Green Bay, Wisconsin
The book: "I Think I'll Drop You off in
Green Bay Wisconsin during Packer weekend -a weekend when the Packers were
playing at home - was one of the most committed forms of drunkenness I had ever
experienced. The plethora of bars that lined the streets of the town offered
beer, beer, and more beer. These weren't the sorts of places where one saunters
up to the bar and orders a gin ricky.
The evening actually began in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, on the exit ramp off the
ferry from Ludington, Michigan. As a hitchhiker, I believe I was the only person
on the boat who had made the crossing of Lake Michigan as a walk-on and
walk-off. As I considered how I was going to get beyond the place where the
ferry would leave me, I remember looking out over the Wisconsin shoreline awash
in the bright yellow and greens of sunflowers -row upon row, field after field-
growing as I had only known corn to grow, now in full bloom and ready for
Upon exiting the ferry, I somewhat arbitrarily chose a direction and stuck
out my thumb as I had been doing for months now and for more than 3,000 miles of
American highway. A car with a broken muffler that barely looked like it was
going to make it slowed and then stopped. Green Bay was where the driver was
heading and was that all right? And, oh, by the way, did I want a beer?
I was not planning to write a book when I began hitchhiking across the United
States. After graduating from college and somehow managing to scrape together
about $800 by sealing driveways in Rochester, New York, hitchhiking seemed the
only way I could afford to see the country.
Leaving from Burlington, North Carolina, I soon learned that having a
destination and an expected arrival or departure time were futile pursuits. The
art of hitchhiking involved going wherever the ride was going, and on that
particular day, it was going to Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Unlike any other form of travel, hitchhiking forces an immediacy with the
person with whom you are driving. Your safety depends on figuring out who is
beside you and reacting to them accordingly. It is unlike any form of travel
where you control your own destiny by purchasing a ticket or by closing your
door to the rest of the world.
By the time trip was over, I would have been gone for more than six months
and traveled 8,000 miles. In all that time, I would have slept only once in a
hotel room. The rest of the time I slept in trains, on the side of the road, in
a few selected campgrounds, but mostly in the homes of the people I had come to
What interested me the most about the trip were the reasons people would pick
up a hitchhiker, and why they were so likely to confide in me, a perfect
stranger, the details of their lives that they hid from everyone else. In this
particular trip into Green Bay, I spent several days with the driver and his
girlfriend. For him, I was a new perspective, a way of seeing things in his life
that he may have felt on some level, but that he wasn't quite sure of. By the
time I left, everything had changed. Whether he knew it at the time, the desire
to effect that change was probably the reason he had decided to bring a complete
stranger into the heart of his life.
I wrote the book years later to enshrine my experiences on the road, but more
importantly, to figure out what had changed about me from having spent six
months never knowing where I would be sleeping that night. I began writing in
the third person about halfway through the book, both to see my experience from
the point of view of the people I had encountered, and also because I had grown
weary and self-conscious about writing in the first person for so many miles.
"I Think I'll Drop You off in Deadwood"