Part One, Chapters 3-5: Summary and Analysis
Truck Driver: a trucker who gives Sal a ride
Eddie: a young hitchhiker from New York
The Cowboy: a man who gives Sal and Eddie a ride
Carnival Owner: a man who offers Sal and Eddie a job
Farmer: a raucous man at local truck stop
Montana Slim: a shady character Sal meets while riding on the back of a truck
Mississippi Gene: a quiet hobo Sal meets on the truck
Mexican Waitress: a young woman Sal asks out for a date
Sal makes it to Chicago by bus and spends a few days wandering around the city and visiting local jazz clubs. But soon he’s ready to leave again. He hitchhikes west and meets a wild trucker who gives him a ride into Iowa. After a few more rides, Sal makes it to Des Moines where he rents a cheap motel room and eats apple pie and ice cream for dinner.
Sal wakes up in Des Moines feeling a bit lost and disoriented. He starts hitchhiking again and meets Eddie, another hitchhiker from New York, who is also heading west. They try hitching together for awhile, but have no luck getting a ride. Finally, they meet a cowboy who tells them that he’s traveling to meet his wife. The cowboy has two cars and wants Sal or Eddie to drive one for him. Sal and Eddie jump at the chance. Sal rides with the cowboy while Eddie drives the other car, speeding along at ninety miles an hour.
They arrive in Nebraska and Sal stops in a diner for some food. He enjoys eavesdropping on the locals, especially one farmer who has a loud voice and a raucous sense of humor. After lunch, Sal and Eddie head back out on the road. They meet a man who asks them if they would like jobs working in his carnival, but both men decline the offer as it would disrupt their travel plans.
After a long wait for a ride, Eddie hops onto the back of a small truck, leaving Sal behind. Sal eventually gets a ride from a young man who takes him to Gothenburg.
In Gothenburg, Sal gets a ride on the back of a flatbed truck driven by two brothers from Minnesota. The truck is crowded with other hitchhikers who are passing around a bottle of whiskey. The brothers are driving to Los Angeles to transport farm equipment and they are picking up everyone they see on the road.
Sal gradually gets to know everyone on the truck. There are some high school boys heading west, just traveling for the summer. There’s Montana Slim, a suspicious-looking man who keeps to himself; Mississippi Gene, who is a true hobo and is traveling with, and looking out for, a blond boy who is a fugitive from the law. Sal discovers that Gene knows a friend of his called Big Slim Hazard and he feels a connection to the soulful, quiet hobo.
In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Sal and Montana Slim get off the truck and Sal says goodbye to his friends. Sal is heading south to Denver and Montana Slim is going north. When they arrive in town, they discover hordes of tourists roaming the streets, all celebrating in honor of Wild West Week. Sal feels that the celebration is inauthentic and tawdry.
Sal and Montana Slim roam around Cheyenne at night, drinking and enjoying the Wild West Week festivities. Sal meets a pretty Mexican waitress in a cafe and asks her out. She tells him she’d love to go out with him, but she already has a date with her boyfriend.
Sal meets up with Slim and they hit a few more bars. They meet two young women and Sal spends all his money buying them drinks. One of the young women wants to...
(The entire section is 953 words.)