March 7, 2013
By Rachael Horne
Tim Shey has spent the last 16 years hitchhiking
around the Mountain West, occasionally passing
through Teton Valley. Using his thumb to solicit
a ride, he’s ended up with a few tickets and even landed
in a Wyoming jail cell. It was only for a half hour, but
still, it drained what was left in his light wallet. But Shey
can walk along the state’s roads a little more freely as the
Cowboy State has recently tweaked a state law, making
the practice of hitchhiking legal.
Gov. Matt Mead signed the bill last week, which was
introduced by Alta, Wyo., Sen. Leland Christensen.
“It’s about reducing the weight of government on the
backs of citizens,” said Christensen.
But in Idaho, thumbing is still illegal.
Idaho code prohibits a pedestrian from
standing on a highway to solicit a ride.
Often a report of a suspicious person
appears in the Teton County Idaho
Sheriff’s log, but occasionally it’s
simply someone seeking a ride.
Sheriff Tony Liford said if someone reports a suspicious person
and it’s a hitchhiker, they’ll check to make sure there
aren’t any outstanding warrants. If there aren’t any, the
person is usually given a warning that hitchhiking is
illegal. Liford said he doesn’t remember citing anyone
for hitchhiking and many times, if the person is going
the same direction as the deputy they’ll be given a ride.
Still, the law is fine the way it is, Liford said, because it
gives his officers the discretion to check on or remove
someone if necessary.
“We’re not running around out there looking for
hitchhikers so we can hammer them,” said Liford.
“That doesn’t happen.”
And usually, most people hitchhiking in Teton Valley,
Liford said he knows who they are.
There’s one regular hitchhiker at
Broulim’s who often gets picked
up by the same people.
if he sees the guy and he’s on his way to
Victor, he’d sometimes just gives him
a ride himself.
Liford said there are very few hitchhikers
who are transient. Plus, people
tend to get picked up here pretty quickly.
Hitchhiking has long been common
practice in both Teton County Wyoming
and Idaho for recreationalists. Skiers, hikers,
skaters and bikers on Teton Pass and Ski Hill Road
have long used the practice to get back to their cars
or a destination at the top.
Christensen said seeing so many people hitchhike
in the Tetons was part of the reason he
wanted to change the law.
“I had the opportunity to make it correct and
I had great support around the state,” he said.
What was interesting, Christensen said, was
once he brought up hitchhiking, was just how
many legislators had their own experiences
hitchhiking and many of them did it
extensively, he said.
For a state that cherishes personal freedom, Christensen
said he thinks the law was passed when hitchhiking
came into disfavor across the US. He said as far as he
could tell, there seemed to be a real push against it on a
national level because of fears people associated with it.
And hitchhiking is directly tied to freedom for Shey.
“Freedom of movement, freedom to explore,” he said.
“Freedom to find a job someplace else.”
Now that it’s legal, Christensen said it doesn’t mean
it’s always a great idea. He said people should use
great caution when giving someone a ride or asking
for a ride. Liford echoes that sentiment.
“It’s not a safe practice,” said Liford. “I wouldn’t
want people by themselves and in particular
women, to pick up just anyone. When you pull
up to the pass and see someone with skis and
a dog, you know them, it’s probably fine. But
if you get a transient and it’s their only way of
transportation. Ehh. It might not be a good idea.”
Q & A with Tim Shey
16-year hitchhiking veteran and
author of “High Plains Drifter: A
Hitchhiking Journey Across America.”
His blog can be found at
Which state is the easiest to
get a ride?
That’s a good question. Maybe
Montana or Oregon. The friendliest
people I have ever met were
from Nebraska and Texas.
Which is the hardest?
I’m not sure. The toughest city to
hitchhike out of was Las Vegas back in 2005.
The friendliest city by far was Salt Lake City.
Any tricks that work for
getting people to pull over?
There is probably a psychology to hitchhiking.
If you are under 40, you could probably pass
for a college student: stay clean cut, shave,
wear a shirt that says University of Kansas or
something, don’t wear sunglasses, don’t chew
tobacco and then spit on the floor of the
car you are riding in (I picked this kid up
in California, when I had my pickup years
ago, he was chewing tobacco and spit on
the floor; I let him off at the next town).
Me? No tricks. I put my faith in Jesus
Christ and He protects me. I have
never carried a weapon. Many
people have told me that I was
the first hitchhiker that they had
ever picked up. Maybe the Lord
wanted me to redeem the tarnished
image of hitchhiking in the
How do you keep
from looking “suspicious”?
Just be yourself. And if you are
a criminal, you will just be your
suspicious self, get arrested and
end up in jail where you belong.
Any advice for people
looking for a ride using their thumb?
For long distance hitchhiking, have a backpack,
a sleeping bag, some clothes, maybe a tent
and some other things.
Anything else you want to add?
I have hitchhiked through the Driggs-Victor-
Jackson neighborhood many times over the
years. Met a lot of great people there. The
last time I hitchhiked through Fremont County,
Wyo. (Sept-Oct 2012), this deputy sheriff told
me that, if he saw me on the highway again, he
would take me to jail in Lander. The last time I
hitchhiked was November 1st of 2012. Maybe
my hitchhiking days are done.
Teton Valley News