Day one ends in Waterloo

It started with a rain delay. The skies over Pompey opened up and it didn’t make much sense to me to go out there and get drenched. So I waited around the house, unpacking and repacking, playing with Gracie, checking weather reports. And listening to thunder.

At around 11 there was a break in the clouds, and I finally loaded up the backpack and headed out the door. One thing I immediately noted as different from 1978 was how much heavier my backpack was. In 1978 it weighed 40 pounds – this time it was just under 30, but it felt like a ton.

It was a long slog up the hill on Watervale Road to Rt. 20 – about three miles, with a stop outside my friend Ralph’s house to hitch from a standing position. It was a chance to get the pack off my shoulders and to indulge myself with the possibility that Ralph might be home, take pity on me, and give me a ride up the road.

No such luck. I saddled back up, set off again at a steady pace, and with the sun now peeking out from the clouds, made my way to Rt. 20 by 11:40. The walk was actually beautiful – magnolia and dogwood trees were blooming on the side of the road, milk trucks climbed along the ridge of Pompey Center Road just to the east, and peeper frogs hopped into the creek as I approached. They too must have gotten the memo that hitchhikers are to be feared. Most of the dozen or cars that passed me on Watervale were friendly, older people in nice cars (lots of Audi and Volvo SUVs in Pompey) going about their day.

I leaned my back pack on the Stop sign post and at the corner of Rt. 20 and Watervale, at the base of the steep climb to Pompey Hill.  On Rt. 20, most traffic was headed east, and were commercial vehicles – plumbers, appliance repair crews, even a truck for Patisserie, the awesome bakery that supplies scones to my favorite cafe, Salt City Coffee.

And then there was Rob. He was only going a mile up the road, but offered to take me a few miles further, to the stop light at the Pompey Mall, a great local gas station owned by our friends the Neugabauers. Everyone in Pompey knows the Pompey Mall.


Kim 051518Rob051518

Just as it started to rain again, a small SUV pulled up and Kim opened the door. She’s a retired art teacher and hitchhiked across the country with her boyfriend in 1980, just after graduating college.  We talked about kids and family and art for seven miles until we parted in Lafayette. She was headed to McKinley-Brighton school where she still does after school classes for elementary school students.

I crossed I-81 passed a McDonalds and climbed the hill to a Byrne Dairy, which turned out to be a great haven for an hour while I ate lunch, charged my phone, and waited out another heavy rain. No sooner was I back on the road than a nice late model mini SUV stopped and backed up toward me. It was Marc Stress, the owner of a web branding company in Syracuse, which I knew as Stress Design but has since been rebranded  76 West. It took us just a few minutes to realize that we knew one another from the Near West Side in Syracuse. Marc not only gave me a ride up Rt. 20 to the intersection of Rt. 80, but he loved the idea of #NobodyHitchHikesAnymore so much that he set up an instagram account right there on the side of the road.

So I guess that’s why he does the web marketing stuff and I do massage and hitchhiking. I somehow failed to take his picture with my phone before he departed. But thanks, Marc – it was a blast!

Next I will share my interactions with two consummate professionals employed by a law enforcement agency, but first I have to get breakfast! Thanks for coming along!



Massage Therapist and writer from Syracuse, NY, hitchhiking across the US.


  • Lawrence Jones

    Hi Ed – I am a friend of William S. and think your trip is great! I’m wishing you a strong back, safe drivers and places to charge your phone when needed! I look forward to following your journey.

  • Kimberly Archer

    Dear Ed, just have to share with you, I stopped today at the Pompey ice-cream shop ( same intersection we met ) and met a gentleman from England riding his bike from Boston to Seattle. I told him your story and who knows, maybe you will meet up! Happy trails, Kim Archer

  • Micere Githae Mugo

    Whoever gave you the idea of the message on that sign post of yours is brilliant and I am suspecting you are the person. It has a layered and provocative/teasing statement that cannot be ignored…not even by cops. I want to say: it is one of your guardian angels along the many roads you will have traveled by the time you return to Syracuse.


    • Ed Griffin-Nolan

      It was actually Ellen’s brilliant idea to put that hashtag and name on the sign. The reasoning was that even the many people who do not stop could see it and look it up. And yes, it has been another illuminating day!

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