C&O Canal … mic drop!

We did it!  We finished the C&O Canal Towpath.  All 184.5 miles.  It was a great walk, with every flavor of weather imaginable.  As you can see, we were pretty happy with this particular milestone. IMG_2091 The night before, we had prepared with dinner at a Cumberland Chinese restaurant, where David enjoyed the Moo Goo Guy Down, and I had the Chicken To Mein.  Cumberland was probably once a thriving metropolis, but it’s clearly seen better days.  The most evident commercial activity was the drug-dealing along the Canal and near the visitor’s center (“Hey kids, look, it’s an honest-to-goodness drug exchange.  Not all of our guests get to see that!”).  Alanna and Peg had discovered – I kid you not – a Bosnian restaurant, where we went to celebrate our milestone.  In a moment of defiant victory, I decided my lunch would be baklava and cannoli – Dammit, I earned it!DSCN1278

No rest for the dedicated, we started out on the Great Allegheny Passage (or, as we hiking snobs call it, “the GAP”).  So here’s where a little math comes in.  Over the previous 24 days we had hiked about 350 miles, and our total elevation gain was about 700′.  To put that in perspective, that’s the same slope you would get if you put a perfectly flat 10′ beam on a perfectly flat surface, and put a dime under one end.  Pretty easy hiking.  Well, our first day on the GAP we hiked 16 miles from Cumberland to Frostburg, and gained 1200′.  DSCN1280That would be like taking that same beam and putting 34 more dimes under one end!  We did it fine, even arriving in Frostburg half an hour earlier than planned.  I guess we owe our sag-wagon drivers big time, as they were in the middle of enjoying a visit to a bookstore when they got our pickup call.  We heard about that one!  Onward we go.

4.08115 feet per second

That’s our average velocity over the last 3 weeks. Just about 4.1 feet per second. I like that number. It’s small, understandable, and respectable. It’s also memorable, in the literal sense; I won’t have trouble remembering that number. Not much happens at 4.1 fps, but then, when something does happen you tend to notice it. The red-tailed hawk who soars above you, then glides effortlessly over the ridge. The great blue heron, whose profile my then 8 year-old son once described as looking like a goose flying backwards, launches from the pond and moves to safety on the far shore. A stray cat, looking all the world like someone’s pet, stares with eyelids half-shut, from across the canal, but refuses to share its secret about where home might be.DSCN1254 The flock of turkeys explodes from the river shore and roosts in the pines far from us. The gnarled tree trunk where beavers have worked for weeks.  DSCN1260All of this is captured at 4.1 fps. You won’t see most of this at 88 fps (that is, 60 mph). And you certainly won’t hear it. You won’t hear the peepers in the pond, or the squirrels in the brush, or the pleasing “plunk” as a turtle slips off a log. DSCN1230You won’t catch the heckling cry of a woodpecker, or the sad cooing of a mourning dove. At highway speeds you won’t smell the energizing aroma of a small patch of mint along the trail, nor the wet, earthy scent of a beaver pond after a rain.

Having driven across the United States 14 times, I knew each time that I wasn’t getting the full story. I was too busy, and driven by schedules and deadlines to let my senses fill with the smells, sounds and sights of the world I was traversing. This is what I love about this walk. It’s not just the unique memories of people and places, but it’s the steady delivery of news provided by nature itself. Is it wrong to be out of touch with the goings on of society, but absorbed in your natural ambit? I think not…DSCN1274

We’re now almost finished with the C&O Canal towpath.  Under any other circumstances, this, alone, would make me feel like I’ve accomplished a great deal.  But these 185 miles are just Leg 4, with 47 more Legs to go.  The walk along the canal has been terrific.  In addition to the remarkable scenery, we were able to meet up with several old friends and colleagues.  We got to see Jen and Ray, our old neighbors, who’d driven up from Richmond.  In fact Alanna and Jen spent so much time in Berkeley Springs (“taking the waters” at the mineral spa), that I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d each gotten keys to the city.  Ray and Jen also treated us all (Alanna, me, David and Peg) to breakfast at the iconic Potomac Grill in Hancock.  The best part of that experience came when I asked the waitress (straight out of central casting in Hollywood) for the bill.  She told me that Ray had picked it up already, and as Alanna and I were thanking Jen and Ray for their generosity, the waitress chimed in, “Ah, it really wasn’t that much.”

