I parked my trusty Honda Accord in the shade of an Eastern Red Cedar 50 yards from the sandy shoreline of Cedar Bluffs Reservoir. To the south, limestone cliffs tower over the water. To the north, cottonwood trees along the shore quickly give way to native prairie and fields of harvested wheat. The sun set over the water as I set up my tent. I paused to take in the brilliant shades of orange and blue that framed the glassy surface of the lake.
It was August 11, and this would be my second 24-hour walk attempt in Kansas. The first try in June was a failure. I threw in the snot-and-sweat-soaked towel after 11 hours. I was getting over a gnarly cold and probably shouldn’t have been walking in the first place, but wanted to give it the ‘ole college try. I hated to quit, but “discretion is the better part of valor” as my dad says. I simply had nothing left to give after 30 miles of walking.
The fact I hadn’t reached my goal the first time around really stuck in my craw. Initially, I planned on tackling Kansas again in the fall when temperatures are cooler and the cottonwood trees burst with color. But I ended up with a free 48 hours after a landscaping gig got cancelled. Heat be damned, I wanted to go for it.
After a restless night of sleep, I started pushing PJ – my noble three-wheeled-steed – at 8 AM, bound and determined to travel gravel back roads for 24 hours.
The landscape was different in August than it was earlier in the summer. In June, the native was lush. Blooming prairie sunflowers, purple coneflowers, and wild white indigo added splashes of color to the green grasses swaying in the breeze. Now, a dry summer left the prairie brown, parched, and dusty, other than a few plots of healthy sorghum and corn.
PJ and I ticked off miles, reaching 10 in three hours, 20 in six, and 40 by sunset. The 98 degree heat was sweltering (sending the neighborhood cows to whatever shade they could find), but low humidity made it a manageable, dry heat. A strong southerly wind added a little relief.
A nearly full moon rose shortly after dark, illuminating the road and eliminating my need to use a headlamp. I eclipsed 50 miles at the 17 hour mark. Fatigue set in and I needed an energy boost. I popped off my shirt, Dennis Reynolds style, and cranked up “Werewolves of London,” singing along and howling at the moon to pass the time.
60 miles in with three hours to go, I faded fast. Every step on the uneven rocky roads sent a shot of pain through my feet. My legs felt like cement and my mind was playing tricks on me. Bushes blowing in the breeze looked like demonic antelope. An occasional sound from behind had me convinced I was being followed. Sleep deprivation and exhaustion can have strange effects.
I wanted to stop. My sleeping bag called to me like a muse in the night, begging me to lay down. I reached my breaking point, thinking I had nothing left to give, much like I had on my previous 24-hour attempt in the Sunflower State. After all, nobody cared whether I walked 50, 60, or 70 miles. This was my adventure. I could stop anytime. I could even slink into my sleeping bag and nap for an hour, start walking again, and slowly plod through another few miles. My will and preparation got me this far, but I reached the end of what I was capable of.
With every labored step, I debated how to tackle the last three hours. Stopping, or even slowing down, felt like a half measure. I got brutally honest with myself and reflected on the last six months of my life. In a lot of areas, I wasn’t giving my all. I was only partially dedicated to my book. I put forth minimal to moderate effort in relationships. I went to the gym regularly but wasn’t exactly pushing myself. Other than my recovery from alcoholism, it had been a while since I was “all in” on something. I was generally happy, but wasn’t striving for more. In that moment, I had a choice. I could quit and continue with the theme of half measures, or I could go all in. Those three remaining hours were an opportunity to give all of my heart and soul to the task at hand.
But how could I muster the energy and strength to keep going? My gas tank was running on fumes. Then, something inside of me called out to my Higher Power.
“Give me strength. I give it all to You.”
The words came out slowly and without any thought. I repeated the simple prayer over and over. My voice became progressively louder and more passionate with each recital. Within thirty seconds, I was yelling.
Goosebumps covered my entire body as tears welled in my eyes. A shot of unexplained energy pulsed through my body and my pace quickened. I went from depleted to energized. A feeling of warmth, light, and love engulfed me as I ambled through the moonlit prairie. I was in the midst of a spiritual experience. I powered through the next two hours in a state of pure spiritual euphoria.
With an hour left on the clock, I did the unthinkable (for me anyway). I “jogged.” It was a slow, clunky process. I moved more like an inebriated donkey than a gallant steed, but pushed through the pain that coursed through my body. I repeated the Serenity Prayer and clung to the moment, turning off any thoughts regarding the past or future. I was immersed in the struggle, my Higher Power fueling every excruciating, exhausted step. I relished every moment.
By the time the clock struck 8 AM and 24 hours were up, I traveled 70.2 miles. I collapsed on a rock for a reflective moment. I wanted to comprehend what had just happened.
In those moments of despair and exhaustion, I was able to tap into a spiritual energy that wasn’t of me. It was patiently waiting, deep inside. But I had to seek it, and ask for help. I am convinced with all my heart that energy lies within every one of us, untapped and ready for use. And, from my perspective, it’s there to apply to facets of life that are outside the realm of arduous physical endeavors.
In those trying moments of this walk, I felt like I reached an important moment in my life. A turning point, perhaps. During my walks across the country and other physical challenges, I’ve certainly pushed myself to extreme physical limits, but I have never sought that untapped reservoir of spiritual possibility. Those last three hours of effort were not of me. My will took me 60 miles. Something much bigger and more powerful fueled and guided the last 10.
Spirituality is unique to the individual and it’s not my intention to push my beliefs on anyone. All I can relay is my experience. This one was powerful, enlightening, and moving. My hope is that this story encourages you to question where you are in your spiritual journey. What lies inside of you, waiting to be tapped? How far can that spiritual energy take you, and how can you apply that to everyday challenges? The next time you’re faced with a big roadblock or hurdle, I implore you to tap in, instead of tapping out. You may be amazed by the results.
There is a lot to love about walking across the U.S. The adventure. The challenge. The uncertainty. The mental and physical stress to the body. But one of the problems is an obvious one – it takes a while. I have an insatiable adventure itch that needs constant scratching. While my walks across the country make that itch go away for a while, it always comes back with a vengeance.
A mere six months after finishing my third cross-country trek, the itch returned. I scratched it by packing up my old Honda Accord and heading for the East Coast. I spent six weeks on the road and completed a combination road/walking trip. I visited family and friends between the Springs and Washington D.C. Once I hit D.C., I left my car at my Aunt Peg’s house and walked from the Lincoln Memorial to Point Park in Pittsburgh with a backpack. The 342 mile jaunt took 19 days.
During the walk, I had an idea. What if I walked for 24 hours….straight? How far could I go? I was enamored with the idea. It sounded physically daunting, mentally grueling, and sleep depriving. It sounded perfect. And if I liked it, maybe a 24-hour walk every few months would adequately scratch my adventure itch and allow me to pursue some other challenges without walking off the face of the earth for months on end every few years.
On my way back to Colorado, I found a bike path in Eastern Indiana called the Cardinal Greenway. I pitched my tent at a nearby campground, left my vehicle, and prepared to hit the trail.
On October 27th, 2021, I began my first 24-hour walk at 10 AM with the intent to walk at least 60 miles. The first 40 miles went well. But by 2 AM, the walk got hard in a hurry. I began seeing things in the trees. I held an hour-long conversation with my new backpack, Joseph. I was almost positive he answered back a few times. The pain in my feet was excruciating. My back ached. I hobbled around like an arthritic 80-year-old man for the final 10 miles. And then the sun came up. I had a beautiful, soul-cleansing cry as I watched the sun rise over a cornfield.
I took over 130,000 steps and walked 62.4 miles with a 20 pound pack during those 24 hours. I pushed myself harder than I ever had physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And just like that, I fell in love with 24-hour walks.
The afternoon after finishing, I had a lengthy conversation with my best friend, Shea, who lives in Windsor, Colorado. Shea is an incredible athlete in his own right. He took first place in his age group at USA Nationals in the triathlon in 2007. He hasn’t competed in years, but runs between 48 and 54 miles every week. Dude can run!
I told him how much I had enjoyed my 24-hour walk, and that it pushed me to the brink, physically, mentally, and emotionally. To my disbelief, he was interested in joining me for one. It’s tough to find someone willing to spend 24 hours straight with me. Let alone someone willing to WALK for the entirety of that 24 hours. We set a tentative date for early January, 2022, to give us ample time to put together a fundraiser and continue training. We decided to call our walk the “Frostbite 24,” considering Colorado is usually cold in January.
Over the next two months, we both trained. Shea continued with his running and started taking 15, 20, and eventually, 30 mile walks. I spent the first five weeks back in Colorado doing yard cleanups four days a week. I only walked 10 miles during a typical eight hour day, but stayed fit by lugging around full bags of leaves and raking.
Planning a walk with another person was a new experience. All of my trips prior to the Frostbite 24 were solo adventures, so I only had myself to answer to. It was enjoyable to discuss the intended route, training, and logistics with someone else for a change!
Shea and I decided to incorporate a fundraiser into our journey. Although I accepted donations during my previous walks, I didn’t fundraise in the traditional sense. Any donations went directly to lodging, gear, and peanut butter. We chose the Larimer County Humane Society as the organization to raise funds for. With their help, we set up a personal page directly through their website and decided on a goal of $1,000. Any money donated went straight to the LCHS. The fundraising effort was a worthwhile and educating one.
Our original departure date was set for January 2nd. A few days before beginning, we both completed a 30-plus mile walk. Shea covered 32 miles in nine hours in Windsor. I walked 36 miles in 12 hours while pushing PJ around Colorado Springs. We hit all the hot tourist spots; Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs, Weidner Field, and Prospect Lake. Shea had never covered that far of a distance on foot (though he came close running marathons). And while I have walked more than thirty miles probably 100 times, it was essential to break down that mental barrier again. Walking thirty miles takes time, stamina, and the mental strength to actually do it. Once that barrier is broken and you realize you can (or remember you can), it become easier the next time. Our sixty mile walk would simply be two thirty mile walks. At least that’s how I looked at it.
We were both as ready as we could be as our start date approached. But Mother Nature had different plans. I drove up to Fort Collins on New Year’s Eve to spend an extra day scoping out our route and wandering around my alma mater (Colorado State). A massive snow storm moved through on New Year’s Eve and Day, dumping eight inches of snow on Northern Colorado. There wouldn’t be enough snow melt or plowing before we hoped to start walking. We made the sensible choice and postponed our walk for a week. Truth be told, Shea was the voice of reason. Plus, PJ is not a snowplow, and can only handle a few inches of the white stuff.
Six days later, I headed back up to Fort Collins, ready to give our adventure another shot. I stayed with Shea and his girlfriend, Jackie, the night before our journey began.
On January 8th, we loaded PJ into the trunk of Jackie’s car with extra clothes, shoes, water, and food. Jackie dropped us off in the Island Grove Park parking lot. We loaded PJ up and began our overnight journey at 10 AM.
Armed with hot coffee, layers, full stomachs, and sunglasses, Shea and I began our jaunt down the Poudre Trail. The paved trail connects Greeley and Windsor and closely follows the Cache La Poudre River. The scenery around the path was spectacular. We walked by farms, reservoirs, bird sanctuaries, wet lands, and enjoyed incredible views of snow-capped Longs Peak and the Front Range.
