Set Forth: Thumbing with the Founder of the Great Hitchhiking Race




       "A couple days after Christmas, he returned a slightly used chainsaw to Walmart, pocketed the refund, and picked up a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and a gallon of water. He also packed a pillow, extra socks, and, in case he got in a bind, his only valuable possession: a baseball autographed by Nolan Ryan. He glanced at the map and plotted a simple route: take I-20 East all the way to I-95 North, and simply turn left. Then he set out for Times Square without so much as telling his parents.
       "He spent the first night in a parking lot near Atlanta; it was snowing and all through the night trucks plowed around his car. The next morning, he took a shower at a truck stop, not realizing it wasn’t free; when he got out he was confronted and forced to pay. He pressed on. Late that night, he hit the D.C. Beltway. He parked at a Travelodge and stole a few hours soaking in the motel hot tub. He set up camp behind a stairwell but was discovered shortly after falling asleep. Exhausted and cold, his thoughts turned to Texas. Aaron almost always wears board shorts, even in winter, and the wind bit into his bare legs when he dropped a quarter into a payphone to call home and let his mother know that he was safe . . .


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Cover painting  “Cutlass with iPod” by Cheryl Kelley