Just when I thought I’d have very little to write about today… I literally was walking along thinking “what on earth am I going to write about today, No one cares about the motel, and I really didn’t talk to anyone today,”, so I was at a loss.
Left Rockdale at about 8, with short 11 miles up to Milano, the fashion capital of Central Texas, or the cookie. Quite uneventful, and happy to finally be out in the country. Was a beautiful morning, nice breeze. More trees today, less fields, and a really nice 11 miles to Milano. However, happiness of getting there was short lived when I found the motel. Suffice to say it looked more like a crack house, so I moved on and started Plan B… if i got closer to College Station, it would be a nice $50 afternoon for an A&M Aggie Uber driver and all would be fine. As I headed out of Milano, a county sheriff pulled in across the street.
So I walked across, took off my sunglasses (always take your sunglasses off when approaching an officer!), and walked up to the car. Asked him if there was any place to say nearby, he told me it was Hearne, where I am tonight. He asked where I was going, I said New York… he looked at me like I was absolutely nuts - either that or he’s never heard of that Texas town! He then asked me if he could give me a ride to the county line,,, quick computation and I accepted a 6 and a half mile ride to the Brazos River. Had fun riding in the back of the Tahoe behind the barrier, sent a “busted” Snapchat to my kids, as I rode along, happy it was voluntary and my hands were free, though when I used them to try to open my door… ain’t happenin’, and the gentlemanly officer actually came around and opened my door for me! Learned a few things along the way… hiking poles, good. good gear, good. He asked if I waved as cars went by, answer is yes, always. Basically what he was saying is don’t look like a vagrant. I asked if it would be a good idea to let local law enforcement know I was around, he said no, but don’t be surprised if they stop and ask questions. Good advice. So at the Brazos, he dumped me off and turned around, leaving me to do another quick computation.Decided to walk another 7 or so miles the Hearne, more than I wanted to walk today, given yesterday, but I’m finding that sometimes the pickin’s are slim! I felt fine. And I will address the un-walked miles later - I have an idea!
After about 4 miles into Roberston County, there was a bridge over a marshy area. When I got to the far side of the bridge, I stopped, took a little breather and pulled out my phone - spent maybe two minutes answering a couple of messages. As I proceeded down the hill, I saw some lights, police vehicle came around the bend and stopped in the middle of the highway, stopping traffic in both directions. I hadn’t seen a crash, and was very curious as to what was going on out in the middle of Texas. With traffic stopped and another white Police Suburban rapidly approaching, lights flashing, the first one pulled up stopped diagonally across the oncoming lane, about 50 yards away. Thought nothing of it but slowed down, as the second Suburban blocked the shoulder upon which I was walking.
At that point I realized “oh crap” (not the actual word I used!), this is somehow about me. Two officers, one in each vehicle, and another police vehicle approaching. Officer on the right put his hand up and told me to stop. Officer on left motioned to lift my arms, which I did, one walking pole in each hand. I had taken my sunglasses off before that, thankfully. Right officer motioned for me to walk forward, which I did, slowly. As I neared him, and stopped, it went something like this…
Officer: Did you just come off the bridge?
Officer: Did you see anyone on the bridge?
Me: Uh… no.
Officer; Did you stop on the bridge?
Me: Yes, for a minute or so
I showed him my walking sticks, by then he has seen face/eyes/ hair, and realized I wasn’t a threat whatsoever. He asked where I was going, I said Hearne, and then of course told him about The Walk to the Park! Before letting me go, though I didn’t ask why I had been stopped, I think he felt compelled to let me know what this was all about. He told me that there had been a call-in from a passerby saying that there was a man on the bridge with what appeared to be an assault weapon. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps the sunlight just caught my walking poles in such a way that they looked like something they weren’t.
About a quarter of a mile ahead, still shaking, I was stopped again. The officer had not been informed that all was OK, so as he walked towards me I told him I had already talked to his guys up ahead. He was very cool about it, and as we were talking a message came across his radio… all I understood was “man with walking sticks”, and it took everything to not just laugh. Of course I didn’t - this cannot be taken lightly. So we talked for a minute or two, told him what I was doing, and the last thing when he got in his patrol car was “where can I follow you?”. So net result, we’ve got half a dozen Central Texas cops following along :-)
I must say that every one of them was very courteous and professional, as was I with them. And I apologize to anyone that may have gotten scared today because of me. I really walk in peace.
So on I went... as the adrenaline subsided, I was side swiped by a sense of sadness. I find it very sad that a skinny ol’ dude with orange running shorts, a backpack and a pair of walking sticks could be so grossly mis-characterized. It is a shame that we have gotten to this point, but it is in our power to reverse the trend.
Happy to be where I am tonight. Have some thoughts on safety which I’ll share when I finalize. But tonight, all is well, somewhat of a crazy day… sorry not too many pics and updates and all… I do hope you understand… Peace.