Hitchhiking America: Hot Tubs, Cookie Bribes, & Pancake Sandwiches (Part 4)

Hitchhiking the United States
Hitchhiking America: Would You Pick Me Up?
Washington, USA

My hitchhiking adventure speeds up as I randomly run into old friends, make some new ones, and discover pancake sandwiches. The best invention ever.

Day 11 of my trip across the United States starts with a bus ride out of Seattle. Trying to hitchhike directly out of cities is difficult, as urban on-ramps rarely have a decent spot for cars to pull over, traffic is moving fast, and many people are only traveling a short distance.

So I often use public transportation to get away from any metro areas.

Taking the city bus out to Issaquah, I soon discovered that the exit I’d chosen was just as bad as in the city. There was no shoulder for cars to pull over on, let alone room for me to walk out there safely, forcing me to stand around with my cardboard sign at a small gas station nearby.

But after 3 hours and no luck, I walked back to the bus stop and asked a driver to take me to a better area.

Hitchhiking the United States
Camping Behind a Mormon Church

Camping Behind A Church

Arriving in the town of North Bend, I decided to spend the afternoon working inside a McDonalds using their free WiFi. I’d attempt to find a place to camp for the night later. Google Maps is great for this!

The satellite view lets you easily scope out potential urban camping sites nearby.

Churches are often decent places to camp. Not many people hang out there in the middle of the night, and a church is apt to be a bit more lenient with trespassers than a business or private residence would be.

I discovered a Mormon church located only a few blocks away. Perfect. I just hope trespassing isn’t considered a sin…

Hitchhiking the United States
Hot Tub & Coffee Anyone?

It’s A Small World After All!

Once I was safe & snug in my camping hammock, a truck suddenly pulled into the parking lot. I was afraid I’d been spotted. Luckily they didn’t seem to see me hidden in the trees, and drove off a bit later. However the following morning I learned it was actually a friend of mine…

I met Laura & Ted at the Adventure Travel Mexico conference in Veracruz last year. They own a fun travel agency called Go Custom Travel.

It seems Laura discovered I was in their hometown completely at random when she happened to check out the live tracking map I’ve been using. She sent her husband Ted out to find me & offer a place to crash… it was his truck I saw at the church!

They invited me to breakfast in the morning, followed by a relaxing soak in their hot tub while enjoying some fresh coffee. Oh, and they also packed me a tasty lunch plus a bag of gourmet cookies to bribe my way into the next car.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #12: Dave the Plumber

Ride #12: Dave the Plumber

Making sure to write “Free Cookies” on my cardboard road sign to entice someone to stop, I waited along the I-90 East on-ramp for about an hour as at least 50 cars passed me. It was Dave who finally pulled over in his Subaru WRX.

You think your daily commute is bad? Dave’s drive is 2 hours! He’s a plumber & AC repair guy — who makes as much money as some doctors do. When he was younger, he hitchhiked from Florida to Boston.

But these days he’s providing for his 8 kids (that’s not a typo), hunting for elk or fishing for salmon with his free time. He drove me 79 miles through Washington’s beautiful Snoqualmie Pass to the town of Ellensburg.

I spent a few hours attempting to hitch out with no luck, and set up camp near a Flying J truck stop that night. They make some good chili! It comes with a massive brick of corn bread. The WiFi at the truck stop was good and strong, so I actually had a signal from my camping spot 1/4 mile away using the Alpha WiFi antenna.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #13: The Maverick Collectors

Ride #13: The Maverick Collectors

In the morning I spent an hour outside with my sign when Paul, Trina, and John called me over from a restaurant parking lot. While eating breakfast they’d been watching me attempt to hitch out with no luck — and decided to offer a lift in their classic 1973 Ford Maverick.

We cruised East past a giant wind farm as the landscape became dry, barren, and hot. Hazy smoke from a wildfire nearby filled the air.

Often when you’re hitchhiking the driver wants to talk a lot. But some people are perfectly happy to enjoy some silence.

Paul & John are brothers and both work as car mechanics. They actually own a collection of old Mavericks. We didn’t talk much though, which was actually nice for a change. Trina handed me a can of Coke and a few small packages of Cheese-Its for ride.