We steadily covered miles as the day went on, breaking our planned 60-mile stroll into 10 mile segments. After 10 miles I looked at Shea and said “You can’t walk 60 miles unless you walk 10.” When we hit 20, I said “You can’t walk 60 miles unless you walk 20.”
Just before dark, we hit the end of the trail and began a five mile stretch on county roads. We needed to walk two county roads in order to cross the interstate and get into Fort Collins. At that point, we were seven hours and 23 miles into our walk. We turned on our headlamps and prepared for two hours of road walking.
Thankfully, we enjoyed well-plowed trails and road shoulders for the first 25 miles of our walk – until we reached the sidewalk that crossed Interstate 25. There was a 100 yard stretch (uphill, of course) that wasn’t cleared. Six inches of snow and ice covered the sidewalk. PJ was impossible to push through the wintry mess. The only option was to carry the overloaded cart up the lengthy hill. Shea picked PJ up by his front wheel, while I got down into a squat position and lifted the back. We awkwardly made our way up the hill, taking a quick break at the halfway point. By the time we reached a traffic light and saw a clear path ahead, we were out of breath. We both agreed we brought way too much shit.
We reached another bike path a mile later and walked a few more miles before we met up with our support crew for dinner. Dean and Eileen had a fresh batch of coffee and piping hot macaroni and cheese for dinner. After sunset, the temperature dropped into the low-20s and the wind picked up, which discouraged any dawdling. We stayed warm while we walked, but became chilled to the bone quickly if we stopped for more than a few minutes. We scarfed down dinner and resumed our walk after the longest break of our journey – 10 minutes. Shea’s folks returned to their hotel for the night (it was 6 PM). We were on our own for the overnight.
We hit the 30 mile mark nine hours into our journey and were on the far east side of Fort Collins. The real test of our mettle and determination began at that point.
We spent most of our time in Fort Collins walking the Spring Creek Trail. The trail meanders along the banks of Spring Creek through the middle of the city and eventually ends near CSU’s campus. Even though the moon was only half full, we didn’t need to use any lights walking on the paths in Fort Collins. Eight inches of snow, lit up by the moonlight, added a surprising amount of light and guided us through the quiet urban forests along the trail.
We took a brief detour to visit the new football stadium on campus and snapped a couple photos next to the dueling rams statue in front of the field. From there, we walked back to Spring Creek Trail and continued west for another four miles before turning around and starting our walk back to Windsor. We approached the 38 mile mark when, all of a sudden, PJ became incredibly difficult to push. Initially, I thought he was being a petulant child and didn’t want to keep walking in the frigid air. Upon further review, we realized his left tire was completely flat.
The last thing I wanted to do was stop and change out the tube, which was a 15 minute process under ideal conditions. By that point, we had been on the road for 13 hours and I wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Changing the tire would likely take twice as long as usual. I simply pumped it back up and hoped the tire sealant that was already in the tube would plug the hole.
We headed east and hoped for the best. Three hours later, with all tires still fully inflated (hooray!) we arrived back at the interstate and our first of two county roads that would lead us back to Windsor. It was 2 AM. I looked at Shea and said “We are two-thirds of the way there,” meaning we had been walking for 16 hours (and covered 46 miles during that time).
Then, it was as if we both simultaneously realized we had another eight hours of walking ahead of us. It seemed like an insurmountable challenge at the time given the cold and our exhaustion.
We paused for a moment and focused on getting through the next hour. I cranked up some Def Leopard (Animal, of course) and we kept moving forward.
We passed the next several hours alternating between walking in silence and sharing stories. The most notable and humorous of which involved me telling unfortunate bathroom tales from my walks across the country. Shea had a few entertaining ones, too, but they weren’t quite as “messy” as mine. TMI?
3 AM and 4 AM came and went. We were still averaging a 3 MPH pace and decided we wanted to walk 70 miles, if at all possible. We were at 54 miles at 4 AM, and for some reason, walking another 16 miles seemed less daunting than walking for another six hours.
With six hours to go, we were mildly delirious and our feet hurt, but our spirits remained high. We decided to walk to Windsor Lake a little earlier than expected and spend our last four hours doing the 2.5 mile lap around the lake. It promised to be a great place to watch the sunrise, too.
It’s been pointed out to me by several regular blog readers that my writing makes my walking adventures seem easy. I think part of that is I often don’t go into great detail about what struggles I face during a particular stretch, whether they are physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Not wanting to sound like a complainer (given I am the one who subjects myself to these challenges) is at the crux of it.
So I will be crystal clear and transparent when I describe the last four hours of our 24-hour walk. THEY WERE THE TOUGHEST 12 MILES I HAVE EVER WALKED. Every step sent shots of pain through my feet. My legs felt like limp noodles that were simply swinging from my body. My brain was in a sleep-deprived fog and had difficulty stringing together coherent thoughts.
The struggle was real, but that is exactly what makes challenges and adventures like this worthwhile. Your body and mind tell you “You can’t keep walking. Why are you doing this? Quit.” Despite the objections, you keep going. You push through.
Shea and I pushed each other (not literally, but we were close). We challenged one another NOT to quit. We reminded each other that warm beds, showers, and food awaited on the other side. We just had to get there.
The sky started showing the first signs of light at 7 AM and gave us both another morale boost. We made it through the night and to the home stretch. Shea’s folks showed up right on cue, too, bringing with them hot, sugary drinks from Dutch Brothers.
They walked with us for the last five miles, adding a nice distraction.
Our last two laps around Windsor Lake were a slow affair. After essentially walking straight for 22 hours, the cold may have finally done me a favor by numbing my feet and legs. They hurt, no doubt. But the pain wasn’t excruciating. I put Walk the Moon’s One Foot in Front of the Other on my headphones and disappeared into my own little world for 30 minutes.
Shea and I met in the summer of 2020 in Colorado Springs. I was reeling from a breakup that I couldn’t blame on anyone but myself and was in a bad place, mentally and emotionally. I was three years sober at that point and had no idea I could end up in such a dark, scary place without alcohol being a factor.
He helped me through it. When I talked, he listened. When my ass was on fire and I drove myself crazy, he talked me down from the metaphorical ledge. Within months of meeting, I found a new best friend in Shea. He enriched my life and became a pillar of support I desperately needed. And now, I was about to complete a 70 mile walk with him by my side.
It’s tough to put into words the feelings I had after we finished our walk. I was filled with gratitude for my sobriety and to have such a great friend in my life. I was thankful I got to share one of my walking adventures with someone else – not just Shea, but his parents, too. And, I was relieved it was over. Weeks, months, and years down the road we could reminisce about “That one time we walked 70 miles in the freezing cold and didn’t loose any appendages.”
I have no doubt this will be the first of many long walking adventures with Shea. And similar to my other long walks, the Frostbite 24 was a reminder of what anyone can accomplish if they keep putting one foot in front of the other and simply refuse to quit.
But this adventure was so much more than that. Life is short. Spend it with people who inspire you, who listen to you, and who have your back when things get hard. Be grateful for that person, whether it’s a family member, friend, or partner. Be grateful for that relationship and that connection, and never let it go.
The Frostbite 24 by the numbers!
70.1 miles walked.
Over 140,000 steps taken, each.
$1,438 dollars raised for the Larimer County Humane Society.
One flat tire for PJ.
Too many cups of coffee to count. ZERO scoops of peanut butter (can you believe that?!?!).
I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported our walk, including those who donated to the LCHS. We also received a multitude of texts and phone calls during the walk, which helped immensely. I love you all.
From Santee, the finish line for my third walk across America was 30 miles away. Technically it was only 20, but I wanted my walk to total 2,800 miles, so I added a few extra steps during the last couple days.
My amazing host in Santee, Melanie, joined me for a 14 mile walk on the second to last day. We left her house with PJ and walked a circuitous route through Santee and into Mission Trails Regional Park. In the park, we followed a quiet, paved road surrounded by beautiful mountains before hitting Mission Gorge Road. Melanie is an incredibly active woman, so she had no trouble walking the miles with PJ and I. The day flew by!
I was down to my last 16 miles on March 12th! The final day of my walk had finally arrived! Melanie dropped PJ and I back off near the entrance to Mission Trails Regional Park and we started walking. I wanted to be alone for the first few hours of the day to reflect on this incredible journey.
Unfortunately, the first two hours didn’t leave much time for peace, quiet, or reflection. I lost the sidewalk shortly into the stroll and was left walking a narrow bike lane for a few miles. There were several difficult highway interchanges to navigate and a lot of traffic. After six miles, I was still battling. California continued to keep me on my toes.
Eight miles into the day, I finally hit a continuous sidewalk, stopped getting turned around (no matter how many miles I walk, I still have difficulties navigating in big cities), and was able to relax.
Melanie met back up with PJ and I five miles from the ocean. We walked quietly through Mission Bay Park, along a wide sidewalk bordering a marina, then hit the busy Mission Beach Entertainment District, complete with bars, restaurants, and an old wooden roller coaster.
I caught my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean’s white caps, effortlessly tumbling towards the coastline as we neared the boardwalk along the beach.
“What a shame, PJ. That’s the ocean – I was just hitting my stride,” I joked.
The boardwalk was filled with happy beachgoers, busking musicians, skateboarders, cyclists, and joggers.
We walked a slow two miles north to Crystal Pier, enjoying the ocean breeze and a picture perfect San Diego day.
After reaching the pier, I prepared PJ for one final sandy push to the Pacific. I struggled to get him through several mounds of sand right off the boardwalk. After a few hefty pushes, we reached packed sand.
I stopped, took in the breathtaking ocean views for a moment, and removed my shoes and socks. I gave Melanie a big smile and took a few slow steps forward. Then, inexplicably, I ran towards the ocean. PJ and I hit the chilly mid-March waters of the Pacific at a full sprint and officially completed our 122 day journey. Both of us connected every step along the way.
I was euphoric and excited as I let the chilly waters of the Pacific soothe my aching feet. I was relieved to be upright and healthy. But I also felt a familiar bittersweet feeling in my stomach – I knew I would miss the walk. Memories from all three of my journeys came flooding back as PJ and I stood in the knee deep ocean water.
I spent 99.99 percent of the last 122 days by myself, and yet, I was never alone. God was never absent, and I always felt the support from family and friends scattered throughout the country. Perfect strangers showed me incredible amounts of love and generosity. People opened up their hearts and souls to me, and I did the same. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU to everyone who helped me on this journey. This wasn’t a solo adventure. I needed every one of you.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’ve walked across America three times. I’m not the same person that started walk one in Virginia Beach on April 4th, 2015.
I found sobriety by the time I began walk two. I’m not the same person that left Portland, Maine on April 12th, 2018.
And I’m not the same person who left Jacksonville, Florida on November 11th, 2020. One of the consistent parallels between my walks, “real life,” and my sobriety is what can happen when a person strives for incremental progress every day. On my walks, I took millions of steps to accomplish my goals. In sobriety, I need to do the same thing. Big goals and big changes aren’t accomplished overnight. They take time, patience, and a lot of steps along the way.
