Yes I guess, but if you spent even a day with the dumpster diving community in New Orleans your perspective would be subject to a sharp u-turn.
Think about all the food thats wasted in the US, all that out of date food which is really still very much edible. The pizza no-one collected. The bread with one tiny spec of mold.
I was familiar with the comcept of dumpster diving for a while before New Orleans. The book “Evasion” by Crimeinc gives a great introduction.
I was a rookie at the sport however compared to Tom and Marc.
Tom has built a hut out of materials he has found in dumpsters and bamboo while living on dumpstered food and rainwater.
Marc had a job as a delivery driver. At the same time he constantly scouted the best dumpsters such as whole-foods to provide himself with a healthy three meal a day diet of free food. A soda could be got as he demonstrated in Burger Kin by finding an empty cup in the bin and availing of the “free refills” policy.
Did they ever get sick? No
Did I? No
And they arent the only ones availing of free food, the punk concert are full of dumpster divers who group around campfires sharing their finds from their eveing diving in dunpsters with headlamps on.
On top of all this they both drank rainwater.
A way to eat good food for free, and it helps the enviornment too with all that reduced waste. Probably dosent work so good in less wasteful countries though of course.
Tom´s property is even on Air BnB, come stay in a tent and the food is free.
Looking back at the title of the page I realize how daft it sounds. Of course my mission was doomed for failure right from the beginning, it was a lot of good fun though along the way.
So the back story was that it was the morning after my 23rd birthday and I was in Cape Girardeau on my way hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans. I was somewhat tired of the road and a bit more intrigued by the romantic notion of boating the Mississippi Huckleberry Finn style. I had no boat nor raft material, Walmart does however have inflatable rubber boats for about $30, why not? After-all it was just my Birthday.
So I grabbed a boat, pump plus two plastic oars, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, tins of tuna and a couple liters of water.
I set forth in the afternoon with high hopes for a new adventure, no longer on the road but on the water. I instantly came under scrutiny from a helicopter and fellow Mississippi sailors on barges. Some looked annoyed and some laughed, few seemed to respect their fellow sailor in his little inflatable boat. Like I cared! I was taking the Mississippi one meter at a time and hugging the Missouri coast line.
The water was reasonably calm, I dodged a few swirl pools here and there but never was too close to flipping over even when them barges passed creating big waves. A flip would of wet everything, including my rugsack containing my passport and other less important stuff.
I must of gone about 15 miles (felt like 100) before I decided to camp for the night on a sandy beach area before dark. Beer cans loitered my new paradise however and I could hear rednecks firing their guns in the surrounding woods. I slept soundly though with my boat inside my tent now doubling up as a mattress.
I awoke around 8am took a piss and went back to sleep because it was windy outside. A half hour later I was awoken by the sound of two men talking. I had neighbors now so I peaked out and spotted two fishermen, one white and one black trying to catch catfish. We had some chats about the US and fish, then they headed off and I sat around waiting for the wind to die down, it was far too much for my boat.
A couple hours later as I sat there reading my book a small fishing boat pulled up with three rednecks in it. There outboard engine had failed and they were pulling her in. I sat with one of them fishing while the other two went for their truck. He started a campfire by just throwing gas everywhere and setting fire to half my beach in through redneck fashion. I didn’t care though because he gave me a fish. A sturgeon which I cooked up in the fire real nice.
They talked about hating everyone and guns and pickups and the usual stuff. Asked me how I put up with my life in the socialist and nudist eutopia called Europe. They asked about the strange item wrapped around my neck too (a scarf because I was cold). The rednecks had enough tattoos to keep their arms warm underneath their wife beater vests however.
Finally around 6pm the wind had died down and I packed up my shit and got back to floating. Maybe I got about 10 miles before it was getting dark and I pulled in again, on another sandy bit behind someones house. They never spotted me though, must of been watching telly.
So I floated on the next morning and decided to reach a town since my water had run out. I could see a bunch of houses across the Mississippi on the Illinois side. I had always been hugging the Missouri coast until now and hadn’t ventured into the middle of the river at all in case of a barge running me down in its hastiness. I was driven to cross however in this instance and get some supplies.
I began paddling across and initially began grand until I was nearly halfway, then the boat just stopped moving towards the Illinois coast and began pushing me straight down-stream. I paddled and paddled every which way but was going nowhere except where the river wanted me to go. Some people in the small town I was aiming for must of spotted me and started gearing up a fishing boat to come get me.
