April 4, 2017
My journey from coast-to-coast is dedicated to the memory of my father, Michael W. Schoen, who died the month before I started walking.
I hope you laugh more than you cry when you read it.
Eulogy for My Father
It is only as a result of the death—first of my mother five years ago, and my father, on March 7, that I’ve learned the true meaning of the word community.
I truly appreciate the outpouring of caring and kind words from friends, many of whom never met my father but understand (generally first-hand) what it is like to lose a parent or other close relative.
My father was 96 when he died. For the last few years of his life he suffered from both blindness and Alzheimer’s—a terrible combination.
Dad took his own sweet time making a very slow exit. I sometimes felt that he was hoping to achieve notoriety by being either the oldest man alive, or at least the last living veteran of World War 2. Sadly, or perhaps fortunately, this was not meant to be.
My wife Sharon and I, my sister Eve and her husband Russ, and our children, were along for the ride, enduring the sadness and frustration of loving a parent or grandparent who does not recognize you or remember who you are, but who still appreciates the closeness of someone holding his hand, talking to him, reminding him of people and experiences he no longer recalls, and singing songs that occasionally bring back a flicker of recognition.
Ironically, although near the end I only visited my father every 4-6 weeks, I was in Southern California to see him on Monday, March 6. After his caregiver got him out of bed and completed the morning bathroom ritual, we set dad up in his wheelchair by the kitchen sink and I gave him a haircut—the same buzz cut I give myself—and then I spent the next 45 minutes singing to him.
It’s no coincidence that because I perform for memory care residents as part of my job as a musician that I had on my iPhone a list of the songs in our repertoire, which included old-time titles like, “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Bicycle Built for Two,” “Side by Side,” and “Me and My Shadow.” At one point as I sang, my father reached out his hand and his caregiver, Delia, took it and “danced” with him. He was definitely enjoying himself. I was fortunate in remembering to video a few of these on my phone. I thought about this on the flight home, and showed Sharon the video of Dad smiling slightly as he stared into the distance, listening to the words, “Oh, we ain’t got a barrel of money…” and “dancing.” I was pleased. It was a pretty good visit.
The next morning at 7 am I received the phone call from his caregiver informing me that my father had just passed away. I like to think that he died “peacefully,” but I don’t really know. Let’s just say he did, and leave it at that. My sister was present a few hours later when Dad was taken out for his last drive in a car.
My father, Michael W. Schoen, was a talented man, both charming and
handsome. Dad was a fine artist, working in both oils and water colors, and a successful businessman, running his own advertising agency for many years, until he just couldn’t anymore.
His name at birth was Meyer Schoenfeld. As was the fashion in those days, when he started his own ad agency, he shortened his last name “for business purposes” to Schoen. As long as he was going through the process, he officially changed his first name to Michael, and then added the middle initial “W.” For those who might wonder, the “W” did not stand for anything—he just liked the way it sounded. He was that kind of a guy.
Along with my mother, Pearl, he was one of the founding members of the Wantagh Jewish Center, a conservative congregation, which met for the first few years of its existence in the Wantagh Fire Station.
He was a member of the temple Men’s Club and played on their softball team. He painted posters for the temple’s shows and fundraisers. When the temple was putting on the Broadway musical, “Guys and Dolls,” my dad tried out for the role of Sky Masterson, the romantic lead. That was the only role he wanted, and when he didn’t get it, he declined to participate in the show. I didn’t understand it then, but I did later, when I learned more about his personality.
My father graduated from John Adams High School and was active in art study and projects throughout high school, winning awards and working as a professional in the commercial art field. He later attended Pratt Institute, which has become one of the premier art schools in the country.
In 1942 we were at war, and he entered the Army Air Force, wanting to be a pilot. Everyone did. But he instead became the flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B-24 bomber. His crew, based in the Philippines, flew 44 bombing missions over the South Pacific. Unlike many others, he and his crew survived. There’s a photo of his crew displayed here today.
One story he told was of a panicked call on the intercom from the pilot that there was an oil leak and a fire in one of the engines. As the flight engineer, Dad needed to know the detailed workings of the plane. Calmly, amidst the noise and yelling of the other crew members, he walked up to a particular valve, shut it, and the leak and fire were contained. Then he unceremoniously returned to his top turret and gun. He was unflappable like this in later life, too.
As a boy, I’d sometimes see other dads on the street changing the oil in their cars. I once asked him why he didn’t change the oil in our Buick. He laughed and said, “Bobby, I could change the oil in a B-24 bomber, so I certainly could change the oil in my car. But why get dirty? I work hard at my office so I can afford to pay other people to change my oil.” This was a personal philosophy that I learned to take to heart myself. (Although I don’t think I could change the oil in a B-24.)
That “job in his office” was Monday through Friday. He left the house each morning at 7:00, took the Long Island Railroad and then the subway to Manhattan, and came home at about 7:20 each night. He wore a top coat and a hat, just like in the movies and on TV. He played bridge with the guys on the train, two men facing two others, with an unfolded New York Times on their knees serving as a card table. My father, as I saw during my boyhood “trips to the office,” was generally the score keeper, and he could snap trump cards on the Times with as much enthusiasm as anyone else. He was an excellent card player. Sadly I did not inherit this trait.
He could be stubborn, though. One time Sharon and I were taking our sons to Hawaii, and we asked my parents if they’d like to share the condo in Honolulu with us. My mother came, but my father said “No, I’m not interested in going to Hawaii. I’ve already been there.”
“Dad, you weren’t in Hawaii—you were on an airstrip on some island during the War!” He wouldn’t budge, and we went without him.
At one point when my parents were still in good health and were visiting me and Sharon in Oakland, he began talking about his bomber crew.
“Dad, do you keep in touch with any of the other crew members?”
He laughed. “No, I’m sure they’re all gone.” He was in his seventies at the time.
“Wait. So, you’re telling me that you’re the last man standing?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you think they’re all dead and you’re the only one left alive?”
“I guess. I don’t know.”
I gave him a pen and a piece of paper and asked him to write down the names of the ten men in the crew. I could see him visualizing the positions in the plane as he wrote the names—pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, radio man, etc. He gave me the completed list, which included several Italian- and Polish-sounding names. I went to the internet, and it took me five minutes to find the first guy and his telephone number.
“Here, Dad. Call him.” I handed him the phone, and listened to one side of the conversation.
“Hello? Is this Gus? Gus, you’ll never guess who this is!” And so went the game. Dad told me later that Gus started to cry when he realized my dad was still alive. In the end, six crew members found each other, and with their wives had a reunion in, I believe, Cincinnati, near where one veteran lived, and near where my son Adam lives. There was one more reunion, but that was the last one. The men were failing physically, one had major surgery, someone else’s wife died, and the crew finally broke up. We have photos from one of the reunions—old, overweight, and physically challenged men, who once lived together in a tent at an air base, flew in a thin-metal-shelled, four-engine monster, and dropped bombs on the Japanese enemy. Indeed, for my parents and their generation the Japanese remained the enemy long after the two countries became allies.
He was a good father, a mentor, and a role model. He was honest in business and in life. Like the stereotype good husband, he generally did what my mother asked or told him to do, saying, “Yes, Dear,” when it was called for.
One thing my Mom hated, for some reason, was to hear my father whistle. I don’t know why—he was a really good whistler! I remember sitting watching TV with my father one night when I was maybe ten or eleven. We were watching a show called “Tombstone Territory.” Each episode opened with a guy whistling the melody of the theme song. After a few seconds of this, my mother shouted from the kitchen, “Michael! Stop whistling!” My Dad and I shared a very private laugh that I still remember well.
My dad was very mechanically inclined, and like a lot of other suburbanites, finished the basement in his Long Island home, kept the house painted, groomed the lawn, and even dug a well to provide water for his two walnut trees and a fig tree that never did bear figs that I can remember.
Years later, I asked my mother what he’d like for his birthday. She said he was talking about a new shower head. I told her I’d get one for him. At the time, I was living in California and we were having a terrible drought. Everyone was trying to save water—people weren’t flushing their toilets; they were taking showers together; everyone’s lawn was dead. I bought Dad a top-of-the-line Teledyne shower head that had a water saving device built in to restrict the flow, and sent it to him.
On his birthday, I called and asked him how he liked it.
“It’s terrific! Thank you very much.”
“It’s working well?”
“Well, not at the beginning. It seems something was preventing the water from coming out. So I opened it up and sure enough, there was this little metal ball that was restricting the flow. I took it out, and now it works great!”
When I was in college, my parents decided to build a vacation home in Woodstock, NY. They would drive up every week and watch the progress of the construction. The house was eventually finished and furnished, and they joined the Woodstock Golf and Country Club. They loved going up there.
Years later I heard the story about a wealthy businessman who was visiting the resort with the thought of buying it as an investment. Dad loved to paint, and he was a wonderful artist. He had painted a picture of several golfers putting at a particular hole on the course that featured panoramic views of the Woodstock countryside, and it was on display at the clubhouse. At a reception that night, my father glanced over to see the flamboyant businessman standing in front of the painting, obviously admiring it. Dad walked over to him and asked, “Do you like that painting?” The guy nodded, “Yeah, I do. It’s one of my favorite holes here at the club.”
“I painted that picture.”
“Yes. That’s my signature in the bottom corner there.”
“I’d really like to have this picture,” the guy said.
“Sure. It’s available,” my father replied. “How much are you willing to pay me for it?”
“Pay you? I wouldn’t pay you anything! But you could give it to me as a gift.” When he saw my father wasn’t interested in giving him the painting as a gift, he turned and walked away.
When I asked my father about the incident, he merely said that the guy was a jerk. That jerk is currently the president of the United States.
My sister tells me the painting now hangs in my brother-in-law’s office.
I’ve heard from many women over the years that my father was not only handsome, but that in his own quiet way he was charming. I saw this in action a few years ago after my mother had died. Dad’s vision was really bad by this point, and he was always complaining, “Why is it so dark in here? Why don’t they turn on some lights?” Not only was he going blind, but he was already starting to show signs of dementia. It got to a point where I’d say to him, “Dad, we’re going inside now, and you’re going to say to me, ‘Why is it so dark in here? Can’t they turn on the lights?’”
One day we slowly walked into the bank so he could deposit a check, and I heard the inevitable, “Why is it so dark in here—I can’t see anything!” As we approached the teller’s window, he looked up at the middle-aged blonde Persian woman behind the thick glass screen and says to her, “If I knew I was going to have such a pretty lady taking my deposit today, I would have brought more money!” She laughed and said something back, and I realized there was some serious flirting going on. I couldn’t believe it. I love to think about that scene. The problem is that he forgot about it all very quickly, as he did pretty much everything.
It was a this point that I became his working memory. I wrote a synopsis of his life, put it in a plastic sleeve, and read it to him each time I visited him after asking, “Dad, would you like me to tell you about your life?”
“Sure, why not?”
Occasionally there was a glimmer of recognition at some of the items or people I’d mention, but as the next couple of years went by, there was no recognition at all. Except for one thing—when I said to him, “Dad, do you remember your niece Claire?” he’d reply indignantly, “Of course I do!”
Claire was his niece but was only 2 or 3 years younger than he. My father’s parents owned a large dry goods store in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and Claire has told me that Dad and she would play games in the store when she was 4 or 5, dancing up the aisle; and later he would ride his bike with her sitting on the handlebars.
When I saw my father the day before he died—when he had absolutely no memory of his parents, his five sisters, his wife and his two children, his long career and marriage, and his military service, it was Claire whom he still recalled. I called Claire the day after the funeral and gave her the sad news.
Now, I will finally have the time to think back to the better years and memories, and let them drown out the recent times of struggle, sadness, and frustration.
He was a fine and honest man, a brave soldier, a successful businessman, and as good a father as anyone could hope for. May he rest in peace.
April 12, 2017
Four days before I leave for Huntington Beach to begin my trek on Monday. I’m still putting things together, running around the East Bay (the bank, the Apple store, the Verizon store, Sprouts, the hardware store, the post office—you get the picture), trying to prepare as best I can. I wish I were leaving tomorrow. That way, all this preparation (and anticipation angst) would be over.
April 16, 2017
It’s the night before Day One. Sharon and I drove down from Oakland in a humongous white Toyota 4Runner rental (which we just dropped off at John Wayne Airport).
The traffic coming down was smooth except for a few Easter Sunday fender-benders. The Runabout kart is packed, and tomorrow morning after breakfast I’ll get my feet wet in the Pacific and then take that single step that begins my longest journey.
Day 1 is missing and/or incomplete from Facebook.
April 17, 2017
Day 1. I was joined this morning at the Pacific Ocean (at the foot of the Santa Ana River Trail) by my dear wife Sharon and my longtime friend and colleague, Dr. Bronson Hamada, who lives and practices in Huntington Beach.
Although the scheduled walk today–totally along the Santa Ana River Trail–was supposed to be 18 miles, it was actually several miles longer due to logistical problems. (Bronson joined me for the first few miles and then he drove Sharon to the airport. Then I needed to get the kart at the hotel and walk back to the Trail.)
So it was a long day in more ways than one. Add to that the depressing spectacle of so many homeless people living in over a thousand tents along my day’s journey. But that’s for another time. For now, I managed to complete the first leg of my walk. And my legs are not happy, let me tell you! I’ve only been walking a few hours and I’ve already seen a week’s worth of stuff.
@Holiday Inn Express, Costa Mesa, CA
April 18, 2017
Day 2. Today started out better then it ended. It was a beautiful day, and all I needed to do was walk on the Santa Ana River Trail most of the way to Corona.
On the Trail this morning I observed a bunch of guys from California Fish and Wildlife on ladders inspecting a large birdhouse attached to a tree. One of the men explained to me there were 36 boxes meant to house wood ducks, and each box was being checked for eggs. This particular box had 18 eggs in it!
After the wood duck episode, I have to say that it was pretty much downhill. The Santa Ana River Trail is under major construction, with detours and blocked paths everywhere I walked. I took a long detour in Yorba Linda, only to have to double back a couple of miles when it did not lead to where I needed to go. Thus, two days in a row I wound up having to walk at least 4 miles longer than I had intended.
Looking back on the day, however, it is the wood duck egg count that I will remember.
The Santa Ana River Trail. <sigh> It sounds romantic, and certainly when you can see the River and there’s actually water in it, along with water fowl, the fish are jumping (and the cotton is high), it’s glorious. (Please take a look at my Instagram post with the photos of the wood duck egg count.)
However, much of the SART looks like this photo–a trail along a major freeway, the roaring traffic’s boom (please forgive me; I had a long day), and construction, detours, and occasional views of golf courses.
Constructed mostly in the mid-1990s, the SART is a monumental effort, and I appreciate that they’re working to improve it. But most of today I spent walking along freeways and construction sites; my brain is fried.
@Extended Stay, Anaheim, CA
April 19, 2017
Day 3. Today it was the three “Cs”–Cars, Construction, and Cows.
This was supposed to be the easy day. Only 16 miles, and about 70% of it was on sidewalks. Turned out the other 30% was hell and frustration. A sidewalk would end suddenly, with nowhere to walk but on a sandy side path or on a busy highway with no shoulder.
Google Maps was alternately helpful or completely misleading. At one point, I had to lug the kart up a small path to a sidewalk (I was able to do it: pull-ups and push-ups), but my legs are really taking a beating). Had I known, I would have bypassed Ontario and the Ontario Airport (and every other freeway-dominated city in America).
I’ll recuperate and regroup while I do not walk tomorrow (this Best Western has a great Jacuzzi).
Finally, some people who do this trip (well, one that I know of) name their stroller, in the same manner one names other inanimate but meaningful objects (Lucille, B. B. King’s guitar; Wilson, Tom Hanks’ volleyball; Sting, Frodo’s knife, etc.). I’ve been waiting for my Runabout to tell me what its name is, and after leaning on it for the last three days, it finally did: Walker. Because that’s what I’ve been using it as.
Day 4 is missing from Facebook.
April 20, 2017
Day 4. On the fourth day I rested.
I decided to give my legs, knees, feet, and toes a break. I sat in the Jacuzzi a few times, took the hotel shuttle to the mall and bought a pair of trail shoes at North Face.
Mostly I thought about the last few days and the 50 miles I’ve walked and the challenges–physical, mental, and emotional–I’ve already had to face. When one is at the beginning of a long and arduous undertaking, it’s hard not to look at the end-point and, well, desire it. But as we all know, these big undertakings are accomplished in small, bite-sized chunks.
I realize my goal has to be to plan what I’ll be trying to accomplish tomorrow—10 miles, maybe 15, maybe more. Maybe less.
For the first time, I do not know where I’ll be sleeping tomorrow night. (Destination: Fontana, CA.) Where’s the back seat of my car when I need it?
April 21, 2017
Day 5. Although I did not put on a lot of mileage today (about 10 miles), it was in other ways a satisfying day.
Haven Avenue in Ontario, which was anything but a haven when I was struggling to get past Ontario airport, was more amenable today, and took me via sidewalks all the way to Arrow Route–more sidewalks and a very pleasant street (note the candles at the corner). I eventually moved a block or two north so I could walk along historic Route 66, until the sidewalks again failed me.
I finally was able, after a frustrating hour of backtracking, to find my way to the Pacific Electric Trail, a wide, paved bike trail that was just a joy to walk on.
By the time I got to Fontana, my feet were ready to call it a day. While I was backtracking to an inexpensive motel I’d called that was on Foothill Blvd./Route 66, I waved to a guy standing near a restaurant that was undergoing renovation. After a short conversation explaining what I was doing on my walk, Gustavo, who’s rebuilding this Tijuana-style taco restaurant (his second), generously invited me to use the property to stay the night.
So here I am. The neighborhood provides a strange mixture of Mexican music, truck & motorcycle engines, dogs, crickets, and birds, and other city noises.
I’m frustrated by my meandering route, but walking in Southern California is just like that. I’m heading toward Colton tomorrow, in the direction of Twentynine Palms. If it takes an extra week or two to get there, so be it.
The new shoes seem to be working–I’ve got some blisters on my toes, but the knee pain was pretty much absent. I left the rain fly off the tent.
@ Fontana, California
April 22, 2017
Day 6. My day began early, about 5am. In spite of the Mexican music that went on until 2:30 am (I’m actually a fan, and love the tuba bass lines and the staccato accordion fills), I slept deeply when I was asleep, and fell back asleep without much difficulty.
I broke “camp,” and was at IHOP 1/2 mile away at 7am when it opened. I really did not order the ham omelet they served me and I sent it back; but my waitperson was very sweet, allowing me to charge my phone in the kitchen area, and filling my 40 oz. water bottle with ice.
When the bill came, I had to send that back too to remove the extra charge for the ham.
I followed the Pacific Electric Trail until it ended–it’s a great Trail with a lot of history. I met three 60-ish women from Little Rock on bikes who are cycling the Old Route 66 route to Chicago. How romantic (unlike my own trek). I took a side trip of a couple of miles RT to the FedEx office and spent an hour going through all of my belongings, packing some up to ship home, and redistributing the weight in the kart. I sent home over 9 pounds of stuff.
I’d decided I would stay in a motel tonight, but the first two I called were full, and the reviews on two more featured bed bugs and/or hourly rates. I lucked out with Motel 6, and the lady at the desk accommodated my request for something on the first floor by putting me in a handicapped room. She must have seen how I was leaning on Walker, my Runabout kart.
The most challenging part of the trip begins tomorrow.
(Re the photo: I guess someone’s commitment was not to spelling.)
@ Motel 6, San Bernardino, CA
April 23, 2017
Day 7. I walked 14 miles today, but didn’t mean to.
Google Maps was not my friend, and did not take me to my intended destination. But I liked walking along the San Timoteo Creek bike and walking path, as well as on San Timoteo Canyon Rd. (even though it’s a two-lane blacktop and constant traffic vigilance is mandatory).
So I just kept on going in spite of my left knee complaining. And finally, in the distance I saw hundreds of parked RVs in what turned out to be the Fisherman’s Retreat. Since I was not a “member,” I paid the non-member price for an RV spot, and pitched my tent on a grassy section.
There’s a nice little cafe, and while I ate my cod sandwich and cole slaw, the owner, Karen, told me of a younger woman, Jeannette, who’d come through a few weeks before on a cross-country walk. She, unlike myself, is Walking for Purity. (Her Little Rock, Arkansas, mentor is Ben Davis, who wrote a nice book about his own walk, and was a valuable resource to me as well.)
From the photos you can see I walked through Loma Linda and Redlands, and can see what construction-related frustrations we walkers deal with.
Fisherman’s Retreat is filled with vacationing families, dogs, and one woman whose cat escaped from her RV; the lady wandered around the grounds for a few hours calling, “Sarah, here kitty!”
I chatted with a Canadian guy in the RV behind me while he smoked a cigarette and his two small dogs peed. Later he came over and asked if I’d eaten, which I had. He said, “Well, I’m just putting some pork chops on the grill if you were hungry.” I knew this pork chops business would happen eventually.
@ Fisherman’s Retreat, Redlands, CA
April 24, 2017
Day 8. Probably the best day I’ve had on the road.
I packed up my gear and was back on San Timoteo Canyon Rd. at 6:40 am. At first, it was more two-lane blacktop, but when I crossed into Beaumont, CA, the road changed dramatically, with a WIDE sidewalk to walk on, and no need to pay attention to oncoming traffic.
I have my iPhone attached to the handlebar of the kart with the Google Maps app on all the time, and was pleased to get a call from Ben, who is knowledgeable about long walks, and a friend of Jeff, aka Walkingman. Ben had the name of a guy he thought could help with some of my route issues.
In the meantime, I was enjoying the sights and sounds (freight trains, a jackrabbit with a very white tail, a large field filled with so many different bird songs that it sounded like an orchestra).
I stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, Subway, and chatted with the young woman at the register. Turns out she’s the DM (district manager) for the area, and she urged me to call Subway and tell them about my trip. Eventually I will. (Attempts by my son, Adam, to reach Subway have resulted in mixed signals.)
My shoes from the North Face are working great, and my blister-related problems are disappearing. I just needed more room for my toes. I walked 13 miles today, from Redlands to Banning. I had planned on stopping after 9 miles (in Beaumont) to give my legs and feet a rest, but the weather was very cool—in the mid-50s to mid-60s—until about 12:30 pm, and the sun stayed behind clouds. I was having no knee or foot pain, so I called and made a reservation at the Holiday Inn Express.
I later spoke on the phone with Ben’s contact. His name is Ken, he rides his bicycle all over the country for work and pleasure, and was incredibly helpful. (He wound up giving me misinformation, but he meant well.) As a result, I’ll be making some modifications in my overall route (in the western states).
Finally, I must give credit where it is due: the cycling lobby that was responsible for having so many cities and states designate bike lanes. This has been a veritable life-saver. (In the photos, please note the change from no shoulder to marked shoulder, and the difference a bike lane makes.
@ Banning, California
April 25, 2017
Day 9. It was a 14 mile day, but that does not begin to tell the half of it. The billboard, however, tells it all.
I followed the directions out of Banning given to me by no fewer than three veteran non-car travelers. But this business about having to work on a complicated route so as to avoid the Morongo Indian Reservation is just plain crazy. You can drive through the reservation (I’ve been told there is a tollbooth), but you can’t walk through it. Thus one needs to walk along the railroad tracks south of the I-10. The problem was, I started walking on the south side of the RR tracks where there was a road, but that road ended. A hundred feet ahead I saw another road that continued in the direction I was going. Too bad it was on the other side of the tracks. <sigh>
Fortunately for me and Walker, I do pull-ups and pushups, and was able to lug all of the gear and the cart (in three trips) up the gravel track-side, over the four rails, and over to the other path. Then suddenly out of nowhere came a freight train roaring down upon us! Well, not suddenly; it was about 15 minutes later.
For the next eight or 10 miles there was no drama. I ate some lunch (that I’d cadged from the breakfast buffet) by the side of the road, and tried not to let my aggravated knee aggravate me. All was well until the road ended, I was diverted to the north side of the freeway, and directed down Tamarack Road. Let me just say that Tamarack is more sand than road. I found an empty lot in which to pitch my tent for the night. The wind is very gusty, but it’s still warm outside—and will stay that way until the sun starts to go down in a couple of hours.
Tomorrow I will try to make my way over to Route 62 north, which will take me in the direction of Twentynine Palms
@ White Water, California
April 26, 2017
Day 10. If today had been Day 1, I am not sure there would have been a Day 2.
I was on the road at 6 AM and saw a beautiful sunrise. As predicted, it was sand and more sand. When two hours later I finally hit some asphalt pavement, I thought my troubles were over. To lighten my load, I gave my Stanley Cooler to the first truck driver I saw, and pushed Walker (now 9 pounds lighter) up the hill that would supposedly take me around the I-10 Freeway. But I again encountered sand, it was uphill all the way. This went on for the next couple of hours (plus 45 minutes to backtrack when a service crew informed me I was in a restricted area). The guys were friendly and directed me to a different road. Google Maps, (which had screwed up royally previously), now directed me down “16th Ave.” I couldn’t believe it—another damned dirt road! Nevertheless, I pushed and pulled the kart (btw, “kart” is Roger Berg’s preferred spelling) in the direction I was told, and came across another service crew. They confirmed that this was, indeed, 16th Ave. They laughed at my expression and assured me that up ahead the road was paved.
And it was. Hallelujah! It brought me to Route 62, aka Twentynine Palms Hwy., which featured a wide shoulder on which to walk and push my kart. Until it didn’t. That’s when the climb up began. Up and up. It lasted forever, and the path on which I walked (facing traffic) seem to become narrower as the ascent continued. (If you look closely at one of the photos of the kart, you can see that the two rear tires are located precisely in the center of the traffic bumps; these bumps alert drivers they are veering off the road.) It was a tough climb, but I had no choice—I needed water and food, and there are no services between Whitewater and Morongo Valley.
The 15 or 16 miles I logged today were tough miles. When I arrived in town, I stopped at the Circle K, bought an ice cream sandwich & some PowerAde, and filled my 2 40 oz. vacuum bottles with water. I was directed by a shop owner to the Monument Bar & Grill for dinner where I met (L to R) Chad, John, Juan, & Bill—all great guys. I’m tenting in Bill’s backyard right now. It felt great to buy a round of beer for everyone!
@ Morongo Valley, California
April 27, 2017
Day 11. After packing up my tent and gear, I said goodbye to my new friend Bill in Morongo Valley and headed toward Yucca Valley, 12 miles away.
My dear friend Alice, a well-known and respected Catholic writer, had set up an introduction for me at St. Mary of the Valley church, and although I was disappointed at missing Father Mark Bertelli, I did have a long and wonderful chat with Mary, the long-time administrative assistant at the church. As part of the hospitality they wanted to show their guest, Father Mark offered to put me up at a hotel tonight.
Before I began this journey, I was advised to accept all gifts graciously and gratefully, and I did. Mary offered a hotel in Yucca Valley or one up the road in Joshua Tree. I chose the latter, since it put me closer to tomorrow’s destination, Twentynine Palms. But now I had another 7 miles to walk, and my left knee was not happy about it.
Anyway, the first segment of the walk today, even though uphill, was a delight. Look at the size of the shoulder and compare it to what I had to deal with yesterday. Today it was shoulders on steroids. I also saw some beautiful flowers along the way. (I did not stop at the shooting gallery.)
Big week coming up. Before I head off towards Needles, CA early Sunday morning, I’ll be taking an extra day to rest & prepare: Shabbat!
@ Joshua Tree, California
April 28, 2017
Day 12. On such a journey as this, there will be good days and bad days. Today was a good day. I walked 14 miles in five hours.
I was out the door of the High Desert Inn in Joshua Tree at 6 am, and was checking into Motel 6 in Twentynine Palms at 11 am. I had adequate space on the shoulder of Route 62 virtually the whole way, and there were no extreme hills to climb or descend. My left knee did NOT complain, and for that I am grateful.
At 9:30 AM I spotted a bench under a shady porch of the New Testament Baptist Church and took the opportunity to rest my feet as well as the rest of me. No “Testament” folks of any type, New or Old, disturbed me.
When I arrived at the motel, a lovely young woman, Dayle, found me a great room in the back and checked me in even though it was quite early. I ate lunch at the Del Taco next door and then took a well-served nap.
I’m working on my route to Kingman (several choices). There’s a Dollar General store nearby where I’ll buy water and food for the next big leg of the journey, which begins early Sunday morning. For dinner, I took a little walk to Subway (2 miles RT) to pick up a foot long tuna sub. Tomorrow is a day of rest for me. Hope it is for you, too!
@ City of Twentynine Palms
Day 13 is missing from Facebook
April 29, 2017
Day 13. Here’s what I have on my journey, from the top, left to right:
Kelty Salida 2 tent with fly & footprint; Kelly Cosmicdown 20 sleeping bag; 4 1-gallon bottles of water; 2 1.2 liter 45degree SS vacuum water bottles (filled); 3 bottles Gatorade/PowerAde; Neckbone pillow; Tom Bihn Daypack; Tilley Airflo hat; baseball cap; REI Backpacker Weekend First Aid Kit; Wahl Peanut hair/beard trimmer (yet-to-be-used).
Two pair Darn Tough cushioned hiking socks; adjustable cane, ostensibly to ward off dogs, but (the way things are going) may come in handy as a cane; adjustable wrench; duct tape; insect repellent; sunscreen 55; hand sanitizer; moleskin; bear/pepper spray; tripod (getting ready to give this away); TP; trowel; LifeStraw personal water filter (purification tablets are in the first aid kit); generic Flonase; saline rinse packets and syringe (in the event of cold or sinus infection); knee support (just bought it today).
Almonds; peanuts; raisins; dried apricots; honey; peanut butter (both organic & hydrogenated varieties); titanium spork; multi-vitamins & fish oil supplement; two types of crackers; 12 packs of tuna; plastic container; knife; 2 eBags for clothing containing: 2 hiking pants (1 pair convertible); REI silk long underwear; long sleeved merino pullover; 2 pair Ex-Officio boxers (1pr. not shown ;-); 2 white Hanes Cool-Dri long sleeved shirts; bandanna; LL Bean cargo pants; Patagonia jacket; Columbia fast-dry long sleeved dressier shirt; Marmot Pre-Cip rain jacket & pants; Polartec gloves; kippah (you never know); fast-dry travel towel.
12″ MacBook with sleeve; power cord assortment; Freemove safety vest; pink Sharpie I found; notebook; Mophie XXL battery; LE power zoom flashlight (too bright!); Dizaul solar battery; toilet kit case; wallet; Minus33 merino wool beanie; belt; bungee cord; polarized Rx glasses; extra pair Rx glasses; Reef slides/flip-flops; Teva sandals; Ultra TR Trail shoes from The North Face; Pentel pencil; a fine writing implement courtesy of Best Western; Yamaha piccolo (haven’t given it a thought yet); hundreds of cards describing my journey.
Triple antibiotic ointment (aka: Aunt Evie’s boo-boo cream); Vigamox ocular antibiotic (exp. 2011); soap; cortisone cream and Afrin (both from Mexico); pain pills; SPF lip moisturizer; more insect repellent; Vaseline; deodorant; toothpaste, courtesy of my late father; floss; nail clippers; cough medicine, Rx courtesy of my doctor; Cepacol; disposable razors (Ha!); book of matches featuring the image of LBJ, some postage stamps and envelopes.
Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (I’d given this to my father, and he carried it for many years); Leatherman Squirt; National Parks Pass; tweezers. Next to the bed is Walker, my Runabout Kart designed and hand-built by Roger Berg in Oregon. Not shown: cheddar cheese; iPhone 7+.
Many challenges await me in the next 2-3 weeks. (The photo is of my breakfast. It looks better than it was.)
(Note: By the end of my journey, many of the items listed above were no longer included in my container. After Cincinnati, I was carrying a backpack, and most of the items were gone.)
@ City of Twentynine Palms
April 30, 2017
Day 14. Today was the first day I walked 20 miles intentionally, and without any pain worth noting.
Frankly, when I quit for the day and found a place to set up my tent, I felt a little guilty. It was only 2:20 pm. Yet I had started walking at 5:40 am, so I’d put in a good day.
My next waypoint on the journey is Amboy. Other than being the home of the famous Roy’s Gasoline of Old Route 66 lore, it’s pretty much a ghost town. I should pass it on Tuesday.
Today, a young guy jogged past at about 11 am and waved. On his return jog, he walked alongside me and asked about my kart, etc. His name is George, and he’s a firefighter at the Wonder Valley station. He took my photo, and then I sat down at a shaded picnic table nearby to eat the other half of last night’s Subway tuna sandwich (don’t worry, it was in the refrigerator overnight and was still cold). Later, a man pulled up on the shoulder and got out of his Jeep to say hello to me. Turns out he had seen me struggling up the treacherous hill to Morongo Valley a few days ago. Bernie and I had a nice chat, and he offered me a bottle of water, which I accepted. (Even though I have 4 gallons of water with me, you never turn down water in the desert.) Bernie is an example of one of the “angels” that you encounter on a trip such as this. As you know, I’ve met others who have assisted me along the way.
I am camped a hundred feet off of Amboy Road, behind some bushes. I can hear the light traffic, but I’ve been listening to traffic since day one. For dinner tonight, I have peanut butter, two kinds of crackers, and a banana. Did you know there are more calories, calories from fat, total fat, sodium, and sugar in a serving of Nabisco Wheat Thins than in a serving of Triscuits? I love both.
@ Wonder Valley, CA
May 1, 2017
Day 15. After yesterday’s 20 miles, I felt confident I could do the same today. I did. But I did not count on the 3.5 hour, tedious climb.
Near the top of the ascent I met Linda, who did a U-turn and waited for me to approach. “I saw you walking, so I made you some sandwiches.” I turned down the 2 ham sandwiches graciously, but readily accepted the 4 tangerines she offered. She pointed to the 2 cell towers ahead and said, “Now it’s all downhill.” Great!
When I got to the towers, there she was again. She’d driven home, grabbed more tangerines, a few carrots, a zucchini, & 2 bottles of water. I was overwhelmed by her generosity. “Linda, how can I repay you?” “You can’t.” And then, like the Lone Ranger, she was gone.
Two hours later a guy stopped and beckoned to me. He was Dave, a friend of Chad who I’d met at the bar in Morongo Valley. I sat in Dave’s air-conditioned car for 10 minutes, and that was a welcome relief.
Later on, a 40-ish guy with a Hollywood haircut and driving a BMW convertible had to slow to a stop near me because of oncoming traffic—I was taking up some of his valuable road space. He shook his head and gave me a disgusted look. How dare I cause him to have to slow down? Then he drove off. I kept up an imaginary conversation with that guy for 10 minutes, thinking about the 1,000 people who’d passed me in the last few days.
Virtually everyone—truckers, bikers, dudes in pickup trucks, men and women, young and old—responds to my wave with a wave of their own. Or they flash me a V for victory sign. As I was stewing, a tattooed guy with a shaved head pulled up in a white Chevy pickup, stuck his hand out the window, and gave me an ice-cold bottle of water. “You the man!” was all I could say before he smiled and sped away.
Later, I met John and Vickie from Cloverdale who’d parked and were looking at the desert scenery. They asked me how I was doing. I gave them a card and we chatted for a while. Then he handed me some cash. “Here, buy yourself a beer when you can.” Then ANOTHER car pulled up 30 minutes later, and the driver asked me if I needed any water. I said, “No, I’m good, but thanks for asking.” She said, “God bless you,” and drove away. It was a day filled with angels.
May 2, 2017
Day 16. No way could I keep up the 20 miles per day pace given the temperature of over 102 degrees. The desert is unforgiving.
I was on the road at 6:10 am, already tired from the push yesterday. My goal was Amboy and Roy’s Gasoline—a modest 9 miles. As I approached a ridiculously wide turn to bring me to the town center, who should pull up in her little white car other than my favorite angel, Linda (think: a voluble, blonde Mama Cass in a floppy leather hat and an extra large leopard skin print mumu top. No shoes). She came bearing more tangerines, carrots, 2 water bottles, and a green pepper that I declined (I’m avoiding the deadly Nightshade family). Now I have more than I can consume before it all spoils in the desert heat.
At 11 am, I arrived at Roy’s, took the obligatory photo, and bought a Route 66 Root Beer, which was terrific (made in Chicago using pure cane sugar), and a Snickers. I asked the guy behind the counter (not Roy, RIP) if it would be OK if I sat on a bench in the shade in front of the building. I sat there for 6 long hours. During that time I had wonderful conversations with French-Canadians, Brits, Germans, and a Swiss guy who helped me reboot my iPhone when it got stuck. Virginia, living in Norway by way of Buffalo, Harvard, and other exotic locales, was a fascinating talker, and I would not be surprised if someday I visited her and her husband, Kjell Arne, on their farm. Tom from San Diego showed me on his map what he thought was the best route to Flagstaff, and Zach told me about visiting the nearby Amboy Crater as a teenager and buying a Coke at Roy’s for a nickel.
I left Roy’s at 5:15 pm, walked about a mile, and that was it for the day. The heat done me in. I managed to set up my Kelty, take a photo of the sunset from the tent, and eat some supper. Ten hot miles for today.
@ Roy’s Motel and Café
May 3, 2017
Day 17. I hit the road at 5:10 am and ended 5 hours later when the heat inevitably defeated me.
The initial ascent up Amboy Road was not too bad, and there were few vehicles coming in my direction. At 7:20 am I reached the Route 66 detour and just kept walking on the old portion of the road. Some bridges are being repaired.
Driving a large truck, Scott was the first to stop and ask what and how I was doing. He works for a company that mines calcium and described himself as a “dirt mover.” He promised to come back with some water.
