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The Hitchhiking Movie

Our hitchhiking adventure began with an idea – an idea that took hold of us and wouldn’t let go, an idea that allowed us to cross the country with no money and no car of our own, an idea that was made reality when we stepped through our fears, walked to the side of the road, stuck out our thumb out and prayed to the Unknown. The Hitchhiking Movie gives you the best sense of what the exhilaration of that unknown was like; it puts you square in the front seat of the excitement, smack dab in the middle of the action, at the forefront of the freedom of being on the road.

The Hitchhiking Movie Reviews:

  • IndieTalk DVD Reviews (2/7/2010) – “The Hitchhiking Movie is a journey worth taking.”
  • Bitchin’ Film Reviews (10/28/2009) – “I was really impressed at how entertaining the film was”
  • film babble blog (10/19/2009) – “well worth seeking out”
  • The Film Doctor (10/9/2009) – “a winning indie effort”
  • Culture Kills (10/1/2009) – “the essence of independent documentary film making”
  • SPL!NG (9/13/2009) – “more real than reality TV itself”
  • Strange Culture (9/11/2009) – “fun and unpredictable”
  • eFilmCritic.com (9/10/2009) – “different and very entertaining”
  • Hollywood Bitchslap (9/9/2009) – “very different and very entertaining”
  • MyReviewer (6/27/2009) – “it’s a fun ride…an interesting independent film”
  • Film Intuition (6/16/2009) – “compulsively watchable from start to finish”
  • Curled Up DVD (6/11/2009) – “an enjoyable lark”
  • Route 66 News (5/11/2009) – “the right balance of affability, earnestness and wit”

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For those of you who want to know more, we have a lot to share with you. Below you’ll find a tale, several tales actually, of people we met, places we went, and the lessons we learned. And there were many lessons. This was our first adventure. Our hearts, our souls and our sweat went into it. Our heartbreak, our frustration, our joy and our triumph are all here. We hope you take a step into the adventure. We hope you can feel what we felt when you see what we saw and go where we were. This adventure was beautiful, and you will find it beautiful too. Find yourself captivated. Let the idea take hold of you: not the idea of whether two men can hitchhike across the U.S. in a week, but the idea that maybe, just maybe, anything is possible when you follow your inspiration. We now give our adventure to you. It is yours; you may take it and live it and do with it as you please. Take some time to read and watch. We hope you’re ready to go on a journey. Now go ahead, stick your thumb out.

The Question

Is it possible to hitchhike from coast to coast in under a week? For that matter, is it possible to hitchhike at all these days? I mean, do people even do that anymore? Well, we did and filmed the entire trip for your entertainment!

Ryan’s Story

The first time I ever hitchhiked was right outside my parents’ house. They were flipping out. “You can’t just stick your thumb out on the side of the road! What will the neighbors think!”

“I dunno, but you better give me a ride to the highway, or I’m gonna stand here till one of them stops.”

My first hitchhiking experience was on State Highway 46 in Boerne, TX. My mom dropped me off and looked at me cockeyed. “I can’t believe you’re doing this,” she said and drove off. I can’t either, I thought, but tried to puff out my chest and lift my chin as if I knew what I was doing. When her car was out of sight, my shoulders sank: I really had no idea what I was doing. No one is going to stop, I thought. I made a sign with a magic marker on the back of my notebook. “New Braunfels” it said; and, sure enough, fifteen minutes later a red SUV flipped a U-turn 50 meters down the road, swung back and picked me up. Surreal.

Phillip’s Story

A year before meeting Ryan, I embarked on a hitchhiking trip of my own. I had never done it before but assumed it was still possible if I got out there and tried it. My friends disagreed, but that only made me more determined to prove them wrong. So one Saturday morning, I drove to Little Rock, Arkansas and waited by the exit for my first ride west. I don’t like to pursue small goals, so I set my destination as Los Angeles, California! My first ride took me all the way to Oklahoma City where I was picked up by some self-proclaimed communists. The three of us bought a case of beer, drove to the desolate panhandle of Oklahoma, and sat on top of a cliff while watching the desert sunset. Amazing! Two days later I was at the beach in Santa Monica, and the seed had been planted to hitchhike again.

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Our Story

I had a plan. “Hey Phillip.”

“You remembered my name. How sweet.”

“Shut up. Listen, what if we did this? What if you followed me with a camera and we tried to hitch across the United States in a week?” This was a litmus test to see just what kind of documentary director Phillip was. A wuss would have, well, wussed out. A bullshitter would have gone all gung ho on me: “Oh yeah! Sure we can! Sure!” Phillip, on the other hand, considered it… thoughtfully. (He always does.) “Ummm,” he said, “it could be possible.” We had a winner. I knew he was serious because his mind was poring over how something like that might actually be accomplished. Over the next several days he couldn’t stop talking about it: “Yeah, Ryan, I mean, yeah, we could do that, a week… I don’t know, but… why the hell not!”

Phillip drove down from Nashville to meet me in Austin. I had two one-way tickets waiting for him. One said “Austin to New York.” The other said “Los Angeles to Austin.” They were spaced apart by exactly seven days.

“This is insane,” Phillip said.

“Well, you’ve go to go now. I bought you the ticket.” The next day we were on a flight to New York City.

