In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Packin' Heat

A recent thread on a forum that I frequent got into whether or not you should carry a gun if you were hitchhiking across the country; the majority of people seemed to think it was a no brainer that you should. That's a sentiment that a lot of people seem to have, not just about hitchhiking but about hiking, camping, and traveling alone in general. I've heard it repeated many times on internet forums when people talk about back woods camping and I heard it plenty of times when talking to people on my recent trip around the country.

One conversation in particular stands out in my mind when talking to a fellow I met out in Maine. We were camping in the same area, me alone and he with his wife and two grand kids. He came over the night they showed up just to say hi and we chatted for a while. He mentioned that he'd had some problems in the past camping in that spot with rambunctious kids. One night some kids were throwing bottles at another couples camper and one other time he woke up in the morning to find someone had stolen the seat off his four wheeler. He then told me quite matter-of-factly that he now carried a gun with him all the time when camping and that he wasn't going to take shit like that off of anybody. He told me that if I heard a gun shot in the middle of the night that meant he'd shot someone who was trying to mess with his stuff. To him it was perfectly natural and he seemed to have no reservations about using it; of course anyone can talk big though.

I remember another time last winter when I was camping down in Arizona. I was in a campground one night and I was one of the few people in tents, everyone else was in campers or motor homes. One evening while cooking dinner I overheard two ladies talking as they walked past my tent. One of them said to the other, “I think it might be fun camping in a tent but there's no way I'd do it without a gun.”

I've heard comments like that quite a bit over the last year and I think it's pretty sad that we've lost so much faith in each other. I think Hollywood and the news media have twisted the truth so much that people think there's a murderer hiding around every bush waiting to ambush you. And it's easy to see why people would think that, it's what's reported on the news all the time and it's glorified in movies and TV shows. Since I've been back from my trip I've seen multiple news reports of hikers/travelers being abducted or murdered; but I haven't heard one news report that mentioned that Alan Gage traveled the country for 6 months living out of his car without even one altercation and not a cross word with anyone. I'm happy to say that my story is the normal, not the other way around. Every year hundreds of thousands of people take to the highways and woods of this country and only a small fraction of a percentage run into any such trouble. But of course, those are the ones that we hear about. And with so many 24 hour news channels nowadays scrambling for any story they can get to fill the time it's no wonder they manage to convince us it's much more prevalent then it actually is.

If you did happen to carry a gun “just in case”, let me ask you this. In what situations would you pull it out? Knowing that once you pulled the gun out you've likely committed yourself to using it if your bluff doesn't work.

The reason I don't (and won't) carry a gun is that it's just not worth it in all but the most extreme situations where you life is literally on the line; at least to me anyway. If someone wants to steel the seat off my four wheeler then let them. If someone wants to steal my camera gear and laptop then let them. If someone wants to steal my van then let them. There's no way I'd pull a gun in any of those situations to try and stop them; and I'll tell you why.

Because it's all just stuff and it's not worth killing someone over. When we hear of a thief who murders their victim in order to rob them we think of them as the ultimate scum. How can they justify killing a human being over such a small thing? Well, what's the difference between the thief shooting you over $200 and you shooting the thief in order to keep your $200? In both scenarios someone died over $200.

Sure it might be nice to have a gun if I were to run into a serial killer, but even in that situation I'd have to get my gun out first. Instead I think I'll just keep playing the odds and put my faith in humanity. Honest, we're not as bad as everyone thinks.


Michael said...

Amen, Alan.

Kram said...

I agree, guns aren't worth it. I avoid campgrounds and camp in the middle of nowhere, where I'm hard to find.

Kram AKA Major Black

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.