Pioneer Plantation, Fl USA (2014-04-02 21:31)
The-walk has gone intercontinental! I’m in Florida, heading west from Miami towards the Pacific. Still a long a way to go but at least I am on the way!
Listen to the podcast, check out the pictures here on the blog and find out how my first week in the USA has been. Please help me spread the blog/podcast to as many people as possible and I hope to be back next week with even more adventures…
Reunited with the Mule
Looking for space…
They call it coffee, but it is not!
The hard life at KOA Campsite in Davie.
On the dike heading towards South Bay.
Soaked to the skin after the storm…
Nice sunset after the thunderstorm.
Campsite beside the highway.
The real USA (mer means more in Swedish).
Shooting pool in Clewistone.
South Bay RV Campground.
End of the line..
He didn’t want to swap for the Mule!
Eric, the gentleman of ice cream delivery.
Englewood, Florida (2014-04-10 01:34)
I have had an excellent second week in the USA. Meeting generous, helpful people and finally getting Couchsurfing to work. The weather has been mostly great, although I have had to walk through some heavy rain and endured some long, hot days along the road.
Listen to the podcast and find out more. I realize I need to practice my podcasting a lot more. all the “hmms” and “ahhs” along with the drawn-out “ands” really need to go. But the only way to get better is to practise and I hope the quality of the narrative will improve with time.
I stayed with Hal in Pioneer Plantation. We had several long talks about just about everything under the sun.
Leaving Pioneer Plantation I found some stretch limos, the Mule really fell for the white Hummer.
I was very lucky to get to couchsurf with Nedene in Gateway (Fort Myers). Walking into the community was just like walking into a typical suburban American movie scene.
As I was leaving Fort Myers, Laura saw me walking past and after checking the website, ran after me for a chat. Turns out she is a journalist and had many great ideas and connections for me.
Larry, my Couchsurfing host in Punta Gorda, with his mother and father.
Larry’s great school bus!
and the inside…
Larry from Englewood. I Couchsurfed with him and his wife Deborah.
Gena and John looking for shark’s teeth on Englewood beach. We found plenty, they are old fossilised ones that wash up on the beaches around Venice.
A fossilised sharks tooth, a very small one!
Checking out the Pelicans and fish in the mangrove swamp while on the lookout for manatees.
Some of the fish they were pulling up looked decidedly unfriendly…
A nice 32 hotrod for sale on the side of the highway. I was almost tempted to trade in the Mule but quickly came to my senses. I mean what is a hotrod compared to the Mule!
Clearwater, Florida (2014-04-17 04:16)
Another week in the USA! It’s been a great one, meeting people and discovering Florida.
It started on Thursday when I walked from Englewood. Halfway through the day, I did 2 TV interviews for local stations, this is John, one of the reporters. I had a lot of people comment that they had seen me on the news under the next few days!
My plan was to camp in the Oscar Scherer State Park but when I finally arrived there, hot and tired after a long day, it was full! Ended up in a hotel for the night…
On Friday I continued towards Bradenton and as I passed through Sarasota, I walked past the Sarasota Lawn Bowls Club. I saw a lot of lawn bowls in Australia but have never played and I slowed down to have a look. Before long I was invited in for a quick lesson and a cold beer!
In Bradenton I was to Couchsurf with Max, a cool guy who had seen me looking for a place to stay on the Couchsurfing site and quickly offered me a couch at his place for a couple of nights.
Max likes classic American cars and has a Cougar he drives around in. It felt very USA to be cruising the broad streets of Florida in a large American car with a hood like a helicopter landing pad!
Max also took me to one of the local tourist spots, Munchies 420. It’s a place that serves large sandwiches with some weird (for me) combinations. How about 2 cheeseburgers, mac-n-cheese, chicken fingers, onion hoops, spuds and mozzarella sticks. Yeah, on a sandwich…
The name of the place, Munchies 420 will probably give you a clue as to when and who would appreciate this fine cuisine…
Hanging out the window with my 28mm equivalent Ricoh GR made me feel a little like Garry Winogrand.
After a day hanging out with Max, it was time to head north again, towards Clearwater Beach. Max gave me a ride over the Sky Way Bridge as you are not allowed to walk across it and I headed towards the Camelot Resort at Clearwater Beach. A guy named Steven had reached out to me and offered me a place to stay but when I finally had a time when I could arrive, it turned out that he had to go away for work. He instead went out of his way to involve his sister Vickie and they arranged for me to stay 2 nights at the Camelot Resort. It was a beautiful little place to stay at and I don’t know how to thank Steven and Vickie enough!
Spent a day walking around the beach, checking the surf shops and doing some washing. Didn’t buy anything, don’t need it.
On Tuesday morning I headed towards Kelby Training. Had been emailing a bit to try to get a tour of their studio and had finally managed to arrange it. Got there in the afternoon after being totally soaked in yet another thunderstorm.
As I waited for Levi who was going to show me around, R C Conception passed by and when he saw the Mule he wanted to know all about my trip. He ended up showing me around the place, taking some photographs of both me and the Mule and then inviting me to watch a live recording of the Grid the next day.
I left Kelby Training and headed over to Gena and Johns place. They were a couple that I had met at Englewood and they had invited me to Couchsurf with them when I reached Clearwater.
We actually spent the evening going to a Couchsurfing meetup that Gena had organised at the Taco Bus. The local Couchsurfing hosts got together, met each other and exchanged experiences. A great mixture of different people from all ages with the only common denominator being that they liked meeting other people. Great stuff!
Wednesday was spent with Gena and John, being shown around Safety Harbour and Dunedin and then back to Kelby Training to watch a live episode of the Grid.
Tomorrow it’s back on the road again, heading north. Really need to start getting some miles done or the USA is going to take forever!
Perry, Florida (2014-04-26 03:58)
A new podcast with some important news.
The-walk.se is now available on Acast! Acast is a new podcasting app, available for both iPhone and Android.
Hopefully, if enough people listen to the-walk on Acast, then I will be able to cover the cost of publishing the podcast and, if I’m very, very lucky, maybe get a little bit of change over.
So please help me spread the word about Acast and get the app. Then spread it to all your friends and get them following the-walk!
Acast is being launched in Sweden to begin with and I’m not sure if you will be able to download the app elsewhere. But the podcast will still be available here on the blog, as well as on iTunes.
A quick lunch stop at Nana’s Bisquit Barn. The tomato soup was excellent!
The long, hot road, after all the strip malls had petered out…
A church in a typical, north Florida setting. I have passed a lot of Churches!
Finding a campsite along the side of the road was not always easy. There was a lot of forest, swamp or both at the same time.
Finally a wonderful campsite, complete with showers!
Tallahasse (2014-05-02 15:13)
The long, hot road leading to Crawfordville
The most common sign in America! Even outside a swampy, mosquito-filled forest.
Camping on a side road, where I was almost attacked by Armadillos!
The WomenTour back-up van.
Sheila getting ready to hit the road towards Perry. It took me 2 days to walk, but they will do it in a relatively easy single day…
Lobyist at work!
What did they say?
Bill, my very gracious Couchsurfing host.
Check out the value placed on the slaves, more than the value of the land!
One Year, Panama City (2014-05-06 20:33)
One year on the road!
The Mule and I have now been on the-walk for one year. What can I say, an epic year with so many positive experiences that they are impossible to list in a single post. Followers will already understand how great the year has been and probably only have a slight idea about how much I look forward to the coming one!
Camped in the forest between Tallahasse and Panama City
Teaching the Hunter family to throw a boomerang!
There is a lot of water and flooding in the area after all the heavy rain last week.
Mobile, Alabama (2014-05-16 23:34)
Sunset at Grayton Beach State Park
No way was I swapping the Mule!
This is what happens when you don’t wear toe socks. You would think that I would have learnt by now…
Elliot, ocean to ocean walker, one year out. www.stillmoreglorious.blogspot.com
Graeme, ocean to ocean walker and flute player
Jocelyn, Jason and a very tired Mats
Jason on his new bike
The Mule loaded in Jason’s car
My great new shoes. To think that such a simple thing can make you so happy! 🙂
Very wet in Fort Morgan
Walking on water!
The ferry to Dauphin Island
Natural gas platform in Mobile Bay
The Coast Guard at Dauphin Island
Amite City, Louisiana (2014-05-27 21:41)
During the last week, I have walked from Mobile to Amite City and encountered a lot of southern hospitality along the way. After socializing in Mobile I had a few hot days on the road with some strange campsites. Another great week on the road, hear all about it on the podcast and check out the pictures below.
Micheal adding the shrimp to the traditional “shrimp boil”.
Learning to eat “mud bugs”
The finished shrimp boil. It was real good!
A repurposed parking meter in Mobile that is used to collect money for homeless people.
The blackboard in Mobile where you can write what you want to do before you die… Maybe a bit morbid now that I think about it. You can guess what I wrote.
Moving ever westward…
My campsite the first night. More or less in the swamp!
The second night I found a much nicer site, a clearing in the forest that appeared to have been cleared to house beehives.
Finally managed to get a shower and rinse out some clothes at Rogers Lake.
The wonderful Mrs Rogers who got up and made me coffee in the morning! Thank you.
Good manners and moonshine at the campsite in Poplarville. Because nice matters!
My new friend Jeff, hear about how he lost his home to Katrina in the podcast. Still a very generous and kind host even though he now lives under a bridge.
Eunice, Louisiana (2014-06-04 01:08)
Tehri, Chris and family, wonderful hosts in Amite City
Tourists photographing Mike, the LSU live mascot, a tiger.
Mike behind the fence
One of the many barges on the Mississippi River
Trying to cross the Mississippi turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. The roads are not built with pedestrians in mind.
Kountze, Texas (2014-06-11 23:09)
A year older and well on my way across the USA. Still a long way to go but I have at least reached Texas…
What more can you ask for on your birthday. A street party and live music! 🙂
Love the classic, southern porch with outside fans. Just the place to recover from possibly having a beer or two too much on your birthday.
An early afternoon rest under the shade of a tree. Needed in the hot, humid weather.
I look hot and sweaty already and its only 9 in the morning!
Lucky I don’t have that much money to dry…..
Five Thoughts on Being a Photographer (2014-06-16 04:32)
During the summer of 2013, I spent a lot of time walking. I walked almost every day, making my way south through Europe as part of my attempt to walk from Stockholm to Sydney.
