Walk Across America Update

Trail 2

 

When deciding to walk across America, the main goal was to inspire people to get moving.  It is so important to stay active in order to attempt to avoid heart disease.  Sure there are a lot of factors that contribute to the disease, however staying active is a simple way to help maintain a healthy heart.  That goal remains the top priority of the walk.

Other goals have become evident as we continue across the country.  We are now over 700 miles into “the walk”, and I have realized that there is more to it from a personal level than just the original goal.

I have found that it is a battle of attrition.  By that I mean walking 10 to 20 miles everyday can become tiring.  Beyond that, it is a test of living a more difficult life.  I realized that more today when reading about settlers that ventured into the Albuquerque region in 1598.  I began to think about what life must have been like back then, compared to our lives today.  Nothing was easy, from the physical demands, right down to procuring and preparing of food.  Everything we take for granted today, like the ease of bathing and eating, was a chore.

Admittedly, we are not exactly “roughing it”, however, it is a long way from living in a house with all the conveniences that life in the 21st century provides.  I want to prove to myself that I can persevere.  This includes all the logistics that goes into planning routes on a daily basis, living with less stuff, the physical demands, and dealing with all the challenges that come our way during this journey.  It hasn’t been overly easy, but then again, we have heat, running water (if it doesn’t freeze), and grocery stores (at least in most places we stay).

It is a test to some degree, and I know I have led a pretty easy life thus far.  However, challenging  yourself now and then is a good thing.  Knowing that you can rise above the inconveniences can prove a lot, not to others, but to yourself.  That is what is truly important.

As for the walk itself, it hasn’t gone completely as expected, however, we get up every  morning and have been able to meet the physical demands that each day has laid in front of us, at least, thus far, fingers crossed.  It has also brought a bevy of memories that we will never forget.  This includes the beauty our country offers, stuff you don’t see from the freeway.  The landscape, the wildlife, the sunsets, terrain, and all the different cultures we have experienced thus far.

America is truly an amazing place.  We have seen folks living the California dream near the ocean, and those struggling to exist as we moved inland.  We have walked through Hispanic, Asian, as well as Native American communities.  One thing remains consistent, all the people we have met have been friendly and accommodating.

As we walked through Navajo country in eastern Arizona, I wasn’t sure exactly what to make of it.  That included the laws of the area, there are signs telling you that you that you are no longer under US jurisdiction, as well as whether or not you are welcomed in the area.  I’ll admit, this was all new to us.  I am glad to say that we have been welcomed and treated extremely well.  We have been offered water and given advice.  it has truly warmed our hearts.

We have walked on busy roads, desolate trails, up mountains, through rough terrain, through busy city streets, and in off the beaten path residential areas.  With virtually every step, we attempt to take in all that is around us including the beauty, the people, the wildlife (have to be careful there), and of course the hazards.

We have encountered some ares that we simply couldn’t walk.  Our planned route took us up mountain roads that seems unsafe to drive let alone walk.  Fortunately, there have only been a few of those.  In cases like that, we find alternate paths, some of which have come in state and national parks.  Those to me have been the most enjoyable to walk for various reasons.  One thing I have enjoyed is the challenge of navigating a course through the park.  It’s not always straight forward, and the trails are not always marked.  Additionally, there have been areas that truly test your conditioning.  This includes elevation changes, along with the ability to overcome various obstacles (cactus, rocks, snakes, and more).  At the end of the day, it is these “parks” that have provided the most beauty from an aesthetic standpoint.  Here are the parks that we have walked through:

  • The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest – Arizona
  • Bright Angel Trail – Grand Canyon, Arizona
  • Coachella Valley Preserve – Thousand Palms, California
  • Indian Canyon – Palm Springs, California
  • Joshua Tree National Park – So Cal
  • Prescott National Forest – Prescott, Arizona
  • Willow Lake Trail – Prescott, Arizona
  • Bell Rock Path – Sedona, Arizona
  • Red Rock State Park, Gallup, New Mexico
  • Cibola National Forest – Wingate, New Mexico
  • Three Gun Spring Trail Head, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I can’t wait to see what is next and yet try not to look too far ahead in our journey.  It’s tough enough to plan for the day ahead without having to look at what will be awaiting us as we move into Texas and beyond.  In that regard, the old live everyday to the fullest philosophy applies, which is exactly what we are doing.  That is a philosophy that is truly good for the heart!

700 miles down, and 1800 to go.  To be honest, I am looking forward to North Myrtle beach.

 

 

 

For The Heart

House

When embarking upon this journey across America on foot, it was reasonable to believe that we would see and experience a lot, both good and bad.  We have done just that, and when you think about it in the grand scheme of things, we are just getting started.

This walk has allowed us to look around, and we do just that, with a purpose.  As we walk, we look at the businesses in each town up close.  We look in the windows.  Many of them are simply out of business.  We look at the homes and yards as we walk through residential areas.  We look at the people, the kids, and quite frankly the junk and squalor that is laying around.  It has truly been an eye opener.