As far as my journey in sobriety and continual personal growth goes, I know I will never reach the finish line. It truly is a lifelong, one day at a time process. I’m going to make mistakes (I’ve made some big ones along the way) and I’ll never be perfect. But with God’s grace, I can move on from my mistakes, become a better person, and grow during the process.
There is a sense of closure and completion regarding my “career” as a long-distance walker. I knew after my second walk I would eventually tackle the Southern States. It was just a question of when.
And now, days removed from completing this goal, another resounding truth continues to echo in my head. “Wherever I go, there I am.” I was running from myself on my first walk. I refused to face the fact that I am an alcoholic. I believed a cross-country walk would fix me. It didn’t, and my problems joined me for every step.
I can’t outrun (or outwalk) my thoughts or problems. There is no magical fix. For better or worse, I am stuck with the head that’s planted on top of my shoulders. And it is my sole responsibility to make sure that I take care of myself. In order to do that, I need to take action everyday. I need to be an active participant in my recovery. I need to seek out God in order to stay spiritually, mentally, and emotionally healthy. If I do that, everything else will fall into place. No matter what circumstances I face, whether I’m employed or unemployed, rich or poor, single or taken, I have a shot at happiness if I hold myself accountable and keep my side of the street clean.
Wherever I go, there I am. Once I FINALLY wrapped my head around the fact that I can grow into a better person, a better brother, a better son, a better friend, and a better partner, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing, it opened up my eyes to the endless possibilities life has to offer. No matter what challenges life throws my way, if I do my part, I know God’s got me, and good things will follow.
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 122
Miles – 2,800
Jars of Peanut Butter Consumed – 109
Roadside Change Count – $6.82. Just about enough for three spicy chicken sandwiches and two cheeseburgers at McDonald’s!
Cumulative Miles Per Shower – 73.68. I took 38 showers between Jacksonville and San Diego!
What’s next? That’s a great question. And I’m happy to report I don’t have an answer. A year ago, that would have driven me crazy. Not knowing the answer to where my life would take me, or not having a plan in place for the next step was unthinkable. Now, it excites me. My future is an unwritten book, and I can’t wait to begin writing the next chapter. The writing starts NOW.
From Blythe, CA, I found myself less than 250 miles from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. When I left my Motel 6 room, I reminded myself “250 miles is 250 miles. That’s still a long way to walk.” There have been plenty of challenges during the last nine days and 220 miles of walking!
The first day out of Blythe, however, was smooth sailing. I had sunny skies, flat terrain, no wind, and large shoulders all day. I followed Highway 78 through agricultural areas and ended the day camping at Palo Verde County Park. The park was on the banks of a man-made lake adjacent to the Colorado River. I camped right on the shoreline. After I sat down for dinner at dusk, a colony of bats appeared to hunt over the water.
My walk the following day was much more challenging. I lost the shoulder on Highway 78 after a few miles in the morning and was left dodging cars for the next 20 miles. To complicate matters, the highway was extremely hilly, so I was constantly moving from one side of the road to the other, always walking where traffic could see me. That meant “sprinting” up hills when I was walking with traffic, and jumping off the road when a car approached. Additionally, I fought a stiff 25 mph head wind for most of the day. Everything was working against PJ and I. I even had to take down his flag. The wind was blowing at the perfect angle and it kept bonking me on the head, which was even more maddening than the wind itself.
Despite the challenges of the day, it was a beautiful stretch. A light rain shower moved through during the afternoon and I saw the first rainbow of my walk. Ocotillo cacti were blooming. And I found a lovely BLM camping spot after walking a difficult 25 miles. Blessings abound, even on the toughest of days.
Highway 78 had mercy on me the following day. After three more hilly miles, I hit a wide, nicely paved shoulder and cruised downhill into Glamis (The “Sand Toy Capitol of the World”). The Imperial Dunes National Recreation Area is right on the other side of rown.
The Imperial Dunes were as advertised. Mountains upon mountains of sand stretching far into the distance. Dune buggies (I finally understand why they call them that), ATV’s, and jeeps were busy making tracks in the sand. Watching the amphibious buggies provided some entertainment as I walked through the area.
I ended the day camping at a unique spot. I noticed on Google Maps there was a small hot spring about two miles south of the highway on some BLM Land. I happily took the detour to Five Palms Hot Springs. I set up camp about a quarter-mile from the springs and hiked up to the cluster of palm trees through the thick sand. The palm trees jut up from the desert floor, shading the rare pool of warm water. To be fair, the water temperature was more tepid than hot, but it felt great on my achy feet nonetheless. I walked back towards camp well after dark and got turned around. Fortunately, after 20 minutes, my flashlight landed on one of PJ’s reflectors. Home sweet home.
I began the 15 mile walk into Brawley the following morning. I passed a canal after less than a mile on Highway 78 and was back in California Ag Country. There is seemingly a line in the sand for where the natural desert ends and the farmland begins in California. Look at Google satellite images of Southern California and you’ll see what I mean. I was in irrigated farmland for the duration of the day.
I ran several errands once I hit Brawley. I stopped off to do laundry and stocked up on food at Walmart. After parking near the store entrance, I pulled out a half-dozen goat heads from my right tire. It went completely flat within a few seconds. If you’ve never changed a flat tire outside of a Walmart, I highly recommend it. The looks are worth the struggle. I left Brawley a few hours before sunset and walked out of town. I camped on the banks of the New River for the night.
I made my way back out of farming country the next day and returned to the dusty desert. After 17 miles of walking, I hit the Evan Hewes Highway, which runs parallel to Interstate 8. This road, hands downs, was the bumpiest paved road I have EVER walked. The pot holes were so big, I was afraid PJ was going to fall into one and never be heard from again! Thankfully the traffic flow was low, so I played dodge the potholes.
Once I reached Plaster City, I had a few visitors! My cousin Jacob, who moved to LA from Miami right when I began my walk, made the drive down to visit with his girlfriend, Cassie. Jacob walked with me for 6.5 miles on the bumpy road. He was my first “guest walker” of the trip. He even pushed PJ for a few miles. We had some great conversations during our jaunt. Cassie met us at a closed bridge just before dark. As we were chatting, a woman got out of the passenger side of a black SUV.
“I’ve seen you walking like four times today! Earlier you were alone. Where did you pick him up?” She asked jokingly as she pointed to Jacob. We laughed and I explained what I was doing.
She went on to explain that the bridge we were hanging out on has been closed for four years. Locals have made their own road in the sand that bypasses the bridge. She went on the recommend we stop by the Lazy Lizard Lounge down the road for a drink. Based off her slurred speech, it sounded like she just hopped off one of their barstools.
Based off the fact that the bridge has been closed for four years, and given the decrepit nature of the highway, it seems California is happy to let this section of highway continue to degrade!
The wind really picked up during the afternoon while I was walking with Jacob, so I decided to camp in a relatively sheltered spot between the closed bridge and a small cluster of trees.
Mountains awaited the following morning. Before I dealt with them though, I had another pressing matter to attend to – my feet. Thanks to a few tough days of bumpy roads and running up hills, I acquired three fresh blisters. On my walk up to that point, I only had two blisters. Both of those were during my first week of the walk. I covered the blisters with moleskin after waking up, packed up camp, and started walking. Due to the location of the blisters (one was on the side my big toe, the other two were underneath my toes) the moleskin wouldn’t stay put.
I walked a painful three miles into Ocotillo and sought a different solution. I tried two pairs of socks on each foot and walked a mile. The pain was still there. I dug out my first aid kit and removed a roll of gauze. I carefully wrapped each foot and put on two pairs of socks, along with my old pair of Saucony running shoes. I hadn’t worn them in three weeks. I took a few test steps and amazingly, my feet felt great!
With my foot problem solved, I turned my attention to the next 10 miles of my walk. With no frontage roads available, I was forced the walk Interstate 8 (which is illegal) after leaving Ocotillo. Like my illegal interstate walk in Arizona a few weeks back, I employed the “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission strategy.”
It was a long, steady, uphill climb out of Ocotillo. Interstate 8 boasted a massive shoulder and relatively light traffic. Although I was passed by four Border Patrol Agents and two State Troopers, none of them stopped to harass PJ and I. We gained 2,600 feet of elevation during the climb while walking over rocky, desert mountains covered with vehicle-sized boulders.
PJ and I triumphantly reached the exit for Old U.S. 80 just east of Jacumba Hot Springs. I let out an exhausted sigh of relief.
My friend Melanie, who I’m staying with in San Diego, made the drive down to my BLM Campground to visit after I walked another few miles. Melanie and I met hiking Pikes Peak last summer and have stayed in touch since then. She invited me to stay with her once I reached her neck of the woods. She brought a delicious batch of chili for dinner and some other snacks. We visited for a while before I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Thank you for making the end of a tough day so special, Melanie! I’d be seeing her again a few days.
The three mile walk from my BLM Campground the next morning into Jacumba Hot Springs was all downhill. From there, the highway took a slight left turn and came within 100 yards of the border wall.
Old U.S. 80 quickly became one of my favorite roads in the country. It boasts a wide (and typically well-paved) shoulder, little traffic, and stupendous views. I walked past more granite covered hills during the first half of the day, then enjoyed panoramic views of distant mountains and forests throughout the afternoon. There were several taxing climbs, followed by long downhill stretches. I reached Cleveland National Forest shortly before dark and was so excited to see tall trees that I hugged a few.
I camped at Boulder Oaks Campground (about eight miles south of Pine Valley) for the night. While I was looking for a site I noticed one with a beautiful oak that was calling my name. I hugged that tree, too.
I was also delighted to find a small Mississippi cat figurine (I named her Sippy) who will serve as my mascot (or should I say mascat?) for the remaining 70ish miles of my journey.
I started my walk from Boulder Oaks Campground at 6:30 the next morning, ready for a day of uphill and downhill battles. I had one more day of serious mountains to walk! The first climb started immediately after leaving my campground. I gained about 1,000 feet of elevation in eight miles before reaching Laguna Summit, which is just over 4,000 feet. I had to play my go to “get fired up song” (which, of course, is “Snap Yo Fingers” by Lil’ John) within thirty minutes of starting the day.
Although Mt. Laguna was shrouded in clouds, the surrounding hills and valleys were picturesque under puffy clouds and baby blue skies.
From there, Old U.S. 80 dropped 600 feet and passed through Pine Valley. I picked up a massive pine cone off the roadside as a souvenir. In case people didn’t think I was crazy enough pushing a jogging stroller down the side of the highway, now I’m pushing a jogging stroller down the side of the highway with a massive pine cone resting on top of PJ!
Since I couldn’t walk the interstate west of Pine Valley, I followed a few secondary roads. Although it added a few miles (and there were more hills), I continued to enjoy incredible views. My third walk across the country has been the flattest of the three by far, but the last few days in California have given me all I can handle mountain wise!
After walking through Viejo Indian Reservation, I met back up with Old U.S. 80 and wandered through quaint Alpine before calling it a day.
