Friday, January 30, 2009

Baton Rouge II: Power Places

Miles since last blog: 10.4
Miles Total: 1871.6


Today I did make the trek into the center of Baton Rouge, but that's not what today was about. Today is about yesterday.

I may have briefly mentioned the concept of a power place before, but now is the perfect time to give a good solid definition with examples.

A power place isn't a place where you come across a surplus of power or wealth in a traditional sense, it's more of a place where things just come together for you and anything that you can dream up can happen. My friend from earlier in the trip, Free, was intrigued by this idea and had this to say of it, "I like this idea, I'll have to think more about it. Of course you have entire cities as power places, I'd probably have 10 square feet in the frozen tundra." Prague was a power place for me, and I believe that Chapel Hill, NC was too, and now Baton Rouge.

I admit, I had been wondering on the way here. The offers to stay in houses, my Jolly Green Friend, Jack, they were all signs. Within minutes of arriving at my CS hosts place I was describing my journey and explaining that in general, not to jinx myself, I am an incredibly lucky person, even if I don't believe in luck. She was reluctant to believe me. Then we headed into the center of town at 5 pm. She had been warning me that we needed to get moving because the city gets entirely gridlocked during rush hour, we flew, I'm not even sure she took her foot off the gas on the highway.

We arrived at the clock tower talking about how hungry we were and how we really wanted to grab a bite to eat, but we were meeting another CSer, my host tomorrow night at an event called Critical Mass. Critical Mass turned out to be one of those giant bike rides where they go all through town in support being 'green,' half demonstration, half guerilla warfare on the drivers that are disrupted by the cycle flooded streets. We had no bikes. We met the CSer and decided to head out to one of the local and most notable eating establishments, Chimes.

Things were going splendidly, I had my first gumbo, a tasty seafood gumbo. It was followed by an amazing spnach and artichoke cheese dip with bread, real live pints of Czech Pilsner Urquell and a half slab of ribs that were tender and delicious. We were laughing and having fun and as I am no slouch in the eating department I finished my meal off with no problems. My host was having trouble and slid hers across the table reminding me of all the starving children in China. Damn those kids, they're the reason I'm not losing any weight on this trip. Never daunted by a food challenge I set about the slow yet enjoyable task of consuming the rest of the ribs.

"Hey, I was wondering," said a man at the next table. "How are the ribs here?"

"They're good!" I said.

"They fall right off the bones." My CS host said.

"Do you want to try?" I asked, trying to pawn off some of my work.

"No, I don't think-"

"I'll try 'em," his wife interjected. I got busy cutting her off a rib while he shook his head.

"I can't take her anywhere," he said. "Once we were in New Orleans and . . ." he started to tell a story that was hilarious, but may not be the most appropriate for this blog. The short version is, we laughed and talked it them for a while and even got another table in the fray at one point. OUr dinner compatriots were offered dessert for free due to a mishap earlier involving a woman handling spaghetti. My host was nearly crying she was in such hysterics over the collective antics of the evening.

I reminded her I was lucky and it was contagious. "It's a power place."

"Yeah, but I'm not getting any free dessert." She was joking, we were both stuffed. She got up and went to say hello to another table. Our waiter, who knows nothing about Czech beer, strode up to the table.

"And what dessert would you guys like?" We were getting free dessert. We had to, there are starving kids in China, probably because I'm eating all their food. By the time we got home she was relaying the evening to a friend on the phone and dropping the phrase "power place." It's real people, get hip to it, find yours.

Oh and for those of you who were concerned, I may treat fast food casually and cheat on BK, but I'm a good guy when it comes to women. Shame on you for doubting my pure wholesomeness.

Baton Rouge, LA: Skip Knows Jack

Miles since last blog: 13.5
Miles Total: 1861.2


The one catch about staying with The Fuzz was that he had to work early so I'd be leaving at 6 a.m. Some of you know this isn't an hour I typically see, but I forced myself to sleep and actually woke up at 4 am. The Fuzz and I sat around watching the weather channel for an hour or so, it told me I was going to be cold, 38 degrees F-in' cold. When I left the warm comfort of the Motel it wasn't long before my whole body started to shudder. I was only heading a few tenths of a mile to the local Whataburger where I would regain a bit of warmth and sit for a few hours. Being a 4 hour walk to my hosts and having 11 hours to get there left me with some time to kill.

This brings me to something I have noticed about the state of Louisiana. Store hours are really more of a suggestion than anything, and not really even a strong suggestion, more like a fleeting thought. As if someone had told them, "You need to put SOMETHING, and it can't just be 'when we get here' to 'when we feel like goin' home.'" I figured this out the other night when I walked up to a burger joint that said it was open until 11. It was just before 9 and the doors were locked and when I tried to open them the employees just looked up, shook their collective heads and gave me the 'shoo' hand signal. I found it again down the street at a 24-hour gas station, maybe they meant 24 hours a week.

By now you have probably surmised that the Whataburger was not open, despite the employees being there and it being 30 minutes past when the doors told me they'd be opening. The employees lazed about inside blissfully unaware of the scantily clad hobo freezing to death on their doorsteps and muttering anything but mild expletives.