The one thing that truly stands out is the amount of poverty that exists in our country.  I’m a numbers guy, so I know that we have only walked approximately 600 miles or so, and have made our way through only a few dozen of the thousands of towns in America.  However, it is also apparent, that the similarity in the 36 or so towns is too great to be considered a coincidence.

Town after town seem to be forgotten, or using the old political line, left behind.  There are boarded up store fronts, depressed areas, homes that look like they have been abandoned (but haven’t), and jobless/homeless people, almost too many to count.  In a word, it’s sad.  I could offer my opinion on why this is so, but really, what do I know?  What do any of us know?  There are so many factors, so many forces at work.  Yes, we could demand more from our politicians to come up with solutions, and we should.  But then again, what do they do right?  But let’s not go there, let’s talk about what we could do as American citizens who have hearts.

Stop for a minute and look in your closet.  Do you have more clothes than you will ever need or use?  I know I do.  Take a moment to think about those out in the streets that have nothing for themselves or their children.  Then stop and look in your pantry or cupboards.  When you get hungry, it is so simple to grab something to eat and in many cases, be able to choose from five or ten different snacks, right?  Then think of those who have no idea where their next morsel of food is going to come from.

Now, tell me the last time you felt thankful and blessed to have an ample supply of food (other than Thanksgiving), running water, or even a roof over your head.  The point is, in our busy hectic lives, we take a lot for granted.  Sure, anyone who has those things has worked hard for them and most likely has earned them.  People shouldn’t feel guilty about it, just fortunate and grateful.

Now think of what it would be like to live without those things.  Imagine looking your kids in the eye when they are hungry, and telling them there is no food.  Or when they are cold and telling them there is no heat or extra clothes or blankets.  I’m telling you poverty is running rampant in this country.  It’s more widespread than you can imagine.  The question then becomes, what can we do about it?  I say, do something from the heart, for the heart.  Let me explain.

As Thanksgiving drew closer, Kate and I knowing that we would be away from our family for the first time, talked about what we were going to do for the holiday.  It was a strange feeling for sure, and a bit sad.  She quickly came up with the idea to locate a food bank or homeless shelter where we could volunteer our time.  Her parents did this often in the city of Detroit, and certainly, there must be one of these types of places in the small 5,000-person town of Holbrook, Arizona.  That proved to be the case.

Earlier that week we were curious where the road outside our RV park went.  We are always looking for a better walking route and do a lot of scouting in our car prior to the next day’s walk.  Wouldn’t you know it, no more than a half mile down that road was the Bread of Life Mission.  We immediately stopped in and asked if we could volunteer to serve meals on Thanksgiving to those in need.  The answer we received was an enthusiastic yes.

The next day, we had the idea (I’ll take credit for this one) to see if they needed anything for the meal.  Kate stopped into the mission, and was surprised to find out that they didn’t have some of the standard Thanksgiving meal fixings, gravy is one example.  They also didn’t have pumpkin pie or soft drinks.  What is Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie?  Kate took the list and went to shop at the local grocery store.  She acquired a store discount card to get the best bang for the buck.  We did have a budget after all.

We arrived at the Mission early on Thanksgiving morning to help set up and were greeted by warm and friendly faces.  This includes the staff working there, and the folks that either call the place home or were there simply for a good home cooked meal, something they rarely get.  Everyone was thankful that we came to help.  It really was an amazing feeling.

The meal was a success.  There was plenty of food, and even some leftovers to serve for dinner that night.  Hunger doesn’t stop with one Thanksgiving meal.  This mission provides meals any time during the day, 365 days a year, and even delivers to folks who don’t have the ability or means to get to their building.  Other than the deliveries, their rule is come when you want and eat, you just have to eat here.

I took this for granted initially, then thought about what is involved to continually feed dozens of people each day.  They need food of course, appliances, kitchen utensils, someone to cook and someone to clean up.  Obviously, they also need funding.  It’s not magic.  Behind the scenes there are so many people doing a lot of great work to make sure underprivileged folks can get a nutritious meal.  It is amazing when you really think about how it all comes together.

As I said, the Mission does great work and provides all types of support and services.  I must honestly say, we were humbled and touched.  So much so, that above and beyond the groceries we bought and the time we spent helping, we made a monetary donation to help with other needs they may have.  I’m not looking for an at a boy, or a medal, but simply conveying the warm feeling you get when you help others.

I have spent many of my years on this earth taking for granted all that my family has had.  Sure, we struggled at times.  When we were just starting out money was tight, and we were trying to raise a family.  However, when you look at those without, whether it be food, shelter, or clothing, it wasn’t a struggle at all.  After all, we still had shelter, enough clothes to be somewhat fashionable and warm, and enough food to prevent ever thinking of going hungry.

At the end of the day, it takes money and people to make a place like the Mission function.  The Executive Director of the Mission told me that some of their funding has been appropriated to areas with larger populations (primarily Phoenix).  In some ways that makes sense, however, it leaves so many others in the cold, literally, who live in rural towns across the state, and who are attempting to serve those in need in their own communities.  Poverty isn’t just in the metropolitan areas after all, as I said, it is everywhere, in every state.

