Aaron is walking around America. This blog exists to help him connect with people while he is away and for anyone who is interested in following him on the path. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Pete: Ain't nobody gonna pick up three filthy, unshaved hitch-hikers, one of them a loudmouth, know-it-all that can't keep his trap shut.

Ulysses Everett McGill: Pete, the personal rancor reflected in that remark I don't intend to dignify with comment. But I would like to address your general attitude of hopeless negativism. Consider the lilies of the damn field or... hell! Take at look at Delmar here as your paradigm of hope.

Delmar O'Donnell: Yeah, look at me.


I have picked up hitchhikers before. An accurate estimate would probably come to about ten times my whole life. And always out the Key Peninsula where I grew up. Hitchhiking is illegal in Washington but out in Longbranch and Lakebay and Home the rules have never really applied. I have, in the past, been scolded for this somewhat dubious practice. In my typically defiant ways I would blow these safety concerns away like a child playing parachutes off of a cliff with a dandelion.

Now, having experienced the other half of the equation. I do not think I will be inclined to pass by a hitchhiker on the side of the road ever again.

Not that I had a bad experience during my hitchhiking adventure. My mission was to get from St. Helens to Portland by 6:15 in the P.M. I started after I checked out from the hotel at 11. After walking the rest of the way through St. Helens when the sidewalk was about to end, I stepped of the curb and like polar bear diving on New Years day I just did it. I took the plunge. I thrust my left arm straight out, thumb skyward and began to count the cars pass me by as I trolled for a ride.

After about five minutes and 39 cars later, car number 40, a bright new candy red Pontiac Solstice two-seater convertible, being driven by a 60 year old woman, with long grey and black hair, part hippie, part Native American, part Hells Angel, Janet was her name, swooped onto the shoulder and gave me a lift. It was a peaceful, quiet ride. In Cannery Row, one of my favorite books, Steinbeck when talking about hitchhiking, explains that many people who are given a lift feel like they have to pay for it in conversation. He says that a good hitchhiker is one who knows how to enjoy the ride. It was an easy ride to enjoy. The sun was shinning. The wind was blowing in my face and through my hair with the top down in the convertible. It was too bad that she was only going to the next town over, Scappoose. And before I knew it I was back out on the side of the road again. I thanked Janet, my very first hitchhiker-picker-upper lady and decided that since the first experience was relatively easy and painless I would take a stroll through town before resuming the mission.

I just passed through but I found two cool little shops on the edge of town:

The Bread Place is basically a bread bank. The ladies there were so sweet and kind, even if they had an aversion to dust. I took a loaf of bread, left a donation, dropped off a few adventure cards and left feeling better about Scapoose. The Love Potion Shack looked like fun. Unfortunately they were closed for moving over the next couple weeks. Major bummer.

Outside of Scapoose I walked for a couple miles before sticking my arm out again. I checked the clock and it was 1:07 when I began my second attempt. I started counting cars again as before thinking that it would be as quick as the first time.

When I got to 160 I decided to stop counting.

When I had walked for about two miles with my arm out next to me, without even a sniff of a ride, I decided to stop walking.

I turned and dropped anchor at the top of a hill. With my supplies heaped at my feet it took over forty minutes for someone to stop for me. It was not a hot day, but after walking for a couple of miles, with clothes sweat-wet from the march, it can be frustrating.

The second man who stopped for me was a kind old feller named Zane. He drove and old rusty ford truck, wore a cowboy hat and jeans that were filthy as my old woodcutting pants. He is a Gideon. One of those guys whose specialty is traveling around to the hotels and handing out bibles. He was returning from making a run to the Bread Place and he had past me by going the opposite direction on the way there and decided to give me a lift on the way home. He was a little embarrassed for not having a Bible on his person so we went back to his house where he found a pocket sized copy of the New Testament. He handed it over to me saying that these little bibles are like love letters from God. I couldn't think of a more perfect a thing to say when handing out a tiny bible.

He drove me to a stoplight about a half mile down the highway where he thought I would have better luck finding a ride. We shook hands and parted ways. I took up a position on the other side of a bridge and continued on my quest.

The third ride I got was the charm. I was about thirteen miles away from Portland and after about another half hour, a man in a small blue nameless Toyota Four Door pulled over and gave me a lift. He said he was only heading into downtown Portland which was perfect. Big Jim was his name and he was a talker. He liked Boxing/Sparring at the gym, he liked sandwiches from the 7-Eleven, he had lots of opinions on places all over the country that I should visit. Big Bend in Texas. Montana. Maine and Vermont in the summertime were some of his suggestions. He talked about his criteria for picking up hitchhikers and said that I was putting out a good vibe. Good energy. I liked hearing that for sure.

He stopped at a smoke shop about ten blocks away from the train station. Pointed me in the right direction and sent me on my way. I am so grateful for all of the good souls in the world. I have not traveled very far but so far I have found that this is an amazing country we live in. I can not wait to see more of it and to continue to soak up all of the unknown and miraculous things still out there for me to see and do.

God Bless America!


  1. Thanks Aaron. This brought back good memories of my hitchhiking days...

  2. There are a lot of good souls in this world. You found a few of them. Hitchhiking has never been my forte but I did hitchhike once at Mt. Rainier when our car broke down. The family of six gave me and dad a ride to phone grandpa. They were nice.

  3. Thanks guys. These kinds of experiences are things that we remember all our lives. Glad I was able to help bring some color back to those faded memories. :)

  4. Larger city hostels usually don't have curfews.

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