Getting Around the Last Frontier by Thumb
In Alaska, hitchhiking gets many where they’re headed
ALASKA - It's not exactly a means of transportation that your mother would condone, but hitchhiking is how dozens of people on any given day get around Alaska.
Take a drive up the Parks Highway, and chances are good that you'll get a thumbs up, from people like Ben Heiler.
“It’s to see the country, just speak to different persons. You speak about the country where you come from.
Heiler comes from Germany.
Now, he's hitchhiking his way back south. “Trying to get to Palmer but if I end up somewhere else, I don't mind,” he laughs.
According to state troopers, hitchhiking is not illegal in Alaska, as long as you're in a place were it is safe and legal to stand. The bottom line is to use caution. Heiler agrees
“Obviously, troopers also want drivers to think carefully before picking up a stranger along the road.”
For Nick Passamonte, this is nothing out of the ordinary.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t have a car out here, lot of seasonal workers, lot of people just traveling, so it doesn’t hurt to help ‘em out – lot of distance between towns around here.”
Further down the road, Marvin Madrose is also headed south.
“Well I'm hitchhiking down to my friend’s place. I’m gonna try and get a job offer there.”
For Madrose, who doesn't have a drivers license, it's not just a way of travel – it's become a way of life. He’s been hitching rides ever since he first left his native village, near Fairbanks. He says he doesn't worry much about his safety, but he does get the occasional visit from law enforcement.
“Oh yeah, they only stop and ask me for an ID and make sure I ain’t got no warrants.” he laughs.
This day, drivers are slow to offer rides. Madrose has been walking for over six miles now. And has over 30 more to go.
But he's not worried or upset. Walking and waiting is the trade-off for getting where he's going.
Both men say they've met a lot of great people while hitchhiking, but that doesn't always mean it's safe.