Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jal, NM: Texas 0, Skip 1

Miles since last blog: 34.2
Miles Total: 2701.5


Last night I made it out of Texas. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of great times and people in Texas, but it was just the mental battle. Texas doesn't just want to hold you there, it wants to break you in the process. I had a few choice words to deliver as I crossed the state line but was too tired to do so. I actually had a dance and several songs choreographed for the occasion in my head but it was a long day, so maybe I'll do it today after lunch. It won't be the same, but the joy of crossing a border and into a new time zone is still pretty fresh.

The day started out with fortune, "in the middle of nowhere" according to the two "bitchen" employees, was a roadside cafe. I sat down and enjoyed breakfast and a free t-shirt courtesy of the girls. From the outside it looked like there was no possible way that this was an open business, but inside the walls were decked with photos of all the 'famous' people that had come through. A few years back it seems an Aussie had even walked through on his walk across the USA. The waitress said she was famous too, locally, then corrected herself to say infamous.

"That's not to hard with a population of one." The other woman said.

Then the wind started kicking up outside and it sounded like the place was about to blow over. 35-40 mph winds were expected for the day. I could have sat all day in the heat, with food and good company but I braved the journey to New Mexico in the wind.

It was a harrowing day. It involved non-existent roads, wind, sand, uphills and at times all of those together for lengthy periods. As I approached the border a Sheriff even stopped me to question me about the tracks I had made across the desert and through a ranchers property after all semblance of roads had left me. I got plenty of video and rather than detail the whole day here I think I'll leave it for the moving picture show portion of my life.

Here I am, New Mexico, and the dark specter of Texas that tried so hard to hold me has been shaken off. I am free to walk again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Goldsmith, TX: The Lone Star State

Miles since last blog: 22.6
Miles Total: 2667.4


Another short day and early night. I found a place out of the wind and with a light so I felt obliged to settle in for the night rather than push on closer to the border. It was a hard day, I picked up speed in the afternoon with the realization that I could cross into a new state tomorrow and I felt light even. I hope this isn't some type of placebo, not crossing any borders in so long has taken a real toll on me and the possibility that that might actually be the problem and it could be alleviated shortly has given me a bit of hope and bounce. The bounce unfortunately has nothing to do with my shoes which never arrived and I now have no place to buy them until Las Cruces which will put this pair at almost 900 miles when they retire.

I was also called in off the street today and blessed in a small ministry, which was pretty cool I guess.

The down part of the day was that reality had forced my hand to cut something, I had to let my chance to teach at survival school this summer go. This might not sound like much to you but it is something I agonized over. I have a lot of things that need to be done this summer and even then will likely be in copious amounts of debt from this adventure that will no doubt haunt my future actions, but Survival School was a very important place for me and I saw the way it was able to touch people and change their lives. I can't say why, but there is something about being out there that can change a person greatly and for the good and it is a wonderful thing to be a part of. I feel that is what I have let go of for the Summer in exchange for other things that I care for or are responsibilities.

After I sent my email I walked slowly and for some time would tear up when I would think of what I had missed. If my legs had moved a little faster, been a little longer, if I hadn't taken a day of here or a week off there, could I have kept this treasure? Things along my journey have lined up as well though due to the speed, or lack there of, with which I moved. I would not want to trade my experiences or friends away even if I would have had others in their place. It is a curse that life is so short, that we have so few chances for so many things and what we can pass by.

I feel like life is one giant buffet and I have a stomach the size of a pea, I dream of all the delicious tastes and then break my own heart after I fill up on only one. Nevertheless, I'm not one who dwells, the decision and loss is in the past and tomorrow is a new day with greater opportunity and less pressure of speed and distance. I feel some love for this will come back at the border and with some loss already behind me.

I dream of seeing my friends, my family, my city-Prague, and of new foreign places like Honduras and Buenos Aires. I know some of these dreams will break my heart again, but a few will come true and they will be extraordinary. And the best part is that the dream of this walk will be complete, no regrets about things undone, no longing like I am missing a great adventure on my life checklist, I will be free to pick and choose from any dreams I wish knowing I will always have this.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Odessa, TX: The Edge of Nothing

Miles since last blog: 20.6
Miles Total: 2644.8


The good news is: it sounds like I have a place to stay in Carlsbad.
The bad news is: it adds another 13 miles to my walk to get to the place.
The Better news is: the place is with a forestry ranger in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

What does this mean?

Well the down side is that another day of walking didn't actually get me much closer to my end point which is quickly becoming a stronger focus and I won't be heading through the town of Carlsbad so no big supply stop all the way to Las Cruces after tomorrow.

The upside is that I get to see the Caverns which I hear are really cool and my walk now takes me through the entire length of the park which is pretty cool.

I'm heading into an area that is truly desolate. If you look on a navigation or map program, even in big open spaces where it looks like there aren't any towns, when you zoom in there are little towns written in in gray as if they could be erased at any moment. Sometimes these towns have a Restaurant, sometimes it's just a few buildings and sometimes it just boarded up buildings, but there might be something there and at least there's a wall to shield the wind a bit if you are camping. Out where I am going, there are no little gray towns. The expanse between Carlsbad and Las Cruces, and even between Odessa and Carlsbad has long spaces of nothing at all. The roads don't even have names.

Here's an actual segment of my directions:

12. Turn right 453 ft
13. Turn left 1.7 mi
14. Turn right 4.1 mi
15. Turn left 1.7 mi
16. Turn left 0.3 mi
17. Turn right 2.0 mi
18. Turn left 8.2 mi
Entering New Mexico
19. Slight left 3.0 mi
20. Turn right 0.6 mi

As you can guess, this could make navigation a little tricky. I have to keep track of mileage by timing myself and making sure I try to remember what my route looks like, particularly around intersections.

Blogs, in all likelihood, will become more sparse in these areas. If not from lack of coverage, from lack of battery on my laptop. But there's a few days before that probably. I should be out of Texas in less than 75 hours if all goes well, I could definitely use the mental boost of the border and time zone change. Tomorrow will probably put me in, or past, Notrees, TX. I'm not kidding, that's actually the name of the town. After that is Kermit and then the nothing of the border and several more days in New Mexico with nothing.

1175 miles to go. Start the countdown.

Update: Changing routes again, back to bigger roads and the town of Carlsbad. I was assured by my forester friend that walking through the park wouldn't be a . . . walk through the park. Will keep you posted, but now I am heading out to nowhere for a day or two.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Midland, TX: Broke like the Wind

Miles since last blog: 65.7 (two days)
Miles Total: 2624.2


Let's begin by just saying, "cars are magic."

Over the course of this trip I have found that I drastically overestimate the speed with which cars actually travel. That is to say, when people tell me it takes five hours to get some where by car, I think they must be out of their mind. After all, I waked that distance in a few weeks, surely a car can do it in an hour or two. So my perception of distance has changed too, when I was in Southern Alabama for instance, it just didn't seem like Maryland was all that far away, the idea that a trip would take 16 hours by car could barely fit in my head anymore, I mean, when you're walking, cars are just SO fast.

I thought this new perspective would possibly be dashed by my trip back to Sterling City, but just the opposite was true. Four hours to cover two weeks of travel was just astounding to me. I mean, I sometimes walk 13 hours in a day. I'm all for being green and I love the earth and I'm not encouraging anyone to go out and drive around and use a bunch of gas, but I will say that I doubt I will ever again understand someone not wanting to go somewhere because it's too far away, unless it is from one side of Russia to the other. The fact that my trip will take me another two months or more when I have driven the remaining distance in less than a day is incomprehensible to me. How could anyone use distance as an excuse in the age we live in, the world is so small and cars are magic speed pods, that's all there is to it.

Next, I saw another deer with a broken leg yesterday, which was depressing and hard to take. I wanted even more to help it but as I approached I could only see it's terror and pain grow as it tried to run off. On the other hand, I also saw my first couple tumbleweeds the last few days, so that was a bit exciting.

Finally, today was all about wind. I hate wind. Wind is terrible, why won't it go get sliced up by a windmill somewhere?

My walk today was a solid 20+ miles into a 15-25 mph headwind (according to the paper). I tried a little experiment today. I pushed my carrier (which weighs about 100 pounds) downhill and let it go. It stopped. Then it rolled back up the hill to me while picking up speed. That's what 15-25 mph winds do to a walking day. My legs are sore, I can't remember the last time that happened. Pushing something for 20+ miles uses a lot of new muscles for a long time. I couldn't even make three mph, I went through a gallon and a half of water, it was terrible. I spent most of my day swearing into the wind and on the verge of a Donald Duck freak out complete with me fighting air.

My fabulous hosts offered to keep me another night so i think I'll take them up on it. Especially since tomorrow is supposed to be 31 mph winds at a temp of 46 degrees. Welcome to the flat dessert.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sterling City II: On the road again

Hit the Willie, because I've headed out of Austin on the road to California again. I've just been dropped at the point I left off at when my Carrier broke and in the car I had the nervous yawns of an athlete before his event. And this is the event.

