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  1. #1
    Registered User jdc5294's Avatar
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    Post Tips on hitchhiking

    I guess I haven't posted enough to make a topic in the article section, but I haven't seen anyone else talking about this so I'll post it here instead.

    -------

    One of the most common complaints I heard during my 2012 thru hike was that it always took forever to get a ride into town. This was a mystery to me as I seldom experienced waiting longer then 15 minutes. But waiting for an hour as cars go by when you're wet, tired, and just coming from a week of hiking in the wilderness sucks. Especially when that image of a Ben & Jerry's pint is floating just out of reach. And unless you're made of money, calling a shuttle every time isn't an option.

    In case you don't know how to hitch hike, it's very easy. First stand on the side of the road next to but not in the lane going in the direction you want to travel. You don't want to have to cross a lane of traffic to get to your ride, and it's also much less likely that someone will turn around to pick you up. It happens sometimes with some saints among men, but it's rare. Second, face oncoming traffic so they can see your beautiful face and stick your arm out with your hand in a thumbs up gesture, and wait for someone to stop. Now, here are some tips:

    Smile
    - Even if it's pouring out and you just did a 25 mile day, people are much less likely to pick someone up who has the disposition of Eeyore. You don't have to be beaming from ear to ear, but at least have a positive ambiance about you.

    Location, location, location - Where you stand on the road is paramount. This is the #1 mistake people make when hitching, and you'll have a lot more success if you remember this rule: if the driver can't see you, he/she won't give you a ride. Having said that, the name of the game is all about making it as easy as possible for cars to see you. Consider this image:



    The bad hitcher is standing where drivers cannot see them until very shortly before they actually pass him/her, whereas the good hitcher gives drivers plenty of time to see them and make a decision about whether to stop or not. Giving drivers this time to see you and decide is crucial. If cars come upon you too quickly they will pass you before deciding to give you a lift.

    Time of day - You know those funny commercials with people driving at night and there's an axe murderer trying to hitch a ride? That's what you look like if you're hitching when it's dark out. Especially with a 4 month beard going. So make sure it's light out when trying to get a ride. I always tried to sleep within a mile of a road into town (sometimes right there), hitch in in the morning, do my thing, and hitch out after getting lunch and I could still put in a good 8-10 miles that day if I wasn't taking a zero.

    Alone or with others - This is the one that sparks the most debate. Is someone more willing to give a lone hiker a lift as opposed to a group? A group usually comes off as less threatening, but if the driver doesn't have enough room for all of you that's a ride you could've gotten solo. I don't have a recommendation on this one, but I will say that when I was with a group of 3 other hikers (Jackrabbit, Sasquatch, and Tetris) we'd do a synchronized hitching dance that almost guaranteed us a ride within 10 minutes. Lastly, if you're a guy and can get a girl hiker to try to flag a ride with you, that's a surefire way to speed up the process.
    There's no reward at the end for the most miserable thru-hiker.
    After gear you can do a thru for $2,000.
    No training is a substitute for just going and hiking the AT. You'll get in shape.

  2. #2
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    I had a heck of time hitching into Wallingford, VT last year, even after walking up the road and standing a few hundred feet in front of the turn in to the trail parking lot. After a half hour, I gave up and started walking in with a bum foot. I was soaking my feet in a roadside stream when a guy pulled over to take a piss. I asked him for a ride and he took me to the PO, although he seemed a little nervous at first. I ended up taking a cab back to the trail. The normal shuttler was not available that day and his sign at the parking lot stated that his availability was hit or miss when you called for his services.

  3. #3

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    Time of day and location, as you show, are important. I always like to get an early start cuz you just don't know how long you'll be standing on the road.

    Another point---If you get bored or there's no traffic whatever, START WALKING and when you hear a car coming turn around and thumb. Walking is alot better in my mind than just standing around.

    I only hitch nowadays on backpacking trips when my shuttle ride can't get me due to icy roads and snow. Hitching in the snow is Incredibly Easy as anyone out driving is giddy with the storm---or crazy.

    Also---fold up your hiking pole(s) and stow them in the pack. Much easier to get into and out of cars. Plus, often pickup trucks will want you to throw your pack in the back so make sure you have your wallet/money/credit cards with you in case they drive off.

