We all have an image of what a hitchhiker is. The word evokes thoughts of some creepy dude who’s been out in the sun and the rain for weeks on end, and who just wants to get into your car so he can murder you.
While it would be inaccurate to say hitchhiking (or picking up a hitchhiker) is an entirely safe activity, especially these days, it doesn’t actually always end with someone dead or scarred for life. In fact, there are some downright heartwarming stories in this list. Of course, there are also some that inspire less confidence in humanity.
Here they are: the internet’s best ‘I picked up a hitchhiker’ stories.
35. Good Samaritans
My friend and I were pulling onto the highway when suddenly a Mexican-looking kid waived us down and ran up to our window. He was carrying a suitcase, the big ones like we take on international vacations, and it seemed as if he had been walking for some time.
Judging from his appearance, I figured he was probably 20-21 years old. He asked us if he could get a ride to “Grayhun.” We both looked at each other and understood that he was saying Greyhound. The only Greyhound bus stop in town was at this gas station a few miles down the road. It was cold and windy out and we had some spare time, so we told him to jump in.
Initially thoughts run through your head… I wonder whats in that suitcase… Is he going to put a knife to my neck from behind the seat? He could have kilos of god knows what from Mexico because this is South Texas…
But as we began to drive, I saw the sigh of relief through the rear view mirror and realized this kid was just happy for a ride. When we got to the gas station, my friend walked in and double checked everything to make sure it was the right spot. To our surprise, the final bus for Houston had already left for the day. The next bus was in a town 25 miles over. We tried explaining this to him.
I should have payed more attention in the Spanish class. The only words I can really say are ‘si’ and ‘comprende.’ My friend and I said screw it lets drop him off. We turned to him and said, ” Listen, we are going to eat first,” making hand gestures showing spoons entering mouth, “and we will drop you off after.” The kid was still clueless and just kept nodding.
We already ordered Chinese food and began driving in that direction and when we got there, he got out of the car and went to the trunk as if the Chinese Restaurant was the bus stop. We told him to come in and eat something first, leave the suitcase in the car. He was still clueless. When we got in, our food was already prepared. We decided to eat there so he could eat as well. When the hostess came over, she was Hispanic. So she explained to the kid what was going on. For the next 10 minutes all he kept saying was thank you.
He had very broken English, but eventually told us he was from Ecuador and he was in America looking for a job to make money for his family back home.
After dinner, we arrived at our destination and said farewell. I hope he made it to wherever he had to go.
34. Pay It Forward
Just about every time I see someone, I stop. I kind of got out of the habit in the last couple of years, moved to a big city and all that, plus my girlfriend wasn’t too stoked about the practice. Then sometime happened to me that changed me and now I am back to offering rides habitually.
This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blow out on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses, and an out-of-gas situation.
Each of these times this happened, I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can all told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really crappy 1-gallon one with no cap for $15.
But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound affect on me.
He was the guy that stopped to help me with a blow out with his whole family of 6 in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to 4 hours. Right as I was about to give up and just hitchhike, a van pulls over and dude bounds out. He sizes the situation up and calls for his youngest daughter, who speaks English. He conveys through her that he has a jack but it is too small for my Jeep so we will need to brace it.
He produces a saw from the van and cuts a log out of a downed tree on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top, and bam, in business. I start taking the wheel off and, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones and I wasn’t careful and I snapped the head I needed clean off.
No worries, he runs to the van, gives it to his wife and she is gone in a flash, down the road to buy a tire iron. She is back in 15 minutes, we finish the job with a little sweat and cussing (stupid log was starting to give), and I was a very happy man. The wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand but he wouldn’t take it, so I instead gave it to his wife as quietly as I could.
I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I could send them a gift for being so awesome. She says they live in Mexico. They are here so mommy and daddy can pick peaches for the next few weeks. After that, they are going to pick cherries then go back home. She asks if I have had lunch and when I told her no she gave me a tamale from their cooler — the best I have ever had.
So, to clarify, a family that is undoubtedly poorer than you, me, and just about everyone else on that stretch of road, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took an hour or two out of their day to help some strange dude on the side of the road when people in tow trucks were just passing me by. Wow…
But we aren’t done yet. I thank them again and walk back to my car and open the foil on the tamale cause I am starving at this point and what do I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran up to the van and the guy rolled his window down. He sees the $20 in my hand and just shaking his head no like he won’t take it.
“Today you… tomorrow me,” he said.
I sat in my car eating the best tamale of all time and I just cried. Like a little girl. It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t deal.
In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:
“Today you… tomorrow me.”
33. The Ballad Of Garth
After graduating high school, 4 friends and I decided to take a long summer road trip and Glacier National Park was our destination. We found ourselves camping in the middle of nowhere in the woods of Northwest Montana, some 25 miles north of Missoula. We camped illegally and partied all night.