When I started, part of this was to test my limits. I wanted to see if I was the man I thought I could be, if I could find my limits then push through them and keep going when push came to shove. Physically, I did this long ago. But now, when I am tired, when I am alone and heading into the real desert in a week or so, when I feel like my journey is done even though my path isn't; now is when I test my mind and my spirit.

I've traveled the distance I have left twice over already. It's not that far but it stretches out in front of me, every day I feel further away rather than closer. Just as I should be speeding up with nothing to slow me down, I am moving slower than ever. Now is the time I learn the hard lessons, I have built myself up over the last six and a half months and it is time to learn humility and perseverance on a new scale.

I am alone, but friends will visit me, family will come, I can make this even though I don't always feel like I want to anymore. This is the great new test of my life and I only hope I can pass it. It is not the desert, it is not food, it is not water, it is not my knee, it is not my loneliness or my time; it is only myself I have left to deal with. Thanks to everyone who has supported me in so many ways, it has carried me so far and I hope to see you after this is all over so we can enjoy a meal. If you want to join me, you are welcome in the desert as well, and I can use the help, though my foe will still be the same.

I want to break down, I want to feel the rain pour over me in the desert and sit soaked and on the verge of tears but relieved to find strength and know I will keep going. I want to fall and let the world pick me up when I don't have the will to. I know this is waiting for me in the desert. I feel it in my whole body. I am not afraid.

ATX Redux VI: The Chicken Stands Alone

On a Sunday afternoon a group of a hundred or more cloister in a small bar for an event unspoken of in normal society. It's dark inside and when you walk in, the first thing you notice, a small cage. It's a wooden frame with chicken wire completely surrounding it and people give it an excited look as they hurry by to go make their bets out back. Above the cage only inches above the top is a light, shaped as a popular NASCAR complete with decals. The light shines down into the small box giving an effect that I can only remember in finals wrestling matches from high school or interrogation rooms on TV, it pales all the other lights except for the sunlight which pours in through open doors at both ends of the bar. The doors have to stay open because the crowd would turn it into a sweltering heat even with air conditioning at full blast if they weren't.

At the far end of the bar in the corner there is a Rock-a-billy man setting up speakers and guitars. His hair is slicked back like a greaser of the 50's and his arms are covered in tattoos of American flags and music notes that encircled his elbows. Everyone knows him, he's a big name who plays for free every Sunday, but he's not why they're here mostly.

People crowd around the bar getting Lone Star Beer, the Texas equivalent of PBR. They're ordering from an older woman, Ginny, it's her bar. As one local puts it, "Ginny puts the charm into being un-charming." She's surly and reminds me of a smoking all-night diner waitress that I used to know and love around the casinos of Reno. There's excitement in the bar and people are getting twitchy and impatient, eyeing the back door and the cage alternately.

Eventually the event begins. It's hard to even find a place to see because it's so crowded. When you can see, the view is powerful. There in the cage stands a Rooster, people all around it shouting. He is backlit so that you see only a black shadow of an outline as he looks keenly at the crowd.

"Now! Do it now!" People shout.

They want it to defecate. They want it to defecate on their square. For 57 people lucky enough to have braved the line and gotten a ticket, there is a place in the cage where the chicken can shit that will win them $114 for their buy in of $2. It's called Chicken Shit Bingo and Ginny started it here at Ginny's Little Longhorn Bar decades ago because of the slow Sundays. Dale Watson, the Rock-a-Billy musician that has a big name, one patron estimates he runs $2k a night for gigs, he plays for free. Years back when he was a nobody he walked into Ginny's with a guitar and asked if they did live music.

"Well, we haven't before," said Ginny, "but I see you got a guitar. Let's see what you got."

He still plays for free, for fun, for Ginny. He's got songs for Lone Star Beer, for special tamales that come through, and for the event itself of course. There's also free chili dogs and hot dogs.

It all starts in the early afternoon and can go on into the night. Three rounds of CSB are played each starring Sissy, the chicken of note. In between rounds Sissy is taken out of the cage and taken back to her pen out back. People stop Ginny to get pictures with them both.

Thirty minutes in my scientific mind starts thinking: if Sissy likes attention, she would slowly be being trained to hold it in when in the cage over trial after trial, assuming a chicken is capable of such things, which it might not be. The thought of a starlet chicken holding it in for the attention of a bunch a drinking, laughing, shouting people seemed mildly hilarious. Whoever would have thought the behavior of so many could be determined by the bowel movements of a chicken?

When watching a chicken in a pen for as much as 45 minutes, people get a little nuts, people say things that you'd never hear anywhere else, they're funny, they're happy. It's a place you never thought you'd end up and yet even I found myself zooming in on Sissy's tail-end and leaving the camera running hoping to get the money shot when I could film between the people in the crowd.

"17!" Someone yells.

"Did it go? Was it 17?" Someone else asks. There's no need for the question and the person is revealed as a newcomer, when the shit hits one of the squares drawn on the ground, everyone knows. Screams rise up, people flip out, even if they lost. It is a communal event of patience and gregariousness that has come to fruition in a most unlikely form before us all. Outside, a line is already forming for the next round and people shuffle off to listen to Dale or chat in the back parking lot which is filled with drinking locals.

Is it the uniqueness of the event that brings us? The music, the tradition and institution of it after so many years. A strange redneck experience for city folk of Austin or a strange city experience for the rednecks of Austin? I couldn't say for them but for me, I just thought, "what a damn interesting thing, and what a great gathering it has wrought."

From where I stand, 'Chicken shit' no longer means 'coward,' it means 'good times.'


Monday, March 23, 2009

Update: The times, they are a changing

In the past I have had a few confederates in my journeys. I've been keeping tabs on these fellows as much as possible and I thought I might recap their time with me ever so briefly and give you a heads up on where you can see them performing. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Free: This was my buddy for about two months of my journey. I met him when I couch surfed his place in Maryland and saw in him great possibilities. I pushed him to come with me and I didn't have to push hard, at the time, it seemed like a godsend, the perfect travel companion for the trip of a lifetime. Well, Free was great, but if he was a godsend then heaven is a coffee plantation. Free drove ahead and helped with any number of things including but not limited too: Press Releases, meeting CS Hosts, recording film, drinking copious amounts of coffee, setting up camp, breaking down camp, feeding me, getting me water, inspiring me into trying to be a mediocre writer (when I had previously been happy with being a terrible writer) and just being an all around pretty good friend. I cried on his shoulder at least once that I can remember.

We had met up in Washington DC again after I left his place and we were together until my 'down time' in Gainesville, FL, or somewhere in Southern Alabama on my route at the time. We cracked each other up. An example on both sides -

When arriving at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Free pulled up to find me talking with a local sheriff who was searching me and a cluster of people coming out of trailers to see what was up.

"This is the most interesting thing to happen in a month," one said.

"What happened last month?" replied Free.


"That's the top of the list for this trip: witness a bris."

Now that he is living with a rabbi, perhaps his dream will come true. (I had an inappropriate joke for this occasion which I have left out for tastefulness)


When being woken up via air horn from a police car outside the tent, headlights glaring in, we opened the tent flap up and talked with the officer who informed us that people had been steeling the copper pipes off the church we were sleeping behind for scrap metal sales. He checked our IDs and went off and we zipped up the flap.

"Now how about we get to work on those pipes?" I said to Free before crashing back into sleep.


"Man, I want some apple juice, but not the natural stuff with all that crap floating in it."

In actuality, I've said funnier things, but it turns out I have a very dirty mind and many of my jokes aren't fit for the blogosphere. That, and well, I talk with Free on occasion and he tells me something I said that made coffee spray out of his nose months later, I never remember it. I'm glad one of us remembers it.


Life was good times with Free and I miss him, I recently read this on his blog "Within the week, I am moving to East Providence, Rhode Island, where I will be renting a basement apartment from a Rabbi and his wife, who has purple hair." Needless to say that made me proud and happy and I look forward to keeping track of his adventures. Previously he had become a waiter which was totally not befitting of a man of his unique disposition.

Kodiak: I met this guy on Couch Surfing, he was a 19 year old kid who wanted to get out into the world and travel but was afraid to go alone. We finally met up in La Grange, TX after a 43 mile day. His intent was to walk with me the whole distance to California. After 8 miles he decided that hitchhiking might be the way to go.

In the end Kodiak only hung around for about four days before he felt comfortable enough on the road to go it on his own. He headed off to Dallas out of Austin as I went towards San Angelo. I didn't have much time with Kodiak, but I like to think that it had a pretty profound effect on his life if only as training wheels. Kodiak is out riding by himself, running wild, here's a clip from one of his recent blogs, "I had to keep up my travels but I need the money for a new laptop so I will be hitching to Maryland to join a carnival temporarily."

