First, a bit of historic perspective… In the 19th and early 20th century the railroads covered this country with an incredible amount of infrastructure. Tracks, roundhouses, stations, shops, and freight cars all over the place. Massive stashes of coal and water tanks, even whole railroad made lakes. But they skimped when it came to weed and even forage control, turning their right of ways into linear forests. Then they allowed wording in the union contracts giving the maintainence workers the right to camp on the property and let conductors have their own cabooses and even set up “housekeeping” in them. I even know of one railroader who identified his late father’s caboose by the recycled carpet from their house on the floor!

Then came the great depresssion that made millions homeless and traveling the country in search of what scant work was available. Said homeless itinerant workers quickly figured out the best option for budget accomodations and travel was the railroad. And given that the railroad’s actual workers tended to look like hobos and live on or around the property anyway, it was kinda hard for the railroad bulls (police) to tell the hobos from their employees. And all that infrastructure? Just more empty places to camp in, and if the structure or boxcar was too far gone for that, a source of firewood.

And so a few million americans became hobos in the 1930s, and at the Britt, Iowa annual Hobo Convention we salute their resourcefulness and accomplishment every year. It’s amazing to read the life stories of the hobos- many answered the call to duty and won World War II for us, and in peacetime became pillars of their communities.

But the hobo spirit lives on… Many hobos figured out that traveling the country was a good thing, minus the starvation and frostbite. So when not preoccupied by work and other duties, they kept travelling the land. And fortunately, some of us (relatively) younger folks adopted the spirit of the hobo, crossing our great country, sleeping under the stars, and having a grand old time on a budget.

As the “great recession” persists, many have parked their motorcycles, bicycles, whatever… Hiding in their “caves”, battening down the hatches. Ya, I know ya gotta look for work, but if they don’t call you back by thursday, may as well take the weekend off. So depression sets in, as our little world becomes littler and littler.

So if work ain’t finding you, follow the way of the hobo. Just about any bike will get 40 MPG, and if you check the rally schedules at or you’ll find a rally almost every weekend within a days ride of home. Ten bucks to fill the tank, two bucks and change for lunch and WiFi at Micky D’s Supper Club, thirty bucks for the rally, and another ten bucks for fuel on the way home and you’ve got a weekend of fun for fifty bucks, and to hell with the recession. What’s not to like?

And heck, you might even get a lead on a job at the rally… But unless the bank account is empty, why give up the way of the hobo!