I view my relationship with fast food as relationships with women. Whataburger is a foreign and exotic beauty that you can't predict or understand let alone depend upon. I ran across the street to McDonald's, McDonald's is my best friend, it'll always be there for me though I have no interest in forming any kind of serious relationship.

I wandered towards the front entrance and this next part could only really happen in the south. As I strode ever closer to the door I, unbeknownst to me, was nearing my epic encounter for the day. Mere feet from the door a duck, ninja like in it's camouflage abilities leapt from the dirt flower bed next to the door. I am not afraid of mountain lions, bears, alligators, boars, coyotes or snakes, but this duck scared the crap out of me.

In the early morning hours, I believe that I scared it too. We did our best impressions of each other in our startled states. The duck ran away while I flapped my arms and let out what could rightly be described as a 'quack.' What I caught afterwards was that it left about a dozen eggs and a nest in it's place. Here, two feet from the door of a busy eatery, was a duck nest. Surely anywhere else in the country it would have been moved or run off, a few hours later I got a video of it.

Now if McDonald's is my best friend, Burger King is my wife. Dependable and with all the sustenance I need, triple Whoppers are my version of a "Thursday Night" if you know what I mean. And then . . .

There's my mistress, the sweet sweet Jack. It's not always there when you need it, seriously, you east coasters have no idea what you're missing, but it will do things that Burger King and the rest just won't. While you respect McD's and BK's for sticking to the time honored burger and fries and all that, Jack's your dirty little secret. It does jalapenos poppers that make you feel sublime, it has tacos, burgers, natural cut fries, egg rolls. It serves breakfast anytime. It breaks all the rules of what a good and wholesome fast food joint does. And you always want it and can never get enough.

Not even a mile from McD's was a Jack, I saw it from far off and I couldn't believe my eyes for a moment. Was I really in Jack Country, at last? I'd been teased by my fickle mistress before when it appeared without reason or warning in South Carolina only to disappear again, an oasis in my burger world. I practically started to run.

It was everything I imagined it would be. Jack was there, and he offered me plugs to charge my computer so that I could sit and work and kill time for hours, Jack even gave me picture windows from floor to ceiling so that I could see Cherry and be warmed by the sun. Sublime. There's really no good way to explain the importance of food to a traveler who is human powered like myself, I realize that this isn't what one might expect a man on a pilgrimage to be writing about, but this was an epiphany of the stomach and nothing less, please Jack stay with me, I promise I'll leave BK.

Of course we both know I never will . . .

Why is this such a big deal? When you are walking 4000 miles, little things like the territory of a burger chain, they keep you going good times or bad.

Gonzales, LA: Trail Magic

Miles since last blog: 25.5
Miles Total: 1850.7


A few nights back things didn't go perfectly, as those of you who follow my blog will recall. Still at the end I found myself saying it was a good day on the road. This was easy to think as I went to sleep, I knew that because of that day, somewhere else down the road something would line up for a perfect experience that I would otherwise have missed. These are very non-mathematician thoughts to have, faith in something and all that, but I have come to the conclusion after over 1500 miles without rain now, the road loves those who love the road. I expected that somewhere down the line, it would all pay off, I just didn't expect it to be so soon.

The simple fact is, had I not wandered around town and walked all that extra way, had I gotten to sleep before 2 am, then I wouldn't have slept in until 10 am and the rest of the day would have been just a fraction less amazing. And a fraction of amazing is a lot.

It was around 2:30 p.m. when I heard a voice behind me say, "You're walking across America?" And a man whisked up beside me on bike. Remember M, and his analogy about the grass to explain all the coincidental meetings? Well M, yesterday I met the Jolly Green Giant. Really, that was his trail name when he hiked 1800 miles of the Appalachian trail from Georgia and on up into Canada. The name stuck.

Jolly Green was dressed all in green, right down to his socks and with the sole exception of his black cycle shoes, but there were a pair of green Crocs sitting on his bikes saddle bags. He had green eyes and wild red hair barely contained by his ponytail, with fluorescent streamers hanging from the back of his helmet. It goes without saying that Giant is tall. Jolly Green had caught up with me on what would be his one day bike from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and he had done it in an amazing place, which is what I now believe the previous night was all about.

When JG found me it was across from street from a gas station, not only was this the only place I had seen having food available in over 10 miles, it was the only place for the next 15 after. Trail Magic. The fact that we had met up precisely here was amazing in a day that from beginning to dark was filled solely with highway, bayou, spanish moss and grass fields was improbably at best. The station even had a table and set of benches outside to sit and talk, about my walk and Jolly Green's ride through the 48 contiguous states. He plans to take a year zigzagging the country.


It turns out that Jolly Green will be in Baton Rouge for several days, so we will meet up again and maybe even try to gather up a Couchsurfing meet up with locals. The day was already fantastic, it always puts me in a great mood to see someone fearlessly chasing after their dreams and especially when it's another 'adventurer.'

Flash forward to hours later, it's dark and I'm peeing on the side of the road when headlights pull up behind me.