Places like the Bread of Life Mission exist in our own home towns.  You may not realize it at first.  You, like myself, probably drove past some of these places everyday to and from work.  When you peel back the onion, you will find that there are good people either working for peanuts or volunteering at these types of places to help others in need, right in your own backyards.  Perhaps, those good people are some of your friends or neighbors.  The key is, when you see one of these places, stop in and ask what you can do to help.  They won’t be shy.  Get involved and help.

To go along with that last thought, here’s my idea; there are approximately 350,000,000 people in this country.  Let’s say that 35,000,000 people have the capacity, both physically and financially to help.  That’s only 10% of the population.  What if every one of those 35,000.000 did what I suggested above and stopped in and asked what they could do to help, and not just on Thanksgiving, but throughout the year?  Imagine what could be done.  I’ve added some ideas of how to help below.

Here is what is currently happening.  Some people do nothing.  They live their lives and spend their money, heck they earned it.  They buy more clothes than they need, and shower their kids (guilty) and grand kids with tons of “things”.  I think spoiled is the word.  All is good, for them.  Of the people that can help, some do what I am suggesting above.  Others go online and get their credit card out and donate to the organization of their choice.  There is no wrong answer, it is individual preference, I just ask to think about where your money is going and what good it is doing.  In other words, how much of your donation is actually getting to those who need it?

If you want to have the greatest impact, the first thing I would recommend is to determine what it is you can give.  This includes both time and money.  Secondly, determine where you want your money to go.  My personal preference is to give within our own local communities, to the organizations that do the most good, like the one I described above.  Sure, the larger national or international organizations do some good work, but if you take a moment to look at their annual report, you might find that a good portion of their spending goes to high administrative and promotional costs as well as salaries for the executives that can be extravagant. I myself shy away from those.

What I am asking you to do, is to stop and think about all of this for a moment.  Think about what it would be like to be hungry 24/7.  Think about all the children who have nothing, no food, little clothing or toys, and perhaps no shelter.  Then think if it is something you can turn your back to.  We couldn’t, whether it be a kid, a homeless older person, or even a stray puppy.  All of god’s creatures need a little help now and then, and we have the ability right now to do just that.  We just happened to see it right in front of our own eyes.  That is what truly makes the most impact on a good-natured heart.  When you see it firsthand, you immediately want to help.  It doesn’t have to be that way however.  We can be proactive!

If you do decide to follow my advice, I promise you one thing, you won’t regret it.  Helping others in need is one of the best feelings a human can experience, and the Thanksgiving meal is one experience that we will never forget.  We will do our best to continue to help when and where we can as we continue this walk, and will pass this message on to as many people as possible.

I have one more request, please share any additional ideas that can be added to the ones below, so this forum can be a resource for all.  Lastly, if you feel so inclined, share your own personal story of giving.  We would love to experience them with you.

Ways to help:

  • Go to your local retailer after any holiday and buy their sale items (food items, clothing, etc.) that are often 70 to 90% off. Then take them right over to your local shelter/church/mission.
  • Buy grocery store gift cards to donate. The shelters can use them for what they need.
  • Buy the 10 for $10 sales that you see in many grocery stores these days and donate them.
  • Find gently used items around your home and bring donate them.
  • Volunteer your time. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and who knows, you may have a skillset that is in need.  It also may be a menial task that provides a ton of help.  Find the time.
  • Talk to others and do some of this stuff as a group. It may add some fun to the gratification you will receive by helping others in need.
  • Google is a great resource to find places near you that provide the types of assistance mentioned above.
  • Monetary donations are always welcomed. $10, $20, $50, $100, whatever you can afford to give.

Great Country, Great People

Campfire

We were looking forward to a lot of things before embarking on this journey across America.  First and foremost, was spreading our message to get out and get moving.  Our mission is to inspire and educate folks on ways to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle, and we are working on that everyday.

Secondly, we wanted to see the country up close.  That means the beautiful landscape, the small towns, the tourist traps (including the largest ball of twine…just kidding of course), and especially the people.  We were curious to learn more about the different cultures that are spread across this great country.  All of this is a work in progress as we have only completed roughly 15% of our journey.

What stands out most to me, is the friendliness of the people that we have met.  This includes the locals, as well as those travelling, whether on vacation or to escape the winter from the great white north.  Everyone to a person, has been friendly and here are just a few examples of what we have witnessed:

While walking through Prescott, I came to a busy intersection and I witnessed something that I don’t believe I would have seen back home.  A man’s truck (yes, most everyone drives pick-ups out here) broke down and he was pushing it slowly uphill towards the traffic light.  From two separate cars stopped at the intersection, two people jumped out and helped this guy push his truck.  Of course, I was on my way to assist when I saw they had it under control.  Really, I was.

