Wednesday, June 25, 2014

95. Successfully Getting a Hitch

Before hiking the Appalachian Trail, I'd never hitch-hiked in my entire life. In my mind, it was a very Kerouac-ian, romantic-bohemian-type activity. My favorite story to tell about hitch hiking was about my Uncle Bart leaving home on the east coast to travel to Ohio for college back in the 1960's. My uncle climbed into the car with his father, my granddad, who dropped him off on the side of the highway. From there, he hitch hiked alone all the way to the midwest to little Delaware, Ohio, where he saw Ohio Wesleyan University for the very first time.

If you've been following along in your E-Z Clever Girl Abridged Reader's Guide, you may note that I also attended Ohio Wesleyan University. The first few days at college I was SO READY to meet new people, clutching my glowing fact nugget about Uncle Bart's yearly hitching pilgrimages to and from the school. I can assure you that it made me seem pretty cool by association, which is all a college Freshman can really hope for. Score!

When you go on long distance hiking treks, you must occasionally find your way back into civilization to get more food, unless you fall into one of these categories:

1. You are The Hulk, and can carry a month's worth of food on your back at one time.
2. You are a hunter, and you're hiking in hunting-appropriate areas. I am going to imagine you carrying a super rad bow and arrow. Even if that's not how you hike, that's how I picture you hiking.
3. You are a robot who needs no food.
4. You carry a fishing rod, and when you find bodies of water with fish, you abandon your fishing rod and just catch those bass with your bare hands because you are a beautiful champion.
5. You are a woodland creature.

On rare occasions, wilderness trails may route themselves through little towns, so you can just walk into a grocery store without a care in the world (except you have to remember to leave your backpack outside or everyone gets all riled into a tizzy). However, a lot of times the closest you can get to a town is if the trail crosses over a road, and there may be a town 10 miles down that road. At that point, it is time to hitch hike.

You may notice that I didn't title this post "Hitch Hiking," I titled it "Successfully Getting a Hitch." This is because hitch hiking, as a general rule, is a demoralizing crap shoot of epic crappiness. Standing on the side of the road, completely unwashed and carrying a gigantic backpack, while simultaneously trying to look approachable and trustworthy is a very difficult task. If you're lucky you'll get picked up right away, but if you don't, then it's just a downward spiral.

After a while of standing, you start to question how your face looks. Should I smile? Should I look steely and determined? Should I walk or stand still? Should I wave? In the minutes between each passing car, you try out all of these different options, weighing which one you think would be the most comforting to the strangers in those cars. When a car does suddenly appear, if you're like me, you'll get frazzled and end up trying to do all of those things at the same time. This creates a lovely amalgamation of conflicting signals, a combination which is read by oncoming traffic as: THIS BROAD BE NUTSO.

Over time, each passing car becomes more and more degrading. Eventually you may start to wonder if you've ever been approachable or appealing at all, and maybe the only reason you have friends is because you make delicious cookies on a semi regular basis.

Sometimes after the 10th car went by, swerving madly across the road to avoid getting anywhere near me, I would look at my outstretched hand, sincerely worried that I wasn't actually putting up my thumb but unconsciously displaying some sort of rude hand gesture. I would always stand off the roadway, never impeding oncoming cars, but every once in a while I'd get that older woman driving alone who would jerk the wheel wildly to swerve all the way over in the opposite lane, as though terrified out of her wits that if her car came within a 10 foot radius, I would launch forward and cling on, like Indiana Jones when he leapt onto that tank. In her mind she must have pictured me hoisting myself over the side of the car, bare-knuckle punching through her backseat window, hurling myself inside and demanding "TAKE ME TO THE NEAREST ARBY'S."

The horror of it all!

Anyway, all of that is to say, when someone does finally pull over, it's one of the greatest things in the world. It's always an adventure, and it's so fun to get to know kind local folks. Getting to ride in the back of a pickup truck was always my favorite, because then I got to stick my head into the wind like a dog, and I didn't have to feel self conscious about stinking up the person's vehicle.

I think the best summary of the glory of getting a ride is in a post I wrote last June, when Whistle and I got a rides in 4 different vehicles, one of which was a 18-wheeler and another of which was a minivan that took us 45 minutes out of the way, so we could go to the chicken factory.  That can be found here: Hitchin' a Ride.

It's possible, though not probable, that I have finally ascended to the same level of cool as my Uncle Bart.

Clever Girl


  1. you Know Beacon? Just finished a cross country hitch. Very cool.

  2. Striving to be as cool as Uncle Bart is a shared family goal...