Then Dave, who is an excavation contractor, drove by in a Caterpillar tractor. He gave me a bottle of water and we talked about the heat. At the area of the first bridge construction I had to take the long way around on a dirt road. The road was getting tougher and the temperature hotter. I knew that both men had trailers in which they lived during the work week. Scott soon returned with a bag containing water, Gatorade, and Granola bars. Of course I was very grateful.
I was fading fast and knew I couldn’t go on for much longer. My plan was to find someplace to pitch my tent and just hole up until early in the morning. There were some trees and trailers up ahead. I asked Scott if there was any possibility of me pitching my tent near trailer. Instead, he invited me go ahead and use his trailer. “The AC is on and the door’s open.” I staggered to the trailer he described, grabbed a few things from Walker and entered his Jayco trailer and a world of COOL. I took my shoes and shirt off and collapsed across the foot of his bed.
Scott returned a little while later. “You know, if you’re going to walk across the Mojave, you should do it at night.” He left to go back to work and I went back to sleep. At 2 PM I ate lunch (a pouch of Bumble Bee tuna [16 g protein], crackers, tangerines, and water. I felt a helluva lot better, and started strategizing my next move. (I’d loved to have stayed in the trailer overnight, but there is absolutely no room for me.)
The problem with getting up early and walking until late morning is that you’re quitting at the hottest time of the day. The idea of resuming later in the day (like I did yesterday), is that even at 5 or 6 o’clock it’s still really hot out.
@ Cadiz, National Trails Hwy
May 4, 2017
Day 18. I left Scott’s air-conditioned trailer at 7:45 PM last night, and walked for another 2 to 2.5 hours up the hill. As I was leaving, Charlie, a project manager, invited me to join him, Dave, and some others for steaks. I politely declined and got on my way.
I saw the hill looming. I was almost at the top, but even though mine was the only vehicle on the road, it was dark, I was exhausted from the uphill trek, and set up camp on the side of the road. At 6 AM in the morning I resumed walking, and 15 minutes later I finally made it to an old stone structure that marks the top of the hill.
I began my descent, thinking this would be a relatively easy walk. But I was wrong; it was just too hot to continue. At 7 AM I pitched my tent in the shade under one of the bridges (dates of 1934-1939 painted on the wood showed it’s vintage). My plan was to stay in my tent and wait until sunset and then resume walking. (Other hikers do just this.)
I ate tuna, tangerines, Wheat Thins, and some atrocious Jif peanut butter (OMG, who eats this stuff?), and drank water & Gatorade as I waited for the sun to go down and the day to cool a little. I knew that if I pushed my pace in this heat, particularly going uphill, I’d feel miserable for hours afterward. This business of waiting, however, is for me pure torture. (I’m reminded of the character in Siddhartha who sits and waits for his current life to end so he can begin the next.)
I managed to catch up on my Daf Yomi (no cell signal required).
I waited until sundown, packed up my gear, and walked less than a mile before I realized I did not have enough strength to go on. I made a very difficult decision, and finally decided to call Scott for help. He picked me up about 5 miles from his trailer park, drove me to the Jayco, gave me chicken and dumpling soup out of a can, and set me up on the convertible bench seating/sleeping unit for the night.
Although we didn’t confirm it, I hoped he would let me rent his trailer tonight and tomorrow night while he’s gone for the weekend. I could then resume the walk Sunday or Monday. The temperatures are supposed to drop for several days, allowing me to regroup, and try again. I’m not yet ready to quit. Not yet.
@ Route 66
May 5, 2017
Day 19. As I tried to fall asleep last night, having eaten soup and drunk fluids, my heart was beating hard & fast. I finally took some Lorazepam and drifted off.
At 5am, Scott was on his way to work. He’d asked if he could drop me and the kart somewhere to make my trip easier—he knew I wasn’t in good shape. My plan now was to recuperate, regroup, and try again Monday morning, knowing it would be cooling off.
Several hours later as I drifted in and out of sleep, I heard a knock on the door. I called, “Come in!” The door opened and a woman’s voice asked, “Dr. Schoen?” What the hell! In came Deanna, a long-time patient, friend, and the designer of our Ketubah, and her spouse, Walter, a retired psychiatrist.
“Deanna! What are you doing here?” She explained that she and Walter were following me online and decided I needed help. So they’d driven hours from their home in Dana Point (and cleverly located Scott’s Jayco trailer) to assist me.
Deanna had a cooler in the car, and since there wasn’t much room for us all in the trailer, we went out to their rented SUV to eat. They’d brought me a tuna sub from Subway, fresh fruit, nuts, cookies, salads, water, juice & Gatorade. As we sat there, I ate hungrily, and we talked.
Deanna and Walter offered to drive me anywhere I wanted to go. It was decision-time. Once I accepted a ride, I would no longer consider the walk “pure,” and this bothered me.
I asked them to wait while I went back to the trailer and made some calls. I called a few of my mentors as well as my wife. Their assessment—as well as mine—was this: the desert was going to kill me, and had already started to do a good job of it. Scott came by at some point and agreed. The decision was made.
Scott helped me lift Walker into the SUV and we said our goodbyes. The outside temp: 107. The heck with Needles or Laughlin; we drove straight to Kingman, Arizona. In the car, I called ahead and made a reservation at Motel 6 for 2 nights.
When we arrived, I checked in, put my stuff in the room, and we headed to Mattina’s, a nearby Italian restaurant. Dinner was my treat, but how could I ever repay this incredible gift?
Alone in my motel room after Deanna and Walter left, I thought about the future. Monday morning I would resume my journey from Kingman. For anyone tracking my progress who might be disappointed in not being able to follow my walk another 100 miles of desert, I truly apologize. My own hope is that I can make it the rest of the way.
@ Kingman, Arizona
Day 20 missing from Facebook
May 6, 2017
Day 20. Today was a day of rest, and I needed it. I ate, drank, and napped. Repeat. Repeat again.
I also did laundry, dipped in the cold pool, and pondered my self-inflicted circumstances. After posting my decision, I received nothing but support from my communities of friends, family, and walkers. Certainly I’m disappointed; but I am also alive to walk another day. When I complained online that my walk would no longer be considered “pure,” Cousin Naomi famously responded, “Pure, Shmure!” Since she’s Canadian and very smart, I respect her judgment.
As a result of an infusion of high fat, high caloric food, I’ve quickly regained some weight. (The elusive six-pack I lusted after for years quickly vanished.) Sadly, I do not feel fully recovered; I know it’s easier to lose health and strength than to regain either. I’ve considered staying here another day. In the big scheme of things, what difference would it make? I’ll decide tomorrow morning. The weather is continuing to cool off. As my father would say, ‘Let me think about it.’
May 7, 2017
Day 21. Recap: A few angels intervene, and…Poof! I am on the road again.
After a takeout breakfast from Carl’s Jr., I left Motel 6 and resumed my walk on Historic Route 66 at 7:30 am. The great irony is that it was cold: mid-to high-40s. I was wearing an extra shirt & gloves.
Walking through Kingman, I thought it odd that this portion of Route 66 is also known as Andy Devine Avenue, so I looked it up.
Andy Devine was born in Flagstaff, but grew up in Kingman. I was certainly familiar with him from his role as Guy Madison’s sidekick in the Wild Bill Hickok TV show and from his own children’s show in the late 50s, but his career in film, television, and theater is also quite impressive. Check it out if you’re curious.
Back to me. I felt strong enough to walk this morning and did not want to spend another day sitting around the motel, even though I was enjoying watching the hundreds of beautiful vintage cars (and vintage people) participating in the “Historic Route 66 Fun Run.”
I walked on the sidewalk for a long time, then on the blacktop shoulder, which turned out to be generous. I stopped walking at 3:30 PM only because I did not want to push my luck my first day back on the road. I’m camping on a dirt road between the highway and the railroad tracks near the Valle Vista golf course. Too bad I didn’t bring my clubs. (That’s a joke, which those who know me well will appreciate.)
As soon as I stopped for the day, the sun came out and with it came heat. But NOTHING compared to what I experienced in the Mojave. 18 miles today. Tomorrow I start the climb into the hills. It’s 69 miles to Seligman, and 155 to Flagstaff.
@ Famous Route 66
May 8, 2017
Day 22. I know it’s Day 22, but the date and the day of the week have little meaning to me at this point. Theoretically, I’m 10% of the way through my journey. Is that feasible? Mathematically, maybe. (Note: I was closer to 13% of the way, but could not know this at the time.)
It was slow-going today because of the hills and because of the sun. Arizona is a beautiful country, reminiscent of the many TV Westerns I watched as a boy. I was typically mounted on a green leather hassock (my saddle) atop a dining room chair (my horse) in front of my grandmother’s small screen television. The good guy always shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand or rode his horse next to the other guy’s horse and they fell off together and had a short fight ending in Hopalong or Gene or Roy saving the day.
Now I am surrounded by those same vistas and vegetation as I climb hills, avoid speeding vehicles, watch endless freight trains go by, and long to reach the next town that will eventually get me the hell out of Arizona. (I developed a real love-hate relationship with the state.)
This morning I met Rory, 32, cycling from LA to the East Coast via Nashville, looking to find meaning in his life. Later, at Hackberry, I chatted with 3 tourists from Holland (in Dutch my name means “shoe” so they always assume I’m of Dutch heritage).
The Route 66 ghost towns are a mixture of convenience food stores, old rusted cars, schlock, and kitch, with tourists coming from or going to the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen a number of leather-clad French tour groups riding Harleys. Mais oui.
I rested in the shade and took a selfie on the grounds of the Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs. Later I spoke with Al, cycling round trip from Kingman. Like myself, he’s 70, working to stay fit and trying lead a meaningful retired life.
I set up my tent near the town of Crozier after logging 16-18 miles today (I have no cell service so I can’t be sure). In spite of the sounds of cars, trucks, and trains, it’s peaceful lying in my tent, waiting for the sun to go down.
@ Crozier, Arizona
May 9, 2017
Day 23. When your fingers are freezing because your gloves are soaked, and your legs are wet because you didn’t take the time to put on your rain pants (even though you have them in your kart). and your shoes are wet because you’ve been walking up and down hills in the rain for a couple of hours, you don’t care what the hotel room costs, especially when it’s the only game in town.
The desk clerk at the Hualapai Lodge in Peach Springs grudgingly admitted that she had a room for me, and I took it. But first there was the business about my “printed” AARP card vs. a “real” AARP card. I assured her the card was valid, and she could read the statement to that effect on the page I showed her. I don’t think reading was one of her strong skills, but in the end she “bent the rules” (she could “get into trouble,” she told me).
Earlier that morning I was stopped by the police for the first time during my journey. The two officers were polite (as was I). They said they’d “received reports” that “a man pushing a cart was walking on the wrong side of the road” (untrue) and that he was “weaving in and out of the lane” (true, but only when there was no shoulder on which to walk).
One officer called in my drivers license (no problems) while I chatted with the other. When the results came back, they smiled, wished me a safe journey, and drove away.
One of the reasons I wound up so wet was that the rain started as just a drizzle at first, and I ignored it. I was in the middle of a long phone conversation with Sharon about a motel reservation in Seligman Thursday night and a package I needed her to ship, and didn’t pay enough attention to the increasing intensity of the rain. By the time I got my rain jacket out of the kart, it was too late to avoid getting soaked.
I finally arrived at Peach Springs about 2 pm—cold, wet, and hungry, and would have paid anything for that hotel room.
After I hung up all my wet stuff in the room, I made myself a tuna and cheese sandwich and called Jeannine, who’d hit a snowstorm heading into Flagstaff. She’s had a run of bad luck. And all I could think about was that I was headed to where she’s at!
It was just too stressful to think about, so I went for a soak in the Jacuzzi where I met Amanda and Troy from Vail, CO. Two nurses in their early thirties originally from Upper Michigan, they were cycling across the country.
We made a date for dinner where continued our conversation. I heard first-hand that cycling across the US has its own stresses. We had a good time together and shared two desserts.
Before dinner, I’d sorted all my clothes and re-packed my gear. Now it’s 9:30 pm and I’m settled in a king-sized bed thinking about the miles I have to walk over the next two days, the weather I’d be facing, and my next moves.
@ Peach Springs, Arizona
May 10, 2017
Day 24. After a good breakfast at the Lodge (oatmeal, bananas, raisins), I walked over to a nearby market and bought a package of Kraft American cheese slices (what’s happening to me?) and a freshly-made tuna hoagie to go.
Ten minutes out of town I looked up to see a police officer standing on the shoulder of the road waiting for me. He had his hands on his hips and a smile on his face, and I recognized Officer Minoggio (the partner of Officer Goins) from the previous day’s encounter. We greeted each other warmly and he told me he wanted to wish me the best of luck on my trip to the East Coast.
“The police report we filed yesterday is on its way to Seligman,” he told me. “If anyone gets a report of someone walking on the highway, they’ll know it’s probably you.” He said the police have problems with drunks and homeless people walking on the highways. But the report he filed indicates I have “sufficient means,” that I am walking in honor of my father, and that I am pushing a professionally made cart. As we parted he added, “The eyes of Arizona are now watching over you.” I remember feeling that was probably a good thing.
A few minutes later I was overtaken by Amanda and Troy on their bikes. After exchanging greetings and best wishes, we went our separate ways.
After a few chilly morning hours the sun came out and I began to remove layers of clothing. I listened to Herbert von Karajan’s recording of Beethoven’s Third Symphony (I downloaded all nine when I was at the Motel 6 in Kingman). During the second movement, a crusty old guy in a Chevy 4X4 pickup pulled up. A brown Labrador was riding shotgun. “Where the hell you going?” he asked. His cap read, “Don’t Tread on Me,” and I couldn’t help but notice the large pistol in a leather holster sitting on his dashboard. (I didn’t notice any other icons sitting there.) He was friendly enough.
The weather improved and the road continued, mostly flat but with a few hills just to keep me honest. I met one other guy of note, Andy, riding an impressive bicycle and towing a small trailer loaded down with all kinds of gear and provisions. From our short conversation I diagnosed him as a misanthropic alarmist. He was convinced that I’d sooner or later be killed by a tornado, a cyclone, or baseball-sized hail stones. Perhaps I will be. Better than a heart attack on a golf course. Or Alzheimer’s.
20 miles today.
@ Route 66
May 11, 2017
Day 25. This morning, Officer Minoggio of the Hualapai Police stopped by once again to say hello (the Eyes of Arizona?). Frankly, I’m happy to be an object of his concern for my safety and wellbeing. He had a favor to ask me, and I complied.
I waited a couple of hours and then called the Hualapai Police Department headquarters and asked the woman who answered if I could speak to the police chief or leave him a message. She paused a moment and then asked if I had a complaint. “No, just the opposite.” A few seconds later I heard, “This is Chief Bradley.”
When I introduced myself, the Chief knew who exactly who I was, which was somewhat reassuring. I proceeded to tell him how I felt about Officers Goins and Minoggio—two good men who are sensitive and caring professionals in one of the toughest lines of work there is. Chief Francis E. Bradley, Sr. was sincerely appreciative to get positive feedback about his officers, and told me he too plans to follow my progress. I felt so good about making that phone call.
The sun was out and it was warm. Seligman is one place on Old Route 66 that seems to be doing okay as a quaint tourist town. That said, other than an updated bathroom, a microwave, and a mini fridge, my room at the Supai Motel can’t look much different than it must have before I-40 created ghost towns overnight and changed things forever.
As my tent and other items were drying in the sun on a clothesline in the backyard of the motel, I walked to the General Store for lunch (egg salad sandwich and an apple), and then the Dollar General for a few absolutely necessary supplies (Oreos and M&Ms). Dinner tonight was at Westside Lilo’s. I plan an early start tomorrow morning toward Ash Fork.
Even though I only did 16 miles today, they were difficult miles.
@ Seligman, Arizona
May 12, 2017
Day 26. I had trouble falling asleep last night due to apprehension of today’s walk. (It might also have been the large root beer I had with dinner. Hey…I forgot about caffeine! Okay?)
I was out the door at 5:40 am headed toward the end of town where Historic Route 66 would take me to Interstate 40. My anxiety had to do with the fact that today would be my first day walking on the Interstate. And frankly I was worried, even as I walked 18 miles on the most beautiful stretch of highway (Old Route 66) I’d experienced yet on this journey. One might say it was bucolic. I could hear many birds, there was little traffic, the trains were visible but not loud, and the hills rolled somewhat gently. I listened to a variety of jazz including Jim Hall’s wonderful recording of Concierto de Aranjuez, and eventually could see I-40 in the distance.
Then I was nervous again. Sure, people (including at least one Arizona police officer) told me it was okay to walk on an Arizona interstate as long as one followed the rules (not drunk, wearing clothes, etc.). I was anxious until I walked about 25 feet, because coming toward me was a cyclist. He seemed as surprised to see me as I was him. (Hey, if a guy can ride his bike on the shoulder of I-40 I should be able to walk there!)
The cyclist’s name was Florian, he was German, and had ridden from Chicago on Route 66. We chatted in English and German for a few minutes (four years of German at Wantagh High School was not a complete waste of time), and promised to become Facebook friends. Then I hiked the next 6 miles on an 8-foot wide shoulder, ignoring the trucks and cars as best I could (I put in my ear plugs), and made great time getting to Ash Fork. I took the first Ash Fork exit so I could walk through yet another town that time (and I-40) forgot. Sure, there are a couple of gas stations at either end of town (near the exits), and it may indeed be the Flagstone Capital of the USA. But the empty storefronts and unoccupied houses (many of them charming) tell another story.
The Copper State Motel is difficult to describe other than to say, “I’m back in the 1950s once again.” But it has a fridge, microwave, and internet, and is around the corner from a gas station convenience store and the Family Dollar.
My legs are stiff from 25 miles today (a new record).
@ Ash Fork, Arizona
May 13, 2017
Day 27. Today was uphill all day. Up, up, up, from Ash Fork to Williams, Arizona. Just a long, slow climb of almost 18 miles, much of it against a headwind.
I started at 6:20 am and reached Motel 6 in Williams at 2 pm. Williams is a nice town, and I walked through some of it. I don’t know why some towns seemed to have survived the Route 66 to I-40 transition better than others, but it probably has to do with proximity to the new highway and other geographical and/or demographic factors. There’s a large Safeway, so obviously the town can support a real grocery store.
As I climbed, I listened to the Pepper Adams Hollywood Quintet (he was one of the premier jazz baritone saxophonists) and Count Basie’s band (the Count maybe plays 10 notes during each tune, but his band is great!).
When you’re walking on the Interstate, you see a wide variety of road kill. In the last two days I’ve encountered a large owl, jack rabbits, some kind of wild pig (later identified as a peccary), and today a large deer (no antlers). Up close it’s creepier than when you drive by it.
The sun was bright all day, and it’s the first time I’ve walked all day on the Interstate. But it won’t be the last. I’m headed to Bellemont tomorrow night, and then Flagstaff. I have a strong feeling I’m going to be visiting many more cities mentioned in the Route 66 song before I head north toward Cincinnati.
Now it’s time to head out for some dinner. I don’t seem to be losing any weight at this point in spite of the fact that I seem to be eating (and drinking) all day long.
Tonight I had a great meal at El Corral restaurant and got to speak few sentences in Spanish to the family members who own it.
@ Williams, Arizona
May 14, 2017
Day 28. What started as a no-brainer day, ended up as a scrambled-brain disappointment.
Leaving the motel I made a quick stop at McDonalds for two egg McMuffins and cheese (no meat) on a Big Mac bun (“First time anyone’s ever ordered that, sir.”).
Then back to I-40 for a few miles until an Arizona Highway Patrol officer informed me, via an official written warning, that, “No, sir, it is illegal for pedestrians to walk on the Interstate. No matter what you were told.” (He agreed that, “Yes, cyclists are permitted.” Ain’t that a kick in the head, and more discrimination against us pedestrians.)
So, a half-mile later I exited the Interstate and began walking on the Old Route 66 frontage road, where I was actually much happier. There were fewer vehicles, it was quiet, I saw cows and horses and heard birds singing. And other than the fact that there was no shoulder on the two-lane blacktop, life was good. Until it wasn’t.
First I saw the sign indicating that the pavement was about to end; then, as I entered a wooded area, it did. I tried to wave down a passing pickup to ask if this dirt road went all the way to Bellemont. The guy didn’t even slow down (but he did manage to give me the finger). A second car, also driven by a young guy, didn’t stop either.
Fortunately, the third car stopped (in it was a couple my age; it figures). The woman said, “Yes, it’s dirt just like this all the way to Bellemont.” That was another 10 miles! I saw no alternative but to continue.
Then things got even worse as I saw the sign that said, “Entering Private Land.” (It was right next to a Trump for President sign, and the humor did not escape me). This was getting scary. Would I be prevented from continuing? Or escorted off the private land by some guy with a shotgun?
None of that happened. After 2-3 miles the pavement reappeared (the lady, thank God, was wrong). But the road was long, with hills necessitating an up-and-down effort for miles, with winds and temperatures that fluctuated wildly by the minute.
Yes, it was a tough 23 miles today. I’ve looked at tomorrow’s options (walking from Bellemont to Flagstaff) and don’t like what I see—an illegal walk on I-40, or 20 miles of pushing my kart on dirt roads. Frankly, I’m angry and disappointed. If you thought walking along “Old Historic Route 66” was a charming idea, please revise your notion.
@ Days Inn Bellemont AZ
May 15, 2017
Day 29. I only walked 2 miles today. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After considering my options to get to Flagstaff today, I chose the more disappointing option—I got a ride. It’s one thing to push my kart all day up and down hills and over miles of dirt roads that call themselves “Historic Route 66.” But to start a 20 mile walk that could be mostly dirt roads, screw that. If the people of Arizona and the US think so little about the “heritage” of Route 66 that they can’t even maintain a paved road, then they’ve lost my respect and the honor of having me walk into town. I could have done it; I chose not to.
I checked into the Best Western Pony Soldier Inn by noon, then wandered down the block to the Burger King for a fish sandwich, fries, and a Dr Pepper. After lunch, I moved my kart into my rooms—they’d upgraded me to a mini-suite (or maybe all the rooms are mini-suites), then I sat in the Jacuzzi for a while and pondered my situation.
Back in the room, I started looking at routes out of Flagstaff. I called the Bureau of Parks & Recreation about getting a permit to camp along the road. The woman said they only issued permits for camping inside the National Parks.
Later I walked over to the Sportsman’s Warehouse where Bailey, a delightful 20-year-old business student, helped me as I tried on a 8 or 10 pairs of shoes. I finally decided on a pair of Merrells. Bailey and Brittany (her manager) asked me many questions about my journey. Bailey and I also talked about fitness, diet, and boyfriends (hers); I happen to be an expert in all of these subjects.
Across the street was Fat Olives Wood Fired Pizzeria & Italian Kitchen. I went in to look at the menu and stayed for the fire roasted vegetable special. Wow! I even ate the Brussel sprouts. The pizza was also great. I ate half—the rest is for dinner tomorrow night (each room at the Best Western has an electronic wood-fired oven to reheat such dishes; not). Spencer (the greeter) and Kim (my waitperson) were both terrific.
Round trip to the store and restaurant and back: 2 miles. All in all, a productive day. Just not a walking day.
@ Flagstaff, Arizona
May 16, 2017
Day 30. What I’ve learned in 4 weeks:
You’ll get blisters, they’ll hurt; then they turn into callouses, and stop hurting.
If you’re pushing too much weight, get rid of stuff.
They say if you want to hear God laugh, make plans. God hasn’t stopped laughing since I took my first step. I’m still making plans and God is still laughing.
The desert will kill you without a second thought. It defeated me, but it didn’t kill me because of the intervention of friends and my desire to live.
Don’t ignore angels. Some people will go out of their way to help you.
Most people have bigger problems than you do.
This country is not designed for walking. Both Bill Bryson and Paul Theroux have written about this. Lot of good it’s done.
Route 66 may have been charming once, but it isn’t anymore.
Pricier motels aren’t necessarily better than cheaper ones. Motel soundproofing is an iffy thing.
I love Jacuzzis.
After walking & camping for weeks, your level of personal & food hygiene drops a few notches.
There’s a knack to “relieving oneself” on the road (a book has been written about it).
There are good cops. There are no perfect shoes.
You never think about Indian Reservations until you’re walking through one.
On any journey you must maintain a balance: time vs. miles-to-go.
Man & nature will throw impediments in your way. There are limitations to your own physical & mental strengths. Sometimes you need to make quick decisions; other times you need to take time thinking things through.
If I take a “day of rest” each week, it will take forever to reach my destination.
Some people think what I’m doing is fun. (Queen Isabella: “Cristoforo, I’m sure you’ll have fun on your voyage.”) This is not fun. My wife and close friends will tell you that I don’t understand the concept of fun. I just want to finish this journey and wade in the Atlantic.
I’ve been advised to not say, “I’m attempting to walk to…” and instead say, “I’m walking to…”
If I knew 30 days ago what I know now…well, life doesn’t work that way, does it? What I’ve tried to do here is be transparent—I’m not hiding my “rides” or my daily failures & challenges.
That’s what I’ve learned so far. I’m sure there’s plenty more to learn.
@ Best Western Pony Soldier Inn & Suites
May 17, 2017
Day 31. Sometimes you have to go south to go north. And that’s what I’m doing.
I spent a couple of days agonizing about a viable walking route out of Flagstaff. Between the crazy climbs and altitude (north via Tuba City), miles of nothing (through the Indian Reservations), the lack of services (water, food, lodging), and the inevitable forays onto dirt paths or Interstate highways, I was beginning to feel desperate. How long could I hole up at the Best Western and sit in the Jacuzzi?
I visited and spoke with my sister’s high school friend, Bruce Aiken, who is a well-known and respected artist living in Flagstaff. He knows the region well. I also put out an email to my mentors.
Bruce told me what it would be like walking north to Tuba City. It would be many miles of isolation. He did not encourage me.
My friend and advisor Jeff responded, “Well, if you were in Phoenix I could help. That’s the way I went on my walk across the country.”
I let these pieces of advice simmer for a while, and then made an executive decision. I’d move my walk south to Phoenix. It’s really just a repositioning shift. Phoenix is 150 miles directly south of Flagstaff, and I’m going to have to walk those 150 miles anyway when I start heading north again. I’d been following the route of Ben Davis, another walker, and was not aware of Jeff’s route soon enough. Ben encountered snow and the coldest days of his journey on his route to Colorado.
Walking on his route through California and parts of Arizona, Jeff had encountered similar problems to mine. But his route in and out of Arizona through Phoenix worked great. So I decided to walk 3 miles to the bus station, take a Greyhound to Phoenix, and follow in Jeff’s footsteps for a while before heading northeast to Cincinnati.
As I write this, I’m on the bus (which was two hours late, “No refunds, folks”), and I can’t wait to get off and walk 6 miles to the Motel 6 in Tempe.
In Tempe I’ll be meeting up with Lisa Monheit, an opera singer and speech pathologist who graduated from Wantagh High School a number of years after I did. She now lives in Phoenix. Lisa and I both benefitted from the mentorship of Rollan Masciarelli (fondly known as Maz), the wonderfully talented & inspirational music teacher at WHS. We also share this in common: Maz changed our lives as musicians and people. He was that kind of teacher.
I’d only met Lisa one time, at a bar mitzvah in Oakland. When we made arrangements for our meet-up, she asked if there was anything she could bring me. I didn’t hesitate. “Chocolate chip cookies.” Lisa didn’t fail me.
@ Tempe, Arizona
May 18, 2017
Day 32. Today the world was flat, and most of the 25 miles I walked featured a paved sidewalk. But the day was not without drama.
I was out the door of the Motel 6 on Priest Road at 5:30 am and grabbed 2 egg McMuffins. About an hour later I crossed paths with a guy towing a red trailer behind his bicycle. At first glance he looked like a long-distance cyclist, and I’m thinking we’re brothers-on-the-road. But then he started ranting about somebody having stole his f-ing backpack, and I realized he was a loco homeless guy. A closer look revealed a lot of junk in his trailer plus a (live) puppy. Then his rant got personal, and became convinced that I’d stolen is his f-ing backpack. He yelled at me to open my cart and show him what was in there. That’s when I grabbed my can of bear spray and yelled at him!
As loud as I could, I told him, “Move away and stop bothering me!”
He saw the can I was holding, and I believe he sensed I might be a bigger threat than he first figured. (If you’ve read my Frequently Asked Questions page, you know I was also carrying a deadly ballpoint pen.) The guy turned his bike, the cart, and the puppy around, and rode away, all the while ranting and cursing.
I decided to call the police; sometimes I don’t know why I bother to do “the right thing.” The dispatcher asked me if the guy was armed. It seems that if he wasn’t armed, if I hadn’t been threatened with a weapon, and if a crime had not been committed, nothing could be done. It was at that point I realized that the only person involved in the confrontation who was armed was me, and that if the police heard the whole story, I could see myself being detained. No good deed goes unpunished.
So I went on my way.
I walked down Broadway Road in Mesa, Arizona, and noticed a lot of llanteras (“Tires used & new from $25”). A few miles later I reached the Consolidated Canal Path, which was just lovely. I wished it had been longer, but soon I was on Southern Avenue, a more upscale section of Mesa featuring malls, higher end chain restaurants, a Walmart, and really good sidewalks. But as usual, all good roads come to an end and soon I was once again struggling with gravel and dirt shoulders.
Passing Superstition High School, I wished I’d gone to a school with such a great name.
Later I had a phone conversation with my mentor, Jeff, and we discussed the next several days of walking. Southern charm surrounds him, and I suggested that it probably helped him a lot on his walk across the country. He laughed, but didn’t deny it.
After reaching the Motel 6, I sat in a hot bath for a while, thinking how 25 miles of walking can take its toll on your feet. I was also thinking how, after supper, I’d finish off the homemade chocolate chip cookies Lisa brought me last night.
@ Apache Junction, Arizona
May 19, 2017
Day 33. Perhaps someone can tell me the difference between Arizona Interstate 40 (it replaced Route 66), which I am NOT permitted to walk on, and Arizona State Highway 60, which I AM permitted to walk on.
Here are the similarities: Each is a 4-lane highway (2 lanes going each way). The Interstate has more traffic, but both have lots of trucks, cars, and motorcycles. The shoulders are similarly wide.
Here are the differences: On the Interstate, the speed limit is higher and you must get off at an exit to get to gas stations, housing, shopping, and office buildings, etc. It’s very, very noisy.
On the state highway, there are occasional stop lights and intersections, and services such as gas stations, restaurants, RV parks, gated housing developments, medical offices, etc. are just off the highway. It’s just very noisy.
In my humble and honest opinion, it is no safer to walk on the State Highway (which I walked on for 18 miles today) than on the Interstate. This annoys me no end.
I’m now in my tent (under a sun umbrella) and sweating profusely. I’m drinking water and Gatorade, have eaten two hot sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly, and American cheese & mustard); each was heated courtesy of the sun. My drinks are cold courtesy of Motel 6 ice and my 45-degree Latitude thermoses.
The walls of a building I passed today featured sculptured images of Kokopelli, the flute-playing fertility deity. I also passed ADA-compliant curb ramps that, like Tevya’s staircases, go nowhere.
(Later.) The sun is setting and the breeze is picking up. Before I go to sleep I’ll enjoy some Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup and a (hot) grapefruit.
Tomorrow I only have to walk 12 miles to Superior, AZ. I made a reservation at the Copper Mountain Motel with Amy, who told me she’s putting me in Room 5 and is giving me the hiker’s discount. I deserve it.
@ US Route 60 in Arizona
May 20, 2017
Day 34. Sleeping in my tent is satisfying in a number of ways. There’s plenty of room for me and my stuff (and everything’s within arm’s reach); it’s comfortable on my air mattress; I can see the stars through the mesh; and it usually costs nothing.
The downside is the desert heat until the sun sets.
I was on the road at 5:55 am and reached Copper Mountain Motel at 10:30 am—13 miles in 4.5 hours, pushing my kart. Much of it was uphill, but not an overly steep climb. Even with the newer blisters (which are healing nicely), this progress speaks to what 30 days of walking can do for one’s physical strength.
My room was not ready, so Amy put me in room 4 (which contains 2 beds) “at no extra charge.” It’s an old motel, but it suits my needs. There’s a fridge and microwave, and there’s a Family Dollar store across the street where I bought some things—a gallon of Crystal Geyser water for a dollar, a few cans of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup, pretzels, and some chocolate TastyKake mini-donuts that remind me of the chocolate covered donuts of my youth. Because of the calories I’m burning on this walk I have the luxury of indulging my food cravings.
My “real life” has not disappeared—I’m still dealing with issues related to my father’s March 7 death. But I know these things will be resolved in time.
I’ve continued to maintain a personal news blackout. Sure, I’m aware there’s political noise going on out there, but I can assure you that life is really sweeter without it. I prefer the noise of the highway, the freight trains, or anything, really.
Just beyond Superior, AZ is the 42′ wide Queen Creek Tunnel. It was built in 1952, It’s 1,217′ long, and I’ve been warned to not walk through it. Since I hear the mantra, “Be safe” every day, I’m planning to get a ride through the tunnel.
The next towns after Superior (pronounced “Sperior” by locals) are Top-of-the-World, Miami, and then Globe, where I’ll be staying at the Motel 6. It’s currently 89° outside. Me? I’m inside.
(Later) I’m having a pizza and salad at Edwardo’s. The temperature has dropped precipitously in the last few hours to 87°. (I’m sure it will really drop when the sun goes down.) The pizza is surprisingly good, but it’s the salad that I craved.
@ Copper Mountain Motel
May 21, 2017
Day 35. One of my flaws is that when people tell me they’re going to do something, I believe them.
When my 9 am ride had not arrived by 10 am, I started to panic—I needed to get that ride through Queen Creek Tunnel so I could…what? Get to the Motel 6 in Globe in time for lunch? I calmed myself, called Amy (the go-between), and my ride finally showed at 10:30. She was upset, smoking a cigarette, and telling me about how she was probably going to lose her job.
Since I already know very well that most people have bigger problems than I do, I was empathetic as we drove through the tunnel. It would indeed have been impossible to walk through with or without the cart, and the winding road up to Top-of-the-World wasn’t much better, with little or no shoulder to speak of, speeding vehicles, and many blind curves. No, safety had to come first on this stretch of the road.
My driver had calmed down, and began a narrative. She told me about the different towns we passed through and about the “older” tunnel, the karaoke bar, the mobile home parks, and the copper mines. It was pretty interesting.
I had her drop me off in Miami, gave her some obviously appreciated cash, and began the 7 mile walk up and down hills (all on sidewalks), in the heat. My motel was at the far end of town so I was able to stop at a Safeway on the way and bought fruit and kale salads, Wheat Thins, and some bananas. It felt good to take the shopping break.
I’ll be walking and camping in the desert for the next 3-4 days before the next motel break in Safford. And yes, I’m concerned about the heat. I’ll do the best I can, especially knowing what happened to me previously. I have lots of water and enough food. Let’s see what happens.
My oft-repeated mantra: If this were easy, more people would do it.
@ Globe, Arizona
May 22, 2017
Day 36. It’s 5 pm and I’m settled in my tent behind some bushes off Hwy 70. I can hear the cars and trucks, but I’m used to that. In fact, I miss the freight trains. I walked 25 miles today. This morning I was out the door of the Motel 6 in Globe at 5 am and then out the door of McDonald’s with my 2 egg McMuffins 15 minutes later.
It was a 2 mile walk to the Hwy 70 entrance, and for many miles the shoulder was wide; until (as usual) it wasn’t.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can walk 15 miles without extreme effort. But when you combine a lot of uphill climbs, a hot sun, sore feet, and my desire to go 25 miles, then it’s a greater challenge. There aren’t too many services offered on many of these roads, especially on an Indian Reservation.
I stopped for lunch at Apache Burger. “Do you have anything that’s not meat or chicken? Like fish?” “We have a fried shrimp combo. Whatever’s on the menu up there.”
The lady pointed behind her, and I finally spied it—the kids grilled cheese meal with fries and a kiddy-sized drink that came in a plastic cup that had a snap-on lid. Not the meal I’d wanted, but I was, after all, at Apache Burger. The sandwich was okay, and I got to keep the cup (which later came in handy in the tent in the middle of the night).
A few miles up the road I saw a large shade tree next to the San Carlos Recreation & Wildlife Center. I sat down on a concrete block under the tree, took off my shoes and socks, and drank water in the shade for an hour. It was still 97° when I got up and walked the final 5 miles of the day—up and down hills; mostly up.
I’d prefer to walk in the early morning for 5 or 6 hours, then several more hours after 5 pm. But there’s really nowhere appropriate to stay in between. (Setting up the tent doesn’t work because I’m stealth camping; and there’s absolutely NO shade anywhere). So I just finish my walk and then find as private a place as I can off the road and set up my tent. Once the sun is setting and the stars come out, my Kelty tent beats most of the motels I’ve stayed in.
This morning I chatted with a guy who works for ADOT (AZ Dept. of Transportation). He explained that those bumps on the road next to the shoulder are called “rumble strips.” Then he gave me what seems to be one of the two standard goodbyes: “Be careful.” (The other is, “Be safe.”)
@ San Carlos, Arizona
May 23, 2017
Day 37. Anyone who thinks this journey is about walking, I can assure you it is not.
Tonight I was speaking to Ben, one of my valued mentors on this trip, and listed 8 or 10 qualities and criteria that are much higher on the list of importance than “walking.” Perhaps I’ll create that list someday. Meanwhile, I did manage to walk 25 miles again today, and I’m certainly hoping to do the same tomorrow since I have a non-refundable reservation in Safford tomorrow night!
I want to be on the road earlier than 5 am (as I was today). It’s expected to hit 100°. Supposedly there won’t be any big hills to climb, although there were a few this morning. I find I can do 3 miles/hr. on a straightaway.
