Monday, December 12, 2016


...been having an ongoing struggle with speechlessness ever since my return from this protracted and oft-interrupted walk venture.  First there were the weeks of post-jaw-fracture treatment to endure. (See last two posts.)  Dental work from this ordeal is still in process, what with the additional weeks that elapsed as I readjusted to chewing and before I could open my mouth far enough to see a dentist.  The 'bite' will probably never be the same, nor will my my yawn be as wide as before. But I can at least function with a degree of normalcy.

In the midst of this experience, and as soon as it was able(!), my jaw was dropping with the influx of election-related news that, to me, defied all reason.  Clearly, the outcome was based more upon emotion than reason, and I know that my own emotions are running higher with each announcement of presidential cabinet picks.  Horrified amazement predominates.  Every day I am struck dumb all over again.   And filled with dismay for the future of the non-human inhabitants of our fragile planet, as well as most of(!) the human ones. In light of the most recent devolution of our sociopolitical situation I am more determined than ever to resume walking this spring. What feels different now is that I am not sure how it will be possible to 'complete' the pilgrimage. What would that look like? When will it seem that I have walked far enough? Getting to the East Coast may not be the end of it, though it may be the end of me, stamina-wise! So - in the spring I shall embark upon OEWP-Phase 3, heading to my last year's stopping point in Indiana.

Meanwhile, waxing sentimental about the holiday season is a practice I must leave to others, though I can take a moment to enjoy the seasonal drifts of red and yellow leaves on our street, collecting in the gutters and creating havoc for the street sweeping trucks.  Festive enough for me!

Street art...

Good luck to us all in the New Year!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Home again!  And within a day I'd had an appointment with a maxillofacial surgeon who 'wired' my jaw back into the approximately correct position, a situation to be endured for a possible 4 weeks.  This is so far one of the most painful and unpleasant experiences I can remember, and one I had hoped to avoid altogether, but...

Last Wednesday A.M. I was gathered and ready to resume walking a rather short experimental day, and had a host arranged for that night as well as the next one.  But upon waking in the morning I had a 'writing on the wall' moment, featuring physical discomfort, a touch of mental disorientation (beyond my usual AM fog), and the dawning realization that food was going to be a real issue as I tried to drink or slurp enough calories for the task at hand, and over the course of the following weeks or months! Eating had been consistently painful. And how did I know that my injuries would not have further ramifications to be discovered down the road (literally)? The way became clear at that point, and by noon I had a plane reservation and was rearranging gear for a flight back to San Francisco.  Arrived early Thursday morning and the various medical appointments happened pretty fast once I got here.

During the preceding week, and thanks to my awesome and gracious Indiana host, I had learned a lot about the American Discovery Trail route through Indiana; the county roads and former rail lines look like beautiful walking and I am more than a little disappointed not to be seeing them this year.  But it also must be said that it's good to be home, looked after by family and friends.  And, cardinals and fireflies notwithstanding, I do generally prefer the summer weather in these parts!

So  -- here's looking at a 3-part pilgrimage, rather than the one or two-year trip I had envisioned. Boundless gratitude to all the many folks who have offered food, shelter, financial encouragement, good wishes and prayers.  If it is still in the cards, I hope to resume the trek next spring, perhaps with a heightened appreciation for the vulnerability of this fleshy vessel!!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Intro to Indiana. One mis-step and... stitches!!

How can I put this in the briefest, gentlest way?  Well, on Friday I was making pretty good time towards the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, a route that takes you in a direct line to the town of Crown Point, my destination for that day.  The connecting road, Route 30, does not seem to be a good alternative route for this walk, as far as my short stretch of it would indicate.  A busy interstate highway across the northern U.S., it felt a bit like Route 6 -  not a nationally designated Interstate like Highway 80, but a heavily traveled secondary commercial route inhospitable for any sort of bicycle or pedestrian traffic.

There were no shoulders, no sidewalks, and no crosswalks east of the town of Dyer.  After hurrying crossing the wide intersection with Route 41 in the town of Schererville a piece of road trash caught me by the ankle, and, momentum being what it is, I was 'down' before I could correct, landing mostly on my chin in the grit...  Although I was bleeding profusely at at that moment, no one stopped to see if I was OK.  I was not OK.  But there was a Walgreens close by where I went to clean up and assess the damage. Before the day was out, I'd been to a hospital ED in Crown Point (thank you, Uber!!), had my chin stitched up and an Xray taken of my jaw. Friday afternoon none of my teeth would meet at all - talk about your serious 'malocclusion'! Today is Monday and I am situated in the home of the American Discovery Trail coordinator for the northern Indiana route (there is also a southern ADT route through the state.)  He has generously offered his hospitality until I can get back on track! Based upon the past few days of recovery, that should be possible in the coming week.