Walking every day left me with a lot of time to think and a lot of time to listen to audiobooks and podcasts.
Somewhere along the French Atlantic coast, I started reflecting on a lot of what I was listening to and comparing it to what I had been helping teach in different photography schools during the last 10 or so years. I came to the conclusion that there were a few thoughts about being a photographer that were often not explored as much as they could be.
Some are more or less taken for granted and others are lost amongst all the other subjects that need to be covered.
This article is meant to highlight five thoughts that I think are important for photographers to consider.
I originally started writing this with the intention that it would become a book but after much back and forth I have decided to adopt a much more minimalistic approach and present it as a short article. It is meant to be a starting point for discussion.
In fact, I think it is a good starting point for a one-day workshop where students can discuss and explore these different aspects of their future trade.
I wish I could say that the ideas are all mine and new, but they are a mixture of ideas and concepts from many different sources. A few of them are:
Seth Godin’s books on marketing (they are all recommended reading).
The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
Chase Jarvis and Chase Jarvis Live.
The title is a homage to the book “On Being a Photographer” by David Hurn and Bill Jay. I originally found it through The Online Photographer website and it came to influence my approach to photography a great deal.
As I have already said, this is a starting point for discussion. It is not offered as any sort of absolute truth and I look forward to hearing a lot of thoughts and feedback from you all.
Why are you here?
I don’t mean the big existential question, I’ll leave that to others, but why are you here, wanting to be, or become, a photographer?
There are probably going to be as many reasons and motivations as photographers in the world. From just wanting to live the, supposedly, glamorous lifestyle, to trying to communicate your deepest thoughts in an attempt to help humanity.
Maybe you just want to be able to hang around in the local bar, wearing a worn leather jacket, with a battered Leica hanging off your shoulder, and talk about the good old days. Back when the only important question was how to develop your Pan-X film. (Hint, overexpose and underdevelop).
Your greatest ambition might be to rub shoulders with celebrities or tell the world about a great injustice. Share the beauty of nature or inspire people to explore the world.
There is no doubt that we all have different drives and ambitions, and because a photographer can be so many different things, in so many different fields, that variety is not only unavoidable, it is necessary.
But back to the question, why are you here?
Have you honestly sat down and tried to discern what drives you? What your ambitions are? Are you here because of the people you might meet or the places you might get to explore?
Or because of the story you could tell, because there seems to be no other way to express your inner art?
Does it even matter?
Well, yes and no.
There is no “correct” reason. I have seen photographers and students with all of these, and many, many other, different ambitions and drives, and there really is no right or wrong.
Why then bother with why?
If the ambitions themselves are all valid, why is it important to try to define them?
The reason is that if you are clear about what motivates you, you are in a much better place to draw on your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
A central theme in this article is going to be striving for excellence, and if you are clear about your motivations, then you will be in a much better position to decide your future.
Achieving excellence demands that you are able to focus your energies in the right places, at the right times, in order to improve and learn.
One of the biggest problems though is that we humans are extremely good at fooling ourselves. We are masters of self-deception, of explaining away our behaviour in the most plausible-sounding ways.
My suggestion is that you talk this through with someone that knows you well and can help cut through the bullshit. Someone honest enough to help you focus on your true motivations and what they might entail.
If you know why you are here, you can start to map your future path with at least some precision. Know what to do or learn in order to realise your ambitions, without spending unnecessary time and energy on the wrong priorities.
Be as honest as possible.
There is even a chance that taking honest stock of what drives you and what you really want to achieve might lead you to choose a path that does not revolve around photography.
One final note. Everything changes with time. It is inevitable that your reasons for being a photographer will change and mature with time. It might be a good idea to revisit the why question every now and again to make sure you really understand why you are here.
Now that you know why you are here, it is time to consider what it is you want to share with the world. Sounds easy, but in practice, this can cause more dilemmas than you would expect.
A professional photographer will often be asked to photograph a wide range of different subjects, and some of them will probably not be what they find to be the most inspiring subjects in the world. But what I want to discuss here is your art, what you are interested in and find inspiring. The subject that makes you exceptional.
As a general rule, I have found that people do their best work when photographing a subject they find intriguing, something that inspires excites and motivates them.
This usually means that they are either knowledgeable about it or fascinated enough to explore and discover everything about it.
They want to tell the world about it and how they feel about it. They need to expose the beauty, or possibly, the horror.
What fascinates you?
What do you want to explain to the world?
What is the most important story to share, right now?
This probably all sounds rather melodramatic, but it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. It only has to be what you are interested in exploring and sharing.
Whatever it is, from the beauty of tiny insects to the inside story on trafficking.
Even so, some students find it difficult to decide what they want to photograph. So how do you get started?
It’s easier than you might think:
Just pick something that intrigues you and get started.
It’s is an ongoing process, let your interests and curiosity show the way and don’t be afraid to follow them.
As I will probably need to repeat in other sections:
Nothing generates more new ideas and gets you thinking about what to photograph more than the act of photography itself….
Even if you feel that you have only “bad” ideas, list them, write them down and think about them. Talk about them.
It’s not uncommon for seemingly crazy ideas, explored through brainstorming and idle chatter to lead to insights, new ways to look at old subjects and maybe, just maybe, your personal vision. Ideas lead to ideas. Explore them, no matter how crazy they may seem in the beginning.
An extra benefit of following your curiosity is that you will be spending your time exploring something that is interesting to you.
We don’t have an unlimited amount of time here on earth. Wouldn’t you rather spend your time working on something you find important rather than something you are doing just to make money?
How do you become a world-class piano player? Or lead dancer in a ballet company? It’s exceedingly simple, you practise. A lot. A hell of a lot…
Like any other skill set, to become a great photographer you need to practise. To photograph a lot, in all the different types of situations that you will encounter. To be able to master your particular set of tools and bend them to your will.
A surprising number of photographers talk, or possibly think, about what they are going to photograph and how they are going to do it, but rarely just get out there and start pressing the shutter button.
It’s all good and well to consider and plan before you embark on a photographic project but please remember that there is a distinct possibility that the reality will turn out to be completely different.
That piece of equipment that is going to enable you to capture a unique moment might just not work the way you planned and the only way to discover that is to try.
With more experience, it is easier to predict what is going to happen and the results that will be produced.
(Let me) Read part of that last sentence again… “With more experience. “
How do you get experience?. Not by sitting around thinking about it, you need to get out there and do it.
There is a “rule” called the 10,000-hour rule which states that you need to spend 10,000 hours working at a specific skill set to become an expert. Not everybody agrees with this and it is certainly possible to attain a high proficiency with less time, but you do need to practice. Even so-called child prodigies have when examined closely, hours and hours of practice behind them before they magically get discovered.
So get out there and produce. Work on projects, try new ideas and equipment. Expose yourself to challenging situations.
Explore your craft and vision.
There are other benefits to producing as well.
You are going to generate a body of work that you might be able to draw from for your portfolio. You will have material and ideas to show potential clients, work that shows who you are and what interests you.
You will meet people and create contacts. The sort of contacts that now know that you are a photographer and one that is serious and working on her art.
Contacts in the fields that fascinate you. Contacts that discover that you care about their interests and have, or would like to acquire, inside knowledge that will help tell their story more clearly.
You will hopefully find the subjects that inspire you, and in doing so, deepen your understanding of them and how you can portray them.
Lesser but equally important benefits are that you will have material to fine-tune your post-production with, get your workflow functioning as smoothly as possible and sort out your backup requirements. Among other things….
As I have already stated:
Nothing generates more new ideas and gets you thinking about how to photograph more than the act of photography itself….
Photography is a medium of communication. It involves showing images in order to elicit a response from a viewer.
Everything I have ever read or listened to about productivity, marketing, self-improvement or changing the world, always involves shipping. Actually sharing your ideas or the result of all your hard work.
In fact, one of the common character traits I find when I read the biographies of famous, successful people is how driven they always seem to be to share their work and ideas.
A quote from Steve Jobs:
“If it hasn’t shipped, it hasn’t happened”
For your work to have any meaning at all, it has to impact somebody. If you don’t share it you not only lose the opportunity for it to have an effect, you also lose the opportunity of learning and advancing your craft.
Not only do you need to stop only talking about what you plan to do and start producing, you then have to work it into something presentable and let it loose on the world.
This is often much more difficult than it seems. The temptation to never finish, forever polishing or finding new pieces to work on can be very strong.
The wish to just make this a little better, that a little clearer and make the whole package more complete can be never-ending.
Although this document is all about achieving excellence in your work, if you refuse to share it, how can you ever know if it is exceptional?
If it impacts anyone?
If it reaches its target audience?
If it tells the story the way you want to?
The biggest reason most photographers feel disinclined to share their work is fear of failure.
Nobody likes to fail or to miss the mark but you will learn nothing by hiding your art from fear of failure.
The reactions, feedback and comments you get from sharing your work are essential tools to making it better.
It only takes a small shift in how you perceive not being 100 % successful to understand that the reactions to your work are a chance to learn.
The more you “fail”, the more you increase your chance of learning.
No matter how much time you spend polishing a turd, being afraid to show it to the world, it is still just a turd. It might be better to “fail” and learn how you can change your approach to maximize your intended impact.
If you fail 10 times, you have learned at least 10 new things.
In one of his books, Seth Godin recites a list of his failures. It’s a long list!
But he learned something from each one and took that knowledge with him to become very successful. Not despite his failures, but because of what he learned from them.
If you are trying to polish your storytelling and are passionate about sharing your ideas with the world, don’t you think that a little feedback on how you are managing that is essential? If everybody misses the point, might there be another, potentially better way to do it? If nobody sees the beauty in your subject, the grandeur of your vision or the horror behind your story, are you doing something wrong?
More importantly, what can you do to improve and close in on your intended reaction? The feedback from your “failures” will help you.
Although slightly beside the point, one important point to remember is that critic of your work is just that. Critic of your work, not of you. I might very well love you as a person and hate your photography, in the same way that a person I find obnoxious produces work that fascinates me.
Seek out critic and feedback in order to hone your skills and the only way to do that is to share your work.
What I want to discuss here is not the market per se.
If you should consider getting started in stock or concentrate on shooting weddings. What I want you to consider is how you approach the market.
The so-called “digital revolution” has in many ways democratised the field of professional photography. With all the thousands of advanced amateurs out there, all very capable of producing reasonably “good” work, why should the market choose you?
