Hitchin’ A Ride by
(303 Stories)

Prompted By Dangerous Deeds

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This story was first published on March 9, 2016 on the prompt Hitchhiking. I am sharing it now because hitchhiking is probably the most dangerous thing I have ever done. I hitchhiked often during college, as I mention in the second paragraph of the story, but almost never alone — although I did short trips between my Radcliffe dorm and Harvard Square by myself without any second thoughts. It was only later that we started hearing stories about young women who were raped or killed while hitchhiking, including a teenage girl named Mary Vincent who in 1978 had her arms hacked off but survived. (See https://allthatsinteresting.com/mary-vincent for her story.) In the 1968-72 period when I was in college, I was blissfully unaware of threat.

Two college girls on a somewhat risky summer adventure.

The summer after my sophomore year of college, I was working in Boston, and my best friend and soon-to-be roommate Barbara was studying in Tokyo. We decided to meet at the end of the summer in Berkeley, which was kind of halfway in between. We had some college friends who were there for the summer, in a big old house on Parker Street. So I flew west, and she flew east, and we met at the Parker St house, where we thought we would stay for a week or two. However, it turned out to be a major crash pad, with lots of people coming and going all the time, and barely enough room on the floor for everyone to sleep. This wasn’t what we had expected, so we decided to move on. But where to go?

Another college friend of ours, Debbie, lived in Seattle, and said we were welcome to come and stay with her and her family. So how to get there? We hitchhiked, of course! Barbara and I had done quite a bit of hitchhiking around Cambridge, and once from Cambridge to New Haven for a demonstration in support of Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers. We had even hitchhiked to Washington, DC for another demonstration, but we didn’t realize how much bigger this undertaking was, and that it would take us four days to get there.

Two Young Tourist Girl Hitchhiking On The Road

(This isn’t actually a picture of Barbara and me, but it looks a lot like us.)

It wasn’t hard to get drivers to stop for two reasonably attractive young girls, but we were picky about what rides we accepted, and looked over the car’s occupants carefully before we got in. One driver said to us “Do you believe in free love?” Barbara and I exchanged glances, puzzled about what to say. Yes we did, but not with that guy. We didn’t want to lie, but we also weren’t going to take the ride. So I said “Yes we do . . . but we’re busy right now.” And we walked away from the car. We got a good laugh about that, since we obviously weren’t busy with anything except waiting for another ride.

One of our rides the first day was with two guys we called Spin and Marty because they reminded us of the characters in The Adventures of Spin and Marty on the Mickey Mouse Club. They were smoking a lot of dope, and the road was very twisty and mountainous. Barbara and I were sure that the car was going to go off a cliff on one of the hairpin turns. The only way to deal with the terror was to get really stoned with them, so we did. (For medicinal purposes, of course.) I have driven that road in recent years, and I am amazed we survived.

For both of us, it was our first time in California, which we knew about mainly from songs. When we saw a sign for Mendocino, we asked the driver to stop and let us out. We wanted to experience the place “where life’s such a groove you’ll blow your mind in a moment,” as it said in the Sir Douglas Quintet song. The car drove away and we walked around, but it was pretty disappointing. A nice enough little town, but it didn’t blow our minds.

I don’t remember where we slept the first night (I should ask Barbara if she does). The second night we stayed in a cabin at Crater Lake, Oregon, that the people we were riding with had rented. It was cold, and there was already some snow on the ground, so we were grateful to be in a cabin, even sleeping on the floor. The third night we stayed with some college students in Portland, which was great. We were tempted to stay on in Portland, but also eager to get to Seattle, so we hit the road again. In the afternoon of the fourth day we arrived in Seattle and Debbie picked us up and took us back to her parents’ house.

After a couple of days in Seattle, Barbara somehow heard from her parents (I have no idea how they got in touch with her) that her mother was having serious health issues, so she flew home. I wasn’t ready for the adventure to end. Debbie and I drove up to Vancouver and did some sightseeing there, and then she put me on the train across Canada. Four days from Vancouver to Montreal. I met some fabulous people on the train, including a couple of American guys who had fled to Canada to avoid the draft, and one guy who looked exactly like Stephen Stills. It was a beautiful ride, especially the early part, going through the Canadian Rockies. The train ticket was such that if you wanted to explore somewhere, you could get off the train one day and get back on at the same station another day at the same time. I thought I was going to do that, but I was having too much fun on the train, so I never did.