Entering Bylas, I saw a tree and rested while eating my Skippy and Wheat Thins lunch. A few miles later I stopped at Mt. Turnbull Apache Market where I enjoyed a Rocky Road ice cream cone and a Dr Pepper; I also filled both thermoses with water and ice.
I hung out for an hour, including a nice chat with one of the employees about my walk. Her response to my walk? “Be safe.”
On my way out to the asphalt sidewalk that stretches through the entire town, a woman in a car called to me, “Do you have enough water?” She was Dorothea who works for the Public Health Dept. Her parting comment? (You guessed it.)
Later I walked past a Highway Patrol officer; he was in his car chatting with a guy in a pickup truck. I waved and he waved back. Period. I’m not on an Interstate highway.
I do have plenty of water and am drinking a lot of it. At 4:15 pm my tent was set up amongst some tall bushes. That was my day. No TV and not much drama. Just heat, blisters, and a scratched leg from a surprise pop-up branch on the road. Immediate first aid applied.
@ Geronimo, Arizona
May 24, 2017
Day 38. My third consecutive 25 mile walking day was easily the most grueling of the three. It was not as hot as the Mojave, and I’m in better walking shape now than I was then (and perhaps a little smarter as well).
In an attempt to beat some of the heat (ha!), I was on the road at 4:40 am. At 6, a guy in a pickup pulled up alongside me and handed me a plastic bag with 2 donuts in it. After I thanked him, he said, “I saw you yesterday. You must have walked 20 miles!” “Actually, 25.” He laughed and drove away.
Along with tons of roadside litter, I’ve noticed long strands of blue and white twine in several locations. This string can go on for hundreds of feet, then stop, then reappear. Any ideas?
After another run-in with a dog, I finally reached Taylor Freeze where I had lunch. A couple of truckers recognized “my rig” and we talked. “You’re carrying a pistol, I’m sure. It’s dangerous out there.” Why did I feel I needed to apologize because I wasn’t packing heat? As they were leaving, the guy said, “Be safe!”
Eight very hot miles later (I kept the bandanna under my hat soaked with ice water), I straggled into the Best Western and put my dirty clothes in the sink to soak. Then I let my brave feet soak in the pool, followed by the rest of me. No more 25 milers for a while.
@ Safford, Arizona
May 25, 2017
Day 39. Ants! Always when you least expect them. (Certainly you never want them.)
Here I was, after walking 15 miles. The heat was beyond bearable, but I was close to my stopping point for the day. I’d found a site for my tent at 2:45 pm and went through the now familiar steps of setting it up. I dragged all the necessary gear inside collapsed.
While waiting for the sun to set I FaceTimed with Sharon, told her about my route options and logistics, and was extolling my squeeze bottle of mustard, which I raised to show her on my phone. The yellow plastic bottle was covered with ants.
They were the little black ones, making progress from one end of the tent to the other. At the beginning of the marching line I spied the tiny opening in a tent corner where they were coming in.
The phone call was over and all concerns about being clandestine went out the window. I finally got things under control, knowing I couldn’t get ’em all (I didn’t have any Raid, but I did have a spray can of Off! which worked pretty well). I sealed the entry hole with duct tape and pulled the tent away from an obvious nest.
Earlier, while walking, a young woman in a small red car pulled over. She asked, “Are you okay? Do you need a ride?” I introduced myself to Georgianna through the passenger window, gave her a card. “Thanks for asking but where were you planning to put my kart?” She laughed. “I hadn’t thought about that, I guess. I wish I could give you some money for your trip, but I don’t have much now. Maybe I can mail you some.” “I really don’t need any money, but I appreciate the offer.” She thought a moment and then asked, “How about prayers?” “Perfect! I can always use some prayers!”
Right now I’m praying I got most of the ants.
@ Solomon, Arizona
May 26, 2017
Day 40. During the last week or so I’ve been facing a tough decision, and it makes me sad to write about it.
I see forecasts of continued days in the 90°s, with only more to come. We are, of course, entering the summer. Sure, I could have headed north from Flagstaff. Like others who have taken that route, I would have hit snow, and I was trying to avoid that. But the heat almost killed me once in the Mojave, and I can see and feel the results it’s continuing to have on my body.
Those of you familiar with the high desert know there’s rarely any shade under which to hide to escape the heat. “No escape” is what I keep thinking, day and night. I’ve continued to lose weight in spite of drinking all day long. It’s getting more difficult to keep my spirits and motivation up, knowing I’ve still got so much more of the Southwest to walk through.
I walked 16 miles today, starting at 5:45 am. Because I couldn’t find any shade and was finished walking for the day, I set my tent up at 1:30 pm in the best place I could find, which was quite exposed. Then I waited and rested in the tent until the sun went down and it cooled off. There’s just no shade. On a day like today I would have been willing to pay for shade!
Often you can walk for 100+ miles in this part of the country with no services or stores, not even a gas station. If you’re driving, this is no big deal. But walking? While pushing a cart? People have done it, and they have my respect. But it doesn’t look like I’ll be one of them. Those of you who know me well may shed tears with me as I begin to abort this journey.
The reality is that I’m only 40 days into what could be a 180 or even 200 day trip. There’s just “too much walk” ahead of me. I’ve proven to myself that I can walk, but I learned early on, this journey is not about walking.
It’s a wonderful thing to have had so much support and encouragement from friends, relatives, and many strangers. Thank you. Forty days and nights may have symbolic overtones, but I’m not even close to the finish line.
In the end, I just don’t feel like I need to challenge Death. For now I’ll leave that to others.
@ Duncan, Arizona
May 27, 2017
Day 40+1. I’m resting—let’s call it recuperating—from the past 40 days.
The journey was not completely over this morning. I still needed to walk 8 miles to Duncan. And frankly, those 8 miles weren’t easy. I was running on fumes.
I called Deborah, the owner of the Simpson Hotel, a B&B in Duncan at 7:30 am, and made a reservation to stay that night. Then I asked her, “If I were to arrive in an hour, would I be able to get breakfast?” She laughed (always a good sign), and said, “Sure, we can make you some breakfast!”
I arrived hungry and exhausted as I was welcomed by Deborah’s husband, Clayton, who showed me to my room. I immediately fell in love with the old, restored hotel.
I showered and sat down alone in a dining room filled with lovely antiques and paintings. True to her promise, Deborah served a terrific breakfast of multi-grain griddle cakes made with hemp milk, served up with agave syrup, plus a roasted frittata with shallots, garlic, spinach, and cheddar cheese. The whole time I’m thinking, “I want to live here!”
After breakfast I rested and responded to some of the many supportive comments I’d gotten on Facebook. In spite of this support, I only felt a sense of failure and disappointment.
After a late lunch, Deborah and I talked about the town of Duncan, the local culture and community, her grandfather Jack Mendelsohn (who performed with Eddie Cantor and later was a music publisher in Boston), and my exit strategies.
Because of a limited airline flight schedule and the Memorial Day holiday, I’ll be forced to stay here a few days. That’s fine with me; I like it here. How about two months?
This six-room, 100-year-old restored property is situated on a one acre plot that Deborah’s husband, Clayton, transformed with brick structures, a goat cave, pools, an organic garden, and more. When I first entered the town of Duncan I sensed a special vibe. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have the energy to explore the town a little. But today it was all about eating, resting, and recovery. And escaping the heat.
@ Simpson Hotel, Main Street, Duncan, Arizona
May 28, 2017
Day 40+2. I continue to rest and recover at the Simpson Hotel in Duncan, Arizona.
My hosts, Deborah and Clayton, are delightful, and I’m so fortunate to have been taken under their care. There are other guests to chat with at breakfast, but mostly I’ve rested in my room or sat in the shade of the garden and other structures in the large backyard property, where Clayton is building decorative pools, stone structures, and statuary. He also has a wonderful art studio filled with many of his own creations.
We listened to Berlioz as he showed me some of his projects. Cats, goats, birds, and the neighbor’s roosters and chickens provide plenty to observe and hear.
It was stifling hot today as I ventured around the neighborhood, saw an old fighter jet on display up the block, and bought an ice cream sandwich at a nearby store. It was a short walk. But frankly, it’s just too darned hot out there, and I’m quite fatigued.
@ Simpson Hotel, Main Street, Duncan, Arizona
May 29, 2017
Day 40+3. Three bikers stayed at the Simpson Hotel last night and I ate breakfast with them this morning. They work for the Border Patrol at Las Cruces. George let me sit on his Indian for a quick photo op.
Later, Rudy took me for a short ride on his Harley. (I posted a video of my ride on Facebook.) I know, no helmet. When in Arizona, risks are taken. Let me just say that life was more dangerous walking on the highways, so just this once, spare me the admonitions!)
Several friends have asked for photos of the yard and structures. In the Southwest B&B scene, the Simpson Hotel continues to get great press, and it’s easy to see why.
Tomorrow we’ll see about shipping my kart home. Walker has been uncomplaining and dependable. I don’t know if we’ll ever walk together again, but I prefer not to abandon my faithful companion just yet.
@ Simpson Hotel, Main Street, Duncan, Arizona
May 30, 2017
Day 40+4. At about 6pm the downpour started, preceded by thunder and lightning.
Clayton asked, “Aren’t you glad you’re not out in your tent?” Although I laughed, inwardly I wished I was in the tent, 100 miles further down the road.
When I think about this, I have mixed feelings. I know I could not have continued my walk the way things were going. But I do feel disappointment and sadness. And I know I will, for however long it takes me to work through it.
Dinner last night was an amazing stuffed pepper with asparagus and other side dishes. Breakfast this morning was steel-cut oats and fruit. I’m so spoiled here!
At 10 am we drove to the shipping store in nearby Safford, where I left Walker and my credit card information. It felt like more of an abandonment than anything else.
Then it was my great pleasure to treat Deborah and Clayton to a vegetarian sushi lunch, after which I followed them around as they went shopping at a variety of shops for antiques, cement, and groceries.
And then for “tractor supplies.” Not really. It’s just a big hardware store where they can buy the store-brand canned cat food they prefer—the label includes ingredients such as chicory root, blueberries, kelp, and barley. My cat doesn’t eat that well, trust me!
As soon as we got back to Duncan and brought all the bags in from the car, it started raining, and didn’t stop for 2 hours. Tomorrow morning I catch the Greyhound to Mesa, and then a plane from Mesa airport to Oakland.
I am grateful for the days I was able to spend here at the Simpson, and make new friends who cared enough to help me recover from a challenging 40 days on the road. The blessings I’ve received along the way apparently helped.
Bus and plane reservations have been made, and tickets and boarding passes printed by Deborah. I feel a tremendous sense of loss.
@ Simpson Hotel, Main Street, Duncan, Arizona
May 31, 2017
Day 40+5. I can’t decide whether taking the Greyhound bus back to Mesa was such a brilliant idea.
What it’s turning out to be is a systematic method of reminding me of the hundreds of miles I walked through Arizona, the motels I stayed in, and the many places where I stopped to eat, camp, and rest. It might also be a cruel method of forcing me to relive a journey that ended prematurely.
I learned long ago that regardless of what you say to a grieving person, he or she still has to continue through the process until the grief resolves. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the outpouring of support, caring, and love I have received. Of course I do. But my feelings are mine and they are very real. There is not a person I know who cannot recall in a heartbeat a significant loss or failure that took time to heal.
I have a personal theory I call “The Half-life of Disappointment.” It basically says that the deeper a disappointment, loss, or failure is, the longer it takes to recover from it. In time I’m sure I’ll recover from my disappointment. No one was harmed, no one has died, and the money I spent has trickled down into the economy. I have memories that will last a lifetime, and I’ve met people with whom I developed special relationships. I even learned how to navigate basic social media.
But riding on the bus through towns I’ve recently walked through has brought it all home with an impact I could not have anticipated. I feel as if I’m living the last few weeks of my life in reverse and in fast-motion.
The cost of shipping my kart and belongings home was, ironically, more than the cost of my own bus and plane fares! (That’s one reason doing a segmented walking trip over a period of years is not practical.) But cost aside, while this journey is possible to complete, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There’s no rational or plausible reason to do it. (I’m reminded of José Jimenez as the astronaut who is planning a journey to the sun. His solution to the sun’s intense heat is that he’ll land at night.)
I still wake up at various hours of the night thinking, “I could have done it if…” Yet some things are just not meant to be. I gave it my best shot. But while I couldn’t make it happen, I certainly had an incredible adventure. Thank you for being with me on this journey. I am truly blessed.
@ Lake Merritt
June 5, 2017.
How fast do you lose upper body strength that took 15 years to attain? How many weeks can you go without practicing your instrument(s) before you sound embarrassingly bad? How long does it take to get over a major disappointment, regardless of the many friends who are telling you that you’ve done an amazing thing? How long does it take to recover after challenging your body like you never have before?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself since my return from the desert.
Look, I saw people on my walk who live in a tent ALL the time—and not because there’s no motel nearby, or because they enjoy looking at the stars at night. I get that.
But I’ve now returned to my own life, my own home, my own wife, and my own cat. And it isn’t easy (well, the cat came around fast; she’s no fool).
On Friday I resumed my home workout, and what were doable pull-ups and pushups, squats and planks, just a month and a half ago were now a real challenge. I did what I could. Today it was 5% easier.
I picked up the flute this afternoon and worked through some exercises and scales. There’s a saying in music that if you don’t practice for one day, no one notices. After two days, you notice. After three days, your friends notice. After four days of not practicing, everyone notices.
You lose it fast, folks. My recovery is more than just physical. It encompasses every facet of my life. And this is without having some type of major surgery some of my close friends have recently undergone.
The weight I lost is coming back an ounce at a time. I’m weak, fatigued, spent. For better or worse, I made a disappointing but correct decision, and I didn’t come home in a box.
But re-entry to and reclamation of my former life will take time. (Weeks? Months?) I walked three miles around Lake Merritt yesterday. I’ll continue to exercise and practice. I’ll regain my strength and skills. Time will pass and so will the pain of my disappointment. I lead a good life and am well aware of that. I am blessed in many ways.
@ Oakland, California
June 6, 2017.
Today represented a positive step in returning to my “normal” life.
Catherine deCuir, the talented singer with whom I regularly perform, came over (as she typically does on Tuesdays) to discuss upcoming gigs and rehearse a few songs. We also talked about the progress of the novel we worked on for two years. The Rabbi Finds Her Way continues to wend its way through agents and publishers.
Then we went to lunch at Los Cantaros and split a salmon and grilled vegetable burrito. (At my request, we also shared a Dr Pepper.) Best burrito anywhere!
At 4:30pm I picked up my wife at the Oakland Airport. Sharon had been in CT, NJ, and MD, first to attend her granddaughter’s college graduation and then to visit friends—she hadn’t known I’d be home this early. (Neither did I.) It was great to see her after a 50 day separation.
I continue to hear from friends, old and new, offering words of support. I’ve also received letters from several of the 10 people with whom I carry on a correspondence using fountain pens. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years (see the photo of my Pelikan M600 Souverain, a gift from Sharon), and can only say that having a “pen pal” is not what you may think it is. I found most of my correspondents through the FountainPenNetwork, an organization of thousands of FP enthusiasts. While there is a lot of talk of pens, inks, & paper on the website, my purpose was to communicate with interesting people around the world, and that’s what I do. I’ve also had the great fortune to meet several of them while traveling. I also keep a journal and am not alone in doing so.
From what I’ve read, journaling can be quite therapeutic. This probably explains why I am so well-adjusted and as mellow as I am. (I once told my old friend Ron that in my next life I want to come back as a mellow person. He said I should come back as a Golden Retriever.)
Tomorrow night the Urquhart Memorial Concert Band performs a program at a nearby retirement facility. I am nowhere near prepared and hope the flute section will cut me some slack. No reason why they shouldn’t—they always have before.
@ Oakland, California
June 8, 2017.
“You must have become very strong pushing that kart up all those hills.” You can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard that statement. Sorry, but no.
I’ve read many articles stressing the importance of upper body exercise. Scooby Werkstatt is an online fitness guru whom I first found years ago via his website, scoobysworkshop.com. His videos are well-designed and fun. I had the pleasure of meeting Scooby in person at FitExpo in San Jose. He’s in his 50s, a body builder and sports enthusiast who does all his videos and appearances shirtless to show that even an “old guy” can look fantastic. He is also a wonderfully nice and generous person.
In his video “Pull-ups for the Total Beginner,” he says this about pull-ups:
“The pull-up is one of the most important exercises that a newcomer to fitness can do; but it’s also the most difficult…” (Now that’s an understatement!)
The pull-up is a compound exercise that works your arms, back, and shoulders, including your lats, delts, biceps, triceps, pecs, abs, and core.
Years ago when I was in my early 50s and felt (or observed) that my physical strength was quickly declining, I asked myself, “What’s a good indicator that I’m ‘in shape’”?
The answer I came up with was pull-ups. I hadn’t done any in 40 years, and at the time I could not do even one. So I accepted the personal challenge, and set on a path that would, I feel, change my life.
It took six months before I could do 10 consecutive pull-ups. By themselves, they do not make you look like Arnold. Or Scooby. They just make you strong. They also give you significant cred at the gym. I didn’t know this, because I don’t go to a gym. But at one point I found myself in the fitness room of a cruise ship, surrounded by some very buff guys pumping a LOT of iron. Me, I just did the 5 sets of 10 pull-ups I always do, along with some pushups, squats, and planks. I didn’t lift a barbell or a dumbbell, or step on an exercise machine of any kind.
As I was leaving, one of the body-builders came over to shake my hand. “I wish I could do pull-ups like that!” I thanked him, and had the wisdom not to ask why he couldn’t.
It’s the same old thing: form vs. content. Far from being stronger from walking 15 to 25 miles a day pushing my kart, I actually lost some of my upper-body strength. I’m working on regaining it. We each seek cred where and how we can get it.
@ Lake Merritt
February 1, 2018
Day 41. Poof!…I’m back on Route 66 in the Mojave Desert. Call it Phase 2 in my attempt to walk from coast-to-coast.
The Journey so far: I began at the Pacific Ocean in Huntington Beach, CA, on April 17, 2017. After walking past Amboy, CA, I became a “victim” of the Heat Dome that descended on the Southwest. I was quickly succumbing to the effects of the extreme desert heat, and was rescued by friends who drove me to Kingman, AZ, where I spent two nights recovering.
I then continued my journey, walking to Flagstaff, AZ, where my plans hit a snag. I’d originally planned to head north toward Colorado, but because of threats of snowstorms (which were even worse than anticipated), I instead took a bus directly south to Phoenix, and proceeded to walk to Duncan, AZ, located near the Arizona-New Mexico border.
Sadly, the heat never let up.
While I cannot confirm if what I was experiencing was an official “heat dome,” it was a period of weeks when the heat remained trapped in the region, and the heat of the day remained trapped in the area even after the sun would go down. The danger is in the prolonged nature of the heat event. Temperatures in Phoenix in May and June reached as high as 119°.
As painful as it was, after walking 600 miles, I discontinued my journey. I do not have a Death Wish, so I decided to live to play another day. The “other day” was today.
When he heard that I’d planned to resume my walk, my son Adam (with the encouragement and blessing of his wonderful wife, Kelly, and my exceptional and talented grandson, Maxwell), asked if he could be of assistance. I gratefully accepted his help. The plan is to have him drop me off in the morning and pick me up after my day of walking is done during the month of February. It’s great spending time with him.
Today I walked on Old Route 66 (a.k.a. National Trails Highway) from Cadiz Road to a location several miles short of Essex Road, a distance of approximately 18 miles. It was not too hot, and there was virtually no traffic since that section or Route 66 is closed to traffic due to construction. I met two “angels” along the way—the UPS guy who offered me water and Gatorade, and Jennie, an environmental monitor working on a local drilling construction site, who gave me a lift in her truck to the pick-up point on Essex Road where Adam soon found me.
We’re staying in Needles, CA for a few nights as I make up the 100 miles I didn’t walk last spring.
It was almost a pleasure walking on Route 66 today—reasonable temperature, no traffic, and an occasional mild breeze. I doubt these conditions will last; my only complaints are sore feet and back.
@ Chambless, California
February 2, 2018
Day 42. I got an earlier start this morning than yesterday. Adam dropped me off at the spot where Jennie had picked me up yesterday evening.
Once again I had an uneventful walk, mostly on Old Route 66, which is closed to general traffic. Thus, I mostly saw construction trucks and an occasional SUV. Many drivers returned my wave, which made me happy. After a while, I turned onto Goffs Road, the road that will eventually take me to the town of Goffs as I continue toward Palm Garden and beyond.
As I got closer to the intersection of Goffs Road and I-40, the road started to parallel the railroad tracks. For the rest of the day freight trains going in both directions passed by, and several of the conductors waved to me, which was cool. With nothing else to do except walk, I counted the number of cars on one of the trains—200 cars. Unbelievable!
Around this time (before lunch) I started dragging. To pick myself up I began to whistle the Coronel Bogie March. But whistling takes energy, so I decided instead to see if I could find the piece on Amazon Prime Music. I couldn’t, but instead found “The Greatest Marches of John Philip Sousa.”
Sousa is a hero of mine (I’ve read his biography). He was one of the most celebrated, successful, and wealthiest composers and band leaders of his time. I listened to an hour of Sousa marches, which quickened my pace considerably, until I reached Najah’s Oasis rest stop. Najah’s is a tacky, overpriced Route 66 joint run by bored teenagers. I bought a root beer and a Snickers, and sat at an outside table where I ate my can of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup.
The last five miles were difficult due to a somewhat painful blister on the sole of my left foot and a lesser one on my right little toe. I had some back strain as well. Blisters, aches, and pains are par for the course on a long walk, as I learned last time. I do not apply any special treatment; I just let Nature take her course. I do have some pain meds that I use as needed (not an opioid).
After lunch, I listened to Beethoven’s First Symphony. I’m sure Ludwig would also have been a big Sousa fan. 17 miles today.
@ Goffs, California
February 3, 2018
Day 43. Today I walked on Goffs Road (Route 66) past the town of Goffs. Not much there, and in spite of the population listed on the sign, I saw no one, not even a mouse.
I did see a number of trucks and cars, and freight trains passed me in both directions all day long. At the only Railroad Crossing I encountered, I chatted with a guy who’d gotten out of his car while we waited for the train to pass. He told me he and his wife were on their way to Laughlin. “So am I,” I said, “but I’m walking.” He wished me “Good luck,” and she told me to “Be safe” (I continue get that a lot).
This morning, my left foot decided to start a new blister, and my back wasn’t too happy either. So I turned to the best medicine (after laughter and drugs)—music. I listened to a few marches and then to “Entrance of the Gladiators,” by Julius Fučík. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_B0CyOAO8y0 Trust me, you don’t need much more than this to cheer you up and put a bounce in your blistered feet than this piece from 1897.
After the marches, I listened to the entire Beatles “Abbey Road,” which brought me back to late 1969 when I moved from Boston to San Francisco.
My next musical selection was the album “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, released in December 1959. I recall that it was the first LP I ordered as a new member of the Columbia Record Club. I haven’t listened to this album in years, but I can remember and sing along with every note played by Brubeck and Desmond, as well as all of the drum solos. I saw the Brubeck Quartet perform when I was a freshman at Boston University, and had earlier met drummer Joe Morello at a jazz clinic held at the Sam Ash music store in Hempstead, NY. Joe was charming, funny, and seemed to enjoy interacting with the many teenagers who’d come to see him.
I walked 15-16 miles today—a breezy, sunny, good day to walk. If it hadn’t been for my feet and back I could have walked a few more hours. Not a drop of shade anywhere.
Tomorrow we move from Needles, CA to Laughlin, NV for better driving, drop-off, and pickup.
@ Goffs, California
February 4, 2018
Day 44. It was a military-ish day. I walked into a light headwind (call it a strong breeze if you wish) all day long. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing—the temperature was pleasant enough. I continued on Route 66 for a while when a freight train loaded with tanks and jeeps passed by, a reminder of an element of society that is typically hidden from my conscientiousness, other than in films and TV.
Soon I turned onto Route 95, thus ending a pleasant albeit lonely walk on Route 66, a road that continues to disappoint me.
Route 95 was pretty much miserable to walk on. Constant trucks and cars headed my way, and the only shoulder to speak of was made of sand and gravel. Frankly, it was hell to walk on. I needed to step on and off the highway, using extra vigilance and energy.
I passed a few interesting sites along the way. One was Camp Ibis: “In March 1942 the War Department tasked General George S. Patton Jr. with finding a desert training site that matched the conditions of North Africa… Patton identified a vast area that reached into SE California and SW Arizona as the ideal location…”
The other was the Dead Mountains Wilderness Area, where I stopped to eat my lunch and was joined by a large number of ants (they always seem to find me).
My goal was to walk north and then take Rte. 163 to Laughlin (our new HQ for the next 3 nights). But 163 is obviously NOT made for walking—the AZ Highway Patrol wouldn’t approve of me walking on this very “Interstate-like” highway. I’ll decide on an alternate route after examining the maps.
After setting today’s pace with some “military” marches, I listened to the Beatles “Rubber Soul” (1965) and then totally enjoyed Brubeck’s “Time Further Out” (1961).
By the time Adam picked me up after 15 or 16 miles, my feet (and the rest of me) were exhausted.
@ Dead Mountains
February 5, 2018
Day 45. Since both I-40 (to the south) and Hwy 163 (to the north) are outside the realm of pedestrian safety, today I started walking north toward Laughlin from Needles on Hwy 95.
And I’m pleased to report it was a successful day. Thanks to the mile markers along 95, I clocked 20.5 miles. Exactly.
I love Bullhead City, Arizona. Why? Sidewalks!
After the first 10 miles of walking on packed dirt roads or on very narrow shoulders, suddenly I entered Bullhead and walked on real sidewalks for another 10+ miles. There was constant traffic—95 is a city road, with many shops and services along the way.
Some of the billboards and signage made me laugh. I particularly liked the law firm of “Lerner & Rowe,” as well as the poor cat who’s pregnant again. I was hoping to visit the lonely Mohave County Library, but it’s closed Mondays.
“Platas” is a store that seems to have an “oil or topical” for whatever ails you.
Jerome Kern is the featured composer of the day. He’s one of my very favorites, and I’ve always appreciated how he moves to different tonal centers within a song—“All the Things You Are” is the perfect example. He wrote many well-known standards. I listened to his “greatest hits“ for over an hour.
As expected, my feet are extra sore tonight, even after soaking in the hotel’s Jacuzzi.
Adam has been busy operating his website design business from our hotel room. He’s been a gift from heaven transporting me to my drop-off and pickup locations. I’ll miss him when it comes time to start pushing my cart again.
@ Bullhead City, Arizona
February 6, 2018
Day 46. Today’s walk took me from Bullhead City, past Laughlin, and toward Kingman. Route 68 just climbed and climbed until I reached Union Pass at 3,571 ft., and the city of Kingman appeared in the valley below. I was fighting a mild headwind the entire day, but the shoulder was 8 to 10 feet wide, and was paved.
After some marches to get me going, I listened Bizet’s “Symphony in C,” which the composer wrote as a student at age 17. It was never performed in his lifetime. I then turned to the Beatles “Revolver” album (1966), and that brought back many memories. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolver_(Beatles_album) The recording of the album and evolution of the Beatles during this time is fascinating.
Sadly, I’ve run into physical trouble. A large blister on my left foot has broken, is very sore and red, and I’m dealing with it on several levels. It’s depressing me, as it will take time to heal—unless it gets worse, in which case I’ll have to make some difficult decisions. This is unfortunate. I’d been doing well, and actually walked 16-17 miles today. But I’ve pushed myself and my body hard.
Without my feet, there’s no walk. In the meantime, I will take a day or two of rest and determine what happens next.
A this moment I am not optimistic.
@ Arizona State Route 68
February 7, 2018
Day 46 + 1. Bad news. I visited an urgent care facility in Mesa, AZ this afternoon in response to the continued swelling and increased discomfort of my left foot and toes. I’m now on an antibiotic and won’t be walking much anytime soon if this wound and infection does not resolve quickly.
I’m not optimistic at this point—I’d been doing well, but life gets in the way.
Adam and I have been invited to stay at the home of my friends Lisa and Gentry in Tempe. But the reality is, if things don’t improve (or if they get worse), we’re both going home early.
Yes, sad/bad news.
@ Mesa, Arizona
February 8, 2018
Day 46 + 2. Today is a sad and disappointing day for me.
For the second time I’ve had to give up my Journey and my long-desired wish to walk across the USA. After over a hundred miles of walking this past week—over 700 total miles total including my attempt last year—I can no longer walk. My left foot is very swollen and I can’t put much pressure on it.
I went online at 5:30 am, booked a flight home for Adam. He was soon on an 8 am flight to Chicago and then a connecting flight to Cincinnati, where he’ll spend his birthday tomorrow with his wife and son. I will forever be grateful for the help he gave in my quest. But I need to get back to Oakland to seek critical medical care.
I emailed my PCP at Kaiser, and in a short time he’d responded with a referral to podiatry tomorrow morning. I then checked out of the hotel and, taking breaks along the way, drove home from Phoenix.
Sharon was waiting up for me. I ate some real food, had a few words with the cat, and went to bed.
I want to thank everyone for your kind words, encouragement, and particularly your prayers, which I hope will continue tomorrow as I receive my diagnosis and treatment.
Walking from coast-to-coast is fraught with many obstacles. But I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom and experience: It’s definitely NOT about walking.
February 21, 2018
Day 47. I’m back!
After walking from our Lake Merritt home to the Downtown Oakland Greyhound bus terminal yesterday, I spent the next 28 hours on buses and in bus stations. I finally arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the spot where I decided to begin the next stage of my long journey. (The trip was not without drama, including downright mean treatment from a driver in Oakland before I even got on the damned bus. He was questioning my kart’s ability to fit under the bus, which was nonsense. A quick analysis of the situation confirmed that there was no one present who was his supervisor. So I reverted to a “Sorry sir, can I kiss your butt?” attitude in order to placate the jerk and just get out of town. He finally left me alone and went on to harass some other poor passenger.)
I chose Las Cruces as a destination because it took me closest to Duncan, AZ (where I had terminated my walk in 2017, but would allow me to avoid walking on the Interstate highway (which is neither permitted, nor particularly safe).
After taking a Lyft Extra (and SUV) from the bus so-called bus station in Las Cruces (a convenience store) to the Best Western, I dumped everything in my container on the extra bed and re-bolted the container to “Walker,” my trusted kart.
In the morning I re-packed, ate the complimentary breakfast, purloined a few hard boiled eggs for the road, and was out the door at 7:15. I picked up 3.5 gallons of water at Dollar General, a tuna sub at Subway, and took my time walking 17 miles, mostly on the Bataan Memorial Highway to Organ, NM. My feet did fine.
I wandered into the Patti Ann Mobile Trailer Park and the owner, Weston, graciously allowed me to pitch my tent for the night, gratis. Another angel helps me on my Journey.
@ Las Cruces, New Mexico
February 22, 2018
Day 48. It was quiet at the Patti Ann Mobile Park when I left at 7:11 am.
It had been a cold, windy night until about midnight; then it was just plain cold. I slept in my REI long underwear, two pairs of wool-blend socks, and a merino wool shirt and watch cap. My Kelly sleeping bag is rated down to 19 deg. F, but it still seemed cold.
The first 6 miles were all uphill, and not only was it arduous, but it took me 3 hours to complete them. Then it was downhill another few hours. I was fighting Walker all the way, my right hand cramping from squeezing the handbrake.
The sun was bright but it was chilly, and I wore my Patagonia jacket pretty much all day. There are no services on this stretch of Hwy. 70 at all, but I’ve got adequate food and water.
Although the road was safe (I walked for miles on the opposite side of the guardrail, thus very often protected from oncoming traffic) and the shoulder was wide, by the time we finally hit level ground my feet and I were tired, clocking in at 15 miles for the day.
Appropriate spots to pitch my tent were few and far between, so when I saw a spot close to the highway but behind a few scrawny bushes, I decided to take it. It’s not yet 6 pm, but the wind is picking up and it’s getting cold.
I texted my son Adam and thanked him once more for helping me finish up my miles in the desert, and allowing me to reach Kingman. Although our time together was cut short by blisters, as he always says, “It is what it is, Dad.” Amen to that.
@ Highway 70 in New Mexico
February 23, 2018
Day 49. It’s almost 5pm, and while the 19 miles I walked today did not include any steep hills, it was still tiring. This was made worse later in the day by the anxiety of not seeing an appropriate place to set up the tent—there’s just no significant foliage to provide privacy or protection from the winds.
Up ahead I’m really headed into the white sands of White Sands, with the prospect of even less protection than the thorny bush I finally chose. The highway is maybe 50 feet away, with the ubiquitous barbed wire 20 feet on the other side. But a bird just started chirping nearby, so I’ll take that as a good omen.
Tomorrow night I’ll be at the Motel 6 in Alamogordo, just in time to do laundry—both my clothes and myself.
I often say that this is not a sightseeing trip; I don’t plan to visit national parks or monuments. But of course I’m seeing plenty, and try to capture some of these sights in the photos I take, such as the bird’s nest made of thorny branches.
I’ve also noticed many lost tools and electronics on the road, as well as an abundance of broken things: USB and bungee cords, glass bottles, baby strollers, and endless car parts. I sometimes think one might be able to support oneself just by scavenging Route 70 (and every other highway I’ve walked on) for aluminum cans. Plastic waste is everywhere, and it depresses me.
The artist of the day is Kenny Burrell, a jazz guitarist from Detroit. I have his 1956 debut album and several others on vinyl. I got to see him in the mid-1960s when I was a student at Boston University. In addition to listening to music, I’ve also tuned in to some vintage Fresh Air posts, which help pass the time while I rack up the miles.
I’ve encountered areas of spotty internet service, often leading to blog posts that don’t appear until the next day. First world problems.
@ White Sands, New Mexico
DAY 50 IS MISSING from Facebook
February 24, 2018
Day 50. Last night was cold and this morning was even colder, with a wicked headwind that didn’t let up until the early afternoon. It was a clear day, however, and I was happy it wasn’t raining. Or snowing.
Q: What do these songs have in common?
Hey Girl, I Hear You’re Getting Married
Sittin’ in La La (Waitin’ For My Ya Ya)
The Boy From New York City
Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon
So Much In Love (by the Tymes; one of my all-time favorites)
A: They are all part of the IHOP (1960s) playlist.
The mushroom and spinach omelet delivered by Cassie (a senior in high school) was fine; the pancakes were pancakes, and the salad (I crave vegetables) was a large handful of Costco-type spring mix with cut up tomato. I’m satisfied. (As a Motel 6 guest, I got 10% off. Woo-hoo!)
If you ever have a yen for missile ranges and sand dunes (think Jones Beach), White Sands National Monument is your destination. I hear you can slide down the snow-like dunes on saucer sleds. At 8:30 am the Visitor Center was not yet open, so I just Walked On By. (Sorry. I’m tired and still have laundry to do.)
Many people disparage Motel 6, but for me it works, most of the time. I’ll be leaving early and the price was right. The shower was hot and satisfying. Although the washing machine conked out with the water yet to be drained, the laundry room lady reset the GFI and it restarted.
Album of the day: “Blue Train” by John Coltrane; a seminal recording. Trane’s life in and out of music was complicated, but who can deny his artistry? I’m from New York, so I know about these things. (Also, I played the tenor sax for 15 years.)
I continue to listen to Sousa marches—they get the walking juices flowing. Sousa wrote 137 marches, 15 operettas, 5 overtures, 11 suites, 24 dances, 28 fantasies, and 322 arrangements of 19th century western European symphonic works. This is probably the first time Coltrane and Sousa showed up in consecutive paragraphs.
15 miles today. Tomorrow presents a different challenge: how far to walk.
@ Alamogordo, NM
February 25, 2018
Day 51. Since I only had to walk 15 miles today—from Alamogordo (elev. 4336’) to Tularosa (elev. 4508’)—I took my time leaving this morning. I had another excellent omelet and pancakes at IHOP (with cheerful service by Crystal, who confirmed that yes, she’d once been a model), and was on the road at 8:15 am.
It was soon apparent that the highway was under construction. While this is often bad news for a walker, it wasn’t bad news for me—two lanes were blocked off by cones, so I was able to walk for over two hours on a lane I had all to myself.
In Tularosa, my motel reservation was at an “iffy” place, and I was hoping to find one of two elusive B&Bs I’d discovered online. Sadly, neither currently exists.
While sitting on my camp stool in front of a nice home on 2nd St. looking at my phone, the friendly homeowner came out to find out what I was up to. After hearing my story he invited me to stay the night in a neat shed in his backyard (away from his 2 exuberant dogs). I accepted, of course, and later spent a couple of hours chatting with Jerry, a retired children’s book publisher and British folk music aficionado, and his partner, Ed, a nurse. I am extremely happy to have met 2 more angels on my journey.
Artist of the day: Eddie Daniels, jazz (and classical) clarinetist and saxophonist extraordinaire. He currently lives in New Mexico. It was a real pleasure listening to 2 of his albums today.
I’ll be in the tent on Hwy 54 for the next two cold, cold nights.
@ Tularosa, New Mexico
February 26, 2018
Day 52. For whatever combination of reasons, last night I slept better than I have for weeks—in Jerry and Ed’s shed! Their hospitality and our lively conversation relaxed me, and I was wonderfully comfortable.
This morning I said goodbye to my new friends, took the fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt Jerry gifted me, and was on Hwy 54 heading north at 7:45 am. Tularosa is a quaint (but not artsy) little town. I miss it already.
The traffic on Hwy 54 is not excessive, the shoulder is good, and there’s no significant rise in elevation for a long time yet. I’m headed toward Carrizozo, about 45 miles distance, so I had a choice to make: two 22.5 mile days or three 15 mile days. I chose the latter, which I’m sure many will agree was the wise choice. In the end, I wound up walking 17 miles.
