Hitchhiking America: A Slow Start In Oregon (Part 1)

Hitchhiking the United States
Hitchhiking America: Exploring the Coast
Oregon, USA

After starting my big hitchhiking adventure last week on Pacific coast in Oregon, I still haven’t left the state! Here’s what’s happened so far…

Day 1 of my cross-country hitchhiking journey begins as I strap on my pack and walked to the edge of Seaside, OR. It was chilly and overcast outside. I grabbed a piece of old cardboard from the hostel I slept at the night before and sat down in a field to sketch out a road sign.

There wasn’t much space, so I simply wrote out the name of the town I was headed to in big red block letters. Astoria, Oregon.

I stood on the side of Route 101 — the sign in one hand, my thumb out with the other. Attempting to look as friendly and sane as possible while smiling to passing drivers. And pass they did. Over, and over, and over again.

Hitchhiking with CJ
Ride #1: CJ the Redneck

Ride #1: CJ The Redneck

About 20 minutes into my wait, a giant orange 1976 Chevy finally skids to a stop in a cloud of dust behind me. I jog up to find a young woman named CJ behind the wheel. Beside her on the bench seat sits Titan, her super friendly 5 year old Husky mix rescue dog.

CJ lives in the area, and was heading to the town of Warrenton, about 11 miles away. She could drop me off at a good intersection there. She told me she doesn’t usually pick up hitchhikers, but I looked pretty normal.

She’s also done some hitchhiking in the past herself. CJ spent a few months camping in the Montana wilderness around Glacier National Park when she was younger.

Hitchhiking with Bruce
Ride #2: Bruce the Hawaiian

Ride #2: Bruce the Hawaiian

From Warrington, I threw up my same “Astoria” sign and quickly landed a ride from Bruce only 5 minutes later. He’s a recently retired paper-mill worker who’s family is originally from Hawaii. We chatted about things to do around Astoria while driving into town.

In addition to the Goonies House, he recommended I check out the view from the Astoria Column. Bruce dropped me off in the center of town near a coffee shop where I could recharge my gadgets and get some work done.

Goonies House Astoria Oregon
Dancing the Truffle Shuffle at the Goonies House

Astoria, Oregon

Astoria is where the Steven Spielberg film “The Goonies” was filmed. One of my favorite movies of all time! Because it was so close, I couldn’t possibly head East without stopping by for a quick visit to the famous Goonies’ House and dance Chunk’s Truffle Shuffle out front.

The city has a long history of fishing and shipping industry via access to the Columbia river, and you can still see plenty of giant cargo ships loaded up with timber, cars, grain, and other goods as they pass back and forth along the river to Portland.

Cargo Ships Astoria Oregon
Cargo Ships Around Astoria
Hammock Camping Astoria Oregon
My Luxury Accommodations for the Night

Stealth Camping in the Woods

After a day of exploring Astoria and working a bit, I decided it was time to find a place to camp for the night. So I walked up into the wooded area near the Astoria Column around sunset and searched.

But the forest out here was pretty damn thick with vegetation and thorn bushes, so it wasn’t easy to find a place. Even with my awesome camping hammock.

Hitchhiking in Oregon
Ride #3: Laurie the Nurse

Ride #3: Laurie the Nurse

After my night in the woods, I hitched a short ride back into town with Laurie. I only had to wait for 5 minutes. Laurie is the Director of Nursing at Clatsop College in Astoria. She immediately told me she NEVER picks up hitchhikers…

So why did she pick me up in the early morning on the side of the road in the middle of a forest? Apparently I don’t look like a drug addict.

Plus she has a few of her own hitchhiking stories from her 20’s while backpacking around New Zealand. She wanted to help out a fellow adventure seeker — so she dropped me off at Safeway where I bought breakfast.

She easily would’ve brought me farther if I’d asked her to.

Hitchhiking in Oregon
Ride #4: Susan the Hula Hooper

Ride #4: Susan the Hula Hooper

Next it was time to get out of Astoria and head South back to the town of Seaside. After walking to the edge of town, I picked a busy spot with a large parking lot for potential rides to pull into, threw up a new cardboard sign and stuck out my thumb.

This time it took 25 minutes before anyone stopped. Still not too shabby!

Susan’s car was loaded up with a bike on the trunk and a few giant hula hoops in the back seat. Before I could get into the car, she made me promise I wasn’t going to murder or rob her.

Susan is a medical records auditor from Tacoma, WA and was on her way to Seaside for a short vacation. She’s a big hula-hoop fan, and actually makes her own out of PVC pipe!

We decided to eat lunch together at Norma’s Seafood & Steak when we arrived in Seaside. The clam chowder at Norma’s was excellent!

Hitchhiking in Oregon
Ride #5: Scott the Children’s Author

Ride #5: Scott the Children’s Author

After splurging on a hotel room in Seaside and finally taking a shower, the next morning I walked to a gas station and found some cardboard in a dumpster for my sign. Again it took 25 minutes before someone pulled over.

