Roadside Americans: The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation

Jack Reid (Author)


Between the Great Depression and the mid-1970s, hitchhikers were a common sight for motorists, as American service members, students, and adventurers sought out the romance of the road in droves. Beats, hippies, feminists, and civil rights and antiwar activists saw thumb tripping as a vehicle for liberation, living out the counterculture's rejection of traditional values. Yet, by the time Ronald Reagan, a former hitchhiker himself, was in the White House, the youthful faces on the road chasing the ghost of Jack Kerouac were largely gone--along with sympathetic portrayals of the practice in state legislatures and the media.

In Roadside Americans, Jack Reid traces the rise and fall of hitchhiking, offering vivid accounts of life on the road and how the act of soliciting rides from strangers, and the attitude toward hitchhikers in American society, evolved over time in synch with broader economic, political, and cultural shifts. In doing so, Reid offers insight into significant changes in the United States amid the decline of liberalism and the rise of the Reagan Era.

Product Details

University of North Carolina Press
Publish Date
March 30, 2020
6.4 X 0.9 X 9.4 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Jack Reid is a scholar of American culture. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.


Weaves together anecdote, interviews and historical record to present a nuanced look not just at hitchhiking's ebb and flow but the socioeconomic and political reasons behind the shift in public thinking and behavior.--Arizona Daily Sun