So, I promised an account of me and my partner’s trek down to New Orleans and here it is.
On July 6th we left from northern Virginia and made it all the way into South Carolina by nightfall. We had a pretty easy time of it that first day, we got a ride within 30 minutes to an hour of being dropped off at an exit.
On our second day out, we only made it into Atlanta. Hitching south on I-85 through South Carolina and Georgia is notoriously rough according to a friend of mine who’s been traveling this way for years, and boy was it ever grueling for us. We spent a large chunk of that day walking along the side of the highway in the blazing heat. After we got into Atlanta we took the city bus line to the metro and took the metro as far south as it would go. The metro put us out at the Atlanta airport and from there we walked to the highway and down a few exits. We slept beside the highway near an exit with a lot of hotels so that we could take advantage of the swimming pools and continental breakfasts.
On the third day we walked to the nearest highway exit as directed by one of the hotel employees and then from there walked down the side of the highway most of the way to Union City before a trucker pulled his eighteen wheeler over to pick us up. He took us all the way into Montgomery, Alabama. Around six or so that evening we caught our last ride of the day with a shirtless potbellied guy in his 50’s or 60’s named Larry. Larry took us all the way to Mobile where we slept in a Lowe’s display shed for the night.
The next morning we walked along the highway to the next exit where we flew a sign for New Orleans for about an hour. We got a ride with a guy driving a pickup who took us to Biloxi, Mississippi. Our final ride, who took us all the way to my friends’ front door in the Bywater, was with a young tow truck driver who was taking a car to a scrapyard.
About Hitchin’ In General:
-To my surprise, our first ride was with a woman driving alone. When you’re hitchhiking, this almost never happens. Women who are out alone feel the most threatened by the idea of strangers because they are statistically more likely to be victims and because, while we are all socialized to be wary of strangers, this socialization is most strongly directed at female assigned people. Anyways, I always think its fucking awesome when a woman driving alone picks me up, and that happened twice this trip.
-Its always better to get dropped off outside of big cities, because they’re really hard to hitch out of. A lot of people getting on the highway in and around a city are local traffic, they’re only going a short distance. Also people in cities are much more suspicious of sketchy seeming strangers, crime statistics and all.
-Hitching is a union of risk takers, both the driver and the hitchhiker are mutually suspicious of the other’s intentions, both secretly suspecting that their new acquaintance is a serial killer. Both people are taking a risk and trusting a stranger not to knife them before they get to their destination. In truth, I have never once been picked up by someone who tried to hurt me in any way, most people are incredibly kind and there’s nothing like hitchhiking to demonstrate that for you. Every time I’ve traveled this way I reach my destination with a little bit more faith in humanity.
-The two types of people I’ve been picked up by most consistently are: middle aged white men in pickups who are driving alone and immigrants. This trip we were picked up by a Hispanic family with their four little daughters in the their van and they still made room for us even though all the seats were taken. That was fucking awesome, especially because so many people drive by without a second glance when they have plenty of space in their cars.
-People give you things constantly when you’re hitchhiking. We had people give us money multiple times in the three and a half days we were on the road. One of the two women who picked us up came back after dropping us off to bring us organic peaches and heirloom cucumbers. Larry, who drove us into Mobile bought us soda.
-Cops will fuck with you. More often than not cops don’t actually know the laws regarding hitchhiking in their area and they will frequently tell you its illegal when its actually not. We had multiple encounters with cops in our three and a half days on the road. The first was in North Carolina not too far south of Chapel Hill. He only asked us what we were doing and why and then told us to stay safe and let us be. The next cop, also in North Carolina, told us that hitchhiking was illegal in NC (which its not), but that he didn’t care as long as we didn’t do it while he was around. The third cop who fucked with us, in Montgomery, was the only one to actually run us off an exit; she also claimed that hitchhiking was illegal in Alabama, which, again isn’t true.
Remember: ALWAYS PICK UP HITCHHIKERS!!!