It’s interesting to witness the reactions different people have as they drive past you. Some smile and wave, others look sorry they can’t pull over (full car, not going far, etc.). Many quickly look away like they’re ashamed or disgusted with you.

But when Scott pulled over in his shiny red Jeep Liberty, he offered to bring me all the way to Beaverton on the outskirts of Portland (a 1.5 hour drive) where he was visiting his 20 year old daughter.

Scott was full of great stories. He spent a few months in prison for causing a bad car accident when he was younger, went on a hitchhiking journey up the West coast to Canada, worked as a salesman most of his life, and is currently writing a children’s book.

Oh, and he almost died when his heart failed at a Pink Floyd concert.

In Beaverton, Scott bought me hot wings and a few beers at Wingstop, where he also proceeded to kick my ass. In video trivia. Then he dropped me off at a metro station so I could take the light-rail into Portland. ★

Route: Seaside, OR to Portland, OR | Distance: 113 Miles


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (36)

  1. When I stumbled across this blog, I was excited to see your project for hitchhiking across America. I’m currently slow traveling down the east coast, and I’m feeling a kinship! I really didn’t think you’d get many people to stop for a hitchhiker, but you did! I’m only on the first post, but I plan on making it all the way to the end of your journey. See you on the other side!

  2. Wow! Matt! This was so much fun! Some of the photos have such vibrant colors! This one is an adventure unto itself. Unlike most states, it’s legal to hitch-hike on Oregon State Highways so I’m not surprised you were able to get some good rides. I spent a long weekend in Astoria awhile back and will be blogging about that soon. Looking forward to reading more of your hitch-hiking adventures!

  3. I’ve never had a “Big Adventure”, but my wife, Peg, and I have had a lot of strife for the last 8 years or so. I really need to just get away for a while, and thankfully I have a very understanding and supportive wife. I’ll be 58 soon, I dont currently have a job, and I long for something to look forward to. As a Christian I’m gonna pray about it for a while. when the time is right, I’ll go.

  4. I’m glad you got to visit Astoria, one of my favorite towns on the coast. I’ve been camping there every year for over three decades. Despite its small size, it would be easy to spend a week there and visit all the places nearby. I wish the economy was a bit better, I’d live there if I could. Instead I’ll just need to keep visiting and maybe retire there!

  5. Hey you! It’s CJ the redneck the girl that picked you up in seaside in the big orange truck.

    Glad you made it and my little town really enjoyed seeing this article!! LOL

  6. My partner and I are heading out to Seattle next month with the hopes of travelling south to California: the Redwoods, to Santa Cruz, and down to Big Sur. We’re content with camping along the coast as we go, but neither of us have ever done any hitchhiking. We want this trip to be so much more than corporate car rentals and riding a train past all the goods- we want to get dirty. Anybody have any advice for our journey?

  7. From my experience with hh west to east , the waiting time between rides seemed to get longer the further east I went. I also noticed that Fri. [email protected] are coast to coast designated drunk driver and passenger days. I noticed those were the days to watch for bottles being thrown and vehicles swerving over in a good natured game of ”run over the hh” – 10 points. lol I met alot of really nice people though and that is what made it a truly rewarding experience !

  8. i;ve hitch hiked all over the world, my last trip has been about 9 years ago when i hitched the yukon, Alaska, bc and Alberta for 3 months, It was absolutely beautiful! Only met nice people and had great talks. Now i’m going to the states again, and would like to hitch around the east (ny to Alabama v.v and the surrounding states) but……i’ve been a couch potato the last few years only watching tlc documentaries like, dissapeared, missing, evil I, and more of those shows
    we didn;t have in holland in my hitching years, now i’m not sure if i dare doing it again…….

  9. I have been hitchhiking a couple times just through Texas and a little bit out in California. I have been itching to head on out again soon. I am currently in Houston, TX and want to see more of the beauty that is out there. I feel a freedom, even though it isn’t easy at times, being out on the road. You get a whole new perspective on life and the world.

    • Hey Matthew

      I live in Houston too, and while I hitchhiked here a few months ago, I haven’t hitched out ever. Do you know any good spots to get rides out of the city, any direction really? I’d love to do some scouting and make a real HitchWiki page for this city!

  10. I can totally relate to this, Matthew. I went hitchhiking over the summer because the travel itch was really getting to me and all the travel writings I have been reading. I graduated high school that year and wanted to go experience something! Well the experience was awesome, I started from Thunder Bay, Ontario and ended up on Buffalo, Wyoming. I stayed in Buffalo for a while since I met great people there. All the rides I got were from really nice people, and the most common thing I was told was that I should be careful because of all the crazy people out there (which is true). Well I kept on getting rides from fantastic people whom some I still keep in touch with. The only iffy situation I was in was a tractor-trailer ride back home and the guy was crazy religious extremist, but even then I put up with it because, 1. It was a very far ride and 2. He was a great guy behind the beliefs. Overall, I have to say that hitchhiking can be a very emotional, exciting, adrenaline rushing, and uplifting experience for the few that do it and cherish it.