When there are no services on the road, meals can be a challenge. But today I had a great breakfast: blueberry yogurt with peanuts, raisins, almonds, dried apricots, and Triscuits. For lunch: hard-boiled egg, Swiss cheese, more Triscuits, pistachio nuts, and chocolate covered Hostess mini-donuts (which I’ve loved my whole life). Dinner was a 2-serving can of Progresso Classic Chicken Noodle Soup (straight out of the can—I used my spoon), an apple, even more Triscuits, and a few more donuts. I drank water all day. (Disclosure: I had a Dr Pepper yesterday. Mmmmm.)
Album of the day: The Legendary João Gilberto: The Original Bossa Nova Recordings (1958-1961). While his wife Astrud ended up becoming more famous and popular in the US because of her recording in English of The Girl From Ipanema, he was the real talent. (Personally, I always felt her singing left a lot to be desired; this was confirmed in a recent autobiography by Gary Burton, one of the foremost vibes players, who traveled with Stan Getz & Astrud.)
I also enjoyed listening to the Brandenburg Concertos 3-5, and more.
Once the sun sets out here, it gets cold fast! So, time to burrow into the Kelty.
@ Hwy 54 New Mexico
February 27, 2018
Day 53. Today began overcast, gray, and a bit gloomy.
I was on the road at 7:30 am, but was not moving fast. I realized later I was only averaging 2 miles per hour (without breaks), but I decided that was okay—I’d eventually get where I was going.
By 1pm, the sun had come out and with it the wind, pushing me from behind. So I just walked, took breaks, listened to music and old Fresh Air interviews, and forged ahead.
One of the interesting things about being on the road is the relationship I seem to have with big rig truckers. Most drivers of cars either ignore big trucks or curse them. But walking on the side of the highway facing traffic, I’ve observed that many professional truckers change lanes to avoid getting too close to me. They are, as a group, courteous professionals. I remember first learning about the Doppler Effect (you can look it up if you’re curious) in physics class at Laney College. Here it is in action. Whether the drivers understand the underlying physical principal or not, I do appreciate their efforts. When I wave, they pretty much always respond in kind.
Hwy 54 runs parallel to the railroad track, and I was pleasantly surprised after waving at one of the oncoming locomotives to hear the engineer toot the whistle and clang the bell twice. I’m not invisible.
Album/Composer-of-the-day: Leroy Anderson’s Greatest Hits, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Anderson (1908-1975), was Harvard educated (through Ph.D.) and composed many songs & concert pieces; he was a master of creating what he called “miniatures.” I loved his music as a boy and marvel at his orchestrations as an adult.
Tomorrow I’m on my way to the Four Winds Motel in Carrizozo. 16 miles today.
Highway 54 in New Mexico
February 28, 2018
Day 54. I broke camp and was on the road by 6:35 am. The morning was again cold, the sky was overcast, and I had a tailwind pushing me along.
At 9:30 I saw flashing lights up ahead, never a good sign; but this happened to be a surveying crew. Two of the guys came over to chat and I found out they worked for NMDOT (Dept. of Transportation). I gave them cards and they wished me luck.
I only had to walk 12 miles to get to my motel in Carrizozo, where I had a reservation. Because of the early start, I arrived in town at 11 am. But before checking in I stopped at the Dollar General and replenished supplies, including soup, tortillas, tuna packs, Swiss cheese, Wheat Thins, Snickers, and Hostess Donettes. It’s really dry here so I also got some lip balm.
When I’d reserved the room at the Four Winds Motel, I explained to Jubin, the owner, that I was walking through New Mexico in honor of my Dad, a WW2 veteran who died last year. Jubin insisted on giving me the Veteran’s discount. Like many small motels, this one is family-owned, and my room is clean, up-to-date, and comfortable.
Of all the jazz pianists whom I admire and love to listen to, you may be surprised to learn that if I could play like just one of them, my choice would not be Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck, Thelonius Monk, or any of the other greats. I would choose Gerald Wiggins.
Album of the Day: Gerry Wiggins Live at Maybeck Recital Hall. I first heard Wiggins (1922-2008) on a CD featuring Scott Hamilton (one of my favorite tenor sax players). He worked with everyone from Stepin Fetchit to Louis Armstrong to Lena Horn. But this solo album, recorded in Berkeley, shows jazz solo piano at its finest. He plays with sensitivity, richness, and humor.
It started raining this afternoon (and later, hailed). Glad I’m inside tonight!
@ Carrizozo, New Mexico
March 1, 2108
Day 55. As a result of the rain, hail, and some cold temperatures last night, parts of the road this morning were a little slick. So I decided to wait before hitting the highway. I went to a local cafe and ate an overpriced, mediocre omelet and toast, and ordered a couple of hard boiled eggs ($2 each) to go. The waitress called me “Honey” at least a dozen times. They had “butter-like spread” on the table.
The sun was bright and welcome, melting the frost along the road. It was a great day for walking. The elevation is increasing as I head toward Corona, NM (6690’), but slowly. I intended to walk about 15 or 16 miles today but wound up clocking 19 miles total—I just could not find a suitable place to set up the tent. I finally settled on a nice spot behind some actual evergreen trees. I’ve probably reached some kind of tree line.
Artist/Album of the Day: “Buddy Collette, Man of Many Parts” (1956). Collette (1921-2010) grew up in Watts, and played clarinet, sax, and flute. He was a childhood friend of Charles Mingus, a founding member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet, and enjoyed a long career as a performer, studio musician, and college instructor. I first became familiar with him on a Barney Kessel LP. Buddy’s just plain terrific.
I’ll be in the tent another night; then I get to stay in one of the “Themed Rooms” at the Corona Motel. Wonder which one I’ll get!
It’s 6pm and the temperature is dropping quickly, along with the sun.
@ Highway 54, New Mexico
DAY 56 IS MISSING from Facebook
March 2, 2108
Day 56. The magic number for today is 27. That’s what the temperature went down to last night (I was in my tent, and the cold just seeped from the ground and woke me up a few times in spite of two layers of ground cloth, tent, and air mattress).
It’s also the number of miles I walked from my campsite to the Corona Motel in Corona, NM. That’s where I am at this moment, lying in bed in the 1950s Room. Each room has a Theme (Jungle, Bikers, 50s, Hollywood, Beach, etc.). Check out the website http://www.coronamotelandrv.com.
According to Rhonda, the motel’s owner, there are about 70 students in the entire Corona school system. Not much happening in this little town. Cattle ranching is the major industry.
Twenty-seven is the most miles I’ve ever walked in a day. Highway 54 seemed to go up and down and up and down, but mostly up. I walked from 6:45am to 5:30pm. Sometimes the shoulder was great, but often it was one-foot wide or nonexistent. This requires high awareness. My feet and I are tired.
It’s Shabbat and I’m resting tomorrow (a.k.a. taking the day off). So I’ll be spending 2 nights in this very comfortable room.
Artist of the day: George Carlin. Today I listened to a couple of Fresh Air episodes in which he was featured. I’ve been a fan of his for decades, seen some of his specials, listened to his records, and read his books. He was something special. He died at age 71, exactly the age I am now. A sobering thought.
@ Corona, NM
March 3, 2108
Day 57. I slept like a log last night—well, a log who has to get up once or twice to pee. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, I suggest you walk 27 miles during the day; it might help.
It is Saturday, and with no scheduled plans I tuned in to a program you’ve probably never seen—Shabbat services streamed live from Temple Sinai in Oakland.
The highlight of the streamed service (for me—not, of course for the family of the Bar Mitzvah, Zachary, who did a wonderful job) was the “additional few words of Torah” given by Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin. She questioned whether the second set of Ten Commandment tablets offered to the People of Israel was identical to the first set, which Moses destroyed after the Golden Calf debacle. As I pondered my own response to this question, I must admit I’d never thought about it before. That’s why she’s the rabbi and I’m a jazz musician.
Meal of the day: Grilled cheese sandwich, French fries, and a shredded lettuce side salad at El Corral Cafe. Best grilled cheese I’ve had in 65 years. Everything else on the menu was meat-based.
My lunch brought up the subject of Velveeta, a type of food substance common to my generation. Do people still eat this product?
A freight train just went by 50 yards from my window. I’ve grown fond of trains on my journey; or at least more intimate with them. I hear them in my dreams.
@ Corona, New Mexico
March 4, 2108
Day 58. I was sad having to leave the Corona Motel—it’s a special place. Rhonda had gone into Albuquerque shopping, and she kindly took my grocery list with her (apples, oranges, baby carrots, yogurt, Triscuits, corn tortillas).
Last night she, her husband George, and their old friends Nancy and Eric invited me into the back room for a drink (I brought my Dr Pepper), and we shared personal histories and goals.
The town’s name, Corona, refers to the fact that it’s “the crown” or highest point of the region. There are so few students in the school that they can only field basketball and track teams; there aren’t enough kids for baseball or football. The arts are not a big factor, but 4-H and FFA are. Showing their special livestock at State Fairs is an excused absence from school. Classes are held on Monday through Thursday—the kids are needed on the farms and ranches, and they often have to travel long distances to get to school.
I have three weather apps on my iPhone, and all told me to expect windy conditions today, which turned out to be true. But fortunately it was a tailwind, which gradually scooted me mostly downhill from the steep elevation of Corona. Now I’m headed toward the Midwest, and all I can say is, Hallelujah!
I departed at 8 am and walked until 3:15pm, clocking 20 miles. I hadn’t intended to walk this far, but when I reached the town of Duran there was no suitable place to pitch my tent, so I kept walking.
Duran, pop. 35 (in 2010), is basically a ghost town near the railroad track. It’s a common story having to do with the evolution of the railroad industry, mining, and ranching.
It’s just as well that I kept on walking, because a mile or two down the road I spied a small trail through an open gate that led me to the best camping site I’ve had since starting this journey. It’s about time! While I’m still between Highway 54 and the railroad track, I am surrounded by trees and feel less exposed than usual.
Tomorrow I head toward the town of Vaughn, with uncertainty again as to where I’ll be sleeping. I’d have to say this feeling is the greatest source of any stress I feel on my journey.
@ Duran, New Mexico
March 5, 2108
Day 59. The strong winds usually begin with sundown as the temperature quickly sinks.
I was awakened at 2:30 am by industrial machine sounds coming from the nearby railroad tracks. It’s always something. The loud noise lasted for about two hours. Since I’d first fallen asleep at 7 pm (what else can you do when it’s dark, windy, cold, and you’re in your sleeping bag alone?). Regardless, I was not sleep-deprived when I awoke.
At 6 in the morning it was 27°F, and when I stuck my head outside the tent the wind hit me like an icicle, so I stayed in the sleeping bag until 8 am. I still had to walk almost 15 miles to Vaughn. It was tough going, with a strong wind coming from my right. It finally warmed up at about 11 am.
When I had tried to make a motel reservation several days ago, there wasn’t a room to be found. Today I found out why: There’s major railroad repair work being done (That’s what I heard going on during the night). Two hundred workers are in town through mid-April, and all the motel rooms are booked.
Out of desperation I called an RV park in town and asked the woman who answered if I could pitch my tent there. She said, “Call my brother Reuben. He might be able to help.” And he did! Reuben held a room for me at the Bel-Air Motel, which he owns.
I arrived at 1:45 pm after walking through the main section of town. Other than the municipal buildings, much of Vaughn (pop. 446) seems in a sorry state. Built as a railroad town, there was once a Harvey House in town, but it’s not there now. Neither is Judy Garland. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Harvey_Girls
Artist of the Day: David Sedaris. I listened to two Fresh Air interviews and enjoyed both. But what I love most about David Sedaris is that he reminds me of the hour alone I spent with my late sister-in-law, Gail Cohen, when she was dying of cancer. I came to her Kaiser hospital room one day when it was not filled (as it usually was) with 8 to 12 women singing to her, holding her hands, massaging her feet, and keeping her company. Gail asked if I would read to her. I saw a Sedaris book on the table, and we spent a memorable (for me) hour laughing together.
That experience led me to an 8-year stint as a Kaiser volunteer.
@ Vaughn, New Mexico
DAY 60 IS MISSING from Facebook
March 6, 2108
Day 60. I started the day in a railroad town motel and ended it in a cow pasture.
The highway provides not one tree or bush to hide behind, and at least the pasture afforded me a modicum of protection from the road, if not the cows. The pasture gate was completely open, I didn’t see any cows, and after 15 miles of walking, this was the best I could do. Other than some up-and-down hills, it was a pretty easy day. Since I started late, I missed the coldest part of the morning.
Hwy 60 is a 2-lane blacktop with a narrow shoulder and sparse traffic. As usual, the truckers are courteous and move over to give me space whenever they can. Same with virtually all the drivers.
Police and Sheriff’s cars occasionally pass by, responding to my wave, but otherwise ignoring me. Good. The railroad seems to have gone in a different direction, but I will probably encounter it again.
I’d left the Bel-Air at 9:30 am and began setting up my tent at 3:30. The brisk wind whipped my tent around while I was setting it up, but I persevered. My thought was, “If I hear even one moo, I’ll start to worry.” Meanwhile my phone said “No Service,” so I probably won’t post this until the morning.
It is now almost 5 pm. The sun is beginning its descent, the temperature is dropping fast, and the wind is beginning to pick up. I’ll eat now and get into the sleeping bag. It will be a long night. I don’t plan on getting an early start—there’s just no point. Let’s see how my night in the cow pasture goes. I have some noisy crows for company. Beats a television in the next room.
I woke at 10 pm to the sounds of mooing. It was cold and getting colder. And I wasn’t budging. The Big Dipper is right above me, and as blinking satellites pass by periodically, I’m awed by the vastness of it all.
@ Highway 60, New Mexico
March 7, 2108
Day 61. Today was pretty much gloomy and overcast, preceded by some wicked cold this morning. The problem with having to get into the tent in the early afternoon is that you’re stuck there until 8 or 9 in the morning. I spend much of that time trying to keep warm, often without success. For whatever reason, 27°F keeps following me around.
So tonight I’ve put up the rain fly for the first time, hoping it will help. Because I’m camped in a public picnic area, I’m not happy about not being able to see out. It’s a compromise, like much in life.
The Kelty Salida 2 tent is brilliantly designed and relatively simple to set up. If the sheriff or police hassle me, I told Sharon I’d just ask them to arrest me—there’s just no place to camp on this long stretch of highway. Welcome to my world.
Today it was 13 miles of walking up and down hills, taking occasional breaks alongside Hwy 60, and listening to music and Fresh Air episodes.
My weather apps are predicting rain on Sunday, and colder on Monday. The challenge of this walk is there’s only so much one can do for protection from the weather, and I’m as prepared as I can be. But I am so looking forward to March going out like a lamb.
Musical selection of the day: Prokofiev’s “Overture on Jewish Themes.” Please take some time to listen to this wonderful piece. I think you’ll love it too!
@ Highway 60, New Mexico
March 8, 2108
Day 62. The tent was warmer last night. So was I. And no one hassled me.
I’ve been introduced to one of the banes of the Southwest desert: Tribulus terrestris, a.k.a. Goat Head Weed, a.k.a. Puncture Vine—a serious hazard to bare feet and bicycle tires. Although the internet says that the plant is used medicinally for UTIs and to boost testosterone, among other uses, these are miserable little devils. Cyclists hate them.
The road was flatter and the temperature more pleasant today as I passed through Yeso, NM, elev. 4770’. It’s a semi-ghost town with an updated post office and several crumbling ruins. Another railroad town that pretty much disappeared.
My friend and fountain pen correspondent, Skip, drove out from Santa Fe so we could spend some time together. He met me on the road about 15 miles from Ft. Sumner, where we drove and checked into the Super 8. (The plan is, he’ll drop me off at the pickup spot after breakfast tomorrow morning on his way back home, and I’ll walk back to the motel (where my gear is stashed), and I’ll take off the next morning.)
After checking in, we went out for some supper and got to know one another. We’ve been corresponding for years, but had never met. It’s one of the nice things about having a correspondent—you know each other, but you don’t!
Skip’s a retired professor of psychology and statistics at Gallaudet Univ. in D.C., and a smart, funny guy. He’s also a terrific photographer.
Artist of the day: Bing Crosby, considered by author Gary Giddins one of the most important entertainers of the 1st half of the 20th century.
@ Fort Sumner, New Mexico
March 9, 2108
Day 63. This morning Skip and I had the “continental breakfast” provided by Super 8 Motel. For some reason when I think of continental breakfast I picture Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sitting in evening clothes eating breakfast; but probably not Raisin Bran, for which I had to supply my own banana.
After we ate, Skip dropped me off at the point where he picked me up yesterday, approximately 14 miles from the motel. He then began the drive back to his home in Santa Fe, and I began my walk in the opposite direction to the Super 8 in Ft. Sumner.
It would have been an easy walk today, but I’m nursing a blister on my left foot yet again. I’m keeping it taped and wearing 2 pairs of socks. I wasn’t pushing the cart (which is still at the motel), so I did not have the advantage of a “walker.”
At the end of the walk, I ordered a fish sandwich, lettuce salad, and Mug root beer at the Dariland (sic) restaurant where we ate last night. I then came back to Super 8 to do my laundry, which included just about everything I brought with me (other than the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing).
Ft. Sumner is a town of approximately 1,000. Billy the Kid was shot here by Pat Garrett, and is buried in town. I just read that Garrett himself was later shot and killed “under unclear circumstances.” Hey, Live by the sword…
Later I repacked my cart. I’m carrying 5 cans of Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup (14 g of protein in each can), crackers, Swiss cheese (6 g protein per slice), nuts and raisins, 3 gallons of water, Snickers (an important staple), mustard, and some oranges given to me by friends.
From Ft. Sumner I’m heading to Clovis, NM. Sadly, it’s 62 miles of pretty much nothing. The lack of services and suitable places to camp is an ongoing frustration.
Artist/Album of the Day: Matt Catingub, Hi-Tech Big Band. Matt is a monster musician, arranger, and conductor. On this album he plays most of the instruments, uses a synthesizer to create others, and also sings. Here is something by Matt: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P5K6JZfuAjg
I’d forgotten how much I love this CD and Matt.
@ Fort Sumner, New Mexico
March 10, 2108
Day 64. When you make plans, sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes death.
I had a simple plan—Walk 21 miles per day for the next 3 days and reach Clovis in 3 days instead of 4. And I almost made my goal today. But 4 miles short of the Mile 350 marker, 3 sheriffs cars sped by, sirens blaring and lights flashing. They were soon followed by several ambulances and a fire truck. When I got close to the accident scene, all cars and trucks were being turned away. I’d just reached a driveway leading to an obviously abandoned property when I too was turned away by a Broderick Crawford look-alike in a sheriff’s uniform.
Crawford pointed up ahead and told me, “Do not try walking past that.”
I replied, “I won’t. I’m just going to stay up there.” I pointed to the falling-down and obviously abandoned structure.
“Okay,” he said. My interpretation of his reply? Tacit approval.
I pushed Walker up the driveway, picked a suitable spot away from the Goathead weeds, and pitched my tent.
It is now after 5 pm and I can still see the flashing lights of police cars. There was no way I was going to argue with the sheriff. At this point, I cannot confirm any fatalities.
(Note: At 5:45 pm through-traffic on Hwy 60 resumed.)
Earlier I’d met Randy on the Hwy 60. He was collecting bottles & cans and putting them in his pickup. He said hello and told me he’d seen me camped at the picnic site. He added that he’s donating the money he makes from his recycling efforts to charity. A real gentleman.
Today was the anniversary of my father’s death, and I said Kaddish for my Dad. (I did not go to Billy the Kid’s gravesite.)
Tomorrow is supposed to be colder with a 50% chance of rain at 7am. I’ve got the rain fly on the tent. The wind is picking up.
@ Tolar, New Mexico
March 11, 2108
Day 65. If I had not been in my tent last night weighing it down, it would have blown into the next county.
It’s windy, cold (outside, but not in my sleeping bag), gray, and overcast this morning. But NO rain. The weather apps kept telling me rain will begin “now” or “within 120 minutes,” but nothing. Not a drop. I had my rain gear ready all day, but finally put it away after setting up my tent.
In spite of the cold (perhaps because of it), I moved at a brisk pace today. I had to make up some of the four miles I didn’t walk yesterday as a result of the traffic accident. (I posted some photos of the skid marks at the accident scene; no reports yet of fatalities.)
I clocked 23 miles before deciding to set my tent up on the railroad track-side of the highway—the freight trains may be noisy, but so are the big trucks. And at least here I have less exposure to the highway.
Allsup’s is a chain of 300+ convenience stores in New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. Outside the Melrose, NM location, Shaun said hello and we chatted. He’d seen me walking and wanted to know what I was up to. I’ve had many drivers waving and/or honking “hello” to me at stops along the road. I find that most people are just plain friendly.
Hopefully I’ll be in a motel in Clovis tomorrow night—I do have a reservation. When the woman from Wyndham hotel group answered the phone, she actually said, “How may I grant your wish?” (Brother. That’s where I’d draw the line. Who thinks of these things?)
Artist of the day: Comedian/actor Steve Martin. I heard his Fresh Air interview today and have read his memoir, “Born Standing Up.” A very funny guy.
@ Melrose, New Mexico
March 12, 2108
Day 66. A freight train passing by at 7 am this morning was an effective alarm clock.
The road to Clovis was one continuous highway construction project, although the shoulder was generally acceptable and eventually a sidewalk appeared. Early in the morning the sky was cloudy and gray, but by noon the sun was out and the temperature was perfect for walking.
Passing Cannon AF Base, I watched as a number of prop driven planes flew by overhead. I also found a few good places where I could rent automatic weapons and get ammo.
After walking 21 miles (and with 4 miles more to go) there appeared Subway. The young woman helping me made up for her otherwise disinterested manner by making me a great 6” tuna sub, with plenty of spinach. That and a Dr Pepper were just what I needed.
The Days Inn manager was friendly and curious about my journey. Later, coming back from McDonald’s with a fish sandwich, I walked through the lobby where he was having pizza with his wife, 10-year-old daughter, and 6-year-old son. (His wife is now my Facebook friend.) They offered me a slice of veggie pizza, and we talked about their home in India, their new home in Clovis, gangs, what their two kids wanted to be when they grew up, the American diet, and my walk. It was a pleasant evening.
Artist of the Day: Paul Motian, the jazz drummer who made his reputation playing with both Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. His interview with Terry Gross featured music from Evans’ classic album, “Portrait in Jazz,” which I’ve been listening to for decades. (I have the vinyl and CD versions.)
Tomorrow I begin the 55 mile walk to Hereford, TX.
@ Clovis, New Mexico
March 13, 2108
Day 67. Seven or eight miles after leaving the Days Inn this morning, I walked into Texas.
You may think I’m nuts, but somehow it felt different. I’m not sure why, but after walking over 330 miles in New Mexico, it was probably just refreshing to enter a new state—my fourth.
Texico (that’s the correct spelling) is the border town between the two states, and the name is a portmanteau of Texas & New Mexico. But you knew that.
I did notice a change in Hwy 60 in Texas. The shoulders are wider and that’s more comfortable when you’re walking. My experience, however, is that road conditions and composition change (usually for the worse) when you least expect it.
I had to deal with a loose dog who barked loudly and followed me for 1/4 mile or so down the highway. I grabbed my trekking pole and pointed it at him while I continued to push the cart. The danger of the dog getting hit by a truck was probably greater than him attacking me, but personally I believe that mad dogs are a bigger threat than mad humans.
Two pickup trucks stopped to see if I was okay or needed anything. In the first were two look-alike brothers. Really nice guys.
The second contained a couple, Sandra and Antonio, who offered me a lift. When I declined and gave her a card, she asked if I needed anything. I replied, “Yes, I’d really like someplace to pitch my tent tonight.” She asked where I was headed, and they invited me to camp on the side of their nice house in Bovina. They were not home when I arrived two hours later, but I met and chatted with their 17 year-old son, Antonio, Jr. I explained to him that his mother is indeed an angel! He agreed.
Later, the family invited me to stay in a spare bedroom. I’m blessed.
I hadn’t intended to walk 20 miles today, but after the offer to stay in Bovina, I was happy to do so.
@ Bovina, Texas
March 14, 2108
Day 68. At about 6 am, Sandra knocked on my bedroom door to let me know that Antonio needed to lock up the house. They all needed to leave for work and school.
So I threw on some clothes, grabbed the gear I’d taken into the house, and pushed my cart back out to the tent.
After saying goodbye to the family, I blew up my air mattress once again, crawled into the sleeping bag, and as my hosts drove off to work, I went back to sleep for a couple of hours.
By 10 am I was repacked and on Hwy 60, stopping at Allsup’s for a egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant to go, plus a 25¢ banana.
I dress in layers and shed them as the clouds part and the sun begins to warm the day. Hwy 60 continues to provide a nice shoulder as I walk along vast fields of either farmland or grazing animals. Nary a tree in sight. Freight trains run back and forth along the tracks all day long, whistles blowing at regularly-spaced crossings.
With only 13 miles to walk today (from Bovina to Friona), I took my time, listened to a variety of podcasts and interviews, and didn’t worry about much of anything. My biggest concern is when there’s no clear place to camp for the night.
I had another run-in with a dog. (Sigh.)
Friona Inn is very nice, and so is Dee, the young woman who made my reservation yesterday and checked me in today. I went over to the Dairy Queen next door for a fish sandwich, but was told, “They don’t have that no more.” So be it.
I walked across the street to Dollar General and for less than $6 bought a loaf of bread, a package of Swiss cheese, and a Dr Pepper, and came back to my room where I opened up a packet of StarKist and made open-faced tuna and cheese sandwiches with mustard, heated in the microwave. A few Hostess Donettes and I was a happy hiker.
It’s a long walk to Hereford, TX tomorrow, but I’ve got a reservation at the Best Western. My Accuweather app tells me temperatures are predicted to range from 42° to 77°. That’s a pretty big swing.
@ Friona, Texas
March 15, 2018
Day 69. On this Ides of March I walked 22.4 miles from Friona to Heresford. The wind was at my back, the temperature moderate, and I looked forward to a night’s stay at the Best Western Red Carpet Inn. Sadly, I was told the Jacuzzi “isn’t in operation.” (The pool is covered as well.)
I was able to pick up dinner (a fish sandwich, fries, & Dr Pepper) at the Carl’s Jr. across the street, so that was something.
During my walk today, I entered Deaf Smith County. This rang a bell for me—my sister and I remember my mother having Deaf Smith Peanut Butter in our house when we were kids. Wikipedia tells me that Erastus “Deaf” Smith (1787-1837) was an American frontiersman, soldier, and spy noted for his part in the Texas Revolution. Although he did not die at the Alamo, he did participate, carrying a letter from William Travis to the army; he later worked with General Sam Houston. After the war, Smith commanded a company of Texas Rangers. (For you film buffs, Deaf Smith was portrayed by Frankie Avalon in the movie “The Alamo.”)
I also learned that the Arrowhead Mills Co., founded by a man from Hereford, Texas man, named the peanut butter brand after Smith.
Today was “road kill” day. I saw a wide variety of species, including a deer, raccoons, jackrabbits, many skunks, barn owls and smaller birds, a fox, dogs, cats, and a rat.
At some point in the future I may be able to push through multiple 20-mile days with ease, but I’m reticent to do it too many days in a row right now—I don’t want to wear myself out prematurely.
Podcast of the Day: Planet Money. They’re entertaining and informative.
@ Hereford, Texas
March 16, 2018
Day 70. Since it’s 44 miles to my motel in Amarillo tomorrow night, I wanted to do at least 22 miles today. I did 23, and am now in my tent off the side of Hwy 60 in some sort of field, camped next to the inevitable barbed wire fence.
As I was walking today, I had a visit from Senior Special Agent Rick S. of the BNSF Railway Company Police Department (K9 Team). He pulled off the road, rolled down his window, and asked if I was “traveling through.” I assured him I was, and we exchanged pleasantries and business cards. He wished me luck and told me, “Be Safe.” I didn’t know that the BNSF Railroad operated its own police department, but I guess it makes sense—it’s a big operation. In fact it’s the largest freight railroad network in North America. It’s parent company is Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (Think Warren Buffett.)
Since I’m now in the Central time zone and it’s Daylight Savings Time, I have to time my arrivals and departures more carefully. If I’m heading to a motel, I like to arrive early, hoping they have a room ready for me. But if I’m camping, I don’t want to have to set up the tent too early, since I’m often visible from the road. I’ve had good luck so far.
Today I walked from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, with two breaks. The wind was at my back, the highway shoulders were generally wide, and there weren’t any hills to speak of. The elevation of Amarillo is 3,605’—200 feet lower than Hereford. Compare this to Corona, NM, which was 6,690’.
I try to FaceTime with Sharon while the sun is still up; that way she can see me! We just chatted, and now it’s supper time.
@ Umbarger, Texas
March 17, 2018
Day 71. Other than the regularly scheduled whistles that announce oncoming freight trains, my night was comfortable enough. No one bothered me, and I lucked out once again in finding a suitable place to camp off the highway.
Unlike the Camino Santiago in Spain with its albergues, or even the Appalachian Trail, where hikers can camp along the way, it’s difficult to find regularly-spaced and appropriate accommodations for the few of us attempting to walk across the US—unless one considers the American Discovery Trail (ADT), which is an entirely different (and longer) journey. http://www.discoverytrail.org
I was up before the sun, and while the temperature is no longer in the low 30°s, it’s still pretty chilly. Ironically, I walked an hour longer than I did yesterday in order to cover 1.5 fewer miles (21.5 miles today). The reason for this was a long stretch on VFW Rd., which has a lot of traffic and a very narrow shoulder, thus requiring more careful walking. In fact, a Randall County Sheriff pulled up and inquired about my walk, cautioning me to (drum roll) “Be Careful.”
Q: What’s the chance of seeing both a softball and (miles later) a hardball on the side of the road?
I took a “shortcut” through “The Colonies,” a large housing development with tastefully designed, cookie-cutter style homes, many of which are for sale (they’re in the $500k range). This detour afforded me some quiet from the highway. I noticed that some lawns are an unusual shade “green” and others are seasonally brown. Here’s the reason: http://www.xtremegreengrasstexas.com/faqs.html
I stopped at the Burger King, where the staff was enthusiastic about my journey and wished me luck (“Be Safe,” etc.). I’m becoming an expert on fish sandwiches at fast food restaurants; at this point Burger King is in the lead.
At the Days Inn (Amarillo/Medical Center location), Cassandra not only took wonderful care of my check-in, but later changed my room due to a running toilet that needs a new part.
Quote of the Day (posted in front of a church): “If Jesus had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.” Nice!
@ Amarillo, Texas
March 18, 2018
Day 72. I’m pleased to announce that as of this week I’ve walked a total of over 1,000 miles since my journey began last April.
I fooled myself into thinking today would be a “light day,” and a “day of rest.” The joke was on me.
I decided that instead of spending the whole day in the motel room looking at possible routes and otherwise driving myself nuts, I’d just walk from one end of Amarillo to the other and make it a short day. (At this point 12 miles is a short day.) So I left the Days Inn at 11:15 am after an early breakfast and an early lunch, and walked to the Super 8 Motel, 12 miles to the East.
The route I chose was great for the first 3 miles. I walked along Rock Island Rail Trail, one of many such trails that have been reclaimed from unused railroad routes and converted to walking/biking trails. They’re generally lovely, as was this one. The entrance was 1/2 block from where I was staying, and I was even able to stop at a Dollar General and pick up some supplies along the way.
Unfortunately the end of the Trail dumped me in a pretty seedy part of Amarillo. I didn’t like the look of the guys hanging around the street corners, so I moved a couple of blocks over, which was more comfortable. The problem was that the route had me walking along the I-40 access road, which was busy and had no discernible shoulder. It was so bad I moved again to a parallel street. This took me through a couple of miles of modest Latino family neighborhoods. When that road dead-ended, I was back on the Interstate access road with the noise and the trucks. (Sigh.) Finally I spied my motel.
So, after a 4 hour walk, I’m sitting in the air-conditioned “quiet” of my room, eating a late second lunch (or maybe it’s an early first dinner).
Early this morning it seems to have rained. I wasn’t aware because I didn’t even leave the room until 11 am. It could have rained frogs and locusts and I wouldn’t have known. Well, you know what I mean.
@ Amarillo, Texas
March 19, 2018
Day 73. A High Wind Advisory has been in effect since last night, with winds at or near 30 mph and gusts much higher. (The desk clerk told me this morning that wildfires threatened areas near the hospital.)
When I tried to go out last night the wind was blowing so hard I just went back to my room. At 1 pm this afternoon, 28 mph winds with 35 mph gusts were reported on my AccuWeather app.
I would have liked to just stay in bed, but I didn’t feel like spending a third night in Amarillo, so at 10 am I braved the wicked winds and headed back to Hwy 60. The first few miles were rough going along the access road, but it was better once I hit Hwy 60 itself. The strong headwind, however, was a challenge all day, and setting up my tent was something out of Laurel & Hardy.
Tonight’s forecast is a mixed blessing—the winds are supposed to die down, but the temperature is going to drop into the 30° range by early morning and not reach 50° until noon.
My camping spot is on a dirt/gravel side road next to the barbed wire. Sadly, the freight trains, just across the highway, are near a crossing, so I’ll be hearing the whistle blasts on a regular basis all night.
For those interested in the tools I’ve been observing on the roadside, I couldn’t believe it, but I finally found that elusive hammer! (Not to mention a smushed Dell computer.)
17 miles today. It would have been more had the wind been at my back.
@ Panhandle, Texas
March 20, 2018
Day 74. I brushed some frost from my tent as I packed up my stuff on the first day of spring.
I was on the road at 9:15 am—there was no point leaving at 7 am when the temperature was 30°, or even 8 am when it had gone up dramatically to 32°. Fortunately, instead of yesterday’s 28 mph wind, it was only 8 mph.
For lunch I stopped in the town of Panhandle, home of a gas station, a large convenience store, a Family Dollar, and a Subway.
In the end, today was about walking 19 miles today. I look at it this way: “I’ve taken a job, and that job is to walk 7 or 8 hours a day.” Frankly, I’ve had worse jobs (working at the Hunts cannery in Hayward comes to mind).
My tent was set up and I was in it at 5:30 pm. Just before I got in, a friendly guy in a pickup pulled up and asked if I was okay. This was Ed, who farms wheat on the field adjacent to where I’m camped. I asked if he minded if I set up my tent here (it’s a county road). “Not at all. Welcome to County Road X—‘X marks the spot!’” We spoke for a few minutes about our parents and aging, and he waved goodbye, saying, “Be Safe!”
Not much else happened today. I’m hoping there will continue to be county roads similar to this where I can camp off the highway. In spite of the freight train whistles and the sound of trucks on the highway, I feel comfortable.
The town of White Deer is up the road, and tomorrow night I’ll be in Pampa.
@ White Deer, Texas
March 21, 2018
Day 75. The morning was chilly and overcast, but the wind was not a big factor. I was on the road at 8:30 am, looking forward to a night in a motel in Pampa after two nights in the tent.
First stop was Allsup’s in White Deer, a couple of miles down the highway. I chatted with Jackie about my walk while Sherry made me two egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches on croissants. In the display case there were a dozen or two breakfast sandwiches already made. But they all had some kind of meat on them. So I was happy to have mine freshly made. They’re just as good as McDonald’s Egg McMuffins (hold the Canadian bacon, please), and a third the price.
About 6 miles from Pampa, the shoulder narrowed to nothing, so I moved over to the other side of the road, walking with traffic, which I normally do not do. But it felt much safer, and since everyone keeps telling me to “Be safe,” I heeded their advice.
Although I was on Hwy 60, most of the motels in Pampa are on Hwy 70, so I needed to walk about a mile off my route. This leads to the question as to whether I should continue North on Hwy 70 or East on Hwy 60. I’ll ponder this tonight after dinner.
Artist of the Day is Scott Hamilton—not the skater but rather the tenor saxophonist. I’ve been a fan of Scott’s for decades, and probably have more of his CDs than any other jazz musician. Although he’s not a household name, when I was once asked by my sax teacher at CSU who my favorite sax player was, I named Hamilton. The teacher was surprised. “Really?” I remember my response: “Sure. His tone is beautiful. He plays in tune. He can play fast and hit all the changes, or slow, with an amazingly lyrical ballad style. Also, he plays all of my favorite standards and other stuff as well.
I’ve listened to all the sax greats, and have many of their albums and CDs. But the sounds I like to hear come from musicians that play to my sensibilities, such as Scott Hamilton, Paul Desmond, and Stan Getz (notwithstanding his personal attributes).
I think I’ve reached the point in my life that I don’t have to apologize for my tastes in music.
16 miles today.
@ Pampa, Texas
March 22, 2018
Day 76. Thursday may not be anyone’s Sabbath, but today was a day of rest for me.
And I needed a day of rest. Not for just my body, but for my poor psyche, which has been dealing with the anxiety of deciding which way to go next. (My current location, Pampa, TX, is a pivotal point—should I want to pivot.)
I’ve thought long and hard about my options, and then finally turned to Jeff Rudisill. Jeff walked across the US several years ago and has become my mentor (if not my guru) on this journey.
He’s a Southerner, with an easy grace in his smiling voice. He puts me at ease in a moment, calms my fears, and assures me that all is well. After a few emails and texts, we spoke on the phone and discussed several options, some of which I’d considered but was now second-guessing. I felt much better after our talk, and plan to continue on Hwy 60 into Missouri.
See how easy that was?
Last night I ate a real piece of salmon on real angel hair pasta in a real Italian restaurant, Verona Italian Bistro, recommended by Mary, the manager here at the motel. I followed it up with real chocolate cheesecake. And enjoyed everything. Really!