They dropped me off about 29 miles later at a gas station in the town of Vantage alongside the Columbia River.

Hitchhiking the United States
Vantage Bridge on the Columbia River

Stranded in the Sun…

There’s a beautiful bridge that crosses the Columbia River at Vantage, and a petrified forest too. The only problem is not many people stop here.

I quickly learned it wasn’t the best place to hitch a ride out of.

After 2 hours standing under the blazing hot sun, only 10 cars had passed me. My hitchhiking prospects weren’t looking good here. I began to believe I’d be stranded in Vantage for the night…

But then I was saved by the inventor of The Ultimate Pancake Sandwich.

Hitchhiking the United States
Ride #14: Pancake Sandwich King

Ride #14: Pancake Sandwich King

John is from Seattle. He was on his way East to Idaho for business. What kind of business? The pancake sandwich type of course!

He owns a company that created The Ultimate Pancake Sandwich.

I totally scored with this ride.

Our world needs a microwaveable breakfast sandwich that’s actually tasty and made with fresh local ingredients. F*ck Hot-Pockets, the Ultimate Pancake Sandwich is quick to prepare, not messy to eat, and tastes fantastic!

But to prove it, John loaded me up with a few of his epic creations to taste-test for myself.

The 2-hour drive to Spokane flew by as we talked about social media, following your dreams, not obsessing about things in life you can’t control, and international travel.

John’s never hitchhiked before but picks up hitchhikers often. This guy has plenty of good karma coming his way in the future. Keep an eye out for his delicious pancake sandwiches in a supermarket near you! ★

Have you ever been hitchhiking before? Have any questions about it? Let me know in the comments below!


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 (25)

  1. I would so have picked you up! But only after you’ve gotten the cookies. I’m sure that’s something you can understand.

  2. I thought hitchhiking is a rather obsolete idea now, but seeing you doing that makes me think that it’s actually very doable and looks like a lot of fun! Oh and pancake sandwich? Yumm!

  3. So much fun. Since my Mongol Rally team totaled our car in Russia, I have been hitching with other teams to finish. You meet the best people!

  4. Epic post. Been loving the photos on Instagram and Facebook, but reading the travel log really brings these interesting characters and good people to life.

  5. Hi Matt! Just want to let you know the NC McDs are following you and keeping our fingers crossed for more safe travels. You’ve already met a LOT of great folks and I can tell your life has been further enriched by this experience. You continue to amaze us. It occurred to me that this is something my Dad would love to do … but I’m not telling him how much fun you’re having!! Best of luck!

  6. Wow Matt you are having a grand journey! Gotta love the experience that travel brings. From hammock to hot tub who could ask for anything more. Cookie does make it more tempting to pick you up I guess and man I would love to get my hands on a pancake sandwich.

  7. Mate this looks amazing! Sounds like you had a great time and met some wonderful people. Where next?!

    • Well, I’m already in Maryland, so I’m a bit behind on these updates. But the next post has me going to Montana for a wedding…

  8. Great adventure for sure but the food hookups seems to be the best yet! Pancake sandwiches…what will they think of next!! Happy travels and stay safe!

  9. What an awesome adventure! Am really loving all your instagram and FB photos of your updates! You’re doing such a great job of hitchhiking!

    • Glad you’re enjoying the journey Mica. There are difficult moments, but hitchhiking is not as hard as I thought it would be here in the states.

  10. A pancake sandwich!? Oh, America, gotta love it. Being home has meant so many unhealthy but amazing food choices. Good luck on the rest of your trip and may you stumble onto the ultimate combo, a cookie sandwich.

  11. Seriously loving following your adventures! You’re right about Seattle’s on ramps… I can only think of one where I’ve seen people trying to hitch.

    Those pancake sandwiches look awesome! I love how they look like pancake dumplings. haha!

      • I keep hearing people from out of town referring to Seattle public transit as “good” even though many locals abhor it. Even though I was only back for 2 weeks, I’m more inclined to agree with you :) I also totally look at onramps and judge how hitchhiker friendly they are now. :)