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Hitchhikers Stories


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(introduction)

(Jon Derricott)

(Angela Parton)

(John Brooks)


HITCHHIKING (hitch·hike: To travel by soliciting free rides along a road. v.tr. To solicit or get (a free ride) along a road. hitch′hike′ n. hitch′hik′er n.)

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Hitchhiking is one of the cheapest ways of traveling. By tradition, hitchhiking is defined as soliciting a ride by standing at the edge of a road, facing traffic, with one's thumb extended/upwards. You can meet a lot of people and make lots of friends. You can also become very frustrated, or encounter danger on the way. Today's drivers are more fearful of picking up hitchhikers than in the past. But it's also a great feeling to get a ride after you've been waiting for a long time. People who do pick up hitchhikers tend to be very friendly. However, hitchhikers also risk being picked up by someone who is an unsafe driver or even personally dangerous.

The following two interviews are part of an interview conducted with my parents, Jon & Angela at their home in Shropshire

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JON DERRICOTT What period in time were you hitching? The 1970s to the 1980’s

what made you start hitching? Where I grew up was 7 miles from the nearest town & buses were expensive (to me anyway) and infrequent. I went to 2ndary school in town, so if I wanted to see my friends outside school, hitching was the only sensible thing to do. Once I’d started doing it from necessity, I realised that there were huge possibilities to get further afield & the randomness of the lifts and the encounters with people were usually enjoyable .

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Have you had any negative experiences hitching? Loads! ranging from the cars that pulled up 50 yards past you and then roared off when you were running to them, to unwanted sexual advances, with long waits in the cold or rain in between. None of these were the norm though.

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How do you think hitchhiking has changed from then to now?

What is your most interesting/enjoyable hitching experience?

Do you have advice for people wanting to hitchhike?

Lot’s of changes, it’s a good question. Society has changed vastly in that time. Cheap forms of mass transport are more available and accounting for inflation, cheaper than they were then, giving less of the usual primary reason to hitch than there used to be. Less people hitch now, so seeing a hitcher is more unusual meaning perhaps that less people are likely to stop. That is also allied to the fact that several generations have now grown up without hitching being an accepted part of the culture, meaning that they are probably less likely to do it themselves and in turn less likely to pick people up when they become drivers. But there are still enough people willing to pick up hitchers to make it viable.

Hitching from Bradford to Frankfurt in the 80’s and getting stuck at the French/German border in the pissing rain at about 11pm. I was preparing for a long and unpleasant night, when a car stopped and picked me up. He was going to Cologne and on the way there offered to put me up for the night. I slept in a very comfortable bed, had a shower in the morning and he gave me a lift back to the motorway. I was in Frankfurt by lunchtime. I was going to Frankfurt to take part in a European Juggling Convention & had told my generous host about it, including the fact that there was a public show to close the event. I can’t remember how we communicated in the world before mobile phones, but he came down to Frankfurt for the public show with his son & bought a great meal & drinks afterwards. A nice example of how generous people can be. I’ve also been given a lift by the police in Belgium (a lift, to where I wanted to go, not ‘picked up by the police’). I was hitching from Amsterdam and had a generous amount of ‘00’ in my bag!

The Nike thing, just do it. Mostly people are fantastic, have your radar on for the oddballs but don’t let the few of them that there are put you off.

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These are some photos taken by Jon on his hitchhike to a juggling convention in Frankfurt.

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ANGELA PARTON What period in time were you hitching? 1970 to 1984

How do you think hitchhiking has changed from then to now? More people have cars so less people hitch now. general anxiety about being picked up by strangers makes hitching less likely now.

what made you start hitching? Lack of money for public transport and wanting an adventure. It seemed an easy way to get from a to b.

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Have you had any negative experiences hitching? Yes - waiting long times in the wet and cold but more specifically I was once dropped off by a lorry on the hard shoulder of the motorway and my friend and I who we're hitching didn't quite know what to do and then the police turned up and after questioning us took us to the nearest services which was pretty good of them (I was sixteen at the time). Also 2 bad experiences hitching in Europe when I was 19. the first was arriving at the Greek Turkish border in 1974 and having to turn back because it was closed (Turkey had invaded Cyprus, which was Greek, and they were at war) spent quite a long time in Thessaloniki with air raid warnings going off. we had set out to hitch to India on the hippy trail but our plans we're scuppered so spent the summer in Greece instead. After we had been in Greece for a while which was great with lots of friendly people we had a lift in the back of a farm trailer and there were a number of other people in there with us? when we got dropped off a man jumped out at the same place. After our lift had gone out of sight the man attacked us with a knife. we managed to fight home off and he ran away that was quite scary.