I chat with Kodiak sometimes online still and keep up with him. He's leading an interesting journey very different from my own and I look forward to hearing about my friend, the kid who actually ran away and joined the circus.


It's not all though. Outside of my journeys I keep in contact with friends. In a matter of months there will be babies, lay offs, divorces, abandonment of businesses, the return from a life changing trip, and a number of other things. I can't think of a single person I know who is not going through, or about to go through, huge changes in their lives. Can we all expect such a drastic realignment? Is the 'swift spiritual boot to the head' that John Cusack talks about in Grosse Point Blank coming for us all? Perhaps since we see shifts coming in economy, government, and so many other areas, perhaps these are spurring us on to our own changes under the guise of "When in Rome."

I do feel like something big is coming, some great change. I can't say that it will start well, the economy, housing, I don't know, but I don't feel it's apocalyptical, I think it could be a new renaissance. I make no bones about being a huge dork when it comes to science, I spend a good amount of my time reading science news and listening to science podcasts. The things that are going on right now in the world are incredible, miraculous things that we could only dream of before. Invisible fabrics, pills that can re-grow amputated limbs, as you read this there are photos available to look at from the Hubble Telescope that look back in time about 10.5 billion years.

Right now we are in a period some have already begun to call "the Sixth Extinction." There have been five great extinctions before this, a great extinction is when an abundance of living species disappear during a relatively short time period. In the worst of these, over 90% of the species of earth disappeared with estimates as high as 95%.

Our world is changing, personal, national, species and the earth itself. To quote Ryan Renolds in Van Wilder, "Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere." Change is inevitable, some will be sad, but I think we could use it all the same.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

ATX Redux V: The Hiccup with Hipsters

If you want to get to the core stereotype of any group of people, the sure source is the lightbulb joke. It never fails. No matter how terrible or benign a stereotype is you'll find it well represented here. I'll give you an example, and as a disclaimer: I'm largely Irish so it's okay for me to say this.

"How many Irishmen does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"


"10, one to hold the lightbulb and 9 to drink until the room spins."

From our lessons above we can take from this that Irishmen are reputed to be drunks. Having been to Ireland I can say that this is in large part true, but in a fun kind of country wide tailgate party for team Ireland that never ends because there's no game coming.

I bring this up solely to tell you this joke as an illustration of yet another group of people. Hipsters. I'll give you the joke first.

"How many hipsters does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"


(Scoff) "You don't know?" said in an incredulous voice.

This is, at its essence, the hipster. In my standard roving urban anthropologist fashion I have been observing more in the way of Jane Goodall than partying with the hipster. The wikipedia definition has this as part :The term is sometimes used in a derogatory manner, referring to someone who moves from trend to trend while claiming to be outside of mainstream culture. I have made some notes as well.

1) Hipsters don't recognize themselves as hipsters, they only recognize other hipsters as hipsters, sort of like the dog that thinks it's human but still recognizes other dogs.

2) Hipsters are looking for the coolest 'uncool' thing, so there is more or less a small variety of uniforms available handily at thrift stores everywhere. The idea is that you want to be as cool as possible and live much of your life to this end while scoffing at those who are not and those who are also trying to look cool. You are supposed to look like you aren't trying, to this end there are a lot of carefully arranged mismatched clothes, bad hair and mustaches, etc.

3) Mainstream is not cool. The coolest things have the word 'indie' in front of them. Indie music, indie films, these are the things hipsters hoard to, apparently indie meaning independent is an irony lost on them, but only because they are trying so hard to look like an independent thinker which they accomplish be copying the other independent thinkers they know.

4) One of the most common things to exit a hipsters mouth, "God, this sucks, there are hipsters everywhere." (see note 1)

5) Although they are 'not mainstream,' if you are unaware of things inside their mainstream (i.e., indie movies, 'non-fashion' or indie music), you are immediately looked at sideways and are subject to scoffing condescension as: if you aren't cool, you must be mainstream.

6) Only other people can say if you are a hipster, you would never know of you were one. I could be a hipster (unlikely with respect to music but I like film a lot), you could be a hipster, you'll only know for sure if people you recognize as hipsters scoff at you and you overhear them calling you a hipster.

Those are my basic notes on the subculture. Some of you may have realized that the title of the blog was an allusion to an old Star Trek episode, 'the trouble with tribbles.' Tribbles were cute fluffy little breeders that were soon filling the starship enterprise with their adorable spawn which threatened the entire ship with smothering due to their numerous fuzzy couplings. Well, if you replace the Starship Enterprise with 6th street in Austin and Tribbles with Hipsters, you basically have it.

The streets are filled with people, all thinking their own group is cool and that everyone else is hipsters.

Why the hatred of hipsters? Well, I can only guess that the hate is due to hipsters in essence being, Super-Posers. Posers are people who are trying to be things they're not (see Vanilla Ice), picture Holden Caufield's smoldering fury at phonies, that's basically the principle. Except Hipsters are like an entire culture of posers who had nothing to pose as because they identified it all as uncool and then created an entire culture of their own, completely filled with effort and pretense, all fake. While posers wanted to be something some part of them identified with, hipsters just don't want to be anything else.

I don't mind hipsters anymore than any other fake people, I've got some friends I think are probably hipsters. Despite all the animosity they stir up tacitly with their existence, although no open hatred, they're just trying to figure it all out too. And they are sort of adorable in their own way, but I'm still glad they don't breed like tribbles, there's a population problem people.

Friday, March 20, 2009

ATX Redux IV: I want to ride my Bicycle

Things have been going pretty well out here at the festival. Yeah, the passion of walking is a little bit waning, but not my passion for travel or new experiences.

My new hobby, in between free food and concerts, is ogling the bikes at REI. I'm learning a bit too. I went and got my carrier's broken part replaced and did some general stock up and wheel maintenance and the bike tech, a great guy named Jeff, taught me a bit about tires. It's not a lot, but I'm learning and salivating over the thought of fast and equally green travel that is as free as walking. I've been on more and more bikes in my down time and it just seems so fast.

My friend Jolly Green sent me a message today, he's at my end point in Santa Monica and had dinner with someone I'd met in Houston. Small world, and even mores so if you're on a bike. After all, Jolly Green was in Austin just a few weeks ago and he's already at the coast. The idea of traveling 100 miles in a day, awesome.

That's one of my two fantasy purchases for the end of the trip: an awesome bike and a guitar or banjo. Yeah, music is getting into my blood, even my heart is beating in time. Alright, my heart always beat in time, that's how it always was, it helps me, you know, stay alive. Still, you get my point.

I've always considered it one of my great faults that I am not a musician. If things were perfect and money wasn't a worry, after the walk I'd be taking guitar and language lessons while riding around the country with my teachers. Super awesome fictional world huh? In this world I would also be able to fly, but that's something else. Check out 'wing suit' on youtube, it'll make your heart race.

Yes, the intrepid traveler, the James Bond of Hobos, yours truly, is not always as down as I was the other night. What, like you never have a bad day? Walking is getting a bit old, but traveling isn't and I'm really looking forward to travel to see some good friends at the end of this all. This week I've been hanging with people from earlier in my trip who live here or are also in town during SXSW. It's been nice to see people and only makes me want to finish that much more. So I can buy that sweet bike.

Video of some SXSW coming soon.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


You'll hear more later, but just thought I'd check in with a positive little, "having fun at South by South West." Wish you were here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ATX Redux II: The Ghost of St. Patrick

I'm nothing if not honest. Perhaps I've said this before. It's not to say I'm good, just that I admit what I've done wrong or poorly and there is plenty of that believe me. Often my honesty was probably the wrong thing and has gotten me into trouble. There was a time today when I was ready to abandon the walk altogether. At least for the time being. I'm not going to, but it was a fleeting thought.

Until now this walk has given me so much, it's hard when that tide turns on you. Now that I am slowing down when I want to be speeding up there is a cost associated with each day. If I am held up a week than there goes Hawaii or Buenos Aires or Honduras or Prague, one of the trips I felt I needed at the end of this vanishes in between the end of the walk and my time at Survival School. One of the many points of this walk for me was to let go of the silly things that become priorities so that I could really live life to it's fullest, what do I do now that that full life is being limited by this journey? I thought about putting the walk aside for a bit, taking a long break and returning to finish after the Summer when I might need it again. My head oscillates back and forth these days a lot, I find meaning and I lose it, it's not as present as before even though there is still something there. Right now, at this moment I am resolved to finish, I believe this side will always win the battle, the irony is, that if my knee continues to bother me than it may be a moot point anyway.

I would hate to have walked over 2500 miles and have it all end with such a whimper of a sore knee, but the reality is that the country I'm coming up against will need all of me. It's the hardest part of my journey in many ways and I need to be in good shape for it.

The day itself was what you would call wonderful, despite my interior monologue. I got to spend the day with my old friend from Philly, she's the singer whose amazing voice pulled me far more into the musical world than I had ever been before. She was also the start of the trend of banjos which have followed me across the country. I got to hear her perform at an open mic tonight for the first time and it was incredible, I wasn't the only one who thought so, person after person came up to tell her or I how good she was. Her band is called papertrees, check them out on myspace.