What do you bring to the table that makes you exceptional?
It’s important that understand that the opposite of exceptional is not bad, it’s good. Strive to be exceptional.
I am going to assume; with all the risks that entail, that you have all the basics covered. You have a professional demeanour, deliver high-quality material, and do it on time.
What else can you do?
Chase Jarvis, amongst many others, suggests that you always, in every job, strive to deliver something extra.
Extraordinary service or maybe an extra shot or two that shows a different, perspective.
Be involved and care about what you do. Infuse it with your vision and make it exceptional.
But in order to be able to do that, to have the energy and time needed, you have to get paid for your work. Don’t undervalue your work, make sure you are paid reasonable rates.
Don’t work for by-lines or the promise of future work. Especially from established companies or media outlets. If you do good, I mean exceptional, work and they are using it to make money, then there is no reason at all for you to work for free.
In fact, I would much rather do one job, and do it as well as I possible can, rather than try to do two jobs for the same money. Guess which one I have the best chance of delivering exceptional images for?
If, though I don’t recommend it, you find yourself working at a discount, make sure the invoice reflects this. You don’t want your customers to think that is your usual rate!
That said, is there any situation that warrants working for free?
I think there is, but only under some very special circumstances. Donating your services, or images, to a charity is one. As long as it is a charity that you support, then I am all for working for free. That is a completely different situation from being used by a company that is making money from your work.
Another situation might be if one of your good friends is starting her own fashion label and has absolutely no money for marketing. If it is a real friend, see it as an opportunity to put your touch on the company image and as an investment in the future.
Don’t forget that you should always be working on your own material as well. Expanding your visions and exploring your interests. Unfortunately, this personal work is often unpaid, especially in the beginning. But do not let that stop you from producing and sharing!
The point is that the market does not owe you anything. To succeed you need to deliver more than expected.
Approach the market not with a sense of entitlement, but with an ambition to make a difference, to always be exceptional.
I hope this starts some spirited discussions.
I’m going to borrow a marketing tip from Seth Godin and ask that if you found this interesting, then share it with ten of your friends and ask them to do the same.
If you found it very interesting and you would like to donate something to enable me to keep walking and thinking new thoughts, you can do so through my website.
Whatever you do, keep following my adventures as I continue trying to become a minimalist vagabond while I walk from Stockholm to Sydney.
Remember, keep walking!
Bastorp, Texas (2014-06-23 22:43)
Pastor Tolbert Hudspeth, who was very hospitable and let me spend the night in the church.
In cool comfort, out of the thunderstorms!
Tyler, on the side of the road with his broken cart. But he did not give up and is still on his way towards Miami!
Good luck, Tyler!
Watching the World Cup in an almost empty bar in Houston
Houston, or at least downtown Houston seems to be very much construction and closed sidewalks.
Open bar for dogs in Houston
New road constructions outside of Houston. But no sidewalks or provisions for pedestrians.
Nice old diner in one of the small Texas towns between Houston and Austin
Austin, Texas (2014-06-30 03:53)
Kirk Tuck outside the Taco Deli where we went for breakfast tacos. Great Tacos and great conversation. It was very interesting to meet someone whose writings you have read for many years. It was even better that he turned out to be a great guy!
Couchsurfing meet up with many hosts from the Austin area
Charlie and Palmer doing some serious shopping in one of the gigantic American warehouse-like supermarkets.
Open air gallery consisting of graffiti
An enigmatic Mona Lisa and guest at the Spider House cafe
Taking it easy, Austin style at the Capitol building….
The hobbit house, a private residence in Austin built out of dirt.
Palmer sipping a smoothie at Juice Land, where we seem to end up at least once a day!
Palmer giving Max lessons in how to change a tube on his bike.
Charlie outside Cheer Up Charlies, our last stop on Saturday night before heading home for some well-earned rest.
Fredricksburg, Texas (2014-07-05 01:48)
I have only uploaded the Acast episode this time, rather than pictures with captions.
Do you think this works or do you think that it limits the blog in any way? As always I would appreciate your feedback!
Camp Wood, Texas (2014-07-12 05:36)
I’m sitting in the Camp Wood library typing this and it will be a much longer blog post, with a lot more photographs than I have posted for a while.
That’s in direct response to the feedback from the question I asked on the last podcast. I did already suspect that a lot of followers would like to have pictures and at least captions on the blog and not have to listen to the podcast for a quick update.
For any number of different reasons, all of which are quite reasonable. So, to make it up to you all, here are a lot of pictures, with more than just a caption!
Charlie and I left Fredricksburg on Saturday morning and walked at a nice easy pace, enjoying being on the road again and just moving. Early midmorning we found Sarah tending to the family farm, fruit and produce stall on the side of the road. We were thirsty and thought we could feed both our hunger and our thirst by buying a watermelon. Said and done!
We then tried to eat it all, we did not want to carry too much extra weight.
Charlie put in a good effort, but it was to no avail. The watermelon was too big and we had to admit defeat with a pretty big piece left. It got loaded onto the Mule, to be consumed for dessert after dinner.
While we were eating, I started talking to Sarah and ended up having a short discussion about Australian stock horses. Always fun and interesting, the things you can find in common with strangers along the road to talk about!
We walked through the day and the road got gradually smaller and smaller, following a creek and winding through cattle paddocks.
We rolled off the road a bit and found a campsite next to the creek, put up the tents and tried to avoid all the thistles, after which we polished off the rest of the watermelon. Dinner was watermelon, bananas and an orange.
I lay watching the sky through the opening of my tent and reflected that this is not a bad sort of life!
Sometime during the night, I was woken by a car turning off the road and heading down towards our campsite. Oh no, I thought, looks like somebody does not like us camping here and are coming to tell us. But they stopped about 50 meters away and I could hear what sounded like 2 guys and a girl talking loudly. They hung about for a while and then drove off. Great I thought.
But a while later they were back again. It was difficult to hear what they were saying but I got the impression that they were underage kids that were hiding out to do some drinking. Something that was confirmed the next morning when we found a Bud Light carton right next to where they had been parked. They never approached us, although our tents must have been very visible and after about 40 minutes they drove off again.
The next morning, we continued into Kerville and decided to camp at the KOA campground where we discovered a very useful way to utilise my new watercooler. Perfect for keeping the beer cold!
From Kerville, we headed up to Hunt, had a large lunch, stocked up on ice and water and headed ever westward. We were walking along a river and passed some beautiful spots and took the chance to have a nice siesta on the grass right next to the river. Charlie went for a swim and I just dozed off in the shade.
That night we couldn’t find a way to sneak off the side of the road to camp, the fences were all too high and there were no gates, so we just camped on the side of the road. Turned out to be no problem at all, I think that there were no more than 3-4 cars that passed by during the night, and none of them cared about us.
The next day was tougher. There were some long hills to climb, only to then descend and have to climb right back up again!
We were soaked through when we arrived at the top, but the views were (almost) worth it.
That night we camped under stars on top of one of the climbs, too lazy to put up the tents. I slept fitfully during the night and woke at one stage to the snorting and huffing of what I am sure was a wild hog. It did not get close enough for me to get a good look and when I moved around making some noise, it took off into the scrub.
Wednesday morning, we walked the last stage into Lakey and found the Hog Pen, where we had some food and tried to decide what sort of beer to drink. Not always an easy decision!
After lunch, it was off to the library to use the wifi and catch up on what has happened in the world.
While we were there we met Gretchen, who was very curious about what we were doing and invited us to spend the night with her family. The Lopez family lives in the H.E.B. Camp, where J.J works maintaining the ac and water installations and they took us sightseeing all over the camp, showing us a lot of beautiful spots.
Charlie even got some information about solar power water pumps and we checked out some of the installations working at the camp.
The Blue Hole.
After breakfast, Gretchen drove us back to Leakey and we continued walking, west, towards Camp Wood.
We had just crested the last long hill and were cruising along, enjoying the cool weather (only about 30) when suddenly a red car pulled up alongside. It was Roger, a true gentleman of the road, who had seen us walking and wanted to give us a six-pack to ease the journey!
Very much appreciated!
Not far from Camp Wood, we found a farm equipment graveyard, Rust N Peace.
I have always liked rusted, old machinery and would have liked to get closer to take some more photos but as usual in Texas, there was a barbed-wire fence and a No Trespassing sign. Charlie has started his own little collection of trespassing signs and took the opportunity to add yet another one.
As we were walking into Camp Wood, a gentleman carrying a screen door approached and asked if we were from Germany?
We started talking to Casey and it did not take us long to be offered to stay in the small caravan campground he and his wife are building in Camp Wood. It is a charming little place. Well planned and with vintage caravans, one from 1952 and even an Airstream from 63.
Casey was a wonderful host and made sure we were comfortable and had everything we needed.
The Airstream caravans are great looking things with plenty of character and are becoming a real collector’s item in the states. Easy to understand why.
We woke up to rain this morning (Friday) and decided to spend the day catching up with our blogs and Facebook sites rather than heading towards Del Rio.
But tomorrow we really have to get going again if we are to make it to Del Rio before Charlie has to head back to Austin for his flight back to Denmark. It’s important to keep rolling!
We have had to do a lot of repairs on Charlie’s cart, the Emu, during the last few days. It has proven to be much too weak for the load it needs to carry and is now held together by hose clamps, a bit of pipe, some sticks, duct tape, some small rocks and a great deal of hope. It is even lubricated by some cashew butter! MacGyver would be proud of us…..
But it only needs to last a few more days and I think we can get it that far. I’m sure Charlie has learned a lot from his test walk already and will probably be building his own Mule like cart when he returns to Denmark. It’s hard to fault the Mule, I am almost afraid to write this as I don’t want to jinx myself, but the Mule has been more or less faultless for close to 9000 km at this stage. Considering that it has been carrying almost 3 times its rated load the last few weeks, that’s pretty impressive!
Keep following my journey towards Sydney and a minimalistic lifestyle and please help me spread the word about both the blog and the podcast. As always, remember to keep walking!
9000 km equipment update (almost) (2014-07-15 16:45)
This is going to be a short equipment update, covering the stuff I will be using during the rest of my walk across America. In many ways, I suppose that it will be the stuff that I will continue using for the rest of my journey to Sydney. I have been on the road for 14 months at this stage and walked somewhere in the vicinity of 9000 km, so I have started to get a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn’t. As always, you should take my opinions with a bit of scepticism as this is what works for ME, and might not be the perfect solution for you.
