You’ve seen them. The guys and gals sporting a perfect hitchhiker’s thumb signaling that they’re in need of a lift. These beings sport a variety of reasons for choosing to ride with an empathetic stranger. Some lack a car, others a license, and some are concerned citizens of the world (a.k.a they’d like to save some gas $$). Either way, they’ve embraced an iconic side of bum culture and if you’d like to join, here are a few pointers to get you started:
1. Location, Location, Location!
Your point of origin affects the confidence level of the driver, who only has a matter of seconds to decide whether to pull over. Thoughts like, “Will they completely screw up my plans?” “Do I really have “room”?” “Does my car smell like weed and will he/she bust me for it?” If you position yourself at an easy pickup point, where your only destination option is up, then they can be fairly certain that it’s the easiest good deed they’ll do all day. Start hitching from downtown and you might as well make yourself a cardboard sign that says “out of work Ninja – need money – god bless”.
The female is an elusive creature in a ski town. Men sense their presence and swarm. Lady hitchhikers, this is good news for you. Let your hair blow in the wind and flash that smile, you’ll have a ride in no time. As for the men, well, you’re staking it on the “bro code”. You’ll most likely find a ride with a local or former bum who will recount his days of hitchhiking and living the dirtbag life. Ladies, you will find these characters, along with the guys in their rental cars on a bro-cation. These guys will ask you where all the ladies hang out, and you will respond with “the locals are still trying to figure that out.”`
**Ladies (and Gents), go with your gut. If the person offering a ride gives you the creeps, feel free to pass on a lift. “I was just practicing my hitchhiker thumb”, “I’m walking uphill for exercise”, and “Oops, I’m in the wrong canyon” are all valid excuses.
3. Single Anyone?
Hitching in numbers is a dangerous game. No one wants to be the dick who only picks up one or two from a group, they also don’t want to be the one to reorganize their life to squeeze you all in. If you’re going to hitch in a group, you’ll have better luck as a group of women (see #2 Female Effect). Also, be realistic, the people willing to pick you up will most likely not be the ones driving the shiny 8-person Cadillacs and SUVs. Instead, they’ll be in a Subaru, Jeep, or two-seater pickup that’s seen better days. If you happen to have a co-ed group, back up boys and let the lady lead.
3. Time of Day
This is elementary math but I’ll lay it out for you. People go up in the mornings and down in the evenings—simple as that. So, plan accordingly. Take into account the weather and the time of the season. One-track-mind powder hounds see you as one more person with the potential to snake their line, so don’t count on them for a lift. Alas, as soon as it gets dark it’s game over. Really, who wants to pick up the next Ted Bundy?
4. Surprise Benefits
Don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with the people you meet. Sometimes that’s the best part. Find out where they’re from, what they do, what they’re interested in–be interested! Trust me, you might even find a connection you need, like housing or a job. I found my summer job from a couple of guys willing to pick up a hitchhiker— talk about fate.
Editor’s note: I have found roommates, cheap furniture and even a job at Backcountry.com from the people I have hitched with. Listen to Hannah on this one. Ask questions and be listen to what people have to say. Odds are good things will happen.
5. To Converse or Not?
Sometimes your only option is to hitch and sometimes drivers reluctantly oblige. If your driver seems peeved, or is of the silent type, let them be. It’s a blessing in disguise. If anything you pretty much just scored a chauffeured ride up the canyon. In one episode of hitchhiking, a driver opened with, “I’m happy to give you a ride, but I’m not in the talking mood today, is that ok?” It was fine by me. If anything it always beats the bus.
6. Keep your Shit Together
If you look like a walking shitshow, you’ve severely narrowed down your chances of catching a ride. No one wants to pick up the guy with two pairs of skis, boots, and a couple of backpacks. You might as well be hitching with ten of your closest friends. So only bring the basics. Remember, your driver’s gear takes precedent over yours.
7. Pay it Forward
What goes around comes around. If you rely on the kindness of strangers for transportation, or for anything for that matter, do them a solid and pick them up. Don’t slink down in your seat, throw on your shades, and turn up the music while pretending not to notice the poor soul on the side of the road sticking their thumb out. Let this be a rule. Don’t be a suck, no one likes a mooch. Karma is a lively bitch, so be kind to your fellow bums and help a brother (if you’re lucky enough, a sister) out.
There you have it, a few tidbits to get you started. As always, practice and experience will increase your hitchhiking savvy. Courtesy and common sense are your best friends on this one, so please, if you lack either one you should probably just take the bus.