Two guys, two thumbs, one week and no money. Hitchhiking across the U.S.

There’s a line in the “The Hitchhiking Movie” that made me laugh. Ryan Jeanes, one of the two guys who decided one fine day to hitchhike across the U.S. from New York City to Berkeley, California in one week to test out the kindness of strangers says, after one car dropped them off at what looks like the middle of nowhere, “Three miles further and only 3,000 miles to go.”

There are the rides one takes when hitchhiking because at least a short ride means going further in the right direction, and who knows when there will be another chance to sit down again?

It took Ryan and Phillip Hullquist 23 rides to make it across the U.S., although, I don’t know if they made their deadline. If they didn’t make the deadline, they would have missed their flights back to NY. Ryan had purchased the tickets before hand to add some motivation.

After reading the text on the movie’s website and watching the trailer, I became intrigued about the unfolding of the journey. There are the people they talked with about their trip who thought they were nuts, and the stories of the people who gave them rides. All are woven into the narrative while the scenery adds the backdrop and also highlights the diveresity between the coasts.

Whether they made it from New York City to Berkeley, California within their self-imposed time period is almost beside the point. Having a goal did influence the outcome. People altered their own trips to help Ryan and Phillip out. Because these two vowed not to use any of their own money, their success depended upon others’ generosity.

Their success also depended upon their willingness to stick out their thumbs to see what would happen. Sticking out their thumb took effort. According to Ryan, they “piddled around for awhile” in New York before they actually hit the road. Starting seemed to be one of the hardest parts.

Last spring, there was a story about three friends who were driving through 48 states in less than a week. Some states meant a quick trip through one small section, and in one case, in and out on the same road. At Four Corners, they checked off Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, for example. “The Hitchhiking Movie” reminds me a bit of that story, except Ryan’s and Phillip’s success involved others’ efforts. In the case of driving through every state, it’s a matter of getting the geography, gas, and bathroom breaks just right.

The “The Hitchhiking Movie” was released on DVD this week. Watching it seems like it would be a great boost to fuel the traveling spirit. Here’s the trailer to get you in the mood. You can buy the film on the 11 Visions Website or pay to watch it online.

Tony Hillerman’s Four Corners region of the U.S. and an encounter

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.” –Tony Hillerman

Yesterday, when I read that Tony Hillerman died, I flashed back to one afternoon when I went as a guest to a writer’s group meeting at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As I introduced myself, was I surprised when I shook one man’s hand, and his warm voice said, “My name’s Tony Hillerman.” I had no idea that this was the writers’ group he attended.

What struck me about Hillerman was his unassuming aura. He was generous and thoughtful with his comments to the other writers, and not any more important than the others in the room.

Like anyone else who lives in Albuquerque, I was aware of Hillerman’s work as a mystery writer whose stories center around the Southwest. A person cannot live in that city without being aware of how he brought weight to the region. Plus, his books are everywhere. I recall racks of them.

I’m in awe of writers who are able to attach themselves to a place and dive deep into its nuances. Reading a Hillerman novel is a trip to the Four Corners region of the Southwest. His version is not the one that requires putting one foot in New Mexico, one foot in Arizona, one hand in Utah and the other in Colorado before buying a Navajo taco from one of the food vendors.

If you go to Four Corners with Hillerman’s eye, you look for the person behind the scenery. Who is the person who is selling you that turquoise bracelet? Who lives in the houses far flung at the edge of the hills? What about life matters most to them?

Although tourists may visit the various pueblos and Native American reservations across the Southwest, those experiences are merely glimpses of these cultures. Hillerman wrote about people here by getting under their skin.

As he said, “I always have one or two, sometimes more, Navajo or other tribes’ cultural elements in mind when I start a plot. In Thief of Time, I wanted to make readers aware of Navajo attitude toward the dead, respect for burial sites.” [Brainy Quotes]

Considering that Halloween is coming up this week, here’s a Hillerman title for you: Dance of the Dead. The novel is the second one in his series featuring protagonist Lt. Joe Leaphorn. It won the Edgar Award for best novel.

For an interview with Hillerman in Book Page, click here, and for yesterday’s NPR All Things Considered segment on Hillerman, click here.