Sweet Hitchhiker

Something Jacquandor cited reminded me of this: my primary form of transportation during my college days in New Paltz in the Mid-Hudson Valley of NYS was hitchhiking. I lived in Binghamton in the Southern Tier of NYS my first year in college, 150 miles and at least three highways away (Route 17, and then there were options). Even when I moved to New Paltz, there were friends to visit back in my hometown.

The easiest hitch I ever had involved me trying to get from New Paltz to Binghamton. Somehow, I found a large metal orange and white sign, perhaps cast off from a gas station. It said 17. I put it out on the outskirts of town and got picked up by a guy from the CIA who dropped me off at the Binghamton exit maybe a half mile from my grandmother’s house. Oh, the CIA is the Culinary Institute of America.

I lived briefly in Kingston, maybe a dozen miles away from New Paltz, and hitched back and forth on Route 32 as well.

But my regular hitch in my freshman year was with my buddy Jay Rose. It was exceedingly easy to thumb a ride to New York City; just stand at the Thruway entrance. What was more difficult was hitching back to New Paltz. I discovered that the best way was to take the subway #4 line as far north as possible, take a commuter bus as far north as it would go on 90 cents, and THEN start seeking rides.

For four months in 1977, I lived in Charlotte, NC, a place that I did not much enjoy. It had lousy mass transit and I was broke. Ultimately, I hitched out of Charlotte to Binghamton; it took about 24 hours. Hitching in the South in 1977 might not have been the wisest move, but it was an incident-free trip, though I was stuck outside of Harrisburg, PA seemingly forever.

I stopped hitching in 1979, not out of any sense of real danger, but because it just took too long. A 150-mile trip from Binghamton to Schenectady took over six hours on old Route 7, pre I-88.

The trip I remember best I did with my friend Alice. Friends of ours were in a terrible car accident; a couple died and the rest were in a hospital in Hornell, NY, pretty much in the middle of the state. We got through Binghamton OK, but had slow going past there. Then one guy finally picked us up. He wanted to save our souls, and surely our souls needed saving, for we appeared to be a mixed race couple, and miscegenation was a sin according to his interpretation of the Word. (His basis for this theory was the OT prohibition against Jews intermarrying, I’m guessing.) However, he was otherwise harmless and let us out when he got to where he was going.

Alice and I never did get to Hornell, since this involved traveling on a rural road, Route 34, and we may not have met the appropriate demographic profile to get picked up. Instead, we went back to New Paltz, in record time, considering it was the middle of the night by then.

We always wondered what that guy would have said if he had found out that Alice was a lesbian.
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In honor of John Fogerty’s birthday late last month, Sweet Hitchhiker – Creedence Clearwater Revival

ROG

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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