Thumbs-up tips for today's hitchhiker

  • Updated: April 27, 2013 - 3:32 PM

The author heads to Seattle.

First question: Why would you?

If you come up with a satisfactory answer, and no one talks you out of it, do some homework first.

Read up

Find out what’s permitted in the states you’ll be passing through. A detailed list of state laws is at Hitchers Spot on the Web (www.startribune.com/a2181), though it might be wise to double check for updates.

The Web and Craigslist, of course, have replaced the community or campus rideboard as a place for riders and drivers to connect. But most websites appear to be aimed at commuters rather than cross-country travelers. They allow potential traveling companions to scope each other out in advance.

Digihitch (www.digi hitch.com), a discussion board, offers a wide range of opinions, tips, insights and personal tales about hitchhiking.

Elijah Wald’s 2006 book, “Riding With Strangers,” was excellent preparatory reading (although, unlike Wald, I would never hitchhike with a guitar).

Social media

Set up a blog and post regularly, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. If nothing else, it lets others know how you’re doing.

Dining, lodging

You won’t have any choice in the matter, but truck stops offer much better food than in the past, with fresh fruit and vegetables to go. And they keep the coffee fresh.

If you’re lucky enough to get a ride to Three Forks, Mont., hold out for the second exit (U.S. 287), where you’ll find the Wheat Montana mill, wheat store, gift shop and deli, with the Fort Three Forks Motel next door.

Drunks

They represented the main safety issue I faced. Twice I was in the passenger seat and heading down the road before I realized the driver was drunk or high on something. I also turned one ride down flat (something I’d never done before) as soon as I smelled the driver’s breath through the open window. I began asking drivers straight out: “Are you sober?” I figured a drunk would stammer or laugh or get angry. The results were immediate: My next rides included those from a Mormon couple and two off-duty police officers. Definitely sober.

Bill McAuliffe

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