I also enjoyed a delightful dinner with my former colleagues, Lindsey and Marian (as well as Marian’s husband, Dave, and son, Jack) in Berkeley Springs.  And as we said goodbye, I realized this was probably the last of the visits with friends, family, and colleagues for a long, long time.  We really were about to enter the wilderness!  Stay tuned.

C&O Ice Capades

Have you ever walked over a field of lard-covered billiard balls?  Me neither, until this past week.  The “BIGGEST SNOWSTORM OF THE YEAR” (yes, it’s only early March!) hit the DC area, and left a coating of snow, ice, rime, hoar, and every other form of frozen water for which the Eskimos have a word, over the whole Eastern Seaboard.  David and I decided a rest day was in order, so we waited about 40 hours before starting our trek through DC.  This time, we were joined by my former NOAA colleague, Dr. Marian Westley.

Marian and me at NOAA in Silver Spring

Marian had been a marathoner some 10 years ago, and was a superb “joiner”.  With little training beforehand, she managed to keep up with us.  She also helped arrange a very touching reunion with some former NOAA colleagues at the agency’s offices in Silver Spring.

Left to right: Barry Reichenbaugh, Sandy Honda, me, Rene Eppi, Rochelle Plutchak, Terry Schaefer, Gary Matlock, and Marian Westley

I did notice that the next day, Marian wrote a Facebook post about how bad children’s ibuprofen tastes.  Apparently, at 3AM, she started paying the painful price for trying to keep up with two old geezers, and the only pain relievers in the house belonged to her 8 year-old son, Jack.

The other remarkable development from our walk through Northern DC was an interview I did with a a reporter for the American Geophysical Union, Randy Showstack.  I’d known Randy for a few years, and several weeks earlier he had asked to interview me about the NOAA budget.  I told him I’d be walking for 7 months, but I was sure we could find a time for a phone interview.  I didn’t hear any more until just a few days before we walked into DC.  Randy asked again for an interview and I told him we could do a phone call late some afternoon.  Then I jokingly added, “Or, you could join me for the walk and do the interview while we hike.”  I was stunned when he asked where we would be on that Wednesday morning, and even more stunned when he jumped in a cab, rode down 16th Street in DC until he found us, just past Massachusetts Avenue.  We walked and talked for a bit and finished the interview in a little coffee shop.  While I don’t think the interview was particularly newsworthy, it was certainly one of the more memorable press engagements I’ve ever had.  I’m dying to see what comes out of the interview, since we covered only about 137 different topics.

The interview went so late that I didn’t even go back to Nomi’s house to join Alanna, but instead, met her at the Metro, and we drove over to Arlington for a great paella dinner with our friends Tim and Karen.  Having spent over 25 years working in DC, it’s hard to sneak back into town, without having lots of terrific friends invite you over.  I really had no intention of inviting ourselves to Tim and Karen’s for dinner, but golly, gee, when they asked, how could we refuse.  We had a great meal, and learned that Karen (a retired Naval Officer and Navy Diver) has been asked to interview for a Navy Federal Credit Union commercial.  We’ll be watching.