In the morning, I woke up in the driver’s seat of my car to see some dude walking by in the road, which was 40 yards away from our campsite. The guy couldn’t see us — he was just passing by — but I could see him. I was still out of it, so I decided to yell at him, not even thinking that it could be the owner of the land that we were illegally camping on.
He did a 180 and began walking towards me. He had a backpack, a big tree limb for a walking stick, and he looked exhausted and hungry. Dude looked like the Big Lebowski mixed with Saul from Pineapple Express but acted like someone who had just had their butt kicked, mentally and physically. He looked like someone had sucked his soul out of him.
My friends had heard me yelling, so they woke to find this guy, Garth, sitting in one of our lawn chairs eating our stale Doritos like he hadn’t had anything in days. We would later learn that was actually true.
It was about 10 AM by the time we decided to leave the campsite and head back to Missoula to find food. Garth hopped in the car and began to tell the story of how he had wound up in the middle of nowhere Montana. He sat shotgun and talked while my friend sat behind him, ready for Garth to try to kill us or something crazy. The story that Garth told us was bonkers.
Some dude he met in Missoula promised him work on his land. Apparently, the guy bought some property and needed some trees and brush cleared so he could start building a house. He said he would let Garth stay on his land for the night and meet him there in the morning with some tools and some food so they could work all day to clear this brush.
Well, one day went by, then another… and another, and another. The guy never showed up, and Garth was on this guy’s land for 5 freaking days with no food or shelter. Luckily, he had a stream to keep hydrated, but catching food was next to impossible. He said he could hear coyotes very close to him at night and one morning he woke up to a Bull Moose 30 yards away, snorting and stomping its hooves on the ground, ready to charge. Garth ran up a tree and stayed there for the rest of the day.
He said he didn’t want to leave the land because he had no idea where he was and he was hoping that the guy would show up to take him back to town. It wasn’t until this particular morning that he said he was so hungry and cold that he thought he was going to die if he didn’t start walking somewhere. Garth said he started following a logging road with the hope it would lead him to people. He had been walking all night with no signs of anything and actually thought he was walking in circles. He said that the coyotes were howling and he was the most scared he had ever been in his life. We were the first sign of life he had seen in almost 6 days.
After he told us this story we were said we wanted to buy him lunch, some drinks, and a coat. He immediately declined. He seemed embarrassed by the situation, especially because some random 18-year-olds were offering to buy him this stuff. We understood where he was coming from but this guy had just spent 6 days in the woods and he deserved a hot meal. He finally said he would eat lunch with us so we took him to a Chinese buffet were he scarfed down four plates like a boss.
After lunch, he asked us to take him to the homeless shelter in town so he could get a shower and a bed for the night. We agreed and took him across town to drop him off. The car ride over was quiet, mainly because Garth dozed off. He was still sleeping when we got to the homeless shelter. We woke him up and he thanked us a million times and stumbled into the shelter. My friends and I were floored by his story. We didn’t say much as we hit the road north to Glacier National Park, until we noticed something on the floor by the front seat. His BACKPACK.
We were 40 miles north of town and didn’t even think about what to do. We pulled over and turned around to take his backpack to him at the shelter.
32. Mulch Ado About Nothing
31. None Of Your Businessman
I was driving back into town one day when I saw this car on the side of the road. A little bit later, I saw this guy in a business suit carrying a duffel bag, so I slowed down. I figured I was close to town and it’s just some dude whose car ran out of gas a little too soon.
Anyway, I pulled over and he threw his bag in the back of my car. “Hey, where you headed?” I asked. He glared at me and said, “Just take me into town.” So I was a little nervous and pretty annoyed.
Then for some dumb reason, I asked him what he had in the bag. His response: “None of your [bleeping] business.” For the whole rest of the drive I was just thinking this can’t be real. Thank god it was still light out because I was getting more and more nervous.
We got into town and I stopped at the first gas station because I wanted him out of there as soon as possible at this point. I drove away and make it home alive.
30. Rocket Man
I was dropping a friend off at the airport, and some middle-aged guy with luggage came up to my car and asked for money for a taxi to his hotel. He kind of didn’t know the city’s geography, and a taxi would have cost around $80. He didn’t look too happy when I told him that, and explained that he had just flown in from a job interview in Detroit, and was in town for another job interview the following day.
After hemming and hawing, I let him jump in and drove him the 40 miles to his hotel. He was apparently an engineer, who I kid you not, worked on rockets, the Space Shuttle, and other various flying things. He said he was down on his luck and these job interviews were the last bit of hope for him. We just talked the whole time about his previous jobs, and various 3D rendering software technology.
It was my first time picking up a hitchhiker and he wasn’t creepy at all.
