I DON'T HITCHHIKE AT NIGHT
I don't like going without sleep. I'm always well aware of how much daylight I have left for thumbing. I roll my sleeping bag out somewhere around the freeway entrances. There are always areas between the on ramps/off ramps and the freeway. These areas usually have trees, shrubs and grass. They are pretty safe places because no one hangs out in them. Sometimes I may have to sleep under the overpass/underpass because of rain, but I don't do it if I don't have too. I'm usually up at the crack of dawn. I like to have a good breakfast and usually bring a cup of coffee back to the on ramp with me.
At this point I've pretty much explained my style of hitchhiking and it's given me itchy feet. It just so happens I have that backpack and sleeping bag in the closet. I think I'm just gonna have to get out and do some hitchhiking around Montana sometime soon. But before I go I'll tell you my favorite hitchiking routes and maybe something about the hitchhiking laws in the various states. That'll be my next post.
I would not be hitchhiking. It could be very dangerous.
I second not hitchhiking at night- for a very different reason than sleep deprivation. I did this once and NEVER AGAIN! Suffice it to say I got into a really bad situation.
Hitchhiking requires a certain level of good judgement of character- and quick judgement of character at that. You have maybe a minute or two to decide if you are going to get into the vehicle. At night, everything is darker, and it is more difficult to see the person sitting in the driver's seat. Also, at night is the time when the crazies come out. Really it is! Regardless of the fullness of the moon!
Take crimms advice and find a safe place to sleep once dusk arrives, and you will be thanking yourself profusely.
HITCHHIKING AND THE LAW
My hitchhiking experience is in all the states west of the Mississippi River. Practically all of them have some vague anti-hitchhiking law. But these laws simply go unenforced. I'm not a lawyer and I'm not giving legal advice. But the one thing I can say for sure is I hitchhiked off and on for 25 years racking up approximately 200,000 miles, and I've never been arrested for hitchhiking, I've never been ticketed for hitchhiking. But I've been warrant checked numerous times. The cops were just checking to see if I was a bad guy.
The two states where they don't like to see your thumb go up is Wyoming and Nebraska. There is no law barring standing next to a roadway, but there is a law barring standing next to a roadway for purposes of soliciting a ride. So I just grab a seat on the on ramp and keep a wary eye out for the law. I don't use a sign and my thumb doesn't go out if there is a patrol car in the vicinity.
Arizona, California and Washington strictly enforce "no pedestrians on the freeway." So it is mandatory that you stay at the bottom of the on ramp. If you've got a magic marker with you leave your name on the guard rail or the sign that says "no pedestrians past this point." Everyone else does.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE HITCHHIKING ROUTES
Interstate 5 from Sacramento, California to Bellingham, Washington
The rolling hills between Red Bluff and Redding are nice. The Cascade Range starts just north of Redding and runs all the way up into British Columbia. There are some pretty high peaks in this range which are volcanoes, some extinct, some not so extinct. There's Mount Shasta and Lassen in California, Three Sisters and Hood in Oregon, St. Helens, Rainier and Baker in Washington.
Rides are not hard to come by but since I know the Seattle area so well when I approach that area I jump on the bus system and skirt around it. There are local buses from Olympia on the south side all the way to Marysville on the north side. It only takes a few hours and a few dollars to avoid thumbing through the bottleneck of Seattle.
Back in the eighties I would thumb into Bellingham in the summertime and work about a month of 12 hour days in the fish processors. Red Salmon run every odd year and the processors put on a lot of extra help. Bellingham is also the southern terminal of the Alaska Marine Highway, the ferry system that connects Washington with Prince Rupert, British Columbia and the towns of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway in Southeast Alaska.
I have lots of experience in Southeast Alaska as I lived in Juneau for several years and still have some folks who live there. It's one of the most scenic places on earth. The ferries carry walkons and cars. It's about a 3 day trip up to Haines. Back in the day I could buy a walkon ticket from Washington to Juneau for $50. I imagine the tickets are much more expensive today.