Everything revolves around the Mule. The Mule is my ever-dependable cart and is a Kronan Duo chassis with a Alu-box, an aluminium storage box instead of the original baby carrier. It has proven to be great. Strong, sturdy, rolls well and has so far refused to give any problems. One of the reasons I chose a Kronan Duo was the optional 16” wheels with proper, industrial-grade roller bearings. The chassis folds together to a reasonably small package, yet is strong and has survived despite at times carrying more than 3 times its rated load.
I get a lot of comments about the Alu-Box. It might look heavy but is in fact as light, if not lighter than a waterproof bag of comparable size. Not only that, it is lockable and completely waterproof. I never have to worry about anything getting wet, even in the heaviest downpour! With its large lid, it is easy to pack and organise and as long as I take some care with my organisation, I can get at everything I need quickly and without having to pull everything else out. When you pack and unpack your equipment every day, that is very important!
The Alu-Box is mounted on a quick release, the same one that the original baby basket uses, to enable quick disassembly if needed and to leave plenty of room underneath the box for water. I knew from the start of my planning that I would need to be able to carry plenty of water during certain stages of the-walk. Especially as I have always planned to be more or less unsupported. During the last week I have had up to 20 litres of water with me, enough for 3 days for me, even in hot weather, and the Mule just seems to suck it up and keep going without complaint.
The water is carried in 2 coolers, one 2 gallons and one 1/2 gallon, plus assorted extra plastic pet bottles. The coolers have proven to be a great thing. With them, I can buy ice at service stations, fill it up with water and then enjoy cold water all day!
Ok, it only last one day, but it is so much nicer to be able to drink cold water and I have to have some sort of container anyway.
One of the modifications I have made to the chassis is to add the Jolly Motion arms. These are 2 arms with a bungee cord between them that are designed to enable you to jog with a baby jogger type of cart. The arms give me some extra leverage and a lot more variation in how I can place my hands but the most important feature is that I can push against the cord with my hips. This takes a lot of weight off my upper body and has proven to be almost impossible to live without in the long uphills. Not only that, on long down hills, I place the cord behind me and don’t have to restrain the Mule from speeding down the hill with just my hands. One modification I would consider for the Mule is the addition of a brake. But not at the cost of too much complexity.
My Jolly Motion arms are modified. They originally come with an elbow to allow for height adjustment, but as the Mule already has that, I shortened them and clamped them above the elbows on the Mule. I have also replaced the original clamps with some nice quick release ones so that I can pack everything down quickly if I have to. For loading in a car for example.
At the back of the Alu-Box, hanging on one of my walking sticks is my food bag. It is a bicycle pannier bag, waterproof and reasonably big. I try to keep all my food in there to keep it separate from the rest of my equipment and I originally thought a separate bag would be a good idea as it can also be used as a bear bag. Hung from a tree or something to keep animals out and move the food away from your tent. If you look closely at my bag you can see the racoon damage it has suffered!
Although one walking stick is used to hold the pannier bag, the other one lies loosely on top and is my “dog” stick. It’s my only weapon but is very useful, not only against dogs.
The sticks also serve as tent poles for my tarp. I have a tarp that I can pitch as a shelter or use underneath my tent as a groundsheet or just as something to sit on. This is something I have not used as much as I thought I might and I am starting to considering abandoning it ….
The top of the mule carries my Brunton solar charger and my cell foam mattress. The solar charger keeps my phone more or less charged and would be completely sufficient if I wasn’t using GPS tracking on it. The my path app draws a lot of power, but with the solar charger and an extra battery, I can get by without having access to mains electricity for at least 3 – 4 days.
I use the cell foam mattress to sit on when I rest during the day and as a backup for my inflatable air mattress (which is much more comfortable).
At the moment there is also an umbrella on the top of the alu-box. Perfect for not only keeping the rain off but also against the sun! I have not been much of an umbrella user before, but especially in hot weather, it is great. Much better than rain clothes as they just get hot and you end up getting soaked from sweat from the inside!
A new modification is the small handlebar bag I have mounted to the push handle. I was being very lazy and not stopping to get my small camera out and take photos whenever I saw something interesting. At the same time, I did not want my camera to be exposed to the sun on top of the box, so I bought this handlebar bag and it is working great. Room for some valuables, the camera, the phone (with cable from the charger) and some small odds and ends. It has a small rain cover when needed and if it really starts pouring, I just unhook it (quick release) and put it in the Alu-Box.
Hanging behind it is a small bag for a water bottle. I have a stainless steel water bottle but have more and more just started to use a plastic pet bottle. In fact, I would recommend not spending your money on an expensive water bottle, just use a soda bottle and replace it when it gets too worn. The perfect excuse to buy a flavoured drink every now and again!
A very important modification to the Mule are my Greentyre solid tires (Swedish link). If you have been following me from the beginning, you know how much trouble I had with punctures, especially in England. Since I mounted the solid Greentyres, I have had no problems at all and the peace of mind that gives is worth a lot. Add to that the fact that I no longer need to carry a pump, repair kit or extra tubes and they become a must for anyone considering a longer walk using a cart.
I started the-walk using a Hilleberg tent and used it a lot during the first 6-7 months. It was a great tent and after heavy use, it still looked brand new. But I decided to try a lighter tent (after struggling with the Mule in the hills of Spain) and am now using a Terra Nova Equipment Solar Competition 2.
It is a very lightweight tent that packs into a small size. It actually weighs less than 1 kg! I was a little bit sceptical in the beginning, as the materials felt a bit flimsy compared to the Hilleberg, but everything has held up great so far and I am becoming more and more confident in it as time goes by. The one thing I was most sceptical about in the beginning was the tent pegs.
The tent comes with these very small, lightweight, titanium pegs that look like small pieces of wire. I almost laughed when I first saw them and said, oh well, I can buy some real pegs later on. But the pegs have been great. Because of their small size, they work well even on very hard ground and it is usually possible to use them in situations that seem impossible. I have to say that I am a convert.
Another advantage over my old tent is that the Terra Nova is self-supporting (more or less anyway). That means that I can set it up on concrete if I have to. There is a slight problem as the outer tent needs to be pegged but the inner tent is self-supporting and it does work in a pinch. The one problem I have is that the tent is just a few inches too small. I’m 6 foot (183cm) and could use a few inches more in length and a few inches more in height to be completely comfortable.
If I was to start looking for a new tent, the changes I would like are, slightly larger, completely self-supporting and a green inner tent. The inner tent on the Terra Nova is white, which is not great for stealth camping!
My sleeping bag is a summer one (which was not great in Spain during the winter) combined with a thermal liner. I can use the liner, the bag or both together to cover a lot of different temperature ranges. If anything, I would ideally change the sleeping bag to a warmer one, but what I have works down to about 8 degrees and I don’t think I am going to experience anything colder than that for a while.
If it’s warm enough to sleep without any cover, I use the thermal liner, in its stuff sack, as a pillow.
If I need the liner as a cover, I use the sleeping bag. If it’s cold enough for the sleeping bag, I again use the liner as a pillow and if I need both the liner and the bag, I stuff some clothes in the liners’ stuff sack.
I carry my electronics and valuables in a small daypack, along with a gorilla pod for the camera. That way I can take the valuables with me quickly and easily if I have to. Great when I have to leave the Mule outside a shop or something. I have a wire to lock the Mule up with but try not to leave too much valuable stuff in it even when locked.
I’m down to 3 pairs of shoes at the moment, 2 sandals and a minimalist running shoe. Works well here in the heat but could possibly need to be complemented with a slightly sturdier pair of shoes in colder weather.
That’s really about it. Add some tools (as few as possible), spare parts, duct tape, toiletry and a first aid kit and that’s it.
For a list of clothing, check out my packing article on Houdini Sportswears’ news blog.
Would love to hear any comments or suggestions you have, just post them on the Facebook page.
What I do know is that this equipment is what has evolved after almost 9000 km of walking during 14 months and 2 continents. It works for me.
Whatever works for you, remember that the important thing is to keep walking!
Sanderson, Texas (2014-07-23 23:53)
I’m in a Sanderson and am having a rest day, maybe even two, despite the fact that it’s a tiny town and there is not much to see or do here. But more about that later.
Charlie and I left Camp Wood, heading towards Brackettville. We were pretty sure that we would not make it all the way in one day and planned to camp somewhere along the road. It was a long hot day but it went well and in the afternoon, Casey came out on his motorcycle to check that we were ok. He was amazed that we had made it as far as we had already! It was also interesting to see him in his “colours”.
Just as we were starting to look for a suitable campsite, a car pulled up alongside and asked if we were ok, if we needed water or something? It was Anita and we explained that we were ok but would always welcome cold water! Anita continued on into Brackettville and said she would see if she could find us on her way back. A short while later a truck pulled up next to us. It turned out to be Anita’s husband, she had called him and asked him to bring us some water.
We talked for a while and in the end, we were invited back to the Kennedy’s home, to camp next to their house. Another example of the incredible hospitality we have been experiencing here in Texas. Instead of eating packaged food and camping next to the road, we spent the evening eating pizza, drinking beer and tequila, and having a great evening with our wonderful hosts.
The next day, Sunday, we were back on the road and made it into Brackettville, where we spent the afternoon having lunch and watching the world cup final on my MacBook Air. We were at the local Subways and the wi-fi connection was not very fast, but we could at least see sort of what was happening. Not that the result was much of a surprise, I have been tipping Germany to win from the beginning.
After lunch, we continued along Highway 90 towards Del Rio. About 45 km from Del Rio, it was starting to get dark and we had not really seen any good places to camp, so we decided to try our luck under a bridge. It was ok, but there was a bit of noise from the road during the night and I once again heard a wild hog outside the tent during the night. This time it was on the other side of the fence, but he stayed around for a while, snorting and making noise.
We had a hot walk into Del Rio on Monday but knew that we were heading towards a Couchsurfing host and would have a place to stay. We had a late lunch at a Thai restaurant before we finally managed to reach Greg, our host. Oh, and we repaired the Emu a few times, like usually twice a day.! But it did make it to Del Rio and as that was going to be the endpoint for Charlie’s walk with me, that was enough!
Greg was a great host and before long, he had offered to take us shooting on his ranch, outside of Del Rio. As we were in Texas it seemed to be the right thing to do!