We have met a bunch of people, transients for a lack of a better term, here at our current campground in Camp Verde, AZ.  They have a community fire pit and Kate has been longing for a fire since we left Michigan back in mid September.  Camping and camp fires go hand in hand, i guess that’s why the word “camp” is in both, and Kate loves camp fires.

The first night here, upon finding the fire pit and the conveniently chopped stack of fire wood (courtesy of the campground, and complimentary I might add), Kate was on a mission to have that fire she had been longing for.  Many of the places we have been thus far did not allow camp fires, as it has been so dry out west and the risk for those large out of control fires was extremely high.  This was the case throughout California and the desert region.

Alas, Kate was in her glory and the fire soon drew a crowd, something else she had been longing for.  Two months on the road with me is enough for anyone to seek out the company of others.  We were amazed that within a few minutes of the sparks hitting the air, that we had a nice gathering of folks and a chance to interact with people other than ourselves.

It was interesting to find out that most of the people were from the Midwest.  We had the northern Midwest virtually covered.  Michigan of course, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were represented.  We also met a new friend from Alaska.  The cold weather states were well represented.

The stories and conversation never stopped and what was interesting to me is that everyone has one, a story that is.  The young lady from Alaska for example, is a true inspiration.  She had two strokes and a heart attack, and a real cool outlook on life.  Another lady has a grandson that has had 7 heart surgeries before the age of 20.  In all honesty, it made my issues seem small and insignificant, yet they showed compassion when hearing my story.

The stories continued with accounts of abuse, divorce, disorders, you name it.  People opened up about their pasts, and we grew to have a great respect for one another.  It was a very comfortable conversation, except for the brief moment when one man said, “I assume we are all liberals here”.  Barb, a smart lady from Wisconsin, quickly changed the subject after I engaged.  If you know me, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about politics.  I’m working on it however, and quickly recognized and respected Barb’s ploy.

The friendliness was not confined to just the night around the fire, but rather on many other interactions we have had thus far.  The waitress and manager at the local steakhouse who shook my hand and told me to keep up the good work, after we told them about our mission, and the fact that we walked 18 miles that day for a good steak.  The homeless people we met in Blythe, CA.  One man in particular stands out.  Even with all the challenges he is facing, he engaged with us in conversation, and could not thank us enough for the meal we had brought him (which come to find out, he shared with a fellow person down on their luck).

We have walked through some pretty poor areas.  Places where the temperatures are commonly over 100 degrees and the homes, trailers, and yes shacks make you wonder how people survive the heat.  We have walked down residential streets where folks were out in their yards, or sitting on their porches.  Virtually everyone offered a friendly wave or said hello.  By the looks of things, these folks were living in abject poverty and most likely didn’t have two nickles to rub together, yet that didn’t seem to bother them.

It was also nice to see the animal friendly people we met in Blythe.  These two folks, one cat lover and one dog lover, hung out in a truly depressed part of town and took care of the strays.  It was heartwarming to see people caring for god’s creatures that didn’t have anyone else to provide them food and shelter.

All in all, anyone and everyone we have come in contact with has been friendly, and also supportive in the instances where we shared our story.  This trip has been an eye opener in many ways and what I had hoped I would find, that this country is still filled with good people no matter what you read in the headlines, has truly been the case.  Most Americans have big hearts, and are good people.  That is one thing that makes this country great, and I hope that never changes.

I can’t wait to continue to learn more as we move into states like New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and beyond.  My guess is we will see different cultures, and the goodness in people, no matter where we go and what their situation, will still exist and shine a light on our journey.

Until then, keep moving friends.  Remove the excuses and obstacles and get out and move.  You never know who you might meet along the way that will inspire you,  or simply make you smile, and perhaps, become someone that you can call “friend”.  We never can have enough of those, at least that’s the way I see it.

Cheers,

Chuck

 

 

What It’s All About

Beyond Hope

When we were planning this journey across America, one thing I was looking forward to was the time I would have to reflect.  I realized there would be countless hours with just me and my thoughts, as scary as that may sound, and it would bring the opportunity to put things in perspective.  Finally, with all of life’s stressors in the background, I would truly have a chance to figure out what’s important in life.  Heck, I might even find answers to the questions that have plagued mankind for centuries.  You know, why are we here, and what is it all about?

While I am still working on those age-old questions, I have been able to navigate through the cobwebs leading to my brain, as well as wade through the dead brain cells that are the residue of decades of a continuous stream of beer.  I think I made it all the way to my brain matter, as if that matters, and had a chance to really reflect on my life.  It is still a work in progress, however, it is amazing how clearly you can think when all the distractions are out of the way.  Well most of them anyways, there are the cars and trucks whizzing by, and the threat of coyotes and rattle snakes with every step after all, but you can’t have everything, can you?

At the age of 56, I have more mileage behind me than in front of me.  Well, maybe not from a walking standpoint, but most likely from a time point of view.  At least I doubt I will make it to 112.  With that in mind, I realized that I lived a life similar to most others.  Part of that reality is what I want to change.