I can't say why her music effects me the way it does, I think that there are certain pitches or smells or tastes that just reach specific people in ways that they don't reach other people. For me it's Philly's voice or the scent of Vanilla, for someone else who knows, but it seems like I'm not the only one who likes Philly's voice. After the open mic she went outside and performed on the street for a bit, a young guy came up and after a while plugged his ears.

"If I hear this next part I'll fall in love with you," he said thinking of the note coming up. And with that he walked off, fingers still in his ears, homeless people dancing around in front of her. There was something very naked and brave about a street performance which i could see. No stage, no intended audience, just throwing yourself out there and hoping someone is listening and likes it enough to let you know. I've seen performers where this wasn't the case, where they were just stroking themselves by playing where people were, but that wasn't the case here and it is something to watch and empathize with.

When she went off I met up with my Irish friend who brought me to Austin, Colin, we went to a few bars in honor of the day and his nation and had a shot of whiskey each and a few beers before I headed off. He told me that he could definitely drop me off back in Sterling City next Tuesday and that sounded like an excellent plan to me.

Walking home I climbed the short fence into a playground where I sat on the swing set and looked up at the stars which weren't as bright as they were out on the edge of Sterling City. I was singing one of Philly's songs. The day was sweeping over me, through me, not just through my mind but through my body. I could feel the entire trip almost oozing through my body front to back, happiness pouring through my muscles and heartbreak making my bones brittle. It was like a whole life flashing through me but with none of the adrenalin of a near death experience to toughen you for the experience. Sometimes I wonder if I was meant to experience so much when the weigh of it all weighs me down so much I just want to collapse at times underneath it all, the good and the bad.

Call it fatigue, but it could be something else. Being confronted with the path behind me reminds me that in ways I am just a ghost passing through other peoples lives, no more permanent than a breeze and as grateful as you can sometimes be for a breeze, you just as quickly forget it until it comes through again. This is the thing about missing Honduras or Prague or wherever at the end of it all, the places will always be there, but it is friends I wanted to see as well. These places occupy the slot of permanence in my life that is so otherwise vacant, the things that were and if I take care of them, can always be. Permanence is something I miss on the road, a relationship, romantic or otherwise, is something that is natural to hunger for no matter how happy you may otherwise be.

Juxtaposed against the lack of permanence is also the newly felt lack of novelty. Although it is true that every place and person I meet is different and I take something from all of it, I felt incredibly alive yesterday moving at high speeds and doing the unexpected, going off course and tasting something that is really different from what I've had for the last six and a half months. With so short of a distance relatively speaking I have a hard time even logically drawing a line where I would want to take a break if I were to, and so I probably won't, but it seems like the desert that lies in front of me will act as a purgatory of sorts and that perhaps will hold within it many new challenges that perhaps I need to face but are not as exciting as the challenges from before. Maybe this is where I further my lessons in humility and the cost of dreams, maybe it will be a reality check or a realignment with societal thought, I can't say and honestly I feel tired a lot of the time even thinking about it. I've been rubber raw emotionally and it seems like the whole range of it is constantly flooding me, what keeps me going is the thought of seeing old, pre-walk friends along the way and feeling a moment of solid ground beneath me.

I've said to many people, "Everyone wants to find themselves but no one is willing to lose themselves first." I thought I had done this, but I suppose I could pull back another layer because amidst this wonderful day I felt like a lost bobbing buoy of a man.

As a special treat, here's some footage of Philly playing:


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ATX - Redux: Luck o' the Irish

When last we met, Skip was in trouble, stuck in a far off land; injured, afraid, alone . . . hungry.

A decision was made. I would head back to Austin where the closest REI was to get my carrier fixed. This meant Hitchhiking for the first time in my life.

Flashback to 9:45 the previous night where a white truck swerves around me in the dark and an Irishman in a Camo-ball cap wonders what a mother is doing out for a power-walk that late at night.

Flash forward to 9:45 the next morning when the wheel on my cart breaks.

Flash to me saying, "awwwwwwww, F@#$@%#$#@k."

Flash to after the decision to hitch back when I have a plan. I walk into a small diner in Sterling City and ask where I can get a dry erase pen, I'm allowed to take any of a number of colors. I choose purple because it's my favorite color and it makes me feel pretty. Things are going my way.

Flash to a San Angelo Gas station where I am using the pen to write on the back of my normal sign:


Flash to traveling at 70 mph into Austin, me a giggling idiot drowning in Surrealism and a bad case of the 'weirds.'

Flash back to me walking through San Angelo to get to another gas station and meeting a man who saw me in the paper.

Flash to him letting me out at the same gas station in Wall that I got picked up from and dropped off at by B, my San Angelo host, when I was in town.

Flashback to the diner in Sterling City after I ask for a pen. A man offers me a ride into San Angelo in an hour if I'm willing to wait. I am. I sit down and talk with the girls that work there and show them Couchsurfing. The ride is fast and surrealism begins. I also get a free coke, which was cold, a luxury I haven't had in a while.

Flash forward to sitting on the side of the highway in Wall at the gas station I'd seen so many times from my San Angelo time. I sit for about an hour and half before walking back to the gas station where I chat with the workers, who know me fairly well by now, and then catch a ride with a Grandma, Mother and her 4 kids in a mini-van. Note that they were very patient as I deconstructed my carrier and tied it to the roof. 60 miles into Brady.

Flash to the phone calls I got all day from people concerned people wanting to help, but who were too far away. Thanks all.

Flash to walking to the outskirts of Brady and waiting for a ride minutes before sunset.

Flash to me having beers at 2 am with my CS host from last time I was here. They're running us out of the bar along with everyone else. It's last call.

Flash back to the Highway in Brady, we'll settle here, if it's been disorienting there's a reason for it. That's exactly how it felt. A truck rounds the corner a few minutes after sunset it's the time called magic hour in the movies where the light is beautiful and just about perfect for anything you might want to see. I can see something on the side of the truck and I almost don't throw out my thumb in case it's a sheriff, hitching is illegal and I'm not about to get arrested.

For the first time all day, someone pulls over for me. The rest of the day I picked up rides in diners and gas stations, this was my first true hitch. A man in a Camo-baseball cap gets out of the truck and he seems to have an Irish accent.

"Where are you going?" he asked. He had an Irish sticker on the back of his truck and an emblem on his shirt.

"Austin." I said and told him what I was doing and why I needed a ride. At first I wasn't sure he was going to offer me a ride but then he told me to put the carrier in the truck bed. Hitching with a stroller is hard, you need a truck or something that can hold you, it's much more for a driver to get involved in than simply opening a door.

I called my mom and left a message saying I got a ride.

"So let me tell you a story," Colin, my Irish benefactor, said. He proceeded to tell me about how he hadn't picked up a hiker for 6 years, because the first time it had been a bad experience. It had been a barrier he had wanted to break for a while. We talked for most of the trip, about fate mostly, and the strange coincidences that follow you when you stir things up. There was a lot more to it and I really should have written about it last night, but I was distracted.

We agreed to meet up and have a Guinness, the coincidence of being picked up by an Irishman on the eve of St. Patrick's, who was going all the way to Austin was enough for both of us, then he said he was probably going back through Sterling City in a week and he could give me a ride. Great fortune smiled upon me, and I feel like he felt lucky too. Over dinner he realized he had seen me the night before and swerved around me. It was about 9:45 when we were entering town, 24 hours later.

He dropped me off at my CS host's place and I let myself in and sat on the stairs in a surreal daze.

If you ever want a surreal experience, really, do this:

1. Travel slowly and deliberately in one direction for two weeks. Make sure you keep moving and that each place has only one specific memory associated to it.

2. Travel at a fast pace in the reverse direction

In normal life, you are in the same places over and over again, no place has any overpowering moment. Traveling like this, and then in reverse. You live the entire last 2 weeks in reverse at high speed. Very surreal. In addition to that, I was coming back to a place and people I had seen and met before. It was strange, I haven't really known where I've been in almost a year now. Suddenly I was somewhere familiar meeting people I knew.

It all was too much and it made me start to laugh, giggling to myself. When my CS host arrived home we did the hug thing and I was easily convinced to go get a beer (which turned into 3) despite my earlier desire to go right to sleep. I couldn't help smiling and laughing.

The thing about the day was this: Any given day, you don't know what's gonna happen, but you probably know where you're going to end up. If you are traveling you have an idea of where you are going, if you are staying in town than you know something too. But it had been a day, where contrary to everything I thought when I woke up, I was almost 300 miles away from where I thought I was going to be and doing things I had been sure I wasn't going to do. Doing things I had even lamented missing already. It was a day of true adventure.

And there I was, back in ATX, for SXSW.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sterling City, TX: When morning comes

Miles since last blog: 26.5
Miles Total: 2558.5


I had a whole blog prepared last night and it got erased and in the light of morning, most of it seems trivial.