The plan for the following day was simple: David and I would meet at the same Farragut West Metro station, and start walking from there.  Simple, of course, until the bumble-fracking, mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging morons who run the DC Metro screwed up again.  When I showed up at the Friendship Heights station, I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw over 500 commuters standing on the platform, while an empty train refused to open its doors, and left the station as an announcement was made that a broken train in the system was causing yet another delay.  The DC Metro system is, without a doubt, the most inefficient, unreliable, poorly managed, over-priced subway in the world.  The management team should be lined up, forced to eat bugs, and then have to ride the system while crammed elbow to butthole, for three hours.  Then, when we’ve got their attention, they should be forced to try to translate some dictatorial directive that’s delivered by an illiterate and underpaid worker, who’s speaking through a soggy pillow.  ‘Nuff said.  I and my 2500 new-found and intimately connected new friends arrived at Farragut Square late and fed up.  But as soon as I walked into the Square my spirits were lifted.   There, chatting with David, was my friend DaNa Carlis, a meteorologist from NOAA who worked with me for several months last year.  Apparently, Marian had provided the intel to DaNa on when and where David and I had planned on meeting.

DaNa immediately became a “joiner”, and he walked with us past the White House and downto the corner of 15th and Constitution, where the Commerce Building and NOAA HQ are.  We were received by a small, but boisterous crowd of energetic civil servants, who, I am sure, had much better things to do than just cheer us on.

DaNa and me. I’m the short one.


Lindsey Kraatz was the chief instigator, and she made sure all the signs were spelled right, and the whistles were fully deployed.  It was a very touching welcome back to NOAA.  I felt honored and flattered by the friendship and warmth that was conveyed.  We needed a picture, so we asked a family of tourists from Texas (Mom, Dad, and Daughter) if they’d take some photos of us.  Noticing that they were confused as to why two old guys in reflecting yellow work vests were being greeted by a gaggle of conservatively dressed DC bureaucrats, David volunteered to the Mom (as Daughter was taking the pictures) that he and I were actually escaped convicts who used to work for the Federal Government.  At which point Dad grabbed Daughter and they ran across Constitution Avenue, never looking back.

We said our goodbyes, turned to the West and started out for the iconic Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal towpath, which starts in Georgetown and continues unbroken as one of America’s prettiest parks for almost 185 miles up to Cumberland, MD.

Milepost 0 on the C&O Canal Towpath, in Georgetown


But, alas, there would be no smooth going for us.  The snow and ice that had fallen two days before had morphed into a godforsaken lunar landscape of gnarly ice clots and snow mounds.

Looking like the last survivors of Scott’s South Pole Expedition, David and I tried our best to navigate over this unearthly terrain, without breaking our ankles or shattering our knees.  That’s when it really felt like we were walking over lard-covered billiard balls.  We only made about 11 miles that day, and as soon as we quit, I drove over to REI (where my paycheck had been direct-deposited for the last two years) and purchased a pair of YakTraks.  Now, if you’ve never used these most wonderful of man’s creations, let me tell you that they are heaven-sent.  They’re like tire chains for your feet.  You strap them onto your shoes and now the ice-covered trail is no more difficult to traverse than a gravel road.  And sure enough, the next day (still very cold) we virtually tripped the light fantastic down the C&O Canal, at our normal pace of about 15 miles per day.  God bless YakTraks!

Our next stop was with a good friend of David’s named Mary Lou.  Mary Lou retired after over forty years working at a private girls’ boarding school in Northern Virginia, the last several years as the Head of School.  She is a wonderful host, fascinating story-teller, and a nonpareil conversationalist.  We stayed in Mary Lou’s beautiful home in Purcellville, VA, for three days, while we walked the C&O Canal from Carderock to Brunswick (about 45 miles).

We also were treated to several more joiners over the next several days.  First, we met up with Bryan and Jennifer, two new friends who will retire to Bend, OR next year.