In my 20’s 30’s and 40’s, the primary goal was to provide for my family.  That meant going to work each day, fighting traffic, and putting up with the demands of customers and bosses.  Much of it was truly BS, but we do what we have to do to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.  It’s considered normal and hum drum, and most people complain about it.  That is, they truly aren’t completely happy with their lives, or for that matter, fulfilled.  I was no different.

I was lucky in some ways in that I had a level of freedom with my jobs that many desk type jobs don’t have.  I never had to punch a clock, nor was tied to a desk.  My jobs allowed me, for the most part, to attend the kids, and now grand kids functions, whether it be sporting events or school concerts.  That is truly something that cannot be replaced in my mind.  What I have realized, is that it’s the memories, and the time I’ve spent with loved ones that truly stands out on this journey through Chuck’s surviving brain cells.

Life changed for me in a heartbeat however.  At age 54, health issues that I never expected slammed into me like a ton of bricks.  These are the types of health issues that prevent people from fulfilling many of their dreams that are so easy to put off.  Heart attacks take the lives of folks in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and beyond, before people ever really start living.  What I mean by that, is so many people with all sorts of dreams about life after work and after most of life’s responsibilities have ended, are struck down before they can live out their dreams.

I was lucky, diagnosed and treated in time and given a second chance.  For me the choice was clear.  I would now plan to live, as Frank Sinatra once said, my way.  Sure, I’m only 56 now, and in order to live in today’s world, I will have to find a way to make a living.  Living today isn’t cheap, and there is the reality of paying for healthcare, food, shelter, etc., but for now, at least for the next 6 months as we trudge across this great nation, I am going to do it my way.  I am going to enjoy the journey, stop the worrying, and enjoy all that this country and its people has to offer.

That can be hard for me in some ways, as the old habits of dwelling on problems and letting the small stuff bring me down still pop up from time to time.  Still, I am working everyday to find the joys that life has to offer.  Hey, maybe that is what it is all about.  It most likely is different for each and every one of us, but maybe getting joy out of life should be our primary goal.  Maybe it is fulling a dream, or helping others (finding your purpose), or simply having fun.  It really doesn’t matter as long as you have identified that for yourself and you are experiencing it each and everyday.

We have a long way to go until we get to Myrtle beach, and a lot more time to ponder life, but I can tell you this, I am going to enjoy each and every step, even the ones that aren’t very comfortable.  There is a big world out there, and I want to see it up close.

When my  story is finally written, I want there to be few regrets.  I want the people who meant so much to me over the years to know exactly that.  I want to have accomplished something significant in this world, something that has meaning.  We have targeted that “something” that has meaning in my life right now.  It is what nearly took me out, heart disease, and with the help of the world’s best wife, no offense to the other wives out there, we are making progress one town at a time, one step at a time, and one interaction at a time.  After this journey is said and done, who knows what is next, but I can tell you this, we are going to figure it out and go for it.

You see, what I have found out so far, and it is early  in the process, is that there is a life to live.  Not how someone else wants you to live, or what anyone else, including society thinks you should do, but what you want and think you should do, what fulfills you.

More to come as I continue to find these answers, but I hope each and everyone that reads this finds their own happiness and fulfillment.  Maybe all it will take is some dedicated time to think about it all.  I would highly recommend finding a distraction free way to reflect.  It will be well worth it, because the way I see it, none of us are beyond hope!

Cheers,

Chuck

 

 

Walk Updates

Chuck walking roadside

We began our walk across America for heart disease on October 1st in Oceanside, California, so I guess it is time for a comprehensive “walk” update.  With almost one month in the books, and 270 or so miles behind us, we are well on our way.

There have been moments of sheer boredom, some really cool and exciting experiences, and to be totally honest. some moments of doubt.  The moments of doubt have lessened as we have overcome some physical issues by learning how to manage the daily walking activites.  We will touch on that below.  Anyways, before we began this journey, we figured that we would experience a lot of different things and really get to see this country up close and personal.  So far, that has certainly been the case.

First let’s start with our purpose.  Sometimes I wonder what good all this walking is doing.  I’m talking about the big picture.  Are we making an impact? Are people following along?  Is our message getting out to the masses?  I’m not sure yet, but we have gained some momentum.

As a heart patient, with a collection of stents in my legs, we thought if I could pull this off, it would inspire others to get out and get moving, especially those who have been afflicted and have more or less given up on becoming active again.  The goal is to inspire others.  We have had some help along the way in getting our message out.  Fox 2, and Charlie Langton back home, featured us three times on local TV and Charlie was able to get airtime once on WWJ radio. Argo at Elvis Radio gave us 4 minutes of airtime just prior to our walk, to tell our story to the world.  Lastly, there have been newspaper articles in the Oakland Press and one upcoming in the Pala Verde Valley Times in Blythe, California.  All of this is good press and helps spread the word, which is to get out and get moving.  My ask is that all of you share our posts and blogs to your fiends, and truly make this a movement for everyone to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle.

As for the daily grind, 5:30 AM comes early everyday, especially when you are still exhausted and stiff from the day before.  I woke up this morning and told Kate that I didn’t want to go to school today, being funny of course.  Her reply was, “it makes you miss getting up and going to work, doesn’t it?”  Yes and no.