Miracle of all miracles though at the expense of my arms I managed to diagonally move with the river and also slowly towards Illinois. Eventually I got to the opposite side about a half a mile downstream from where I started. I climbed up on the muddy bank and left the boat tied up as I walked into the town.
All he houses were the very same, small bungalows and everyone had a square lawn. Then there was some RVs too parked by the water. These communities creep me out in the US. No charm or history. All the houses are the same and there is no like statue, pub or old church to just kind of look at.
I approached the first person I saw, an old lady doing some gardening. I asked her where the nearest store was and the old banshee just turned away from me and walked back into her house. Bitch!
I found a friendly guy a couple of square houses away fixing his pick-up and he refilled my water bottle. The nearest store though was 7 miles away, a gas station by the interstate. The little town didn’t even have a shop. On the other side of the river where I just came from there’s a small town behind the hills about a 1 mile walk. For Fucks Sake!
I didn’t want my boat anymore. My seafaring days were done before they started. After that horrific ordeal crossing the Mississippi I really didn’t fancy boating back across. There was a bridge nearby for freight trains and there actually was a train sitting there right now stationary. I resolved to hop on the back of one of the grainers and try hop off again on the other side. Needless to say about 5 minutes before I climbed the steep hill up to the tracks the train suddenly started moving again. I waited two hours by the bridge but no train slowed down again and I didn’t want to catch one on the fly (i’m not experienced with trains) or walk across the bridge. There was cameras everywhere and it was a long bridge I could just imagine me walking across and two trains coming in opposite directions at once to flatten me. So I returned to my boat.
My boat now felt a bit deflated, I gave it another pump and I couldn’t hear any air exiting, then I took off again. About halfway across the boat became harder to paddle once again but not as bad as the first time. Maybe 3/4s of the way though I noticed water splashing on the boat each time I paddled, I was slowly going down.
I fell off the boat as gracefully as I could and began swimming. I near froze my balls off and pulled my boat along behind me so as to keep my stuff dry. I made it though narrowly I would imagine and cursed my boat. I stripped off my wet clothes (now too heavy to carry) and left them on the bank with the deflated boat and paddles. Back to the road.
I walked back to civilization by someones mansion and hopped over there electric fence (I was breaking out I guess). I wasn’t pissed off anymore. It was a failure in the sense I never got far but I still had an exciting time and got some good memories from those three days.
I would recommend it but just be able to swim, always hug the coast, don’t expect to get far on an inflatable boat and have some sort of waterproof bag too.
A friend of mine called Marc that I meet later in NOLA canoed the Mississippi, Pittsburgh to NOLA, check out his blog here.
In the 21st century there is pretty much an app for everything for everything social. If you want new friends, partners or advice you can get it without the trouble of having to meet a “stranger”.
The same applies to hitchhiking, there is hitchhiking groups on Facebook where you can find a hitchhiking partner. Websites exist to finding rides, the most prominent (at least in the US where regular hitchhiking is illegal in some states) is Craigslist’s Rideshare. On the website anyone can post either a rideshare offered from A to B or a rideshare wanted from A to B and a little about themselves.
I have used the service three times, Boston to New York, New York to Boston and Chicago to St.Louis. Three males, one White, one Filipiono and one Black of varying ages. In cities that are difficult to hitchhike out of. Has it been safe each time?
Yes without a doubt, I have ended up grabbing a beer with two of the guys actually because they were just great people who had a long drive and were looking for company, also maybe trying to build up some good karma. Would it be safe for a girl though?
Probably safer than regular hitchhiking because you could in theory request the persons Facebook first through the Craigslist emails and their car’s registration plate so at least you know who’s car your getting in to. I know girls who have used rideshare to get places but never hitchhiked normally.
With Craigslist’s Rideshare are you expected to pay though? is another thing I wondered. I personally have not paid for gas on any of the three rides. Usually if its a Ride Offered gig you are responding to where the persons asks for money towards gas you can negotiate a deal whereby its still much cheaper than getting a bus or just say straight out, hey I’ve got no money and explain why. Say your a broke student or a tourist without many bags and you will still probably get offered a seat.
