Hitchhiking used to be a normal, accepted mode of transportation. I used to routinely hitchhike to work and back all the time. I hitchhiked to college classes. Once while in college in Connecticut, I fell for a cute little girl, Leona, from Raymond, New Hampshire, and would hitchhike up there in the middle of winter time, just to spend a day or two with her. Probably the longest trip I made, not literally but certainly emotionally, was the one coming back down to Connecticut after she dumped me! Damn! I would have preferred a phone call before making THAT trip!
When I was in the Navy I used to hitchhike all over the place on weekends and when I was on leave. On weekends, whenever I got drunk on tequila, I always wound up hitchhiking to another state. Tequila always just made me want to go. I always made sure I only drank tequila when I had a couple of days to burn, because I knew I would wind up out of state, and need some time to get back.
One time, when we had 30 days of Leave, a buddy and I hitchhiked from New Jersey, up the New York State Thruway to Saratoga Springs, then Montreal, then up along the St. Lawrence River to Quebec, then down through New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, and all around Nova Scotia, up to Cape Breton Island and down to Yarmouth, then after ferrying across the Bay of Fundy, down through Maine, Massachussetts, Connecticut, New York and back to New Jersey. I wish I still had my journal from that trip. We met so many interesting people. I can still vividly recall a few of them. They’ll probably eventually make their way into a story.
I think it’s a damn shame that the road got too uncivilized for hitchhiking to continue as the travel mode it once was. I met so many interesting people hitchhiking. There was a certain sense of freedom and adventure whenever you went out on the road and stuck out your thumb. The journey was often at least as interesting as the destination. I can’t remember exactly when hitchhiking, as a normal way to get around, ceased. It must have been sometime in the mid-80’s. I was still hitchhiking from the DC area to Baltimore a couple days a week for a job in 1983, without a problem. After that, I always had my own car.
Here in the DC area, we have “Slug Lines”. This is kind of a systemized form of hitchhiking, but really not the same thing. There’s a lot of HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes and roads in the area, so drivers who don’t have the required number of passengers to qualify for the HOV lanes will go to a designated Slug Pickup Point, where the “slugs” are lined up waiting for a ride. They pile into the car, the driver gets to use the HOV lanes, which are always much faster, and the slugs get a free ride to work.
But, I really miss hitchhiking as a regular, accepted mode of transportation. I wish it would come back. I wish the world was still considered a safe enough place for that to happen.