Bottom line(s) will be to avoid infection and learn to be more creative with 'soft food' options, as this trek requires calories. Have gained a lot of ground already with tooth alignment; however the imaging suggests that I have small fractures on both sides of the lower jaw at the TMJ points (right in front of the ears), which means no actual chewing for 4-6 weeks(!) Of course the rest of my body has to recover from its shock, sore muscles and whatnot.  I won't show you a photo of my face.  It's not too bad - just a mess of blooming bruises on the lower half.  I shudder to think how much worse that mis-step could have been!

The historic city hall in the town of Crown Point

More wildflowers I can't identify

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Indiana, and thoughts about the American Discovery Trail

In another couple of days I will be in Indiana!  Temperatures are soaring; humidity is, too. The whole northeast seems to be sweltering in the same high-pressure zone just now.

OK - time to make a decision that I have been anticipating for a while.  It has been really nice to be off of the highways, on the American Discovery Trail for part of the time through Illinois. And that trail has run parallel to Rt. 6 through the state.  However, if I am to continue on the ADT (assuming I can find a decent map of the route!), the way will turn pretty radically southeast for a while at this point.  Since Route 6 is heading for Massachusetts I have known that it would be necessary to make a 'directional adjustment' right about now, in order to aim for the latitude of Washington DC, or thereabouts.  I will be meeting with the Indiana head of ADT tourism in a few days, and hope to resolve some of my questions about trail conditions, roadway alternatives and routing...

An unrelated question - why can't we have cardinals in California?  (Right, the conditions are different...)  I am so enjoying their varied, but always distinctive and entertaining songs, as well as the occasional flashes of bright red, that it makes me wish we could 'import' them to the west coast!

Below are some photos of the couple who 'adopted' me in the town of Ottawa, Illinois.  Lou stopped to talk to me on the way home after his shift.  I am not usually in the habit of 'naming names' when talking about the 'road angels' I'm meeting, but this is a case like mine(!), of 'going public for the cause' -- in their case, the public relations cause!

Ottawa hosts Lou and Karri Riva

Check out this cool big bug that was on my tent in the AM the other day...
Frankfort, Illinois

The 'Plank Road Trail' cuts throught the center of Frankfort

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

'Dotted line' trekking.

Walking, stopping to wait for better weather, skipping ahead, and detouring on business...  is what makes this feel like a walk on a dotted line at times. Still I continue to chalk up mileage in spite of myself.  No longer keeping track; at the end it will just be a rough estimate of miles walked.  I know - there is an app for that.  But it involves keeping the phone switched on all the time, and it is more important to save power for the times when charging is not an option.  Last year I netted between 1000 and 1100 miles.  This year it looks like about 700 good miles so far, and many more to go.

Illinois has miles of trail following two different historic canals, the Hennepin and the I&M (Illinois and Michigan).  These were built in the 19th century for commercial barge traffic; I think that both waterways were closed to commercial traffic around the 1950's. Where they are still passable, pleasure boats can use the waterways for touring and fishing. The pathways are in various states of repair; some of it is paved and kept mowed along the edges and in some places the path is dirt (sometimes muddy) and single track, and looking as if it could disappear around the next curve.  Information about access and amenities (where applicable!) is not so easy to come by.  I saw that there are actual camping places intermittently, but too late to factor them into my planning. One keeps hearing that the state of Illinois is broke and much of the trail maintenance bears that out. 

There was a great private campground in Geneseo.  I have also been blessing with more hospitality from randomly encountered folks (road angels!): cyclists who took me and my cart(!) to lunch and then delivered me to a stopping place close to an AT&T office, where I needed to take care of some vital 'communications business'; an overnight invitation from a couple in the next town, who live on 5 tree-full acres in a wonderful Victorian era farm house; and now I am visiting a city police officer and his family, and sitting out a day of occasional downpour. The next three days look walkable, though I may have to revert to a parallel roadway if the trail is to be inundated this evening and overnight.  Which would be too bad as it is ever so nice to have some shade along the canal route.  The heat and humidity can be very enervating! 