My friend Melanie picked me up 12 miles from her house. My days of camping were officially complete! I’ll be staying with her until my dad arrives in San Diego next week.
Melanie dropped PJ and I back off on the roadside the next morning. I easily could have walked with just my backpack, but PJ connected every step on walk two, and I don’t want walk three to be any different.
I donned my wet weather attire given rain was a near certainty. There is no doubt I have been blessed with great weather on this walk. I’ve been able to avoid three major storms by staying in hotels. I walked through some snow in the Guadalupe Mountains in Texas, had two passing showers in the deserts of California and New Mexico, and three days of storms in Florida (one of which was a tropical strom on day two of my journey). That means I’ve had to wear my rain gear a total of seven times (including today) in 120 days of walking.
Midway through the walk, the skies opened up and I walked through a torrential downpour for two miles. After the rain ended, the sun came back out and I quickly dried off.
I reached Melanie’s house after a 12 mile stroll. I have another 27 miles of walking to reach the Pacific!
I’m doing my best to “be here, not there,” during the last few days of my journey. I intend to soak up every moment, every ray of sunshine, and every rain drop along the way.
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 120
Miles – 2,773.5
Jars of Peanut Butter – 105
Roadside Change Count – $6.75, plus a 10 Peso piece.
Miles Per Shower in California – 63.88
Be prepared for a long, heartfelt post regarding the last two days of my walk to the Pacific very soon. Walk on!
The nine day, 231 mile jaunt from Tempe, Arizona to Blythe, California featured a variety of challenges and new experiences! I wasn’t going to coast through the final 200 miles of Arizona.
I left my friend Shane’s house in Tempe on February 20th. California was still a ways away, but I could hear her calling.
I spent the first few hours of the day wandering through Arizona State University’s surprisingly lush campus and lively downtown Tempe. It was another sunny, picture perfect winter day.
From Tempe, I headed west towards downtown Phoenix and the Arizona Capitol building, which was the third Capitol I’ve visited my walk (the other two were in Tallahassee and Baton Rouge). As I approached the building, I noticed a massive crowd was gathered. There happened to be a Pro-2nd Amendment rally in progress. Attendees wore assault rifles and hand guns like they were fashion accessories. The whole scene made me uncomfortable, primarily because I’ve haven’t been around many guns. I snapped a few quick photos of the Capitol as rally attendees curiously watched PJ and I.
After leaving the crowd, I walked to Grand Avenue, which eventually turned into Highway 60. It was a straight shot northwest out of downtown Phoenix.
Although it was the most direct route out of the center of the metro area, it was far from the most scenic. The six lane, divided road was heavily traveled and passed through industrial areas for the next 15 miles. There were interchanges I needed to detour around every few miles, which complicated matters. I got turned around on sidewalks that hit dead ends several times.
I ended up walking 30 miles and ended my day well after dark. I camped off a bike path near a dry wash in Sun City. After another 15 miles in the morning, I finally cleared Phoenix’s urban sprawl. My walk through the Phoenix metro area totaled 62 miles!
Even after leaving the city, there was still a massive amount of traffic on Highway 60 heading towards Wickenburg. The road was so loud I could barely hear the music from my speaker when it was on full blast! I wore ear plugs for the majority of the day to drown out the noise. I reached the post office Morristown at 5 PM.
A few minutes later, I had some company! Jan, a good friend of mine from Fort Bridger, Wyoming, made the drive to Arizona to spend some time camping and hiking with Allison, who is a full time Arizona RV’er. The three of us had been planning a little “camping trip within a camping trip” for weeks. Due to a few snowstorms in Wyoming, Jan’s arrival was delayed.
I broke PJ down and loaded him up into the trunk of Jan’s Honda Accord.
We drove through Wickenburg and camped at a primitive campground at the base of beautiful Vulture Peak. Saguaro and chollo cacti lined the desert floor. I spent two nights and took a rest day with Jan and Allison. They are both avid hikers and simplistic travelers. We had a blast sharing stories and exploring the quaint Western town of Wickenburg. Thank you for the amazing visit and company, ladies!
From the Morristown Post Office, I was five challenging days away from the California/Arizona border! I covered the 10 miles into Wickenburg and picked up a few last minute groceries at a Safeway in town. After Wickenburg, I wouldn’t walk through a town with more than 1,000 people for 170 miles.
It was refreshing to get back into the unpopulated desert after leaving Wickenburg. Traffic levels quickly declined and I was able to loose myself in the peaceful landscape. I camped at the crest of a hill 10 miles west of Wickenburg after a 24 mile walk from the post office in Morristown.
In the morning, I made my way towards Aguila. I found myself walking through a long, flat expanse of desert for the entire day. There were mountains on both sides of the highway, but 60 cut right through the valley and was flat as a pancake.
After passing through Aguila, a Honda Civic pulled over on the shoulder. The driver must have been double masking it because I couldn’t understand a word he said. I parked PJ and scampered across the highway.
“You want a Whopper?” That was the easiest question I’ve been asked on my walk to answer. The man handed over the burger and said he would give me a ride if he didn’t have his dog with him. “I’m good walking,” I told him. He drove off and I scarfed down the burger on the shoulder. I didn’t catch the guy’s name, so he will forever be known as the “Arizona Whopper Man.”
I ended the day camping on some BLM land at the foot of beautiful Harquahala Mountain. There is a ton of BLM land in Western Arizona, making it pretty easy to find camping spots where I can rest easy and avoid stealth camping!
I finished off the final 20 miles of my walk down U.S. 60 the next day. Once I hit Hope, I turned right on Highway 72 and began what I call the “Parker Detour.” Highway 60 runs into I-10 near Quartzsite. Since pedestrians can’t legally walk ANY interstate in Arizona (and there are no frontage roads along the freeway for the last 30 miles into California) my only alternative was to head northwest towards Parker, cross the Colorado River south of town, then head south to Blythe. The detour would add about 50 miles of walking.
I walked six miles on Highway 72 before finding my rocky BLM accommodations for the night. Based off my Google satellite research, I knew 72 lacked a shoulder. I didn’t expect so much traffic though. It was a tricky six mile stretch, and I had another 30 miles to walk the following day. After I set up camp, I put the difficult stretch I’d face in the morning out of mind and brought my attention back to the present.
From my campground, I could faintly make out the lights from Hope, flickering on the valley floor.
“A glimmer of Hope,” I said out loud. Those four words hit me unexpectedly.
I flashed back to my early days in recovery in the spring of 2017. I had made some terrible mistakes while I was an active alcoholic. I was lost. I didn’t recognize the person I saw in the mirror. I felt hopeless. But after I committed to a sober lifestyle and started working a program, I found that faint glimmer of hope I desperately needed. I could barely see it through the fog that engulfed my life. But I could feel it. I let that light guide me and with a lot of work and some time, it got brighter…and brighter…and brighter.
A little hope can go a long way. Reach for it. Chase it. And no matter what, don’t let it go. I rested easy in the rocky desert. I was grateful I held on to and chased that initial glimmer of hope. And I have so much gratitude for where my journey in sobriety has taken me.
I started walking at 7 the next morning. My fears about Highway 72 were confirmed. I held out hope the high traffic level the previous night was an anomoly. But a steady stream of cars greeted me. I dealt with the traffic for a few miles until I noticed a small dirt road 50 yards off the highway. It ran underneath some power lines next to a barbed wire fence. I wasn’t sure how long I could walk the path for, or how walkable it would actually be given PJ’s tendency to struggle with rocks and sand.
Overall, the path was pretty walkable. The sand got thick in a few spots and the path would dip into a wash a few times every mile. When that would happen, I’d get a running start and simply plow through the sand. It was a workout, but was a much better option than fighting a steady stream of traffic without a shoulder.
We followed the dirt path for 18 miles into Blouse.
From Blouse, I discovered a primitive road which ran parallel to Highway 72 through the rocky desert. There wasn’t a single car on the quiet road. There wasn’t much sand to contend with on La Pos Road, but there were several rocky sections that took some serious effort to get through. We hit the highway again just before dark. Although I had walked a modest 28 miles, I was exhausted from expending so much extra energy navigating through sand and rocks throughout the day. I camped on a sandy bluff overlooking a little wash.
I began my final 25 miles in Arizona the following morning. I knocked out the last five miles on Highway 72 before the sun came up, then turned right on Highway 95 and headed closer to Parker. Traffic on 95 was even heavier. The shoulder was just as bad. I walked another much sandier and frustrating power line road for a few miles, then returned to the bumpy, gravel shoulder. At one point I pushed PJ straight through the desert, avoiding small shrubs and mesquite trees, because I was fed up with the highway and the power line road. Fortunately, I only had the Arizona portion of 95 to deal with for eight miles.
Four miles south of Parker, I turned left on AZ 10 and walked 12 miles through a quiet, agricultural valley on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Healthy hay and alfalfa fields, palm trees, an occasional canal, and distant mountains gave me plenty to look at. The peaceful stretch was a polar opposite to the way the day started! Every passing car gave me a friendly smile and a big wave.
I hit Agnes Wilson Road and crossed the Colorado River around 3 PM, entering the final state of my walk – California! There wasn’t a welcome sign at the state line, so I improvised.
Three miles later, I hit the California side of U.S. 95. To my pleasant surprise, there was less traffic. Still no shoulder, but less traffic! I walked another few miles and called it a day. I camped on a large bluff overlooking the Colorado River.
PJ and I left our bluff at 4 AM in the morning. I knew the first 20 miles of the walk were going to be tricky without a shoulder. I guessed traffic levels would be low at that ridiculous hour on a Sunday morning. I guessed right! It was a quiet first 10 miles under a bright, nearly full moon. Only 17 cars passed between 4 and 7 AM.
The wind picked up after sunrise, but to my pleasant surprise, the 30 mph gusts were at my back! Aided by the wind (and a long overdue paved shoulder for the last 12 miles), it was an easy breezy walk into Blythe.
Highway 95 provided some great views of the Colorado River, sandstone cliffs, dry washes, and passed by the “Blythe Intaglios” along the way. The Intaglios are massive, ancient drawings in the desert. One of the drawings was of a horse-like animal. The second resembled an alien. They were mysterious, thought provoking, and very difficult to photograph!
The last few miles into Blythe went well, other than a visit from the California State Patrol. A driver called them saying they “feared for my safety.” When the patrolmen pulled up, I was walking with traffic to avoid a blind curve.
“You know you should be walking facing traffic, right?” One of the officers told me. I explained (maybe a little too indignantly in retrospect) that I walk where the cars can see me. The officer nodded in understanding.
“You got a baby in there?” The other patrolman asked. We visited for a few minutes and they were kind and cordial after our initial introduction.
I triumphantly reached Blythe at 3 PM, capping off a challenging and interesting nine day walk. I checked into a Motel 6 and showered right away, washing off hundreds of miles of dust, sand, and dirt from my grimy body! It was heavenly.
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 111
Miles – 2,555
Jars of Peanut Butter – 97
Roadside Change Count – $6.13
Miles Per Shower in Arizona – 102
From Blythe, I am a mere 250 miles from San Diego, which is hard to believe! Despite being on the final leg of my journey, I will approach every remaining day as if it will be the toughest of my walk. And you better believe I’m going to enjoy every remaining minute! Walk on!