It certainly is a grind, and the walking can be tough.  My legs aren’t close to 100%, and I really feel it when walking uphill for a long stretch.  There is plenty of that.  Of course when you are starting from an ocean you are at sea level, and by the time we reach Flagstaff the elevation will be somewhere around 7,000 feet.  That will be like climbing the stairs of a 700 story building, although over a much longer time frame.

All in all, we have held up pretty good.  I have my usual calluses to contend with, which can be painful in their own right, and numb feet when we get to the 5 mile mark.  At 10 miles, sharp pain in a couple of toes occurs.  The good news is that most of this subsides rather quickly, when I stop and rest for a bit.  This allows us to motor, or walk I mean, on for a few more miles.  I have learned to stop and rest, even if it is for a few seconds, every mile or two, with a longer break somewhere between 3 and 5 miles.

The heat has really been a factor, and that could change for the better as early as next week.  There have been days over 100 degrees, with nearly every day over 90.  There also hasn’t been a cloud in the sky for weeks.  This is the type of weather you dream about back home, well maybe not the 100 degree part, but I have to say, I’m starting to miss the variety of weather we get in Michigan.  Maybe not experiencing all four seasons in one day, which can happen back home, but you get my drift.  Walking 10 miles or more in 90 plus degree heat with the sun pounding on you isn’t all that pleasant.

I recently wrote about the logistics of the trip, and it is a daily task to make sure we have what we need while walking.  This includes food, hydration, sun block, maps, and protection from predators and more.  We have found a routine, and Kate is unbelivably organized, which helps when dealing with a knucklehead (me).

Finding accommodations hasn’t been overly simple either.  There are RV parks and campgrounds along the way, however we have to be fiscally responsible while making sure they have reasonable accommodations like water, electricity, and sewer.  There are some sketchy parks, and we have found a couple, but overall, so far so good.

One challenge is finding a park that is in the correct vicinity of where we will be walking.  Our goal is to establish a “home base” for 3 to 7 days along our route.  We then move our camp as we walk a certain distance away from our current home base, and towards the next potential “home base”.  The main consideration is to be efficient.  If we move too far ahead, like we did with the first move, we are back tracking with the car too far to get to the starting point of that day’s walk.  If we don’t move camp far enough, we would be finding the challenge of moving too frequently, which takes time.  It is simple a process and takes a bit more time out of our day than I would like from a planning perspective.

When we get to extreme rural areas, like where we are currently, getting supplies is an issue.  Case in point, there is not a grocery store nearby.  The Family Dollar is the closest thing to a grocery store, and you can forget about fresh meats and produce.  It just means you have to be prepared for the areas ahead and plan in advance.  Good thing I have Kate with me or I would probably either starve or have to live on a diet of Twinkees.

At the end of the day, we are making progress, both physically and mentally.  Our focus is two-fold; stay healthy and make progress towards North Myrtle Beach, and secondly, to make sure that what we are doing is making a difference.  As for the latter, some of that is up to you.  Get out, get moving, spread the word, and be good to your heart!

One last update from a route perspective:  We are currently in Salome, AZ.  Our route took us from Oceanside, to Temecula, near Palm Springs, through Indio, and through Blythe.  All cities in California.  From there, we hugged Interstate 10 (nearby roads and trails) into Quartzsite, AZ, continuing near the 10 to Hwy 60 which will take us towards Prescott, AZ in the next week or so.

Here are some estimated dates and locations as we near some of the larger cities on our route east:

  • Albuqueque, NM on or about 12/25
  • Amarillo, TX – 1/20
  • Oklahoma City, OK – 2/10
  • Memphis, TN – 3/15
  • Atlanta, GA – 4/5
  • North Myrtle Beach, SC – 4/26

(This is based on getting up to 20 miles per day, with a few days off sprinkled in, and no unforseen surpirses, wish us luck).

Cheers from the road.

Chuck

Logistics and Stuff

HobsonWhen the idea to walk across America first popped into my head, it was simple in its concept.  Start at one ocean, walk for a while, and stop when you get to the other ocean.  No problem.

The primary concern was my ability  to walk extensive distances, day after day, and although that is still a concern, we have found so many other things that also need close consideration.

A lot has been learned in the three plus weeks since we started walking on October 1st.  You need good shoes and socks.  Check.  You need a route and a map.  Check.  You need an ample food supply and emergency provisions.  Check.  You need sun protection (that’s an understatement).  You need your health.  Double check.  All the planning and work we put into accounting for the expected, and somewhat unexpected has certainly paid off.  However, we have found that some things are going to catch you by surprise.

First off, we expected the terrain and heat in the southwest to be a challenge, and it certainly has been just that.  The steady incline has been difficult on my surgically repaired legs.  Flat ground, not a problem, but inclines require a slower pace and frequent stops to get the blood flowing to the feet and calf muscles as needed.

