As much as Americans like to proclaim this as the Land o' the Free, the home of Liberty R Us, it is simply hype for the most part.
Robyn and Tom Vines are hitchhiking across the country in the Great Winter Freeze of 1967‑8. Not knowing that the freeze was coming, our hero and heroine (to be...I was living as a guy then) went with a friend from SF to Seattle for some fool reason. The "friend" turned out to be a car thief, stole a car in Portland and drove us all to Seattle from there.
The freeze hits a couple of weeks after T and R arrive in Seattle, so they say to each other, "Hey, we gotta split." So they go to SF, but it's snowing. "Ewwww!" they say and keep on hitching southward.
Snow in Pasadena.
Snow in Long Beach.
Snow in San Diego. They spend a day trying to hitch a ride in El Cajon...finally get a lift to what they were told would be a better place at the next exit, but the road is really a big loop and after driving 2 or 3 miles, they are a half‑mile from where they started. They spend another half day before escaping the black hole of El Cajon.
Snow in Arizona. The national guard is airlifting food to the Indian Reservations.
Snow in New Mexico. Cattle are freezing to death.
We arrive in El Paso on New Year's Eve. The guy we got a ride from buys us a big bottle of bourbon to celebrate with. We buy some bananas and Wonder Bread to nourish ourselves (cheap, with all the necessary vitamins and minerals). The cops think we are sitting a little too close to the boarder (we are leaning against the fence as we eat) and run us out of town, but say no hitchhiking, so they put us on a freight train bound for Corpus Christi. Cold night, so we drink the Bourbon. Memories of being held by the collar while leaning out the door of the car and puking while the train is moving 80 mph. Oh, so cold. We build a small fire...in a wooden railway car...oh, there is no such thing as a "small" fire in a railway car. Memories of pissing on the fire to put it out. Train turns out to be going to Tyler, not Corpus Christi.
Snow in Tyler.
Ice in Houston.
We head for the Big Hurt, but fall asleep and the moron giving us the ride takes us all the way to Mobile, runs out of gas, and demands that we pay for some. We tell him where he can stick it, then have to walk miles to the other side of Mobile Bay.
A cop near Pensacola stops us and demands to see our papers. We say, "Papers? This is America! We don' need no steenkin' papers!" Cop is unmoved. We show our stinkin' papers.
Panama City is our next goal, but again we fall asleep and wake up the next day in the middle of the Everglades while our ride tries to sell us as migrant laborers. We split fast.
We end up in Miami, living in a whore house across the street from where they make "Hava Tampa Jewels" cigars, working in a car wash in Coral Gables.
Coldest winter on record in Miami.
We make enough money to get camping gear and head for Mexico.
Somewhere in Louisiana, we get out of a car at a bus station and think we will sit down there and rest before walking over this big ass bridge. Louisiana cop takes offense. Asks to see our papers. To which we reply, "Papers? This is America! We don' need no steenkin' papers!" Cop is unswerved. I show my papers. Tom shows his US passport. Cop asks Tom for some other kind of ID. Tom, being the smartass that he is, says, "I don't need no other kind of ID." Cop is unswerved. We are taken to the stationhouse, arrested for vagrancy. We sit there for two hours while the cop checks the surrounding states for wants and warrants. Sheriff arrives. Asks what the hell we are in there for. We try to tell him about the "steenkin' papers" but it dissolves into a rendition of Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant." Sheriff asks the cop if we have been booked yet. We are asked to remove everything from our pockets, where they discover that between the two of us we have over $700. So much for the vagrancy charge. We are released after the wants and warrants search comes up empty.
From there is was on to Mexico. I'll complete the story some other time.
Gotta love it.