Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Miles 516.1 to 524.9

Total Miles: 480.3
Miles Today: 8.79
7 mile streak: 12
Map way points: L to M
Google Map

This morning, I was a little low on motivation to walk. But that 12 day 7 mile streak is there and I didn't want to break it. I put on my Danner combat boots which felt great and started walking. It only took a few steps to get back in the mood.

The phrase "What am I enjoying?" was a touchstone today. I've expanded that to "What do I see, what do I hear, what do I smell, what am I feeling? What did I think about?" There will likely be others along the way.

This morning was perfect. About 34 degrees with a very light mist I could hardly feel. The air was especially fresh due to all the rain and snow yesterday. It is the type of weather where I just feel like going without stopping until about 10 when it will start to warm up. By the end of the short walk, the mist had stopped and the skies are starting to clear.

The birds are singing happily. There are a lot of morning doves cooing.

My feet just kept moving without thought as if I were on a people mover at the airport.

Easter Eggs in the Pot

Yesterday, I decided on a title for the book. "People are Trail Magic." For those not familiar with the term, it's used by long distance hikers. It refers to the various kindnesses people give to them along the way. Especially a ride to town, food and a place to stay. The people who give the Trail Magic are called Trail Angels. Usually hikers pay it forward by becoming Trail Angels themselves.

My goal is to meet people and hear their stories. Either a long life story or a short conversation. These are very mundane to many. But I feel they are very important. We never know when our kindness to others has a profound effect.

I enjoy walking in the morning as the world starts to come alive. Starting about an hour before sunrise and watching things awaken as it starts to get light. Then there is a busy period while people are going to work. After, the neighborhood becomes quiet again. People are either at work or inside doing whatever people do inside all day.

Yesterday, I was walking back from the store in the rain. Windshield wipers were on low speed. As I went by Loaf and Jug, I saw Tara outside having a cigarette. She is one of the workers there. I commented on how nice the rain was. She agreed. We really need rain as we haven't had much. She said she couldn't believe some people were complaining about it. I was surprised too. It was perfect for walking in. Why do kids like the rain and adults dislike it?

I thought about what it would be like to hike the country this way for real. I really enjoy the routine of walking a few miles and then writing about them. My dream would be a small RV set up with a laptop. Something that would be comfortable at night. I think I'd rather have a small car to tow behind the RV and leapfrog with that instead of the bicycle. Riding a bicycle on the roads doesn't interest me like it used to.

With an air card in the laptop to get an Internet connection, I could be active on various sites and write about my trip several times a day. Being able to write conveniently through the day and interact with others would be a fun part of the trip for me. It is really no different than a fully supported hike others might make.

One thing I decided, this walkabout is about meeting people and seeing things. It is not about camping and planning resupplies along the way. It's a totally different experience. At first, I thought of this journey as an Appalachian Trail type of hike. But the more I look at that hike, I realize the AT is also a logistical challenge. That would take away from the hiking part for me. I'd rather focus on the good part and take away the part I don't personally enjoy.

Last night's snow starting to melt off the roofs

I've decided to add more pictures. Generally trail journals just have one picture for each day. It is a good format, but I find I want to record more memories with pictures.

The imaginary day for a real hike is starting to take shape now. Walk 5 miles, write, repeat 4 times.

It's easier to complete a seemingly impossible task in small pieces. Each 5 mile segment could be a compartmentalized hike by itself. Each 5 miles would be like a new day. There would be no need to think ahead or behind. It takes me about 1.5 hours or a little less to walk 5 miles on the roads. I could then write and eat for an hour. In 10 hours, I'd be done for the day if  doing 20 miles. It's really not that far if I have all day to walk.

The virtual part is becoming more real in my mind. Along the way, I'd contact local newspapers. In the small towns, they would probably write a little article. There might be time to give a little presentation to a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop. Or perhaps in a school.


It started raining lightly again bringing out the spring smells. Perfect thinking weather.

A lot of people get sponsors for long hikes. Usually they get some free or discounted gear. If I were a business, the equation would be simple. I'd have to sell enough extra product to justify the sponsorship. It used to be you could just use a coupon code, but now with ordering all over the Internet, that would be difficult.

Personally, I would not recommend gear I do not absolutely love. I would not use inferior gear for the sake of getting free gear. I would also test gear almost to extinction so I know how long it will last before asking for a sponsorship. A lot of gear feels good out of the box and turns to a nightmare later.

I'd rather reverse the relationship. Generate some sales and then ask for a sponsorship. This is also hard to define. This is gear I'd use with or without a sponsor because it is so good.

Anyway, right now there are three pieces of gear I completely support.