We fired a shotgun, first with birdshot and then with buckshot, an M4 rifle and a 45 calibre automatic handgun. Boys will have their toys and it was fun! Then back to Del Rio to enjoy some homemade chilli. We were definitely in Texas!
The next day we visited Mexico. Just a short crossing into the border town to have a look around and get some lunch. It was pretty dead, with not a lot happening. It seems that all the “problems” lately has really affected the number of people visiting and a lot of bars and restaurants were boarded over.
Getting into Mexico was no problem at all, but getting back to the USA was not quite as easy. We had stopped at the USA border to make sure we had all the right papers before we went into Mexico and explained what we were doing. Despite that, it took a long time to get back in and we had to answer some really strange questions about why we had visited Mexico. The concept of never having been there and wanting to take the chance to visit seemed to be completely foreign to them. Nevertheless, we were eventually allowed to return.
Greg picked us up and after a short rest, we all went to a real Texas BBQ. Texas BBQ’s are ok, but give me a real Ozzie one any day!
On Wednesday, it was time for Charlie to return to Austin and in the end, we (or he) hired a car to get there, it was the easiest and, strangely, the cheapest way in the end. I drove and we covered the distance back to Austin, which had taken us 14 days to walk, in 4 hours.
We met Palmer, who Charlie was going to stay with before his flight the next morning, and I headed back. Driving back, especially when motoring along the same roads that we had walked, I was acutely aware of how boring the landscape zipping by outside the window was. The strange thing was that it is not as boring when you are walking. It must be because you have time to see all the variations and differences when you walk, whereas when you speed by in a car, it all blurs into a big sameness. It had never struck me as much before that paying even more attention to something that appears dull and boring, can bring out all the details and differences that are there, bringing on a whole new perspective and adding new insights.
I got back to Del Rio late that evening and prepared to move on the next day. I had been having a bit of a problem with a cough and a sore throat but still wanted to get going, get some km done.
The next morning, I said goodbye to Greg, who had been a perfect host, and with a slight headache and sore throat, headed west again.
It was a long day walking, actually crossing the Pecos River and moving into the “Wild West” proper. I talked to some of the border guards along the way, both when crossing a control and when they stopped to check on me along the road. They were all were very kind and helpful and before long they were all waving to me as they passed during the next few days. In fact, a couple of times they stopped to give me cold water and make sure I was ok.
I reached Comstock and stopped in the motel there. Spent a night coughing and turning and headed towards Langtry the next day. Another long, hot day and when I arrived in Langtry the motel/store was closed. I was lucky that two other guests/workers happened to be there and could give me a room that I could pay for the next morning.
Another rather sleepless night followed and after some breakfast I headed out, having learned that my next planned stop, Dryden was going to be closed on Sunday when I got there.
I spent Saturday walking highway 90, feeling spent and trying to eat. I had no appetite, especially for the food I had with me and my go-to emergency food, peanut butter, was especially repugnant in the heat. I had no problems with hydration, I was drinking plenty of water, had ample supplies with me and was also taking electrolyte pills. Just as well, after a day of walking, my shirt was white with salt deposits.
I camped beside the road and spent a restless night in the tent, coughing and being slightly feverish. I reached Dryden on Sunday, around 1 pm and as I had been warned, the store was closed. No problem, I had everything I needed, so I lay down in the shade of the store for a short siesta before continuing. An hour or so later, a truck pulled up behind the store and a man came round and asked if I needed anything.
“Would love to be able to buy some ice,” I said. “No problem,” he said, “I’ll just open up.”
Great, I was able to get ice, a cold drink and a snickers bar, about the only thing I could force myself to eat at the moment!
Coldwater is so much nicer on a hot day and I continued on in good spirits. I thought I could make it to Sanderson by late evening if all went well, even though that would be a long walk. But with a new stash of ice water, anything was possible!
As the afternoon progressed, I got more and more tired, I just did not have any reserves. The lack of sleep and even the lack of food was really starting to get to me. I had thought that a few days on the road, in the open air would help me with the cold, but I was sicker than ever. I decided to try to force myself to make Sanderson and then I was going to have to take a rest day.
I was glad that I had the hydration issue under control though. That is so important out here in the heat, but that was working just fine.
The sun was setting as the Sheriff pulled up beside me and asked me how I was doing and if I wanted a ride into Sanderson.
“How far to go?” I asked. “About 3 miles,” he said. “I’ll walk it,” I said.
Turned out to be a long 3 miles and I was totally wrecked by the time I reached the Budget Inn in Sanderson. The owner there was super kind and even cooked me an Indian meal so that I could get some food into me before I crashed into oblivion on my bed.
I’ve been here for 3 days now, trying to recover from my cold and I hope that I am finally getting slightly better. Haven’t done much, not that there is anything to do in Sanderson, other than short forays out of my room to find food. Haven’t even had the energy to write much.
This is the first time I have been really sick on the walk, not bad considering, but I hope it’s the last!
I hope to get started tomorrow, Thursday, again. It’s a 2-day walk to Marathon, then a long days walk to Alpine. Will be very interesting to see how I cope with that tomorrow. For now, I am going to try to get this published and then get some more rest.
You all know that I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts on my walk and one that I listened to just recently was an old favourite. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s a book I first read in the early eighties and have read several times after that but I think the last time might have been sometime in the late nineties. A lot has happened since then and I have worked both as a “creative” and a teacher, both experiences that help me relate even more to the book. It’s a great book and it is interesting how some of the core concepts in the book have become more and more popular in a lot of modern writing. The concepts of quality and awareness are easy to see in the discussions of flow and awareness, of living purposefully and even minimalism that is more and more common these days. A recommended read or listen.
The landscape around me during the last few days has inspired me to download another classic to listen to. Dune. I hope it is as good as I remember, I’ll start listening to it tomorrow and let you know.
Anyway, as always, the important thing to remember is to keep walking!
Las Cruces, New Mexico (2014-08-08 19:42)
I have finally made it through Texas!
It’s a big state…
I’m feeling a lot better and have more or less managed to get rid of my cold. It makes a huge difference to how it feels when I’m walking, especially in the heat. Since leaving Sanderson I have been doing some serious walking and covering a fair bit of mileage. In fact, this is my first rest day since then. Although I have had a few shorter days, most of them have been between 45- 50 km and I am going to enjoy a day of rest.
Rather than give you my usual day by day rundown, I’m just going to give you a few highlights.
A lot has happened, I’ve met some great people and my already optimistic view of humankind has gotten even rosier. I almost hate to write that as I am afraid to jinx myself for the future. 15 months on the road and I have had only positive experiences!
In the last 2 weeks, I have slept on picnic tables several times, in the dirt on the side of the road, behind bushes, at great Couchsurfing hosts, in a shed and even in a few hotels, all the while trying to get some mileage done during the days.
One of the best parts of the last couple of weeks was visiting Marfa. As is nearly always the case, a big reason is the great people that I met there.
About 13 km outside of Marfa there is an observation building where you can sometimes see the “Marfa lights”. They are a light phenomenon that appears at night and nobody seems to be able to explain what causes them. There has even been talk of UFOs….
As I pulled the Mule into the observation centre, a guy jumped out of a truck and came over to talk. It turned out to be Josh and his wife Lynn who had seen me walking along the road earlier and were waiting for me. Josh had done his own walk, across Texas and wanted to hear what I was doing. We talked for a while and they invited me to stay with them in Marfa.
When I finally made it into Marfa, Josh had organized an interview for me at Marfa Public Radio. I even got to do a couple of station intros. I’ll try to post a link when the interview becomes available in the archives.
Then Josh and Lynn took me to dinner at an incredible restaurant that would easily make a name for itself in any major city in the world. We talked a lot and it turns out that Marfa is a very
special little town and has apparently been featured a lot in the news lately. Check this out:
Josh made a book about his walk, taking pictures every hour as he walked: www.architecturefortravelers.org/books
Leaving Marfa, I was faced with a 120 km section without any services at all. 3 days of walking without being able to stock up on water or food. There is a small town, Valentine, on the way but everything there is closed down.
Valentine might not even have a functioning service station, but they do have a Prada store! But like all the other stores in Valentine, it is never open…
It is actually an art installation called Prada Marfa.
Three days after leaving Marfa I reached Van Horn and got rained on. Quite refreshing after the heat and dryness!
Then followed a few days walking in cooler weather to El Paso where Josh had put me in contact with the wonderful Howell family and organized for me to stay with them.
On the way to the Howells, I stopped for a coffee at a Starbucks and while I was there a gentleman called Charles started talking to me. He was fascinated by the-walk and promptly sat down to write a press release for the local media. Turns out he runs a marketing company, Frontera. Not only that, one of his customers markets compression socks and he made sure I got a couple to try. Have not really used compression socks before and it is going to be very interesting to try them and let you know what I think.
I continued on my way and it did not take long before I got a call from a local reporter, Luis from the El Paso Times. He caught up to me and walked with me the last bit as he interviewed me for his piece. Check it out here:
I arrived at Nancey and John’s house, a warm and welcoming house full of children, grandchildren, nieces, neighbours and friends. A lot always seemed to be happening with people coming and going all the time.
They had planned to go to the baseball game that evening and had an extra ticket for me! So I got to go to a real American baseball game, drink a beer and cheer the El Paso Chihuahuas to a win.
The next morning I set off again and was met on the road by Chrisdyann from KFOX14 and her cameraman. They did a short story on me that ran on the evening news and must have been seen by a fair few people as a lot of cars have started honking their horns at me and waving.
http://www.kfoxtv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/man-walking-around-worl d-travels- through-el-paso-5913.shtml #.U-TyzIBdVoW
Later that evening, I finally reached the end of Texas and could cross the border into New Mexico. Texas has taken a lot of time to cross but I now only have 3 states left and am busy trying to plan my continued route westward.
Whatever else, I guess it’s just a matter of keep walking!
Silver City, New Mexico (2014-08-15 06:18)
I left Las Cruces on Saturday morning with a dark, rain heavy thunder cloud hanging over my shoulder. To the south-east the sky was dark and there were the occasional forks of lightning, but to the north-west, the sky gradually cleared up, through lighter and lighter cloud cover to, finally, a blue sky. I was glad to be heading in the right direction, even though I expected the storm front to catch up to me pretty quickly and I was resigned to getting rained on. But that never happened and I kept walking in the area just between heavy rain and blue sky. It was comfortable, nice walking weather.