The important thing here is to demonstrate what a regular human you are. In your rideshare wanted add or in the response to an offered rideshare put in the extra effort to make this person want to sit with you for hours in a confined space. Post a nice photo (very important), your age, name, story (why you are going from A to B) and some stuff you like (music etc.), volunteer work you have done. A link to something else like Facebook, your Couchsurfing a/c or Youtube channel etc. will boost your chances too. I usually offered to send a scan of my ID too if they wanted (one guy requested it).
Then you exchange numbers and organize a place to meet in town at a certain time.
Simple as that and probably more safe than regular hitchhiking or in some cases I bet even riding the bus.
The snow in Chicago helped me decide that I needed more sun and for that I was always going to head south.
Getting out of Chicago was going to be tricky, hitchhiking is illegal in the state of Illinois (yes I know, how fucking ridiculous is that?). I used Craigslists Rideshare section to find a ride. A young Filipino guy by the name of Mark took me to St. Louis for free and I hopped out in the downtown area.
Nothing much was happening in St. Louis so I decided to head for the outskirts of the city and start hitchhiking towards Memphis or Nashville the next morning. I was standing outside a Walmart in East St. Louis because of the
rain, when an elderly guy approached. He warned me about standing around in East St. Louis “Your going get trouble” he worryingly claimed and told me to head a mile up the road and camp at the local RV Camp. I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain but after a minute or so a young lady pulled over and offered me a ride, she never picked up a hitchhiker before (I wasn’t even trying) but didn’t want me out in the rain she claimed and I got dropped off at the RV camp.
I tried to then sleep at the RV Camp but the locals were too kind, I was going to be allowed stay for free and be bought a pint too. Next came a belter of a session with a bunch of rednecks in some dive bar where every guy wore a bandanna with a cowboy hat over the bandanna.
When I did finally get to the road again I started at an on-ramp to the interstate in the Memphis direction (on the Missouri side of town). After an hour of thumbing the only people to stop were two police officers wondering what I was up to. I kind of thought the whole raised thumb was a dead give-away but then I had to explain to them I was merely hitching a ride as they plugged my name into some computer then pissed off.
Just as I was contemplating jumping in front of a car, one pulls over, at last. A young, friendly guy, and he drove me a few miles to a better spot and got me some dinner at the catering place he worked. He picked me up because “I was clearly a European because I was wearing a scarf”. I generally wear scarfs because I’m cold not because I was born in Europe. I think he was gay but yea who cares, maybe wear a scarf if your hitchhiking in St. Louis and you will get picked up by him.
The next spot was an on-ramp again but further out of the city where people might trust. Still all the black folks passed by looking at me like I got two heads and an axe, one group of white frat kids blew there horn and shouted cock or something…. hilarious. Then an old banger pulls over with two women in the front and a guy in the back, very rough looking but genuine I thought. She rolled down the window “You aint got a weapon?”, nope I replied a bit surprised by the question and hopped in the back seat.
Chain smoking and complaining about the government, my kind of people! The woman in the passenger seat had a scar on her face where she had gotten shot before in a failed car-jacking, that memory will remain with me I think for years to come.
They left me off on the interstate and I began hitchhiking again, right on the interstate this time instead of an on-ramp since the shoulder was definitely wide enough for a car to pull in. An animal vet picked me up, real quiet fella who wouldn’t normally pick up hitchhikers but did today, “paying it forward brother”, a very christian guy from my impression. He left me at a truck stop and I decided to find a place to camp since it was getting dark, I strolled up some country road and went into the trees behind a house, I figured the community watch was probably watching telly or something.
I woke up the next morning (on my 23rd birthday by the way) to an angry barking dog and scrambled away quickly and back to the road. I began asking people at the truck stop for rides. The truckers are useless in the US, they always just claim insurance won’t allow them to pick you up. A guy in a pick-up though agreed to take me no questions asked. A veteran, I have found these guys to be very useful for hitchhiking in the South. He brought me further down the interstae and then my next ride took me to Cape Girardeau and I got out there to go sit at the Mississippi River and grab a coffee since it was my birthday after-all.
I got talking to some locals around the coffee shop including some eegit frat types, a cute student girl and a wealthy lady who owned shares in the towns hotel. In the end I set up a date with the student girl for later and got offered a room in the hotel for free with a buffet breakfast (which I really abused, leaving the hotel with heavy pockets). Turned out to be a great birthday really, anythings possible in these smaller towns that tourists don’t frequent with an accent.