1. Danner Combat boots: Combat boots are not people's first choice of footwear. Too many people have memories of the old black ones with stiff leather and blisters. The new ones are quite different. The tops are made of rough-cut leather. What we used to call suede. They are the most comfortable footwear I have ever worn. They are also waterproof. Cool in hot weather. Warm in cold.

Cleanup is pretty easy. Use some saddle soap and a brush to get the dirt off. Rinse off the saddle soap. Treat with Lexol which you can find in the tack section of Big R.

These boots give a very stable platform on a rough surface. They also give a good grip on trails.

At 1 lb 15 oz for size 11 1/2 EE, they are heavier than hiking shoes. But the extra comfort makes up for that. They also do not feel heavy.

These are the only shoes/boots I've ever worn that seem to remember me in the morning. They are more comfortable than bare feet.

2. Smartwool socks: Until recently, I never knew how much difference a good wool sock can make. I have tried three brands and these are the best. A lot of people think of buying inserts for their shoes. I feel trying socks first would be more successful.

The downside is they air dry slowly. Do not turn them inside out when air drying or they will dry more slowly. However, they will hike dry comfortably as long as your shoes are dry.

3. AllAmericanClothing: I bought a pair of their jeans about 6 months ago and have worn them everyday. They are just now starting to fade a bit on the knees. The bottoms are starting to fray a bit where the inseams rub. A matching patch sewn on at the beginning would fix that. It's not surprising since I have hiked over 600 miles in them

Their pockets are GREAT. No more holes my keys can fall out of. The pockets are made of a tough material and they are sewn well.

They have a fleece which is much cheaper than those sold in backpacking stores which I think would work just as well. They also have other clothes that look interesting.

The people are great on the phone. They are Americans. Imagine that. All their clothes are American made from American cotton. The prices are also reasonable. Remember, when we buy American, we give Americans a job.

"The cure for a lack of motivation is to start walking."

Sometimes I do not feel like moving in the morning. It is tempting to have a few cups of coffee and put off walks until later in the day. Then later, something turns up and the day is gone. This is different than needing a zero day due to a physical problem or taking planned zero days as part of a plan. It can become chronic.

This kind of day often turns into something special as the joints limber up from minor soreness. Next thing I know, it is fun again and special things start to happen. This is one of those days. It is only 9 and half my miles are done.

People are Trail Magic: As I passed a home I pass quite often a man came out to get his paper from the welcome mat. He waved with a big smile and said:

"Good morning!
"Good morning! Great day for walking. Cool, cloudy and a bit of rain.
"Sure is a good day for walking. Have a great day!

On the surface, this seems like a trivial conversation. But think about how many of these we have lost over the years. We no longer go to stores where we know everyone. We do not walk by small stores and wave at the owner as we go by knowing we will see them soon for some small purchase. We bank and shop over the Internet. I think these small conversations are critical to our mental health.

Then I passed an old woman in her 80's or so.

I waved and said "Good morning!" Her face lit up and she got a big smile and cheerily said "Good morning!" back.

Even nature is happy this morning. I saw this robin taking a happy bath in what must be a very cold puddle. Rabbits were dashing across the road and grass leaving footprints in the melting snow.

This could turn into a book about a hike that never happened. Not everyone can take a year off to do a hike like this. Not everyone can do the Appalachian Trail. Many cannot even take a week to do a trail. Or maybe none of these are what they want to do.

But many can walk everyday and just notice the things around them. Marking the distance on a map makes it a lot more interesting. I think I will find a big map of the United States and put it on the wall. I will put a pin in it each day to show where I "walked."

Bert Nemcik, a good friend of mine, said he does not know if he enjoys hiking, writing, or selling books more. He is very good at all three.

I know him better as "Shadow" from the books  "See You Down the Trail." and "Solo." The first is about his southbound hike down the Appalachian trail. The second is a bicycle ride eastbound across the United States.  There is a lot of "people magic" in his books. He has recorded a lot of conversations. He also makes the trips seem somewhat easier than others. That is because he has a great upbeat attitude. He was also well prepared physically.

People are Trail Magic

One nice thing about walking the same routes often is I get to see the changes with the weather and the seasons. The cherry trees are in full bloom. There was a man bringing in the trash when I saw this one.

"Hi, is that a cherry tree?"

"Sure is man! I don't know how much longer it will last though."

"Is it alright if I take a picture?"
"Sure. It really is pretty!"

"Thanks a lot. Have a great day!"

Notice how blue the sky turned since this morning. It clearer than I have seen it in a long time

I ended going 8.79 miles. I was planning on just walking to get a haircut, but I needed to stop by Vitamin Cottage and pick up a couple of things. The end of the day ended up clear and sunny.

End of the Day Picture

TransAmerica Trail Virtual Hike

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