OK folks, listen up. I can honestly say that the ice cream cone (mint chocolate chip, $1.61 incl. tax) from Braum’s that I ate this afternoon was the best I ever had in my life! It was rich, creamy, and I could actually taste spearmint. I’m going back tonight.
Finally, I want to publicly thank Roberta Brokaw, Professor Emeritus at California State University. Roberta taught flute there for many years, but also taught sight reading, and I was one of her many students. Roberta only demanded three things from her students: Show up on time; bring your book and a pencil; do your damned homework.
I did all three, and was thus able to not only get an A in her class, but was also capable of reading the notes displayed on an unusual sculpture in a nearby park in Pampa. (The name of the song is revealed in tomorrow’s post.) I did this while eating my wonderful ice cream cone, doubly enjoying the moment when I realized what the melody was!
Be forewarned: you cannot get fish tacos at the Taco Bell here, or a tuna sandwich or salad at two other local restaurants. I tried.
0 miles today. 83° at 5 pm.
@ Pampa, Texas
March 23, 2018
Day 77. After walking all day, I camped in a cattle field off a county road at 5 pm.
Leaving Pampa made me a bit sad. It’s a nice town, but like other places in the Southwest I’ve seen, the economy is a mixed bag . The Long John Silver’s is shuttered as are half the stores in the little mall that housed the popular Italian restaurant where I ate. Walking out of town this morning I passed many closed shops, garages, and restaurants. Long-abandoned homes and trailers were numerous as well.
I found a pistol on the side of the road and placed it on my cart to take a better photo of it. Then I wiped my prints off the gun and put it back on the roadside. You can never be too careful. (I was told later by a friend that it’s a pellet gun; but it’s a hefty one.)
I’m heading toward Springfield, Missouri, which is about 500 miles from here, and plan to stick as close to Hwy 60 as possible.
“This Land is your Land” is the song immortalized on the public sculpture in Pampa, and it’s the Woody Guthrie song brought to mind for many people. But my own favorite Guthrie song is, “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.”
The lyrics even mention Pampa, TX.
It was 30° two days ago. Now it’s 94°. Strong 20+ mph winds are buffeting my tent, and I’m waiting for the winds to die down a little so I can eat.
It may be windy and hot, but at least the internet is working—we must count our blessings.
17 miles today.
@ Miami, Texas
March 23, 2018
Day 77 UPDATE.
Shortly after I’d eaten and posted Day 77, a man about my age pulled his pickup truck over to where I was camped in the cattle pasture. He said, simply, “You shouldn’t be here.”
Well, I knew that, but I politely asked if it would be okay if I stayed overnight. “I’ll be out of here at 7 am.”
“No, you don’t understand. You shouldn’t be here!” He pointed behind him, and I looked off in that direction. It was then I saw the wildfires that appeared to be heading our way. The winds were high and gusting, and the distant clouds of smoke were thick.
David Locke, a fourth generation rancher, then offered to take me in his truck 7 miles up the road to the town of Miami where he felt I’d be safer. “There’s no motel, though,” he added. I already knew that.
Initially I declined his offer, but we traded cell numbers and he told me to call if I changed my mind. Twenty minutes later, after watching the clouds of dark gray smoke get closer, I changed my mind and called him. He returned 20 minutes later, by which time I’d packed up. We lifted my cart into his truck and drove to the town park in the middle of Miami. I’m set up there now next to a picnic table. He said he’d mention my situation to the sheriff, who’s also the fire chief.
There were a lot of little kids in shorts and T-shirts playing in the park. I gave one of my cards to a mom in the group, hoping to pre-empt a call to the police about a stranger in a tent in the middle of town. She did not seem suspicious, and I was pleasantly surprised. After all, it’s a small town with little kids riding around on their bikes. Maybe I don’t look much like Freddy Krueger after all.
David called back later to say he thinks I’ll be safe in the park. Another angel comes to my aid. Incredible.
@ Miami, TX
March 24, 2018
Day 78. At 10 pm last night, after a kid finally stopped dribbling his basketball at the court near my tent, it was quiet until 4:30 am when a dog in a nearby house started barking every 20-30 seconds. So although I’d dodged the threat of wildfires, I got little sleep. I packed up everything at 6 am and was walking on a dark Hwy 60 twenty minutes later.
At one point, while walking in the semi-darkness, I thought I heard horses hooves. Indeed, it was six horses galloping along behind the barbed wire beside me, then stopping, then running again as I progressed. It was quite thrilling to see and hear them.
Instead of two 15-mile days of walking, the ride I received from David allowed me to cut a full day of travel to Canadian, TX. All I had to do was walk 23 miles today. Which I did.
Once again, it was up and down hills until I reached that last rise and the plains stretched out before me in a quite magnificent view.
Around noon, I sensed movement near my leg. I looked down to see two friendly dogs walking quietly beside me on the road. In spite of my loudly telling them to “Go home!” they followed me for a mile, sometimes wandering onto the highway, where trucks periodically came whizzing by at 75 mph. Eventually they stopped following me.
I arrived at The Quiet Inn at 3:30, greeted by Lucero, a sweet young woman with whom I spoke yesterday. She helped me get a discount on a Pizza Hut delivery order, and we talked about travel.
Hwy 60 seems to be feast or famine when it comes to services, and it looks like I’m heading into a famine phase. I’ll stock up on water and food as I leave town tomorrow morning. I’ll soon be in Oklahoma.
@ Canadian, Texas
March 25, 2018
Day 79. “Hey, is that your dog?”
This question came from a man doing yard work with his wife in his front of his house as I walked through Glazier, Texas. I turned around and could swear it was one of the dogs that followed me yesterday.
“No, it isn’t.” The dog and I looked at each other. I sighed and continued down the road.
“Hey, is this your dog?” came the question from the other side of the street a couple of minutes later. A different guy was squatting in his yard, playing with the same dog.
“No, but it seems to be following me.”
He asked, “You want a Pepsi?”
“Sure!” I crossed the street and introduced myself to Steve. I played with the friendly dog for a few minutes until Steve returned with two cold Pepsis.
He said, “Well, she’s got a collar, but no tag. You sure you don’t want her? I already have eight dogs and I’m trying to get rid of some.” This sounded ominous.
Steve asked me to walk with him and the dog so he could put her in the pen with his other dogs. Meanwhile, I was going crazy, filtering the remainder of my walk in the company of a dog.
I know about cats and I know about scorpions; but I know absolutely nothing about dogs. My apartment building doesn’t even allow dogs this big. (And what about our cat, Graciela?) But every time I looked at the dog and she looked at me, I fell deeper into the dog-lover abyss.
“Maybe I should keep her,” I heard myself saying. I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my mouth.
Steve said that he was sure she’d follow me, and he went off to fetch me a leash and some dog food.
I kneeled down next to the dog and asked her if she really wanted to walk across the country with me. Meanwhile, I looked more closely at her collar and noticed that her name, Emmy, and a phone number were engraved on the buckle of her collar. I dialed the number, a woman answered, and I told her that I was in Glazier and had her dog. When Steve returned he arranged to take Emmy to a neighbor who is a friend of the dog’s owner. Wandering miles from home on Hwy 60 in Texas was obviously not a new experience for this beautiful little dog.
After an extended goodbye, Steve hugged me and gave me a blessing for my journey (in the name of Jesus), and I went on my way. Alone.
14 miles today.
@ Glazier, Texas
March 26, 2018
Day 80. “You’re not planning to stay there, are you!”
I’d just set up my tent next to a barbed wire fence off the highway on a road that seemed to lead to nowhere. It must have led to somewhere because here was this lady in her pickup truck who seemed to be upset I was planning to stay overnight.
I was surprised at her question, and responded, “Well, it’s a county road.”
This did not make her happy. “You just make sure you don’t go on the other side of that fence.”
I looked at the fence. “Ma’am, I have absolutely no intention of climbing over that barbed wire fence.” She drove off, and did not look happy.
An hour later, a man, obviously her husband, pulled up in his pickup.
“Where you headed?” He was friendly, and we chatted for a while. I gave him a card, and he said, “My wife was ready to call the Sheriff, but I told her to hold off till I talked to you.”
Bill Hext is a local rancher whose home is just off the county road where I was camped. He drove off, but returned a little while later, bringing me some grapes and carrot cake. I truly dislike carrot cake, but I accepted his gifts graciously.
“How’d you like to go with me on my rounds in morning? I’ll take you to breakfast.”
No way I could refuse his offer. I didn’t even have to think about it. When else would I ever have the chance to do something like this again? Never.
“Sure! What time?”
He picked me up at 6 am just as I’d finished packing up my gear (in the dark). We drove in his truck to a rustic restaurant in Higgins where he treated me to French toast and eggs as we spoke to Susie, Lennie, and other locals about the weather and truck repairs. Then we were on our way.
Bill has several tracts of acreage in Texas and Oklahoma where he raises mostly cattle, but horses too. He’s a few years younger than I, and has been doing this his whole life. He also used to produce rodeos in the past, and his granddaughter was a prizewinning cowgirl in middle school. The whole family is active in running the operation.
While we drove, Bill asked me three times to tell him what I thought of Donald Trump, and I refused each time. I explained that I’ll talk to him about anything except politics. Finally, he gave up, and he answered all of my questions about the ranching business, the ups and downs of the industry, and the role that oil has played in the lives of many landowners.
After entering each of his properties, he’d push a button on his dashboard activating a siren, and the animals would come out of nowhere to feed from the animal feed he removed from his truck. We fed and counted his several small herds in both Texas and Oklahoma, and later located a missing cow who didn’t show up for feeding time—turns out she’d just given birth to a calf, who was with her on a nearby hill.
After feeding the cattle, we visited and fed his beautiful horses, who surrounded the truck. I felt I was in the middle of a cowboy movie.
Finally, Bill drove me to a nearby feedlot, where many thousands of head of cattle are “finished and prepared” for market. It was quite a sight. And smell, too!
At 10 am, we were back home. I grabbed my cart, we said our goodbyes. I thanked Bill for everything. To me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For him? He does this every day.
I walked 14 miles to the next town, Higgins, where I’m now camped with the rain fly on the tent. It’s drizzled on and off all day, and is picking up as I write this. The ranchers and farmers have been waiting for this rain—they badly need it.
I’ve now walked the same number of days (40) as I did during the first phase of my journey in 2017.
@ Higgins, Texas
March 27, 2018
Day 81. March only has five more days to go out like a lamb. It’s not doing a very good job complying.
Last night I camped behind a collapsed wooden structure in a small field across Hwy 60 from Perk’s Convenience Store and the Church of the Nazarene. When I went into Perk’s earlier in the afternoon, I saw they had two prepackaged tuna sandwiches in the cooler. I bought one yesterday and the other (for the road, after eating breakfast there) this morning.
During the first few hours of walking today it was cold, overcast, wet, and windy. For the remainder of the 14 miles I did today it was sunny, cold, overcast, and windy.
Covering my upper body were four layers: long sleeved white Hanes undershirt; blue REI silk long sleeved undershirt; black Paradox merino wool shirt; and a blue hooded Marmot rain jacket. I’m also wearing Marmot rain pants over my versatile Columbia cargo pants. I’ve got a Minus 33 merino blend cap on, and Merrell waterproof shoes over my Darn Tough wool-blend socks.
The problem is my Eddie Bauer “Thinsulate” gloves. I should have brought the heavyweight mittens I used (one time only) for snowshoeing. But I keep telling myself that eventually March MUST go out like a lamb!
I entered Oklahoma this morning, and the first difference I saw was a significant narrowing of the shoulder. (Sigh.) This just means more vigilance is needed on my part (as well as by the truckers and motorists). Also, the railroad and Hwy 60 seem to have finally parted ways near the Texas border. Fine with me!
There was a choice of one motel in Arnett, OK, and I’m in it. The room is warm and dry. Period. My gear is drying out.
@ Arnett, Oklahoma
March 28, 2018
Day 82. If I had any doubt that God is still enjoying my journey, that was put to rest this morning.
As you might recall, a tackle box filled with lures showed up 2 days ago. This morning, 28 miles later, a fishing rod appeared on the side of the road.
As cold, wet, and miserable as yesterday was, today was a sunny, dry, moderate day, perfect for walking. I continue to walk by large fields and ranches filled with cattle and horses.
I was headed to Turkey Creek Lodging, which is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It showed up as a lodging icon on Google Maps, along with a website featuring a beautiful brick home and a glowing 5-star review.
I called the number advertised, and the woman who answered was surprised to get the call. She also sounded overly cautious, informing me that if I wasn’t legit she was armed. This wasn’t the reaction I’ve come to expect, but reassured her that she needn’t worry about me. She explained that she was “in the middle of renovating” the property, and that the web photo was just a “placeholder.” All of this didn’t bother me, and I told her I’d get there between 2 and 3 pm, adding that I didn’t eat meat.
Before we hung up, she asked, “Do you believe in God?” This was getting interesting. I decided to play it out, and replied, “Yes, but I’m not a Christian.”
“How could that be?” she asked. “I’m Jewish,” I answered.
“Well, Jesus was a Jew,” she said.
“Yes. And Jesus worshipped the same God I do.” With that we ended our phone conversation.
When I arrived at 3 pm, no one was home except a horse and two dogs. The house and yard looked like a junk yard. I waited a while, and tried to call a few times, after which I decided she wasn’t up to dealing with me. I may have fallen for her sham Bed ad Breakfast, but it didn’t cost me anything. I left.
A mile up the road I came upon a perfect place to set up my tent. Although the sky is currently cloudless, my weather app predicts showers early tomorrow morning.
17 miles today.
@ Harmon, Oklahoma
March 29, 2018
Day 83. For once the weather app was correct. The sky delivered lightning and thunder, with just a few seconds between the two.
This all began in the early hours of the morning. The last time I could recall being in a tent during a thunderstorm was when I was 14. Those were my Boy Scout days, when the canvas tents had no floor. We were warned repeatedly not to touch the sides of the tent during a rainstorm, but we did anyway, causing water to leak in and join what was coming in from all sides, in spite of the trenches we had dug around the perimeter. The water just flowed in, soaking our sleeping bags and us.
While some water did seep in to my own tent last night, and a few things did get wet, I myself stayed dry, lying atop my inflated Thermarest mattress. That mattress cost as much as my sleeping bag. Hell, I could float down a river on that mattress!
In the end, it was no fun getting up this morning, packing up the wet rain fly and tent, and getting on the road.
In spite of yesterday’s fiasco at Turkey Creek, I decided to try a guest house again. The Morford House, a Bed & Breakfast in Vici, was just a 10 mile walk from where I was camped.
A few miles from Vici (pronounced “Vigh-sigh” by the locals), Hwy 60 failed me completely. The road seemed paved by amateurs, with no shoulder at all and an extremely rough surface.
While walking, I called the Morford. The owner, Nancy, agreed to meet me at the property. “There’s no breakfast,” she said, “but you’ll have kitchen privileges. And we only accept cash.”
The Morford is a lovely old home, with polished wood floors and a remodeled kitchen and bathrooms. I’m up a flight of narrow stairs in a tiny bedroom with one twin bed (hey, it’s at least twice as wide as my sleeping bag).
It’s what I wanted and needed. I spent the afternoon drying out my gear on the porch in the intermittent sun.
I’ve got a long 21 mile walk ahead of me tomorrow. The weather app predicts “mostly sunny” with temperatures in the 40°s to 60°s. Sounds good!
@ Vici, Oklahoma
March 30, 2018
Day 84. When I left Vici this morning at 8:30 am, a dense fog enveloped the area. I proceeded with extreme caution.
Drivers were moving slowly and their lights were on. The first hour was tedious—I moved off the narrow shoulder and onto the grass whenever an oncoming vehicle approached. I guess I’m taking the “Be Safe” advice seriously.
The sun finally broke through, burning off the haze, making my job only half as difficult. The shoulder rarely got wider. I was on constant alert during my 21 mile, 9 hour walk to Seiling.
During my walk, a sweet woman named Geneva stopped and got out of her car to chat. When I told her about my walk she offered me some cash. I thanked her and gave her my card. She looked at it and said, “My daughter uses Facebook and all that stuff.”
When I arrived at the Seiling Motel they were expecting me—I’d mentioned my walk when I’d made my reservation. To my pleasant surprise Sheryl and Vance, the managers, comped my room for the night! It’s a clean and efficient space in a well-run local motel. When you’re in Seiling, I recommend that you stop by!
Tonight is Erev Pesach, the first night of Passover. I won’t be attending a Seder, and in respect for the holiday I ate dinner before sundown at the Subway conveniently located across the street.
While some may laugh (or even scoff) when I tell them I like eating at Subway, I reply that I can get spinach, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and jalapeños or other peppers on a tuna sub, often for less than $5. This is a perfect meal for a vegetable-deprived person such as myself. (Although it may seem there’s a Subway in every town I visit, I only wish that were true! When one does not eat meat and is traveling through the beef capital of the world, Subway is a happy sight.)
(Sharon’s “care package” containing matzoh won’t arrive for a couple of days. In the meantime I’ll be observing Passover mostly by “wandering.”)
Artist of the Day: Dave McKenna (1930-2008) was well-known for his solo work and “three-handed” swing style: a walking bassline, mid-range chords, and an improvised melody. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_McKenna Here’s Dave’s version of ’S Wonderful by the Gershwins:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIjtg0yYtJY Dave McKenna was simply incredible!
@ Seiling, Oklahoma
(Cannot find the Day 85 post on Facebook!)
March 31, 2018
Day 85. From my motel room in Sailing to the town of Chester was less than 5 miles, but along the way I encountered major construction, an incredibly wide oversized truck convoy transporting I have no idea what, and a carload full of used rebar.
When walking through road construction sites I’ve learned to “walk where they ain’t”—either down the center of the median, or in this case on the dirt side road used for the construction vehicles. No one was working today, so it was relatively easy.
Along the way I encountered Jean with her child walking from a community Easter egg hunt, and heard a snatch of a country version of Beer Barrel Polka. Inspired by the polka music, I went to YouTube and searched for “Big Lou, The Accordion Princess, Polka Casserole.” (Years ago, my wife Sharon worked part-time as a media escort for Big Lou’s husband, driving visiting authors to and from bookstores and radio stations. The last time I danced the polka was when we went to hear the band perform live.) Big Lou is, I believe, a meteorologist, an entertaining singer, and a helluva accordion player. She’s also lots of fun! Here’s a favorite of mine:
Other than cans, bottles, miscellaneous trash, and plastic bags filled with cans, bottles, and miscellaneous trash, the items I see most often on the side of the road are work gloves. After taking that photo I continued to see gloves all day.
Later in the day, the sheriff pulled over in his official pickup, asked where I was headed, and offered me a ride. I declined and gave him a card. “If you need help,” he told me, “just call the sheriff’s office.” I’m camped on the side of a county road that runs perpendicular to Hwy 60. I hear cows, but no freight trains. 19 miles today. 50% chance of rain tomorrow.
@ Camped off Hwy 60, Oklahoma
April 1, 2018
Day 86. It did not rain today, but it was cold! So cold that I put on my rain gear just to cut the moderate but frigid wind. Sadly, once again my gloves did not do the job.
It was gray, overcast, and just plain gloomy. Every time I took my gloves off to take a photo or check something on my phone, my fingers just “turned to ice.”
I listened to two interesting episodes of The Public. One was an interview of Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life.” During the interview, Glass referred to himself as “old” several times. His age is now 59, which makes the “old” reference laughable. His life story and how he came to be creator and host of his show is fascinating. Here’s Part 1 of the 2-part interview:
I could relate to many things he said, including not wanting to be bored in his job. I also admire his willingness to seek out and try to understand people with different backgrounds, religious beliefs, and political views—something I’m challenged to do each day of my journey.
Today a very nice woman named Rose stopped her pickup truck. “Do you need a ride?” I crossed the 2-lane blacktop and gave her a card. We chatted for a minute about my walk. When I took my glove off to shake her hand, she remarked at how cold my hand was. Later, after starting to drive away, she stopped and walked across the road toward me. “Here, at least let me buy you lunch!” I accepted the cash she handed me and thanked her.
I’d started walking at 7:30 am and arrived at the Best Western at 12:30. Daisy greeted me, checked me in, and handed me three packages. Sharon had sent two, which contained shoes, a shirt, matzoh, and (thankfully) ski gloves. The third contained spare ear buds I’d ordered from Amazon.
When I got to my room, Sabrina, a housekeeper working across the hall, welcomed me. It was nice to meet such pleasant people today.
It will be a challenge trying to observe Passover as I normally would, but I’ll do the best I can. (Triscuits, which were not available to the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness but are readily available to the Children of Oklahoma, do not contain leaven; just whole grain wheat, canola oil, and sea salt.)
First thing after putting my stuff in my room was to go back down to the Jacuzzi, where I sat for a long time, trying to forget the cold. It helped. A lot.
@ Fairview, Oklahoma
April 2, 2018
Day 87. I waited until after 9 am to leave the motel, knowing “it was supposed to warm up” a little, or at least get out of the 30° range. My Gordini gloves are working much better than what I was using previously.
But what’s really helped the most is the quality of the road, which is much improved. As bad as Hwy 60 was from Seiling to Fairview (and it was terrible), that’s how good it was today. I had a wide shoulder all the way past Ringwood, OK. And then “poof!” It disappeared. These instant changes are disappointing, but no longer surprising.
I walked 21 miles today, but still have 17 to complete tomorrow as I walk to Enid. Sadly, that will again be on a tiny shoulder.
Oklahoma! Why are you doing this to me?
After three hours of walking this morning, I pushed my cart off the road and onto a driveway to eat my lunch. A lawn sign displayed on the property advertised “Martha Brown, Tax Services.”
A minute later, a woman drove down the driveway, stopped, and rolled down her window. She suggested, “If you’d like to get out of the wind, you can go sit in my husband’s truck over there.”
I asked if she was Martha, which she indeed was. “I think I’ll take you up on that!” I moved my cart onto her long semicircular driveway and got into the old Chevy truck, where I ate in comfort.
Twenty minutes later, Martha returned with her husband, Percy, and invited me into her home office (where I met their Schnauzer, Sassy). Martha does tax returns during the tax season, and Percy has been a tractor mechanic for many years. I looked through a photo album of some of the classic tractors he’s professionally restored. An extensive collection of model cars is displayed around the office. It was a pleasant way to spend some time before resuming my walk.
(What I didn’t know at the time was that Martha is what is often referred to as an “opinion leader,” basically someone who is active in a community, a city, or town. She’s someone who knows many people and gets asked for advice a lot. Once Martha was my Facebook friend, a lot of her family members, friends, and friends-of-friends began following my journey. And I was happy to welcome them all!)
At 3:30, the sun finally came out. I walked until almost 7 pm and then again set up my tent on a county road next to the ever-present barbed wire as the sun began to set and the temperature started to drop.
If the road all the way to the Atlantic Ocean was as good as it was today… Forget it; why depress myself?
@ Ringwood, Oklahoma
April 3, 2018
Day 88. The wind, blowing 30 to 40 mph (with gusts even higher) was pushing me forward and to the right. It couldn’t decide whether to drive me off the road or just blow me down.
I was out of my tent and on the road at 7:15 am, looking forward to getting to my motel early. I’d looked at the map app carefully and noticed that although the shoulder was minimal or missing facing traffic, there was a wide shoulder on the other side of the highway. So that’s where I walked, with traffic, which although not usually advisable, was better because of the wider shoulder. Twice the cart almost blew over. Good thing I was hanging on.
The sun had quickly disappeared behind the cloud cover, and the sky was dark gray. I heard a horn toot, and a woman waved as she drove by and pulled over in front of me.
It was Jana Brown, daughter of Martha and Percy whom I’d met yesterday. (Jana had earlier sent me a message that she’d look for me on her way to work.) After I climbed into her car, warmed up, and got comfortable, she explained that she teaches history at the Enid branch of Northwestern Oklahoma State University and is currently working on her doctorate at OSU. She’s quite knowledgeable about local history and told me several fascinating stories in our short time together.
After she departed, I kept walking and the wind kept blowing. It was hard going. After struggling another 10 miles, a man in a pickup asked if he could give me a ride, and I took it! I just couldn’t keep fighting the wind. Robert (in his mid-eighties) and I lifted my cart into his truck and he drove me 7 miles to the motel, where got an early check-in from Claudia at the front desk. She was cheerful and happy to help. The lobby TV was talking about the wind, and on my way inside I noticed that the motel’s flagpole had blown over.
After eating some yogurt, oatmeal, and fruit in my room, I took a short nap and felt much better.
On top of the WIND ADVISORY for today (gusts of 40 to 57 mph), there is a FREEZE WARNING (temperatures in the 20°s) that starts at midnight and lasts until 10 am tomorrow. Maybe I should just stay here for a couple of weeks.
@ Enid, Oklahoma
April 4, 2018
Day 89. What a beautiful day to walk!
Given the difficulties I encountered yesterday, I was seriously thinking about taking a “day of rest” today, and just hang out in my motel room. But when I learned that the sun would be shining all day and the wind would remain under 10 mph, I prepared myself mentally for what would be a long walk. I wanted to get to the small motel located in the town of Pond City.
And that’s where I am now, surrounded by the wood paneling one only sees in these vintage, small-town motels. But it’s clean, the bathroom fixtures, microwave, and refrigerator are up-to-date, and the Wi-Fi is better than most chain motels I’ve stayed in recently. So, I’d have to say that the 25 miles I walked today were worth it.
Leaving Enid, I went through some pretty neighborhoods. Some of the streets were even designated as bike routes.
After several miles I encountered a McDonalds and ordered a second breakfast (“Egg McMuffin, hold the meat”). On my way out I chatted with a bunch of locals (“seniors” like myself) and told them about my Dad and my journey. One of the guys, wearing a Korean War Veteran cap, asked how old I am. He laughed when I told him, and said, “Only 71? Ha!”
When I finally got to Hwy 60 (going north), I walked on the parallel service road for 5 miles. The rest of way featured a wide shoulder. While it was occasionally crumbly or bumpy, I’ll take a 6 foot-wide, less-than-perfect shoulder over a new, 4 inch-wide shoulder every time!
Nothing much happened today; I just walked and walked.
The Podcast of the Day (on Radio Lab): The story of the first female gondolier in Venice. But that’s not what it’s really about at all. It’s a fascinating story:
Although tomorrow is supposed to be a nice day, rain is predicted for Friday. And lows of 21° are expected for the following day. I have some logistical decisions to make. If I don’t make them, they’ll be made for me.
@ Pond Creek, Oklahoma
April 5, 2018
Day 90. I was carrying a lot of stress today knowing that tomorrow would bring an extreme temperature drop into the 20°s, with rain, thunderstorms, and sleet expected.
So even after a 25 mile day yesterday, I walked hard knowing that the more distance I covered today, the less I’d have to walk tomorrow in the miserable conditions predicted.
I’d already walked 23 miles toward Ponca City when Eric pulled up, asked if I was okay, and did I need a lift. Unfortunately he was headed in the opposite direction!
I told him I’d love to take him up on the offer, but was headed toward Ponca City. He replied that he too would be going in that direction, right after he picked up his kids. Sounded good to me!
I gave him my cell number and he called back shortly, telling me he was on his way. When he arrived, we lifted my cart into the bed of his truck, and as we did so we bonded on the fact that we both do pull-ups! He’s a firefighter & ambulance tech).
I got in the front and was introduced to 3 of his 4 children, Thaddeus, Declan, & Bella sitting in the back. (Bella would soon be playing second base for her softball team, the Firecrackers).
Arriving at the YMCA ball field, Eric handed me a gift—a jar of homemade Peach jam from his wife, Angela. After saying goodbye I started walking toward my motel, 1.3 miles away. On my way there, Angela drove by, saw me walking, and she and daughter Abigail came over to chat for a while. What a beautiful and generous family.
I’d made a reservation for two nights at the Knights Inn. What a dump! I don’t ordinarily ask to “see the room,” but after walking into “the lobby,” I did this time. The room looked and smelled worse than I could have imagined.
I left and walked yet another mile to America’s Best Value Inn, where, for the same price, I now have a really nice room in which to spend the next two nights as I wait out the storm. I look forward to a Day of Rest.
(I’ve been assured by several Oklahomans that the weather will improve real soon!)
@ Ponca City, Oklahoma
April 6, 2018
Day 91. It is noon, and I’m sittin’ and waitin’ for the predicted rain, sleet, and (maybe tomorrow) snow. Nothin’ yet, just gray clouds and 25 mph winds. Looking at my app, it predicts rain (51%) from 1 until 4 pm. (I keep thinking of Bill Murray’s weatherman character in Ground Hog Day.)
I just walked across the street to Dominos and picked up a nice Mediterranean sandwich and green salad. Now I’m looking at my proposed route east on Google maps. While it’s difficult for me to be sitting here going nowhere, my body (if not my brain) does need and deserve a rest. Everyone worrying about me would surely agree.
Staying in a motel is a mixed blessing. The people next door were playing bass-heavy music until midnight; I had to call the front desk twice. At 2:45 am they were still “active.” By 10 am, they were gone. Being in my tent is often a welcome relief to real life.
Part of my day was filled trying to make sure I was not charged for the motel I didn’t stay in last night. I called Wyndham Hotel Group and finally reached a person who processed my concern and gave me a record number. Also, the charge has not shown up on my credit card bill. Yet. I’ll keep an eye on it.
(Later) It’s 8 pm, and we’ve had some light rain, a drop in temperature, gustier wind, and what the weather app is referring to as a “Wintry Mix.” Sounds like an anti-tropical drink, but is actually a mixture of precipitation.
A “Freeze Warning” is on until 10 am Saturday morning, and they’re still predicting a 50% chance of sleet and snow at 6-8 am. I’m sure it will be cold and windy. Not the greatest weather for walking. Or camping.
But…do I really want to hang out in this motel room for yet another day?
As I post this, I’m preparing for a barrage of recommendations urging me to stay where I am.
@ Ponca City, Oklahoma
April 7, 2018
Day 92. Tonight I was in a race with the setting sun. The sun won.
The appropriate places to set up my tent came too early, and then I had to walk in the last rays of the sun, finishing up the day’s walk in the dark.
It was not a difficult walk today; it was just a LONG walk, over 11 hours on the road.
I’m now in my tent, on a county road off Hwy 60, close to wind turbines and oil rigs. A few trucks pass by, but no one pays me any attention.
The promised/threatened snow finally did arrive early this morning, leaving its evidence on the windows of vehicles parked in the motel lot. I decided that in spite of the low temperatures, I didn’t want to spend another night in Ponca City. So I bundled up and headed out after breakfast.
Another dog followed me for several miles today, but I finally managed to chase him off.
Tomorrow I should be in Pawhuska, OK. 27 miles today.
@ Shidler, Oklahoma
April 8, 2018
Day 93. This morning I encountered hail the size of baseballs! Well, more the size of couscous. Small couscous. Still hail, though. (And it was cold, with a headwind, which was not fun.)
My tent site last night was not ideal, but it was better than the side of the highway.
This continues to be the problem with walking across the U.S. Motels just aren’t conveniently spaced at 10, 15, or even 20-mile intervals, which might make it a reasonably do-able journey. This country is built for driving, not walking.
Pawhuska is typical of many towns I’ve passed through—ranching, farming, railroad. The Osage tribal government has been based here since 1872. The first (or one of the first) Boy Scout troops was organized here in 1909.
Although I was not familiar with actor and native son Ben Johnson by name, I certainly saw many movies in which he was featured, from “Shane” to “The Last Picture Show” (Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).
Artist of the Day: Since I’m in Oklahoma, I’ve chosen Oklahoma-born jazz guitarist Barney Kessel, an early jazz hero of mine. When I was a 12 year-old aspiring guitarist, I nearly wore out the grooves on a couple of his LPs. In 1944, Kessel was the only white musician featured in the acclaimed short jazz film, “Jammin’ the Blues” (all that was clearly visible of him were his hands, which were dyed black). Kessel had a long career as a touring artist and studio musician—he was an early member of the famed “Wrecking Crew.”
I finally got to meet him in person at the King of France Tavern, a jazz club in Annapolis, MD. At my insistent urging, he invited me to sit with him at the bar while he ate (steak and white wine, I recall). For five minutes we talked about music. Then, for another 15 minutes, we talked about our recent divorces. (He’d had more than I.)
Here’s a short film feature: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oAVLTIHscY
I walked 15.5 miles today. Against the wind. In the cold. Plus there was the couscous-sized hail.
@ Pawhuska, Oklahoma
April 9, 2018
Day 94. Well, this will teach me to trust the AccuWeather app.
I’m sitting in the sunshine at 2 pm, taking a break, and I see a few small drops of water on my phone. And my jacket sleeve. And my pants. I look up. The sun is shining. I check the app: 0% chance of precipitation all day. Sounds good to me; a few little drops, it’ll pass. An anomaly.
I’d already started to think about quitting for the day. I was just too tired to do another long-distance day. So I resumed walking while looking for an appropriate spot to camp. I put on my rain jacket as the anomalous drops increased in number and density. The sun disappeared behind clouds.
I spied a mound of broken up concrete and rebar off to the side of Hwy 60 and headed across a grass field toward it.
And that’s when the downpour began!
So now I can say I’ve set my tent up in the dark and in the rain.
I did the best I could to avoid the problem of water getting into the tent by using tent pegs and stretching out the rain fly (I’d already checked this out on YouTube). But I can see it’s not a perfect setup. Maybe I need to do some more research. Meanwhile, my clothes, the sleeping bag, and I are all dry and elevated on the inflated air mattress. My food is in a plastic bin, and I have all other supplies in the cart.
I listened to two interesting podcasts today. The first was a Terry Gross interview with David Grann, the author of “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” a book about the conspiracy and murders of members of the Osage Nation:
The second was a talk by the author of “The Everything Store” about Jeff Bezos and Amazon.
At the moment, in spite of the rain there’s no wind. It’s nice to be lying down and taking a restful afternoon off. It’s about as romantic as being alone in a tent in the Oklahoma rain can be.
14 miles today. I’ll be in a motel tomorrow night.
@ Highway 60, Oklahoma
April 10, 2018
Day 95. My campsite (behind the broken concrete and rebar) was a wonderful place to be last night—restful and generally quiet.
The rain eventually stopped, but it remained cold during the night. This morning, the sun was shining.
I got back on the highway after eating a protein bar, and poof! The shoulder ended.
So I dodged traffic from 7:50 to 10:20, walking on and off the shoulder-less road (on, off; on off), waiting for cars and trucks to safely pass me before continuing. I am not a litigiously-minded person, but after walking for hours on a highway that has a 1-inch wide shoulder, the thought of suing the state did come to mind. It’s not just the safety of the rare pedestrian; what about drivers who need to pull off the highway because of an emergency? There’s just nowhere to go. (It’s times like this that make me think about what it would be like to be walking without a cart, just carrying a backpack.)
A tech student named Orion stopped to say hi and let me know he’d seen me several times. Another friendly person I’ve met along the journey.
Today I listened to a great Fresh Air podcast: How Rodgers & Hammerstein Revolutionized Broadway, an interview with Todd Purdum, author of “Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution.” It featured some classic R&H songs.
Bartlesville, OK, a city of 36,595, is notable as the longtime home of Phillips Petroleum Company. Frank Phillips founded Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville in 1905. The company merged with Conoco, but later split into Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips. I enjoyed walking through portions of downtown on sidewalks.
Then the sidewalks disappeared and it was the same old problem—nowhere to walk safely.
I planned to eat at IHOP, but the background music was so obnoxious and irritating that after sitting at a table with my menu for a few minutes I got up and told the hostess that I wanted my lunch to go. I brought it back to the quiet of my Days Inn motel room and ate in peace.
For some reason this motel features free laundry machines!
@ Bartlesville, Oklahoma
April 11, 2018
Day 96. As I left the motel this morning, I was not optimistic. I expected the same troublesome, nerve-wracking, road I encountered yesterday. Sadly, this was the case.
I spied a kid on a bike wandering between store and church parking lots and occasional sidewalks, so I did the same for a couple of miles. Then even these pathways disappeared.
For 9 miles I maneuvered my cart back and forth between the road and the grass, constantly looking for oncoming vehicles. I can tell you that this process is quite stressful and exhausting.
Then I crossed into Nowata County and a beautiful new road with wide shoulders appeared before me! Like most humans, I convince myself that such things will last “forever.”
Forever ended about seven miles later, and I was back to the “nothing shoulder” with even more truck traffic coming my way. I did the best I could on the 2-inch shoulder, skirting the white line, when I saw flashing lights ahead.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol officer was polite, friendly, concerned, and inquisitive. He expressed regret that the shoulder was not adequate, blah, blah. Then he pretty much ordered me to only walk on the grass, not the road.
I assured him I would comply one hundred percent, and headed off onto the weed and trash-strewn grass along the side of the highway. For about three minutes.
There’s no way anyone could manage to push a cart any distance through the grass all weeds and up and down the embankments, all the while avoiding the drainage ditches and other obstacles. I got back on the highway and didn’t care whether the Oklahoma Highway Patrol came back or not.
I slowly labored on as I’d done before, knowing I needed help getting away from this stretch of highway. Google Maps indicated much better roads going east from Vinita, the next town on the map. Otherwise, it would be 28 miles walking on Hwy 60 with no shoulder to walk on.
When I arrived in Nowata (population 3,731) and checked in at the Rudd Motel, I spoke with Daniel, the manager about my dilemma. (It turned out he’s also a musician; thank you, God.)
“Do you know someone with a truck or SUV who could drive me to Vinita tomorrow?” To my relief, Daniel agreed to drive me out of town in the morning.
You can consider this ride a direct safety-related order from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. I do.
18 miles today.
@ Nowata, Oklahoma
April 12, 2018
Day 97. At 5 am I was awake, eating a breakfast of blueberry yogurt, oats, and a banana as I read a message from Jana. It included a scary weather prediction of possible tornadoes. Tomorrow.