I walked on past chilli plantations and pecan orchards and before long I had left the rainstorm behind me. Mid-afternoon I reached Ft Selden state monument in full sunshine and sat down in the shade of the museum to do some writing.
Heading out in the afternoon was warm, even hot but that was not the biggest problem. There seemed to millions of tiny bugs swarming all around me, and they were driving me mad. There is not much to do against them. Use some bug spray (that never seems to work) and just get used to them. But they really do get to me. I’m usually pretty calm and collected but when it comes to small, annoying, biting bugs, all the calm goes out the window. They seemed to worst near the pecan orchards, I’m slowly beginning to dislike pecans…
The road was twisting and turning more now as we made our way along the Rio Grande and through the hills. Around 6 pm I started looking for a suitable camping spot, but there was not much to chose from. Just as I was starting to accept that I might have to camp beside the road again, I spotted an opening in the fence along the road. I turned off and found a great, secluded camping spot in some small trees along a water runoff to the Rio Grande. I quickly pitched the tent and crawled inside to get away from the bugs and spent the evening trying to re-read REAMDE, but dozed off pretty quickly. It had been a long day and I was tired.
Sunday morning was slightly overcast but the cloud cover soon burned away and after a breakfast of bananas, oranges and kiwis, I set off towards Hatch.
I reached Hatch around noon and looked for a place to get some lunch. I found a place that advertised “the worlds best hamburgers” and decided to try it. There was a group of motorcycle riders sitting outside and I asked them if the burgers really were great. Yes, they said and then asked if I was the guy they had seen on the news. They proceeded to buy me my lunch and I sat down to what was only an ok burger.
All these places that claim they make the best burgers in the world have obviously not been to the milk bar in Kiama, on the south coast of NSW, Australia. I have so far never tasted a burger that comes anywhere near a Kiama burger. Wonder if the milk bar is still there? Will have to try to find out once I get to Sydney.
After lunch, I continued northwest along road 187. Passed through Salem, then Garfield. There is even a town named Truth or Consequences further up the road. But the names are more interesting than the towns, they are small and anything that might have been open was closed when I passed through on a Sunday.
I walked on through the afternoon and into the evening, reaching Arrey around 8 pm. Luckily the convenience store was open and I was able to buy a sandwich and something to drink. It was starting to get dark as I headed out of town and just a few miles down the road I came to the Arrey RV Park. I decided I had walked enough for the day and turned in.
It felt good to use a proper toilet and wash off some road grime even if there was no shower. I rinsed out my clothes, pitched my tent and was ready for a good nights sleep.
Around 1 am I woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Not much, but the drops were big if infrequent and the sky looked black. I had only pitched my inner tent, not expecting any rain, and had to crawl out to add the outer fly. Only takes a minute so it was not a big hassle and I could crawl back into a totally waterproof tent and fall back to sleep.
Monday morning dawned with just a bit of cloud cover, easing away to a bright, blue sky. I packed up and headed towards Caballo, where I intended to get some breakfast. At the intersection with road 152, I stocked up with enough food for the day, some snacks and had breakfast. Road 152 turns west here and it felt good to be heading in the right direction again. I was warned that there was nothing along the road until Hillsboro, almost 30 km away. It was upwards most of the way as well!
I spent the day counting down the miles and taking a lot of breaks. The road headed up through the hills and the scenery was a relief after all the flatlands I have been walking lately. It was worth the extra effort to push the Mule up a few hills.
When I arrived in Hillsboro around 5 pm, everything was closed. By everything, I mean the cafe/general store. It was only open between 8 am to 3 pm. The problem was that I could not continue without restocking on water and food. I had a good 50 km ahead of me with no services at all and I only had about 2 litres of water left. I had nuts and fruit that I could survive on, even if that would get very boring, but I had to get more water. There was a small park in the centre of town where overnight camping was permitted and I decided to spend the night there and have breakfast and restock when the cafe opened the next morning. I climbed the hill on the southern part of town to check if the library was open, but it was closed on Mondays, so I sat down on the steps outside and tried to get some writing done before it was time to pitch the tent.
After putting up the tent, I sat down at one of the park benches and continued reading REAMDE. After a while, an old VW camper van pulled in and a guy and a dog got out. It turned out to be Bob, a local, who was out walking/driving his old dog. We talked for a while and Bob warned me that the Cafe/store I was planning on getting food and water in tomorrow was really only a cafe, not much of a store. The problem was I needed water to make it over the mountains but Bob very kindly offered to fill up my bottles with some excellent well water from his house. Bob took off and was back in about 30 minutes. It had taken him a while because he also made me a baloney and pickle sandwich, a caesar salad and bought along some chips. Not a bad dinner!
Just as I was about to crawl into the tent for the night, another gentleman came over from across the street. He introduced himself as Jim, Cactus Jim. He just wanted to make sure I had water and also to warn me that if it started raining during the night, the spot I had chosen might get flooded! I moved the tent to a higher spot and crawled in to get some sleep.
The next morning I was up bright and early and waiting for the cafe to open. I had a “Monday miner breakfast”, a stack of pancakes topped with 2 eggs and served with butter and syrup. Sounds strange but was just the calorie bomb I need for the coming day. I talked a bit with some locals that had come in for their breakfast, loaded up on snacks and drinks, put on my dorky compression socks and set off up the mountain.
I had a 28 km long uphill stretch leading up to Emory Pass to look forward to. I trundled along at a good pace, made sure to take some breaks and before long I was at the top. The pass is a bit more than 2,500m high, 500m higher than the tallest mountain in both Sweden and Australia and is going to be the highest point of my crossing of the USA.
I rested a short while, enjoyed a muffin I had bought in Hillsboro and was ready to head down the other side.
About 15 km later I found a nice campsite at the Lower Gallinas campground and set up the tent next to a stream of running water. A quick wash and then into the tent as the rain started. I had no problem falling asleep that night.
My next stop was going to be San Lorenzo, about 18 km down the road, to get some more food. As I was heading into town I met Justin who was hitchhiking, on his way from Silver City. I stopped and talked for a while and it turned out that he had done a fair bit of travelling in central and south America. As one of the routes I really want to travel one day is the Pan American highway, I took the chance to ask him a lot of questions. But my stomach was grumbling and I headed off to the restaurant/store, leaving Justin to continue thumbing a ride.
After lunch/breakfast I slowly started west again. I was not planning to reach Silver City that day and took it easy. I stopped at the Manhattan Bar in Hanover for a beer (ok two) and relaxed among the few locals. It felt good just to sit there and sort of be included in the conversation without having to say much.
I left Hannover and started looking for a camping site. Before I knew it, I was in Central and there was a sign for a KOA Campground 2 miles ahead. I walked into the KOA as the sun was setting behind the mountains and asked for a tent site. The lady told me it was going to be 33 something dollars for the night. No way was I paying that for a simple tent site but they did not have anything much cheaper. She said that it was because of the 11 % tax they have to charge. I didn’t say it but the problem wasn’t the 3 dollars something tax, the problem was the other 30 dollars!
I decided to keep going, it was only 3 miles to Silver City and I would rather pay 50 dollars for a hotel room, at least you get something more tangible for your money. As I returned to the highway the darkness fell completely and then the rain…
I spent another hour walking through a thunderstorm and arrived soaked through at the outskirts of Silver City and found the first cheaper hotel I could find. Another long day and it was wonderful to have my first shower in 5 days and know that I was only going to walk into Silver City tomorrow.
I’m enjoying a coffee latte as I write this and have just added up my milage. Only 75 km to go before I have walked 10,000 km on the-walk. Not a bad total, is it. And yet it is not even halfway…
Guess the only thing to do is to keep walking!
Glendale, Arizona and 10,000 km! (2014-08-27 02:31)
I took my time leaving Silver City. Had a long, relaxing breakfast and slowly packed the clothes I had washed. I knew that I had a few long days ahead where there would not be much in the way of towns. I would have to try to make sure I had enough food and water to be comfortable between the restocking possibilities and hope that the stores marked on my map were actually still in existence and open.
I wanted to get some distance covered and had set my sights on walking to Cliff, or rather just past. It was easy going and nice scenery. Green rolling hills, a reasonably wide shoulder to walk on and not too hot weather. I have been lucky with the weather so far. It has not been anywhere as hot as it can be during a typical southern summer. Although I have had some hot days, I have not had day after day of 40+ degrees. Not complaining, it’s made life a lot easier for me!
I rolled through Cliff as the sun was starting to set and began looking for someplace to camp. Not much luck and it was getting darker and darker. I finally spotted a small road to the left that led over a cattle grid and had open pastures on both sides. Pastures might be a bit of an exaggeration, there was some sturdy brush and a lot of sand. I turned off and 20m down the road I camped behind a small fenced enclosure. It was a cemetery….
The next morning I started early and had my sights set on making it to Buckhorn, where there was supposed to be a store, and have breakfast there. I was there by 9 and walked into “The Last Chance” store to find a group of elderly locals having morning coffee. I ordered a pizza, grabbed some coffee and sat down for a nice rest. The pizza was great and I ended up ordering one more, I was hungry! After spending some time talking to the owner and buying supplies for the coming day, it was time to continue. I had decided to try to make it to the New Mexico – Arizona border before stopping for the day. There was also another important line to cross during the day, I was just about to pass the 10,000 km mark!
In fact, I passed that point just 3 hours later, at the intersection of roads 180 and 78. I haven’t been celebrating the 1,000 km marks the way I did early on during the-walk, but this felt like a big deal. I sat down, enjoyed some drink, fruit and biscuits and reflected on the journey that had brought me here. Here I was, sitting on a lonely corner in New Mexico, in the gravel, with close to 16 months of walking behind me and innumerable experiences. The thing is, I am not even halfway yet! Whatever happens from here, I have come to realise that I am proud and content with what I have done so far and I am still very much looking forward to future adventures. It was hot sitting in the sun and there was no shade, so I sat with my thoughts for a while and then hopped up and started walking towards Arizona!
I spent the afternoon walking through some rainstorms, nice after the heat, and finally arrived at the border just before the sun started setting. I headed into Arizona, the second last state on my USA crossing, and found a nice campsite in the state forest. Nice that is, apart from all the bugs!