    Alone or Not? Well, here it where it gets fun. Many times I hitched with a woman (thru Virginia/NC/TN---Shenandoahs, etc) and it's much easier generally speaking. Or not, all depending on the scrunched up faces behind the wheels and whether it's possible these barking lizards have a heart, etc etc. In other words, you'll get mighty frustrated at times. How many cars going by does it take before you lose your faith in humanity? A hundred? A thousand? How many does it take to get your humanity restored? Just one.

    And don't forget the gun play. The 2 guns I had pulled on me were only to show they meant business and expected no foolishness. The first guy was friendly enough and I got in. The other group of three were waving a pistol and it was nearly dusk and I waved them off and got spooked so I told them like a goofy motard that I was actually supposed to be going the OPPOSITE WAY and was standing on the wrong side of the road. They thought I was nuts and took off. Moral: Know when to bail. I slept in the treeline by the road and tried again in the morning.

    On my last backpacking trip (March 2013) I was connecting trails on a long roadwalk and wasn't even hitching when a guy stopped and offered me a ride and heck yes I took it. Sometimes the pavement smiles. Sometimes not. One time a woman passed by and pulled over up ahead. I walked by and she gave me $5 and said "bless you". But she didn't give me a ride.

  4. #4
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    If your hiking with a gal (gal and guy hiking together), it is best for the guy to be out of site until the last minute . Your chances are better, but the driver still might take off as soon as he see the 2nd person. It must be something about the guys' months of beard growth that makes it tougher. Maybe not so much along certain trail friendly areas, but that is a hitchhiking trick I see all too often.

  5. #5
    Registered User jdc5294's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbwood5 View Post
    If your hiking with a gal (gal and guy hiking together), it is best for the guy to be out of site until the last minute . Your chances are better, but the driver still might take off as soon as he see the 2nd person. It must be something about the guys' months of beard growth that makes it tougher. Maybe not so much along certain trail friendly areas, but that is a hitchhiking trick I see all too often.
    Ooooh, that's low. Maybe it's just because I'm a hiker but I'd view a couple who pulled that in a less favorable light then a couple who stood out there together.
    There's no reward at the end for the most miserable thru-hiker.
    After gear you can do a thru for $2,000.
    No training is a substitute for just going and hiking the AT. You'll get in shape.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdc5294 View Post
    Ooooh, that's low. Maybe it's just because I'm a hiker but I'd view a couple who pulled that in a less favorable light then a couple who stood out there together.
    i'm with ya. i bet i've hitched more than anyone on here and never would have hid while a gal hitched. i never had problems gettin' a ride

  7. #7
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    My rules for hitching into town from the trail:

    1. Don't leave the immediate vicinity of the trailhead and if possible hitch right where the trail meets the road.

    2. Make sure that a car has room to pull over and get back on the road without the chance of getting in a wreck if they decide to pick you up.

    3. Take off my hat and sunglasses if I'm wearing either so they can see my face.

    4. Wave at cars that don't appear to be stopping. I don't mean I jump up and down and wave my arms and act like an idiot - just a friendly wave. More than once a car that was not going to stop, stopped.

  8. #8
    Registered User jdc5294's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    My rules for hitching into town from the trail:

    1. Don't leave the immediate vicinity of the trailhead and if possible hitch right where the trail meets the road.

    2. Make sure that a car has room to pull over and get back on the road without the chance of getting in a wreck if they decide to pick you up.

    3. Take off my hat and sunglasses if I'm wearing either so they can see my face.

    4. Wave at cars that don't appear to be stopping. I don't mean I jump up and down and wave my arms and act like an idiot - just a friendly wave. More than once a car that was not going to stop, stopped.
    I disagree with #1 if it violates the Location rule, if you need to move to get to a better place then by all means do it even if it's a half mile down the road. But to all the rest, yes definitely.
    There's no reward at the end for the most miserable thru-hiker.
    After gear you can do a thru for $2,000.
    No training is a substitute for just going and hiking the AT. You'll get in shape.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbwood5 View Post
    If your hiking with a gal (gal and guy hiking together), it is best for the guy to be out of site until the last minute . Your chances are better, but the driver still might take off as soon as he see the 2nd person. It must be something about the guys' months of beard growth that makes it tougher. Maybe not so much along certain trail friendly areas, but that is a hitchhiking trick I see all too often.
    Quote Originally Posted by jdc5294 View Post
    Ooooh, that's low. Maybe it's just because I'm a hiker but I'd view a couple who pulled that in a less favorable light then a couple who stood out there together.
    jbwood5 probably says it in jest as it's not a technique I would ever use. You can't go sneaking up or surprising the rolling couch potatoes---they are a very fickle bunch with blowfish heads and pin eyes. It's best to stay put as a couple on the road and get an honest ride.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    ...3. Take off my hat and sunglasses ...
    All good advice. My only addition to expand on this one: if you're wearing a bandana on your head or forehead, lose it.