Well, now I have a choice of a possible demise in a tornado, or dying of boredom holed up in a motel room.
As promised, Daniel was ready to leave at 8:30 am. We loaded the cart into his SUV and he drove the 29 miles to Big Cabin, OK. He talked about growing up in Nowata and his years touring and gigging on guitar and bass, performing rock, country, and the Red Dirt music popular in Oklahoma. I’d never heard of Red Dirt.
I carefully observed the highway shoulder as it went from 6 or 8 feet wide to 6 or 8 centimeters wide. So as a result of the predicted rain, hail, tornadoes, frogs, and locusts, (since I’m a first-born son, I should include that in the list as well), I’m taking no chances, and plan to hole up here at the Super 8 for 2 nights. After walking and fighting the wind yesterday, I need to give both my legs and my arms a break. So, two nights it is.
The motel manager checked me in at 9:30 am (thank you, Ma’am). A few hours later, I fought the wind and walked across the highway (nearby is the toll both entrance for the Will Rogers Turnpike) to the Subway at the big truck stop. I ordered a tuna “wrap” instead of a sandwich; it was just fine. The root beer and chips were good too.
Boy, has my day been exciting.
@ Big Cabin, Oklahoma
April 13, 2018
Day 98. Forced rest has its place, I suppose.
I ate breakfast (yogurt, Raisin Bran, oats, banana, extra raisins, orange juice, and vitamin pill), and then emptied my cart and rearranged everything. I refolded all of my clothes.
The camp stool I’d ordered to replace the one I’d accidentally left in Nowata arrived via UPS from Amazon (1-day shipping). I walked across the highway again and got a 6” tuna sub to go; because tuna is the Friday sub-of-the-day (for some traditional Catholic reason), it was discounted. Dr Pepper. Lays Classic potato chips.
I spent a couple of hours on Google Maps deciding where to head next. After examining the roads-to-come, the decision is NORTH. This is based on the shoulders of highways and nothing else.
There’s been a tornado watch in effect for a number of Oklahoma counties, and Craig County (which includes Big Cabin) is one of those counties. The predicted thunderstorms have not yet happened, although there was a brief shower this morning. Accuweather indicates that winds have been over 20 mph all day, with temperatures in the 70°s, but I can’t confirm any of this. It’s not cold out, but 70°? No way. Somewhere in Oklahoma there’s thunder and lightning, but not here.
There’s a brick building across the parking lot, and I was wondering what it was. When I walked outside to take a photo of the three stacked trucks in the parking lot, I saw that it’s the pool and spa. So I think I’ll go soak in the Jacuzzi for a while. Then, when I’m walking back to my room, maybe a thunderstorm will start.
(Later) The spa was just fine.
No storm (thunder or otherwise). However, the evening sky was a particular shade of yellow that I cannot recall ever having seen before.
@ Big Cabin, Oklahoma
April 14, 2018
Day 99. I wore 5 layers of clothing as I walked in the cold, windy, overcast, gray day. Fortunately, the 16 to 20 mph tailwind pushed me along a generally good shoulder from Big Cabin to Afton, Oklahoma. Only after Afton did the road completely degenerate, but that was just the last several miles.
In all, I walked 27 miles today and barely took a break—it was just too cold to sit down, and after Vinita, where I bought two egg and cheese on a muffin sandwiches at the Shout & Sack Convenience Store and Deli, there was nowhere to stop. So I kept walking.
I met the usual cattle and horses along the way, all of whom seemed happy to see me. Occasionally dogs barked and sometimes followed, but I ignored them.
Afton is a town of just over 1,000 in Ottawa County, which is tucked into the extreme upper right corner of Oklahoma.
As I walked through a downtown that during its Route 66 days was probably humming with hotels, businesses, cars, and people, I mostly saw empty shells and boarded-up buildings. The only motel in town still open is the one I’m in, the Route 66 Motel of Afton.
While walking across the Horse Creek bridge, I felt for a moment like I was in Mayberry. Here’s the Afton Public School Bulletin:
This was the first time I didn’t have a motel reservation; I’d tried to call ahead, but no one picked up the phone. When I checked in, I got the impression I was the only guest. The room is tired, but it’s clean, the water is hot and plentiful, and there’s a microwave and fridge. It was inexpensive and serves the needs of someone who just walked 27 miles. (The room’s theme is “Jungle.” Why, I don’t know. There are illustrations of zebras and leopards, etc., on the walls.)
Yet another Freeze Warning for tonight and tomorrow morning. Hopefully it won’t be as windy.
@ Afton, Oklahoma
April 15, 2018
Day 100. I’m glad this Days Inn has a Jacuzzi; I was sitting in it 5 minutes after I checked in.
Oklahoma must have known that I was still in town. There was a Freeze Warning to start off my day, and yet ANOTHER Freeze Warning is in effect for tonight through tomorrow morning. Temperatures are predicted to go down into the 20°s. I plan to not leave the Days Inn until the temp gets up at least into the 30°s!
This morning when I started out, however, the wind was wicked, and the cold never let up.
Today’s route played some tricks on me (e.g. no shoulder), but it was only for about 5 miles, and no law enforcement happened my way. I did come across a beautiful snake, though.
The city of Miami (pop. 13,570) has an interesting if not unusual history, judging by this: “…(Miami) was settled in a business-like way by men of vision who looked into the future and saw possibilities. It didn’t just grow. It was carefully planned.”
I’ve have altered my planned route, and will be heading north into Kansas before heading east into Missouri, eventually getting on Hwy 50. My preliminary research indicates this should be a better walking route. We shall see.
17 miles today.
@ Miami, Oklahoma
April 16, 2018
Day 101. I’m in Mickey Mantle country.
Mickey grew up in Commerce, KS (I passed through it today), and began his pro baseball career playing with the Whiz Kids team of Baxter Springs, KS (where I am staying tonight). Other than having his baseball card when I was a kid (wish I still had it), this is as close to the great Mickey Mantle as I’ll ever be. (We were not Yankees fans in my house.)
I walked 18 miles today from Miami to Baxter Springs (pop. 4,238), and am staying at a lovely B&B Guest House called the Rose Cottage, well maintained and filled with antiques, interesting period items, and Route 66 memorabilia. I chatted with the owner, Jane, for over an hour after arriving. She is friendly and hospitable, and I enjoyed talking to her about her time here and in Wichita, and her married daughter who lives in Brooklyn, NY (my birthplace; now you know why we did not follow the Yankees).
It is really cold out this morning, but thankfully not windy. I took neighborhood roads out of Miami. On the way I stopped at the post office and mailed home some stuff I don’t need. This freed up space in my cart.
For the next hour or two I shed layers of clothing as I walked on Hwy 69 ALT. The shoulder was wide, the sun was shining, the wind was calm, and that’s pretty much all I ask for these days.
On my way to Baxter Springs, I passed through Quapaw, OK, where I got a friendly nod from the sheriff driving by. I stopped at a clean picnic area and rested for a while.
If anyone is following my route on a map, I’m now headed north towards the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate in Overland Park, KS (Sorry, Jack, but I don’t have time to play). At that point, I head east toward Hwy 50.
Looking at the map, it appears I’m almost at the very center of the US! Turns out I’m close, but the true geographical location belongs to Lebanon, KS, about 370 miles northwest of where I am.
@ Baxter Springs, Kansas
April 17, 2018
Day 102. The morning was beautiful as I left the Rose Cottage and headed north.
It soon got warmer and an hour later I was down to my long sleeved T-shirt and Tilley hat when Tom, a guy about my age, pulled up in a pickup.
“My grandson lost his cell phone along here last night. Have you seen it?” I hadn’t, but took his cell number and told him I’d keep an eye out for it. Ten minutes later I called him.
“I’ve got good news and bad news for you, Tom.” I’d found the phone, and it was smushed. When he came back, I handed it over to him. He thanked me, and said, “This is better than having all the data stolen.” I suppose.
Later, as I was walking (and talking to Sharon on the phone), Officer Reddy of the Kansas Highway Patrol pulled up. We had a pleasant meeting, he put me into the KHP computer system, and not for the first time I have law enforcement looking out for me. Then we talked about our exercise workouts, always a good topic of conversation.
My plan was to split the 30 miles from Rose Cottage to the Super 8 in Pittsburg, KS into two even segments, but it didn’t work out that way. At first I was headed for an RV park, but when I called to ask for permission to camp there, the lady said no. Then I set my sights on a truck stop, but I didn’t like the looks of my options when I got there. (I realized too late that a cemetery I’d previously passed would have been perfect.)
After another mile or two I walked by a casino/resort and saw a nearby lot where there was a tall mound of asphalt. I’m now camped behind the 20’ mound, totally invisible from the highway. In spite of the background din of traffic, I’ve got some beautiful birdsongs to listen to. And since I don’t need the rain fly on the tent, I’m watching a lovely sunset to my right.
It was one year ago today that a began this journey.
23 miles today.
@ Kansas Crossing Casino
April 18, 2018
Day 103. I woke up behind the mound of asphalt to a sunny, windy day, and the sound of a bulldozer nearby.
Last night I’d noticed the bulldozer parked near the pile. This morning a guy drove a large truck into the lot, parked, got into the dozer, started it up, and proceeded to load asphalt into the truck. He paid me no notice—it was like I was invisible. When I finished packing up my tent and gear, I made a wide arc around him as I headed onto the highway.
Thinking about it, I’d happily camp behind a pile of rocks or asphalt every night if I could—perfect protection from the road and neighbors. While trees and vegetation may be prettier, when you’re sleeping along the highway, it really makes little difference.
I’ve now walked, to my best estimation, over 1500 miles. I’m now more than half-way to my destination.
Yesterday I walked too far—23 miles, and I felt it today. It’s not in my nature to pace myself, but I must try if I’m going to survive another 1,000+ miles.
The 7.4 miles I walked today was along a nice stretch of Highway 160. The shoulder was wide, but it was windy. I chose not to walk through Pittsburg’s business district—I could tell from the map that the streets, traffic lights, and sidewalks, would have been a challenge. I avoided all of that by taking the highway directly to my motel.
I arrived at the Pittsburg Super 8 before noon and needed to wait while my room was readied. I walked over to the Subway across the street and got a foot long tuna sub to go, and then ate it in my room. Afterward I got a haircut, beard trim, and shave (all done expertly by yours truly), took a shower, and enjoyed a nap.
Later, I visited the grocery outlet across the street to replenish supplies (fruit, protein bars, water, yogurt), and then picked up a fish dinner at Long John Silver’s. The fish was pretty good. It came with two hush puppies (which I thought were shoes); they were tasty.
I’ve noticed that my body accepts pretty much anything I put into it and turns it into energy. So I’m enjoying this brief window of time and being more self-indulgent than usual.
I need to decide whether to push for 26 miles tomorrow, or be more modest in my goals. While I may not be good at pacing myself, I am generally good at playing things by ear.
So, to borrow my father’s favorite phrase, “I’ll think about it.”
@ Pittsburg, Kansas
April 19, 2018
Day 104. I said last night that, “I’ll think about it.” So I thought about it.
I decided to not be modest in my goal, and walked 25.6 miles from Pittsburg to the Travelodge in Ft. Scott. I played it by ear, and that’s what my ear told me to do.
Major road rebuilding work was going on, and while I would have liked to camp behind some of the construction vehicles, at 4 pm, when I would have been ready to quit walking, that work was still going. So I kept on walking.
One of the construction supervisors, Ben, drove by to check out my cart. Before he left, he offered me a choice of a cold Gatorade or a cold chocolate milk. I chose the latter—more protein. (Did you know each little bottle contains two servings? Ha! As if some construction worker—or anyone, for that matter—would drink half a bottle today and the other half tomorrow.)
On the road today I found two unusual items. First was a wallet containing a young man’s ID and five bucks. The second was a small pouch containing what I believe are insulin syringes. I decided to try to find a place to properly dispose of these (rather than leave them on the road).
After reaching the motel, I checked in, told my tale to the people at the desk, and they upgraded me to a mini-suite on the top floor at no extra charge. Sweet!
Sadly, the day itself wasn’t as sweet. While eating an apple I cracked a tooth that had a big filling in it. My dentist warned me this would happen, and she was right. So I’ll need yet another crown.
While I can’t really have the crown done while I’m on the road, I do need to get an emergency visit with a local dentist as soon as possible.
Later, I gave the wallet, including the $5, to the woman at the front desk and told her I found it in the parking lot. (Okay, I lied. Sue me.) She said she’d take care of it.
Ft. Scott seems like a nice town, but I’ll always remember it as the place where my tooth broke.
@ Fort Scott, Kansas
April 20, 2018
Day 105. If you are curious how my dental emergency drama played out this morning, try this scenario:
I called the offices of several dentists in Ft. Scott between 8 and 9 am. Two were closed, one couldn’t take me until 3 pm, and the fourth told me to come by and they’d fit me in, but warned they were really busy. I called a taxi, got to the office, and waited 2 hours to be seen, and was charged a lot for a temporary filling, since they wouldn’t accept my dental plan insurance. In the end, the total day was an expensive waste of time.
But that is NOT what happened.
I called Ft. Scott Family Dental at 7:30 am, and after explaining my unusual situation, Carina put me on hold for a minute while she called the dentist at his home. When she came back on the line she said, “Dr. Crawford is picking you up at the motel. He’ll be there in 5 minutes.” (Frankly, I still can’t believe it, but it’s true.)
Pleasant, young, and affable (he and his wife have 5 kids; he’s Canadian, she from the Midwest), we drove to his office and talked the whole way. Carina gave me forms to fill out, contacted my insurance company, and assured me they’d work it all out.
As Karis, the dental assistant, prepped me, I asked if the office had a way to dispose of used syringes. She took the batch I’d found on the road yesterday, and Ashley, another assistant, came in to tell me she’d properly disposed of them.
Dr. Crawford was soon working on my tooth, and in short order I had my temporary filling—what you can now see is white instead of black! My portion of the bill was modest, and I was happy to pay it. (I found out months later the insurance company paid $0.)
Then Carina drove me back to my motel! Can you believe this?
I am truly blessed. The weather today was beautiful, the shoulder perfect, and I walked 17 miles today, even after the trip to the dentist.
@ Prescott, Kansas
April 21, 2018
Day 106. At 6:10 am this morning I awoke, listened to the traffic and birds singing, and heard a nearby train whistle. Wait! Isn’t it supposed to be raining?
Less than 10 seconds later (I’m not making that up) the sounds of raindrops on my tent were added to the soundtrack.
I pondered the question: do I wait out the rain for a while? If so, for how long?
As I thought, it really started to come down. But it only lasted for 30 minutes. So that’s how long I waiting until I packed up and hit Hwy 69 going north once again.
Hwy 69 is, basically, an Interstate Highway without that designation—75 mph, four lanes in each direction, plenty of cars and trucks, and virtually no place to stealth camp along the way.
Although I lucked out last night, I had no such luck tonight.
So, after walking 22 miles today from Prescott, KS to the intersection of Hwy 152, I exited and headed east. I found some “cabins” and called the number listed, but after explaining my situation, the lady (who is out of state at the moment) recommended Linn County Park and Marina, just one mile away.
As I entered the park, the first raindrops began to fall. I asked directions from a couple in a red pickup. The told me to just keep walking in the direction I was going. But two minutes later they were back, asking if I wanted a ride to the campsites. I gladly accepted.
Rick and Tina and their dog, Wally, live nearby, and are the latest “angels” to help me out. Not only did they lend a hand pitching the tent, but Rick drove off for a few minutes and returned haven taken care of my campsite permit/fee! Wonderful people, and extremely proud grandparents as well!
An hour later the rain is still coming down, but I’m snug in my Kelty tent. Although the lake is beautiful, I won’t be seeing much of it thanks to the rain, which is increasing in intensity.
Tonight there’s no vehicle noise or the stress of sleeping on the side of the highway. All I can hear are the ducks and geese, songbirds, and the calming sound of rain.
Funny…I thought finding a Ping Pong ball on the side of the road would be the most interesting thing that happened all day. But I was wrong.
And although my excursion to the campsites and lake will add about 6 miles to my journey, I continue to believe that was the way it was meant to happen.
@ Linn County Park & Marina
April 22, 2018
Day 107. Rain. Some more rain. Even more rain.
This time I did a better job keeping things dry inside my tent, but it’s the nature of rain to find its way in. So most of my stuff stayed dry. I’m optimistic things will go even better as time goes on.
It’s been gray and overcast or raining all day, so mostly I’ve stayed in the tent figuring things out. A lost day, but a day of rest. (At 6 pm the sun is still out, and it feels great!)
Through the Couchsurfing app I made a connection with a young man named Kaleb Kasitz. Although he no longer lives in Kansas, his father, Rodney, returned my call and we worked it out so I’ll spend tomorrow night at his home in Louisburg.
I also connected with Brady (through the WarmShowers app, which is frequented mostly by cyclists). He’s out of town, but called me and gave me some valuable information about the Katy Trail heading into St. Louis.
Right now I’m watching grass grow and listening to songbirds sing and Canada geese honk as I wait for my devices to charge using the outdoor electrical outlet.
Rant Alert: You and your “dental professional” may love them, but I absolutely hate floss picks. I’ve seen a thousand picks on sidewalks everywhere—in parks (including this one) and along 1,500 miles of US highways. I actually got angry when my Berkeley dentist offered me samples. I told her that too many people just throw them on the ground and the damned things will never disappear. Just use floss. She actually agreed with me.
0 miles today.
@ Linn County Park & Marina
April 23, 2018
Day 108. It was nice to freshen up after a day in the tent avoiding the rain.
This morning I walked over to the well-heated bath house, which is just a five-minute walk from my tent. I took a warm shower, shaved, changed clothes, and was ready to resume my journey.
It was a couple of miles, mostly uphill, to get back onto Hwy 69 north, but from there it was clear sailing. The sun decided to come out, thank you!
Todd Peach is a friend I’ve known for over 20 years, although we’d never met! We became friendly as a result of his website that featured the lyrics of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, and I’d emailed him with some corrections.
Todd and his wife Sharon live in Seattle, and he’s been following my journey while doing some long distance driving. It turns out that our road trips intersected today, and he met me off a Hwy 69 exit ramp, bringing with him Subway sandwiches, chips, and a Dr Pepper for me. We talked of many things and had a good time before we went our separate ways.
When I exited at the 311th St., Rodney Kasitz was waiting in his car to welcome me. I walked a half mile to his house, and immediately felt at home. I put in a load of laundry and we chatted until his wife, Leanne (a veterinarian), and his oldest son, Marcus (a network engineer), joined us in the kitchen. They’d read up on my preferred meal choices and Leanne cooked up delicious fish, rice, corn, and fresh broccoli, and served it with beets Rodney had pickled. It was a wonderful home-cooked meal, and I truly enjoyed it. The conversation jumped between professional practice, world travel, teaching high school, technical stuff, and Boy Scout camping experiences.
Marcus and I then took at look on Google maps and he helped me make some decisions about where to enter and exit the Katy Trail. He also volunteered to get me a new Anker charging device.
The WarmShowers app helped me link up with Deb, who texted to inform me that I’m welcome at her home tomorrow night. Two nights in a row in the homes of generous people. Am I blessed, or what?
17 miles today.
@ Louisburg, Kansas
April 24, 2018
Day 109. The Kasitz family could not have been more generous, helpful, and hospitable. Marcus stayed with me through breakfast and locked up after I left (I’d be seeing him later in the day).
It was an easy walk on a beautiful day toward Stilwell, Kansas. Along the way two Miami County Deputy Sheriffs, Colin and Andrew, stopped their car to ask if I was okay. I told them I appreciate the caring attention I’ve received from law enforcement throughout my journey.
Later, Sue, who’s worked for many years at the local high school and community college (and seems to know everyone) stopped and asked if I was okay or needed anything. She’s really sweet, and we had a nice chat.
After 6 hours of walking, I arrive at the Stilwell Animal Hospital & Equine Center, Leanne Landau Kasitz, DVM’s clinic. It’s an impressive brick building inside and out. (It’s where I’d take our cat, Graciela if we lived in the area!)
Leanne was out, but Marcus was holding down the fort. He’d generously picked up a new Anker PowerPort USB Charging Hub for me, which will solve some technical problems for me. He was right—it’s a nice unit.
A few miles later I arrived at Deb’s house.
I met Deb through the WarmShowers cycling app. She is a project manager in the talent management group at Sprint, and her husband John is a product engineer at Honeywell. They have two sons, one a computer science and engineering graduate, the other an engineering student.
Deb and John fixed a wonderful dinner of salmon, a lentil and rice dish, corn, avocado, and salad. (Fish two nights in a row!)
Because of the rain expected tomorrow and the lack of safe shoulders on the busy roads leading up to Hwy 150, John decided to give me a lift several miles to a spot his office where it will be safer to walk and push my cart. The day starts early tomorrow morning.
17 miles today.
@ Stilwell, Kansas
April 25, 2018
Day 110. Welcome to Missouri!
When I began walking on Route 150 (not to be confused with Hwy 50) this morning, the rain had been falling lightly but steadily for hours. It wasn’t a debilitating rain—just enough to make me glad I dressed in rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof shoes. (The rain continues to fall as I write this in the late afternoon.)
At 7 am, we drove in the morning traffic and rain along shoulders that were barely a few inches wide. When we got to Route 150, I was happy to walk on a sidewalk that went all the way to where I turned north onto Hwy 291.
When I arrived at the Super 8 in Lee’s Summit, the room was not yet available. So I hung out at a breakfast table in the lobby for an hour and caught up on computer stuff.
After putting my gear in the room, I walked to a nearby grocery store where I stocked up on soup, tuna, bananas, cheese, bread, protein bars, and snacks.
In 2010, CNN/Money and Money magazine ranked Lee’s Summit 27th on its list of the “100 Best Cities to Live in the United States.” The city is NOT named after Gen. Robert E. Lee. Rather, it’s named after a man named Lea who’s name was misspelled a few times, and that error stuck. Guitarist Pat Metheny is from here.
After heading north for days, I’ll finally be headed east again tomorrow, this time on Hwy 50, sometimes referred to as “The Loneliest Road.”
I walked 12 miles today (and hope to exceed that number in coming days).
@ Lee’s Summit, Missouri
April 26, 2018
Day 111. My first day walking along Hwy 50 was generally good. The weather was perfect.
“The Loneliest Highway” is quite busy, not lonely at all. Continuous traffic makes it noisy, but the shoulder remains good and that’s what’s important to me.
At one point, I noticed a road running parallel to the highway that had an adequate shoulder, so I pushed my cart across a grass median and walked along the Blue Parkway for an hour or so until the shoulder disappeared, at which point I got back on 50.
Later, a lot of Sheriff’s cars with sirens flashing and blaring sped by heading east. Then one of the cars came back, stopped short in front of me, and a well-armed deputy jumped out. “Have you seen anyone walking along the highway?” he yelled. “No, but if I see anyone, who should I call?” He told me to call 911. I asked, “Male? Female?” He responded, “Male—with tattoos.” Then he and his partner sped away. I didn’t see anyone walking besides myself. (In the movie or TV episode, my involvement will certainly be crucial in the apprehension and capture of the perp.)
Later, when I stopped for a break, I met James, who drives a Google Maps camera vehicle. I asked if he had any suggestions re route, but he didn’t, just saying that I should continue to walk facing traffic.
I started looking for a suitable camping site after walking 18 miles, but had difficulty finding one. Finally, I spied a field that looked promising; the gate was open, I removed my visibility safety vest, and made my move. While I’m somewhat exposed and can certainly hear the highway noise, this is the best I could do. In its defense, I’m under a clear blue sky and the birds are singing.
I must be getting close to St. Louis—I just heard and saw the most beautiful red cardinal sitting in a nearby tree!
22 miles today.
@ Pittsville, Missouri
April 27, 2018
Day 112. I love Mel Brooks.
If you find him as fascinating as I do and would like to hear a very different type of interview with him, go to
and start listening at 8:40. Marc Maron is over-the-edge when doing his own shtick, but he interviews celebrities well (I listened to his interview with Susan Sarandon the other day).
Early in the interview, Mel Brooks mentions that when he was a teenager he had a gig as a waiter and entertainer at Butler Lodge in the Catskills (this has been mentioned in other biographies of Brooks). At this, I perked up! My maternal grandfather, Samuel Adler, used to go to Butler Lodge all the time, and I have no doubt he saw the young Mel Brooks there.
My Grandpa was a widower who never remarried, but my cousins and I always wondered if he had any girlfriends. He was a very cool guy, with a cigarette holder, a classic comb over, and a little lapel pin from his Society (the Ishbitzer Benevolent Society).
I broke camp at 7:15 am and headed back onto Hwy 50. It was another beautiful day.
I later stopped for a snack at a convenience store along Hwy 50 and chatted with a sweet young woman named Carie who was working the counter. She showed me a photo of her little pig who is now the mascot of the local sheriff’s dept. She was also kind enough to give me a can of sliced pineapple from her own private stash.
A little while later I met Joe. He was watering a flower bed at the Hunter Heirloom Quilting store. We talked for a while, and before I left he asked if he could pray for me. I responded that I’d welcome this, but he should know that I am Jewish. I did this to not only to avoid an awkward moment, but to sense his reaction as well. Joe paused for a second, put his arms around me, and closed his eyes as he began his blessing, invoking “The Lord” instead of Jesus. This was thoughtful, sensitive, and considerate of him.
In looking ahead, I have some long walks in store for myself as I head first toward Sedalia, and then Jefferson City, MO (the capitol of Missouri), where I plan to pick up the Katy Trail.
16 miles today. I hope this lovely weather holds for a while! Shabbat Shalom.
@ Warrensburg, Missouri
April 28, 2018
Day 113. I departed Warrensburg at 7:15 am and arrived at the Motel 6 in Sedalia, MO, at 6 pm—almost 11 hours on the road. Yes, it was a long day, but the shoulder was fine, as was the weather.
I listened to two Marc Maron interviews today. The first was with Carl Reiner and the second with Billy Crystal—both important personalities in the world of comedy. I also listened to a fine NPR podcast called “The Pulse,” which focuses on health-related issues and problems in society; today’s was about diabetes.
The other day I heard an NPR story about California’s efforts to limit/ban plastic drinking straws. Ha! They should see what I see as I walk along the nation’s highways. I’d already begun to not use straws, and this report confirmed my resolve. Here’s one of many articles that speaks to this issue:
I had an interesting adventure today at a Casey’s General Store (they’re located next to gas stations). I saw they had a Subway-like sub counter and I decided to try it. The woman making my tuna sub took a long time making the sub, and I was getting hungry and a bit impatient. As she began wrapping it all up, but changed her mind. I then watched in slow-motion as she tossed a perfectly good sandwich, with lettuce, tomato, Swiss cheese, and cucumber, into the trash. I yelled, “No! No!” But it was too late. She told me it was “too sloppy,” and made an entirely new sub, starting at the beginning. I sighed, and killed another 10 minutes as I waited for her to be happy with her sandwich artistry.
It was a pretty good sub, as good or better than Subway. But in some ways, my lunch was ruined by the thought of perfectly good food going to waste.
I’m headed to Jefferson City, Missouri, and then on to the Katy Trail toward St. Charles. In a perfect world there would be a reasonably priced motel, or a suitable campsite, or even a decent place to set up a tent, every 18 to 20 miles. But there isn’t.
26.2 miles today. I’m tired.
@ Sedalia, Missouri
April 29, 2018
Day 114. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at a lovely portion of Hwy 50.
This section of the road was dedicated as “Scott Joplin Memorial Highway” in 2016. According to his biography, “In 1894, Joplin moved to Sedalia, Missouri, where he played at local social clubs and where he began composing music.” He seems to have lived here for only about seven years. (It was long enough to get a section of highway named after him.)
For a mile or so I walked along a tree-lined street with grand homes and sidewalks. Then, for about 18 miles, Hwy 50 continued with a wide shoulder. I just walked happily along under a cloudless blue sky as I listened to Marc Maron’s interviews of actor Eugene Levy (“Waiting for Guffman,” “A Mighty Wind,” etc.) and actor/director Ron Howard. The slight headwind did not slow me down.
But then, as always, the highway failed me, and I walked the last 7 miles along a narrow, obnoxious shoulder that just got worse and worse. Traffic was heavy in both directions.
Tipton (pop. Est. 3,378) has a water tower painted like an ”eight ball.” The tower originated in 1968 when native son Ewald Fischer built a billiard table factory, which claimed to be the largest builder of pool tables in the United States. The company was later bought by the Spalding Company, which sold it in 1976 to Ebonite Billiard, after which it was closed. By then, the water tower had been painted over; but the residents of Tipton wanted to have their eight ball back, so it was repainted once again. Today, the tower is generally regarded as the world’s largest eight ball.
Just before I got to the Twin Pines Motel, I stopped at the Dollar General, where I bought a few items. My motel room is a bit musty, and I’ve left the window and door open to air it out. It’s the only motel in town.
After walking 27 miles today, I’m not going to be overly fussy.
April 30, 2018
Day 115. I dreaded dealing with the treacherous stretch of Hwy 50 I‘d be facing this morning, with its broken, narrow pavement and heavy traffic. So when I checked in yesterday I asked the man at the front desk of the Twin Pine Motel if he (or someone) could give me a ride past the stretch. He agreed to do so.
Rocky, whose family owns the motel, was ready to go at 8:30 am. He drives a Toyota Corolla, so I detached the container from my cart and we put everything in his car. After a 15 minute drive, the highway was back to normal, and I got out, put the cart back together again, and headed east. The weather has turned warmer and I’m dressed accordingly. At least April is going out like a lamb.
While walking I listened to (and sometimes watched) a long interview with Steve Martin hosted by the New Yorker. It featured several video clips, including the famous Flydini routine that he performed on the Tonight show the last week Johnny Carson hosted. If you haven’t seen it before (or not for years), please watch it again:
Bruce, a Missouri Highway Patrol officer, stopped to chat. He wished me luck on my walk, and thanked me for my father’s service in WW2. See how easy that was?
After walking 14.3 miles, I arrived in Jefferson City, the capitol of Missouri. I had to get off Hwy 50 (which was getting scary) and walk along Missouri St. and some other neighborhood streets for a while until I reached Baymont Inn & Suites. The motel’s on the moderate end—quiet, clean, and nicely furnished. I even have a view of the capitol building’s dome!
On my way to pick up lunch, I walked by the capitol building, whose columns are currently surrounded by scaffolding.
I finally got a chance to look at the Katy Trail map.
Because it wanders too far off my desired route, I’m not walking the entire trail. But I do plan to walk approximately 100 miles, from Jefferson City to St. Charles.
Excuse me while I go into the bathroom to get a haircut, beard trim, shower, and shave.
@ Jefferson City, Missouri
May 1, 2018
Day 116. During the summer of 1974 when I was in grad school at Cal, I attended my 10 year Wantagh High School reunion in NY. Instead of flying home to California, I took a bus to Montreal and then rode the Canadian National Railroad to Vancouver. It was an unforgettable trip.
It was in Vancouver that I first stayed in what was then called a youth hostel.
Today is the second time. The Katy Trail Turner Shelter is a similar hostel, and costs (drum roll…) $6 a night.
The walk this morning from the motel over the Missouri River to the Katy trailhead was pretty dramatic. The trail itself is just as described—hard-packed “limestone pug” (crushed limestone), and is suitable for bikes and my cart.
I saw fewer than 2 dozen cyclists all day, but this morning I met Ron, a retired business professor who’s cycling across the state. He’s not the first person who lives in St. Louis who’s advised me to NOT walk across the city. (I’m formulating a plan; stay tuned.)
For several hours, I was the only guest at the Turner Shelter. Later, I was joined by a group of four cyclists. Kim and Kevin, Eva, and Maureen are interesting and fun people, and we shared stories about being on the road.
The kitchen is complete with refrigerator, toaster, microwave, sink, and (of course) a coffee maker. I rarely drink coffee, but there’s a wide variety of brands in the cupboard left by previous guests.
I have a very weak cell signal, and had to walk out to the highway to send this. 15 miles walked today.
When the lights were turned out and everyone was making final preparations for the night, there was a small crash on the far side of the room. Somebody ask, “What was that?” Another person answered, “Nothing. I just dropped my Glock.”
Good to know someone’s carrying.
@ Tebbetts, Missouri
May 2, 2018
Day 117. Last night in the dorm with five adults “of a certain age” was just what one might expect (someone was always getting up to use the restroom). But it was nice to not be alone in such an enormous space.
Back on the Katy Trail today, I had the odd experience of being recognized by strangers, with people greeting me by name. The word had spread that some guy named Robert was walking across the US.
One Chicago couple, Jim (a dentist) and Mary (a pastor), knew of me from Ron, the retired professor, with whom they’d eaten breakfast that morning. Another young man, Kevin, who’s hiking the Trail carrying a backpack, had been at The Barn, a B&B, when I’d called this morning to make my reservation; that’s how he knew me. There were a few others as well.
Before leaving home, I’d read Stephen Ambrose’s book about Lewis and Clark, and today I walked along the Missouri River (it is wide!) where their expedition passed.
The proprietor of a small grocery store in a town along the Trail has garnered some poor online reviews for being inhospitable to cyclists, as well as for being a grump. That’s what happens on social media. You can’t escape it.
Personally, I did not find him grumpy at all. What the guy is, however, is an easy racist, injecting into our two-minute conversation the fact that there are currently three Black men living (with white women) in town; a short history of slavery in the region; and that inn the next county I’d be running into people who had long, unpronounceable German names. “They are not regular white people like you and me.”
Needless to say, I did not reveal my secret identity. I just paid for my Moon Pie, Snickers, and Dr Pepper, and got the hell out of there.
After eating dinner with Doug, the amiable host of The Barn B&B, I settled into bed. 20.3 miles today. Heavy rains are expected tonight.
@ Bluffton, Missouri
May 3, 2018
Day 118. We had quite a thunderstorm in the early morning hours.
As I walked, the sky remained cloudy and gray. For some reason, I was tired when the day began, and I remained anxious as to where I’d be staying tonight.
In the end, I walked to Hermann, where I had more options.
Hermann has an interesting history, but right now I don’t have internet, so you’ll have to look it up yourself.
Although the main road into town is lined with charming guest houses and B&Bs, I chose to set up my tent in the City Park ($15). I’d originally set up next to a picnic table on a cement pad. Later, after I took a shower in the bath house, I felt better and moved the tent to a more secluded grassy spot near a creek.
It drizzled off and on all day, but now it’s clear, and a few kids are playing on the basketball court. Vehicle sounds from the highway are ever-present; the wind is blowing the tent gently; and I can actually hear some babbling brook sounds.
There’s still virtually no cellular signal to speak of, and I’ll have to post this in the morning. (Yesterday’s post went out today.)
I was happy to see there’s a Hardee’s across the highway, and I went over for a fish sandwich. “We’re out of fish until next year.” I just groaned when the kid said that.
To add insult to injury, they were also out of Dr Pepper (until tomorrow). So I settled for a Cherry Coke. (t may be Warren Buffett’s favorite drink, but what does he know?)
12 miles today.
@ Hermann, Missouri
May 4, 2018
Day 119. I was up at 5:30 am and relaxed in the tent for a while. It hadn’t rained, but it was overcast (more about that in a minute).
I had breakfast in the tent and broke camp at 7:30. Getting on the highway toward McKittrick I took a different exit from the park than I’d come in on. I somehow got turned around, and since I couldn’t see the sun, I headed in the wrong direction. Worse yet, I was pushing the cart up a steep hill. Finally I admitted to myself that something must be wrong. I pulled out my iPhone and looked at my compass app. (sigh). I’d wasted close to an hour by the time I got back to where I’d started. (This happened to Lewis and Clark occasionally, but this did not make me feel any better.)
I retraced my steps back to the Katy Trail and walked, seemingly forever, from Hermann to Treloar, where once again there was no place to stay or camp. I was pretty exhausted.
At that moment I spied a couple looking at the visitor information exhibit describing Daniel Boone’s presence and influence in the region.
I said hello to Bruce and Susie, and after a brief exchange I brazenly asked if they’d be willing to give me a five-minute lift to Marthasville, where the guidebook indicated it was okay to camp for free.
“Sure,” Bruce said. “Why not?” said Susie.
And a few minutes later we were there. A Little League baseball game was in progress on the field where I think people normally camp, so I settled on another park across the road. I’m the only tent anywhere. A great spot, assuming no one harasses me. I feel comfortable.
By a wonderful coincidence, Bruce and Susie are from Miami, Oklahoma. (I’d posted a photo of “Miami Beach” when I passed through the town.) Bruce is a retired Miami firefighter, besides having many other interesting qualities. Susie is a retired RN and shares a bloodline with Daniel Boone. So I can add two more angels to my list.
I’m hoping to finish walking on the Katy Trail in St. Charles in two days, and will then meet up with two friends, one new and one old (well, all three of us are old!).
It’s been nice on the Katy Trail not having to deal with traffic or dodging cars and trucks. But the lack of services is draining.
That said, it’s a beautiful evening here in Marthasville. I walked 19 miles today.
@ Marthasville, Missouri
May 5, 2018
Day 120. I’d planned to spend tonight in my tent in a “primitive” campsite in Klondike Park in Augusta, Missouri.
After climbing a steep hill to Klondike Park, I was dismayed to find that every last tent site in the park had been reserved for the weekend, including the so-called “primitive” sites (which were all numbered, and not very primitive).
Frustrated, I climbed back down the steep slope and continued walking; and thinking.
I had a map of the Katy Trail, and decided to call the information telephone number listed for the next town, Defiance. I found myself speaking to Robin, the owner of the Katy Bike Rental shop. After explaining my predicament, she invited me to pitch my tent on the lawn behind the bike shop, saying she’d call Todd, her husband, and let him know I was coming. Now that’s hospitality!