The Journey Begins

In New York, we piddled around for a while. I think we were both afraid to start. I mean we were really about to attempt this and had no idea if we’d make it Sheboygan, Wisconsin, let alone LA. In Times Square, we told each other we just needed to get shots of New York before we set out, but we were really stalling. It was time to face reality; we had to start hitching. We had to see if we could do it.

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OK, the Journey Really Begins

We trucked across the George Washington Bridge, where several people told me we’d be knifed. Uh, no knives, but when we stopped in McDonalds, a random couple bought us food. Weird. Was there something to the “Providence” concept Huck Finn talked about in Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? That when you are traveling people just show you kindness and hospitality because you need it? I don’t know, but if you watch the movie, you’ll see beaucoup examples of it.

There is a rather sweet example of Providence when, Ashley, our first ride, hands us a bunch of bananas. Your heart will break. She’s probably the sweetest girl in the world. Hi, Ash! I lost my phone somewhere on a ski slope in Colorado. Guess whose number was inside? Call me if you see this. You’re still sweet.

Fred

Ahhhh, Fred. This guy was a character. He drove us from Pennsylvania to Kentucky. A Seminole Indian and a semi trucker, he had about, oh, 75,000.9235 stories he told us. After fifteen minutes of riding in his cab, I felt a wave of fatigue flood over me. Oh lord, there’s a bed in the back. I felt awkward but asked if I could sleep there as he drove. “Yeah, of course, that’s what it’s there for,” he said as if I was a moron, likeduh, of course the Universe provides you everything you need when you’re on the road.’ ┬áThis Providence thing might be real.

At a rest stop Phillip pulled me aside: “Hey, do you know what he said?”

“No, I was asleep.”

“He said he’s going to Kentucky but he’s going to take 3 days to do it. We can’t do that.”

I had no response. I was too exhausted. Turns out Fred liked us and we liked Fred; and, though he didn’t need to be in Lexington, Kentucky for 3 days, he drove us there in 1.5, straight shot. Nice guy for a surly Native American. When you need something, the Universe perks up. We were beginning to see it.

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Dearth or This Universe Stuff is Bullshit

Not everything was peaches and cream. In the movie you’ll see that all hope was almost lost in Saint Louis. We had been there for 7 hours. The night before, Phillip had been eaten alive by mosquitoes as we slept at a campsite by the Mississippi River. Saint Louis might be the gateway to the West, but the gate was locked at the moment. Out of desperation, I approached a man at a gas station. He was a middle-aged African American gentleman named Thurman. Just like Fred, he said he was going to pay for his gas and think about it. He came out and said he’d drive us 6 miles. Well, anything to get out of Saint Louis, I thought. He was about to make a left turn out of the station when he stopped. “I’m not going to take you for free,” he said. Oh shit, I thought, I can’t believe this. Our first asshole. I knew it. “I want y’all to do something for me,” he continued. This was weird. I thought he was going to ask for money. “I want y’all to do something for a black person.” Holy crap, I mean, holy crap. I never, NEVER expected something like that. This, for us to do something for another African American, was all Thurman wanted in return. He didn’t drive us 6 miles, he drove us all the way to Kansas City, Kansas. Holy crap.

Dearth Again – Why Must You Toy with Me, God???

There are ups and downs to hitchhiking. Sometimes you get a ride that takes you half across the country, sometimes you get a 3-mile ride, and sometimes you get jack. Remind you of life, anyone? We live in the third dimension where materialization is not always instantaneous. In another scene, Phillip and I have our only real argument of the trip where I’m trying to hold onto my faith that we’ll make it while he tries to point out the glaringly obvious point we had 1500 miles to go and time was running out. I was mad; I think you’ll see that.

Denver

The Mile High City was also a high of the trip. We had gotten a ride there from Salina, Kansas and were feeling good but there was a very hard, cold reality setting in. The sun was going down and we had less than 48 hours to make it to Ontario International Airport in Los Angeles. Between us and that goal was 1000 miles of desert. I was surprisingly optimistic, however. Phillip was too. We had no idea how we were going to do this, but I told myself, If we make it to Las Vegas, it’ll be worth it. Four minutes later, a truck pulled up. How far would he be going?

Your Turn to Live the Journey

This was probably the coolest trip I’ve ever done. It was amazing and taught me a lot about the goodness of people. I think you’ll be amazed at how kind people were to us. We did our best to make the movie as “real” as possible, like you’re actually riding in those cars with us. The stories people tell are amazing, to complete and utter strangers!!!

There were 23 rides total and we did our best to encapsulate the essence of the major characters of which there are 7 or 8. Fred is obviously one of those, but you’ll also meet Sarah, a young woman running from a troubled past, Dave, a doctor with a hilarious story to tell, and Chris, a “broke ass bastard [like you guys]” as he puts it who refuses our money on several occasions.

You’ll also meet Keavin who instructs on the basics of brothels in the greater Kentucky area area as well as “The Psychiatrist” who leaves us perplexed wondering just what the hell he was talking about for the last 45 minutes.

You’ll also feel the absolute exhiliration of going on a crazy, harrowing journey that will teach you a lot about life. It sure did us.

An all around fun time it was, and a great time you’ll have in The Hitchhiking Movie.

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We would like to recognize several artists who have graciously allowed us to use their work in this film. Please considering purchasing their original albums if you enjoyed their music.

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Bill Staines

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Douglas Spotted Eagle

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