Before I stopped for the evening last night my knee started hurting, an old and familiar pain. It's the pain that stopped me from training from a marathon, it's the pain that has rendered my leg stiff for a week when I have ignored it in the past. I hoped it'd be gone by morning. Shortly after I started walking two things happened, the front wheel on my carrier broke off and the pain returned. I'm over 200 miles from the nearest place I can get the carrier fixed, way back in Austin with no place ahead of me.

The wheel isn't a big problem, I can probably hitch back to Austin and then back again to Sterling city in a matter of days to pick up where I left off. My worry is my knee. I can walk for a while every day even with it injured, but only a few hours, not nearly far enough and at a pace that would quite literally kill me out in New Mexico. I looked at the route from Carlsbad, NM to Las Cruces, NM yesterday. There's nothing. And not Texas nothing where when you look at the map there are little gray lettered towns pencilled in so light you can barely see them, ready to be erased when they die. There's nothing, not even the gray towns. The gray towns of Texas were my salvation, sometimes there'd be nothing there but a few boarded up old houses, sometimes just a gas station and sometimes even a restaurant, but in either of the latter cases it left me with something. Even the boarded up houses block the wind at night if I had to camp.

I'd been looking forward to this span of nothing, a personal time that had no interruption or hope of civilization to spoil it. No phone, no computer, just nature, me and my feet. Now I don't know what the future holds. I'll try to take it like I have everything else though, one step at a time. First step, get my wheel fixed somehow so that I can carry enough water with me into the desert.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Carlsbad, TX: Happy Happy, Joy Joy

Miles since last blog: 29.6
Miles Total: 2532.0


First off, I have yet another video for you today (as I did yesterday if you didn't check), so if you are an impatient little weevil you can wriggle your way to the bottom of the blog and look at that now.

My last day in San Angelo was yesterday and it was the best of the bunch without a doubt. I woke up late, and was off to speak to the 4th and 5th grades of Bonham Elementary School during their respective gym periods. It was a blast, I told the fourth graders a little about what I was doing and they paid rapt attention until all their kiddie energy was just bubbling up and out of them and the gym teacher had to put on music for them to dance to. Kids were sliding like Superman across the floor on their stomachs and jumping around and a few hung at the back of the classroom with me to ask me more questions and wish me well on my journey. The 5th grade was similar but we headed out early to see a first grade class.

Kids are awesome. It's amazing to see humans so naturally and unquestionably filled with wonder and excitement. In just a few years we manage to repress and destroy that capacity for such pure joy. When an adult is happy, or excited, there is always a small amount of restraint and wariness from being burnt by the world, when a kid is happy, it encompasses them. Every muscle in their face and body is twitching and jumping with a singular goal of expressing their happiness, they aren't worried about homework or school or car payments, their eyes are wide, their mouths can't hold the words in and their legs won't let them sit. Anyone lucky enough to be a part of this kind of moment has the kind of luck it takes to see bigfoot, something that is just a rumor or a faint memory in our grown up world. We try so hard as adults to recapture this kind of joy but I think we are afraid to more than unable, I kind of Icaruian lesson has been taught to us by life and no one wants to build a new set of wings only to have them destroyed again.

If the difference between 4th and 5th grades was surprising, the difference between 5th and 8th is staggering. It's hard to imagine the the mechanisms of society, even the social grind of teendom could so effectively douse such bright lights in such few years but it is certain when you have seen them both that these are the years when we start to change out of those amazing little people and into the grey oblivion of adulthood.

The joy that I take in my life is meeting people, teens, adults, the elderly and seeing that spark of joy flicker in their eyes when they see someone doing something crazy. That light still seems to be inside of many people, even if it never escapes again there is a place where they can revel in it and run through the fields of their mind when they take a step towards believing they can have their own adventure.

The evening was no less spectacular. I made dinner. A stir fry of venison, peppers, onions and quinoa. I don't cook often, I haven't cooked since I started this walk that I can remember, but it has also been a long time since I spent a substantial (four nights being substantial these days) period of time in a family. While I sliced and diced and marinated and fried, B and her youngest daughter made cupcakes for desert, my favorite food. I never cook for myself, I only cook when there are people there I care about and it felt good to have that chance on the road. Life on the road is good, even wonderful if not miraculous or should I go even higher? And yet the draw of a family tugs intermittently on my pant leg, nagging me to let it in, and I want to, but I no longer think they are entirely mutually exclusive. It may be harder and I may need to find an even more perfect partner than I had previously thought, but there was a time I never thought I could have the life I am leading now and I have found it is actually quite easy. The world is nothing if not a web of possibilities to get caught up in.

Walking into and then out of San Angelo I realized I had hardly done anything, and had seen very little up close and yet I knew that I would have a great fondness for it forever because of the people I met there and the kids I talked to, a place is it's people regardless of the buildings that stand there. During my stay the television news and newspaper had run stories on me and periodically someone would stop and talk to me. Each of them were great, fellow teachers, fellow travelers (63 countries is very impressive my fine feathered friend), and just plain old good curious people. My day ended in a church, having dinner with a teacher from the middle school I spoke at. His family was there and we enjoyed an italian dinner and they put me up for the night. It's hard to get momentum up every time I sit somewhere, it's hard to want to keep walking at times but I always do. I wonder sometimes whether it is hard because I don't want to leave the place I'm at, or because when I go I come closer to the end and I am not ready for this experience to stop.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

San Angelo II: A thank you to those outside the box

It was a fine night in the city as we sat down together. A rag tag group. B's father who was turning 80, a german exchange student and a chinese/german exchange student, B's friend P, B and her family and I, all sitting around a salad and lasagna and red glass goblets filled with water. We talked about travel and couchsurfing, about dumpster diving and experiences that were all unique and still universal.

The guests left and slowly and B and her husband L and I, were all that was left in the kitchen as the kids went to bed. More serious topics were broached, we skidded along the course of religion and atheism and into schools and education, into quantum physics and spirituality, health and diet. The clock ticked off the minutes and each time I thought the conversation was over we'd break onto another course that was worth exploring. Sometimes you have a teacher whose lessons you don't appreciate until years later, 12 or 13 in this case.

I champion education, but in fact, until College, I wasn't always the greatest student. I won't go into the specifics of things that I did or what my teachers did to help me, but I'll say that there are a few teachers from High School that I still visit, Mr. Brown and Mr. Baxter. I always knew I liked them, I always knew I respected them as teachers, and at times they did things that may even have appeared to not be very good teaching practices, but until tonight I had never really realized some of the things they had done for me, I don't even know if they realized it or if it was just instinct. Nevertheless, I am eternally thankful to them and as always to my parents who were extremely patient when I would, on occasion, get into what could have been serious trouble with lesser role models.

Thanks if you are reading this, you are part of the reason I am the man I have become.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

San Angelo, TX: Do it for the Kids

The main thing you should know is that I don't plan my days. Things happen the way they do and I just kind of roll through it all enjoying the trip. I know where I'm going more or less, the major cities and my approximate route, but very little about when I'll actually arrive or what's waiting for me there or on the way. Imagine a relaxed version of Quantum Leap, me roaming the planet trying to put right what once went wrong, or maybe it's more like the old Kung Fu television show without the fights. I like to think it's The Hulk, that's the comic book dork in me, except I don't get angry or green and my legs never de-hulk, seriously, they are freakishly big.

I don't plan my blogs either, I sit down and word vomit just erupts from my fingers, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always honest and with at best a few notes jotted down on my arm as a guide. With all this said, I do have a plan today for this blog, but first I'm gonna try to butter you up.

I spent the day talking to students at Lee Middle School, three classes in two sittings. I didn't plan these either, it was all thanks to B, my host, who worked really hard to make sure that I got to speak to as many people as possible today and for the rest of my time in San Angelo. It always feels good being in front of a class for me, it's not the attention, I'm terribly shy sometimes, but I just love the learning process from either side. Really there is only one side, if you've never been a teacher let me enlighten you to the fact that we learn a lot from our students as well. The information might not be presented in a lecture with easily digestible visual aids, but there is a message that each student is delivering to you while you interact. An interested face can be an entire dialogue between a student and a teacher even without words. As a teacher you can see when someone understands something, that 'AHA! moment,' I live for that moment, and I get to experience it with people as I learn how to reach them.

It was middle school, some kids were too scared, too cool, or too . . . whatever, to get too involved, but for some of them, maybe, I reminded them just how big and wonderful the world can be.

"We're not surrounded by water," B said to me in the car, "but this is an island. We're out here on our own and there's not much around." She was telling me about how easy it was, especially for kids who grow up here, to forget about the rest of the world and the possibilities it held.

