A Young Hitchhiker's Guide To The Road: Smile NPR's John Burnett recently picked up hitchhiker Dereck "Chip" Williams, 23, in West Texas. Williams, who was on his way to British Columbia with a backpack and a new fiddle, says it's good for a hitchhiker to smile: "You don't want to be a bucket of misery on the side of the road."
NPR logo

A Young Hitchhiker's Guide To The Road: Smile

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136137420/136151403" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Young Hitchhiker's Guide To The Road: Smile

A Young Hitchhiker's Guide To The Road: Smile

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136137420/136151403" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

NPR's John Burnett is based in Austin, and that means that he spends a good deal of time driving the desolate highways of Texas. Recently, on one of those long drives, John Burnett picked up a hitchhiker.

JOHN BURNETT: The day is overcast and traffic light. I'm driving west on Interstate 10 through limestone hills studded with dull-green junipers. On the outskirts of the town of Junction, in the middle of nowhere, there's a friendly-faced lad with his thumb out. A cardboard sign propped on his rucksack reads West. He's playing the fiddle. I pulled over.

(SOUNDBITE OF PASSING VEHICLES)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DERECK WILLIAMS: My name is Dereck Williams. I'm from Duluth, Minnesota. I'm 23 years old. I'm heading to British Columbia to grab up the most amazing woman I've ever met and go to Alaska and ultimately buy a sailboat and sail the world.

BURNETT: His nickname is Chip. He wears a gray hoodie given to him by a Christian evangelistic team. He has $27 in his pocket. Everything he needs is in a backpack, minus the laptop he left in a truck stop bathroom. His rules of the road are basic.

WILLIAMS: My philosophy of life is basically to, you know, live life, you know, like, do what you do, love what you do and don't listen to naysayers. You know, like, you can't do that. I'm really content with being a minimalist. So as long as I got my coffee in the morning, a pouch of tobacco in my pocket and, you know, maybe a couple of bucks for whatever, I'm happy.

BURNETT: He does not care for the names assigned to him by social service agencies and the police: homeless, hobo, tramp and vagrant.

WILLIAMS: Traveler is the one I use most often.

BURNETT: Chip says during the three years he's been on the road, he's crisscrossed the country five or six times coast to coast. Along the way, he met other travelers who schooled him in the proper way to hop a freight train and thumb a ride.

(SOUNDBITE OF PASSING VEHICLES)

WILLIAMS: Probably the most important rule of hitchhiking is to smile. You know, you do not want to be a bucket of misery on the side of the road. Nobody wants to pick up a bucket of misery. So you want to have a good air about you. You want to stay clean.

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WILLIAMS: And I've only been playing violin for 12 hours. I think that's important to mention.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: There is an update to Chip Matthews' story. Chip did not make it to British Columbia. He was turned back at the border because he didn't have enough money, but he did get a job on a fishing boat headed for Alaska where he plans to meet up with his girl, Angela.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.