"No hitchhiking," read the bright yellow sign on I-80 East, a few miles east of Des Moines, on the way to Iowa City.
I'd already logged quite a few interstate miles on a spring break trip without seeing any signs like this. It was unusual enough for me to wonder, "Do people really try to hitchhike from the shoulder, when vehicles are whizzing past at 80 mph plus?"
Then I got it. Only a few minutes after seeing the "no hitchhiking" sign, I passed a rest area. The concern animating the sign, I realized, was not so much an accident on the highway as a kidnapping or carjacking at the rest area itself.
When I reached Iowa City about two hours later, I drove along the swoolen Iowa River at dusk. It was a beautful scene, with students jogging and biking on paths paralleling the river. The twilight made the light radiating from the emergency callbox placed strategically along the path more noticeable than it would have been in broad daylight.
"Be careful out there," the police sergeant told the assembled cops as they went out for duty on Hill Street Blues back in the early 80s. Nearly thirty years later, those words still ring true.