. . . You Remember The “Ride Board” On Campus!
It was usually on a wall off in some far corner of the student union, a big slab of corkboard divided so elegantly into two categories: “Ride Available” and “Ride Needed.” As efficient as it was self-explanatory, the Ride Board was a nonmonetary marketplace where transactions were handled through scraps of paper with a destination, date, name and phone number scrawled on them. Thumb tacks, pushpins or a piece of tape held the scraps to the board.
You posted on the “Ride Needed” side for all sorts of destinations: trips home, to concerts, to visit girlfriends or boyfriends, or simply to get away to somewhere new. People offered rides for the gas money and, usually, to split the driving. Back then we always drove through the night just like long haul truckers, listening to music on the eight-track player or a ballgame broadcast on one of the 50,000-watt AM “blowtorches” like KMOX in St. Louis or WLS in Chicago.
A quick Google search has informed me that Ride Boards still exist, online now. However, reading a little deeper, I found that many colleges disavow them for liability reasons, and, anyway, the students have been indoctrinated against meeting “strangers.” That seems a glaring contradiction in an era where, starting before middle school, kids share insanely detailed accounts of their daily lives through social media.
That said, the sad fact is that in the present day no one should ever get out on the road and hitchhike, or take off for a cross-country trip with someone they know only through a Ride Board. That would be nuts.
But we grew up in a more trusting and trustworthy time. Not that there weren’t a few surprises…
In 1974 I was home from college and my summer job was working in a steel mill. By August I had maneuvered my schedule to get six days off in a row – long enough to go visit my girlfriend, who was spending her summer studying Buddhism out in Boulder, Colorado. (Yeah, it was a weird relationship.)
There was no way the car I drove would make it to Colorado, so I stood beside the highway with my thumb out and two days later I was in Boulder getting enlightened. Or whatever. It was quite a trip, made even more memorable by watching coverage of Richard Nixon’s resignation in a bar that served pitchers of Coors for $1.25.
In a break between “meditating” and watching History Being Made, I located the University of Colorado student union and, bingo, there was the Mother of all Ride Boards. Good fortune smiled on me, because a guy was offering a ride to Oxford, Ohio. That would get me nearly all the way back home in time for my next shift at the mill.
We met on campus the following afternoon and by midnight we were deep into Kansas. He pulled off I-70 at a rest stop and asked if I’d mind taking the wheel for a spell. The car was a sweet ride, a Camaro, and of course I was itching to drive.
Back out on the highway I was testing the fast lane when he said to me, very matter-of-factly, that I should keep it close to the speed limit.
“There might be some pot in the trunk,” he said.
“And if there was some pot in the trunk, how much might there be?” I said, backing off the gas pedal.
“A hundred pounds.”
And then he pulled the brim of his cap over his eyes and went to sleep while I drove on through the Kansas night.
It was a more trusting time. And maybe just slightly more crazy, too.