"Cheese it, it's the fuzz!" I hissed at my midmost appendage. And it was The Fuzz, but it wasn't the police. The Fuzz, from what I could make out while he was backlit by the headlights of his minivan, was an older gentleman in a truckers hat and grey and white beard. Literally, all I could really see of the man was fuzz in this vantage.

"Where do you sleep at night?" he said in what I would consider a classic frontiersman voice.

"Well, I camp or sometimes I sleep on people's couches."

"I'm at a motel on the right up the road, I'll be waiting for ya." He said and gave me the room number. In 1800 miles, no one had ever pulled over to offer me a place to sleep, what was truly amazing was that a mile later, it happened again. A farmer offered me a place at his house, but I had already talked to The Fuzz and he was on my route so I moved on.

I wish I could have gotten The Fuzz on film, but he preferred not to be caught by the camera. He was a character and unsurprisingly his job was as a driver on an 18-wheeler where he carted off ground up debris from Katrina. The Hurricanes seem to be the thread tying together all the people of Louisiana.

"A storm took me out of Louisiana, and damned if a storm didn't bring me back." ha laughed as he remembered leaving to Alabama to clean up after Ivan and then being moved back in the wake of Katrina. He talked about his jobs, his wives, his sons. Sometimes I couldn't understand him, but that is becoming more common as I get deeper into the state, the mumbly rhythmic speaking somehow fails to make words but still communicates a lot about the person.

I was surprised to find that the room had three beds so I had my choice of the two The Fuzz wasn't using. He was a good man who would quit his job when there wasn't work even though his employer would pay him to stay on. He said, "I come back when there's work, but I don't want to get paid to sit on my butt." I assumed that he didn't want to be on camera because of a checkered past, but he was warm and welcoming and I myself have made a few mistakes in life. It was a cold night outside and fantastic day on the road.

"Trail magic," I whispered to myself while I was falling asleep.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reserve, LA: Trust your instincts

Miles since last blog: 29.2
Miles Total: 1825.2


Every fiber of my being wanted to stay in NOLA for another day, well, maybe 78% of the fibers of my being. But houseguests and fish, three days and all that, plus I think I'll be dropping back in for Mardi Gras so there is more time. I also wanted to hit the road and get moving towards the future a bit, many wonderful things and people wait for me at the end and if I don't move sometime, I'd never finish.

Still, when I got a call saying that my CS hosts from Ocean Springs and Gulfport were together on their way to a Burlesque show that one of them had actually won a spot in from an internet contest, I couldn't help but wish maybe I had stayed one more day. As for the walk, I wanted to move, really move, like 40+ mile days on end, but I already have things set p for Baton Rouge so I have to contain myself a bit, there's plenty of time for running wild once I hit the Southwest.

Immediately after the call I started looking for a place to stay for the night, it was about 8. Motel after Motel said they wouldn't donate a room for the night. Motels never do, but I still try and no hotels were around. Then the town ended and I walked to the next, and the next, and the next. I decided to find a Sheriff's office but that turned out to be fruitless since it was locked up and closed for the night. I was resolved to have something work out. I found a Sheriff's deputy and he suggested the local prison, but they said I needed a sheriff to clear it. I had been walking past restaurants all night pushing myself to find a place to sleep inside, I had gotten so used to everything working out so well all the time lately that I had gotten soft and forgotten that sometimes you just have to camp. I set out to find something to eat by heading back the way I came. Between looking for places to eat, sleep and sheriffs I zigzagged through town for what was probably several miles of back and forth leading no where.

By the time I got to each restaurant it was closing, or I was sure that I'd find something better, only to later find nothing open including the place I had snubbed previously. During one trek, instead of going around a ditch I decided to push Cherry through it and jump myself. In a ground solidity miscalculation my entire left foot was submerged into what has to be some of the foulest mud I have ever seen, the resulting backsplash covered my legs in thick mud. My immediate thought was, "two days till a shower" which was followed up by "if I get in my sleeping bag like this it will be disgusting forever."

I shrugged it all off and headed up the road. Along the way i met up with two sheriffs who had pulled someone over and assured me there was no way i could sleep anywhere they knew of, the prison had a maximum security wing and the next thing was a church miles up the road. I had a destination. On the way I passed a hospital and briefly thought of trying to get a bed there but was tired of fruitless marches and headed to the church which was a sure thing. As I set up the tent a sheriff sat across the road watching me. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, this apparently satisfied him that I was not a criminal and he headed off. After all, what kind of criminal would set up camp and eat a PB&J before breaking into a church?

Time came to brush my teeth and I relished having extra water from the day to dip my toothbrush into. I out some paste on the brush and bent over to put it away in my backpack, spilling all the water onto my backpack in the process since I hadn't put the lid on it. I immediately called myself an idiot and removed my laptop. No, sometimes things don't go right out here, sometimes I make a lot of mistakes although I hadn't had a day quite this error laden in a while. But still I was pretty satisfied with everything, I had gotten in a pretty good walk and I have two small jaunts the next days before some time in Baton Rouge. Most of the mistakes of today came from stubbornness or constantly holding out for something better because of my recent luck, but it was still a good day, wet back pack or no; muddy shoe or no; a good day on the road.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NOLA II: N-O-L-A, NOLA, na na na na NOLAAAAA

My trek sets out again in the morning but I have had a fabulous time here in the Big Easy, mostly due to my new friends. It is one of those rare times when you immediately fall into step with a place and people you have never previously known, but falling into step is what I do and what I will do again in the morning to begin my lax three day stroll to Baton Rouge.

