Prine radiates a sense of well-being, along with a sort of amused nonchalance toward potential disaster. This is a good thing, because the Coupe, as it turns out, has no passenger-side safety belt. Or rather it has the shoulder belt, but the thing on the seat into which it is supposed to latch is missing. I noticed this awhile back, and it worried me for a few minutes. But then I thought, If you’re going to buy the farm it might as well be in a ’77 Coupe de Ville with John Prine.
The grass was up to my waist as I crouched down on the side of Interstate 20 a few miles outside of Van. Insects buzzed around my head, and I tried not to look for snakes or ticks. Instead, I alternated my gaze between the blue sky and the man and woman standing on the shoulder of the eastbound lane, my teammates. Darby held a sign that read simply, ATLANTA. Aaron’s sign was more elaborate; on the back, he pasted photographs that showed people sliding down waterfalls, which he’d use to explain the race when speaking with a driver. I was forty yards behind them, out of sight of the oncoming cars, guarding a pile of packs. It was 7:45 A.M. and traffic was sporadic. The 2016 Great Hitchhiking Race was underway, and we were hoping our first ride would take us well out of Texas.