What is your most interesting/enjoyable hitching experience? Lots of good times and probably more that I can’t remember - being fed and given places to stay. I think the best one if I have to choose just one is a lorry from just outside Leon in France who took us all the way to Nice, fed us on the way and even took a detour to drop us off on the promenade. I remember seeing blue sea for the first time. Coming from Blackpool I thought all sea was brown! Duh

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Do you have advice for people wanting to hitchhike? take a risk, be prepared to wait a long time and to change your plans to go with the flow.

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On 1 April 2014 11:35, jack parton <jackparton@ hotmail.co.uk> wrote: Hello, im Annies friend Jack, I think she spoke to you before about me asking you some questions on hitchhiking. I would be really grateful if you could answer them below, they are going to be used for a book about hitchhiking! also if you had any photos of when you were hitching or just from around that time then again i would be really grateful! if you dont feel like answering any of the questions then no worries! thank you, jack.

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On 1 April 2014 11:35: wrote: John Brooks (john.quiddlespendeen@gmail.com) wrote: Hello Jack, Here are some random bits I thought might be interesting.

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My 1st hitch was from Falmouth to St Ives circa 1962 - the lift was with a crowd of Beatniks (pre Hippy), from London in a very old car (running boards + canvas roof -1930â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s - a mass of adults children and dogs).

We hitched mainly because we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have much money. Sometimes it was quicker than public transport especially on short trips. Once we took 18 hours to get to London from Cornwall, other times we got lifts in Broccoli lorries to Covent Garden. Lorry drivers were good for lifts, on a few occasions they stopped without being thumbed, one time I helped unload steel girders which was an effort, but he did a diversion to my home. Mostly they liked a bit of company as radios were hopeless and no other electronic media existed. The best memory is sitting on the back of a tar lorry on a sunny day going through the beautiful Slad valley towards Stroud ( late for art school).

The worst was being picked up and sitting in the open back of a lorry from Bodmin to Bristol. It started OK but i got colder and colder and prayed that the 2 other hikers in the cab were getting off soon. They did eventually but I was unwell for a few days.

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Had a strange attempt to get to Morocco. After taking ages to get to Paris and camping in the Bois de Boulogne we got stranded in a bleak bit of France in endless rain. Huddled under a big trailer. Opposite was a bar. We discovered that there was a lunatic asylum nearby and people were wary of giving lifts. We got very drunk on Pernod, made friends with an Algerian with a bullet hole in his head ( Franco Algerian war) got on a train and went home. I gave up hitching when I got a motorbike and sidecar, but I gave a lot of people lifts in that. Some liked it but some were terrified.

Traffic was much less and slower so people could pull in easily, also it was more accepted as less people could afford their own transport, so there was a sympathy factor. As wealth increased generosity seemed to decrease. There is also the fear factor which got worse. Being a couple increased chances of a lift . Sometimes if there were 2 males one would keep out of sight until a car stopped, but that was not always appreciated!

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There was a sad perverted farmer who gave my mate and me a lift in the middle of the night. He started to talk about when he was in the Army and about beatings etc. ....He offered to take us where we were hoping to go if we let him spank our bottoms. We made him let us get out and spent an icy night in a bus shelter. I have hitched a fair bit in this country and also in France, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Greece. We didn't always hitch, if the weather was bad we would do a bit on a bus or train if we had the money then hitch

Hitching Now: Face the traffic, hold your arm out with thumb up so you can be seen easily, a card with destination is a good idea, take your girlfriend with you or, if a girl, ask if they mind you phoning a friend telling the registration no. and where you are going, or just text so you can tell a dodgy driver what you have done if needs be (these hints were told me by a girl) , find a bit of road after a roundabout or junction and where a car can safely pull in, look tidy and smile!

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