Me, Jennifer, Bryan, and David

She’s a lawyer, he’s a chemist, and both are great hiking partners.  We talked and hiked and the mileposts flew by.  Before we knew it, we’d hiked 5.5 miles, and Jennifer and Bryan, realizing they needed to go back to get their car, decided that 11 miles was plenty for the day.  I look forward to reconnecting with them when they move to Bend.  We ended that day near Dickerson, where there’s a huge coal-fired power plant, fed several times a day by long coal trains coming down the tracks from the west.  You can’t really get a sense of how important coal is to the American energy economy, until you see a train with 100 cars hauling nothing but coal, to fire up just one medium-sized power plant that powers only one relatively small area of the country.  I firmly believe that every member of Congress and student in America should spend one hour just watching that train rattle down the tracks, to get some sense of how much coal is being used in this country.  Our next joiners were Phil and Carroll and their wives Bryn and Ginnie.
Recall Phil and Carroll had joined us back around Annapolis.  They also brought Luca, the German Shepherd, so my daily need for a doggy fix was accommodated.

Phil, Bryn, me, Ginnie, Carroll, and Luca

The 7 of us walked about 3 miles together, then they all decided it was time to head over to the local brewpubs, so we said our goodbyes.

We also met David’s daughter, Nicky, and her kids, Sam, Ella and Emma (and pup, Lola) at Point of Rocks, for a quick lunch break.

David, with (from left) Emma, Sam, Nicole, Ella, and Lola the dog

In subsequent days the sun came out and David and I made great progress.  When we passed Harper’s Ferry, I was delighted to see that Alanna had rounded up our old friends, Steve and Betsy.  Steve and I worked together at the Office of Naval Research 30 years ago.  Now they are both retired, and are raising hell in the Harper’s Ferry city council, where Betsy is an elected member.  I think they officially qualified as joiners, but Steve clearly defined the lower limits of what is required to meet the minimum distance to be called a joiner; he walked about 100 yards with us.  Betsy at least had the decency to dress for the role, bringing a pair of walking sticks.  We agreed to meet for dinner that night, and had a great time at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, where we are now firmly ensconced in the first hotel of our walk.  It’s pretty amazing that we’ve gone for over two weeks, already, and have stayed with friends and family every night until now.  Our hotel is perfectly adequate.  It’s got the minimum required elements: clean bed, bathtub, free wifi, and free breakfast.  It even comes with a standard-issue grouchy old lady at the front desk.  What could be better?

So, we’re about 225 miles into the walk, and we’re doing okay.  We’ve still got almost 3000 miles to go, but I’m beginning to think this might work!  We’ll see …

Here are a few random shots from the last week.

We have offended the Gods of Weather

Warm and cozy in my sister Naomi’s comfortable home in Chevy Chase, Maryland, I’m sitting out a snow/sleet/rain storm that has put most of the east coast under a white blanket.  My walking buddy, David, is a card-carrying meteorologist, so we used his weather-guessing expertise as our key to deciding yesterday that today would be a good day to rest.  Good decision.  And the last 4 or 5 days have been a veritable smorgasbord of weather.  I don’t know what we did to annoy the Weather Gods, but they’ve clearly chosen to open their full bag of goodies and throw everything at us.

After walking through some gorgeous weather in Denton and Ridgely, Maryland (on the Eastern Shore),
DSCN1169we started on what I thought would be one of the prettier parts of the walk … Kent Island, just east of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  NOT!  Biblical rain, freezing temperatures and horizontal sleet (the kind that blows up into your raincoat!)  were our special treat.  DSCN1173But wait, trek-fans, there’s more!!  As we walked up to the Kent Narrows Bridge – our only way over a rather large inlet of the Chesapeake Bay – we ran into a set of increasingly dire warnings about the bridge being closed.  Sure enough, a long-term construction project had shut down our route.  We took refuge in a Best Western hotel, and unintentionally provided great entertainment to the otherwise exceedingly bored desk help.  I suspect that a pair of drenched, freezing old geezers, walking in from the storm, was the last thing they expected to see.  And our next step was to call our lifeline – that is to say, Alanna – and ask her to come pick us up and drive us over the water, using the main highway.  Of course she did (I’ve lost count of how many brownie points she’s earned by now).DSCN1177