29. Welcome, Comrade!
My friend and I have had some hilarious times picking up hitchhikers in his van. The way we protect ourselves is by seeming as crazy as possible. We’re in a band and have tons of costume pieces in the van, so we’ll start putting stuff on depending on who we pick up. Then we just act the part. The theory is if you seem unhinged, the hitchhiker won’t try anything.
Last week we picked a guy up on the highway who was trying to get home from a job site. We put on some Russian military hats and jackets we had found at Goodwill recently, put on stern faces, and pretended we didn’t speak English. The ride was just an hour of silence with us turning around and staring at him oddly every few minutes.
Eventually he told us to stop so he could get out, either because we were close to his destination or he didn’t want to be in the van anymore. As he was climbing out, we both turned around with crazy smiles and I yelled, “Have a goodnight, man!” He looked so confused and just watched us till we turned a corner down the road and couldn’t see him anymore.
28. The Rainbow Connection
I’ve picked up plenty of hitchhikers in my life. One I remember was a 28-year-old guy who was trying to get to Madison to be a test subject for a new ADD medication. Apparently they lock you up for a couple months, regulate your diet and exercise, then give you a few grand and set you free. Y’know, if the meds they’re testing don’t kill you.
Anyway, I got him another 50 miles down the road before I had to turn south. He was nice though.
This past June, right before our wedding, my husband picked up 3 crusty kids and their dog. They were hitching their way to a Rainbow Gathering (temporary communes), so he brought them home to me. We fed them and packed them goody bags full of aspirin and hand sanitizer, along with 10 pounds of dog food, then drove them to the next state. They were a nice bunch of kids.
I’ve also not picked up hitchhikers who I thought were suspect, but I usually go to the nearest gas station and put together a bag of water, Gatorade, and granola bars, and bring it to them. Even if I think they look creepy, I still don’t want them to go hungry.
27. Traveling Band
I picked up a hitcher in eastern Montana this summer and drove him 500 miles. We stopped and met some of my friends for lunch, and it turned out one of my friends had mutual acquaintances with the hitchhiker.
Also, before I dropped him off, we laid a track down. He saw my banjo in the back seat and wanted to jam. Turns out that hitchhikers come with guitars and laptop computers nowadays.
26. Never Tell Mom
25. A Real Cut-Up
24. Nice Gesture, Bad Smell
23. Found Family
22. Lost In America
21. Sometimes You Just Need Compassion
The first time I offered a person a ride was when this girl was sobbing her eyes outside a Citibank I go to regularly. She was surrounded by a lot of adults and seeing as I was the youngest and didn’t have anything to do that day, I volunteered to drive this young lady home.
So she sat in my car still crying and saying “I don’t want to get hurt anymore” repeatedly. I’m not the best person to cheer someone up, but I managed to say it’ll be alright. As I drove her back to her place, she started opening up and telling me bits and pieces of what happened. From what I understood, she was 26 years old, got pregnant in high school at 16, her parents disowned her, she’s pregnant again , and her “boyfriend” is now leaving her.
At this point, she was really comfortable about telling me her life’s story, and she asked if I could drive around some more or stop by a park so we could talk. After a while, I told her I had to go home because it was getting late. She sorta hinted that she didn’t want me to go. But I insisted and I finally drove her back to her place.
When we get there, this big, built guy comes out of the apartment. She told me that was her boyfriend and said she was afraid he was going to hurt me. But she got out, they hugged, and he looked at me and said thanks.
20. Never Help
I work out late at the 24 Hour Fitness gym, usually around 2-3 a.m. I saw this guy leaving at the same time as I was, but he was carrying a suitcase. So I shouted at him because he was pretty far in the parking lot “Do you need a ride?” He turned around immediately and headed straight toward me. I felt a little happy thinking I was going to help someone out tonight. He came up to my face and said, “Yo man, are you gay? You shouldn’t be asking people if they need rides.” And he walked away.
Okay, very cool.
19. They’re Not All Bad
I was in the car with my brother when we picked up a hitchhiker. His name was Cameron, was trying to get to the local bus stop to get on a bus to see his girlfriend, I think he was 18 or so. No complications whatsoever, it was a 5 minute car ride, we just made some small talk. After we dropped him off, my brother said to him, “Have a nice life.”
I thought it was funny at the time, but then I realized that I was never going to see that guy in my life again (which is still a ridiculous idea to me whenever I think of it).
18. Free Showers
17. Feeling Rattled
16. Life Is A Highway
15. No Fare
14. A Mixed Bag
13. It Takes All Sorts
12. Road Romance
11. Prayer Answered
10. Pain In The Neck
My dad got stabbed in the neck by a hitchhiker. When he picked the guy up, he tried to rob him. So my dad, being the cocky twenty-something he was he tried to fight him off while driving. It didn’t end well. The guy stabbed him and jumped out of the car.
This was before they had cell phones, so he drove to a Taco Bell drive through and they all started freaking out. The wound ended up being a quarter of an inch away from hitting a major artery. Instead,, he got a sweet scar and a interesting story for his trouble.