“Magical” is the best way to describe my nine day, 269 mile walk from Douglas, Arizona to Tempe. The scenery was incredible, the plants were mesmerizing, and solitude in the Sonoran Desert gave me plenty of time for reflection and introspection.
I left Douglas on February 10th after a much needed day off. PJ and I continued west on Highway 80 towards Bisbee. After walking primarily quiet highways from El Paso to Douglas, being back on a road with a steady stream of traffic was a shock to the system. It was a loud first few hours, but PJ and I quickly adapted and settled in. Thank you, ear plugs!
As I pushed PJ up a series of hills and neared Bisbee, we walked past a handful of mines before turning left on Highway 92. I was already tired when we hit the highway junction. I couldn’t figure out why (especially since I was coming off a rest day), until I saw the “Welcome to Bisbee Sign,” which indicated the city sits at an elevation of 5,300 feet. We steadily climbed 1,300 feet since leaving Douglas.
“That’s a relief PJ – I thought we were out of shape for a second there,” I joked.
From Bisbee, it was a downhill walk for the rest of the day into a massive valley south of Sierra Vista. After enjoying a beautiful sunset, I was still trying to find a suitable camping spot for the night. I knew there was some BLM land down the road, but it was still six miles away. I pushed PJ off the highway, turned off my lights, and had a drink of water while I decided what to do.
After five minutes, a vehicle pulled right up to us on the dirt road between the highway and the barbed wire fence. Border patrol found us! The agent stepped out of his cruiser and shined his flashlight on me.
“We come out and check on people who are walking through. This is a very high-traffic area for illegals,” he told me. “Sometimes people will call us when they see a person on the road or in the bushes, or sometimes our sensors detect them.” He never told me how they knew I was there. I’d like to think someone just called me in because the thought of sensors detecting me creeped me out. The agent, Frank, was quite friendly and we talked for a while.
He recommended that I camp on the BLM land. The area is regularly patrolled (often by agents on horseback) and I wouldn’t be bothered by the BP again. PJ and I walked for another two hours and arrived at our campground around 8:30.
In the morning, I began the walk towards Sierra Vista. Highway 92 climbed a long, steady hill, then took a right turn at the foot of Miller Peak. The impressive mountain still had a little snow on top from a recent storm.
After walking around Sierra Vista on a bike path that ran parallel to the highway, I continued to Whetstone, where I found a rare Arizona RV Park that allows tent camping. I had a pleasant encounter six miles from town.
A man named JC was pulled over next to the entrance to the airport. When I told him what I was doing, he didn’t seem surprised. As it turned out, JC and his wife walked nearly half of the American Discovery Trail (2,000 miles or so) in 2019. JC’s knee gave out in Des Moines and they were forced to stop.
JC and I have more in common than that – he is also in recovery and has been sober for 15 years. His eyes lit up when I told him I’m a recovering alcoholic. We had an impromptu meeting on the roadside. Once I arrived in Whetstone, he stopped by Dollar General and delivered a half-gallon of milk and a few candy bars. We prayed before he said goodbye. Thank you for sharing your story, faith, and sobriety with me, JC!
After reaching the Mountain View Campground, I met Sheila (the manager) and went inside to pay for my site. A group of campers were in the community room getting ready for Thursday night bingo. Sheila introduced me and I gave them an overview of my walk after apologizing for interrupting their bingo game. They sent me on my way with a slice of cake and some Sunny D!
Mountain View Campground was one of the best places I have camped on my journey (and not just because of the cake). The bathrooms were SPOTLESS, the people were friendly, and Sheila even turned on the motion detector lights near my tent to “give me a fighting chance just in case the neighborhood coyotes decided to invade my camp!”
After coffee with the other campers in the morning, I continued north on Highway 90 towards I-10. When I left Douglas, I planned on heading west from Whetstone and walking a dirt road through the mountains to Green Valley. After doing a little more research, I discovered the road is a popular 4WD route. Considering PJ only has three wheels, and my boy has a tough enough time with curbs and stairs, 20 miles on a rocky, sandy, potentially washed out road sounded miserable (and potentially impassable).
Although pedestrians are prohibited on all interstates in Arizona, it was the only “reasonable” alternative. If a cop stopped us, we would plead ignorance. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?
I put the impending 11 mile interstate walk out of mind for the first 20 miles of the day and enjoyed the incredible scenery on Highway 90. Panoramic views of Apache Peak and numerous mountain ranges to the east were visible from the highway, which ran along a high ridge.
Before hopping on the interstate, I “gassed up” at McDonald’s, determined to make it through the 11 mile stretch as quickly as possible. It was a loud, unnerving walk. Endless lines of semi-trucks and passenger vehicles continually pounded PJ and I with bursts of wind and dirty looks (though only five cars actually honked at us). During our illegal walking escapade, five border patrol agents, one state trooper, and one county sheriff drove by, but none of them stopped to harass us. PJ and I victoriously left the interstate at the exit for Marsh Station Road, just before dark. We successfully cleared another big hurdle!
Tucson was in our sights the following day, without having to walk on the interstate. After a lovely walk on Marsh Station Road through the Sonoran Desert hills, we followed a frontage road for a few miles, then headed north and reached the city limits of Tucson. It was a primarily suburban stroll through the foothills of the Santa Clarita Mountains. Just before dark, we walked the Harrison Greenway, which cut straight through a swath of untouched Sonoran Desert. I pushed PJ about 100 yards off the trail, carefully avoiding the neighborhood cacti and mesquite trees, and cowboy camped under a clear desert sky.
In the morning, I was eager to watch the sunrise over the desert. I was all packed by 6:30 and walked a mile down the trail. The sun rose over the Santa Clarita Mountains shortly after 7, bringing the sleepy desert to life.
Shortly after the sunrise, I struck up a conversation with Sue and Leslie, who were out for their walk with Annabelle. The friendly little pooch greeted me enthusiastically and never barked at PJ!
Sue and Leslie are Tucson teachers and daily walkers. They recently finished walking the entire “Tucson Loop,” which is a 58 mile-long series of bike and walking paths that circle the city. They are also a part of a walking/hiking group called the “Sole Sisters” and regularly head into the mountains for more strenuous hikes. The duo can certainly attest to the physical and mental benefits of walking.
As we said goodbye, I told them “Keep on walking!” Their reply was perfect…”We never stopped!” Neither will I! Thank you for the company this morning, ladies, and thank you for the gift card, Leslie!
I spent the majority of day leisurely walking the “Tucson Loop.” I waved and smiled at every cyclist and walker that crossed my path. While much of the country was gripped by the polar vortex, snow, and ice, I was happily basking in the Arizona sun and enjoying temperatures in the 60’s (not to brag or anything). The path followed a number of dry river beds and meandered past clusters of saguaro cacti. After a brief stop at REI to pick up (hopefully) one last tire for PJ, I headed north and walked for a few hours after dark, ending the day near Oro Valley and camping on a small hill overlooking a wash.
After two days of walking, PJ and I were clear of Tucson and ready to start the four day jaunt to the Phoenix area. We stocked up on food and water at a Walmart and walked north on Highway 77 towards Catalina – flanked by Mt. Lemmon to the east. Maybe it was the howling coyotes the previous night, a questionable lunch selection at Walmart, or my sore left pinky toe. Whatever the reason, the miles didn’t come easily on the walk out of Oro Valley. I managed to walk 20 miles and reached Highway 79, but cut the day short after coming across a nice spot to camp across the highway from a power station. I nicknamed my campground “Power Line Junction” because power lines dissapeared into the desert in every conceivable direction.
I woke up to overcast skies the following morning. Mt. Lemmon received a fresh coating of snow the previous night. Thankfully, I stayed dry, aside from a few raindrops. The clouds dissipated as I made my way further north on Highway 79 just in time to enjoy beautiful views of the Sonoran Desert. Saguaro, prickly pear, ocotillo, barrel, and chain fruit cholla cacti were visible for the next 40 miles. I was in heaven!
I ended the day camping in a rare desert “forest.” I was well hidden from the road and was able to set up camp before dark and enjoy another beautiful Arizona sunset.
From mile marker 123 off Highway 79, I was a two day, 66 mile walk from my friend Shane’s house in Tempe. I enjoyed another few beautiful miles in the Sonoran Desert before reaching Highway 87. Farms and agricultural land replaced the desert scenery. The farms felt oddly out of place given the harsh, hot, dry Arizona climate, but were beautiful all the same. Fields of alfalfa added some green to the otherwise brown landscape.
My last night outside of the Phoenix area was spent stealth camping on Gila River Indian Reservation. I struck out early the following morning and reached the Phoenix suburb of Chandler after 15 miles of walking.
The final 20 miles to Shane’s house in Tempe went by pretty quickly. I walked a mixture of sidewalks, bike paths, and a few dirt shoulders through Chandler and into Tempe. A variety of desert plants signaled spring had arrived.
I reached Shane’s house on February 18th shortly before 9 PM. It was a full walking stretch from Douglas to Tempe. I elected to take a day off and rest up for the second half of my walk through Arizona. What a grand stroll it has been so far!
In honor of being on the road for 100 days, I put together a short list of things I have learned (or need to be reminded of) during my walk so far…I hope my thoughts give you some food for thought!
1. No matter how many miles I walk, I need to keep learning. I’ll never have this mastered. Even though I’ve walked over 9,000 miles throughout the U.S. and Canada, every day poses new challenges, which I look at as opportunities to learn and grow. What a great metaphor for life! Keep learning and adapting, no matter what.
2. My ability to “let things go” is directly related to how often I listen to “Let it Go” from the Frozen Soundtrack. My four year old niece will be so proud! Once a day does the trick.
3. I can create my own happiness. A gratitude list, prayer, a roadside dance, or looking for ways to help out another person or place (even if it’s something small like picking up trash at a rest area) immediately improves my mood and perspective.
4. The average saguaro cactus lives between 150 and 175 years! Some are over 200 years old!
5. Wherever I go, there I am! Whether I’m walking across America or back home in CO, I am solely responsible for my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical health. Keeping up with these isn’t a weekly or monthly task. It is a daily endeavor. I need to take steps everyday to ensure I’m taking care of myself, no matter what is going on around me.
Favorite Four Pictures
Days – 101
Miles – 2,324
Jars of Peanut Butter Consumed – 86
Roadside Change Count – $5.75
Miles Per Shower in Arizona – 63.8
From Tempe, I will be following Highway 60 to Hope, Arizona, then heading up to Parker. I’ll hit the California state line after crossing the Colorado River. My next update, Lord willing, will be from California….Until next time, walk on!
I left El Paso on February 1st fully prepared to begin the “Borderwalk” segment of my journey.
A few days before reaching El Paso, I planned on walking north to Las Cruces and following Interstate 10 west. “Weird things happen close to the border,” people warned me. The alternative (and my original plan) was to walk New Mexico 9, which runs right along the border for 100 miles or so. In a few spots, it come within a mile of the border wall.