When I first started this, there were a lot of things I wanted to achieve on a private and personal level that I now feel like I have done. As for a personal purpose in life, I never felt like I had one, but I admired the passion with which others pursued theirs. It never mattered to me whether that purpose was enlightenment, the cure for AIDS or finding the perfect apple pie, they all had merit. And so, with no purpose of my own I decided the best thing I could do was to enjoy life as best I could and help others towards their goals. To this end, this is why I chose education for my charity, to give people tools to chase after goals.

The people I had really wanted to help though were the people like me, the people who didn't quite fit and often thought there was no place for them to fit. People who had dreams that society said didn't make sense or couldn't happen because of responsibilities that were foisted upon us and became important for no better reason than everyone else seemed to agree they were important. There's no foundation for people like us and we wouldn't use it if it were there.

I didn't originally dream that by trying my best to enjoy life I would find the answer that I so longed for in helping people. When I was a kid, I always said, "I'm an interesting guy, people should just pay me to be me and do things and it would be amazing, an artwork of a life well worth the investment if only I were given a chance." Well, that never happened, but in going out and living I have found that people are willing to give so much to see that spark and freedom in something, and remember and even rekindle their dreams. It is the greatest part of my journey that when I stay with someone in recent times they tell me about how visiting them has made them think about doing something they feel is worth while if not extraordinary. Biking across country, rowing to Finland, or joining me in some future endeavor.

All I can give people is inspiration and I couldn't imagine a better or more important purpose to have found. I'm really not worthy of it and nor are my deeds but I love seeming that fanning of the flames of life in people. Today I strolled along the sidewalk and ate ice cream in a way I can't ever remember doing, completely free and slow. Talking with M about our chance meeting with Ross on the Mississippi he asked me, "What were the chances in 3000 miles of river that we would meet someone who had walked 1000 miles of the Appalachian Trail?" Coincidences like this fail to flag my attention these days, those of you who have followed my blog know how often they come up and how small the world is.

Maybe most notably was the meeting with BJ Hill in Charlotte, NC. A Boston man walking from California back to Boston, I being a California man walking from Boston back to California was struck by this at the time. The fact that my traveling companion at the time had actually worked with him was just icing on the coincidence cake. By the time BJ was one hundred miles from his end, another walker was heading from LA to Boston, he was 100 miles into his journey during the same hour. This happened the same day I reached the Mobile Bay, which was a self defined midpoint of my journey. Now this was no longer astounding, it was the way the ever shrinking world worked and it was almost expected that these things would pop up. I am hoping to meet Jesse in Texas.

M described it beautifully, "When you do something strange or extraordinary, it is like people are grass, thousands of us alike and suddenly your head pops up, and so do other people doing these things and they are easy to spot." M is one of the sharpest guys I've ever met and I'll miss him when I leave in the morning.

This world is small but amazing, maybe fit perfectly to size one tiny lifetime of experiences. I have met many people on my trip which have humbled me, something I am not used to but find I like very much. When I look at others greatness I see only heights to achieve, not things to covet. I will keep living as well and as long as I can, and I hope that you will all join me because it is beautiful out here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

NOLA (New Orleans, LA) : TWO VIDEOS!!!

A few days ago I made the walk into NOLA,


Since then, as I've mentioned, I've been staying with some Turkish Couchsurfers in NOLA. Today I spent the first half of the day with M (mentioned yesterday) and got some of the day on tape. Before watching it deserves to be mentioned that I dreamt of a yellow lab puppy sleeping on my chest last night and that although I am allowed to show you images of this place, I am under no circumstances allowed to disclose it's top secret location. Enjoy:

Meren's Secret Place

In other news, it looks as if I will have yet another buddy joining me for a time on my journey. We met via a group on Couchsurfing that I belong to for this sole purpose. He looks to be joining me in Texas which is where he is currently living. I don't know much about him but I figure he'll either end up a good companion or a good story, I win either way . . . in the long run, and provided I don't wake up in a bathtub filled with ice and my liver missing, but hell, I was thinking about donating anyway. In any case, we'll meet up in Texas and then take a small side trip back here to NOLA for Mardi Gras before heading out on the Trek again. Today he sent me an email asking what music I liked. I wonder if he's making me a mixed tape . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2009

New Orleans, LA: The Big Easy

Miles since last blog: 11.8
Miles Total: 1796


I'm here in the Big Easy habitating on the couch of three turkish doctoral students. One of them, the husband of my official host, is M. M is a photography enthusiast who is working on nanopores and experimenting with proteins and ion flows to ultimately build the technology that could cure AIDS among many other diseases. I've shortened his explanation a bit, but I doubt you'll mind. For me however, it was a thrill to listen to. My favorite part of teaching English in the Math/Physics Department of Charles University in Prague was always oral exams at the end of the semester when I got to grill students all about their Theses in their respective areas and learn all sorts of things. I'm a total science dork if you can't tell. Some of my favorite books are an old Quantum Physics text and 'Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Number' in which the history of the number is traced through the ages.

