Under the Overpass

Under the Overpass

While hitchhiking in the 80’s I covered 43 states. I was almost always solo, but I was also part of a tribe of travelers who were usually well met as we crossed each-others paths the along the Interstate Highways across the country. Along these roads are thousands of over pass bridges, and the ones closest to Truck Stops and towns were where those of my tribe would shelter from a storm and spend our nights.

After I carefully trudged up the 75% cement grade that ended on a three-foot wide flat ledge that spanned the width of the bridge, there would be a four-foot heavily shaded clearance under most of them, so I would crouch to unload my gear onto the cold cement. Sometimes, if I was lucky, there would be a cardboard mat left by the last traveler or a couple local teenagers using the spot to get high or make-out, but other times I would have to go out on a mission seeking a cardboard box from behind a local business.

Usually, I spent my time alone in those spots, but at times someone else would be up there, or just their gear. If there was another traveler (or sometimes a pair of them), I would smoke what I had with them and offer what I was drinking, or vise-versa. Most times we didn’t have a damn thing. We would camp on opposite ends of the ledge that spanned the width of the bridge.

There was always graffiti to be read along one of the concrete rafters set about ten feet apart spanning the width of the overpass. Names and dates of the last ones to pass through, messages to others about the local police or other dangers up above in the area and messages to each-other about when they were here or when they expected to arrive at a destination to meet up. Poetry, some long and some short, and “underpass essays” were common too. The words could rattle you or soothe you. Often there were canned goods that others chose to leave behind. A little weed or tobacco may be found in a baggie under a rock.

The sleep on concrete, even with cardboard and a blanket or sleeping bag was always rough, but it’s the life we chose.