"You never know what kids are going to be interested in," she continued. "When Jolly Green (my friend bike riding all 48 states) came through he talked with a younger group and they were just shocked that he was 26 and didn't have kids. It was like that had never occurred as a possibility to them. They thought that you graduated High School and you start having kids, some of their parents were only 16 when they got pregnant." This, for us, is the kind of huge AHA moment we can get from a class. A big trade in reality checks on world views. In a simple static world the idea that Jolly Green and I could do these things only because we DIDN'T have a house and a car and all the things we were supposed to have according to the rest of the world, it can be disorienting. And for JG or I, in our tumbling sunshine world of chaos, the view of these kids can grind us to a halt and make us take notice of the 'real world' that we so casually inhabit.

I can't say that I changed any lives today, but I got my shot at it thanks to some good people, parents, teachers, a principle and the kids. I also can't say that the idea that I may be one of those cheesy inspirational speakers that was invited to schools when I was younger is all that comfortable, but it is what it is and if it's a chance to help I'll take it.

I spoke with a good friend on the phone tonight and she said she could tell that I had changed. It's hard to say it so simply but you could if you wanted to, say that I'm just more positive. It's more complex than that, but that'll do. I know I've changed but I'm happy to say that I feel like at my core, in most ways, I'm still the same person I was when I started personality wise. I have the same sense of humor and like the same things. This is good for me, as my friend out it, "Skip likes Skip, everybody knows that."

I suppose I can't ask for much more than that, but here I go anyway.

I need help. I want to help as many people as I can and I think that the best way for me to do that is to make the end of this walk as successful as possible. If the end of all this is successful, maybe it will open a door to continue work like this and I welcome anyone who can help me.

Here's what I want: I want to put together a walk, hear me out, a walk to the coast where people can join me on the last day. It would start maybe 13 miles out with places to join at 10 and 5 miles and maybe the 5k mark. The idea is different from that of other walks, instead of being a race or separating the groups, it will be about bringing them together. The walk would start from 13 miles or wherever was reasonable, then as we hit the 10, 5 and 5k marks, the people going these distances would join in. It is not about finishing first, but together as one group. The thing that would be stressed wouldn't be distance, not mine or any participants, but rather the decision to join us and the idea that that can be a changing point in a life no matter when it comes.

So there it is, what I want. I need help, I don't know how to do this and more importantly, even if I did it would be impossible to put together and walk at the same time.

I realize that this would be quick to put something together and that everyone has jobs and lives, so I won't be disappointed if you can't help, or if it doesn't happen at all. I just wanted to put it out there and see what happens, with the additional tag, "What if it did happen?"

Wall, TX: The Broken and Mending Hearts of Texas

Miles since last blog: 31.2
Miles Total: 2502.4


I woke up late as I tend to do when I am indoors and then strolled to the edge of town to have a huge and leisurely breakfast. The day felt slow and sad in a beautiful type of way with the overcasting of clouds threatening the first storm in the area in who knows how long. Everyone I meet tells me about Blue Bonnets, a blue/violet flower that sprinkles the roadway here and there. They tell me about how it used to be before the droughts here, that when you looked at a field it was like looking at the ocean it was so filled with that blue. They always look proud and forlorn like an athlete talking about their glory days while bagging your groceries.

It's a different kind of beauty out here that is built on the shining souls of the people in what could be a desolate land. I am indoors again and it is not due to Couch Surfing, but again to a good person who saw someone in need - neither of these people were me, but I'll get to that.

I want the rain for the people of Texas, it would be base and selfish to wish that it didn't fall on me simply because I was walking. I can feel it ready to fall in the air and I welcome it (especially now that I'm inside). I had a long way to make it today to get to San Angelo, 44 miles, If I hadn't woken up so late I'd have made it probably, but then, I've found that the path my life takes has markers that lead its way even if I don't always know how to read them.

The roads here are littered with deer, dead, reeking of death and rot on the highway and if you smell it before you see it, it's that much worse because you're caught off guard. I'm used to road kill, it doesn't phase me in the slightest. I don't believe in Bigfoot for the simple reason that I haven't seen one dead on the side of the road and I have seen everything else, even things I didn't know existed. Today was different though.

Walking up the highway I saw a deer, it looked as if its back legs were half sized so that its body slid towards the ground at its end like a hyena. The highways out here are fenced with barbed wire on both sides everywhere, the deer leap over them with ease and move around, though once I saw a carcass hanging by one leg twisted between two strands of wire. The deer I was watching tried to leap the fence but only threw itself into the barbed wire. It looked up at it again and turned to run across the highway for the other side. When it hit the road I saw what was wrong, its legs had been broken in half. It was running as fast as it could on the broken knees with the rest of it's hind legs sticking out at odd angles. My hand immediately went to my mouth. I couldn't imagine the pain that it was going through, or the terror which had to be driving it to continue on like this. It ran across the highway and tried the other fence but ended up again thrusting its body again and again into the barbed wire there.

I wanted to flag someone down, someone would have a rifle, a gun, something. My eyes were tearing and for the first time I regretted not having a gun myself. I've never owned a gun, I've never shot a gun and before that moment I couldn't imagine why I would want too. I had a knife that was sharp and had found on the road in Louisiana, I knew how to kill an animal quickly and with relatively little pain but I knew I would never get close enough to do it. It was the most painful thing I have experienced on this walk so far and it killed me that all I did was keep walking.

This was the same road, possibly the same area, that Jolly Green, my friend bike riding the states, had gotten dehydrated on and nearly ended up very sick except that a woman picked him up out of the kindness of her heart. Jolly isn't a scary guy, but in the middle of night, in the middle of nowhere, nobody looks all that safe. Still someone helped him and it is because of that that I am inside tonight. Jolly gave me the number of a few people he met here in San Angelo, the woman who picked him up, P, and her friend who showed him the town while she was working, B.

Tonight B picked me up in the little town of Wall, not far from San Angelo, I'll be heading back there sometime to finish the walk in, but for now I am here. She's excited about having me speak to schools and inspiring kids in local schools she feels have broken spirits. I'm excited too. She told me about meeting Jolly. Her father had been found to have cancer around Thanksgiving and she said that it was so wonderful to have Jolly around, they all needed a distraction and to be reminded of a bigger world since their world had become so small, the size of a mass in a body. She felt it was amazing that two of us had come through and that we could do so much good not only for her but for anyone we met and she wanted me to meet as many people as possible. I was planning on moving out of San Angelo rather quickly but I'll stay to talk to kids for a while.

My walk has been filled with a lot of joy and inspiration, but it is a time in our country of great sadness, drought of water and economy and spirit. I've lived without water, I've lived without money, I want to tell everyone it will be okay and that you can dream of great things while struggling with the ordinary. I don't know what would give me the right to tell people this, but I said it anyway. I like to think that is in the hard times that love is proven, that is when you find something truly great because it can survive and flourish even in adversity, it is easy to be in love when times are good, but when times are bad and everything else is gone you find out what you truly have. Right now we have a great chance to find all the things that really are meaningful in life, it's not money, it's not things, but if you look you'll find something much more in the people all around you and the beauty in the world that is free for all. I like to think that that deer made it over the fence somewhere, I like to think it found a quiet place to lie down. I know it still hurt, but I like to think that it stopped feeling afraid.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eden, TX: The Top Ten List

Miles since last blog: 32.2
Miles Total: 2471.2


I woke up a little earlier than I expected this morning but it's all good. My sleepiness drove me into a restaurant for breakfast and before too long I had a place to stay for the night in the town of Eden, TX. It was the right direction and distance, what were the odds? Pretty good if you know my life, but that's beside the point. The place is a closed down Motel that the family owned but was tired of the hassle of caring for since it wasn't turning a profit. I have another shower, and even cable TV!

The big news for the day is that I have 10 days or less of walking left in Texas. I may be in Texas longer while visiting towns and such, but only 10 days of actual walking before I hit a new time zone, my final three states and more than likely have two months or less left. It'll be huge, I'm choreographing a dance in my head right now. You may or may not be privy to it via video depending on how ridiculous it looks and if my feet feel good enough to actually complete the task. Also, I envision being so light and enlightened that I should be able to dance on tree tops, should no trees be available I'll have to improvise and I don't have much confidence on my ethereal sign top dancing - it's real meant for trees.

In honor of my 10 final walking days in Texas, I am, on the spur of the moment, going to do a top ten rules of walking the road list. Here we go in no particular order:

10. Never turn down help, except for a ride. Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for someone is to let them help you and let them be a part of your story.

9. Eat what you want. Your body knows a lot more about it self than the meager few centuries our medical field of research has found. I've always liked chicken McNuggets and I'm not alone. World Record Holder/Gold Medalist Usain Bolt said they were a significant portion of his diet during the Olympics. Seriously people they are a super food, the only things I eat when I'm sick. They're filled with all the hormones, antibiotics and steriods you need to defeat any virus or alien invasion and apparently also world class sprinters.

8. Don't pick stuff on the side of the road unless you're pretty sure it's clean. I wanted to throw a golfball today and after I did my hand smelled like dead stuff for hours.

