and David Smith (2001) 'The Neglected Art of Hitch-
hiking: Risk, Trust and Sustainability'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 6, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/6/3/chesters.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 15/12/2000 Accepted: 14/9/2001 Published: 30/11/01
2Hitch-hiking does not, however, feature much in the literature of American migration in the 1920s and 1930s. Urry (2000), commenting on the 'freedom of the road' associated with the car, notes that in the US 'even the dispossessed of the Great Depression travelled by car'. The dispossessed Joad family in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath leave Oklahoma for California in a 1925 Dodge pickup (Jasper, 2000, p. 91). Travellers without cars or the means or inclination to buy rail tickets were much more likely to ride on goods trains than to hitch-hike See the bibliography at <http://www.snowcrest.net/bndlstif/books.html>.
3In fact there are two mentions of the practice in On the Road, both dated to 1949. In El Paso the narrator Sal Paradise and his companions contact the travel bureau in the hope of finding someone willing to contribute to their petrol costs: 'The travel bureau is where you go for share-the-gas rides, legal in the West. Shifty characters wait with battered suitcases' (Kerouac, 1991, pp. 162-3). In Denver 'there was a tremendous offer to drive a '47 Cadillac limousine to Chicago', the owner having decided to complete the journey from Mexico by train. Sal presents identification papers to 'the travel bureau man' that convince him that the car will be safe in his hands. The intending passengers are 'two Irish boys from an Eastern Jesuit school, waiting with their suitcases on the benches' (p. 224). Although On the Road is often cited as a key literary source for hitch-hiking (see, for example, the reference below to Green (1995)), it is only in the first of the three journeys recounted that Sal hitch-hikes; in the later two he travels by car, and hitch-hikers are viewed solely as a possible source of help with travel costs. Sal's first attempt at hitch-hiking is dated to July 1947; he needs five rides to carry him 40 miles out of New York, when he becomes stranded in the rain in the 'Bear Mountain wilderness' (he manages eventually to get a lift, although 'I looked like a maniac of course with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping') and has to take a bus back to New York and, the next day, to Chicago (p. 13). He is given a lift from Chicago by a woman who wants someone to share the driving to Iowa, where he becomes 'scared' as night falls and he is stuck on a lonely cross-roads. Again he has to make for the bus station. Later he meets another hitch-hiker who he thinks is running from the law: 'He said we ought to hitch together. I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road' (p. 18). A driver later tells him that 'I used to hitchhike myself, that's why I always pick up a fellow', and Sal replies, 'I would too if I had a car' (pp. 23-4), but he does not seem to remember this sense of obligation during the later journeys. The 'greatest ride in my life' is on the back of a truck driven by two Minnesota farmers transporting farm machinery from Los Angeles, and therefore driving west in an empty truck. They give lifts to everyone, including 'hobos' and 'young city boys hitchhiking around the United States for the summer' (p. 25). No single image of the American hitch-hiker of the late 1940s emerges from On the Road: apparent respectability is important in improving one's chances of getting a lift, and hitch-hiking is associated with being on the run and with shiftiness; but it can also be a way of touring America for a summer holiday, and - through the 'travel bureau' - a means of transport for poor but respectable college students. Sal Paradise is presented as a rather nervous and not very successful hitch-hiker; he is not equipped to sleep outdoors if stranded for the night, and he often has to resort to public transport.
4The editor and main author of this valuable journal, Gordon Inkster, died in July 2001, to the great sorrow of all independent spirits at Lancaster University and of friends, colleagues and InkyText subscribers throughout the world. An InkyText archive dedicated to Gordon's memory is accessible at <www.maths.lancs.ac.uk/~rowlings /InkyText/index/html>.
5There were similar developments over the same period in north America and western Europe (Scull, 1977).
6Jasper (2000, pp. 68-9) writes: 'Even the counterculture, while rejecting some aspects of American materialism, embraced the supposed freedom of the car culture', and alludes to Kerouac and Ken Kesey, who with his 'Merry Pranksters' famously crossed America in a bus (not a car) whose destination screen read 'Furthur'. The lower costs of buying and running cars in America may well have made hitch-hiking a less attractive or necessary option than in Europe. But in the late 1960s the environmental movement was in its infancy everywhere, and environmental considerations can at most have been marginal to the motivation of hitch-hikers.
7The references to hitch-hiking are of course ours, not Urry's.
8Sheller and Urry are thinking primarily of journeys by train or bus, that involve periods of waiting or walking in public or semi-public spaces. But no form of mobility is more fragmented, less seamless, than hitch-hiking.
9The Reclaim the Streets movement has developed on the basis of exactly this recognition. It seeks to rescue roads from the car and re-establish them as public places that are safe for sociable and communal activities.
10For example, Le Monde of 13 November 1998 reported a revival of 'auto-stop' during a bus drivers' strike in Rennes, and various forms of car-sharing and lift giving schemes were suddenly found to be possible during the fuel blockades in Britain in September 2000.
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