Hitchhiking has been maligned as dangerous. Maybe it can be, but none of the people I’ve picked up have murdered me, and all of them have been cool to boot. The point: we can live our lives in fear, or take a chance and connect with someone new.

• I was driving between a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border and a vast wilderness area near Four Corners for a reporting trip when I saw a young man, walking up a hill near Lake Powell with his thumb out. He was a couple miles outside of town already, carrying a big bag.

• As I pulled over, he he asked if I was going to a town with a name I didn’t recognize. “I’m going to Bluff,” I told him. His face was blank, as if he didn’t recognize the name, so I told him it was two hours away. “I’m only going 30 miles,” he replied.

• The hitchhiker’s name was Marcus. He was Navajo and lived in a small community in northern Arizona. He worked in a restaurant catering to vacationers at Lake Powell and was returning home after his shift. Something about his ride home hadn’t panned out.

• Marcus’ mother was an activist. He told me that she was part of the occupation of Alcatraz that began in 1969. She later went on to work with the U.N., Marcus said. I wondered if I could have met her while covering an indigenous peoples’ event in Paris.

• “See that rock over there,” Marcus said, pointing into the desert, “it looks like a lion.”

• When I passed a truck — which meant veering out into oncoming traffic — we both got quiet and tense.

• We discussed Leonard Peltier.

• After 30 or 40 minutes, Marcus pointed to a dirt road that curved away from the highway. Another young man was working in the road. Marcus jumped out, and his friend waved as I pulled away.

Related reading: 

How to meet people while traveling: Hitchhike, or pick up someone who needs a ride

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.


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