Nanotechnology is particularly fascinating to me, but as always with CSers, eventually talk turned lovingly to travel. He told me about a place in Spain which is the definition of peace with multiple religions intermingling, he had once seen a muslim man making artful and decorative arabic writings and selling them off the front of a cathedral. He talked of an English couple who had sold everything and bought two bikes and were riding to Australia when they met a friend of his. All their money was in the bank and inaccessible, they were surviving strictly off the roads good fortune and bits of labor along the way.

M suggested a local institution called Camellia's Grille for lunch and as usual in cultural matters, I trusted my host. After a short wait I was seated. The servers were in white shirts with the sleeves rolled up and black bow ties. I was greeted by a man with an old faded tattoo on his forearm that was impossible to make out because of the bleed over the years and the romantic in me said that it was an old military mark. He had slicked back hair, a name tag that said 'Cesar' and a face that looks like a blunter version of James Dean's had he lived long enough to have had some hard years and some good ones. I almost expected him to call me 'Mac.'

Camellia's smelled like bacon and looked like the 50's with pink wall paper and a marble top bar where people were being served 'freezes.' When they took your order they said, "Regular or Unleaded" instead of 'regular or diet" and where they would rip the wrapper off the front end of the straw for your drink and hand it to you with the same reverence and purposefulness as a cub scout wound hand you a knife in it's sheath. "This is life," the little guy in the back of my head said. He used to just sit in the back among all the arguing parts of my personality and once in a while yell, "ADVENTURE!" but these day he seems pretty happy.

I was enchanted with the people on my trip and I was mesmerized by the places. I was so caught up in the ambiance that I ordered a hot apple pie and a vanilla freeze and started talking with the college kids at the counter next to me. Now I'm sitting listening to two of my hosts speak in their language and it sounds beautiful, the sound of a foreign language is one that I missed. I've thought a lot about the people I've met too. About My friends in Philly, about Pinky and her family, about Free, and about James "don't call me JIm" Alex in Ocean Springs who shares a love of comic books and horror flicks, and many others including Mike and Jessi who I stayed with in Pearlington and volunteered with. Mike was excited about the prospect of a cross country bike trip when I left and I heard that Jessi is thinking about teaching English overseas. My Mom was inspired by the video and by them in turn and was weighing volunteering around the world as a back up plan in case the economy doesn't pick back up. This is life.

It's heresy as a mathematician but more and more I stumble somewhere and think, "this feels like fate." It's 'trail magic' in the words of one couch surfer in Ocean Springs. And it feels like that, magic, I mean. As if I was walking on some golden path where things worked out and it never rained while I was walking, and it hasn't in over 1500 miles now, in the winter. I feel alive, bursting with life, I'm not the kind of guy that would say something like, "it makes my heart sing," but it does.

Of course there are things that I miss. Waking up on a late sleepy weekend morning with a good woman and taking the short walk through and old city to the one place in town with a good breakfast springs to mind. School springs to mind. But I've found something amazing here and wherever I go and I would be foolish to stop. This is life. Every second we have the choice to keep going or to stop living it. It's easy to stop living it, it doesn't even require you to stop living, it just takes your fear overcoming your strength.

I realize now that even after I am done walking I can't stop, it would be foolish. The life I am living is incredible and unbelievable even within it and it is one that is begging to be lived. My life is fantastic though I am not, I'm just lucky enough to have walked along it. When I am finished I'll be in $18k worth of debt, mostly from mistakes I made early on, and though I don't know how I will fix that, I know I won't stop because of it either. When I am done walking there will still be thousands of places to go and millions of people to meet and it would be an insult to the life I've been given to stop merely because of such a foolish and terrestrial thing as money. This is life, and it is mine. I hope it a disease infecting the people I meet along the way to ride across country, volunteer, move to a foreign country, go back to school, or just to splurge on a dinner you deserve.


Update: Just got back from the FRench Quarter where we had beignets and hot chocolate at an outdoor cafe, Cafe du Monde and then headed over to the Spotted Dog Bar for a couple of Jazz bands, awesome.

New Orleans-East, LA: The Final Five

Miles since last blog: 30.8
Miles Total: 1784.2


Wow, yesterday was great. I stayed an extra day up in Mississippi with a disaster relief group and helped out. It's amazing how much there still is to be done even three years after the Hurricanes. Mississippi is in pretty good shape too, I came into Louisiana today and it's rough in areas, but more on that another day.

Mississippi was a great state, friendly and fun but surprisingly almost all of the people I met there were transplants from somewhere else, I guess a good place catches good people like flypaper catches flies. In Mississippi I learned to sloooooow down. Not that I was leaving a fire trail across the country, but I am really just taking things as they come now and enjoying myself, I'll worry about the massive amount of debt I'm racking up when it's all over and I have to get back to reality, for now it's a once in a life time trip and I feel like I am taking full advantage of that fact.

The good news about entering Louisiana is that I am officially in my final five states, ok, so one of them is Texas which is bigger than many countries are . . . put together, but still, I'm a math guy and I like that the states fit on my fingers now. Is it too early to play "the Final Countdown" on repeat for the rest of the trip?