Hennepin Canal

Would these be considered an invasive species? 

Beautiful, though...

Campground with all the amenities

Building in Geneseo

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Home for the holiday. That would the the July 4th holiday...

A keen interest in taking better care of myself than I did last year has prompted a week long walk-break which, in this case, has meant a return to SF for the R&R and a couple of physical 'tune-up' issues.  It's such a blessing to be able to make the trip home.  And it's probably better than spending the red, white and blue holiday in the mid-west where American flags engender a near-religious fervor all year long.

On Thursday, the 7th I head back to my stopping point in Moline, Illinois.  Some recent research supports a shift in route, to a walking path across Illinios that is part of the relatively newAmerican Discovery Trail, a semi-coordinated project connecting walking and biking pathways across the US.  The piece I hope to intersect with in a few miles follows a couple of canal routes and a  road formerly made of wooden planks(!)  I am hoping that the way is adequately navigable for a cart like mine.  Much as I appreciate the 2-lane highway, it isn't always so hospitable for my purposes, what with the unusable or absent shoulders.  This has been more apparent as I have come further east.

While in San Francisco my intention is to spend as much time as possible near the Bay and/or Ocean Beach.  For the sea breeze, negative ions and to watch the seabirds, especially my avian heroes, the brown pelicans!

Friday, June 24, 2016

A rest-less night, literally...

...But before leaving Iowa City we did manage to locate the 'lost' package of electro-mix right at the postal station it was intended for. This, after one bicycle trip, 2 Uber rides and a plea for help from a Post Office employee. All in a day's work!  That evening, my Iowa City 'Couchsurfing' hosts (a lovely international, intergenerational household), drove us out to a restaurant in nearby Kalona, in the heart of Amish country.  Tidy goat farms, horses, buggies and women in bonnets - picturesque as anything.

After a hot and muggy walk the next morning, I paused in the town of West Liberty and went looking for a camping spot, and in this case judgment failed me in my choice of location.  Afternoon was spent writing and showering at a public swimming pool. And as I was settling down for sleep I was visited by the local constabulary, nice officers who moved me over to the (off-season) county fairgrounds where camping is permitted.  There had been rain forecast for that night and was another reason for their concern (aside from the 'private property' issue.) Had it still been light, I'd have had time to scope out the situation, but as it was I made yet another unfortunate choice(!), and situated myself under a large roof in a semi-sheltered place - with a drain in the concrete floor below (which should have been a clue!).  A serious storm blew in on schedule, one that my little tent would never have withstood. And just as it seemed that the worst of it had passed by, it started pouring in earnest (and thundering, and lightening-ing), and kept it up all night.  Needless to say, the shelter floor was soon flooded out and, after jamming stuff into whatever bags were nearest at hand, I took cover in an animal barn where I was able to hang sodden tent parts on the dusty racks and shelves that stood in there.  And there I sat until the birds began to wake up, and it was light enough to see and re-pack! 

It would have been a good day to stop and recover, but I'd made an arrangement to meet with an local matriarch in the next town of Wilton, and so I set off again under still-threatening skies, and sure enough, before long a 'severe weather alert' had been posted on my phone.  No surprise when it started raining again.  After a few miles a nice lady stopped and offered a ride (her teenaged daughter silent and frowning disapprovingly),  Whimpering slightly, I accepted, and was delivered to another vintage motel, unprepossessing from the outside, but scrupulously clean, where, after keeping the aforementioned appointment, I had an early night. Sheesh.

Now in Davenport - tomorrow (weather permitting) I will cross the Mississippi River!

Vintage soda fountain (Candy Kitchen) in Wilton, IA - set to re-open soon with new owners.

Parents of the new owners let me inside to take a look.

The local lady I met had run this business with her husband for about 50 years.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sighting the next water tower.

Through Nebraska and most of Iowa most towns have had tall water towers, some visible from miles away, allowing me to get my bearings and guess-timate distances. In the last few days the towers have looked shorter, the hills have closed in a bit and there has been more vegetation; I have noticed that, without a steady point of reference, I sometimes lose the sense that I am moving at all, despite all of this incessant stepping!

