Sam Poletta did the bulk of his hitching during the 1970s when he was in
his early 20s. Three times he trecked to Florida from Rochester- and across country:
from Rochester to California, then up and down the west coast. More recently,
he's travelled overseas for more hitch hiking through France, Germany, Switzerland
and Italy.. even parts of Thailand and Mylasia.
POLETTA: Rain, snow, sleet, hail and in the dark- just like a post man. You can
sleep on the side of the road, in rest areas. One time I slept on a golf course.
I've gotten rides hitch hiking in cars, trucks, busses, mini-vans, a motorcycle.
But the most unusual was in Nepal, when we got a ride from the lady driving the
ox cart. That was the most unusual.
Sam's the type of guy who just enjoys travelling. He spent five summers as a
youngster with a carnival that toured around the US. One way or another, he's visited
all but a few of the fifty states. Hitch hiking takes a certain disposition- to put
up with the discomforts of being on the road.. not to mention the frustration of
waiting for a ride.
POLETTA: They would stop. You'd get up and run to the car. And they would take off
on ya.. which to them was a big kick. To you, you'd get very mad. If there were
any rocks around, 90 percent of the time you'd throw one.
There's no telling how long a hitch hiker will wait a ride.
POLETTA: We were hitch hiking through Utah. I stood in the desert on the Salt Lake
in Utah for at least eight hours. Nobody wanted to pick us up. There was one car,
like maybe once an hour..hot, and no water. We were waving them down, we did everything
we could. Finally, god bless the man, some guy in a pick up truck stopped.
For speed alone, nothing tops the Autobahn in Germany and Switzerland.
POLETTA: And I don't know the speed limit on that road, but they go. I was picked up
by one guy in a BMW. We were going through the mountains like, 180 kilometers a mile-
about 120 miles an hour. Yeah, it was really scarey! He was going through tunnels and
stuff, clicking right along. He didn't care.
Travelling alone or with friends, Poletta says the police really don't hassle hitch
hikers. They've been known to move stranded people up to the ramps- only motor vehicles
are supposed to be on the major highways. And Sam says the country folk proved to be more
helpful than the city drivers, picking up passengers. Still, the hitch hiker will tell
you: they can be just as apprehensive getting into a car as the motorist is in letting
POLETTA: We jump into the car with him. He's got a shotgun laying on the back seat. We
thought we were in for some trouble. He said he was mad at his wife.. had just shot up
the house and was taking off. Turned out to be a nice guy.. Charley-something his name
Some stop for the hitch hiker because they thumbed rides themselves once and know
what it's like to be out there on the road. Some like the company on a long drive.
Truckers have always been the hitch hikers best friend.
POLETTA: They would call for you on the CB. . that there's a couple of hitch hikers
heading in this direction.. are there any truckers that would like some company? 'Cause
they usually gotta drive a lot of hours, they gotta stay awake. And it's a heckuva lot
easier to stay awake when you got someone to talk to.
A little cash, some camping gear, maybe a fishing pole and a skillet.. that's all
you'll need to get started- and your thumb.
POLETTA: Hitch hiking was a good time. I enjoyed it very much… the landscape.. a lot of
different people you meet. It was very enjoyable.
Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.