Travels With A Road Dog: Hitchhiking Along the Roads of the Americas
by R.K. (Charleston, SC, 2012, 364 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
To read R.K.s’ memoir, Travels With A Road Dog: Hitchhiking Along the Roads of the Americas, it immediately conjures up thoughts of Woodstock to me, and all things associated with that time and place in American history and lore. It was a time of expression of freedom and adventure, and the author certainly demonstrates it in her book. Although Kathryn Rajam Roose is on her birth certificate, the author’s mom chose Rajam, in honor of a close friend from India, with whom she had shared a room at the Cincinnati Conservatory College. And, although her name is Kathryn, and to avoid confusion while growing up everyone called her Rajam. Perhaps that was the beginning of the free spirit that the author would exhibit in her travels talked about in this book. After reading the book, it is a wonder that the author was able to live to tell this remarkable story, as she actually found herself in many dangerous and compromising situations.
At the age of 20, R.K. gives away her belongings to embark upon an exciting four year journey of camping and hitchhiking with only a cooking pot, blanket, tarp, and matches. She begins her adventure at Rainbow gatherings, helping to build kitchens and seed camp. She spends many months traveling and living within this little known nomadic subculture that creates its own form of utopian communalism. She writes unabashedly of the use of marijuana and acid in this revealing memoir, which is a further reminder of Woodstock. She wanted to experience life without structure, to be free to see the world and meet extraordinary people. She recalls in her book meeting and joining up with a couple of guys on one of her hitchhiking trips, and noting that these guys’ lives revolved around following the Grateful Dead.
Someone had told R.K. about a “regional” gathering in Northern California at Mt. Shasta, and despite having no way of getting there, she decided to hitchhike out and see the West Coast. She recalls in her teens having taken vacation trips with her family to the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Mt. Rushmore, but this would be different.
With little to no money, her travels take her around North America from the dangerous streets of East Hollywood Blvd to a little known beach on Vancouver Island in Canada and even to the warmer climes of Key West, Florida. Along the way, she picks up a Shepherd/Lab mix dog for a traveling companion. Her resourcefulness is truly tested in this memoir that one could only imagine, but it did actually happen as described.
During the mid 1990s when U.S. tourists were warned to stay away from Mexico she and a companion enter illegally into Mexico and hitchhike down the East coast through Chiapas and return up the West coast where she finds herself in the presence of a Mexican cartel. It was actually in Mexico where she was put in a compromising position with a husband and a wife, in which the wife wanted to have sex with her, and the husband would acquiesce, although it never actually happened. She also alludes to seeing a man being shot and killed in Mexico. Her unique travel experiences continue when she hitchhikes a sailboat ride to the Bahamas on a boat with no engine and on to Venezuela where she experiences student riots and the anger of a madwoman.
Travels with A Road Dog are the true stories of a young woman who discovers herself and the world around her. Not only is hitchhiking considered an unconventional way to travel, but it is rarer still that this journey was completed by a woman. She has one remarkable experience after another in her travels. R.K., somewhat nonchalantly, describes a chance encounter with two-time NFL Super-Bowl MVP John Elway of the Denver Broncos in a restaurant, and how Elway stated to her that “they had some balls” for what they were doing, and that he had always wanted to try hitchhiking and “wished he had the nerve to follow his dream.” We all have our own dreams in life, and it is really surprising to hear the author state in her book that the much accomplished John Elway, had a similar dream as hers’. This was after Elway had paid for the author and her friend’s meal.
This book is full of many anecdotes and travelling experiences, as well as risky behavior. As I said earlier, it is a wonder that the author is here to tell this remarkable story, and to be in her right mind. I applaud her for it and recommend this book to anyone having a similar dream to follow.
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Dennis Moore is a writer and book reviewer with the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics: “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago.” He can be contacted at email@example.com or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.