I've included for your viewing pleasure a retrospective on Mississippi, ahem, Biyah.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pearlingon, MS: Okay, okay, I'll stay another day

Miles since last blog: 18.9 (+4 for the not-detour)


I got a late start which was compounded by going down a road where a bridge was out and having to back track. My intention was to get about 15 or more miles into Louisiana today, but that was not to be. The very good side of this was that I've met even more cool people and a girl I didn't couch surf with in Gulfport sent me along food and socks. How many socks? Well, I can't shake a stick at them, that's how many socks I have now. Her mom was sweet and adorable and also had donations for me which was great.

Later, I was stopped by a nice man named Shu shu who works at the local Stennis Space Center of Nasa and warned not to go into Louisiana at night, muggings and terrible roads and all. Those of you who know me also know this would not dissuade me.

A mile later or so, I was stopped again by a lovely pair of ladies with hispanic accents telling me to stay at the Presbyterian Disaster Center, and no, this is not a center for Presbyterian Disasters, but rather Presbyterians helping out after disasters. When I say they told me to come here, I mean it. They told me I would stay at the center, they told me they had food and water and beds and lots of young people from all over the world. They drove by and checked that I was going there no less than three times and said they'd come by and make sure.

I stopped in with the plan to eat and wait until they checked up on me and then head out under cover of darkness, then I checked my email. Turns out my next couch surfing place flaked out on me, he's sick and doesn't want me to get sick. So caring to think of me by having me sleep in the cold. Ha, foiled spoilsport! Now I am ahead of schedule and have a whole RV to myself. Showers, Washing Machines, FOOD and water. Rocking, I think I might stay here for my extra day and do some Hurricane Damage Fixin' with the people that run the place.

Wow, for a state that is only 80 miles on my route, I sure am taking my time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bay Saint Louis, MS: Thank you Knights Inn!

Miles since last blog: 20.4


Good to get back on the road again even with as much fun as I've been having in Mississippi, and even better to have a roof over my head and be watching the Lost Season Premiere. Sweet, I didn't even know it was tonight.

Tomorrow I'll hit Louisiana and then next day New Orleans. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gulfport II: We can rebuild her . . .

It's a day for fixing wonderful ladies.

Let's start from the outside and work our way in shall we?

It was right around midday in the capital of that lovely lady named America I've been exploring that a Presidential transplant took place. The nation got a new heart in Obama but perhaps the thing that I respect the most about the man was his frankness and turning the responsibility back on the people of the country. He may be the heart, but we are the blood and it is time that everyone steps up to better our land, I know we can. If people acted towards each other as they had acted towards me on this trip even a percentage of the time, we would be in a remarkably better place over night.

In my mind, I haven't walked all that far, but far enough to see a spirit I never knew existed in my homeleand and a kindness and hope like I have never seen before.

Second, my Grandma underwent surgery today. It sounds like things went well and she's doing okay, I wish her the best and a speedy recovery so she can enjoy going to Hawaii soon. During this trip I have felt a lot closer to people in general but in particular my Grandmother who is possibly the most loving human being in existence, even if the love often comes out in the form of paranoid worries and gratuitous and insistent food offers that make you suspect she may be pulling a 'Hansel and Gretel' on you.

Lastly comes Cherry. I didn't want to worry any fans of my little stroller (which oddly enough I believe actually might exist) but recently a not so easily fixable part of her broke and I was worried she may shortly end up on the side of a highway somewhere with whatever I couldn't carry on my back. The kindness of strangers came to my rescue
(and Cherry's, who as I figure is about 150 'stroller years' old) again though and I've included yet another video.

Gulfport Garage

Don't blame poor Cherry either, I've made that poor little thing do things no stroller was ever even supposed to even know about.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gulfport, MS: An Obama Nation

Miles since last blog: 15.2


Well, it was a very short 15 miles along the beach today, almost too short, I actually went slower to enjoy it a bit longer. Taking another day off tomorrow to stay and watch the inauguration before I make a two day marathon trek to New Orleans, maybe three if I feel lazy.

I'm trying to be better about putting up video for y'all (note the southerninity), so here's a bit more.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ocean Springs II: Day of Rest

I've prepared this video for inquiring minds. Hope you like it, I stayed up really late making it. Take a minute to pity me now before you watch.

Did you do it?

Sweet, watch away.


you can visit my road traveling friends from this video Here

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ocean Springs, MS: The Variety Hour

Miles from last blog: 17.5


Mississippi is grand. Or at least couchsurfing does. I'm spending the next few days in Ocean Springs and so far, it's all been dandy. Yoga, meatloaf, drinks and live music with promises of more of each and maybe even a shuffleboard tournament or swamp boat ride. Good times on the road, taken it easy and going at whatever pace feels right these days.

New Orleans is in the near future though and the future is exciting.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pascagoula, MS: Miss i bama

Miles since last blog: 33.3


Passing into a new state, like Mississippi, is always exciting but this time it's also a bit sad because I am leaving Alabama. Alabama has been a great place for me. I have met some of the kindest people in all of my travels if not my life and they have been generous with food and donations and a few times both.

