A hitchhikers' guide to growing up: Hitchhikers are on the road to extinction. Former practitioners tell tales of the unexpected. 'The foot fetishist picked us up outside Bath'

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The Independent Travel
I STARTED hitchhiking to get to sex, when I was 16. I had almost got there before love picked me up. There were some memorable lifts along the way. The first long trip I made, with a friend more experienced in these matters, ran from Petersfield to Glastonbury and back. Nothing too glamorous happened on the way there, and though we duly climbed the Tor and poked around the ruins of the abbey, we felt no waves of psychic energy, probably because there were no girls in sight.

The foot fetishist picked us up outside Bath. It was Will's turn to sit in the front, so when the fetishist pulled off the main road and started to remove Will's shoes, there was nothing for me to do but stifle my giggles. He lectured him severely on pedal hygiene, and rubbed his feet with an ointment that rotted them for weeks. Then he drove us five more miles and returned, presumably to circle the Batch ring road in search of further victims.

Two girls picked us up next. They lived in Newbury and we spent the night with them. It was so exciting I did not sleep at all, but talked and smoked roll-ups until dawn. I might have got further if anyone had gone to bed, but as it was we all kept all our clothes on and drank endless cups of tea. The next day they drove us back to Petersfield, and I plucked up the courage to hold hands with one as we drove. I never saw either again.

Will ended up in art school. He invited me to a party at the RAF base where he was lodging with a fellow art student and her husband, who was about 15 years older but still, amazingly for a man over 35, interested in sex - so interested that after a few preliminary joints they proposed an orgy. It was the most embarrassing social occasion you can imagine. I fled in shame and confusion as soon as I decently could.

A woman in a battered white Triumph Herald convertible offered me a lift while I was escaping. She, too, was amazingly old, almost 34, but about six months later she cured me of needing to hitch anywhere - and if you are reading this, gratitude is the least that I still feel.

(Photograph omitted)

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