  11. #11
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    It's okay to disagree but that's how I do it.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    My rules for hitching into town from the trail:

    1. Don't leave the immediate vicinity of the trailhead and if possible hitch right where the trail meets the road.

    2. Make sure that a car has room to pull over and get back on the road without the chance of getting in a wreck if they decide to pick you up.

    3. Take off my hat and sunglasses if I'm wearing either so they can see my face.

    4. Wave at cars that don't appear to be stopping. I don't mean I jump up and down and wave my arms and act like an idiot - just a friendly wave. More than once a car that was not going to stop, stopped.
    #1 sounds good until after about 2 hours and you'll start walking. It all depends on how bad you gotta be at your destination. If it's critical then you'll walk the whole way if need be. Screw the cars. Especially if none of them stop. One time I had to hitch Route 209 in NC to get to Hot Springs and the AT on a 35 mile stretch of road. I never did get a ride and ended up walking most of the 35 miles---there was very little traffic---and I camped off the side of the road on farm land. Gotta keep moving, folks.

    #3 sounds good too until you stand bare headed without shades for 500 cars and then you just say fug it and put them back on and immediately get a ride. As noted, fickle bunch. There's no rhyme or reason. Which is why an early morning start is important.

  13. #13

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    And then there's the DEAD ZONE, or the Doldrums, whereby you are standing on an Interstate trying to get to the trail but no one will stop. This happened once on I-40 where a friend and I spent 2 full days hitching one section of the Interstate and never did get a ride. We figured around 40,000 cars went by. It gave me the opportunity to re-read the Bhagavad-Gita on the pavement and later set up camp in a tree line off the road. If we waved at all the cars that did not stop, as per 10-K's example, well, we would've looked like 2 bonobo monkeys after a texas pete enema.

  14. #14
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    Make a sign out of Tyveck "Hiker to town/trail" Maybe AT logo on it. It can be your groundcloth or a sit pad while hiking.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    As noted, fickle bunch.
    This is my take, i've been picked up by people I would not have expected ie, and entire family, kids and all...And people I had picked for a potential ride ie, old farmer in a pick em up truck...cruised on by.

  16. #16
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    Of course there are exceptions to everything....

    Obviously you can't just stand where the trail meets the road 100% of the time. My point was that as long as you're standing near the trail you look like a hiker to a local. If you're just in some random spot on the highway you could be a vagrant.

    And there'll be times when you're going to need to start walking because the odds of getting a ride are less than the odds of reaching your destination by foot.

    Hitchhiking is 50% luck at least. A bad hitchhiker can get a ride if the right car comes along a lot quicker than a good hitchhiker can get a ride if they don't.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    And then there's the DEAD ZONE, or the Doldrums, whereby you are standing on an Interstate trying to get to the trail but no one will stop. This happened once on I-40 where a friend and I spent 2 full days hitching one section of the Interstate and never did get a ride. We figured around 40,000 cars went by. It gave me the opportunity to re-read the Bhagavad-Gita on the pavement and later set up camp in a tree line off the road. If we waved at all the cars that did not stop, as per 10-K's example, well, we would've looked like 2 bonobo monkeys after a texas pete enema.
    I had to look it up....
    Last edited by rocketsocks; 03-27-2013 at 18:11.

  18. #18
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    And then there's the DEAD ZONE, or the Doldrums, whereby you are standing on an Interstate trying to get to the trail but no one will stop. This happened once on I-40 where a friend and I spent 2 full days hitching one section of the Interstate and never did get a ride. We figured around 40,000 cars went by. It gave me the opportunity to re-read the Bhagavad-Gita on the pavement and later set up camp in a tree line off the road. If we waved at all the cars that did not stop, as per 10-K's example, well, we would've looked like 2 bonobo monkeys after a texas pete enema.
    They probably took one look at that big ol pack of your and said ***...

  19. #19
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    Shaving once in awhile can increase your odds.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Donde View Post
    Shaving once in awhile can increase your odds.
    You're right, the woman I was with did not shave her legs.

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