My hosts the last few nights were gracious enough to take me to Fort Gaines, home of the cry, "Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!" and to a local sushi joint which was a pleasure. I hadn't had sushi since Richmond, Virginia which I realize is a weird way to quantify time, but these days location is a better chronological device for me than dates. Ask me when I was in Cuba and it would be hard for me to say, but ask me where I went after and where I was before, well that's easy. To find the date I'd have to count backwards by cities.

My last day walking out was a dazzling display of the Alabama spirit as I have come to know it. Aside from a flat tire in the morning, which I fixed and got supplies for the future, I was riddled with goodwill, food and donations. even though this happened nearly everyday I was in Alabama, it still surprises me. This was in large part to Pinky and her family who tracked me down three separate times during the day to feed me and donate to the cause. I thank you especially for making this such a great farewell to the state. Of course they were not the only ones, heading into Mobile a man gave me produce, soup and a as generous of donation as I have seen and reminded me of Big Red from NJ when he said that he had once passed up a chance to bike ride across the country.

I am close to the charity, I care for it, but I know the people that help me do it out of respect for the deed more than the cause and because they wish that some part of them could be with me or do it.

As for Mississippi, what can I say, it's dark, the sheriffs seem friendly. I'll see more in the A.M.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mobile, AL: Coast to Coasted, Second verse, same as the first

Miles since last blog: 9.3


The end of the South. Not the land, but the direction. Not much to say today, it was largely filled with the sleep I missed last night and the short walk to my CS host for tonight. With that said, it took a village to raise this idiot, but it takes only the 70 disco phenomenon of the village people to tell me where to go from here.

Peace out from my last Alabamalog.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Satsuma, AL: This is the end

Miles since last blog: 44.8

Update: Made it, saw the sunrise, heading West.


Or rather the end of the first half, if you will.

Right now I am in a gas station charging my things and resting up for a drive, and by drive I mean long sustained effort, to the Mobile Bay coast. It's about 20 miles from where I am so I'll be walking through the night and then napping in the day when I get there. After that, off to my first CouchSurf in a long time. I'm looking forward to this part of my journey ending and the Journey West, South is so last year.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

McIntosh, AL: There's a cold wind a blowin'

Miles since last blog: 25.9


Not raining, but so cold. Today at noon it was a balmy 37 degrees F which for those science whizzes out there is just 5 about freezing. Perfect weather for running shorts and earmuffs, plus, oh so stylish. By the way, on the subject of earmuffs, if you haven't ever eaten a frozen Snickers bar with earmuffs on, don't it's like your ears are in your mouth and there is nothing sexy about the noises they hear.

On other fronts there isn't too much to report, two days from the Gulf and I saw an actual Bear Xing sign today, so apparently, alligators are not the new bears, alligators are alligators and bears remain bears. Hope all is well in your worlds my little worker bees. Maybe that little piggy the other night was a bear . . . hmmm.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Jackson, AL: and not in other news . . .

Miles since last blog: 13.6


Ahhhhh, I wasn't attacked by a pig and now this, I'm in a hotel for free again! Alabama is so nice! The only down side is that since my fellow walking compatriot Bizarro went on the National news, everyone thinks I'm him. You would think this was better than the constant Forest Gump references, but no, they are usually in concert with one another. I thought about trying to do a little media blitz of my own as I am about to reach my first coast, and a few other things not the least of which would be helping out the charity. Then I realized, I liked when those things happened, but I didn't want to spend my time pursuing it. I like what this walk is for me and what it has become by letting go of certain things like press and I'd rather keep that.

Good times and good people are ahead and I don't need to let anything outside of this journey color it. I'll think about it again in a few months when I'm approaching the end, until then, this is me time.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whatley, AL: This little piggy better not attack me

Miles since last blog: 30.5


Before I left Monroeville I had yet another bout of unsolicited generosity, on the way out of town I stopped by a small grocery store and picked up some bread and peanut butter, the manager said, "no charge." I am in awe of this town, it was to bad I had to leave. My legs seem to be getting back into the swing of things at least as far as distance goes, but I am sure not moving as fast as I was when I did this in my twenties, he he.

It was a long walk and I am bedded down on a little plot of land off a dirt road where a little while ago I think I heard pigs rustling around outside. I remember someone asking me if I was afraid of hogs or boars just the other day and realizing that it never would have occurred to me to be scared of these attacking me in the wild unprovoked. I remain unafraid, perhaps this is my mistake, but we'll just see if wilbur attacks me in the night.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Monroeville, AL: My cup runneth over

Miles since last blog: 45.9


I've slowed down a bit in the wake of my massive writing hiatus. After my blog the other night I walked a few more miles and settled down in a not so sleepy berg named Starlington. I went to sleep to flashlights and woke to cars pulling up to see who i was, a brief chat and I was on my way. Last night there was supposed to be a huge storm, and there was, but luckily in another sleepy wayside I found an abandoned Volunteer Fire Station, complete with fire trucks but lacking in lights or running water. I settled in for a very early bedtime at about 6pm to be awakened at 8 by what sounded like a plane landing on the roof, it was a big storm.

