• The Golden Arches

    In my pack I carry raisins, a chunk of summer sausage, and dozens of wild cherry Life Savers. In a side pouch I have a 1.5 liter unbreakable water bottle that my friend William gave me as a parting gift. There have been a few times when nibbling on the sausage has kept hunger at bay. For everything else, there’s McDonald’s. Yes,  I know that I can find healthier food, and I should support local restaurants, but thus far none of those healthy locavores have set up any place near the ramps and roadways that I’ve been practically living on the past two weeks. Right now I am sitting with…

  • You Have to Smile and Wave

    It’s part of the deal. “You don’t catch a ride with your thumb,” says Juan Villarino, who has hitched more than 100,000 miles, “You catch it with a smile.” Villarino was profiled in this New York Times story earlier this year World’s Greatest Hitch Hiker and while I agree with his notion of the importance of smiling, I disagree with the Times’ headline – his girlfriend Laura Lazzarino seems to me much more deserving of that title. You can catch her adventures on her blog ViajesDeNena So much in this journey is out of my control. When I spent two days stuck on the side of the road in Omaha,…

  • Peoria and West

    Peoria Video   I decamped from the food court in Peoria’s Northwoods Mall to find the parking lot soaked and still draining from a heavy rain. Toying with the idea of walking up the ramp closer to the highway, I was looking for a way through a fence when the sky lit up. More lightning. It did not seem wise to climb a metal fence in order to stand on the side of a highway where the tallest object in sight would be me. Instead I stepped into the lobby of a roadside Marriot, where the kind lady at the desk let me sit for a bit while I called…

  • A Day at the Office

    Yesterday I was almost gave up at the entrance ramp of 43 North in Indiana. Steven had dropped me off there, but the lay of the land was not in my favor. Most of the cars appeared to be families picking up their sons or daughters from Purdue University, just five miles away. Full vehicles and families are usually not going to stop. Then there was the bend in the entrance ramp, which made it tough for a truck, or any vehicle, to safely pull over. Sometimes you just get dealt bad cards. It was getting warmer, and the shade was getting scarce. I have a  routine when I get…

  • 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…