The next day, Sunday, I walked over the mountain through some really nice scenery and made my way down to Three Way. Along the way several cars stopped to talk to me and ask what I was doing, loneliness is not a problem! I resupplied at Three Way and walked to the ranger station. They have a nice picnic/camping area set up for bicycle riders and I sat at one of the tables to enjoy some food. Before I knew it, the wind was blowing hard and there appeared to be a big thunderstorm heading towards me. It arrived with a lot of smattering on the roof and I realised that it was not just a rainstorm, it was hailing. Talk about luck! I have essentially been without shelter for the last 3 days and the first time I sit down under a proper roof, it starts hailing.
It was already late in the afternoon and I decided to stay the night at the ranger station even though I had only walked a bit more than 30 km that day. Shelter from the rain, toilets and a water tap to wash under was too many luxuries to pass up….
I spent a comfortable night, sleeping on soft grass, and spent Monday walking from Three Way to Safford. A long day but I spent the night in a hotel, feeling luxurious.
Tuesday I set off towards Fort Thomas, where I was hoping to restock before a long stretch without shops. I spent the last 2 hours walking through a very heavy thunderstorm. At one stage I was taking one step forward and being blown 2 steps back! At least it wasn’t hailing. I finally arrived in Fort Thomas to find the store closed. I hid from the rain under the shops’ awning and tried to figure out what I was going to do for food and water during the next day, not to mention that evening. I had enough water to get by if I was careful and would have to survive on nuts…
When the rain finally stopped, I headed out. I had only walked a few steps when a car stopped and a friendly couple looked out. They had brought me some dinner! Talk about timing. Warm potato soup with cheese, some bread, drink and snacks. Just what I needed. I told them that they had made my day and sat down at the local park to enjoy it!
Heading out of town I found a Family Dollar store at the edge of town that was not marked on my map and I was able to restock.
It was getting dark and I did not walk far before finding a camping spot behind an old ruined building. Spent the night looking up at the stars and listening to the cattle.
The next day I passed through Geronimo and Bylas, Apache country. It was a long hot day of walking and I wandered off the road just before Peridot to try to find a campsite that was a little bit secluded. I ended up amongst the shrubs, 100 m or so of the road. Another night looking up at the stars, they really are something special here in the desert.
Peridot to Globe was an easy day, cloudy and not too hot but the next day was far from perfect. Globe to Superior. The scenery was great, hills and sandstone mountains, up and down, plenty of variation. The problem was the traffic and the lack of a wide shoulder to walk on. I had to swap sides to walk on depending on which side was wider if there was one at all. I hate walking on the right side of the road, not being able to see oncoming traffic is not much fun, especially when they are roaring past, just inches from you.
I made it to Superior unharmed and was able to check into a hotel to get some solid rest in preparation for what I expected would be a long hard day the next day.
The road was a lot better to walk along the next day, but the scenery was nowhere as nice. Not at all bad but not as spectacular. The shoulder was wide and there was plenty of room to walk safely and just enjoy.
I made it to Gold Canyon and stopped at yet another hotel. Not good for the economy…
Sunday was a slow walk into Mesa and the end of another map. I now only have one map left before I reach the Pacific ocean. 3 weeks of walking before I reach an ocean I thought I would see first when I had walked through Asia and parts of Australia.
The next 2 days were hot walking through Phoenix and surrounding towns. Interesting as a change from the more rural walking I have been doing lately. No need to carry a lot of water and food accessible almost all the time but I did not cover as much distance as I would have liked because I have been feeling a bit tired.
Hopefully, I will be a bit rejuvenated tomorrow after a few easier days, time will tell!
Now for the big question… Do compression socks work?
Yes, they do. I have been trying them on and off to get an idea of what they do and don’t do. After a long hard day, I don’t necessarily feel less tired, the big difference is the next day. Less swelling and soreness. A hard day of walking can leave my calves very “pumped” and a bit sore the next day, but with the compression socks there is nearly no pump at all and much less soreness. They do look a bit dorky, but they work. I’ll just have to remember to push them down every time I get my photograph taken!
But they will hopefully help me to keep walking….
Five Thoughts on Long Distance Walking (2014-09-07 18:50)
Welcome to another five thoughts essay. I am starting to think that these are going to be an ongoing feature and will probably have very wide-ranging subjects but at least this one is very much on topic for this blog.
Five Thoughts on Long Distance Walking
I don’t think that I can call myself an expert at long-distance walking, but I am getting there. I may not yet have done my 10,000 hours, but I have walked 10,000 km as I write this (almost 12,000 km if I include the-test walk) and have definitely reached a few conclusions about what works and how it affects you.
I am not even halfway through my walk from Stockholm to Sydney and hope to learn a lot more in the coming year or two, but these are my thoughts as they pertain to long-distance walking, as of now. I’m certain I will change and refine some of them with more experience and feedback but that is as it should be.
This is a start and as with everything in life, it is susceptible to both change and improvement!
Walking is the most natural and instinctive form of locomotion there is. We are all more or less capable of it, in one form or another and it can take us almost anywhere in the world.
If you are like me and you can’t walk on water, there are some natural limitations, but you get the idea.
The one “problem” is that it is far from the quickest form of transportation available. But that is also its greatest feature.
Because of the time it takes to walk, and the way you are exposed to the environment during your walk, it is the method of moving that most fits the axiom “It’s the journey that is important, not the destination”.
In fact, I would claim that the journey is the only important part of a long-distance walk. The destination is only a way to set a limit. The “perfect” walk would be never-ending, without a destination, existing only as an end in and of itself.
A walk through life.
It is fascinating that the Chinese philosophy, or religion, of the “Tao”, can be translated as “the way”.
When you walk you are necessarily exposed to the world around you. If it rains you get wet, and if it’s hot you will most likely sweat. Reality is all around you and becomes a part of your experience.
You are forced to live and experience the present and your surroundings as they are, without the filter of air-conditioned comfort. Even if you choose to leave your current location, you have to interact with it as you slowly move towards your new destination. No jumping on a plane and being transported from the biting cold of a northern Swedish winter to a warm tropical paradise.
You become aware of the environment and how it affects you. You adapt to it and try to become part of it. The environment and weather conditions become part of the moment, the experience and not just something to escape.
It’s the same with relationships, the people you meet along the way. You have time to observe what they are doing, reflect on it and possibly interact. Rather than an ever-changing kaleidoscope, rushing past outside the window, you are there, a part of the moment and have time to absorb and process the feelings and emotions they generate.
If I could change one thing about the-walk, it would be the fact that it has a set destination. I find myself striving to cover distance and move “forward”, towards the destination and not being enough in the moment. My focus becomes too much on arriving, and how to facilitate that, rather than experiencing and living in the now.
Others might not experience the same problem and not have an issue with the limitations that a set destination generate. In fact, for most people trying to do a long-distance walk for the first time, it is probably necessary to set a destination that works within the time constraints and logistics of work and family.
But even if you have to have a set destination and even a set timeframe, try to not let that limit the experience. If your walk takes longer than expected, let it. Don’t force yourself to conform to an arbitrary, preset goal. Let the walk generate its own rhythm and accept that reaching the destination is secondary to the experience as a whole.
If you are going to be walking long distances, for long periods, then shoes become very important.
Let me state straight away that the most important aspect is how your shoes work for you.
We are all going to have different needs and preferences and the only thing that matters is that your equipment suits you and your needs.
I am going to offer a lot of suggestions that work for me, that I have discovered through trial and error. I have arrived at these conclusions after more than 10,000 km of walking in less than 18 months and they work. For me. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different solutions to find your “perfect” set-up, it may differ a lot from mine.
I am very much a proponent of the minimalist shoe approach. There has been a large movement towards barefoot and minimalist shoes in running during the last 5-6 years and I tend to believe in a lot of the arguments for it. I’m not going to go into all the pros and cons here, just google barefoot running and you will find a lot of information, both positive and some more doubting.
One thing that might influence if you can use the minimalist approach is if you decide to either use a cart or carry a pack. Carrying a heavy load might make sturdier shoes a better choice. See the section on whether to carry or cart later in this essay.
The one most important consideration is to get shoes that fit. For me, that has proved rather difficult. I have wide feet with large toes and have a hard time finding shoes with sufficient width. If you have more normal feet you might find it a bit easier!
Most shoe soles have what I consider to be a strange shape. Place your feet, without shoes or socks, on a piece of paper and then trace the outline with a pen. Look at the resultant shape and take it with you when you go shopping for shoes. What you will find is that nearly no shoes are shaped like real feet. They nearly all force your feet into an elongated possibly pointed shape that looks nothing like your natural footprint. Try to find shoes that fit your feet as comfortably as possible and don’t forget that you will need to buy them 1 or even 1,5 sizes too big.
When you start covering long distances on foot, your feet will swell to at least one size larger and you need to take that into consideration. You need to have wiggle room for your toes, even when your feet are swollen.
Another thing to look out for is that your toes don’t hit the front of the toe box. If they do, then when you walk downhill, your toes will continually hit the front of the shoe, generating sore toes, blackened nails and discomfort.
The best all-around solution for me has been sandals or even flip-flops. These may not always be warm enough or offer protection in rough areas but can easily be complemented with a pair of gore-tex trail running shoes for the really rough stuff.
There is nothing like long, hot days of walking to discover any problems you might have with your shoes, or even worse, a long wet day.
Eventual blisters on your heel are easy to alleviate with tape or one of the special blister bandages that are available. If you know you are susceptible to blisters, it could be a good idea to tape your heel before you get any.
Another area I have problems with is between my toes. There are a few remedies to this. You can lubricate the area between your toes, tape them or use toe-socks. These are the socks that have separate compartments for each toe, like gloves. Toe-socks are my favourite because using any form of lube gets messy. It might work if you go out for a long run and then get to go home for a shower, but if you are on a long-distance walk and will be camping, then it’s a lot less messy to use toe-socks. Sure, they might stink a bit the next day, but at least they aren’t covered in the lube that attracts dirt and sticks to your sleeping bag!
You might think that you already know what will work for you, but unless you have tried to walk in a pair of shoes for 10 hours a day, several days in a row, you can’t be sure.
Keep testing and don’t be afraid to try some new solutions if your current setup doesn’t work.
There is really nothing all that special about clothes for long-distance walking. All the general tips for hiking are applicable.
Use a layered approach, with a base layer, a middle layer and an outer shell. How much clothing you will need will depend on the climate you will be walking through and remember to take any possible weather fluctuations into account when you plan.