7. Cops are your friends. Like any friends at times they can be annoying but they are there to help and if you remember that and stay friendly it all be fine. Not breaking the law also helps.

6. The bad times are as much a part of any story as the good, they lend spice and climaxes, don't run from them, savor them like any other part.

5. The answer is always, "No," if you don't ask. Thanks for that Free.

4. People are the most important, they are more important than anywhere you go or anything you do and are likely the reasons for both. Treat them well as you can and they will do the same.

3. DO what you want, don't just think about it. My friend Jolly Green calls it, "Paralysis by Analysis." Be selfish, he also says, "Be selfishly selfless," the idea is that if you start to do what you want, it's a positive thing and will likely lead to you doing good in the world even if it's only your attitude. In my experience, people start out a little selfish and then find that what they want to do IS helping people, as Martha Stewart would say, "It's a good thing."

2. Get water, food and bathroom breaks when you can, you'll regret it if you don't.

1. Get used to stealth pooping.

Brady, TX: The Heart of Texas

Miles since last blog: 25.0
Miles Total: 2439.0


I'm in the heart, a lot of towns in Texas say it, that they are the heart of Texas, but Brady not only means it but is geographically the closest to being correct I was informed tonight.

The man telling me was Brian, who I am staying with tonight. Another day, another shower and life is good. Twice in a row now as I have been ready to set off into the night to see just how far I can go and shave a bit off my walk the next night since I had no place to stay, I have been saved from myself by a good samaritan.

"Where you going?" Brian shouted from his car.

"California," I yelled back. He asked if I needed food or money and after a donation offered me a place to stay at his dad's house (his father apparently is one of the many people in the area who sleeps with a gun under their pillow) down the street a little hesitantly. I, of course, accepted. The only catch was that I had to go to a party with them for a while because he couldn't leave me alone in the house, I was, of course, amenable to this too.

It was pretty fun too. I was one of the few token white guys in the Mexican-American congregation and although I said I wouldn't drink I gave in with very little arm twisting, in fact they may only have looked at my arm sideways and that was enough. I ended up playing 'Washers' which is a pretty simple game on the level with shuffleboard, cornhole, beanbags and horseshoes in which you throw what looked like about 2" washers across a yard and into or around a piece of PVC pipe. If it goes in it's 5 points, if it's within 2 washer lengths it's 1 point. We were at 17-16 on the road to 20 when the game was called on account of drunkenness unofficially, which means our teammates sort of just wandered off and forgot they were playing.

I turned into a small time celeb for a half minute too which is always amusing. People were taking pictures with me and asking questions, they also all thought Brian was insane for offering to let me stay with him and Forest Gump and Serial Killer jokes ran rampant. I had a few good laughs and conversations, the best of which was with Brian, before we headed back and I got a shower. If this isn't the heart of Texas, it is certainly close, nowhere have I had such luck and warmth with continuously finding places to sleep and shower. I feel fortunate to be here doing what I am doing again and I just hope I can spread a little of that around.

Oh yeah, and to Chasity from Pizza Hut, "Hi there, and thanks for letting me sit so long and hang out."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Middle of Nowhere, TX: Home, Home on the Range

Miles since last blog: 27.2
Miles Total: 2414.0


A blog in three parts:

1) Today I met James Bond. Really. This guy's name was James Bond, he was older and even had a little card that said "James Bond 007" on it amongst the other writing. He was in a truck outside of Llano and pulled over to see what I was doing. He introduced himself and explained that he had been named that long before the fictional character existed, I'm guessing the '007' part was new though.

I don't really get excited about celebrities, maybe one or two would make me go ooh, or ahh, but they aren't the standard celebs either, more like Adam West and Bruce Campbell, people that make their living off of being living jokes. That takes some profound awesomeness and inner peace. To me for the most part, celebs are like screwed up versions of normal people that just have PR agents to make them look good, not my bag. Fictional characters however are quite alluring, they are, for all intents and purposes, exactly as they appear. No one dresses them up or takes their picture under the right light, that's just who they are. Superman never trips, Sherlock Holmes never belched and Rocky never gave up.

So meeting James Bond, the name, was maybe even better than any actor that played him. It was so pure, just the character. There wasn't to much interaction between us, mostly he talked about how he had met Johnny Depp working in Austin on the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?"

"Oh wow, that was a really good movie," I said.

"Yeah, well, it was interesting." He responded in clear disagreement. He drove off shortly after giving me his card. I got the feeling his name and working on that one movie was about 70% of what he talked about.

2) Hill Country. That's where I've been for the last 70 miles or so, and according to James Bond, I've got another 30 left at least. Going into Llano was 33 miles of rolling hills and a dramatic elevation climb leaving me in high hills overlooking the ground I had covered. Since the hills were rolling there would be a climb, then a drop almost as low as before, followed by a slightly higher climb. What ever the elevation I gained was that day, I climbed at least 50% more than that due to downhills which are none to exciting for me either.

To here was all rolling hills to a lower elevation, I'm looking forward to the plains beyond Brady and into San Angelo where I should arrive in 4 days. Hills aren't so bad until you couple them with heat, when the sun comes out it melts me, almost immediately.

One of the many ways in which I am not like Superman is that the sun is not necessarily my friend. Put Superman in Hawaii for a week and he could bench press Jupiter for kicks, put me in the sun for a few minutes and you wind up with a week and whining pile of goo that does nothing much except ooze sweat. Here's to the last two days of cloud cover and torturous future in the West.

3) Have you ever wondered who would ask some strange bum wandering down the road if they would want to stay the night at their house? Or well, ranch?

Well, I now know the answer and it's exactly what you might expect, even here in 'The Middle of Nowhere,' TX. I didn't know who the person in the VW was that had turned around to talk to me, or why, it turned out to be a man and his daughter on their way to a music recital of some sort. I assumed he wanted me to talk to his daughter or give me a donation but in fact he was asking me where I was staying.

"I don't know," I said, "I'm on my way to Brady about 30 miles up the road, I figured I'd just walk till I got tired."

He gave me directions to his house a mile off the highway down dirt county roads and told me his wife's name, C. When I arrived a grueling hour and a half later I heard the sound of music, not the movie, actual, man-made music. Man and boy made as it turns out. I knocked on the door and came in to find a boy and his grandfather putting away instruments and a grandmother in the kitchen. It's been a while since I just walked into a house unexpected, but they seemed to be unphased in the least. I explained who I was and what I was doing there (I was mildly nervous since I didn't know the gentleman's name, only C's name).

Immediately they told me that his wife would be back shortly and started making me dinner. It turns out these were C's parents who were visiting from Oregon. It turns out that C herself, had ridden her bike across the country and her husband had hitchhiked from Texas to Alaska and back. They had met about 20 years ago at an organic gardening course in California and now were full fledged organic farmers for six months out of the year while traveling the rest.

"Are you a vegetarian?" C asked.

"No," I said.

"Well you are tonight," C's mother replied giving me a bowl of delicious chili, some raw veggie spring rolls and a jello with fruit dessert.

They had seen me yesterday on my way to Llano while taking one of their bi-weekly runs to Austin. Whole Foods Market had grown over the years and they had grown a bit with it, they now had two interns that also lived on the properties in trailers not unlike the one I was in when I wrote this. I learned most of this from C's son, who is young, plays an instrument, is well spoken and clearly intelligent, they had done quite a good job with him.

I asked about internet and was told they had just gotten dial-up because their newest intern couldn't live without it. There's no cell phone reception out here, they don't have a TV and said they had even gone without a phone for a long time but that they were slowly being dragged into the twentieth century. Luddites, not like the green people, hippies and wannabes that normally throw the word around, real live luddites, I was impressed and opted to skip out on the net for the night, sorry fans.

We talked for a while before they showed me to a shower and my trailer. Very nice people, all of them, unfortunately I went off to bed before S, the husband, came home. There you have it. Who would take in a traveling hobo? Vegetarian Luddite Organic Farmers from the West Coast, how about that? I'm almost home.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Llano, TX: THANK YOU!!! Days Inn & Suites

Miles since last blog: 33.6
Miles Total: 2389.8


And thank you to the many people who have contacted me about yesterday's blog. Don't worry, I won't let you down, I'll reach the coast one BYAHHH!!! at a time.

Tonight I have been shown very generous hospitality here in Llano, the clerk at the Days Inn got a room donated to me for the night and it doesn't get much better than a really good shower and a nearby laundromat after having no clean clothes for the last week. Being dirty and gross shouldn't slow you down much but it really effects how you feel and as I've said before, it's all mental out here. The only things you need to take care of are your head and your feet ultimately. The feet you get the hang of, the head is a constant battle.

Down to business.