The heat has been another obstacle, although not one that we can’t manage…at least so far.  It has been near or over 100 degrees practically everyday since we left Oceanside.  I swear I haven’t seen a cloud in weeks.  The midday sun is relentless, and makes you feel like you are in an oven.  So much for saying ” yes, but it’s a dry heat”.  Anyways, we start early and finish 8-12 miles by noon, and then pick up later in the day, although there are days when even late afternoons offer no reprieve from the intense heat.

Then there are the disruptions, like finding friends along the way.  Furry friends that is.  On a sad note, on the morning of Friday the 13th, when driving to our beginning walking point for the day, our vehicle struck a dog on a desert road.  There was no avoiding it.  Anyone that knows me knows my love for dogs and this really was difficult.  The car sustained a bit of damage, but that wasn’t even a minor consideration when thinking of the poor animal that lay motionless on the road.  We called the police and in short order they handled the situation.  Kate and I were extremely upset, so much so that walking that morning wasn’t an option.

We made a monetary donation to the humane society and vowed to be vigilant when driving, even though there are times, like this one, where an animal darts in front of your vehicle at the last possible moment.  Still, I felt like there had to be a way to make it right.  Enter the next canine encounter.

Kate has always had a heart of gold, and as I get older, I think she is rubbing off on me more and more.  We have seen a countless number of homeless people and stray animals since we embarked on this journey, but that is a subject of another article.  A few days ago, we ran across a stray Chihuahua.  He was strolling down Hobson Way in Blythe, CA, at about 7:30 AM on a Sunday morning.  We have been regularly handing out dog treats during our walk and actually have dog food and water in the car for such occurrences.  I immediately  pulled over and we called for the dog.  Amazingly, the dog came right to us.

I’m sure Kate thought this was a bad idea, as I get attached rather quickly, and of course, we really cannot accommodate a dog on our trip.  We are out walking all day and a hot RV is no place to keep an animal while we are gone.  I could see in her eyes the old, here we go again look, and she immediately said, “don’t get any ideas”.

We fed the dog and gave it water.  Kate petted him and he let me pick him up and snuggle a bit.  He seemed extremely content and comfortable with us.  Now what?  Right or wrong, we decided that the streets are no place for a small dog.  We were not in the nice part of town, the days were hot, extremely hot, and he was walking right along a busy road.  There were no tags, he appeared to be itchy (fleas?), probably hadn’t eaten in a while, and wasn’t fixed (not good for the stray dog population, which apparently is an issue here).

We did what we thought was best and called the police, who took the dog to the shelter.  It was difficult when I put the dog in the back of the squad car.  The dog gave me a look like, “where is he taking me, and why is he taking me”?  It broke my  heart.

Feeling like I owe the dog world one after that awful occurrence on October 13th, there was only one thing to do.  Go to the police station and find out where the dog is, and inquire about adopting him.  Of course Kate wouldn’t allow me to keep him (sad face), so I had to find someone who would be willing to take him.  My first thought was Ryan and Emily.  They were talking about getting Roxy a friend.  How perfect?

After about 100 texts back and forth, this seemed doable.  We would just have to figure out how to ship him home.  At the same time, I pinged my  two sisters that live in California.  They would be a few hour drive away from dropping off the pooch, and both have dogs.  To my surprise, there was no hesitation from either of them in stating their willingness to take him.  Yep, I have some pretty cool sisters.

So, we are now in a waiting game.  We have to wait 5 days in order to make sure nobody claims him.  I will be at the shelter when they open on Thursday to adopt “Hobson”.  If all goes well, we pay the small fee, he gets the treatment, fleas, ticks, heart worm, and neutering, and in 14 days, we can pick him up and add him to the family.

These things are things we have to do, I guess it is just in our hearts.  We have also met many homeless people along the way and when we can, we stop and either give them a water and some money, or buy a meal for them.  We have done that from time to time back home, but in Blythe, it seems as though the opportunity arises on every street corner.  Sad but true.  Again, that story is coming.  It has just been unexpected, and is throwing us a bit off our schedule.  That’s ok, though, we will adapt.

To finish up on the logistics piece, we have had to combat ants, extreme cold (don’t want frozen pipes), extreme heat, dust storms, errors in mapping (walking paths that aren’t there or seem impassable), exhaustion, and some really sore feet.  All in all, we were able to overcome these challenges thus far.

I’m sure there is more in store for us from an unexpected standpoint, but with Kate in charge, I sleep pretty good at night.  Thanks for following our adventure, now make sure you are getting out and walking, staying active, and are treating your heart with the respect it deserves.  After all, we aren’t doing this for our health (well, maybe we are, lol).

Best to all!

Moving On

Desert (2)

We are tired of the desert.  That’s pretty much an understatement.  We knew going into the walk that it would be tough, and it has been exactly that.  95 degree plus days have come one after another so far, without any end in sight.

It is pretty amazing really, how anything other than your typical desert creatures, lives here, and that includes people  Some people do it by choice for heaven’s sake.  We are here in October, not necessarily the hottest time of the year, and the thermometer has reached 105, with more 100 degree days ahead.  Kate actually said, “I wouldn’t even want to be a bug here”.

