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Pete's Postcards
Pete Koltnow writing home
Pete Koltnow writing home

My 1950 trip from New York to Yuma wasn’t my first long-distance hitchhiking experience, but it was just about my last. Hitching was a common way to travel without money, and in spite of warnings about the hazards of that kind of travel, one could see hitchhikers everywhere—people out of work, soldiers and sailors, and lots of college boys, which is what I was just then.

My first long hitch was in 1948, when I hitched from my college in southern Ohio to Los Angeles for a month’s cheap vacation, and then back again to Connecticut for a college-related job. All in all, that year I hitched 10,000 miles. Sometimes the going was easy; I made the trip by thumb from New York to the Chicago area in the same time as a good passenger train. It was on a showery spring day and the rain would quit just often enough and long enough for me to snag my next ride without getting wet.

Hitching across country was a sort of cheap-thrills adventure in those days, when travel from coast to coast wasn’t as common as it is today. In addition to the changing landscape, there was a kick in getting to know people—whole classes of people—who one would otherwise never know. Occasionally the unfamiliar driver posed a threat, although never a deliberate one in my experience. But some drivers were better—or worse—than others. Drunks, exhausted and sleep-deprived motorists, monologuists, and religious fanatics who cared more for my soul than my life—and occasionally just plain poor drivers—all made for a few exciting moments on long stretches of dull highway.

Cadillac “bus,” south Missouri
Cadillac “bus,” south Missouri
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