At 5:30 am I headed into the lively town of Monroeville, I had been out of water for nearly a day and had nothing to eat except energy bars for two days. Between towns out here, there is nothing, real nothing, no gas stations, barely any houses or trailers. I came into town and immediately if not instinctually headed to my food of preference, it has been noted I have a proclivity for Triple Whoppers. I didn't know that there was a BK in town, in fact, my GPS said there wasn't, but I found one and they were waiting.

When I entered at the back of the restaurant an employee was already halfway across the lounge to me.

"You want a burger?" He asked.
"Yeah, sure." I was completely surprised, no one had been so forward or nice in all of my travels even though people had been getting nicer the further I got South and especially here in Alabama. I set my stuff down and went to grab my burger.
"No, don't give him that. Give him a double whopper." The managers voice said from behind the counter. I took the chance to wash my hands. I came out to find them waiting.
"Here you go." They handed me a tray. My whopper had sprouted to a triple whopper and bred a whopper jr to boot, they brought an apple pie and french fries for company. I was shocked. During my meal the manager came over.
"Let me know before you go, I'll set you up."
When I finally did leave she sent me packing with 9 sandwiches, 2 apple pie slices (which are surprisingly good), two bags of apple slices and two bottled waters.

I'd been in a lot of pain and was tired before I stopped off, but this was the boost I needed, I decided I'd keep moving towards my goal in Mobile. On a whim I stopped off at the police office to see if there was a place in town I could get a shower before I headed out again. The police sent me over to the Sheriff's and the sheriff set me up with a hotel room for the night that I just couldn't refuse. Apparently local church groups kept funds available for rooms for people passing through. And so, I remain the night in Monroeville, the friendliest town I have ever been to. It was a great pick me up in spirits after feeling a lot of pain on the road. I guess that I have 5 days to the coast if everything goes as scheduled,

Monday, January 5, 2009

Geogiana, AL: On the Road Again

Miles since last blog: 29.6


It feels good to be on the road again, everything seems fresh and new and even though I am down a buddy I am thriving on self sufficiency. I made the decision to bypass the trip to Pensacola, FL and just head the long way to Mobile, AL to avoid dangerous and potentially impassable bridges and tunnels. It packs on a few extra miles and drops out a state, but I am reveling in being in the true back country of Alabama.

Normally I am heading from big town to big town so there are towns along the way that are somewhat bolstered by their 'pit stop' capacity. Taking the long way to Mobile I am on roads to and from nowhere. I'm glad to be in the most friendly state I have yet to visit, and I am learning the local dialect. For instance, if something is working improperly, you might say, "It is done funny," or speaking in the hypothetical, you could say, "Iffin' that were true . . . " These are actual examples I picked up during dinner this evening.

I was talking with one of the example givers from above and verified that I was not taking interstates.

"I'm mostly taking back roads." She looked at me sideways.
"Thas e'en more scary." I can only assume she is afraid of dogs and/or hill people.

I'm not afraid though, I have been having a great time for most of my time in Alabama, big or small town. I've got about 150 miles to Mobile and the Gulf Coast that has been so elusive until now.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gainesville VIII: A New Hope

A short time ago, in a Gainesville far, far away . . .

It is a period of change. Rebel
walker, writing from a hidden
base, has won his first victory
against the evil Cubicle Empire.

During the battle, walker spies managed
to make secret plans against the Empire's
ultimate weapons, Boredom and Apathy, two
terrible things with enough
power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's evil finance scheme,
Skipwalker races home along the highways,
custodian of the secret plans
that can save his people and restore
freedom to the galaxy . . .

That would have been a lot more impressive had the words been floating through space, but you get the idea.

Okay, I know it's been like a year since I've written, literally. But after busting out almost 400 pages in a month i needed a small break. Tomorrow I hit the road again and hope that the road doesn't hit back.

New Years was a sweet surprise since it turned out I had a friend from Prague close by while she was visiting her parents and about to head off to Israel so I got to hang out and reminisce about P-town. As for the rest of my time since I finished writing, I've been watching a lot of movies, putting on a layer of blubber for the lean, cold times ahead and speaking Russian with my computer thanks to a Birthday Present from my parents. Oh yeah, I turned 30 yesterday.

I don't think anybody ever is sitting on the playground as a child and thought, "Where do I want to be when I'm thirty?" And then had the answer be, "Homeless and poor sleeping on couches and walking across the country." Probably not, I wanted to be Superman, but since that wasn't possible I guess this is a close second.

Yes, he's WalkingMan! Faster than a speeding armadillo (or so I infer from there vast dead numbers on the road), more powerful than a South Virginian Dog, and able to leap guardrails in a single bound. I'm probably not going to get my own comic book, but I can live with that. The walking is all the reward I need, except maybe some cash for food, but other than that, just the walking.

Before I had stopped to write, I was starting to slide towards a slightly dark place I admit, I could hear it calling, "Come to the Darkside young Skipwalker." But I am rejuvenated and fully ready to party with Ewoks, or start walking again, possibly both.

And now it is time to heed the glorious and sage words of 'The Village People' and, 'Go West!'