer to soak in the rain than get into a car that I found suspicious. Take a few trips, and get back to me, there’s lots more.

Police. It depends on the state, locality, and individual. I’ve walked from one end of Cape Neddick, Maine to the other with the local cop checking on me every three minutes, and then I’ve been given rides in the cruiser to the best place to get a good ride. Your personality is essential too. As in most things, courtesy costs little but yields significant rewards.

If you’re still game, I have little doubt that you’ll meet some of the nicest people and most vicious dogs in the world.

*This advice is for guys looking for adventure in the mid-1960s.
For the seventies, check my updates found in Time Travelers Guide and Gazzeteer – 1970 – 1976. As always, please calibrate your Flux Capacitor before leaving home. Have a safe, enjoyable road trip.

21 Replies to “On The Road In The 1960’s – a travelers guide”

  1. Great advice and adventures, I’m sure. I’d be interested to hear about some of these rides. My imagination is already at work.

    We once picked up a hitchhiker in the mountains–my dad’s friend was driving us all to the local hot springs in his motor home. Of course, as a child, I was taught to never, ever accept a ride from strangers, and so I couldn’t believe it when he stopped to pick her up. His reason? She was cute! I don’t think his wife much liked his answer.

  2. Back in the sixties, you could almost get away with this. I’m sure there are still places in the world you can do it safely. Here, not so much anymore. A guy might try it, a woman, probably never a good idea. I loved the reading about it though. The freedom to experience such diversity would be wonderful.

    1. I had some very professional guidance and hitched thousands of miles, but I was always worried if I was alone. As soon as I could afford other means of travel I avoided hitching through areas where I knew trouble lurked – mostly from the police. I did not talk about women hitching, because in the ’60’s I did not know a single one that did it. It was a great experience, but I wouldn’t want to repeat it. I’ll try to get around to writing about hitching with my cat Clancy. that was really “fun”.

  3. Lou- That header photo, is that Newburyport MA? The gray bdlg on the right is the Custom House Maritime Museum.

    1. One of my favorite hangouts. I selected the photo for what the sign said. FYI – I love your blog. Most New Yorkers (and residents of other coastal cities) never really see the working waterfront.

      1. Thx, Lou. From 1986 until 1989, I worked in the building on the upriver side of the Custom House and became quite friendly with the museum staff. In fact, I prepared a shipwrecks near Plum Island map for them. I used to go to that flea market regularly until I left MA in 2000.

  4. Oldies was still in business Prior to the Pandemic. I haven’t been down since March, but I’d bet it’s still open. Best place to find odd finds in Mass!

    1. i was last in newburyport in 2016 to visit a friend there; he’s a ship modeller who does fabulous work. he was once on the museum board.

    1. I’ve met him once or twice, and he’s done some work for friends of mine. He is an outrageously talented individual, and I admire his work.

      1. Sure. And indeed, Rob has high standards and rises to challenges. And isn’t it a small world. About your Oldies photo, in the distance to the right is a laundromat. I used to do my laundry there while at work. Once, when i needed a new place to live, i saw a notice on the bulletin board. It led me to the place in NH where I lived from 89-92. That photo really transported me. I hope the bagel place is still there beyond the laundromat…

      2. The bagel place remodeled last year, but as of my last visit still had the best bagels in the state. FYI – the Grog, Starboard Galley, and Bob Lobster are all still there.

      3. Bob Lobster must be new, but the Grog and Starboard Galley . . . I’ve been to. Farther up State Street, the Screening Room is a great place for movies. I hated to leave the area, but it’s the right thing to do when jobs dry up.

      4. Bob Lobsteris out on the way to Plum Island – near the airport. I hope the Screening Room hasn’t gone under, but their business must have taken ahuge hit with the indoor gathering restrictions.

      5. After writing earlier, I checked it out. Screening Room owners Andy and Nancy had a transition to new ownership in the process, but COVID has likely derailed that. A shame. I used to work with Andy; he’s been there 38 years and is getting up in age himself. I lived on Plum Island one winter. I recall an independent convenience store/deli near me called PJs

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