Walking closer to I-10 seemed like the prudent thing to do. It was further from the border and wasn’t as desolate. It offered twice the towns and services along the way. But as I planned out the I-10 walk, I kept getting a strange feeling about it in my gut. Something wasn’t right. I’ve learned on my walks that I always have to trust my gut, even if it’s telling me to select the more illogical option.
“Highway 9 it is, PJ,” I hollered as we pulled out of the La Quinta parking lot.
Before hitting Highway 9 though, I had nearly 30 miles of El Paso and surrounding suburbs to walk through.
The stroll through El Paso was thoroughly enjoyable. After days and days of desert scenery, the colorful cityscape of El Paso was a welcome change. PJ and I took a detour from the hotel and walked under the bridge that crosses into Mexico. We could see the “Bienvenido a Mexico” sign from the sidewalk. PJ was adamant about going to Juarez but I had to put my foot down and say no. Plus, he doesn’t even have a passport!
After trekking through downtown and enjoying the big buildings, San Jacinto Square, and a variety of murals, I pushed PJ up a large hill that led to Sunset Heights Historic District. Beautiful homes dating back to the 1920’s were decorated with a Southwestern and Hispanic flair. The sprawling metropolis of Juarez was visible across the sandy Rio Grande.
Our tour of El Paso continued with a walk through UTEP’s campus and past the Sun Bowl, which is the university’s football field. The stadium is literally carved out of a mountain!
After a few more errands (bike shop, post office, and Walmart) we were through Central El Paso and walked suburbs until dark. I have walked a lot of big cities during my three treks across the country. El Paso was, hands down, the most walkable. Other than a 50 foot stretch across some railroad tracks, PJ and I had smooth sidewalks, bike paths, wheelchair ramps, and walking men at every corner for the entirety of our 20 mile walk out of the city. Wow!
We reached Santa Teresa, New Mexico after dark and found a decent spot off the highway in the desert to camp for the night. I knew I needed to get comfortable sleeping among the mesquite trees, yucca, and cacti…There is going to be plenty of that moving forward!
After a few miles the following morning, we hit NM 9, which we would follow for the next 147 miles, nearly to the Arizona State Line.
The first day on Highway 9 was strange. After a few miles, the road turned south and I caught my first glimpse of the border wall, which stretched far off into the distance. I can only describe seeing the wall for the first time as surreal.
Given my proximity to the border, it’s no surprise every other vehicle that roared by was a white and green Border Patrol SUV. They weren’t just on the highway. I spotted a few agents driving through the desert seemingly randomly. A few were parked on top of bluffs watching the valley floor. Occasionally one would drive by very slowly on the narrow dirt road between the highway and the barbed wire fence that lined the desert. Although I felt like I was being watched, it gave me a slight sense of comfort knowing the agents were around. At press time, I have yet to get stopped by the “BP,” as I call them.
I spent my first night off Highway 9 camping on some BLM Land within a mile of the wall. I enjoyed a beautiful view of the valley from the top of a small hill where I set up camp. Other than seeing the lights from a few BP’s driving down the dirt road right next to the wall, I was all alone.
I had a rare deadline when I woke up at 5 AM on February 3rd. The previous day, a man named Conrad (who is from Louisville, CO) stopped and visited with me midway through my walk. He gave me two Mountain Dews and wished me luck on my journey. A few hours later, I received a text from Lawrence, the owner of the Bordlerland Cafe in Columbus. Lawrence told me Conrad pre-purchased a meal for me at the cafe! Lawrence also offered me a spot to camp on the property once I arrived. My goal for the day was to make it there before the restaurant closed at 7 PM.
With beautiful weather and light traffic, PJ and I cruised to Columbus, walking 33 miles in just under 11 hours. We hit the Borderland Cafe with time to spare and enjoyed a delicious, leisurely dinner on the cafe patio (indoor dining in New Mexico is still banned due to COVID). I ate a massive Poncho Burger, complete with Hatch green chilis, enchilada fries, and a salad. Lawrence visited with me for a bit as I enjoyed the tasty meal and beautiful evening. I set up camp next to the restaurant’s patio. Thank you for the gesture of kindness, Conrad, and for your hospitality, Lawrence!
I got a “late” start the following morning and didn’t start walking until 8. The wind picked up by 10 and I was left pushing PJ into 20-30 mph winds. It was a challenging, often maddening day. The highway had no shoulder to speak of. I would normally drown out the noise from the wind by wearing ear plugs, but since I didn’t have a shoulder and was literally taking up a third of the eastbound lane, I needed to listen for cars approaching from behind me. If someone happened to be passing another car at my back, I was right in their way. Every time I heard a car coming up from behind me, I would quickly glance over my shoulder to ensure it wasn’t one vehicle passing another.
Despite the noise from the wind and the physical challenges of the day, PJ and I managed to cover a difficult 30 miles before dark. A mile before we reached our camping spot in the desert, a photographer named Felix stopped and visited with us.
“You look like a man on a mission,” Felix said as he pulled up along side me. “Can I take your picture?” Felix snapped a few semi-candid shots of PJ and I as we pushed through the stiff New Mexcio wind. He pulled over 100 yards later and we visited for a few minutes. It had been a quiet few days socially so I was grateful for the chat. Thank you for the company, and the photos, Felix!
The next morning, I covered the final 14 miles to Hachita by 10 AM. I stopped off at the Hachita Food Mart for a morning break. The Continental Divide Trail (which runs along the divide from Mexico to Canada) is a popular mountain biking and hiking route in the spring and fall. The store in Hachita is a little oasis in the desert for thru-hikers and bikers.
I sat inside and visited with Jeff, the owner, for a few hours while I drank a cup of coffee and a half gallon of milk…then proceeded to eat a sandwich, honey bun, and a bag of goldfish.
Jeff is certainly a kindred spirit. He is an avid cyclist and outdoor enthusiast and has biked the entirety of the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada, which is well over 3,000 miles. It was nice to be on the asking end of questions for a change, like “How long did it take you,” and “How many miles a day did you ride?” Additionally, he is a hell of a nice guy and was a great host for the two hours I spent at his store. Great meeting you Jeff, and thank you for your hospitality!
I left the store at noon and continued my walk west. After a modest eight mile climb to the Contintental Divide Trailhead, it was all downhill for the rest of the day. I could make out the faint outline of the Chiricahua Mountains (which I would walk next to the following day) in the distance. I ended my walk cowboy camping in a massive dirt lot off the highway. I enjoyed another crystal clear night, starry night in the New Mexico desert. The Milky Way kept me company as I drifted off to sleep.
I began my last full day in New Mexico on February 6th. The Land of Enchantment provided some memorable scenery during my 35 mile walk to Rodeo. The Chiricahua Mountains to my west were visible all day. I also formally crossed the Contintental Divide five miles east of Animas. I hit another walking milestone as well. As soon as PJ and I hit the end of NM 9 and turned left on Highway 80 (which we would follow south to Douglas) we reached 2,000 miles on our current walk. A “rainbow sunset” in the Chiricahua Valley capped off another scenic day in New Mexico.
After camping at a little RV Park in Rodeo, I began packing up and preparing for the 50 mile walk to Douglas. However, the morning didn’t go as planned. After breaking down my tent, I noticed my water jug was leaking. A few inches of water had settled on the “floor” of my stroller.
No big deal. There was a gas station and grocery store in town. I decided to buy a few gallon jugs of water for the upcoming 50 mile stretch, which didn’t have any services. I called the store the previous day and the woman working said they were open from 8-2. When I arrived, a big sign on the front door said “Closed Sundays.” To be fair, I loose track of what day it is all the time.
On to Plan B. I walked back to the RV Park and put several layers of duct tape on the bottom of the jug over the leak. Then, I filled it with a gallon of water and set it down. I waited 30 seconds, picked up the jug, and discovered a pool of water underneath it. After thousands of miles of walking, I actually found something duct tape can’t fix! Then I had a brilliant idea – transport the jug upside down! When I flipped it over with the pour spout facing down it didn’t leak, and water wasn’t coming into contact with the compromised plastic on the bottom.
With my water problem solved, I happily got back on the road and continued to the Arizona State Line!
After a few ceremonial pictures next to the “Welcome to Arizona Sign,” I cruised towards Douglas.
The walk through Southern New Mexico on Highway 9 was desolate. I didn’t think it was possible, but the walk south to Douglas on Highway 80 was even more desolate! I didn’t have any cell service from Rodeo until I was about 10 miles from Douglas. That meant a whole walking day with no internet, social media, calls, or texts. Just a man and his beloved buggy in the Arizona desert. Truth be told, it was one of my favorite days of the walk. Disconnecting from the world and simply walking with zero distractions was humbling, cathartic, and centering. The incredible scenery helped, too.
I found another great camping spot near mile marker 390, about 22 miles from Douglas, and called it a night shortly before sunset. I was asleep by 6:30.
I woke up at 3:30 AM and, to my surprise, was wide awake. I decided to get an early jump on the day. I was pushing PJ through the dark by 4. The final 22 miles into Douglas flew by. We hit town by 11 and checked into a Motel 6 room shortly after that. PJ and I had walked 230 miles in eight days since we left El Paso. It was a physically and mentally challenging stretch. I earned every bite of the delicious burritos I gorged on from the gas station next door!
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 91
Miles – 2,056
Peanut Butter Jars Consumed – 74
Roadside Change Found – $5.51
Miles Per Shower in New Mexico – 96.66. It took 11 days to walk 290 miles across New Mexico, and I squeezed in three showers!
From Douglas, AZ, I will have my work cut out for me! After walking to Sierra Vista on Hwy 92, I’ll head north on Hwy 90, west on Hwy 82, north on Hwy 83, then follow a dirt road through Madera Recreation Area towards the tiny town of Continental. From there, I’ll head due north to Tucson and northwest to Phoenix on Highway 79. The desert will continue to provide beautiful scenery and plenty of challenges as I enter my final month of walking. I can’t wait to see what awaits on the road ahead.
Taking an impromptu rest day in Andrews, TX was a great decision. The ensuing 11 day, 290 mile walk to El Paso gave me all I could handle!
PJ and I rolled out of Andrews around 8 AM on January 19th with the hope of reaching the New Mexico State Line, 32 miles down the road, before ending the day.
It was a cool day with temperatures in the upper 40’s, but a decent tail wind and flat terrain made the walk into New Mexico slightly easier. Other than a flat tire (Ben – 3, Thorns/Goat Heads – 2) the stretch went off without a hitch. I pushed PJ into the Land of Enchantment – our 5th state of the walk – around 7 PM. We called a rest area across the street from a Love’s Travel Stop home for the night. It was a lovely place to sleep.
I made my way into Eunice (three miles down the road) the following morning. Overnight rain showers left the air crisp and fresh, which was perfect for exploring downtown while drinking a cup of piping hot coffee.
The next town down the road was Carlsbad. There were no services between the two New Mexican cities for 70 miles.
Traffic was noticeably lighter west of Eunice, which was a blessing because I hit a 10 mile stretch on Highway 176 that didn’t have a shoulder. When I was planning this portion of my walk, I had “red flagged” the ten mile stretch because I knew it didn’t have a shoulder and would be tricky. To add to the challenge, there was construction work going on. A few workers offered me a ride through and told me “I don’t know how you’re gonna push that thing down this road.”