Robin warned me that the live rock music and partying in bars nearby would not stop till after 8 pm or so, and I said I understood, and kept walking.
For lunch I stopped at the Pop-A-Wheelie Café. The young woman behind the counter, Rebecca, made me a 2-egg sandwich with Mexican cheese and spinach on an everything bagel and a delicious fruit and yogurt smoothie. It was all simply perfect!
When I arrived in Defiance and walked into the bike shop, Todd wasn’t there, but Teri and Hunter welcomed me. I walked over to the spot where they directed me, pitched my tent, and felt relieved. It had been a long day, but the music was, as predicted, going strong.
I set up my tent, made myself a tuna and cheese sandwich, drank a Mug root beer (no caffeine), and listened to live rock. These are 2 or 3 original songs, all with unintelligible lyrics and a heavy emphasis on a backbeat supplied by the drums, and lots of cymbal crashes. (This is no better than the music I was playing with my own rock band in the basement of my parent’s home in Wantagh when I was 16. The difference is, these guys have more powerful amps, and I knew more chords.)
After I ate I took a quick walk around town, watching hundreds of adults—most of them Baby Boomers like myself, drinking, eating, and enjoying themselves.
To illustrate how much a stranger in a strange land I am, today I listened to a piece of wonderful music I haven’t heard in many years—Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” I suspect Prokofiev also knew more than 3 chords.
(Finally, a new group came onto the bandstand. They’re much better. Five chords, at least.)
I walked 19 miles today. It’s been difficult and frustrating not having cell service. I’m sure Daniel Boone did not have to put up with this.
@ Defiance, Missouri
May 6, 2018
Day 121. I’d only been awake for a half hour this morning when the rain began. It didn’t last long, but now I had to deal with a wet tent (fortunately I’d put on the rain fly). Oh, well, not a big deal. Campers have been dealing with this forever. It’s just that I haven’t—I’m a relative newbie.
I walked to the Wingate Motel in St. Charles, 8.4 miles away, in just a few hours. The sun was shining when I arrived.
I want to go on record as saying that when I walk less than 12 or 15 miles, I actually feel like a slacker.
Thankfully, I did not have to wait very long for a room to be ready, and immediately started doing my laundry. I then hung up the rain fly, tent, and ground cover on the shower rod and closet doors to dry.
My friend Gerry, who lives in St. Louis, came by about 3:30 pm with a package Sharon had sent to him to bring to me. (Sharon and I met Gerry and his wife MaryLee during a trip to China years ago.) He’d asked what else I might need, and the only thing I could think of were oranges and bananas, which he also brought.
When I added up the miles walked through today, the total went over 1800. I still have many more miles to go, which is, frankly, daunting. While previously I’d been concerned with the cold and the wind, now I’m facing heat and rain.
Tomorrow I head into Illinois. My new friend Ron, also from St. Louis, is giving me a lift to Hwy 50, where I’ll resume highway hiking. I know I’ll continue to face the same issues I’ve had all along—looking for places to stay overnight (either in a motel or a place to camp), and sources of food and water.
I’m glad I had a chance to walk along the Katy Trail. It’s a marvelous place, especially when it follows the course of the Missouri River. If you like to ride a bicycle and love nature, I recommend it.
@ St. Charles, Missouri
May 7, 2018
Day 122. Years ago, I developed a theory of decision making. It was probably created during a time I was writing lyrics, since it rhymes. Here it is (if you use it, please credit me):
“The more difficult a decision is to make, the less important it is which alternative you take.” (Robert Schoen)
In the last 24 to 48 hours I’ve been driving myself nuts trying to decide whether I should continue my journey east on Highway 50 or Highway 40. Trust me, it’s been a stressful period, and I’m exhausted.
I’ve spent hours on Google Maps, zooming in on each of these routes as they head east toward Ohio and Pennsylvania, primarily focusing on samples of the width of each road’s sho¬ulder as it meanders across the map, generally to a place I either do not want to go, or cannot go. Both of these US highways merge on and off with Interstate highways, which I avoid. The shoulders are intermittently wide, then non-existent for miles at a time.
Finally I emailed Jeff Rudisill, my route consultant, asking that he look at the problem and call me early this morning (he lives in Virginia, and I find him delightful to listen to, not only for his dialect but for his no-nonsense wisdom; he walked across the US several years ago.
“Well, Bob, it looks to me like either road will work for you, and each has its advantages and disadvantages.” We talked about it for a while, and then it was time for me to have breakfast with Ron followed by a ride across St. Louis.
My final decision was based more on “the lesser evil” than anything else, since I’ve become accustomed to the vagaries of Hwy 50. Also, 50 is one of my lucky numbers. In the end, I could just have easily flipped a coin.
We drove past Busch Stadium, the Zoo, and the Arch, and then drove through infamous East St. Louis, looking at the shells of some former-glorious buildings.
When I started walking, Hwy 50 immediately disappointed me with its meager shoulder. But as the day progressed and the temperature rose in a cloudless sky, a wider shoulder revealed itself. Hallelujah.
There’s a Jacuzzi in my room at the Eagle Inn, and I soaked in it for a long time, barely able to keep my eyes open.
I walked 13.3 miles today.
@ Aviston, Illinois
May 8, 2018
Day 123. I finally had an encounter with a tick. But as I would find out later, that was the least of my problems.
I noticed the tick while I was eating my lunch at the desk in my motel room at about 12:30 pm. I was wearing my shorts and saw it on my outer thigh, not embedded in my skin, but close to the site of a number of bites. I grabbed it, put it in a cup of water, and took a shower. When I finished my shower, the tick had climbed out of the water and was on the rim of the cup. I stuck it back in the water and examined my leg and the bites more closely. I didn’t see any other ticks, but there seemed to be more bites present on the backs of my thighs than before.
By now, the tick was almost out of the cup of water again. I should have saved it, but I didn’t know that until after I read an article about ticks, so I’d already flushed it.
Now, of course, I was paranoid, wondering where exactly I acquired this character, and whether I’ll succumb to Lyme disease or some other tick-related disease. Needless to say, I’ll continue to look for symptoms of rash, body aches, fatigue, fever, or chills. Sadly, fatigue is something I deal with daily.
I’m in Carlyle, Illinois at the Centerstone Inn, situated near a McDonalds, a Walmart, and a recreational lake area.
It was a gorgeous morning. My weather app says it’s 80° outside, but it’s quite comfortable in the room with the window open. Rain is predicted for the next two days. Tomorrow will be a longer day on the road.
Today I walked 14.4 miles in about 5 hours, which reflects the rest I got last night.
@ Carlyle, Illinois
May 9, 2018
Day 124. Today was a double challenge. Rain and itching.
It rained for a few hours while I was walking this morning. And while I was dealing with the rain, for over 10 miles the shoulder on US-50 was lacking. I needed to continue to move off the road onto the gravel whenever vehicles were coming my way, so it was on-again, off-again, for hours. Eventually the sun came out, the shoulder got wide enough to walk comfortably on, and the day became more pleasant.
Throughout this all, I was dealing with the itching from what I finally realized were bedbug bites, most likely from insects hiding in the desk chair. Benadryl cream is on its way.
Walking through the town of Sandoval was easy—there was a sidewalk the whole way. I stopped for a tuna sub at Casey’s General Store and then popped into the Family Dollar for a few items, including laundry soap, soup, Wheat Thins, and hand sanitizer.
I walked a total of 23 miles today to the Days Inn at Salem, where I’ve been well taken care of by the owners, Sam and Trupti (she’s doing my laundry as a special favor, as there’s no guest laundry). They’re both personable and friendly.
Salem (population 7,485 in 2010 and the county seat) was the birthplace of William Jennings Bryan.
Tomorrow presents a challenge: how far do I wish to walk?
@ Salem, Illinois
May 10, 2018
Day 125. From the Days Inn in Salem to the Best Western in Flora is 28 miles. It was a long walk.
I left Salem at 5:50 am knowing I’d be on the road a long time, and finally arrived in Flora at 6:55 pm—13 hours total (including few short breaks along the way).
Had I seen an appropriate spot to camp half-way along the walk I’d have taken it. But I didn’t, so I just kept walking.
The highway shoulder surface itself was not as bad as on some previous days, but one long stretch featured speed bumps right in the center of the shoulder. Sadly, this creates a real problem that requires constant vigilance and consumes a lot of energy.
About two-thirds along the way to my destination I encountered John Bayler, who was sitting in his white pickup waiting for me. When I approached he came out to greet me; he was carrying an SLR camera.
John is the man who manages the US Route 50 Walkers, Bikers and Travelers page on Facebook. He’d noticed me walking, and wanted to get my story and a photo. He’s a friendly guy, and we had a nice chat. John told me about recent walkers and cyclists he’d met. Good to his word, I’ve been posted on his page.
As I finally neared Flora, there was thunder rumbling in the distance, but no rain. Because I walked 28 miles today, my back, hips, and legs took a beating. So I’ve decided to stay 2 nights at the Best Western.
Including today, I’ve now walked over 1,900 miles. I’m closer to my destination than I’d thought.
@ Flora, Illinois
May 11, 2018
Day 126. Early to bed and early to rise means an early breakfast.
The breakfast room opens at 6, and that’s when I was there. Often I’ll bring food back to my room, but the Weather Channel was on the TV instead of Fox News, so I stayed at a table and ate Raisin Bran with milk, a banana, blueberries, and chocolate chips; an English Muffin with cream cheese and strawberry jam; a tangerine; orange juice and my vitamins. I grabbed a yogurt for later, and filled one of my vacuum bottles with water.
Back in my room I again looked at Google Maps, searching for the “perfect route on the perfect highway with the perfect shoulders.” Listening to “plumbing noises” coming from the bathroom, I went into the hall and flagged down a friendly housekeeper, who arranged for me to move down the hall to a quieter (and bigger) room.
While my wife Sharon hates to move to a different motel room, I jump at the chance if something is bothering me!
Then back to Google Maps. Thankfully, I was interrupted by a text from John, the Highway 50 photographer from yesterday asking me if I’d like to have lunch at the NMN Club, a popular place in Flora (the letters mean No More Nicotine). We were joined by his girlfriend Debbie who told me the incredible story of finding her birth family. Afterwards, John drove me around town, showing me local industries and parks.
After much deliberation, I’ve decided that my final destination will be in Delaware rather than Coney Island. My goal is coast-to-coast. So while some friends and family members will be disappointed, I have to go with the most accessible and least scary route.
0 miles today.
@ Flora, Illinois
May 12, 2018
Day 127. I’ve learned that the day goes best when I get a really early start. So that’s what I did today.
I was on the road by 5:40 am, and walked 22.7 miles to the Super 8 in Olney, Illinois. It’s certainly a budget hotel and not up to the level of last night’s Best Western, but it serves my needs. There’s a Burger King next door where I just had a fish sandwich, fries, a non-caffeinated root beer, and some kind of Hershey’s dessert pie. Keep those calories, protein, and fat coming my way!
I covered the mileage today in 8 hours, arriving at 1:45 pm. I consider that a good day’s walk.
The flies were out in force, and I finally put my bandana (a gift from my son Adam) around my lower face bandit-style, which helped quite a bit. Fortunately for me, the sun was partially hidden by the clouds much of the day, as opposed to yesterday when it was beating down steadily all day. I know I’ll be facing more sun, heat, and humidity in the coming weeks.
I’m hoping that my bedbug bites resolve soon; it’s never fun to deal with such things. Until my Benadryl cream arrives, I’m using 2.5% cortisone cream and Eucerine lotion.
Tomorrow will be another 20+ mile day. I plan to get on the road as early as I did today.
@ Olney, Illinois
May 13, 2018
Day 128. Flies harassed me for over 5 hours today. No let-up.
I left the motel at 5:40 am and had planned on staying at a B&B in Lawrenceville, but they had no vacancy. I called another place and tried to make a reservation, but they didn’t pick up the phone.
So when I saw a sign for Red Hills State Park, I followed Yogi Berra’s advice and took the fork in the road.
I’m now camped by a lake, waiting for the sun to pass over and for the day to cool off. At least in my tent I’m protected from the flies—that was miserable, and I know they’ll continue to be a nuisance.
I have another long walk to Vincennes, Indiana tomorrow.
16 miles today. Happy Mother’s Day to you!
@ Sumner, Illinois
May 14, 2018
Day 129. I can’t help but take the condition of the roads personally. Especially when the designers and builders take a perfectly good shoulder and turn it into a nightmare. For me, anyway!
Some brilliant person decided that the Hwy 50 in Illinois needed rumble strips that run perpendicular to the road across the entire shoulder. For miles.
What choices do I have? 1. Veer onto the highway; 2. Push the cart partly or fully on the grass or gravel portion of the shoulder; or 3. Go bumpty-bump as I push the cart over the rumble strip, so my cart and I feel like we’re in a bad animated cartoon.
An hour after I left Red Hills State Park I spoke with Kay, the manager of the convenience store next door to the Marathon gas station. She was at the grill cooking eggs, and she made two egg sandwiches for me. After I ate, she told me she was 70 and worked 10 to 12 hours a day. Kay’s a sweetie!
I also met two angels-on-the-road. First, amidst a cloud of flies at 5:30 am, Gary pulled over. When he opened his car window to chat, we were both enveloped in flies! I couldn’t talk and apologized as I gave him my card. Twenty minutes later, he returned, stuck his hand out, and gave me a container of “Dixon’s Gotcha Covered” deet-free bug spray. I grabbed the little bottle, shook his hand, thanked him, and said goodbye as I sprayed my head and kept walking east. Thank you, Gary!
Coincidence or not, the flies began to lessen in intensity.
A few minutes later a Buick pulled up and a young woman got out of the car with a plastic bag in her hand. Tracie told me she’d seen me walking earlier in the day and handed me a gift-bag containing snacks and two bottles of electrolyte and vitamin water. I gave her my card and expressed my appreciation. Thank you, Tracie!
A minute later I crossed the Wabash River into Indiana, where the shoulders widened, the rumble strips disappeared, and the flies disappeared completely. Hallelujah! Indiana obviously has a better bug lobby.
Here’s a special musical treat for you:
My room tonight at the Holiday Inn is courtesy of Ben Tarpley, one of my route and travel consultants, and a terrific guy. Thank you, Ben!
20 miles today.
@ Vincennes, Indiana
May 15, 2018
Day 130. Along with the good news that the flies have pretty much flown away, is that the highway shoulder has been transformed. No more irritating grooves to hinder the cart. How long will this last?
The heat continues. My head sweats; I wipe it off. Repeat.
I’m drinking water all day long. Sometimes the clouds block the direct sun. Other times the sun just beats down. Temperatures were in the high 80°s today. Rain was predicted, but did not materialize—yet.
After breakfast I made an omelet sandwich to go for lunch. Along with a protein bar and some trail mix, and this kept me going all the way to the Baymont motel in Washington, Indiana. Although I didn’t realize it, when I crossed the Wabash into Indiana yesterday I moved into the Eastern time zone.
Today I listened to several podcasts and a fun Marc Maron interview with Cheech & Chong. I used to love listening to their albums and watching their movies. The story of how the two met and became successful is interesting. Here’s one of their classic routines:
A package from Amazon was waiting for me when I checked in today. It contained mosquito netting that I’d desperately needed a few days ago and Benadryl anti-itch cream, that I immediately applied to my bites.
Planning for more than one or two days in advance is next-to-impossible. And now that the temperatures are again getting into the 90°s, I’m not sure I can force too many 25 mile walks. It’s just too exhausting. And then there’s the humidity.
19.2 miles today.
@ Washington, Indiana
May 16, 2018
Day 131. Despite ongoing threats of rain, nothing yet. When the rains do come, I’m sure it will be at the most inconvenient time—for me, anyway.
I dragged myself across the highway to Walmart last night and stocked up on soup, crackers, protein bars, and trail mix. I also bought a small container of cut up melon, which I crave, and enjoyed it with my supper.
After breakfast this morning, I stopped by Burger King for 2 egg, cheese, croissant sandwiches to go. The day was overcast, with few bugs and a comfortable temperature.
As I anticipated, the nice Hwy 50 shoulder crapped out shortly after I left Washington, IN. The road is now a two-lane blacktop, with a shoulder just wide enough for the cart. It’s not as comfortable as the previous couple of days, but at least there’s a shoulder. After spending hours looking at Google Maps, I’ll just deal with what the road serves me.
A young woman named Molly stopped her car this morning on her way to school, handed me a bottle of water and a bottle of Sprite, and said she’d seen me earlier. I thanked her, gave her a card, and invited her to follow my journey. I hope she does.
I ate one of my sandwiches at about 10 am and the second when I arrived at the El Dorado motel in Loogootee. I’d called Lilly earlier at the motel, and she had one room left for me. The room’s been refurbished and is certainly adequate for my needs. It’s also the only game in town.
Trying to average 15-20 miles per day puts me at Bedford two nights from now, with no motels or B&B’s in between. So tomorrow night I’ll be playing it by ear.
I’m sure the rain will come when I least expect it. 17 miles today.
@ Loogootee, Indiana
May 17, 2018
Day 132. I’d intended to walk 5 miles more than I did today, but at one point I arrived at the entrance to Martin State Forest. A sign informed me that there was a campsite, and as I was mulling it over a young woman drove by. I flagged her down and asked how far the campsite was. Donna, a park office employee, cheerfully volunteered to drive there and clock it on her odometer.
When she returned in a few minutes, she said, “It’s a sixth of a mile.” “You mean ‘point-six’?” “Yes.” Those darned fractions and decimal points will get you every time.
I thanked her, and walked up and down some steep hills to get to a very nice, 25-site, campsite. As of now I’m the only one here.
I had a bad neighbor at the otherwise satisfactory motel last night—I suspect drugs, alcohol, and/or mental health issues. I resorted to listening to the sound of rain on my sleep app, which helped. But I was more sleep deprived than usual, and since I didn’t know where I’d be staying tonight, I took the presence of this park as a good sign. It just means a longer walk tomorrow to get to the motel in Bedford.
I found another wallet today. No cash but many cards, including Navy ID. No phone number, unfortunately. Twenty minutes later I stopped and chatted with a local woman, Marie, who said she’d take care of the wallet. She immediately called the sheriff’s office to report the find. She’s obviously well-connected.
The size of the shoulder is not consistent, and the terrain is now more hilly. But frankly, both Jeff and I have concluded that staying on Hwy 50 might be my best strategy.
The fee for the campsite was $13, but I only had a twenty (it’s on the honor system). Since I didn’t pay my last fee, I figure I’m even now! I truly enjoy the sounds of nature.
13 miles today.
@ Martin State Forest
May 18, 2018
Day 133. This was a day filled with a few surprises, mostly pleasant ones.
I was packed up and out of the campsite at 6:30 am, knowing I had a long day ahead of me. Rain was expected so I kept my rain jacket strapped to the top of my cart.
The first 10 miles was up and down hills and winding back and forth. I walked carefully on the shoulder; it was generally just wide enough for me and Walker. Occasionally, I would cross to the opposite side of the road when there were blind turns up ahead—better safe than sorry when it comes to oncoming trucks. The skies were again gray and overcast, so heat was not an issue.
At Huron, a friendly guy named Jeff beckoned me from across the road, asking if I needed some water. I brought two empty bottles over. He offered me the unopened gallon container. But I told him I didn’t have room for it, so he filled my bottles and told me he’d just sold his place and was moving to Tennessee. I moved on.
Eventually, the road straightened out and became less hilly. Then later, as the highway became wider, so did the shoulder. I eventually hit a long section of road construction where one of the lanes was closed. I walked on the “closed” lane and was passed through by dozens of friendly road construction guys.
The last 7-8 miles to Bedford featured a 10 ft. wide shoulder. Great! Then it started to drizzle.
I reached Subway just as the rain increased. On line, I chatted with Jerry, and when he heard about my walk, he insisted on treating me to lunch. Then the crew got involved and (led by Teela) insisted on having their photo taken with me—a first! The store manager said she’d forward my info to her supervisor. I told her I’d be happy to be the new Subway spokesman.
It was raining heavily when I left and I got pretty wet. Fifteen minutes later, with the Super 8 in sight, the rain stopped. It’s always something.
After checking in, I sat in the Jacuzzi, took a shower, rested, and wondered about tomorrow.
20.5 miles today. My updated tally reveals I’ve now walked over 2000 miles.
@ Bedford, Indiana
May 19, 2018
Day 134. At 2:30 am, I was awakened by loud voices coming through the adjoining door to the next room at the motel. It’s at times like these I miss sleeping in my tent.
To avoid confrontation with the idiots next door, I put on my pants, walked to the front desk, and once again changed rooms in the middle of the night.
My first task after breakfast was to walk three miles to the Bedford post office where the counter person, Cathy, actually packed all the items I was sending home and sealed the box up while asking me about my trip. It was the best post office service I’ve ever received in my life.
As I made a quick side trip to McDonalds for two egg sandwiches, it started raining and continued on and off all day.
Up and down hills and around curves I went once again. It is beautiful countryside.
I stopped to sit and chat with Shane, Brandon, Rachelle, and their goat, Gabby for a few minutes, then walked another couple of miles when I saw a man walking up to his front door after picking up his mail.
I called out, “Excuse me!” and Larry greeted me with a smile. After quickly explaining my situation, I asked if he’d permit me to pitch my tent somewhere on his lawn. “Sure! Do you need an extension cord? Bottle of cold water?”
Later, I spent an hour chatting on the back porch with him (he operates heavy equipment) and his son, Hunter, who’s taking classes in medical billing and coding, loves to sing (supporting roles in 4 musical productions in high school, including ‘Grease’ and ‘Cinderella’). Hunter was very interested in my music, journey, and blog.
In spite of the heat, humidity, and on and off rain, I walked 19 miles today.
@ Medora, Indiana
May 20, 2018
Day 135. Today should have been an easier day than it was.
As I was packing up at 6:30 this morning in Larry’s backyard, he came out to say goodbye and offered me coffee. I declined the coffee, thanked him profusely for his hospitality, and got on the road.
My tent, wet from dew and condensation, was piled on my cart, slowly drying. The road was mostly downhill, and there wasn’t much traffic.
At 9:30 am I arrived at Brownstown. I walked into the Dairy Queen, planning to have an egg sandwich and maybe a shake. But for some reason I changed my mind and walked out. I got back on the highway in the same direction I’d been going, passed the county jail and the Fairgrounds, and walked another 2-3 miles on a narrow shoulder before realizing I was on the wrong road.
I doubled back, wasting a lot of time and energy, not understanding how I’d messed up When I got back near the Dairy Queen I saw the problem—the Hwy 50 East sign was blocked by the restaurant signage. I’d gone straight instead of making a left turn. So this time I made the turn and resumed walking on the wide shoulder.
After the Brownstown mishap, I stopped at a Subway and had a 6” tuna sub and Dr Pepper. It was warm going for a long while. I listened to a couple of podcasts (Fresh Air interview with the late Tom Wolfe; The Pulse about struggling family farmers in the US).
I also listened to music by the Artist-of-the-Day: trombonist Bill Watrous, a phenomenal musician:
I’m splurging on a Holiday Inn tonight, and also enjoying a “real meal” at Applebee’s courtesy of Lu, a lovely woman from North Vernon, Indiana, who stopped on Hwy 50, asked about my walk, and handed me a generous gift.
Finally, I just weighed myself in the fitness room. If you’re interested in losing some weight, walk 2,000 miles.
21 miles today.
@ Seymour, Indiana
May 21, 2018
Day 136. I’m tenting tonight—on the back deck of the home of Lu, whom I met yesterday on the road to Seymour, and her husband Phil. They live in a lovely home in North Vernon, Indiana, with their schnauzer, Jazzie. When I spoke with Lu yesterday and discovered they lived close to my next destination, I asked about camping in their yard and she said yes.
I’m now resting in my tent, which I set up on their back deck under a porch overhang. Just in case of rain.
I’m thinking about tomorrow. Because of the heat and humidity, I need to keep my goals within reason.
At 6:23 pm the rain started coming down. It’s pouring! But I’m dry.
14 miles today.
@ North Vernon, Indiana
May 22, 2018
Day 137. Last night before the rainstorm began, Lu drove into the driveway and I went out to greet her.
I asked how her two doctor visits went and she gave me some details. Then she warned me about some of the challenges I’d be facing this morning—weather, road construction, detours, and poor walking conditions on the highway. She offered to give me a ride past the mess. I mulled it over for a minute, and then accepted. I’ve learned that when people who have been generous to me and know the area well make a suggestion, I need to pay attention.
So this morning, Lu, Jazzie, and I piled into her vehicle, and she drove me over to Dillsboro. We chatted along the way. Amongst other topics, I explained to her how I’ve been on the receiving end of people pre-judging me by my appearance on the road, making assumptions about who I am and why I’m pushing a cart along the highway—all of the things she herself had done when her husband, Phil, had surprised her by pulling up in front of me the other day.
Ironically, although she herself had no worries about inviting me to stay in her backyard, she did later get warnings from younger family members about how I could be a crazy person/rapist/axe-murderer, etc. Even after I turned out not to be any of those things, she still knew basically nothing about me, and was a bit surprised when I proceeded to tell some of the basics of my life story.
(I’m reminded of a patient I once had who gave every appearance of being a homeless street person but turned out to be a classically-trained actor with important supporting roles in a number of box-office hits. I learned an important lesson that day. He later became a friend and supporter of my music and band.)
Walking from Dillsboro to Lawrenceburg, there was plenty of road construction, but it did not hinder my progress as much as the heat and humidity did.
I arrived at the Baymont Inn drenched—the last few miles into town were exhausting.
I’ll be entering Ohio tomorrow. 15 miles today.
@ Lawrenceburg, Indiana
May 23, 2018
Day 138. It was hardly a dramatic event entering Ohio today, but I was happy to finally arrive in Cincinnati, where my son Adam lives with his wife, Kelly, and son, Maxwell.
The highway leaving the motel was so scary walking-wise, that the motel night manager dropped me off seven miles down the road at Skyline Chili in Cleves, Ohio. From there I started walking towards downtown Cincinnati.
I passed through many old neighborhoods and villages (e.g. Addystone) along the Ohio River, which separates Ohio (a “free” state) and Kentucky (a former slave state). People along the way were friendly as I took my time pushing my cart along Warsaw Pike, Hillside, Main St., and River Road.
After walking 14 miles, I had to detour to Adam’s house, so I called Lyft. A friendly guy named Nick, a former financial advisor, drove me through heavy downtown traffic to my son’s home.
After hugs and greetings, Adam and I went to the grocery store, and picked up fresh salad, hummus, carrots, and a bunch of other things.
Maxwell and Kelly arrived home, and now we’re at Adam’s adult softball league game. The sun has gone behind the trees, and there’s a cool breeze. And no bugs.
I’ll be here three nights, but plan to put on some walking miles during the day while everyone is at work or school (except for the dog and the two cats!). Cincinnati’s a big city.
14 miles today.
May 24, 2018
Day 139. There was no reason to walk on a highway today, but I still wanted to make some “progress.” So I’m counting the 14 miles I walked today as part of my journey east. When Adam drops me off Saturday on Hwy 50, we’ll pick a drop-off point that includes the miles I walk today and tomorrow.
I wish every day’s walk could be as pleasant as today’s. First, I passed through the Indian Hill neighborhood, filled with large homes on large grounds. Adam tells me many professional athletes and other wealthy Cincinnati residents live in this area.
Seeing a sign directing me to the Little Miami Scenic River Trail, I went in that direction. Originally a railroad track, it’s been reclaimed for recreational use, similar to the Katy Trail but with asphalt paving. Much of the trail was in shade, and it was well-maintained. It was an absolutely beautiful day.
Walking on the trail and not having to push the cart is helping to convince me that now is the time to ship my cart and most of my stuff home and walk the final miles less encumbered. Sadly, motels are still few and far between. This is what makes a cross-country trip on bicycle more feasible than traveling by foot.
I continued to the town of Loveland, where Adam met me for lunch at Paxton’s Grill (plenty of vegetarian choices). I had a delicious dish: portobello mushrooms with spicy hummus, some kind of soft cheese, and broccoli.
After lunch we went next door to Loveland Sweets—the owner is one of Adam’s clients. While they talked business, I had a cup of the most incredible Girl Scout Mint Cookie ice cream! The offerings are the stuff that makes candy store dreams a reality.
Adam is the owner of WeGo Unlimited, a thriving web design, brand identity and marketing solutions agency. He has clients from coast-to-coast.
14 miles today.
May 25, 2018
Day 140. I probably should have just stayed in bed this morning, but I didn’t. I had much to think about and some important decisions to make.
I had breakfast and headed back past the large homes in Indian Hill to the Little Miami Scenic River Trail, and this time turned right onto this wonderful “Rails-to-Trails” paved path.
After several hours I ended up at the Growler Stop, a gas station and convenience store that’s rebranded itself as a craft beer bar. I called Adam to pick me up while I ate one of their craft pretzels and a non-craft A&W Root Beer.
While walking, I’d made the decision to go ahead and get the equipment I’ll need to resume my walk to the Atlantic without my cart. Thus I’ll need, at minimum, a backpack.
Adam drove me first to Dick’s Sporting Goods where I bought a decent backpack (nothing fancy—I’ll only need it for 6 weeks) and a new pair of Merrell waterproof shoes in a larger size than the three pair I’ve been wearing; they’ve begun feeling tight and uncomfortable.
What they did not have was a “bivy bag,” which I’d like to use instead of a tent (it’s much lighter). It took a while, but I finally found the one I want at REI. The Outdoor Research Helium Bivy I bought is lightweight, and I’m psyched and more confident because of it. We’ll see if it solves my camping-related concerns.
The thought of pushing my faithful cart 600+ more miles on the hilly roads of West Virginia and beyond has been concerning me. I just hope my back, knees, and shoulders can tolerate the pack. Meanwhile, I will do my best to minimize the weight and contents. I resume my trip the day after tomorrow.
10 miles added to my journey today. Rain is on its way.
May 26, 2018
Day 141. It was Shabbat today, so an appropriate day to rest. And recover from the stress of the last few days, weeks, and months.
Last night I took us out to Brown Dog Cafe for dinner. Kelly and I split a nice veggie pizza and a tasty veggie burger, with a side of vegetables. Afterwards, Adam treated us to frozen yogurt with add-your-own-toppings at Rhino’s, a yogurt joint in a gas station—always a good opportunity to eat candy and other stuff.
This morning I packed my backpack and then got the 27-gallon container ready to ship home.
Adam and I then brought both the container (which I’d separated from the the cart, and the cart itself to the UPS store. Once again felt ripped off by their high fees to ship such things. (Swallow hard and hand over your credit card.)
Then we had to drive back to Dick’s Sporting Goods—they’d neglected to remove the security device from my shoes.
Later in the afternoon, we all went to see “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” It was entertaining, with plenty of chase scenes. I did hear some terrific musical moments. John Powell is the composer, incorporating songs and themes by John Williams. (Disclosure: I am easily entertained.)
Tomorrow I begin the next phase of my journey, carrying instead of pushing. I hope my decision to do this works out well. No turning back at this point. Wish me luck!
0 miles today.
May 27, 2018
Day 142. I survived my first day carrying the backpack; but trust me, it wasn’t easy.
I’m sure many of you who hike will understand. I weighed the pack this morning—23 lbs. I don’t think I’ve ever hiked any significant distance with a backpack.
It was my shoulders that complained first, and they continued to complain. I adjusted the pack as I walked, and read all of the online advice and recommendations as to adjustment, where to carry the weight, etc. I took regular breaks. And now that I’m resting at the motel after a shower, it’s my legs that have taken up the complaining.
I’ve maintained for years the personal philosophy that if you can do 1 pull-up, you can do 2; if you can lift 50 lbs., you can lift 60 lbs.; if you can walk 10 miles, you can walk 12; etc. So if I can survive a 17 mile walk carrying a 23 lb. backpack, I can walk a second day.
I took an early lunch break at S & K Dairy Cup and had quite a good fish sandwich plus a chocolate malt that reminded me of the chocolate malts of my youth. While waiting for my order I chatted with Greg who was with his young son. Later, while his boy played on the slide and swing, Greg told me he’s an environmental scientist with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, ORSANCO, which monitors the water quality of the Ohio River. We shared environmental stories and concerns.
A sidewalk took me the last few miles into Hillsboro, and I stopped at a Burger King for fries, a Dr Pepper, and some air conditioning. Then, after eight hours on the road, I arrived at the Days Inn.
I ate dinner at a nearby McDonald’s, and afterwards chatted with the shift manager, Regina. When she found out about my walk, she asked if I’d like a free hot fudge sundae for dessert. Did she think I’d turn it down?
17 miles today.
@ Hillsboro, Ohio
May 28, 2018
Day 143. Today I was finally able to give something back after having received so much on this journey.
A long hike on a hot day brought me to Bainbridge. I’d planned to stay at the Hirn House, a local B&B; but it no longer is a B&B. The owner’s son returned from college, so she can no longer rent out his room!
However, she referred me to the local Methodist church, and the preacher gave his okay for me to pitch my tent in the backyard of the Painted Valley Ministries Food Pantry, which is across the street from the church itself.
As I started to set up the tent in the backyard, Merri arrived. She’s in charge of the Food Pantry’s food bank distribution. Merri told me that it was okay with her if I stayed overnight inside the small building if I wanted to. Sure! I put all my stuff in a back storage room.
People were already starting to line up outside the small building to receive a box of groceries and packaged goods, and I asked Merri if I could help. Without hesitation she put me to work assembling dozens of boxes containing cereal, pasta, juice, spaghetti sauce, and an assortment of canned and packaged goods. At the same time, Merri, Lana, and Michelle were filling boxes with fresh food, produce and bakery items.
Although I’ve donated to a food bank for many years as part of Temple Sinai’s annual campaign, I can’t tell you what an honor and privilege it is to actually be on the front line helping to distribute the food. It was their gift to me.
20 miles today.
@ Bainbridge, Ohio
May 29, 2018
Day 144. The last mile or two of my walk into the town of Chillicothe was on a sidewalk. Just before that it was on the narrow edge of a retaining wall.
My chance to help at the Pantry last night demonstrates how an unexpected event can wind up leading to a peak experience.
When I saw Merri this morning, she asked, “How did you sleep?” I responded, “About as well as I ever sleep.” This “quality of sleep” business is not something I truly understand. Any recommendation I hear or read that one should “get more sleep” is, to me, laughable. What, you don’t think I’d like to sleep more? That’s not always the way it works. Basically, I feel that if I can function the next day, I must have gotten enough sleep. But that’s just me.
Some may recall that I am reading through the Talmud, a 7 year project called “Daf Yomi.” My study cycle ends in January 2020. Unless you’re well-versed in such things, I can tell you that the Talmud is not what you think it is. That said, reading the Talmud and my coast-to-coast walk have much in common: I often have to remind myself why I’ve taken on these challenges; each takes a long time to complete; and I’m looking forward to finishing both journeys.
I have no idea where I’ll be the next few nights, and I’m still getting used to my backpack. Also, it’s no surprise I’m again dealing with blisters.
13 miles today.
@ Chillicothe, Ohio
May 30, 2018
Day 145. This morning, a guy named Bubba dropped me outside of town along the highway. That was a help.
After six hours of walking, I was having a helluva time trying to find a decent place to camp when it started to rain. At that point a man in a Prius pulled up, lowered his window, and asked if I’d like a ride. I climbed in. Hell, I’m no fool.
I told Jim I was looking for a decent place to camp, and he told me he was on his way to Athens, Ohio, which is where I was headed. I wasn’t happy about the ride, but my feet were cheering.
I called and made a reservation at the Super 8 while Jim told me about his two careers—insurance agent and adjunct professor teaching risk management at Ohio University (my son Adam’s alma mater).
When we got to Athens, Jim drove me around the impressive campus where Adam spent three years, and then dropped me at the motel.
I had a Skype conversation with my friends Bill and Barbara, both experienced backpackers and hikers, who confirmed that my backpacking difficulties were more or less normal, and I’d eventually overcome them.
All blisters are now taped with Leukotape K, and will hopefully heal with time.
That’s how my day went. In between the two rides I walked 18 miles.
@ Athens, Ohio
May 31, 2018
Day 146. Each day seems crazier than the one before.
After walking seven miles from Athens and eating breakfast at a gas station convenience deli, I got caught in a sudden downpour of rain and hail, accompanied by thunder. By the time I had my rain jacket out of my backpack, I was thoroughly soaked.
In an effort to avoid ticks, I’d tucked my pants into my socks, and now the rain poured into my waterproof shoes! Of course all this was complicated by having to remove my hat, backpack, ear buds, and reflective vest, put on the rain jacket, the vest, and then the backpack. My iPhone was getting wet, my feet were squishing in my shoes, and the rain kept coming down.
I was a mile beyond the gas station, and did not want to return. My camping destination, a truck rest stop, was still 11 miles away. I took a moment to laugh at my situation. Noticing that the shoulder on the other side of the highway was much wider, I walked across the grass median and started walking with traffic.
A few minutes later, a mid-sized Penske truck pulled over and stopped in front of me. It was Ovidio, a man from El Salvador, delivering a load of vegetables. I climbed in—a lot easier now that I had a backpack instead of the cart!
Ovidio’s English was not that much better than my Spanish, so we used both to communicate. He told me he had a work visa and allowed me to take his photo. We enjoyed each other’s company for 15 minutes until he dropped me off in Belpre.
The rain had stopped as suddenly as it had started. I walked for several more hours (with wet feet) to the motel I’d planned to stay at tomorrow
The room was not clean, smelled of smoke, and a wasp I tried to shoo from the room stung me. So I walked next door to the Red Roof Inn, got a much nicer room (same price), and transferred my stuff to the new place. I went back, told them why I was leaving, and they processed a refund with no hassle.