  11. It really is amazing how hitch hiking can vary so much from one culture to the next. It’s obviously pretty sparse in the U.S. these days, but last year in Mexico when I was doing the drive from Cancun to Playa Del Carmen, there were probably hundreds of people catching rides that way. The only time I’ve seen that many in the U.S. was in San Francisco, where people would meet up right before the bridge and carpool across to save on the crazy toll fees.

    • I’ve done some hitching around the Yucatan. But hundreds of people?? Are you sure they weren’t just flagging down colectivos (shared taxi-vans) John? Those things are ridiculously cheap. And you just stand on the side of the road to catch them.

  12. I have done some hitchhiking as a teenager (don’t tell my mum), and found it such a great way to meet locals. Being a woman I probably wouldn’t do it by myself, but you seem to be able to look after yourself perfectly well, so it is great reading all about it.

  13. I’m going on a 5 weeks holiday in the west coast next month and these posts put me in the right mood. However, I think there’s a cool crater lake in Oregon that I won’t pass through… maybe next time.

    • I’ve found over the years that it’s better to relax and take your time at a few key places rather than try to do it all.

  14. I guess you guys are going too fast but enjoying and exploring many sights during your travel. Following your updates :)

  15. I keep following your progress of your American adventure. I’m curious, as always to know the following: your bag, your infamous orange bag…what do you have in there? From the photos it doesn’t look too large in size yet you seem to be able to fit all these gadgets inside it. For example; your hammock/bed thing- sorry, don’t know the actual name- and all your electronics. Do you keep a change of clothes, toiletries, etc. Are you using that new camera you bought recently or are you simply using your phone to take photos? How do you keep up with your blog and other online places? Via a laptop or also via your phone? It’s interesting to me seeing how you travel and what things are a “must have” when you travel.

    • My bag is packed a bit different for this trip. But I think I’ll publish a post all about it Janeth! I’m using a smaller camera, but also have my laptop & phone. Fewer clothes, and no daypack like I usually have.

      • Hey Matthew,
        Thank you for your response. When you compose that post, please take a pic. Laptop? Wow! I wonder how you keep it from breaking- same with your camera. Yes, I remember you posted something about using a smaller camera. Are you enjoying it? Are the photos good quality?

        I have a few more questions:

        -You’re hitchhiking, but are you also eating thrifty or is that not an issue?
        -In regard to sleeping arrangements- is your goal to find unconventional places to sleep, such as outdoor places, people’s homes, etc….or are you aiming specifically for motels/ hotels? (For safety, I mean.) Or are you just going with the flow and seeing how the day goes in order to determine what decisions to make?

        I can’t wait to see what new adventures come your way.

  16. I hitchhiked round New Zealand a few years ago. It was so much fun. Looking forward to following you on your adventure!

    • I think hitching in the US get’s an unnecessarily bad rap. Too many bad movies & sensational media coverage. Might be a bit harder than New Zealand, but so far I’m having a blast too!

  17. This was so much fun to read. I love that you did a spotlight on all the kind souls that have given you a ride. This trip is incredible! I don’t know if I have the balls to actually do it – but it is a dream, so I’m enjoying reading about it.

    • You don’t have to do it all at once Bobbi, maybe try hitching somewhere for a weekend? Remember you can always say no to rides. :)

  18. I’m getting some ridiculous pleasure out of reading these posts and your facebook updates. I have no idea why – I have never hitchhiked and I suspect I never will. But I have picked up a few over the years!! Keep the info coming – this is fast replacing the infamous laptop incident as my favourite post series of yours.

    • haha. Good to know Tracey! I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I think the real-time updates make it extra fun. :D

  19. I’m obsessed with this post! I’ve actually only hitchhiked twice (in New Zealand) but I love the photos of the folks who are picking you up. You’re giving me the travel itch, I definitely want to try this in the States sometime soon!

    • My favorite part is learning about the people who give me rides! It’s quite fun Marian. Not the fastest way to get around, but super interesting.

  20. Great read, I’d love to try my hand at hitchhiking .. but its not really the done thing in the UK.

    Visiting the Goonies house is now a life’s ambition of mine, that photo is awesome!

    • It’s not really done in the USA anymore either though Neil, I think you should still try. I bet you’d be surprised!

      And if you think my Goonies photo is good, wait until you see the dance video… :D

  21. So great to see you on your way Matt! Great post idea to reflect the nature of hitchhiking. If we ever meet again (at Pumpkin Woman again?!) we need to share hitching techniques!

    • They are Steph. It’s been cool to see who stops to pick me up. I’ve been a bit surprised — so far they’ve all been really nice and not crazy. At the moment it’s been more women than men too!