“PJ and I always manage,” I told them with a laugh. It got sketchy in a few spots, but there was always room to scoot off the road when a line of cars approached.
It was a bumpy ten miles!
I was ready to celebrate making it through the narrow stretch as I pushed PJ up one final, small hill. All of a sudden, PJ stopped. I gave him a mighty shove, thinking his front tire was stuck on a rock. I heard a terrible screeching sound. PJ wouldn’t budge. Thankfully, we were 10 feet off the road. I looked PJ over and discovered the cause of the sound. I had run over a long piece of wire, which managed to wrap itself around PJ’s right axle and get caught in the spokes. After fighting with the wire for a few minutes, I popped the tire off and was able to remove it.
PJ and I traveled for another five miles after dark and it didn’t seem like the wire did any permanent damage. I cowboy camped off a little dirt road for the night after an eventful day.
I pressed on towards Carlsbad in the morning. I hit the junction of Highways 176 and 180 after walking six early morning miles and decided to take a breakfast break.
Socially, it had been a quiet few days since leaving Andrews until a few truckers befriended me during my break. Allison, who drives a sand truck for an oil company based in Texas, pulled over. She motioned for me to come talk to her as she stuck her head out of the window of her big rig.
“I saw you four times yesterday! What are you doing?” We visited for 30 minutes before she needed to get back to work.
After I finished breakfast, I was walking back to the highway when another trucker pulled over.
My Spanish isn’t good (I know plenty of swear words thanks to years of working in a Mexican restaurant, but it ends there), but I think my new friend Miguel understood what I’m doing and why. He sent me on my way with three Cokes, a Monster, a can of juice, and a tasty steak burrito. Thank you for the food and drink, Miguel!
Another two kind New Mexicans stopped and offered me a ride into Carlsbad when an afternoon storm moved in. The people I have met so far in The Land of Enchantment are certainly warm and welcoming!
I didn’t reach Carlsbad like I had hoped. I ended the day seven miles shy of town and camped in the desert off Highway 180. Just a man and his buggy under a clear desert sky!
I reached Carlsbad in the morning and spent the day playing tourist and walking errands. I sunbathed along the banks of the Pecos River in a beautiful city park, meandered through downtown, and stopped by a Walmart to pick up some supplies for the desolate walk to El Paso.
Two of my biggest cheerleaders insisted that I stay in a hotel for the night in town, on them. I settled on a Motel 6 in the southern portion of the city to finish my preparations for the walk to El Paso. Thank you, Mom and Dad!
From Carlsbad, El Paso is about 160 miles away. After leaving Whites City (18 miles south) there are no reliable services for 130 miles! I packed six gallons of water (which weighs a whopping 48 pounds) and enough Ramen, tuna fish, and peanut butter for the six or seven day walk. PJ was HEAVY. To lighten PJ’s load a bit (he can only carry 100 pounds) I carried my trusty backpack, Forest, for the first few days out of Carlsbad. Before leaving Carlsbad, Forest enjoyed a life of leisure riding inside my buggy. It was time to put him to work!
I enjoyed a quiet 24 mile walk south from Carlsbad and camped for the night on some BLM land off Highway 180. I could see the faint outline of the Guadalupe Mountains in the distance.
Things didn’t begin as planned the next morning. I woke up with a flat front tire. Anytime I push PJ off the friendly confines of the highway shoulder (where thorns and goats heads are typically blown off the pavement) I run a higher chance of getting a flat.
I wasn’t worried. I removed the front tire, patched it, pumped it back up, and started walking. A mile later, the tire went flat, again. This time, I put in a fresh tube. I inflated the tire to about 70 percent of the ideal PSI and my pump broke. It simply stopped pushing out air. There was no way I was going to walk to El Paso without a fully functioning air pump.
My best option was to walk the eight miles back to Whites City, get a campsite for the night, and figure out a way to get a new pump. It was disheartening to spend the morning walking backwards (east), but I had no doubt my pump broke for a good reason. If my pump broke 60 miles down the road, I would have really be stuck between a rock and a hard place.
After setting up camp, I made my rounds through the campground looking for someone who could drive me to the Walmart in Carlsbad. Some oil workers would have given me a lift, but they were enjoying the leisurely Sunday with some adult beverages and couldn’t drive.
I began chatting with a woman named Bridgette who lived in a cabin next to the campground. She didn’t have a car, but called her brother who lives in Carlsbad. Sam offered to buy me a pump and drive it up to the campground! He arrived a few hours later with a floor pump in hand. It was 10 times the size of my preferred hand pump, but the selection at Walmart was limited. It would do the trick.
In addition to helping me get a new pump, Bridgette also gave me a bag full of snacks and kept me company throughout the day. Thank you, Bridgette and Sam, for your help!
A pretty hearty wind storm blew through during the evening and I didn’t know if my tent could withstand 40 mile per hour wind gusts. I broke down camp at 8 PM and slept next to the old shower house between the building and a concrete wall, comfortably sheltered from the wind. What a day!
I left Whites City Campground at 7 in the morning excited to resume my walk to El Paso. I was grateful that the pump debacle only delayed my walk for a day.
After a few quiet and calm hours of walking to start the morning, sustained winds of 25 miles per hour (with gusts of 40) joined me for the remainder of the day. Walking 27 miles straight into the wind was exhausting! PJ’s weight and some sizeable hills added to the challenge. I ended the day at a rest area – back in Texas!
On January 26th, I began my walk over the Guadalupe Mountains. To be honest, I didn’t know Texas had mountains until I began planning my walk! The Guadalupes would give me all that I could handle!
From the rest area, I started climbing immediately. The wind was really whipping (surprise, surprise, right in my face!) making every step a little harder. I gradually ticked off miles. Clouds covered the higher peaks in the mountain range.
After climbing about 1,000 feet, snow flakes started flying. Every flake that the relentless wind blew into my face felt like a pin prick.
After 10 challenging miles, I reached the summit of Guadalupe Pass at an elevation of 5,695 feet. The storm that was blowing through prevented me from seeing the peaks in Guadalupe National Park as I took a chilly break.
From the summit of the pass, it was a downhill walk to the valley floor. After a few more miles, I turned around and caught of glimpse of El Capitan, one of the signature rocky peaks in the mountain range. It appeared the Guadalupe Mountains wanted to reward me for my efforts with a stupendous view!
I pressed on for another eight miles and decided to call it a day when I came across a bridge that had a nice, cozy spot underneath where I could cowboy camp and stay out of the wind for the night. I was in my sleeping bag and ready for bed at 4 PM.
I woke up the following morning to chilly temperatures (a low of 26!) but sunny skies. The wind died down overnight and the forecast called for calmer conditions for the next three days! After packing up camp and returning to the road shoulder, I caught a glimpse of the magnificent Guadalupe Mountains, free of any clouds!
It’s tough to say that walking 36 miles is easy, but my walk from the bridge to the tiny town of Cornudas was as easy as a 36 mile trek could be. I enjoyed beautiful desert scenery all day, flat terrain, a large shoulder, and no wind. PJ was back to his normal weight, too, which made the miles fly by.
I experienced some more Texas roadside generosity from a woman named Melinda. She was driving to Carlsbad from El Paso for work. Melinda is an avid runner and laces up her running shoes when she travels. We shared stories about aggressive dog encounters and talked about “pedestrian dignity” (or lack thereof), in different parts of the country we have explored on foot. It was a hoot visiting with her. She sent me on my way with a Visa gift card I’ll be using for PJ’s new shoes in El Paso. Thank you, Melinda!
I reached the small campground behind the Cornudas Cafe shortly after dark. The next morning, I popped into the cafe and enjoyed way too much coffee and a heaping portion of eggs, bacon, and potatoes. I enjoyed breakfast, but the company was even better. Jenny, my server, and the owner, Jeff, kept me company while I ate. I learned more about this unique part of Texas and loved listening to their strories about life in the desert.
My walk to the outskirts of El Paso started around 8:30. Despite the late start, I walked 40 miles. After dark, a beautiful full moon lit up the highway shoulder and surrounding desert. It was a magical (and surprisingly quiet) walk in the dark. I ended the day 22 miles from downtown El Paso. The flickering city lights from the El Paso/Juarez metropolitan area were visible from my camping spot.
I was right to acquire another bike pump before leaving Whites City. I woke up to another flat front tire. It must have been the celebratory donuts I was spinning in the desert at the sight of El Paso’s city lights! I installed my last remaining front tube and rolled into town. Thorns/Goat Heads – 4, Ben – 3.
After a primarily suburban walk and a few shopping stops, I arrived at a La Quinta Hotel a few miles east of downtown El Paso where I am taking a few days off. El Paso marks the 2/3rds point on my third walk across America!
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 82
Miles – 1,825
Jars of Peanut Butter – 65
Miles Per Shower, NM – 61
Miles Per Shower, TX – 66.5
Roadside Change – $5.28
From my LA Quinta room in El Paso I have another 14 miles to walk through Texas before I arrive back in New Mexico. That will bring my mileage total in Texas to 802!
Once I’m back in New Mexico, I will be following Highway 9 through the southern portion of the state before hitting Highway 80 and walking to Douglas, Arizona! Sierra Vista, AZ is my next big stop – 250 miles or so west. Until next time!
I left the Ballinger Inn on January 12th ready to tackle West Texas. The storm that dumped five inches of wet snow in Ballinger had moved out of the area. Locals told me they typically receive and inch or two every winter. So far this season, they have received almost a foot of snow! Despite the sunny skies, I was in for a few chilly days.
It was a brisk 35 degrees as I made my way towards downtown Ballinger and Highway 158. I meandered through town and enjoyed the yard art and signs in front of a curiosity shop in the central business district.
The walk north on 158 was enjoyable. Traffic was light and I had a huge shoulder all day. There was a nice mixture of farms and ranchland. I continue to enjoy the wide open skies of Texas.
Midway through the day, my friend John, who is completing Ernie Andrus’s second coast-to-coast walk, tracked me down. He sent me on my way with two of Ernie’s t-shirts, three gift cards, some cash, and plenty of well wishes. We visited on the highway shoulder for 30 minutes. Thank you for your kindness and generosity, John!
I spent the night at the city park in Bronte. The next morning, PJ and I were rolling before dawn. Sterling City, 46 miles down the road, was our destination for the day.
46 miles can be an overwhelming number of miles to walk! Even though I have walked over 40 miles four times in my “walking career” (and on two other occasions on this trek) it’s still a tough mark to hit. I simply broke the walk down into 10 mile segments, which made it seem more manageable.
After passing through Robert Lee, I found myself in a new landscape. Parched cedar covered mesas lined the highway. Yucca, catci, and thorny mesquite trees were scattered throughout the arid hills. I felt like I had officially arrived in the West!
By the time the sun set, I was still 10 miles from town. I enjoyed a beautiful sunset before the sky filled up with stars. Flashing red lights from wind turbines surrounded me. I hit the city park in Sterling City exhausted but thrilled with the effort from the day. I haven’t slept that good in years!