Once again on our way, but now on the relatively pleasant Kent Island Trail, we did have an unexpected surprise.  After we’d walked about a mile, with no other living souls to be seen on the trail (we were, after all, still being assaulted by the wrath of the Weather Gods), we turned a corner, and saw a fellow with a big dog walking toward us.  As we approached, he looked at me and said, “Are you Rick?”  It was Carroll Hood, who’d been following my blog and tracking me on the web site.  DSCN1174Carroll, and his buddy, Luca, had wanted to walk a mile or so with us, and timed their walk that morning to meet us.  So we walked together and really had a very nice conversation, which ended much too soon, when we arrived at the parking area where Carroll and Luca had started their search for us two crazy walkers.  What motivates someone to do that?  To take time off work, venture out into the cold and wet, just to share a trail for an hour or so?  I was so very touched by Carroll’s joining us, and learned a few days later, that he was not alone in that desire.  Thanks, Carroll!

We spent the next two nights at David and Peg Smith’s house in Arnold, MD.  David’s a great walking partner, and his home was so nice to return to each day.  Peg invited her mom, Lynn, to dinner the first night, and their neighbors, Sandy and Brant, the next.  We all enjoyed great meals and a lot of good discussion.

On the morning of the second day, Saturday, March 11, David and I arose early and put in 10 miles by 10:30AM.  We walked past the US Naval Academy, where David had been Chair of the Department of Oceanography. DSCN1180 I asked why the full brigade wasn’t out cheering us as we walked by, and David clarified that the midshipmen were on spring break, leading me to believe that David had timed this whole thing just to avoid the embarrassment of his newfound notoriety.  We ended our day early, because this was the day of Mom’s inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, and Alanna and I needed to drive into Northern Virginia from Annapolis.

The ceremony for Mom was short and quiet.  My brother, Alan, had flown in from Oregon.  My sister, Naomi, and her son, Luke were there, so there just five of us. We said a few words of remembrance, shared some reminiscences, and headed back to Nomi’s place.  IMG_2830A great dinner of mussels and fries, at one of our favorite restaurants in DuPont Circle, and that was really all the time we got to spend together.  Alan got up at zero dark early on Sunday morning and flew home.  I met David back in Annapolis, where we’d finished the day before, and we began the walk once again.

This time, we had another ‘joiner’ (I can’t think of a term that’s more respectful, but in recognition of the fact that we’ll probably have more of these folks, I’ll give more consideration to what to call the people who voluntarily meet up and walk with us for small portions of the trek).  Phil Ardanuy – a colleague who’s worked at the intersection of meteorology, engineering and remote sensing for years – met us at our starting point and asked to walk for a few miles.  IMG_0149Once again, we had a nice time chatting and walking, and after about 2 or 3 miles, Phil said he’d try to join us later in the walk, and he went back to his car.  And, once again, I was struck by the fact that he’d taken time from his Sunday morning, driven all the way from Silver Spring and wanted to be part of our adventure.

We had decided that we’d try to get to Bowie, MD that day, and the weather gods were smiling on us.  But I guess it was the Bridge Gods whom we’d offended, once again.  Just 3 miles from our stopping point, as we approached the Patuxent River, we hit the daunting roadblock announcing that the Governor Bridge was closed. DSCN1184 From the looks of the sign, it had been erected by a former Soviet bloc construction company.  These guys weren’t joking.  David and I weighed the odds, concluded that the flooding last spring had been the culprit, and that, while multi-ton vehicles were certainly not safe to use the bridge, a couple of feather-weight hikers like ourselves should have no problem.  So, we decided to sally forth.  We got to the bridge, crossed it one at a time, and made it without so much as a single creak (of the bridge, or our bones).  It’s great to beat the man!DSCN1185


Once in Prince Georges County, we continued our hike all the way to the outskirts of DC.  Quite honestly, I was stunned at the beauty of the scenery and especially many of the homes that we passed, in this county which most residents of the DC area consider to be a high-crime and dangerous region.  The walk from Bowie to Greenbelt was quite scenic and enjoyable.  In fact, the only annoying part of the walk was through the USDA research facility in Greenbelt.  This expansive center is mostly open fields, with occasional large labs and offices.  Powder Mill Road runs right through the complex, and over its three-mile run, some genius has decided to put roughly 40 or 50 sections of rumble strips on the road.  These things are annoying enough when you’re driving over them, but just try walking along the margin of the road as all those cars are “rumbling” by.  For an hour we heard this steady stream of what could only be described as a continuing chorus of basso profundo fart noises.