When we got to Montreal, we said goodbye to each other and didn’t even swap addresses or telephone numbers. If only we had had the internet, or even cell phones and text messaging, we might have kept in touch, but it was 1970 and all of that was a long way in the future.  I then took another train from Montreal to New York, and a bus from Port Authority to New Jersey. The bus dropped me off a couple of blocks from my house. I walked home and surprised my parents, who had no idea I was coming. And a few days later, I celebrated my 19th birthday.

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Characterizations: been there, funny, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Susan says:

    Wow, Suzy. The summer after my junior year in college, in Boston, I rode the train cross country to my home in Spokane, WA (about 300 miles from Seattle.) I wouldn’t have had the guts to hitchhike! Great story, thanks for sharing.

  2. Constance says:

    Oh wow, thanks for reminding me of Spin and Marty. How did we ever survive those days of just flinging ourselves out into the world and hitchhiking as a valid method of transpo?

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Quite an adventure! You had a lot of strength to be willing to just hit the road as you did, but it sounds like it was all worth it. Spin and Marty really takes me back!

  4. Fabulous adventure, Suzy! How immortal we all felt back in them days. Love the power of your choice regarding free love queries. It seemed that the mythos of hippie sex caused great confusion across America. Didn’t want to lie, but didn’t want the ride. Great! Worldliness, innocence, and guile, all packed into one quick response. Right on!

  5. John Zussman says:

    I’m struck by—and admire—the way you were able to follow your impulses and instincts and take advantage of opportunities as they presented themselves. That was always hard for me, since I’m more of a planner. Could you do that now, I wonder?

  6. Nick Wyman says:

    Wonderful, Suzy! All those memories come flooding back. Hitchhiking. Spin and Marty. Dope. Though from my current father-of-daughters perspective, it seems a bit harrowing.

  7. muzziesgirl says:

    You were an adventurous person! Also, I’m afraid of heights. I’ve learned never to say never but I can’t envision myself doing what you did at 18 nearly 19. Reading this I am reminded of the city life I led but one that was safe and to a great degree sheltered. I didn’t write on the Retrospect Summer of Love prompt because I just couldn’t relate to it. I never did drugs or experienced sex before marriage. I’m happy that you came out of these experiences alive. I cringe to think of either of my granddaughters doing anything like what you describe.

  8. Jim Willis says:

    Great story, Suzy, and it speaks to the freewheeling nature of the 60s and early 70s. And the best part: we survived.

  9. What an adventurous young chick you were Suzy, thanks for taking me along for the ride, and to think you really did end up a California Girl!

  10. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for reposting this Suzy. It reminded me of my own hitchhiking stories, which I almost wrote for this prompt. Like you, I was unscathed, but sometimes am amazed at how it was back then.

  11. Fun to re-read your hitchhiking story Suzy, and ditto what I said in my earlier comment above!

  12. Jim Willis says:

    You’re an adventurer from the earliest years, Suzy, and I’m sure you pushed the boundaries before this derring-do. I loved your line to the guy about being busy whilst on a remote stretch of highway, waiting for Godot. Your time in Berkeley brought back some fun imagery and memories for me. I was there in the spring of ’68. Wondered if our paths crossed unknowingly?

  13. I can’t write about my hitching memories for this prompt because I never perceived any danger at all. But I did have a cab ride once where the guy got into a pretty bad accident that was very apparently his own fault (and I waliked away without paying him a nickel)

    I enjoyed your tale of hitching. If f you had waited just a few months, we might have shared a ride on the road! From January through April 1971, I was hitch-hiking up and down the West Coast (LA to Seattle, back down, and back up to Seattle, down to Portland and then I flew back to the Midwest.)
    I can relate to some of the rides you got. I still have a wish to try the Transcanada train!

    People are always saying it’s dangerous to pick up hitch-hikers–which I still do from time to time. But I agree with you, 95% of the risk is taken by the person being picked up, not by the driver. I’m glad you have these great memories.

  14. Dave Ventre says:

    I was always too paranoid to hitch rides, except one time in the White Mountains where we came off the trail early due to an injury and had to hitch back to where our car was. Hard for me to imagine young women with that sort of self-confidence!

    But a guy I went to grad school with had a really crazy hitch-hiking tale….

    He and his brother hitched a ride one night in upstate New York. The car had two guys in the front seat; they sat in the back. As they drove, the front passenger reached into a longish duffel bag from the floor at his feet and began pulling things from it. It soon became clear that the guy was assembling a shotgun.

    Not a word was said, and when they reached their designated dropoff point, they just got out, and the car drove off. They never learned the backstory behind their encounter.

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