The next morning I didn’t feel like hitchhiking though and walked to the nearest Walmart instead and bought a rubber dingy boat. Inspired by the Mark Twain tales of Huckleberry Finn I was bound for Memphis on a $30 Walmart inflatable boat.
I spent three wild days floating on the river passing barges, meeting rednecks and camping until my boat sank (in the middle of the river) and I was back to the road. I’ll write up a full report of the river happenings soon.
I meet a guy trash picking on the road outside his house, after some chatting (I complimented the hand gun he carried on his waist) he brought me into his home. I meet his wife and he recalled the childhood sweatheart story and then dropped me back over to the interstate. Memphis here I come!
After maybe a half hour standing on the interstate thumbing a grown-up family pulled over to let me squeeze in the back. They were all crazy rednecks, but again friendly enough to leave me at a good truck stop. Again I tried the useless truckers who just wanted prostitutes it seems, hanging around after dark I made some friends including two Hobos also travelling the interstate. They were pretty negative about shit though and smelled bad, I reckoned they were never gonna get a ride or weren’t even trying so I left them to drink beer under their tarp and hung about the petrol station. A worker began chatting with me, I pretended to agree with his narrow minded opinions to gain trust and my cunning plan paid off when he said I could use the truckers showers. Great! But then I spotted an old Mexican pulling in with a cowboy hat and pick-up.
Mexicans are very useful on the road especially the ones who look like they used to hitchhike to work back in their Mexico days. He didn’t speak any English, like literally none, not even hello but had been living in the US 30 years, mostly in Texas. My broken Spanish managed to get me a ride the whole way to Memphis that night. I arrived on the outskirts of the city real late and slept beside an RV Camp. When I say slept beside I mean outside the perimeter of the property under a tree in my sleeping bag so as not to pay the $25 camping fee (ridiculous price!) then sneaked in at 7am for a quick shower and over to the nearest petrol station.
The very first guy I asked for a lift into the city center was a Korea Veteran on his way to the veteran’s hospital. He had a veteran’s license plate on his pick up so I asked him straight away and no questions no problems he dropped me by the downtown. Gave me a bible too. Why do Americans think hitchhikers are automatically sinners?
I kicked it in Memphis for just one night then I was bound for New Orleans. Mark the guy I originally got a rideshare from Chicago to St. Louis with was in town after being in Nashville for a couple days (I knew because we exchanged facebooks). He was driving to New Orleans the next day. I shot down to New Orleans so on the next morning and slept out by the train yard in the 9th ward where I knew there would be other travelers. I got a great sleep on some wooden crates under the stars in the heat not even caring about the mosquitoes the slightest bit. The snow of Chicago was a long ways away.
I done some research on whether or not an ESTA tourist visa holder needed a return ticket already booked to get through US customs. Since I plan on travelling onto Canada or Mexico via hitch-hiking I didn’t have proof of onward plans and I needed some answers.
Imagine getting to the US and then having to turn around and return home because I never showed proof that I wasn’t planning on finding a job in the US and staying.
From what my research of the rules told me was that I couldn’t say I was travelling to Canada or Mexico or any island of the Caribbean after the US unless I was a citizen of one of these countries. In fact a booked flight to any of these countries would not suffice to enter the US. Custom’s would think I was scouting for work then flying to Canada and sneaking back over the border into the US.
The rules don’t specify that you must have a return flight to your home however, so I booked the cheapest one possible that wasn’t Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean. It was Miami to San Salvador for €60. Hopefully it would count as proof I was leaving the US (even if I didn’t plan on using the flight).
To get to the US I flew from Dublin to London and then to Boston. At the airport in London when I checked in with Virgin Atlantic at their desk a lady asked to see my return flight ticket. I think she works for Virgin Atlantic’s security team.
I told her I was backpacking central Europe then flying home after that, she asked to see the flight details for my flight to San Salvador which I had printed out.
She was satisfied with this and my boarding pass was printed. She did study the flight details for a minute or two first and asked a couple questions about why I was travelling alone.
In the US the customs fingerprinted me and asked me what my plans were. They didn’t ask to see my onward flight details here.
Then I was in, I saved a lot of money not having to buy a return flight to Ireland.
Without the printed flight documentation for San Salvador I don’t think I could have got onto the Virgin Atlantic plane in London. Best to be prepared if your planning a similar journey.