Monday, August 25, 2008


The first night beyond Pueblo I only made a few miles. Rolled out in front of an elementary school, in the little town of Gates. I stayed on pavement, right next to the building, so as to avoid sprinklers, but was still woken up by the sound of them. I think I've kind of developed an instinctive phobia to the sound of a sprinkler now. I found that I couldn't sleep, couldn't even get close to sleeping, with the 'che che che che, brrrr e che che che' in the background. My eyes wouldn't stay shut.
It stayed cloudy for a few hours, as I walked, but when the sun finally burned through the temperature climbed quickly. I've enjoyed a good break from the most extreme heat, for a while, but it's coming back.
I walked slightly over twenty miles, on the day, and pulled over just short of Fowler. In the morning I made it into town, and spent a few hours at the local museum and at the library. Later in the afternoon, when the heat wasn't as bad, I walked to Manzanola, and found another elementary school to lay out my sleeping bag.
The next day I walked through Rocky Ford, stopped at a local fruit stand and ate through two entire cantaloupes before walking again.
In the evening I set up nine holes of frisbee golf at Swink High School, and stayed the night under the football stadium bleachers.
I didn't walk much, the next day. Made it down into La Junta and spent quite a while reading in the cool of the library. That night I walked eight miles, and pulled over around midnight by the side of the road.
I've been running into mosquitoes for a while, now. They started coming out as far ago as Idaho, but it seemed that no matter how thick they were, they went away once the stars came out and it got cooler. Now, unfortunately, it's too warm for them to come out until later at night, and they stick around forever. The night beyond La Junta proved to be the worst so far. I made it to sleep fine, but woke up some time later scratching furiously at my face. By the time I realized what was happening, my cheeks and eyebrows were already covered in lumps. I sprayed buy repellant on my hands and rubbed it over my face, and tried to sleep. But the mosquitoes didn't seem to care about the repellant. They came thickly, and I stayed awake most of the night, trying to keep them at bay. Swatting three or four at a time on an arm or a couple on my forehead. I'll have to find some netting.
The next day I walked through Las Animas. Sat out some of the heat at the Loaf and Jug, and found the library closed. In the evening I made ten miles beyond town, with a storm on my heels. Twenty minutes after setting up my tent off to the side of the road and climbing inside, the rain started. And for two hours it kept coming, harder and harder. The wind shoved the sides of the tent over and the rain ran underneath and started soaking up from below. I spent the second night in a row mostly awake.
In the morning the sun was shining. Things dried off quickly, and I found good spirits to walk with. Another twenty miles on the day, and I stopped a little before Lamar, for the night. Slept like a baby, as they say. I was probably too tired to notice bugs or lightning, had they come.
Now I'm in Lamar, and I'll probably stay here most of the day, and make some miles in the evening, when it cools down.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Road Again

Tuesday I left Coaldale around noon. Up the driveway and turned left.
I took my time, walking through the canyon. Took a nap at the Cotopaxi store and dipped my feet in the river just beyond the KOA. I made seventeen miles on the day, by ten oclock, and stopped for the night at a pulloff by the road.
In the morning I woke up sore. Sore, blistered feet and sore shoulders. The first ten miles I stopped six times for short rests, putting my feet in the water whenever I could. The sun fell down into the canyon and cooked the road and the sweat stuck to my shirt.
Beyond Parkdale I started feeling better. Climbing the long hill after crossing the river, clouds blew in and it started raining and I felt refreshed. Made another six miles before pulling over to eat through a box of granola bars. I decided, nearing Canon City, to walk over Skyline Drive. The last time I walked the Drive was in January, at one oclock in the morning, during a blizzard, and it felt cathartic, in a sense, to do it now, on my return.
After climbing up and over the ridge and dropping down into town I made my way to my uncle's house. Crossed the highway and the river and walked through the duck park. Last school year this is where I stayed, for six months. Now my Grandmother has moved in, though just briefly. She's recently sold her house and is waiting for the apartment complex where she's going to be moving to open a spot. It felt odd coming back, after three months away. But it felt good, I guess, too.
The next day my uncle and I walked from his house out through town. He's become a big walker, himself, in the last couple of years and he wanted to see me off. We walked for eleven and a half miles, out to a local hot springs called the Well, where he left his truck.
I stayed the night with Timothy Fleming, at his house in Florence, and planned to leave the next morning, but the weather turned overnight, and we woke up to rainy skies. So I took a needed day off, and spent some extra time with friends. Watched a movie and played Pictionary with EasyCheese.
The next morning was equally gray, and I was still a little sore and still a little unready to leave, so I didn't. Took one last day in town.
Sunday I left Tim's. The rain wasn't gone but I needed to take off. And really, as I walked, the weather proved to be wonderful. Cloudy and cool but only a little bit of moisture. I walked twenty three miles on the day, into Pueblo, and spent the night behind a Walgreen's.