One summer I was in Juneau and decided to take the ferry up to Haines and thumb up to Fairbanks. It was my first attempt at this maneuver. When I got up to Haines there were other people piling off the ferry that had the same idea as me. They were mostly college students. There was a dozen of us lined up on the highway. The cars were offloaded off the ferry and once those people passed us there was no more traffic. Not a one of us caught a ride. Haines is a very small town and the locals really had no reason to go up the Haines Cutoff. It would be a couple days before the next ferrry arrived. We were all stuck in Haines.
Believe it or not, we were about a day and a half into it when this road worker walks up to us and says "I got this oldl van over here for sale for $400. Does anyone want to buy it?" That got us all to talking and one guy suggested that we all chip in and buy the van. I explained to them that the van would have to be registered and insured to get through Canadien Customs. So the guy with the idea said he would register it and buy the insurance if we turned the van over to him once we got to our destinations. So ten of us pitched in $40 apiece and the guy went and registered and insured the van.
We gassed up and took off out of Haines even carrying the one person who couldn't afford to shell out any money. We were packed in like sardines. The first hurdle was Canadien Customs about 40 miles up the road. When we pulled up the guy comes out and his jaw drops. "What the hell?" he said. He stared at us some more then said "Alright, grab all your gear, line it up right here and stand behind it. I know some of you got some dope."
Surprisingly, no one had any pot. The whole thing turned into having a good time with the Customs official. When he was through he said "Hey, come on inside and take a look at my collection." When all walked into the office and stood there staring at the biggest pipe and bong collection any of us had ever seen.
The next leg was the ride up to Haines Junction which took several hours. We had a beer in the bar and took off up the Alaska Highway. Everything was going fine until we reached Kluane Lake. Then the motor blew up. So there we were out in the middle of nowhere and some local Indians pull up. They gave us a big fish and a sack of potatoes. We tried to sell them the van but they just started laughing and said "No, we'll just come tow it away after you guys leave." Then they laughed some more and we started laughing with them.
We went down on the lake and cooked up the fish and potatoes. We all had a good meal. The Indians came back with acoustic guitars and some jugs of wine. We all sat around the campfire and did some drunken singing. It was a good time. Eventually we all crashed out for the night.
The next morning we figured we were all gonna be stuck for ahile hitchhiking out. But in less than an hour we had all been picked up by three vehicles. I assume everyone else made their destinations. I know I made mine.
After that experience I didn't want to be stuck in Haines again. So I would go out to the ferry terminal a few hours before the ferry arrived and try to arrange a ride from one of the passengers who was bringing a car. I wanted a ride at least up to Haines Junction . If I couldn't get a ride I just wouldn't get on the ferry. I'd wait for the next ferry and do the same thing until I arranged a ride.
I've read a lot of good advice about hitching posted so far.
I won't elaborate much more. I personally love it. I've been across Canada and around much of Australia.
At first I was getting rides as young as 14 in my hometown in Canada, relatively safe area, though still potentially dangerous. I got older and started doing it to get to further places because I had very little or no money. The experiences I've had have for the most part been excellent. What I have found the most interesting part, and what has kept me at it, is the information or local history you find out about places from the people who pick you up who are from that area. The stories you hear, the history you learn, beat a bus or airplane ride any day. Over that, I've made friends who I still keep in touch with.
Yes there are dangers. Yes, you need to be careful. I would recommend always going with a friend, if possible. No single females. Seriously.
This is debatable, certainly, but I would recommend having some type of weapon. I have always carried a 6 inch blade buck knife with me in an easy to reach pocket. I've been picked up by elderly couples, women with children, crazy drunk guys, weird guys, and everyone in between... nothing extremely insane has ever happened that I didn't see coming from the git-go of getting in. Like I read above, trust your instincts! Even if you've been waiting 10 hours and are dehydrated, if it feels bad, don't get in! I've never pulled a knife on anyone, and probly won't, but it's there. I also always carry several liters of water with me.
Being smart and prepared is being safe!