Miles since last job: 61.3
Miles Total: 3060.4
Two days ago I sat in a little diner called Pancake Alley and was staring apprehensively at a Betty Boop license plate.
"Are you thinking about your walk?" My aunt asked me.
"Yeah," I said. It had been nice seeing my family, the night before I had stayed up late talking with my cousin and my aunt had been so happy and loving during the whole trip. I was about to head out again on my own, the longest stretch of my walk with out a planned place to stay and nowhere to take days off. Three hundred and fifty plus miles through the desert and mountains, but thanks to my new route there is a town at least every two days where I can get water and food. Twelve to Fourteen days without a break, my longest before was nine days.
It wasn't long before I was on the road and had passed my 3000 mile mark without me even remembering. A fellow mathematician road up on a bike and we chatted for a mile or so, me walking and he on his bike. We talked about education and brushed on politics, the major thing was the state of the country.
"It's been an incredible time to be traveling the USA. I know there's a lot of bad things happening right now but even the people who have always been for the status quo or who didn't vote for Obama it seems are ready for things to change. The feeling I get is one of hope everywhere I go. All the bad things maybe shocked people into waking up and being ready for something different." I said to him in conversation.
"It's good to hear you say that," he said, his head slightly bowed in thought. "I've gotten that feeling, but I'm sequestered in my little town in New Mexico, but you've been out there." He rode off feeling a little better for his stop and I felt good for giving him some peace of mind.
A short time later I was on the dirt roads that have begun to signify this part of the country for me. Hard pressed against the sand and heat I pushed Ando further into the desert and away from the interstate which, if I could walk, would lead me directly to my next destination with no opportunity to get lost. As it was, I was treading through country where signs didn't exist and it was nearly impossible to tell the county roads from the ones forged by four by four pickups and other machines of play. My compass hadn't worked in days, it just spins wildly when held to view, there must be something around this part of the state that is throwing it off, unless compasses can break, I'm not sure. The best way to navigate out in the dirt and dried fields is to keep moving, keep my pace constant as possible and turn down the road I come to at the time that approximates the distance I should have walked at my guessed speed. This can lead you down all kinds of wrong roads if you aren't careful, and if you don't pay attention to the fact that the sun isn't just East or West of you, but also to some degree South and to what degree, you can stay lost.
Almost twenty miles later I'm walking along the side of a set of railway tracks and it is almost sunset. I'm using the tracks to navigate, as a 'handrail' of what not to cross from what I remember of the map I saw while writing my directions down, something I learned in survival school. As I sit down to make myself dinner on the set of rails nearest to me, the sun sets. The tracks seem to head off eternally, lit orange by the fading sky light, but I know they have to end somewhere. It could be the beauty surrounding me, not knowing if I was on track, the newly reclaimed solo path, the science and philosophy crowding my brain from the podcasts and books I'm listening to, it could be anything, but for almost a whole minute I break down and cry. It doesn't feel like sadness, it just feels overwhelming and I don't know what it is about. I collect myself and start walking again down the dirt road beside the tracks.
The sun disappears and is replaced by a string of little pearls of light on the horizon, many are still, you can see a light on the flatlands for a dozen miles or more, things you'd never see during the day, and when daylight comes and reveals nothing for as far a you can see, you might wonder where the invisible midnight cities went. Other pearls of light move along the baseline of the land, they come together, become one and split apart again. It's the cars moving around along the far off interstate, another handrail, it's nice to see I'm heading the right direction. I go as far as I can and track across a brambly field to get to a NM highway that heads towards a distant gas station, even being so close to a place with food and water, electricity and toilets, I can't go any further and I set up my tent in the dirt behind some thorn bushes off the highway just in front of the barbed wire fence that is omnipresent along the roadsides of the Southwest. I know I am 24 miles from Deming near the gas station that constitutes the town of Akela, I know that it was a pretty average day and that I am exhausted and can only hope to get a shower the next.
Of today, there isn't much to say, walking, a few phone calls and an early arrival into Deming and to the gracious arms of the Motel 6, an oasis in the desert. A shower and a good nights sleep and I am off on the rest of what is still over 300 miles to Phoenix where I will hopefully meet some friends for a day or two.