At the beginning of my trip - the first couple of weeks, in Washington - the amount of time I spent barefoot was fairly small. I estimate that I averaged 40 - 50 percent. By the time I got to Oregon I was toughening up, at least in terms of my callouses, and the rate increased. I had worried that the rain would be terrible for my feet, but though it wasn't helpful, it didn't seem to slow me down a whole lot. In the mornings I would wake up with puckered, raw soles, but a large coating of Vaseline and a few miles on the road loosened them back up. Through most of Oregon, and into Idaho, I estimate averaging 60 - 70 percent barefoot.
In central Idaho the weather started warming up. Through Fairfield and Carey and Arko and Blackfoot, and so forth, the average dropped again, on the hot pavement, though that, too, seemed to get better with time. By Utah and Wyoming, and Utah again, I started to get into a rhythm, and figured out how to work with the heat, and brought the average back up.
Around the time I entered Colorado my feet started to really bother me in other ways. For a while I thought that I was getting stone bruised, but later decided that my arches were starting to go downhill. I'm still not positive if that was the case, but regardless, I started putting on my sandals more, sometimes stuffing extra padding underneath the arches to give them more support.
At home, in the three week stretch off the road, all of the aches and pains in my feet seemed to heal. Starting out again, the arches felt as strong as ever. Unfortunately, my callouses seemed to have all but smoothed away. In the first five miles from home I re-received a good helping of blisters, and what tolerance I had to the hot pavement was gone. So now I'm rebuilding my soles, and not averaging more than 30 - 40 percent without my sandals.
When I left home I had no real idea of what to expect from the road. I had trained myself up for several months but really had done little, in terms of how much needed to be done. I hoped that I could walk almost entirely barefoot, but I didn't know. And even with a thousand miles under my belt I still hoped that there would come a point when I could put down the sandals for good. At this point I'm not sure that that's possible. There are a lot of factors that determine how much I do barefoot - the heat, the rain, chipseal, the time of day, the amount of traffic - and there's no way I can work around all of them, all of the time. In a week or two I should be able to pull my average up fairly high, again. But I think, now, that I'm probably not going to be able to make it to a hundred percent, at any point.
I hope that I haven't made it seem that I'm doing more than I have been. I've been doing, simply, as much as I can, and that's what I'll continue to do.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Normalcy

There feels like an unexplained gap in the timing of things. I've been home three weeks and it feels like I haven't walked for a year. And I have no idea how it will feel to start up again.
I've been kept busy, being home. Going back and forth from Canon City to Salida to spend time with friends, working to make some money, and such. The first time I got in my car I felt claustrophobic, and drove thirty five miles an hour all the way up the highway to Salida.
When I'm with my friends I seem not to have changed at all. We laugh and play video games and swim in the river and nothing feels different than when I left.
Last Tuesday I spent the night in Canon, having spent the day with friends, and woke up Wednesday morning at my uncle's house. I drove home, took a shower, and then headed for the bachelor party in Salida that afternoon.
It would have been easy to guess, had I ever given it any thought, that Michael would be the first of us to get married. Senior year (his senior year, when I was taking time off) he went through more girlfriends that I had any hope of keeping track of. He's always been an extrovert, I guess. But the truth is that I never did give it any thought. It's not something that ever crossed my mind, considering which of us would get married first. Marriage seemed like something still a long way down the road. When he emailed me saying that he was engaged it threw me off balance.
Wednesday I stayed in Salida, and all through Thursday, working on wedding arrangements. We rehearsed at four, and then ate, before most of the groom party and ushers drove down in Mike's van to Coaldale to stay at Drew's house for the night. Mike and I stayed around, while he worked on some last minute details. By the time we headed for Coaldale, ourselves, it was pouring rain and eleven oclock at night.
In the morning I woke up early. Showered and drove back into Salida for an eight oclock meeting with a local radio station, then rushed back to Cotopaxi.
A week before, we had learned that a former classmate, Zach Price, had taken his life. Zach had been a good friend of mine for a long time in elementary school, though I hadn't seen him in a couple of years. Friday morning a service was held at the Cotopaxi church, and all seven of us in the wedding who had stayed the night in Coaldale, attended.
It's odd how we remember each other. A lot of different people stood up during the service to tell about how they remembered Zach. For me, the clearest memory is of a play in second grade. We were all different kinds of dinosaurs and we would all jump on the bed and break certain bones, or however it went, and Zach was the paleontologist and he would come out and say 'No more dinosaurs jumping on the bed!' and wave his fingers at us.
After the service we piled back into Mike's van and drove back to Coaldale, for half an hour, to finish getting things together, then drove the rest of the way into Salida. The wedding started at one. I walked Mike's mother, Stephanie, up the aisle behind the grandparents, and sat in the front row while everyone else filtered in wearing Converse sneakers.
Mike, as well as Jasmine, wore white. A fully white tuxedo and white and blue Converses. I wonder how many truly white weddings there are, anymore.
I don't know how I used to think of sex, exactly. I never felt any strong urge toward abstinence, but, instead, simply didn't feel that the timing was ever right. But my thoughts have changed some, now. I think that Michael and Jasmine, choosing to wait, have gained something, and I applaud them.
At the reception I felt awkward. I danced quite a bit. Talked with some old teachers and friends. But still felt strange. I saw one of my friends leaping through a door and I had no idea where it was going to lead. Still don't. How can I, possibly?

In the morning I'm leaving again. Walking up the driveway and turning left. And I'm scared to death. Because now, more than ever before in my life, I feel like I need to be around friends. I've always been an introvert, always easily kept myself happy. But now I'm not so sure. This last three weeks I've been soaked in friendship, and I'm afraid I might pucker up and wither away when the friendship has to get left behind. Hopefully I'll get through the loneliness, and get back into the rhythm of the road without too much trouble. But I'm not so sure.