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June 10, 2004

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The Sixth League: The 24 Hour Hitch  (Perspective)

Posted on August 1, 1997 by Bernd Wechner

Driving & Road Tripping The Sixth League: The 24 Hour Hitch

The Sixth League: The 24 Hour Hitch

Author: Bernd Wechner
Published on: August 1, 1997

A work by Howell Parry in 3 parts, 45 printed pages and 36,000 words.

The University of Manchester Rag Society organises an annual hitch for charity. The participants collect sponsors before the day, and then 1000 odd students head off in various directions to see how far they can get in 24 hours, or to reach some target and return in the shortest time.

What a wonderful event! It turns out that some other universities in Britain are doing the same.

Howell participated three years running, meandering almost aimlesslesy about northern Europe (England, Germany, France and the Benelux countries) with one or two partners. Each time it seems Howell was the (self-?)elected log-keeper, and he kept a very detailed log of events, taking notes it seems every ten minutes or so.

Those three logs are on the web for our enjoyment. They are rather lengthy, and detailed journals, peppered with occasional photos. The text is not especially well formatted or proof-read, all the same, an excellent read, painting a wonderful picture of a wonderful event.

This is not hitch-hiking in its most romantic sense (footloose and fancyfree), but under the veil of a charity event, and contest at the same time, which necessarily flavours the whole ordeal in a unique way. It is a short event, run over the course of a single weekend, so there's a little of the urgency and haste that otherwise doesn't belong in a hitching adventure. Howell and friends are hitching all through the day and the night. They get more than a little tired in the process.

All the same I don't detect a strong air of competitiveness in Howell's logs, not much of the the race, so to speak. The focus seems rather to be upon having a wild time for the weekend. Which is calming in a way, I have my reservations concerning competitive hitching, it seems to pose many paradoxes (see my earlier articles World Records and More Records).

Above all, it is very heart-warming to see that in this age that seems to be obsessed with security to the point of paranoia, that a public establishment like a university, still finds it acceptable to promote hitch-hiking in a charitable context. But then this is Britain, and Europe, where hitching still enjoys a moderate acceptance socially, I'm forced to wonder if the Americans have a similar event to boast. In Australia I've yet to come across any hint of anything like it.

These logs are a wonderful excursion into the atmosphere of a very special event. Like most pieces in this series, they are lengthy enough that I'd recommend printing them and reading them at leisure, rather than glueing your eyes to the terminal.

If you're feeling generous and want to express gratitude for the work presented here, by all means donate some money.


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