When we ended the day in Greenbelt, the forecasts for “the worst storm of the year” (come on, guys, it’s only March) were already blaring from the rooftops.  Assuming the forecasts were accurate, David and I decided to stand by for a day and let the craziness of a snowstorm in DC pass, before we set out once again.  So today, I’ll enjoy another comfortable day in Nomi’s home, and make every effort to appease the Weather Gods (you think they like bagels?).

Just a pair of jackasses

Long distance walking is a spectator sport

Day four, 62 miles into the walk. We’ve passed through the width of Delaware, and enjoyed the fresh fragrance of the state’s finest chicken farms for the better part of one day. There’s nothing quite like the delicate aroma of 50,000 mothercluckers wafting over you for hours on end. But what made up for the smell was the friendship of the locals. Twice within the first hour of Tuesday’s walk, farmers from the area stopped on the road just to chat and ask how we were doing. They were well aware that the road we were on was part of the American Discovery Trail, and they were curious about how far we were going. One of them did seem a bit eager to invite us to stay at his place. Images of the Bates Motel notwithstanding, we thanked him and went on our way. At about 2 in the afternoon, my GPS showed that we were crossing the border from Delaware into Maryland. But the only way we could tell that we’d passed from one state to the next was by the fact that the road changed from pavement to dirt. Maryland taxpayers apparently have better uses for their money than to pave these back roads. But that certainly didn’t slow us down at all.

Later in the afternoon, on Tuesday, March 7 we arrived at the country farm of Tom and Sharon, not far from the small town of Denton, Maryland. Tom and Sharon are two friends I’ve known since my days at the Office of Naval Research, nearly 30 years ago. Sharon had to stay back in Arlington because of work, but Tom couldn’t have been a more perfect host. His home is right on the banks of the Tuckahoe Creek, feeding into the Choptank River. When we arrived, he had cold beers at hand, crab soup in the crockpot, pork loins and turkey breasts on the smoker, and new bottles of Knob Creek and Jameson’s ready to open. We ate like kings, and drank like fish … it was wonderful. Tom and I had a great conversation after Alanna and David hit the sack. The last time Tom and I had a long talk was probably when he stayed in our cabin back in Oregon about five years ago. I’d forgotten what a unique and fascinating person Tom is. He’s lived in Southeast Asia and Italy, been in the Peace Corps, raises bees, is a licensed pilot, and he ran the US Navy’s research program in Arctic Sciences (that’s where we first met). His farm in Maryland is a second home where he gets to raise blueberries and garlic to sell at the farmers’ market in Alexandria, Virginia. His easygoing manner and deep knowledge of so many subjects make him a wonderful conversationalist. After we finished the better part of the bottle of bourbon, having addressed most of the world’s problems (and solved at least half of them), we, too, hit the sack, and I declared Tuesday a victory.

Wednesday, we woke up to the smell of sausages and a huge pan of eggs florentine.  Seriously!  Tom’s spoiling us, and nobody’s complaining one bit!  David and I did another 14 miles and passed through several small towns.
 All in all a pretty good couple of days!  Tomorrow we will get to within about 10 miles of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  Your sense of distance is completely out of whack when you walk like this.  You don’t think that you’re getting very far, but then you realize you’ve covered a long ways over 4 or 5 days.  In my case, however, the perception that my brain develops is in complete disagreement with that of the rest of my body.  The brain’s saying, “Wow, I didn’t think we’ve covered that much ground.”  The feet respond with, “Of course not, you haven’t done any of the work.”  And the knees and ankles just plead pathetically for sympathy and ice packs.