The nights offer some reprieve from the heat, generally getting down into the low 60’s, however, as soon as the sun comes up over the mountains the next morning, it’s game on.  But that is enough about the weather.

The landscape is beautiful, albeit repetitive.  There are areas in the mountains/desert that you would refer to as an oasis, which have gatherings of Palm Trees and shade.  Some are local parks or walking trails like the Coachella Valley trails, and some are cities like Indian Wells.  They mix a little green in here and there with all the brown.

As for the walking, we have built up to about 15 miles a day on our way to our goal of 20.  20 is just not possible in this heat and elevation for an old guy with duck tape and baling wire holding his legs together.  Kate is holding up extremely well, however succumbs to the heat when we are nearing 10 miles for the morning and the heat starts to take its toll.  I call her RoboKate, but there are times when she proves that she is still mortal.

On another note, my friend Daniel walked with us for the first four days.  They were pivotal days as they allowed us to navigate out of Oceanside and get us 40+ miles into the hills and on our way.  He owns a tax business and has been up against it with the October 15th deadline.  It seems a lot of people file six month extensions.   Anyways, those first four days set the tone, and Daniel deserves a lot of credit.

I can’t thank him enough for his support and efforts.  He sacrificed a lot, including 4:30 AM wake up calls, in order to get us off on the right foot.  He also provided a lot of important tips and information about enduring the grind, diet and nutrition, and handling certain situations including the elements.  Navy Seal guys know all about that stuff and I took to heart every piece of information he was offering.  It was also fun to chit-chat while walking, especially dogging the Tigers and their recent managers.  Hat’s off to a good man!

We are moving camp tomorrow to a city called Blythe.  We currently stand at 143 walking miles in, with a few more to go tonight, and Blythe should be our last destination in California.  During the week or so there, we will have the requisite number of miles in to reach the Arizona border…I hope!

Whether you have been to California or not, you may find the following a bit interesting:

Things I found out about California

  • Traffic: Well, one thing I haven’t figured out are the traffic lights.  Seems there is a light for each lane.  Two lanes typically turn left, and I’m not sure that Google has that figured out.  At least she, we call the Google voice Judy, doesn’t account for the fact that the right lane, of the left two lanes, becomes the third lane just before most intersections, when she tells you to take the two left lanes to turn left.  You try to figure that one out.  Thanks a lot Judy, you have caused me to look like a tourist on the roads, who has no idea how to drive.  Anyways, it takes forever to get through a light, whether you are walking or driving.
  • Can and bottle deposits: California appears to have a knack for taxing things.  There are however a lot of things they provide for those extra taxes (like the global warming tax on gasoline).  I mean, they are going to stop global warming right?  Sorry, that’s off the point.  Bottles and cans have a deposit when you buy soda or beer just like back home.  What is odd is that most retailers don’t take them back and reimburse you.  We found out from a friend that you can take them to a local recycle place, but get nowhere near the 5 or 10 cents per can or bottle that you paid when you bought your beverage.  Pretty sneaky California.
  • The people seem to be nice.  We get waves and hello’s when walking.  The locals are mostly friendly.  This might be because they don’t have to deal with the seasons like we do in Michigan.  You know, almost winter, winter, still winter, and construction season.
  • It is multicultural here for sure.  I’m not sure about northern California, but it is nice to see all the cultures blend together.  I found it interesting that it is even more apparent on the TV stations that we get in the Desert.  Some are in English of course, some are in Spanish, and some are Japanese.  The Japanese station left an impression on me as they had a panel talking politics relating to the North Korean issue, and nobody was arguing or cutting other people off.  A good old honest discussion.  How strange.
  • The weather.  It was hazy by the ocean.  There is a marine layer that seems to come in during the morning hours and takes some time to dissipate.  The temperatures never seem to vary, or at least in three weeks we have been here.  It is always mid 70’s near the ocean, and freaking hot in the desert.  What is funny as well, is that there has been day after day where there are no clouds in the sky.  None.  In the desert, the lack of cloud cover leads to a relentless pounding of the sun’s rays on you.  I told Kate today that it almost feels like your skin is on fire.  She could barely grab the handle of a retail establishments entry door due to it being in direct sunlight today.  Crazy stuff.
  • All in all, it appears to us at least, that California is a nice place to visit, but not where I would necessarily choose to live.  It’s different, some good, some not.  The beach where we initially stayed, Oceanside, is nice with a lot to do and see.  There are beautiful sunsets and all, but it is different from the good old Midwest, I’m not sure exactly why.  That may require some time and additional thought to peg.

That’s it for now.  We trudge on.  We have found in the desert that the best way to proceed is for Kate to move the car a couple of miles forward at a time so there is a place along the route to beat the heat for a few minutes and restock the water supply.  I’m not sure how long we will be able to do that as the location changes.  I will share more on the logistics of it all in the next blog.

Until then, Cheers.