Roadside Americans

The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation

By Jack Reid

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 13 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-8406-2
    Published: August 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5500-0
    Published: March 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5501-7
    Published: February 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5624-1
    Published: February 2020

Paperback Available August 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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Awards & distinctions

One of Smithsonian Magazine's Ten Best Books about Travel of 2020

Between the Great Depression and the mid-1970s, hitchhikers were a common sight for motorists, as American service members, students, and adventurers sought out the romance of the road in droves. Beats, hippies, feminists, and civil rights and antiwar activists saw "thumb tripping" as a vehicle for liberation, living out the counterculture's rejection of traditional values. Yet by the time Ronald Reagan, a former hitchhiker himself, was in the White House, the youthful faces on the road chasing the ghost of Jack Kerouac were largely gone—along with sympathetic portrayals of the practice in state legislatures and the media.

In Roadside Americans, Jack Reid traces the rise and fall of hitchhiking, offering vivid accounts of life on the road and how the act of soliciting rides from strangers, and the attitude toward hitchhikers in American society, evolved over time in synch with broader economic, political, and cultural shifts. In doing so, Reid offers insight into significant changes in the United States amid the decline of liberalism and the rise of the Reagan Era.

About the Author

Jack Reid is a scholar of American culture. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
For more information about Jack Reid, visit the Author Page.


"Weaves together anecdote, interviews and historical record to present a nuanced look not just at hitchhiking's ebb and flow but the socioeconomic and political reasons behind the shift in public thinking and behavior."—Arizona Daily Sun

“An essential look at history that isn't often examined. . . . A decent, even delightful, read that's perfect for trippers, former hippies, and history buffs. If you’re armchair traveling this summer, it gets a thumbs up.”—Terri Schlichenmeyer, Bookworm Sez

"Reid, an independent cultural scholar, explores hitchhiking in the US. He highlights the heydays of the phenomenon from the 1920s to the 1980s, emphasizing that hitchhiking always maintained various proponents, opponents, and practitioners. . . . Roadside Americans provides a thoughtful and at times intriguing examination of a once storied, if controversial, cultural practice."—Choice

"The first comprehensive scholarly history of hitchhiking in the United States, Jack Reid’s Roadside Americans is an important work. well written . . . and highly accessible."—H-Environment

“This rich and provocative history collects fascinating real-life experiences and anecdotes from nearly a century of hitchÏhiking. It is a unique lens through which we may better understand the changing nature of mobility, identity, political resistance, and inequality in America.”—Randy McBee, authoÏr of Born To Be Wild: The Rise of the American Motorcyclist

"Hitchhiking may have been replaced by ride-sharing services like Uber, but as Reid shows, its disappearance is a symbol of the reassertion of traditional values in the face of social fracture. This book calls these values into question by asking what Americans have lost in their unwillingness to give a ride to a stranger by the side of the road."—Susan S. Rugh, author of Are We There Yet?: The Golden Age of American Family Vacations