Well, gotta get some rest.  
I certainly don’t want to miss out on tomorrows breakfast!

An inn in Lewis
Personalized directions to Tom and Sharon’s place
Chickens off to market
The Maryland/Delaware state line
Good to know …


We started.  David and I walked 15.25 miles today, from Cape Henlopen State Park to Milton, DE.  That’s just about one half of one percent of the full 3164 mile walk.  And it was everything we wanted it to be: forgettable.  No detours, no crazy drivers, nothing unexpected.  I’m sure the whole rest of the walk will be exactly like that.

We were met by three die-hard friends at our starting point.  Who else but dear buddies would show up at 8:30 on a Sunday morning, when it’s 23 degrees outside and blowing 1000 mph?  Craig and Jo Ann McLean, as well as Rita Salisbury showed up to send us off.  Craig, in truest form – as either a good Scotsman, or a crazy Jerseyite – even provided finely distilled liquid courage for the toasts.

Then the moment of truth came.  We marched to the sea, dipped our heels in the icy Atlantic and headed West.

With blessings from Peg and Alanna we wiped the silly smirks off our faces and made like Lewis and Clark.

Tomorrow we’ll get back on the road, keep putting one foot in front of the other, and add another 0.48% to the tally.  Stay tuned!

The eve of distraction

Years of training.  3500 miles of walking.  Thousands of hours of planning, poring over routes, images and notes.  Direct-depositing my paycheck to REI for two years.  And now here we are.  The Long Walk Home was intended, from the beginning, to be a strategic pause … a time to reflect, regroup, re-align, and just generally be distracted from what I would call a now-irrelevant lifestyle.

My buddy, David, and I will dip our heels into the Atlantic Ocean tomorrow morning at Cape Henlopen State Park.  Then we’ll face west, put one foot in front of the other and make the first of roughly six million steps.  Somewhat auspiciously, the weather forecast calls for temperatures in the low 20s.  I’m sure that in a few months, when I’m fighting satanic heat in the Great Plains I will recollect fondly the cold we’ll face tomorrow in Delaware. But right now, after historic snows back in Oregon and several stints of failed heating systems in our brand new home in Bend, 21 degrees is just a little cooler than what I’d hoped for.  Oh well, this is just the first of what I’m sure will be many meteorological surprises.

So, the countdown begins.  And just for giggles and kicks, here it is, in a unique format:

10 – the number of times in the last week I’ve asked myself why I’m doing this…

9 – friends who’ve guaranteed they will join the walk somewhere along the line (we’ll see how that changes!)…

8 – yarn stores per day that Alanna expects to visit …

7 – months I’ve ‘budgeted’ for the walk … could be more, could be less, doesn’t really matter …

6 – pounds of Aleve I’ve packed …

5 – pairs of shoes I plan on wearing out (and, oh by the way, Keen’s, I’m still waiting for that endorsement contract!) … 

4 – time zones I’ll pass through … that’s why I’m walking east to west: I’ll save three hours that way! …

3 – years of training,  or, more correctly, walking in circles and spirals throughout the DC area …

2 – good friends, David and Peg, who’ve been so generous, and will be great traveling partners …

1 – absolute saint of a wife, whose motive for supporting me is still something of a mystery.

That’s it, my friends.  My next post will be along the trail.  The route’s still the same as indicated in the earlier post, but the dates have changed (later by a month, now).  For those eager to track us more regularly and more accurately, my InReach tracker will be posting my position every ten minutes to a web site accessible to my friends on FaceBook.

Horace Greeley said, “Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.”

Willie Nelson was “Goin’ places that I’ve never been, Seein’ things that I may never see again.”

And, of course, in light of a sixty-something year old beginning this goofy endeavor, I can only quote Luis Bunuel, who said, “Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.”

Happy trails!