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Letters: A Hitchhike Reunion

Bill Radke

Millie Jefferson

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Mary Anne Wise and friends in Calhoun, Ga.,
(Courtesy Mary Anne Wise)
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A few weeks ago we aired a story about listener Mary Anne Wise hitchhiking her way to Florida back in 1972 during her spring break. Mary Anne had an eventful trip, which included getting picked up by a state trooper in Georgia
as she and her friends tried to hitch a ride on I-75.

We received lots of letters and comments about that story, including one from Lester Rampy. He was the state trooper who picked up Mary Anne and her friends. Lester and Mary Anne hadn't spoken since spring break in 1972, but we changed all that. Below is Mary Anne's story, and the letter we got in reply:

Mary Anne's Story

It was April 1972, and I was 18-and-a-half years old. It was spring break. We were so excited to get out of Minnesota -- it had been a long winter, and when you live in the Midwest the ocean just has this exotic pull, and we were so pumped up to go.

We had this ride all set up with another fellow student, and the bags were packed and we were going to leave early in the morning. Then the phone rings, and it's our friend, John, and his plans have changed and he's not going to Florida after all, and our ride had fallen through. And we were just devastated.

We were so disappointed. And then we just kind of looked at each other and said, "You know what? There's strength in numbers -- why don't we hitchhike?"

I remember we threw our keys on the kitchen table and we symbolically shut the door and locked it behind us, as though there's no turning back. We were just giddy, just gleeful... "Let's go!"

We had a sign -- a little cardboard sign -- and I'm pretty sure the sign said Ft. Lauderdale. And the three of us are standing just shoulder-to-shoulder on the side of the road. And we would just put out our thumbs and people picked us up.

So here it is now, the end of our second day, and it's probably 10 o'clock at night, and we had been deposited on an exit-entrance ramp outside of Calhoun, Georgia. And pretty soon a car comes by, slows in front of us -- and wouldn't you know it, it's the cops. And we all just had this sinking feeling, like, we are so busted. None of our parents knew that we were hitchhiking.

The officer got out of the car and said there'd been some trouble lately, and he didn't think it was safe for us to be on the road. And he said, "Well, hop in." He started driving back to the station and I remember he saw somebody who was obviously drunk driving in front of us, kind of weaving around, and rather than pull the guy over, he simply followed him home and watched him get out of the car and fumble with his keys and get in the house.

And next he drove us to the station, and we got in the station and there were three cots with pillows placed. We knew exactly who those three cots were for -- they were for us.

And in the morning, the same guy who picked us up in the squad car came back. He told us to get in his car, and he took us to the local diner and bought us breakfast, and returned us to the entrance ramp of the freeway. He let us out of the car and cautioned us to be careful out there -- and pretty soon, we were in a car going down the road again.

Finally we arrive in Florida. And now it's time to come home. And oh man, 36 rides down, how many is it going to take to get back? We were sort of exhausted by that time. I think we were outside of Miami, maybe, and it was our very first ride. And the fella driving us notices the car ahead of us with two young men in the car and the car has Minnesota license plates.

And the driver that we are with says, "I have an idea -- why don't one of you grab this piece of paper here... Write 'Minnesota?' on the paper, and I'll pass him. As I'm passing him, I'll honk my horn, try to get his attention, you can put the sign up in the window, and point to yourselves, and who knows, maybe they are going to Minnesota."

Well, that's exactly what we did. And the two guys in the car with Minnesota license plates nod yes, pull off to the side of the road. And we hop in and we get one ride all the way home.

It just felt charmed. It felt like a charmed trip. It just felt like a charmed life. Thinking back on the trip, it's one thing to do it when you are young. But now I've got this daughter who is 17, and I really hope she doesn't do anything so foolish.

What I do wish for her is that she meets the kind of characters that we met on the road, and that she has people when she is in tough spots, or potentially dangerous spots. I do hope people find her and take care of her, as we were taken care of.

Lester Rampy's letter to Weekend America

On April 26, 2008, you published a story about a girl and her friends that were hitchhiking back in 1972. The girls were picked up on the highway down here in Calhoun, Ga.

I am the state trooper that picked them up and helped them that night. I would like very much to get in contact with any of the girls. Your help would be very much appreciated.

Ret. Maj. Lester Rampy
Calhoun, Ga.

More stories from our Letters series


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By Vince Shay

    From Omaha, NE, 05/29/2008

    I hitchhiked many times between Indiana University and Dayton, Ohio. On one trip a friend accompanied me. We were heading back to IU and a blizzard overtook us. The Ohio Patrol made us walk across a farm field and hitchhike an a US Hwy. There was no traffic and we walked for miles. Eventually we cut back to the interstate, coated with snow and shaking with cold. It was life-threatening. The next trooper who stopped was an Indiana patrolman. We were concerned about his response. Instead of forcing us off the road, he gave us a ride. He proceeded to hand us off to another patrolman...who was patrolling his stretch of highway. This went on for more more than 120 miles. The last trooper depositing us at our domitory. This was a great personal example of law enforcement's promise to protect and serve.

    By I R

    From San Diego, CA, 05/17/2008

    It's great hearing about reunions like this. As many leisurely activities as there are these days, it's amazing in itself that they listen to the same show. Congratulations!

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