Road mind & the golden thumb

Hold your thumb straight up, tilt it back, and wave it to catch the light and the passing motorist’s eye. 

The hitchhiker’s thumb symbolizes a free spirit. It is the obvious choice for‘s avatar, the waving, upturned thumb emblematic of all that hitchhiking represents — the road, unencumbered movement, transcendence, the quest, the bard.

The night Marc and I got lost on our return to camp from The Range, a roadside digihitch thumb guided our route between creosote clumps. 

“Our slogan, ‘the site of subcultural movement,’ says that you can connect with people, stories, and tips of uncommon travel to go further,” says Morgan Salman Strüb, who originated the idea and content for digihitch.

Strüb has been hitching for 20 years, ever since he was a 16-year-old runaway from a worried, uptight home, in which he was subjected to a very fear-based religious upbringing. “It was either suicide or hit the road.”  His survival instinct kicked in, and he opted for the road.  But back then, he didn’t know how to hitchhike except from a ’70s TV episode of ‘Eight Is Enough,’ in which Nicholas, the youngest of the ‘Eight,’  runs away from home and is befriended by an old, wild-eyed man trying to get to the Yukon. On the TV show, Nicholas and the old man flash a handwritten sign reading “Yukon or Bust.” Strüb was on his way to New Mexico. So he found a realtor’s poster and on its white backside, he wrote in marker, “Gallup or Bust.” (For more, see The Story Behind My First Hitchhike).

He says he felt shy about sticking his thumb out, as though he were advertising something he didn’t understand. “It’s like, I don’t know what I’m doing, so I don’t think I should be saying’ this.”

Twenty years later, he tells me he has stretch marks on his thumb from using it so much. And he tells me more about ‘road mind.’

“Road mind is a Zen-like feeling on the road. To express it? It’s like when you’re in the absolute present moment. You sense that everything is connected. The ride is coming. All is working exactly as it should. The road will lead you where you need to be next.”

Some see getting into road mind as appeasing the road gods. According to the digihitch founder, one digihitcher actually throws coins onto the road to appease the road gods where they live.

Another aspect of road mind comes from the first ride of every hitchhiking trip. “That first ride works up that feeling, that rush,” says Strüb. You have ‘thumb power,’ or ‘the golden thumb.’ When you have the golden thumb, you can do no wrong.”


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