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In the 1920s, as a national network of roads and youth hostels spread across Canada, so did the practice of hitchhiking. By the 1960s, the Trans-Canada Highway had become the main thoroughfare for thousands of young baby boomers seeking adventure.

Thumbing a Ride examines the rise and fall of hitchhiking and hostelling in the 1970s, drawing on records from the time. Many equated adventure travel with freedom, but a counter-narrative emerged of girls gone missing and other dangers. Town councillors, community groups, and motorists called for a nationwide clampdown on a transient youth movement that they believed was spreading hippie sensibilities and anti-establishment nomadism.

Linda Mahood unearths good and bad stories and key biographical moments that formed young travellers' understandings of personal risk, agency, and national identity. Thumbing a Ride asks new questions about hitchhiking as a rite of passage, and about the adult interventions that turned a subculture into a moral and social issue.

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