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Hitchhiking was a competitive sport; it paid to dress right, wait in high-visibility locations, carry just the right amount of luggage—and smile the right smile. Some days I had it, and once in a weary while many hot and dusty hours would drag by without a ride. I think my worst day—or rather night—was in the Texas Panhandle, when an entire night went before someone took pity on me. I swore then that someday, when I had a car of my own, I would be kind to the hard-luck hitchhiker—but it didn’t happen that way. I was just as wary of picking up strangers as everyone else.

On the other hand, many drivers were exceptionally kind, occasionally going out of their way to help me in my journeys. Even the police were more of a help than a hindrance. One of the advantages of dressing right was that police officers figured that college boys were harmless. From time to time they would provide the hospitality of an unlocked jail cell for a few hours of shade and rest.
Postcard, Philtower Building
Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona

I can’t remember what I used for maps. By and large, between the Midwest and the West Coast, there weren’t many alternatives. If Los Angeles was one end of a trip, Route 66 could be the only route number one followed, and that was pretty much the case with me. There were really only a couple of feasible detours to avoid exceptionally hot and lonely stretches of Arizona and Nevada desert. And it occurs to me now that you could lose track of anything that wasn’t related to your travels. I never read a newspaper from coast to coast. The Korean War started while I was hitching in 1950, but I didn’t know it. Radios were for music, and many cars weren’t equipped with them anyway. And auto air conditioning was unknown then. A desert water bag that kept water cool by evaporation was one of the few concessions to creature comforts.

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