It’s at this point that I wish I had more time and energy to describe and detail everything I’ve seen, everything I see every day, and all the little encounters, the smiles, the kindnesses. I must say I underestimated the physical toll of this walk, expecting to have all kinds of time when I got to my destination. Back several months ago when I thought I knew the way it was going to be, I anticipated walking from dawn until about one or two PM, quick shower and then all kinds of time to talk to people, to take pictures, and put them into a nice daily story. Would be nice, but leaving at dawn has only happened a handful of times. It’s not as easy as it sounds, takes a lot of mindless, yet time consuming, steps.
Day starts with coffee. And most of these little hotels and motels have realized that coffee is very important to me. No, there’s not a barista, there are no extra shots, and sometimes the half and half is half vegetable oil… but it’s ok, and all things being relative, it’s actually pretty good. Then starts the process of getting it all together to go. I have to pretty much unpack everything when I arrive, as I need to get water bladder out of backpack. And of course, it has to go back in first, filled with ice and water from down the hall. And then there’s the infirmary segment, which fortunately has gone from perhaps half an hour to only a few minutes now that the b’s have turned into crocodile skin. And then I maybe have something to eat, which at that hour of the morning is tantamount to force-feeding. Never been a breakfast guy. And then all has to go into its place in the pack, balanced and snug. I sometimes have to take care of something at home, a bill or whatever. I figure out my route and try to memorize it, lest I lose signal like I did yesterday for about an hour (it was wonderful). And on and on… there are a lot of little details that make a big difference; if I don’t charge my headphones, no music. If I don’t charge the charger, no power tomorrow… and on and on it goes, and when you’re like me, it takes a while, because I do everything (and nothing) all at the same time. I don’t have a check list, just look around the room and see if anything is left!
So leaving at dawn isn’t easy, but I’m thinking as the days keep getting shorter, it may be a necessity. Noticed today the sun was down and it was quite dark at 7:00 PM. I’m moving into a new time zone in a couple of days, so that’ll help, but the biggest delay in getting going has nothing to do with packing things and preparing water. It is primarily the mental piece, and it happens every morning. Walking all day in the hot sun takes a little prep work. I remind myself of why I’m doing this, that failure is not an option, that I love to walk, that I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do this. I also know that at some point in the day, I might be in pain or very uncomfortable, but this preparedness is key. The few days I haven’t done this have been extra difficult, but once I get into the right mindset, things all go a lot more smoothly.
And about a month ago I promised I wouldn’t mention the heat until it cooled… well, I’m breaking my promise. This heat has been absolutely ridiculous since I left Austin on that incredible Sunday at 103 degrees. Back then, I figured I could put up with it for a couple or three more weeks into a balmier September. Now into week eight, it is still in the 90’s, 96 today in Nashville, all time record for the day. In fact, this stretch has broken over a dozen day-high temperature records. I am so looking forward to cooler weather, and will report. I’m very interested in seeing how much the heat has do do with the overall exertion of the day. Only a couple more hot days, according the weather geniuses, as I make my way through beautiful East Tennessee.
So I leave you with a simple field guide just in case you’re considering doing this next summer or the following. Call me with questions.