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.