The one most important consideration is to avoid cotton, especially in the base layer! Cotton soaks up moisture and takes forever to dry. My favourite base layer, which includes underpants and socks, is wool. Cool in the summer, warm in the winter and wicks moisture away from your skin. Not only that, it does not start smelling bad as fast as cotton. I can usually only wear a cotton t-shirt for one day before becoming uncomfortably aware that it, and therefore I, stink. A lightweight wool t-shirt can last 3-4 days, easy, without becoming repugnant.
There are some synthetic materials that are starting to get close to the performance of wool, but they are not quite there yet, and wool remains my favourite for the base layer.
The middle layer is easier, there are a lot of synthetic fleece materials that work well, but again, avoid cotton.
The outer shell should be waterproof and breathable. How serious you need to get here depends a lot on where you are walking. If you are crossing the Himalayas, you are going to need much more advanced clothing than if you are taking a summer stroll through Florida.
Because I am walking halfway across the world, I have to pack clothes that are suitable for a range of different climates and that can be worn both in cities and in the outback. I believe in buying good quality stuff that not only works, but looks good, and I have chosen to use Houdini Sportswear. To be totally transparent, I did receive a discount when I purchased my gear, but only after I had already decided that was going to use Houdini clothes and approached them for some help in keeping the costs of the-walk down.
Both wool and synthetic clothes are easier to wash and especially dry than cotton. I can usually wash my base layer in the evening and then use it again the next day. Try doing that with cotton!
If you are walking in sunny areas, remember to be careful with the sun. Long-sleeved t-shirts or shirts in a light material will help keep the sun off your skin and some sort of sunhat is absolutely necessary. Cover up and use sunscreen! Don’t forget to check that your shirt actually offers protection from UV rays, not all do.
Don’t forget things like sunglasses, warm caps, buffs and gloves on your packing list.
Above all, keep it simple and minimalist. While walking you can get by with very few clothes, just be prepared to be a bit “sweaty” and wash your walking gear whenever you get the chance. You will become very good at washing in hand basins or even running streams!
I try to keep a lightweight pair of pants and a shirt in reserve and clean for use when I reach a town, but that might be unnecessary if you don’t plan to socialise a lot during your walk.
Pack the absolute minimum to keep both weight and size down and enjoyment as high as possible.
Pack or Cart
The simplest way to carry your gear, and the way most people envisage doing a long walk, is with a backpack. Sometimes this is the only option, especially if walking a rough hiking trail.
But there is another option to consider if you are walking along roads or bicycle paths. A cart.
Both have advantages and disadvantages but unless you really are covering terrain that is too rough for a cart, that is what I would recommend. A cart can be any sort of bicycle trailer or baby jogger, just make sure it rolls easily and is large enough to hold your gear. With a cart, you will not be as limited in what and how much you can carry, but that does not mean you should load it up with everything, including the kitchen sink. Instead, see it as a means of carrying your necessities in the easiest possible way. The big advantage with a cart is that it is possible to walk unsupported across long stretches of arid country, where water is not easily available and you need to carry water for many days without being able to resupply. You need to drink a lot of water, especially in a warm, dry climate, and this adds up to a lot of weight. A lot more than you could comfortably carry on your back. When I crossed Texas at the height of summer, I routinely had 20 litres of water with me. Enough for 3 days. That adds up to 20 kilos of extra weight, on top of the rest of your equipment and food.
There are other advantages to using a cart. I find it easier to organise my stuff so that I can get at it quickly and, perhaps the biggest advantage, you will be able to cover much longer distances each day.
All that said, sometimes it is just not feasible to use a cart and you will have to resort to using the time tested backpack. If this proves to be the case, make sure you get a backpack that fits you properly and learn to be the best minimalist packer ever. At the end of a long day walking, you will feel any extra weight in the pack as a huge load. There are plenty of resources on the net with information on how to minimise the weight of your pack, any good hiker knows how disheartening a heavy pack can be.
While I have been walking across the USA, I have been reading the accounts, both books and blogs, of people who have done the same thing themselves. Many of them start out using a backpack but, especially when they reach the long, dry stretches of the west, end up changing to using some sort of cart. It is the only way to carry a sufficient amount of water if you are unsupported.
Whatever method you decide on using, try to minimise your equipment list as much as possible. There is nothing as disheartening as carrying “stuff” that you never use, especially when the road starts heading up and up and up!
Pack to suit the climate and never forget that it is often easier, and sometimes cheaper, to acquire equipment as and when you need it, rather than carrying it with you all along.
Loneliness and Meditation
Long-distance walking takes time. That is a simple fact and it has a few consequences. You will be walking for many hours each day and you will be walking for many days. If you are walking by yourself, you will be spending a lot of time in your own company with only your own thoughts to relieve the boredom.
One of the beauties of being out and exposed to your surrounding for such an extended period of time is that you can’t avoid paying attention to it. You soon discover that every landscape has interesting features. That was very convincingly brought home to me recently, when I travelled along a section of road that I had recently walked, in a car. In the car, the scenery blurred into a grey, green mass without any points of interest and was just plain boring. By contrast, when walking, I had time to see all the different variations, experience all the very separate parts that went into making the whole, and found myself seeing new things all the time.
But even if you are attuned to your surroundings, you are going to have a lot of time to think. Think about what you have done and experienced in your life and what you want to do in the future. For me, this has become a form of meditation that is invaluable. It is not transcendental meditation, but a more freeform type, where your thoughts wander and you have time to examine your experiences and motivations in depth. The background beat of your steps reinforces the timelessness of your thoughts as they swirl through your mind and new concepts and ideas arise to both compete with and complement already existing ones.
Many creative people, from all scientific and artistic fields, have praised walking as a way to maximise creativity and help sort through seemingly insurmountable problems. Human beings evolved to be active, to walk or even run every day and it is not surprising that walking is beneficial not only to physical health but mental as well. It has been proven again and again that physical activity positively benefits cognitive reasoning.
I have often been asked if I don’t get lonely when I’m walking. That has never been a problem for me because I seem to meet new and interesting people all the time. Every time I stop at a shop or pass through a small village, there always seems to be somebody that wants to talk to me. I meet more people most days than I did when living in Stockholm. But there are naturally days that go by without much human contact and I have come to enjoy them as yet another opportunity to experience my surroundings, try to live in the moment and meditate.
Hope this helps any of you out there that are contemplating a long walk of your own.
As I have already stated, this is very much a first draft and as I continue walking I expect to learn more and welcome any feedback that you might have.
Please spread this essay to anyone you think might be interested and above all, keep walking!
San Diego, California. Halfway! (2014-09-16 02:32)
I am now in San Diego, California and have finished my walk across the USA.
A bit more than five and a half months have passed since I started in Miami and I have walked 5,211 km. Not bad and faster than I had planned and anticipated when I started.
One reason is that I did not visit all the places that I thought I would along the way and took a more direct route, deciding instead that I will return at another time to enable me to spend more time in certain places. Boulder, Colorado for example. I will definitely be trying to return and explore more of the USA, maybe not exclusively on foot though.
The last few weeks have been hot, maybe the hottest part of my crossing. I had several days with temperatures above 40 degrees and it seldom fell below 38. It was first when I reached the mountains above San Diego that it started to get milder. But it is hot even here in San Diego, as I sit and write this the temperature is above 40, there is a heat advisory warning and some schools, the ones that do not have air-conditioning, are closed for the day.
But the walking has gone well since the last time I posted, I guess I have started to acclimatise and have learned to drink plenty of water. One sad note though, I finally wore out my Merrell sandals. They have been with me since the start of the USA crossing and have come to be my favourite and most comfortable shoes. But just 3 days before I reached San Diego, I wore through the sole. They were starting to wear out all over the place and I had to accept the fact that they were bound for the trash can…
My Teva sandals are looking rather worse for wear as well, despite the fact that they are much newer than the Merrells and I have used them much less. Same with my Altra minimalist shoes, they are more or less worn out as well, despite costing four times as much and being used much less. Even though I like them a lot, with the amount of walking I am doing, they just work out to be too expensive.
I have been doing a fair bit of camping in the desert by the side of the road.
It’s easy to stealth camp, you just turn off the road, walk a short distance into the desert and set up camp behind a suitable bush or dune.
The biggest problem has been the heat, the tent gets very hot and it does not cool down until past midnight. Sleeping outside the tent does not feel like an option as there are rattlesnakes, scorpions and tarantulas in the desert. Rather a bit hot than getting bitten by one of them!
Friday was the last day of serious walking and I walked from Santee, down through Mission gorge and finally onto the bike path that was going to lead me to Ocean Beach and the Pacific Ocean. Heading down the path, I was met by Liz who has been following my journey and wanted to say hello. We walked the last mile or so down to the beach and there I was. I had officially walked across the USA! Add that to my walk through Europe and I think I can say that I have done more than just a little bit of walking in the last 16 months. I am calling San Diego the halfway point of the-walk. I am not sure how exact that is but I think it will be close enough. I am now halfway between Stockholm and Sydney!
Once I start walking in Asia, I will, for the first time, have less distance remaining to walk than I have already covered. Feels good!
After sitting down and reflecting on this for a short while, I cooled down with a refreshing dip in the Pacific Ocean. It was almost worth the walk!
I am staying with Alena and Frederick and their kids here in San Diego and they came down to pick me up at the beach and took me to a San Diego institution.
Hodads. Yet another place that would like to claim the title for the worlds best burgers and, ok, they were probably the best I have had in the USA, but not Kiama class.
Great place though, with a real beach atmosphere. We were lucky to get there before the crowd, apparently, the line outside can stretch across the block at times.
On Saturday we went to the test opening of a Native Foods restaurant and enjoyed fresh, healthy vegan food and, after a short rest, we went to a birthday party.
Sunday was very much the same with a party at a neighbour and then some sightseeing around San Diego. People have been telling me that San Diego is a wonderful town for a long time and I could not agree more. It has a wonderful feel to it and is very beautiful.
But I am sitting here at my computer trying to decide how and when I will be leaving. Chasing the best price on tickets to Bangkok and trying to decide how minimalistic I dare to be in Asia. I am playing with the idea of letting the Mule have a break and carrying a backpack through Asia but am very undecided as yet. Somehow I think I would like the challenge of having even less “stuff” with me and if I am going to do that, then Asia is the place. There is no way I am going to walk through the Australian outback without my trusty Mule!
I will have to make up my mind in the next day or two, but whatever happens, don’t worry. I will keep walking!