At the age of 21, having read On The Road, I decided to hitchhike across America. I had £200, a backpack with a union jack sewn on, a Bruce Springsteen hat plus a Marilyn Monroe T-shirt. It was 1976, the year of America’s Bicentennial, which turned out to be a very propitious time to go. I had just spent a year in France working as a teacher and the previous summer had hitchhiked from Southampton to Athens, with my friend Pete. I intended to find a job as a dishwasher or barman, since I had hardly any money. In the end things turned out differently, and during 67 days I regularly starved and only paid for accommodation in New York City. This is the story of that journey, a true tale of bravado and adventure, foolhardiness and desperation.
The truth of the tale can be verified by the ludicrously small diary I kept during this journey. It was damaged and drenched en route, lost and then found, but each day’s entry can be read or at least decoded, and now it will guide you and me through this story. Everything else will be related from memory and no doubt there will be some false and conflated memories, but there is no need to embroider for added drama, this story will be as true as I can make it. Some days still live in my mind, others I have no real memory of and sometimes I wonder what my diary means. Nevertheless the atmosphere and feelings engendered on this lonely trip are still vivid. The story is accompanied by the 48 photographs I took on my wonderful Olympus Trip 35 camera. I had no money for film and the negatives are now severely degraded, but they too tell the story and act as aide-mémoires. There are also some leaflets, cuttings and tickets I managed to accumulate on my travels.
This is an annotated diary rather than a blog.
It will make most sense to read the diary in order, day by day.
Please regard this as a work in progress, all pages are subject to revision.
Diary Start – London and Southport