Everything in Texas is bigger, even the variety in responses I get. Whereas in the south I would wave at people and they would always wave and smile back, here that happens about 50% of the time, 25% of the time I get no response at all, and lastly about 25% of people give me a glare. I was stopped by a police officer today again, like I said, I don't really mind this, but I was surprised. It's the first time I have ever been stopped during the day. Things went normally and I could here the woman over the radio say, "it's clean!?!" with complete surprise to my record. I think, for those 25%, the thought process is something like this, but probably not exactly:

I am normal
I am good
That isn't normal
That isn't good
It's bad
Bad is probably illegal
If it's not illegal, it's probably immoral

On a more specific level relating to me I think it goes like this:

What the hell is that weirdo doing with a stroller? He must be up to no good.

In fact, I have received emails to this effect that were from before people saw the sign.

With that said, I did say, "everything is bigger in Texas." And that includes the generosity and goodness, today was the single biggest day for donations that I have had on the walk and I am not even in a heavily populated area. The donations today in fact exceeded that of most states entire course.

And never before has an employee, rather than a manager, approved a room being donated. The exceptionally nice man behind the counter here at the hotel gave me a room saying, "I can't get ahold of my manager, you are doing good work, I will give you the room and deal with it later." I hope that his manager doesn't mind or dock his pay, I am continually astounded with the goodness and generosity of strangers.

Once again, thanks to all who wrote me. I'll continue on for you and everyone else that doesn't have the chances I do. I'll continue on for the charity. I'll continue on because it's the right thing to do and because everyday I meet people who are inspired but what I'm doing and who I can remind for a moment that the world is at once very big and very small, and there are good people out there.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Marble Falls, TX: What is this 'momentum' and why don't I have it?

Miles since last blog: 17.3
Miles Total: 2356.2


I've got a case of the slows. I'm just not moving. Every time I come to anything with food and a chair I settle in for hours at a time. Perhaps you've noticed that my blogs over the last few weeks have been searching for the meaning left in this walk. I'm sure it's there but with so much personally already achieved it's hard to stay motivated to move at a good pace, without that great calling I have always felt, well, it becomes dangerously close to turning into a job. Shiver, let's just forget I even used that word, that's for later, after the walk if need be.

Even as I type this I am sitting in a gas station not far from where I started the day with the excuse of charging my computer. Later I will get up and move, but I question how far and I do have certain goals and self imposed deadlines that need to be met. They, in and of themselves simply aren't enough to drive me though. When I settle in for the evening I'll update and publish the blog, but more and more I find myself in a midday bitch session online. I like this, I'll finish, but I was spoiled with a deep and meaningful life that now is markedly absent. I keep feeling that something will take it's place, some new meaning and deep resounding goals, but right now, I got nothing but hope that it will come and endless calculations on when this walk will end given different scenarios.


Lack of momentum still very much in effect. Today in total was a very poor showing, in fact, I've been up for less than 11 hours. Something besides motivation may be to blame here, hmmmm . . . At least I met a lot of nice people today who encouraged me, going to sleep, hopefully I'll be magically all better tomorrow.

Spicewood, TX: Officer #2

Miles since last blog: 22.2
Miles Total: 2338.9


I think by now if you have read my blog or met me it is fair to say that I am a fairly good person who is hard to upset. Most of the time I don't even view what others would call problems as problems, more just, things that happened. But one of the points I will be attempting to make tonight is that even I sometimes still get peeved if the circumstances are right and you hit one of my few 'hot buttons.'

Originally I was going to try to be very delicate about this, because I didn't want to embarrass anyone, but the right circumstances are present: I'm tired, I'm cranky and the only hot button I can think of was pressed. I blame this, in part, on my new reflective vest from REI, which surely keeps me slightly safer, but would be covered up by my sign, hence, I wasn't wearing it tonight which probably would have made this slightly less likely to have happened. Now I've gone and built it up when really it's nothing. There, I've taken care of it scaling it back down now.

I am walking at night now at times, largely to conserve water saving myself from dehydration and sunburn to boot. As is typical of night walking, I was stopped by a police officer, this is normal and doesn't bother me in the slightest, he ran my ID which happens about half the time and we talked for a minute before we were on our way. Fine and dandy.

Then a few miles up the road I was stopped again, by his partner, who had heard the story and knew "something wasn't right." He was accompanied by the first officer, back up I guess. What ultimately pressed that hot button that I was talking about was this, he asked me to search my carrier. I generally think that this is a bad practice on an officers part because it puts innocent people in the position where they have to be troubled with no cause (remember I had already been checked and found to have no record, not even a speeding ticket) or they seem suspicious for refusing. I had already been checked once and explained that I was walking at night for the reasons I've already stated. My hot button is abuse of authority, and while this is a minor abuse, the manor with which it was done and unapologetically hassling me for a second time when I was already tired gnawed at me long after #2 left. I should note that this is only the second time in over 2300 miles anyone has asked to search my carrier, and the only time someone has come back after my ID was run and came back clean.

But none of this was really my point, I'll get to that in a minute but first let's go for a bit of logic and lay down some foundations. He thought I was up to no good. Let's examine the detective work used here:

1 - I have no record and I'm 30 years old, which means, assuming I was a criminal, I've been smart or lucky.

2 - Since walking is not illegal and he searched me (which I submitted to despite the ethical and litigious reasons not to and due to practicality), which meant he thought that my suspected crime involved transporting something illegal.

3 - Walking, at night, in reflective gear, is hardly what you would call inconspicuous behavior which coupled with part one, means I would not be smart, just lucky.

4 - I have a worn banner that says 'Walk Across America' on the front of my carrier, which would mean that my cover story would have been both idiotic and well planned with supporting props, not incredibly likely I feel.

And so you have it, I would have to be a well planned idiot who allegedly was transporting a dead body, drugs, a bomb, weapons or kidnapped victim through the middle of nowhere in a stroller. Which apparently was much more likely than someone walking across the country for charity and traveling at night to stay out of the heat. I know that neither is common, I know that my life leads me to the best of most people and #2's job probably often leads him to the worst of people, but my point is this. If you think that someone, wearing in a banner for a made up charity and walk as a cover to transport something illegal through the desert by walking it in a stroller is more likely than walking at night to stay out of the heat, maybe it's time to switch jobs, or at least change your life so that you are around good people more. There are plenty of good people out there.

Incidentally, if you think that criminals would be dumb enough to try something like this, perhaps you should donate to my charity. It is for education.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Austin VII: Potts Committed

In every state it seems like there is one bubble, one spot on the map where all the states misfit toys end up. Originally, I wasn't even supposed to walk through Austin, but the people along my way, the other misfit toys of the world all steered me gently on towards Austin, a place not to be missed, at least until you go. It's a city made of glue and suction cups if you are one of us, it's hard to rip yourself away. I've been introduced to so many new and unique things here that my sense of adventure and novelty never wavered in the wind. Many times I thought of simply stopping for a few months and settling in for the music festivals and events coming up so that I could soak it all in. But I'm pot committed.

Pot committed is a term from poker that means the point at which you have thrown so much into a hand that you can't back out no matter how high the stakes get, you've committed most of your chips to the pot and to back out would mean certain doom whereas staying in gives you a chance at surviving, even winning, no matter how small. That's where I am on this walk. I'm sitting in a Jack in the Box on the way out of the city, enjoying one last meal in the comfort of civilization before I head into what many people would say was the geographical equivalent of oblivion.

Sadness about leaving this wonderful place is already being drown in the rising waters of adventure alone in the desert and solitary peace. I still don't know what the rest of this trip holds for me other than reaching the coast, but I am feeling more and more certain with every step that something is out there left to find. In Austin I dumpster dove for the first time, I was introduced to a subculture of human drug testers that are like migrant lab rats, floating from city to city going through drug trials and experiments for loads of cash and then enjoying life in the multitudes of down time they have.

At the core of it, these new lives and experiences are what we are out there trying to find each other for, whether by travel, couchsurfing or whatever, the misfit toys survive in the nooks and crannies of society. I found one of these misfit toys here at Jack, he was my dining companion and we talked about Austin and the road, how so many people, us misfits come here rolling through and then are happily trapped in its web. I'd heard it before, my host for the last few nights has many friends who were never supposed to stay, but just ended up here.

One of the only things pressing me to leave even now is the surprising loom of a deadline, I have a number of people I want to visit this summer before I go to work at the Survival School and the sudden realization that I may not even have a week in each place shocked me into movement. I suppose I'll gain momentum fast in the desert with nothing to hold me back but shaking off the tar baby that is Austin is taking a while. I should have left much earlier, I'm not out yet and it is late afternoon already, but I did go to REI several times to my benefit.

Cherry, alas, will be in a future REI Austin Garage Sale, they replaced her for me completely so my worries of her breaking mid-desert are drastically reduced. REI was not the only store which was friendly though. Storyville, a shop here had a shirt I simply had to have and they were nice enough to give it to me half-price (Seen above). It's been a good town and I thank all my ambassadors to Austin, you know who you are. I'm sure I'll be back someday and I hope to see many of you on the road somewhere again. Misfit toy: 'Skip in the Box,' signing out.