• Heroin Highway

    It wasn’t long that I was walking with my sign on Rt. 5 right near Silver Creek, when a very old red Ford pickup pulled over. You can never be sure if they are stopping for you or for some other reason. I had my backpack on already, so I picked up the pace and made my way toward the truck, hoping it would not pull away. The slider window opened. A boot dropped out from the cab into the bed. Then another boot. That was followed by a raincoat, some trash bags, a good number of aluminum cans and assorted other junk. I took this as a good sign.…

  • Practically Pennsylvania

    The Empire State was good to me. I managed to get all the way to Pennsylvania on the back roads. And I only met three cops.   John After coffee and a bagel sandwich, Sean Kirst drove me from downtown Buffalo to the village of Hamburg, and left me at a park just yards from Lake Erie. When you’re with a guy like Sean, who is so full of stories, you feel like you’re sunbathing or soaking in a pond on a summer day – you just want to absorb all the knowledge and wisdom he has to offer. It was pretty much like that from the time he picked…

  • Staying Put

    I’m getting ready to leave Lexington, Kentucky, after a day unexpectedly spent in a new city with an old friend, Deb Alexander. This random stay came about when Ricardo, a truck driver headed from Ohio to Miami, picked me up on Interstate 71. I thought I would be getting out in Columbus to continue west to Indianapolis, but when he mentioned Lexington, I texted Deb. She was free, we met at the side of the road, and once again this road leads to a friend’s home. Feeling grateful. Deb is putting down roots in Lexington, her home town, spending time with family and figuring out what comes next in a…

  • Not the Thruway

    Leave behind the goals and the timelines and expectations of productivity when you take to the road. Unless that road is the Thruway. The New York State Thruway, officially named for Governor Thomas E. Dewey, a man who was for a brief moment in 1948 known as the next President of the United States, is just shy of 500 miles long. Most of its length, from just north of the New York City line to the Pennsylvania border, sixty miles from where I sit, was built in the 1950’s. It was renamed for the former Governor who had actually opposed funding it with state funds and instead instituted the tolls…

  • Could a Robot Hitch Hike?

        Traveling the Rust Belt through Buffalo and Erie, and now Cleveland, you meet a lot of people who have watched their jobs go away as machines handle tasks once undertaken by humans. Working with your hands, I’ve heard from ride after ride, doesn’t take care of a family the way it used to. This is hardly breaking news, but it is a painful fact of life for many in the northeast. Then it occurred to me – am I safe from automation? As a hitch hiker, might I someday be replaced by a machine? The answer is – yes. This little robotic guy already tried to hitch across…

  • Waterloo to Buffalo

      I prefer taking back roads. That explains why the pace of my travels is only a tad speedier than a diligent bicyclist. You get shorter rides on Rt. 20 than you would on the Thruway, but the terrain is more appealing and the likelihood of drawing the attention of law enforcement diminishes. On the edge of Waterloo, I thought I’d split the difference, and positioned myself on the side of the road on 20 West, just before a turn off to 414, on the chance that someone going north might be headed west on the Thruway. It was a good spot, near a Tops market, which meant that someone…

  • Rt. 20 and the Law – It’s not all Black and White

    When Dave’s red Chevy truck turned around a few hundred yards up the road from where I sat on a guardrail, I got a good feeling. On the side of the road you don’t get much chance to see people’s faces, so you can spend a lot of time imagining what is on the mind of the people passing by, even on a secondary road that has a maximum speed limit of 55. Dave pulled over across the road to ask where I was going. I’ve taken to telling people “California,” so that’s what I said to him. He laughed and said he could get me to Canandaigua, 17 miles…

  • 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…

  • Yeah, it’s Raining a Little

    In our two months on the road in 1978, whenever things got rough, Joe and I had a little routine. One of us would say, “It could be worse”, and the other would reply, “It could be raining.” It only rained once that summer, and it caught us in Jackson Hole. We found shelter in a shopping center and watched hail the size of baseballs pound down so hard that the parking lot flooded. We were unbelievably fortunate. Well, today, my first day out, it’s raining. I’m holed up waiting for it to blow over. And it could be worse. I’m not on the Andrea Gail. Perfect Storm