During long journeys across the country, the authors of two new memoirs searched (respectively) for down-home grub and a free ride. We asked them to give advice to anyone hoping to walk--or eat--in their footsteps.
In Two for the Road (houghtonmifflinbooks.com, $24), authors Jane and Michael Stern reminisce about rodeos, state fairs, cheap motels, and more than 70,000 meals they ate while penning their bestseller, Roadfood. What do they look for?
Restaurants open only for breakfast and lunch, because these are places where the locals come to chat 'n' chew.
Old menus with gravy stains or barbecue-sauce fingerprints, because they've been used by the multitudes.
Statues of cows, pigs, roosters, or crabs on the roof, because they're irresistible (and the food's usually terrific).
A jukebox with Hank Williams songs, because the menu probably hasn't been modernized either, and you can count on country-comfort food.
Based on his experience thumbing rides all over the world, including a recent cross-country hitchhiking adventure described in Riding With Strangers (ipgbook.com, $23), Elijah Wald advises would-be hitchers to:
Smile and appear clean, like you're trying to get somewhere rather than wandering.
Display a sign when appropriate; no ride is too short works particularly well.
Choose your spots carefully, where you can be seen as far off as possible and drivers have plenty of space to pull over.
Let the driver set the mood. Be quiet if the driver's not talkative.
Pass on drivers who seem drunk or who spook you out for any reason. Another ride will come along.