9. Angel In A Sedan
I’m female, so I don’t usually stop. But once a few years ago, there was a guy in a caterer’s outfit running down the side of the road in the pouring rain. I’d passed what I assumed to be his broken-down crapheap of a car about a mile back, and there were a couple of miles to go to the next exit. So I decided to roll the dice and stop for him.
Super nice guy, did not creep me out or make me fear for my virtue, said I was “an angel from god”, and I got free car washes for a year because his uncle owned a detailing company. Every time I took the car in the uncle called me “Angel.”
8. He Can Teleport
It’s December 2009, I’m about to deploy, and I have to drive my car across the country to drop it off at my brother’s to look after. I picked up a guy somewhere on I-90, not sure where. The states kind of blend together when you have to drive over 1k miles a day. He smelled like old wet laundry but he didn’t try to talk which made it bearable. I drove for a few hours and dropped him off at a truck stop he requested. I lose maybe 10 minutes total. Then I bought some gas and snacks and got back on the road.
I had a full tank and continued driving non-stop, passing lane the whole way, until I was almost out and had to stop for more fuel. As I enter this gas station I see a familiar figure in this food court area and can’t believe my eyes. It’s him. It’s the hitchhiker. He looked over his shoulder at me and smiled like he knew what was going through my mind and then went back to eating without saying a word. I was freaked out for days. Not only was the coincidence uncanny but how did he beat me there?
7. Coulda Been Worse
6. God’s Chauffeur
5. A Double Act
Act I: Years ago, I ran out of gas in the rain, so I started walking. An old guy in a beat up truck eventually stopped, even though I wasn’t hitching. I was soaked and still had a few miles to go, so what the heck. I was grateful, then asked for the gas station at the next exit. He said his home was close, and he had gas there. He seemed kind, but I was young and pretty freaked. I think he sorta kept me on high alert on purpose — like he had a lesson he was trying to teach me.
We got to his home without incident. He found a 5 gal. gas can full of fuel, then drove me back to my car. I was amazed. I offered him the only $10 I had in my wallet, but he declined. When I shook his hand, he palmed me a crisply-folded $50 and said, “Hold on to this for me. If you need it, go ahead and use it. But if you can hang on to it for a while, pass it on. I’ll be grateful.” He left me holding the crisp $50 and a full gas can, and I never saw him again.
Act II: A dozen or so years later, I’m driving home sometime after 11 o’clock at night on a Sunday. It’s been snowing all day, and the interstate I’m on hasn’t been plowed in hours. I’m doing 20 mph and it’s really coming down, very few other idiots like me out on the road. I see red tail lights way up ahead of me — then they float to the left, then right, then slip down below what should be the road. She slid right off the interstate and down an embankment.
It took me a few minutes to finally spot her. The car was in one piece, right side up. For some reason I shut my car off when I pulled over. I remember because when I got out, it was that weird whisper quiet of a midnight snowfall. Then she started screaming.
Later she told me (through sobs) that she thought I was going to kill her. At the time, all I could think of was that she was pinned inside the car, and seriously injured. So I go stomping down through the snow as fast as possible, which causes her to scream even more. It was at least 15 minutes before she’ll even roll down the window to talk to me. She bumped her head, but otherwise was okay. Her car wouldn’t start, and was very stuck, anyway.
I get her up to my car, and she gives me rough directions to her home, but is still really emotional. Then her cell phone rings. The guy on the other end is furious she’s not home yet. His yelling sets her off again, and then she’s trying to explain the car wreck to this jerk. At first he doesn’t believe her, calls her a cheating bimbo. She finally manages to convince him, but then he wants to know how she’s getting home. She explains me stopping to help, thinking I was going to murder her, and that now I’m driving her home. Eventually she hangs up the phone, even more a mess, if it’s possible, than when I found her at the bottom of the ditch.
The next half-hour to her place (doing 20 mph) was actually pretty amazing. She was trying to go back to school, get her life together, and dump that sorry sack she was going home to. She said in the first few minutes after the wreck, sitting lonely in the silence of snowfall, that she thought she was going to die. When she first saw me and thought I was going to kill her, she realized she wanted to live, and that she still had a life worth fighting for.
She grabbed my hand, started sobbing again, and thanked me for saving her life. We pulled into her driveway, and she hugged me and thanked me again. I pulled out my wallet and gave her a crisply folded $50. “Hold on to this for me. If you need it, go ahead and use it. But if you can hang on to it for a while, pass it on. I’ll be grateful.”
4. A Little On The Nose
One time I picked up a guy who looked much scarier up close than I expected. But I felt bad so I gave him a ride anyway. After a few miles of silence, he turned to me and said, “Hey, this worked out okay. I needed a ride… and you needed someone who wasn’t going to murder you.”