In fact, recent heat, humidity and seriously rolling hills have reduced this walk to a virtual crawl.  The westward walker I mentioned last post talked about 'zero' days and ´nero´ days (from his experience on the Pacific Crest Trail).  Zero days were, of course, the rest days, but ´nero´days were the ones when people would walk short distances, just to move, without being concerned about distances. Nowadays, some of my walk days are feeling decidedly like ´nero´days. Yesterday I arrived in Iowa City, at another comfortable and hospitable ´Couchsurfing´ destination. The main goals here are to have a chiropractic adjustment and to investigate what has happened to the high-dose electrolyte powder I tried to have shipped here, General Delivery...

 The other day I met history teach Barry, his wife Jen, and Barry´s sister Melissa (the support vehicle driver) who are walking in my same direction, with a Chicago destination (and making better time, I must say!)  They are walking a Civil War era Underground Railroad route from Nebraska, to raise awareness of contemporary human trafficking. Their Facebook page is called ´Walk Forever Free´. Barry gives presentations along the way and they marched in the Iowa City Pride parade yesterday.  On the day we shared Rt. 6 I was able to take advantage of their support vehicle for some water, electrolyte mix and tailgate shade, and learn about their mission.

Recent offers of shelter have come from the Iowa Rt. 6 Tourism Association director (who also provided a tour of a few significant spots), a passerby in Colfax, and farmers in Grinnell.  Road Angels, all!  Interesting landmarks:  The Ladora Bank Bistro, converted from an historic bank building (hence the name, of course!), not open when I walked through, although I got to see inside; a vintage motel where I stayed in Marengo; historic registry ´jewelbox bank´in Grinnell, one of a series of small banks designed by architect Louis Sullivan early last century.  Oh, and I got some background on another of Rt. 6´s early appellations -- Grand Army of the Republic Highway -- a reference to the Union army in the Civil War.

With Barry from the Walk Forever Free march

Inside the Bank Bistro

Ladora Bank Bistro

Merchant´s National Bank, Grinnell

GAR Post meeting hall, Redfield

Friday, June 10, 2016

From an oasis in Des Moines...

Where to start?  So much has happened since Omaha…  Varying terrain and road conditions have been sort of challenging at times; lots of very rolling hills, little to no road shoulder to walk on, or shoulders of 'unwalkable' gravel.  

Interesting small towns along 'Historic Route 6', which parallels the commercial route.  Some of the old buildings are being restored; local business people have been encouraging travelers to take look past the usual 'freeway' businesses and explore some of the older town centers, many of which are well worth seeing.

 I have found a couple of excellent camping places in parks, with showers(!) At about 18 - 20 miles one day I stopped and asked to camp on some private land where a tattoo'd young man offered samples of his home canned produce and bread he had baked.  One of the best serendipitous meetings was with Orien (pronounced 'Oren') who has a small farm dedicated to donating produce and helping disabled adults, kids and physically/mentally wounded veterans, some of whom help with the farm work.  He also has a year-round Christmas store in the town of Oakland, a 'free store' in his home (available to anyone in need of give-away kid's clothing and toys.)  His many enterprises are volunteer-run, and he holds summer 'camp' days for kids and the disabled, featuring inventive and sensorily(sp?)-stimulating entertainment.  Whew…  and the list goes on.  He invited me out to the farm which was a short detour off my route, and I spend half a day cultivating rows of potatoes, and feeling quite happy to have been able to offer something in exchange for the meals and lodging. Now here, I thought, is a real living Bodhisattva! His website is at:

At a very cute little motel in the town of Anita I met another walker!  He also had a cart for his gear, and a reflective vest. This fellow was headed west and walking to publicize the American Discovery Trail (though he wasn't actually on the route when we met).  It was an interesting encounter and I would have enjoyed a bit more time to chat with him, had the situation allowed.

In the town of Redfield my route intersected with a part of the Racoon River bike and pedestrian path, which I followed all the way into Des Moines.  It was sheer bliss to be off of the roadway for a while!  The path follows a former train route and is, therefore, flat, straight and shaded. There are mulberry trees all along the way, and some had fruit I could reach.