From Sterling City, I slowed down a bit and took two days to complete the 50 mile trek through Big Spring. I enjoyed a rare night of stealth camping off Highway 87 under a crystal clear sky before walking through Big Spring and camping at an RV Park the following day.
After camping for the night at Arena RV Park just north of town, I covered 27 miles and ended the day in Tarzan. By the time I left Big Spring, I was squarely in the oil rich Permian Basin, which covers much of West Texas and portions of Southeastern New Mexico. The terrain completely flattened out. Oil wells and power lines towered above stumpy mesquite trees.
Although the landscape of West Texas is bleak (especially in the middle of winter!) I’ve managed to find beauty in my surroundings. Yucca and catci add splashes of green to an otherwise brown countryside. The constant churning and humming of oil wells brings me a surprising sense of calm and serentiy. Power line towers march towards the horizon in an orderly fashion.
Unobstructed views of sunrises greet me each morning. Beautiful sunsets wish me goodnight at the end of every day. Walking provides an unparalleled opportunity to find “beauty in the bleak.”
Once I reached Tarzan, I camped in a parking lot across the street from “Tarzan and Jane’s Grill.” Unfortunately the grill was already closed when I reached town at 5 PM. I was going to look for Jane in there since I already found Tarzan!
From Tarzan, I walked 29 miles and ended my day at appropriately named Flatland Campground just east of Andrews. I had some company on the last few miles of my stroll.
A young black lab came running up to PJ and I after she squeezed through a barbed wire fence. I prepared for attack when I saw the dog barreling towards me. Fortunately, all she attacked me with were kisses! Most dogs are aggressive when PJ and I roll by. I was relieved to find one that just wanted to play. I spent 20 minutes with her on the roadside before continuing my walk. She followed us for about a mile. She didn’t have a collar and people I have spoken with in town have told me there are a lot of stray dogs roaming around. I briefly entertained the idea of keeping her and having another companion for the remainder of the walk, but she eventually dissapeared. Still, I was happy for the brief period of puppy love.
Despite the beauty of West Texas, the area has posed its fair share of challenges. There has been a noticeable uptick in traffic, primarily due to the prevalence of the oil industry. I am guessing 50 percent of the vehicles on 176 are oil related, whether they are oil tankers, sand trucks, or support vehicles. I know a few things for sure. They are all big, loud, and don’t take Sundays off.
The wind has been relatively calm the last few days, which I am grateful for. However, cooler temps and higher winds are supposed to move in when I leave Andrews.
Mesquite thorns continue to be an issue (or at least an annoyance). My left tire has gone flat three times in the last three days. However, I have been able to reinflate it after each flat and it has held for the most part. Right now, the Ben vs. Mesquite Thorns score board reads Ben – 3, Thorns – 1. I get a win every time a tire goes flat but I can still successfully reinflate it, indicating the tire sealant did its job.
I decided to take a rest day in Andrews after walking the final four miles into town from Flatland Campground. By the time I finished doing laundry and grocery shopping, it was past noon. I typically don’t get motel rooms when the weather is nice (the high was 70) but the most difficult stretch of my walk (up to this point) begins when I leave Andrews. I figured a night indoors was a good investment.
I will continue following Highway 176 into New Mexico tomorrow. Eunice is the only town in the 108 miles between Andrews and Carlsbad. From Carlsbad, El Paso, Texas is the next major destination. There’s a whopping 133 mile stretch after White City (18 miles south of Carslbad) with no services. The next 275 miles will test my physical, mental, and emotional toughness in a whole new way. I can’t wait for the challenge.
I started 2021 off on the right foot (or maybe it was the left) by resuming my trek across the Lone Star State. I left the Super 8 in Fairfield around 10 AM and headed west on U.S. 84. The rain that soaked East Texas over the previous two days had moved out of the region, but overcast skies and brisk winds made for a chilly day of walking. I managed to make it 19 miles before calling it quits and cowboy camping at a picnic area off the highway. There were no signs saying camping was prohibited, so I maintained my comfortable level of plausible deniability in the event the authorities showed up. “There’s a 50/50 chance the cops wake us up tonight, PJ,” I said out loud before I fell asleep.
At about 11 PM, I woke up to a flashlight in my face.
“Limestone County Deputies. Are you ok sir?” It seemed we lost the coin flip. I shot up in my sleeping bag and realized there were two police officers towering over me. “What are you doing out here?” I jumped into a semi-coherent explanation for why I was camping at the picnic area. The officers ended up being very understanding and cordial.
They ran my driver’s license (to make sure I wasn’t running from the law) and asked me questions about my walk. I got out of my sleeping bag, only wearing my fleece long johns, and retrieved two business cards from my pack and handed them over to the officers. To my surprise, they still let me stay there for the night. One of them gave me a fist bump before returning to his cruiser. I was still delirious when they left.
“Have a great night dudes,” I said as they walked off. It took 1,120 miles to have my first encounter with the cops!
In the morning, I walked through Mexia and trudged on towards the outskirts of Waco. As I walked further west, I encountered fewer and fewer trees and more wide open spaces. I was certainly off the “Texas Forest Trail” after leaving Fairfield.
It became obvious that finding places to camp right off the highway would be a challenge in Texas. Most of the land is private property surrounded by barbed-wire fences and marked with no trespassing signs. So I wouldn’t be scrambling for a camping spot after dark, I needed to start calling ahead to more police departments, city halls, and RV Parks and set up sleeping spots beforehand. I actually needed to do some planning!
I hadn’t done any planning on day two out of Fairfield, but lucked out with a camping spot on the east side of Waco at Homeplace RV Park where the owner let me pop my tent up near a gazebo on the property.
I walked into Waco the following morning. There were a few tricky construction zones but PJ and I were able to navigate around some concrete barriers and closed roads in order to reach downtown.
Waco was the last big city I would walk through for a few hundred miles so I bought a couple of new bike tires, new shoes, and some supplies at Wal-Mart before heading out of town. With a lack of sidewalks, plenty of curbs, and very few walking men, it was a frustrating and challenging stroll out of town. I was thrilled to reach the Cotton Belt Trail at dusk and settle down for the night after a stressful day of “big city walking.”
I continued my walk down U.S. 84 January 4th and had a very eventful day. Outside of McGregor, a small sedan was pulled over on the shoulder. A man wearing a reflective vest was waiting for me to walk up. “I gotta hear what you’re up to,” the man said with a big smile as I approached him.
John is the first cross-country walker I have met “in the wild.” He is walking the country in honor of Ernie Andrus. Ernie crossed the US on foot over a three year period (from 2013 to 2016) at the age of 90! When he turned 95, he decided to retrace his route. This was in March of 2019. Unfortunately, health issues sent Ernie home (where he is still alive and well) when he was in the South.
John is continuing Ernie’s journey to honor him and is walking the same number of daily miles Ernie would have – between three and four. John’s expected arrival in San Diego is on Ernie’s 100th birthday – August 19th, 2023. Ernie is expecting to be there, too! It was a pleasure to meet you, John! I love your humble attitude, patience, and gracious spirit! Thank you, John and Ernie, for the inspiration! You can check out Ernie’s page at http://www.coast2coastruns.com.
After a few big hills and my first flat tire since Florida (mesquite thorns 1, Ben 0) I hit Gatesville and had my first newspaper interview of the walk with Rob, a retired police officer and new writer for the city paper. Thank you for taking the time to interview me!
With the help of Sheri at Gatesville City Hall, I camped at Faunt De Leroy City Park in Gatesville for the night. I didn’t arrive until after dark and was exhausted from a full day of walking and social interactions.
I walked a modest 19 miles from Gatesville and camped at a roadside park 7 miles east of Evant the following day – with the permission of the Collyer County Sherrif’s Department, of course! I’m adapting to the Texas walking environment!
While planning the next few days of my walk (and checking the weather) after I arrived at the roadside park, I noticed a potential winter storm moving into Texas in four days. With towns of any significance becoming more spread out, I decided to try and make it to Ballinger, which has three hotels to choose from. Ballinger was 122 miles from the park. It would be a challenge to cover those miles in four days but it was my best option. I set up camping spots in Goldthwaite, Early, and Santa Anna. Now, I just needed to cover the miles!
The walk to Goldthwaite was a hilly, windy, 32 mile challenge. I fought a 20 mile per hour headwind all day but still reached town right before dark.
I walked another 32 miles the following day and camped at J’s RV Park in Early. I pitched my tent on concrete slab number 20 for the night surrounded by RV’s.
Santa Anna was the next stop, 26 miles down the road! I was right on schedule and on pace to beat out the storm. I ended my nine day walking leg with a 40 mile day which ended at the Ballinger Inn. I covered the final 40 miles in 12.5 hours and arrived with a few hours to spare. Freezing rain moved in overnight and I woke up to a few inches of fresh snow on the ground.
A huge thank you to Andrew and Stick Newland of Colorado Springs for sponsoring my hotel room last night! My 2nd and 3rd nights at the Ballinger Inn were provided by Jan and Vic Kennah of Ft. Bridger, Wyoming. Thank you for keeping me warm and dry!
In addition to some incredible generosity from friends back home and Wyoming, I experienced some Texas sized generosity during my last walking stint, too.
While I was setting up my tent at J’s RV Park in Early, my neighbor Cindy walked by with her dog, Zeke. We got to chatting and she insisted on “blessing me financially,” as she put it. She went into her RV while I petted Zeke and came back with a very generous contribution to my walk.
Earlier in the walking week, a woman from Lily’s Catering saw me walking down 84. She pulled over and set a breakfast burrito and cup of piping hot horchata down on the highway shoulder for me to pick up as I walked by. She just waved and drove off!
And a few days ago, a man named Bruce pulled over when I was 15 miles from Ballinger. Bruce was dressed in denim from head to toe, wore a cowboy hat, and had a burning cigarette hanging from his mouth.
“I have a care package for you,” he told me after offering me a ride into town. He went back to his car. I was expecting him to return with a few snacks. Instead, he retrieved a massive black duffel bag that was half the size of PJ. “What do you need?”
Bruce sent me on my way with three cans of soup, six microwave dinners (thankfully my hotel room has a microwave!), some cookies, saltine crackers, a bag of donuts, and a roll of TP. PJ was at capacity after Bruce loaded me up with food!
It was a pretty tumultuous week in America. I am blessed to be able to share stories about the kindness I have received from friends and perfect strangers during my walk. There are good people to be found EVERYWHERE! Thank you all!
Favorite Three Pictures
Days – 60
Miles – 1,346
Jars of Peanut Butter – 50
Roadside Change Count – $5.05
Favorite Roadside Find – The “loveseat” at the roadside park near Mexia.
Miles Per Shower in Texas – 61.57
I have walked about 430 miles in Texas so far. My arrival in Ballinger marked the geographic midway point in my third walk across America. Mileage wise, I am roughly halfway there, too!
I am taking two full days off in Ballinger and waiting for the five inches of snow that fell in the recent storm to melt. On January 12th, I will head northwest towards Big Spring, then west towards Andrews and Carlsbad (NEW MEXICO!) over the next 10 days. My walk will lead me through some desolate country. I can’t wait! Walk on!