Now, after a shower, I’m getting ready to put all my wet things in the dryer. The sun has come out and all is well here in West Virginia.
I walked 19 miles today.
Parkersburg, West Virginia
June 1, 2018
Day 147. You can’t will your body to heal, but you can rest it. And that’s what I decided to do today.
The blisters are still tender; maybe they’ll be a little better tomorrow. My shoes are still damp, and I’ve used the hairdryer to help blow-dry them.
I ordered in some comfort food—pizza with anchovies and mushrooms, salad, and cheesecake. (I’ll be eating the same thing for dinner as I did for lunch.)
The sun is gone, and it’s been gray and gloomy all day. Regardless, I’m heading out tomorrow morning to resume this last stage of my journey.
I see it just started to rain. 0 miles today.
@ Parkersburg, West Virginia
June 2, 2018
Day 148. I was up early, wrapped my blisters in Leukotape K, packed my stuff into my backpack, and headed out the door to McDonald’s.
As I ate one of the two egg McMuffins (hold the bacon) I’d bought, I walked onto the “wrong way” on-ramp to Hwy 50 East. The shoulder in this section of West Virginia is wide.
There are two excellent podcasts I’ve been enjoying and recommend: “It’s Only a Game” and “Stuff You Missed in History Class.”
Five hours later I stopped at Back Woods Pizza in Deerwalk, where I ate a pizza sub, a root beer, and a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
A few miles later I walked down a long ramp to Mountwood Park.
The actual camping sites were another two miles into the park, and that was not appealing to me. I spied a wooden fence off a nearby service road, investigated, and discovered a concrete pad hidden behind it. The pad, obviously a shooting stage given the empty cartridges scattered all around it, seemed like the perfect place for me to spend the night!
It’s warm and humid, and the sounds of birds and distant traffic fill the air.
Tonight I’ll be using the bivy sack for the first time.
16 miles today. Shabbat Shalom.
Walker, West Virginia
June 3, 2018
Day 149. I awoke at midnight to find the sky filled with stars and many fireflies. It was a magnificent scene, and a reminder of how beautiful the universe can be.
After watching the flickering of the fireflies (and a few satellites passing by) through the screen in my bivy, I eventually fell back to sleep.
Sadly, camping in a bivy while being a 71-year-old man does have its downside. Extracting oneself from the “tube” to go pee in the middle of the night requires a fair amount of effort; but it must be done. The process was simpler in the tent, especially being a man. Fortunately, tonight is was not raining.
I walked along the rolling West Virginia hills in the early mist (and later in the sunshine) for hours, taking frequent rests as I shifted the backpack and tried to ignore the intermittent blister pain in my right foot. My destination was the Sleep Inn in Ellenboro, and Benita, who’d made my reservation yesterday, was at the desk with a smile to greet me.
After putting my gear in my room, I hobbled over to a nearby place for lunch.
Now, after a shower and a nap, I’m ready to start planning the next few days (camping tomorrow night; motel the following night).
Whenever I’m feeling sorry for myself, I think of the many refugees around the world seeking asylum or freedom, or of the hardships my grandparents had to endure while immigrating to this country. My “hardships” are nothing compared to theirs.
Virtually every day someone asks why I’m doing this, and I talk about my father and his World War 2 service. Truthfully? Compared to his 44 missions in a B-24 in the South Pacific, what I’m doing is a cakewalk.
Yes, I’ve got it easy in comparison and, God willing, I’ll be home in less than a month.
@ Ellenboro, West Virginia
June 4, 2018
Day 150. For many hundreds of miles I had highway sounds on one side of me and freight train sounds on the other. I miss the trains.
Fortunately, I also have the songs of many birds that filter through the vehicle noise, and often I concentrate on those.
At noon I stopped for lunch at a “Sub Express” adjacent to a gas station, and it was nice to get sliced mushrooms and sweet peppers on my tuna sub. Simple pleasures.
It was generally cloudy today, not too hot, with no rain expected until tomorrow sometime. A nice breeze is keeping the air and me cool.
Today I’ve been listening to an audiobook: “One Click—Jeff Bezos and the Rise of Amazon.com.” I’m enjoying it, and there are no ads such as the ones that constantly interrupt podcasts. I am so sick of hearing about Zip Recruiter and Stamps.com.
Here’s a book recommendation: “Body and Soul” by Frank Conroy. I read it years ago and am enjoying it again. It’s a story of a young piano prodigy and his adventures as he makes his way in the musical life in NY.
Eventually I arrived at an RV park along Hwy 50. The owner had said on the phone that I could camp on the grass along the stream. He didn’t mention money, and neither did I.
For several hours I hung out at the picnic table under a shade structure, rested, texted, and read. When I realized that none of the folks in the RVs were paying any attention to me, I just set the bivy up right next to the picnic table. If it rains, I’m covered.
Later, Garland came over and we had a long chat—he’s very proud of his family. Another man, Jim, came by with sandwiches and snacks for me. Although they didn’t know one another, each worked for a construction or oil crew, lived in their RVs during the week, and traveled home on the weekends. People are generally good, and they work hard.
16 miles today. Still dealing with right foot blisters.
@ West Virginia
June 5, 2018
Day 151. As I walked through Clarksburg I was happy I was not pushing my cart. There’s absolutely no shoulder at all.
It’s just three lanes of traffic rushing in each direction. The narrow border of grass next to a cement barrier is barely wide enough for me to walk on.
That said, I often miss what was in the cart: my tent; cans of soup and other food items; extra water; the camp stool, which provided a nice place to sit when I took a break.
Everyone who told me that West Virginia is beautiful was right. The trees, hills, and sky all are gorgeous.
This morning, even under the picnic table shelter, my bivy was wet, and that’s how I had to pack it. I encountered rain a couple of times today, but had my rain jacket handy. Over the next week or so I’ll probably be rained on regularly.
The next 125-150 miles will be a challenge, since motels as well as places to buy provisions will be very limited or non-existent. That’s what’s on my mind right now. But I can begin to see the end in sight. With all I’ve endured over the months, another few weeks is not significant.
I’m listening to an audiobook, “The Litigators,” by John Grisham. I’ve read it before, but it’s my favorite Grisham book, and one of the more humorous he’s written.
Today at the Subway/pizza place I chatted with Eric and two of his co-worker/friends. As I said yesterday, people work hard, and are pretty much all friendly, generous, and kind.
15.8 miles today.
@ Bridgeport, West Virginia
June 6, 2018
Day 152. Highway 50 in West Virginia is mostly a long, winding, hilly, country two-lane blacktop road.
Fortunately for me, it’s been a gray, cool, overcast day—perfect for walking. And I have a lot of walking to do.
I stopped at a Family Dollar and picked up a bunch of protein bars. Then I went to the McDonald’s and ordered an Egg McMuffin. I’ve noticed that even gas stations are rare at this point.
Sitting and resting at a church picnic table, I watched a truck crew repainting the double yellow line down the middle of the road. There’s not a great deal of traffic; the paint appears to dry quickly.
Internet connectivity is poor here in the middle of nowhere. I can see from the map that I need to clock another 5-6 miles today to keep on schedule, so once again, I’m off.
I stopped at the “Company’s Comin’ Diner” where the best buckwheat pancakes in the world were served up by two “older” ladies. Think “Aunt Bea.” (They’re probably both my age.)
I’m set up for the night, camped behind a gospel church on a side road. As predicted, my internet connection is very weak. But I did send a text with my location to Sharon, and was able to get through on the phone.
The hills are not particularly steep, especially compared to California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and my feet are no worse than a few days ago. West Virginia continues to deliver gorgeous scenery. A big red dog followed me for a while, and I had to chase it off. The backpack is becoming more bearable.
I walked 24 miles today. I’m headed toward Winchester, Virginia.
@ West Virginia
June 7, 2018
Day 153. I was up early, knowing I had a “mountain” to climb—possibly the last really steep one of the journey. But first I had to come down from where I was at. I enjoyed the hairpin curves and walking a few miles down the 9% grade.
I stopped for breakfast, but the buckwheat cakes & eggs did not compare to the ones I had last night.
A few hours later, I approached the foot of the next climb where I met Tim, a scary-looking but otherwise pleasant guy with a half dozen dogs and 2 dozen cars and trucks in his large yard. He warned me about the imminent climb, but I told him I’d already walked over 2,000 miles so far, including some pretty steep climbs in Arizona and New Mexico. I convinced myself; not sure about him.
Before I started the 3 mile climb, I took a few minutes to tape two of my toes that were developing blisters. Glad I did.
It took 1.5 hours to get to the point where the road finally leveled off. After that the walk was easy.
A while later, I asked an older couple (e.g. my age) if they would fill my water bottle. Carolyn and Randy gave me some cold bottled water and a Cranberry Sprite, and then invited me for a peanut butter and Welch’s grape jelly sandwich lunch. We discussed religion—they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses—and the economics, population, and geography of this part of West Virginia. (Politics did not come up.)
I walked on and at 5 pm spied an unoccupied pasture, snuck in, set up the bivy and got in (to avoid the flying insects). I am now patiently waiting for it to get dark and cool down.
PLEASE NOTE: My updated final destination is Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
Tomorrow I have a reservation in a “cozy” motel. Walked 20 miles today.
@ Aurora, West Virginia
June 8, 2018
Day 154. Today I was the kid who had to walk six miles back and forth to school—uphill both ways.
Yes, it’s so easy to deceive oneself. While yesterday’s may have been steep, today it seemed I was climbing uphill more than I was descending. Thus, the 17 miles I walked today was hard-fought, and my feet are complaining.
For over 2,000 miles I pushed a 78 lb. cart. Now I’m carrying a 23 lb. backpack. At this point I’m not convinced that one is any easier than the other.
The motel I’m checked into is the only game in town, and is reminiscent of the many other small motels I’ve stayed in. While it doesn’t smell from smoke, it appears that my neighbors will supply sufficient distractions.
Today I walked in West Virginia for a couple of hours, then passed through a portion of Maryland, and then (due to the vagaries of state borders) I was back to the hills of West Virginia.
Earlier, when I tried to post my blog, I didn’t have any internet connection. This is an ongoing first-world frustration.
As I passed a young man exiting his pickup, I asked if he had any extra water. As Patrick, a service technician for NeuBeam, filled my bottles, he told me his company installs cellular service. “If you need to get online, just walk over to that building over there. I’ll give you the password.” Thanks, Patrick!
If anyone is wondering why I chose Rehoboth Beach, Delaware as my updated final destination instead of Ocean City, Maryland, it’s because it’s one less day to walk. And I’ve walked enough.
17 miles today.
@ Mount Storm, West Virginia
June 9, 2018
Day 155. I must admit I’m losing steam, and I’m limping along at this point. Both literally and figuratively.
While I have every intention of finishing, I’ll say again: this is not an easy undertaking. But my feet continue to pay the price of walking 15-20 miles per day, and I now have blue Leukotape K on 8 of my toes.
This morning I hitched a ride down the hill with Carolina, a nurse from Indiana who’s staying at the motel. I then proceeded to walk to the Koolwink, a retro (but clean, bright, and airy) motel in Romney, West Virginia. I love it! Along with other cool features, it has a yellow and white bathroom with a bright yellow shower curtain sporting the Koolwink guy logo.
West Virginia is filled with friendly people. This morning I bought two egg salad sandwiches at a gas/convenience store (“They were just made yesterday”), ate one then, and saved the other until I checked in at the Koolwink. Tonight I’ll attempt to walk a half-mile to the Subway down the street.
In spite of the beautiful scenery all around me, I still see the same stuff on the road that I’ve encountered from the first day—garbage, road kill, tools, vehicle parts, cans and bottles, and discarded plastic. I’ve heard that China has stopped not accepting our recyclable plastic as part of the tariff war threats, so it’s beginning to pile up here in the US. Hopefully that’s temporary. If we can’t send our plastic trash to China, where can we send it? (I hope you get the irony in that last sentence.)
18 miles today.
@ Romney, West Virginia
I was humbled to read this today on Facebook:
Our Temple Sinai congregant and friend Robert Schoen is nearing the end of his walk across America. Follow him to get daily updates and to give him encouragement. I am in awe of this human being!
The reactions and supportive comments I get every day do help me go on and boost my spirits. Thank you!
June 10, 2018
Day 156. I tried a new footwear strategy today, and had some success. Until it rained.
I wore my Reef slides today for about 16 miles. They’re like flip-flops but without the toe separator. When it started to rain I switched back to my waterproof Merrells.
This is the only footwear I’m now carrying.
I found a place to set up the bivy under one of those picnic overhangs in Capon Bridge and waited until the rain finally let up.
Today I listened to the conclusion of the well-written and performed audiobook bio of “John Quincy Adams” by Harlow Giles Unger. I knew little about him, but came away incredibly impressed with John Quincy. Sadly, he was not very successful in his attempts to be “America’s President.” It was also sobering to hear that the congress of his day was as polarized and ineffective as it is now.
I stopped for buckwheat cakes and eggs in a diner. Meh. I’m spoiled forever by the ones I had at the “Company’s Comin’ Diner.”
Tomorrow I enter Virginia. (I can see it from here!)
I walked 19 miles today.
@ Capon Bridge, West Virginia
June 11, 2018
Day 157. I got on the road after packing up my wet gear as best I could.
Beautiful scenery may be awesome, but wet camping gear is not.
Near the end of this on-and-off rainy day, I had an offer of a ride I couldn’t refuse! During one downpour, a sheriff’s deputy pulled up and asked where I was headed. I was only a couple of miles from the Marriott and gladly hopped into the back of her vehicle.
We chatted through the clear protective barrier until she dropped me under the porte-cochere. Then, because the back doors of police cars can’t be opened from inside, she had to come around to let me out. This was limo service at its strangest!
I thanked her, hobbled into the lobby, checked in, dumped my gear in my fifth floor room overlooking an excavation/construction site, and headed to a very hot Jacuzzi. A just reward!
For over 2,000 miles I’ve pushed my stuff in a cart. For 400 more miles I’ve carried it on my back. The next 120 miles or so, from my current location in Winchester to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, is pretty much city or suburbia, with facilities and services all along the way. Over the bridge lies the Eastern Shore. That 80 miles, between the bridge and the ocean, is not as densely occupied, but it is well-traveled and serviced.
So I’ve decided that my nights sleeping on the side of the road, under picnic shelters, and in backyards is over. It is now time to send my camping gear home. It’s served me well, but adios.
I’m looking forward to dinner tonight with Jeff Rudisill. Jeff walked coast-to-coast several years ago. He’s much tougher than I and never complains. I want to be like him when I grow up.
18 miles today.
@ Winchester, Virginia
June 12, 2018
Day 158. The walk out of Winchester was mostly on sidewalks, and it was almost a pleasure carrying my lighter pack.
But then the sidewalk ended, and for miles I walked on gravel along a narrow shoulder in heavy traffic. I shuddered at the thought of having to push my cart along this gravel path
At last I reached the Historic Rosemont Manor, a quiet oasis with acres of lawns, trees, lovely décor, and tasteful furnishings.
The Manor hosts many weddings, and I was reminded of the 20 years I was a wedding bandleader. Then Great Recession and chest pains while performing for brides and grooms combined to end that career. (Oddly, I never had chest pains before or since.)
Before dinner last night, my friend (and fellow cross-country walker) Jeff drove me to a nearby post office where I boxed up my sleeping bag, air mattress, and bivy sack and sent them home. Today, even with a lighter pack, my feet are still sore, and most likely will be for the 200 miles remaining.
Jeff treated me and his friend Virginia to a memorable dinner at Applebee’s. We had much to talk about, and I think Virginia was amused at the stories Jeff and I traded about being on the road.
In the next two weeks I’ll be seeing a number of people important to me, including: my daughter, Marna (on Father’s Day!); my friend Christine (who was sitting next to Sharon, her close friend, the first time Sharon and I met in Columbia, Maryland); my friend and optical co-worker, Ray (we worked together in Baltimore); my Boston University college friend, Roger (we met in 1964); and Betty, my Wantagh High School classmate and kindergarten girlfriend (imagine the secrets she knows!).
The weather here in Berryville is perfect. I walked 12 miles today.
@ Berryville, Virginia
June 12, 2018
Ben Tarpley, shared a photo of Jeff Rudisill and me on his Facebook page with this commentary:
This is a photo of two gentlemen who became my friends in the last six months. Because of a shared common bond, they met recently for the first time. Their bond resulted from long distance hiking—walking across America!
Jeff, who completed his hike in 2011, started in Dana Point, California and finished at Emerald Isle, North Carolina 147 days later, averaging almost 20 miles per day.
Bob, who is within 200 miles of completing his walk, departed from Huntington Beach, California and plans to finish in Ocean City, Maryland in less than two weeks.
Both men come from different faiths and backgrounds, but share a tremendous respect for each other. Jeff drove for several hours to offer encouragement to Bob as he nears the finish line. In the attached photo, Jeff, a Christian, poses with a book authored by Bob who is Jewish.
Their stories regarding their walk will enlighten, amuse, and entertain you for hours.
One final footnote: Both men began their adventures AFTER reaching the age of 70. This suggests that most limitations are set by your mind, and not by your body.
June 13, 2018
Day 159. After an enjoyable breakfast of a veggie omelet, veggie sausages, biscuits, and fruit, I said goodbye to the Historic Rosemont Manor.
Once again I walked on the sidewalk for a couple of miles, and then encountered a narrow shoulder and heavy traffic. Fortunately, the rain (50% chance) never materialized.
Wearing my Reef slides with two pairs of socks, I walked in relative comfort, and eventually arrived in Purcellville. There I treated myself to a chocolate malt at Market Burger. A few minutes later, in walked my Wantagh High School classmate and friend Betty (Bladykas) Gleason along with her daughter Kerry.
Although Betty and I have not seen each other in many years, we’ve known each other since kindergarten. It was great to catch up on what’s happened to us in the last 50+ years, and our travels, interests, and personal histories. She lives in Florida but is in town for her grandson Ryan’s high school graduation.
Kerry, her husband Daniel, Betty, and I went out for a really good pizza dinner. For dessert I ate some of the terrific chocolate chip cookies baked especially for me by Betty.
Early tomorrow morning, on the way to Ryan’s high school graduation ceremony, I’ll be dropped off in Purcellville where I’ll get on the W&OD trail for a traffic-free walk to Leesburg.
I found a Sacagawea dollar on the road today. It’s now my good luck piece.
16 miles today.
@ Loudoun County, Virginia
June 14, 2018
Day 160. If there existed a “walking path” across the United States that was anything like the path I walked on today, people would be walking this county from coast-to-coast as if it were the Camino de Santiago or the Inca Trail.
The Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) is an asphalt paved, converted Rails to Trails cycling/hiking path—I’ve walked similar trails several times, most recently the Katy Trail.
It’s great! No trucks or cars, no non-existent shoulders, and no trash, either. Also, much of this trail is shaded.
When I finally left the path, I walked on sidewalks into Historic Downtown Leesburg, which turned out to be quaint, charming, and filled with both locals and tourists. I ate lunch in a Chinese restaurant, and then continued walking through Southern Civil War history for several more miles.
Adding to the pleasant walk today was the pleasure of not having to carry my backpack.
Kerry and Betty picked me up after attending the graduation ceremony. Now I’m resting, doing a load of laundry, and planning the logistics of the next several days.
12 miles today.
@ Leesburg, Virginia
June 15, 2018
Day 161. I need to get to Annapolis by noon on Monday. In order to meet that timetable, I asked my hosts to drop me off this morning at Lock No. 10 on the C&O Canal Towpath in Cabin John, Maryland.
After saying a fond goodbye to Betty and thanking Kerry for hosting me and being so kind in driving me everywhere, I walked onto the C&O Canal Towpath and Capital Crescent Trail along a gorgeous stretch of the Potomac River. This is the same river in which President John Quincy Adams used to go skinny dipping (swim suits had not yet been created).
My destination was the DuPont Circle Metro station in Georgetown. Along the way I glimpsed the Washington Monument, the only sightseeing I’ll be doing in DC.
Christine, a dear friend of my wife, Sharon, picked me up at the Metro station and drove me to her home in Savage, Maryland. She prepared lunch and we enjoyed a long conversation on her back porch. A few hours later she served up a terrific salmon dinner. I’m stuffed!
Silver Spring is where my daughter Marna lives with her husband and sons. I’ll be staying with them the next two nights. It’s also where Sharon grew up.
10 miles today.
@ Savage, Maryland
June 16, 2018
Day 162. Christine dropped me off at my daughter’s home in Silver Spring at about 8:30 am. I said hello and goodbye to my son-in-law, Zak, and my grandsons Leo and Solomon, left my backpack with Zak, and headed out on the road to put in some walking miles.
The next couple of days are supposed to be warmer, so I want to get my walking in early.
Today’s walk was, frankly, dull. Some sidewalks, some narrow shoulders, some busy streets. Strip malls and stores, city traffic, lights and noise.
I’m listening to an audiobook bio of Charlie Parker, “Kansas City Lightning,” by Stanley Crouch. This made the walking slightly more tolerable. It was interesting to hear that Bird and my father were both born in 1920. Parker died at age 34. (My father died at 96.)
After walking to Lanham, Maryland, I took a Lyft back to Silver Spring.
Zak is a bassist, and his older son, Leo is learning the guitar. Leo and I jammed for a while on “Autumn Leaves.” Solomon (Solly) is my youngest grandson, hung out while we played some music. My daughter, Marna, is working late, so the guys and I went out to Subway for supper.
12 miles today.
@ Lanham, Maryland
June 17, 2018
Day 163. I saw my daughter Marna for a minute before I left this morning. Later this afternoon we’re all going out for pizza and salad to celebrate Father’s Day, and I’m looking forward to that.
I am also looking forward to my tour of the Naval Academy tomorrow. I’ll be having lunch with Gordon Peterson, an Academy graduate and career Navy officer. I’ll then meet up with Ray Parks, an optical colleague, and his wife Marlene, and spend time with them as we drive over the Chesapeake and later share a meal.
I have a good idea where I’ll be each night next week (except one), and that’s comforting.
Now I’m just relaxing, reading the most recent book (“The Wanted”) by one of my favorite popular authors (Robert Crais). It features a very cool detective, Elvis Cole.
Easy walking except for one challenging stretch. And at this point, what’s a challenging stretch to me? Ha!
Tonight I had an opportunity to speak about my journey with a group of my daughter Marna’s co-housing neighbors. Many of the questions they asked are answered on my Frequently Asked Questions page:
10 miles today.
@ Bowie, Maryland
June 18, 2018
Day 164. Although it was a humid day today, and hot (in the high 90°s), I didn’t mind. I wasn’t walking.
In fact, I spent most of the day in air conditioned comfort.
First, Marna and I walked to the Silver Spring Metro Station and we chatted until I got off at Union Station. (She continued to a further stop on her way to work.)
Soon my Wantagh High School classmate, Gordon Peterson, picked me up. We drove to Annapolis where Gordy treated me to lunch at the Severn Inn. (I ordered fish tacos, a salad, and a non-alcoholic beer; he ordered a crab dish; we shared 2 desserts. The food was excellent.)
Next up was a tour of the US Naval Academy, his alma mater. Gordon is a decorated Navy helicopter pilot and Vietnam war veteran, as well as a former history teacher at the Academy. So he knows the place well.
Later, Gordon showed me Memorial Hall where the name of our Wantagh High School classmate Bill Matthews, who was killed in a fighter crash in 1978, is memorialized on a plaque listing the 29 members of the Academy’s Class of 1968 who were killed in the operational line of duty or combat. Billy was well-liked and respected by all.
After visiting the tomb of John Paul Jones and the Navy Museum, we drove to a predetermined meeting place where I was transferred into the care of my good friends Ray and Marlene Parks—I worked in an optical/optometry facility in Baltimore with Ray for 3 years before moving back to California with Sharon in 1983. It was great to see them again, and we had a lot to catch up on as Ray drove over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In spite of my objections, they treated me to dinner, during which we had a good opportunity to continue our discussion.
Now I have nothing to do for the next week but walk toward the Atlantic Ocean. In the expected heat. And the anticipated rain. Let’s see how it goes.
0 miles walked today.
@ Grasonville, Maryland
June 19, 2018
Day 165. After breakfast this morning, I wrapped up the outer three toes of my right foot with blue Leukotape K, put on two pairs of socks and my slides, grabbed my backpack, and out the door I went.
No rain today (good), but it was mostly cloudy (very good), and for long stretches at a time I walked in the shade of trees along Hwy 50 (even better).
The highway is noisy, with two lanes of traffic in each direction. As I walked I listened to the Charlie Parker audiobook (he was a serious addict by his mid- to late-teens, married with a son, and constantly hocking his alto sax for drug money). I also tuned into podcasts and listened to jazz masters Bill Watrous and Dexter Gordon.
This part of my journey provides a wide shoulder, which makes the traffic noise bearable. Also, I’m getting close to my goal.
The first half of this final leg offers places to eat and/or stay; the second half, less-so. I am certainly counting down the miles, but I can’t make them pass any faster.
Yesterday’s excursion with Gordon to the Naval Academy and the time spent with Ray and Marlene provided a nice opportunity to rest up. All walks this week is on flat terrain, and should be fewer than 20 miles a day. Unless or until it rains, I’ll be hiking in my Reefs.
Managers at both Choice and Wyndham Hotels have saved me money on several occasions by providing special discounts, and I appreciate it. Independent motels have also given me discounts, and at least once I was comped a room. I guess I’m a VIP!
Lunch at Panera Bread was comforting. 19 miles today.
@ Easton, Maryland
June 20, 2018
Day 166. Each morning I head out on my journey hoping for no drama. I should know better. The drama finds me.
The Choptank River is a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and the largest river on the Delmarva Peninsula, running for 71 miles. In 1985 the Markus Bridge over the Choptank replaced the Harrington Bridge. It’s often called the Choptank Bridge. I can’t find it’s exact length, but it’s long.
I’d almost reached “the other side” of the bridge (maybe 80% of the way) when a black police car with lights flashing (no siren) pulled up in front of me. The officer came out and I smiled as I was informed in a friendly manner by Cpl. Robbie Ball of the Cambridge, Maryland Police Department that pedestrians were not permitted on the bridge.
Then he told me that he would drive me over.
“But that means you have to drive all the way back!”
“Well,” he replied with a genuine smile, “I can’t back up!”
So once again I was in the back seat of a police car. We talked about my journey and about his own life and career. After making a U-turn at an appropriate spot, he deposited me where I’d been headed. Before parting, I asked if I could take photos and he said yes. (Note: We are now Facebook friends.)
Other than this pleasant encounter, the walk to Cambridge was uneventful. I did, however, stop at Denny’s for a chocolate shake. Yesterday, I ate supper at Denny’s and asked the waiter if they offered a Senior discount. He replied, “No, but we have an Over 55 menu.” Suspicious, I checked online and discovered the truth: what Denny’s does offer is an AARP discount. And I got it when I presented my card at the cash register, both yesterday and today.
My attention was drawn to an interesting business establishment along the road, but I didn’t stop at the Psychic/Astrologer (even though it’s now under new management).
Upcoming posts in the final days of my journey will include news about the forthcoming publication of the novel I’ve written with Catherine deCuir.
18 miles today.
@ Cambridge, Maryland
June 21, 2018
Day 167. Hot and humid describes the walk to Vienna, Maryland. But otherwise, it was uneventful (e.g., no flashing lights). My clothes, backpack, and I are all drenched with sweat.
The Tavern House Bed and Breakfast is a charming house on River Road in the colonial town of Vienna. Located on the Nanticoke River, it was founded in 1706.
My hosts Elise and Harvey Altergott are also charming, as well as knowledgeable, well-traveled, and hospitable. Originally from Wisconsin, he is an Annapolis graduate and a former Navy pilot. She is from Massachusetts and worked in nursing and then electronics. They’ve run this B&B successfully for over 30 years. And wow, it is SO QUIET here!
After a shower, I had a pleasant conversation during lunch with Elise and Harvey in a lovely front room. I’m now resting in one of the five bedrooms.
Because of some water damage that occurred while they were recently in Europe. Further repairs are necessary, and I’m the only guest tonight. Fine with me.
Although it rained early this morning, I continue to avoid having to walk through the many thunderstorms predicted on local TV. And tomorrow I’ll be in Salisbury, one of the last stops in my journey.
14 miles today.
@ Vienna, Maryland
June 22, 2018
Day 168. Rain. Wind. Gray skies. I’ve seen worse of each, but I am near the end.
This morning’s meal was epic. I counted eight varieties of fresh fruit, and five different vegetables accompanied my eggs and English muffins. I complimented Elise on the striking color contrasts in the food presentation, but she waved it off, alluding to what she used to do in “the old days.” It seems I’d also eased her burden by requesting “no meat.” (For a snack last night she served both herring and sardines!)
Sadly, she intimated that after 30+ years in the business, I might be their final guest. Harvey’s memory is failing, they’re both aging, and she just can’t do it alone.
Elise insisted that she and Harvey drive me across the Nanticoke River bridge towards Salisbury. When we stopped for gas, I pumped. (The gas tank was as empty as it could be.)
We soon said our goodbyes, and I headed off for my next-to-last walk of the trip.
As I approached Salisbury, the landscape became more of what many Americans have come to accept as the norm—traffic, traffic signals, fast food and other iconic restaurants, gas stations with attached convenience stores, muffler shops, chain drug stores, a Walmart, strip and shopping malls, motels, and so on. This town is a duplicate of so many I’ve walked through.
This sameness can be numbing. Part of my brain has absolutely no idea where I am. Added to that unawareness is my ignorance of the day, date, month, time, or even what state I’m in. More and more these details are just part of a blur.
Having been present when a dementia evaluation was performed on my father several years ago, I know that a major difference between his state of mind and mine is that I still remember my birthdate and the names of my sister, children, and wife. (And I remember who the current president is because the media won’t allow me to forget it.)
I’m confident that my present state is a result of having lived in the present for the last five months, rarely venturing more than one or two days into the future. Virtually my entire concentration has been directed to what’s happening now, today, and tonight. I’ve always been skeptical of the concept of “mindfulness” and the people who insist that you “practice” it. I truly believe that we live mindfully when we’re called on to do so. I say to you, why worry about being in the present if you don’t need to?
10 miles today.
@ Salisbury, Maryland
June 23, 2018
Day 169. My attempt to attend Shabbat services at a local congregation this morning fizzled when I discovered too late that their online schedule was inaccurate.
So instead I walked 5 miles through “Old Salisbury” and beyond, had an early lunch, and checked into the motel where I’ll be spending my final night in Maryland.
Tomorrow morning I’m heading to Rehoboth Beach to complete my journey.
Originally, I’d planned to walk from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge directly to the ocean, but that’s not how the cards fell. Instead, I’m taking what I’ll call a “repositioning ride” to Rehoboth.
It turns out that the mileage from the bridge to Salisbury is equal to the mileage from the bridge to Rehoboth (coincidence or divine intervention). So I’ve decided that “I’ve walked enough.”
My Boston University classmate, Roger Passarella, will pick me up here in Salisbury in the morning and we’ll drive to Rehoboth. After I commune with the Atlantic, we’ll take the nearby ferry to New Jersey and then head to the Jersey shore where Roger lives. After a couple of days of R&R, I’m off to Newark airport for a nonstop flight to San Francisco.
While this conclusion to a very long journey may seem anticlimactic, I’m happy with it.
(A “Welcome Home” event has been planned by my wife Sharon and our friends Dan and Nina Fendel.)
5 miles today.
@ Salisbury, Maryland
June 24, 2018
Day 170. As promised, Roger picked me up at 7:30 am, and we headed off to IHOP for Swedish pancakes. Then we drove to Rehoboth.
I walked the last couple of miles into the iconic beach town and down to the boardwalk, where I took off my shoes and socks, waded in, and…
Poof! My journey is over!
On the ferry ride to Cape May, a young man standing nearby asked if I was a runner. I felt he was paying me a compliment, but I was also puzzled, since I’m not a runner. I asked him why he thought I might be. He said he based his assumption on my build and my clothing.
After I told him about my journey across the country, Tim (a phys. ed. teacher), his partner Julie, Roger, and I chatted during the rest of the trip.
After we landed, Roger and I went to a popular local restaurant and shared a pizza and beet salad for lunch. Then we drove to his gorgeous home on Chadwick Island where I would spend the next two nights. Thank you, Roger!
I am excited to announce that The Rabbi Finds Her Way, a novel I’ve written with Catherine deCuir, will be released by Stone Bridge Press of Berkeley, California, in early 2019.
The Rabbi Finds Her Way features Pearl Ross, recently hired as associate rabbi at the fictional Lakeside Temple, a Reform synagogue in Northern California. The book follows the first years of the rabbi as she becomes acquainted with the members of her congregation, meets the man she soon marries, gives birth to her first child, and has a variety of adventures along the way. She also learns that God does, indeed, work in strange ways (an observation that I can personally attest to).
@ Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
June 25, 2018
Day 170 +1. All day I thought about the strange emptiness I’m feeling. Some possible reasons:
1. I no longer have to wonder where I’ll be sleeping tonight. (In a motel? A pasture? Behind a pile of asphalt? In someone’s backyard?)
2. I don’t have to worry about drinking water, and certainly don’t have to carry a gallon in my cart or two liters on my back.
3. I no longer need to consume 3,000+ calories a day, or carry protein bars and packs of tuna.
4. I can finally stop looking at Google maps.
5. I don’t have to photograph strange or unexpected objects I see on the side of the road.
6. And I no longer have to walk along the edge of highways with narrow shoulders, dodge trucks and cars, or worry about blind curves looming up ahead.
Suddenly life is less intense; the environment is less intrusive.
And my body is quickly getting the message that it no longer needs to process everything I fuel it with (e.g. Snickers, fried fish sandwiches, French fries, root beer, and ice cream.) It can just store it as fat.
This morning, after a late breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and an outrageously good jelly donut, I walked for an hour on the boardwalk with Roger. It was an easy stroll, especially after getting to the point where I can walk 5-7 hours with only minimal breaks. This became my style of walking and contrasts with other hikers who take strategic breaks every two hours or so. It won’t be long before I lose this ability (and the blisters that result!).
The lesson to be learned is that the human body is capable of incredible feats given the opportunity.
So many people I meet tell me, “I could never do what you’re doing!” But they’re wrong. Many could. Not all, of course. But reaching for the inner strength to achieve a difficult goal is an innate human quality.
That’s what I’ve come to believe.
@ Chadwick Beach, New Jersey
June 26, 2018
Day 170 +2.
Life is indeed different in First Class.
Roger and I ate an early breakfast and we were out of the house at 7 am. He and his family own real estate developments and properties in New Jersey, and we visited them on the way to Newark airport, all the while trading stories.
There’s something special about the relationship one has with someone you’ve known for over 50 years. I’m very proud of Roger and the success he’s had, rising from a humble background to become a CPA, an entrepreneur/businessman, and a caring, generous family man.
After the usual ordeal going through airport security, my group (#1) boarded the plane. I wasted no time telling the flight attendant about my journey and my Dad, asking if she’d give my card to the captain. Instead, she invited me to follow her to the cockpit and introduced me.
The pilot and copilot were appreciative of my father’s service during the war and interested in my walk. I was prepared for this unique photo opp.
I spoke with my seat mate, Jeff, for a long time. He’s a physician and researcher at an international pharmaceutical firm, and found the story of my walk interesting.
It’s already apparent to me that both the best and worst experiences as well as the highs and lows of my journey are quickly evolving into significant anecdotal stories. Thus, the wondrous sight of fireflies against a starlit sky and my unfortunate encounter with bedbugs seem to have become equally weighted in the retelling. (There’s probably a literary term for this phenomenon.)
Imagine my surprise when, after landing, I started up the escalator to the AirTrain and spied Sharon, Dan, Hannah, and Stan waiting for me. I turned around and there was Burt! I could not have been more touched and pleased! We all (except Burt, who drove) took BART back to the East Bay.
It took me about a minute to unpack. I spent some time with Graciela, and later Sharon and I called Verizon to reduce our data plan. I have a giant pile of mail to look through, I need to unpack the black and yellow container I shipped from Cincinnati, and my car battery is dead.
It’s great to be home!
@ Oakland, California
June 27, 2018
Day 170 +3. This will be my last post-walk post.
I want to thank my friends, old and new, for your caring support, for cheering me on, for your thoughtful comments, and for continuing to worry about me during the 170 days of my journey. This includes my friends and relatives, and classmates from Wantagh High School, Boston University, UC Berkeley, CSU East Bay, as well as fellow musicians from the past and present.
I also want to thank the many Angels-on-the-Road for your genuine and unselfish generosity shown to me, and for pretty much everything.
So many Temple Sinai congregants have been there for me—online and off. Cantor Ilene Keys, you know how much I love you. Rabbi Yoni Regev, you are so incredible.
Rabbi Jackie Mates-Muchin, you hold a special place in my heart, and your prayers and confidence in me continue to keep me going.
I was asked hundreds of times about how my wife felt about me being away for so many months. Sharon always supported me on this journey. That’s the kind of wife she is and why I love her. We communicated almost every day and she is and always has been my rock solid support for over 35 years.
My sister Eve (chief worrier and forever funny and upbeat); my daughter Marna (making the world a better place); my son Adam (he amazes me constantly, I’m so proud of him); they were always there for me.
Catherine deCuir, my talented and sweet music and writing partner, carried on a busy performance schedule without me, and I’m sure it wasn’t easy.
And Graciela, our Mexican cat, suffered from my absence and has been ill. But she is now napping comfortably.
My car battery is recharged, I’m digging through the mail and papers that have accumulated, and I worked out this morning (8 pull-ups instead of 50).
Watch for a book about my journey in late 2018 as well as the release of The Rabbi Finds Her Way in 2019.
Thanks again to everyone who has shared this experience with me!
@ Lake Merritt