Hitch-hiking trip wins thumbs up

Geoff Potter Scnhitchb

FORGET the horror stories. The tales of murder, rape and theft. The weirdos and the con-artists.

Jay Bishoff swears hitchhiking is a great way to make friends, re-connect with humanity and experience the world from a different perspective.

To prove his point the Peregian Springs dad set off to thumb his way across America on a six-week journey in 2004.

Armed with a backpack, a guitar and mini-recorder, he was determined to document every ride along the way.

This month, after trawling through 20 discs, he has released a book and mini movie, By Grace and Thumb, Hitchhiking in the Age of Terror.

“It has been my dream for many years to write about hitchhiking,” he said. “When I was 16, I ran away from home in suburban southern California to San Francisco.

“It was an experience I will never forget.

“Until then I had a sheltered existence and didn’t realise what the world was about.”

Throughout his college years, Jay used hitchhiking to have adventures with no money.

“Everyone else would be sitting at home watching TV,” he said.

“I would just cast my thumb out and see what happened.”

When he found out he was becoming a dad seven years ago, he knew it was now or never for the book.

“It was a few years after September 11 and I wanted to shine a light on a largely forgotten modern America.

“Find the generous, courageous, open-hearted individuals, still willing to take a chance to help a stranger.”

He started in the bright lights of New York, headed straight through the mid-west and finished in Vancouver.

Jay said one of the highlights of his adventures was a jaunt over the Mexican border with an African-American seller of bone-statues.

He also bummed a ride with a world-famous motorcycle designer, and enjoyed a feast of grassroots musical discoveries across the land.

“We live in an age of terror and fear,” he said.

“We are taught to believe that hitchhiking is dangerous.

“But my experience with hitchhiking has been very different.

“You can trust a stranger. It can be a beautiful thing.”

Jay said while he has felt uncomfortable, he has never felt his life was at risk.

“I have learnt to ‘read’ situations when on the road,” he said.

“My signs say north or south, not the exact location.

“That way if I get a bad feeling when they say where they are going, I can say ‘nah, not heading there’.”

Jay proudly holds a record of not having to wait more than three hours for a lift.

“There are some things you can do to make yourself more appealing,” he said.

Jay’s book launch will be held on February 24 at Annie’s Books on Peregian at 6pm.

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