After having some initial problems with the website (still don't know if those are resolved) I can now say that I have used the app called 'Couchsurfing', and in this instance at least, am totally happy.  I have a great new friend; we have loads of stuff in common it's been wonderful getting acquainted. There is a large and beautiful vegetable garden and the front yard is a bird-watching paradise. Jill and Zen friend Shodo (who came down for a day from Minnesota) have carted me around town to REI, to get a massage(!) and to do other walk-related errands. Des Moines is so spread out that, without these 'taxi-bodhisattvas', I'd have spent many more hours and Uber dollars.  (Actually have used Uber once here and once in Omaha, and it did work very well.) Now I have to apologize profusely to Shodo, who had been looking forward (as was I) to our meeting up somewhere around here, for a day or two of walking. As it happened, some difficult foot problems had developed and dictated a couple of rest days for me in Des Moines, to her great disappointment, and my chagrin... So we had a 'stationary' visit at Jill's house, but no walking.

And the last coincidental encounter I have to report, from yesterday, was with a radio host and environmental activist from here who was an organizer for the coast to coast Climate March that happened in 2014, and ended up in NYC for the huge ('yuge'!) rally that took place there in the fall.  Here was another encounter it would have been nice to extend a bit, but hey - who knows where the connection may lead?

Old railroad station along the bike path

Camping spot on the Racoon River

Town Hall in Adel, IA
Downtown Des Moines cafe, with Jill and Ed

Visiting the State Capitol
In the Capitol law library

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Beautiful flora and fauna. It's not all a 'walk in the park', though!

Have been meaning to return to some previous 'wondering', about what sorts of wildflowers would be growing along the roadways in the Midwest.  And here I am sorry not to have any photos.  It is not too surprising that most of what grows 'wild' around here are grasses.  Beautiful, for sure, and if it is not mowed, some is more than waist high. There are also some scattered vetch, mustard and other, mostly small and inconspicuous flowers I haven't any names for.   Lots of purple ones seem to be 'stock'; it even smells sweet. It's been surprising to see a lot of  'ditchweed' (cannabis), that I'm told is left from the days when Nebraska was a hemp-growing state.  Domestically, I have been amazed at the lilacs (now past flowering) that are huge and prolific, as well as some of the biggest, leafiest tradescantia (spiderwort) I have ever seen, in all of the usual colors, as well as some unusual ones.

Around here the squirrels are either red or black.  I have heard that the black ones are a legally protected species in parts of Iowa.  Oh, and the birds!  There has been so much interesting birdsong - and me without a nice compact guide...  One singing bird I did identify was a cardinal; their song makes me smile whenever I hear one.  And a very flashy yellow and black bird is the Nebraska state bird - a meadowlark.  Distressingly, I see lots of animals (mostly birds) dead on the highway.  Om Mani Padme Hum...

It is tempting to post all of the best of this venture, and leave out the relentless, sweaty, daily effort.  I often feel very 'middle-class' and self-indulgent around the subjects of food and shelter.  But the work is pretty grueling at times, and I flatter myself in thinking I've earned some comforts!  Yesterday's observations included:  salty sweat dripping into my eyes and burning (where's my sweatband?); the sound of traffic on concrete roadway is so much more punishing on the ears than when the road is made of asphalt...  I hear that there is a challenging set of hills in the eastern part of Iowa, where I will be in a couple of days.  But first - there is a good museum to see here in Omaha! 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Photos from Eastern Nebraska

Glass sculpture - downtown Lincoln

Antelope Creek flood control project (park) - Lincoln

Tile mural

Inside State Capitol building

State Capitol

'Whirly' sculpture made from Harley parts. Seen on a Hwy 103 detour...

Hard to believe it's almost time for a new map!

Since the last post I have turned my Nebraska map over to the east side, and am now close to walking off the edge of it! Am continuing to try for miles between rain squalls, of which there have been many.  Notable days/moments: fighting broadside winds of more than 30 mph one very long walk day; trying, on another occasion, to find a camping spot out of the wind, and finally setting up in a veritable junk yard of derelict and abandoned stuff (including wrapped rolls of TP and a dusty 12-pack of Budweiser); being interviewed by the Hastings Tribune. ( Not too bad; just a couple of mistakes...

But my most notable on-going experience is this seeming 'current of kindness' in which I have been traveling. Related family members from the towns of Funk, Minden and Lincoln, and Hastings/Lincoln have opened their homes and offered the most incredibly generous hospitality and friendship. In addition to lively, interesting conversation!  On a daily basis I am saying good-bye to new friends (and places) that I hope to see again some time.  What to do...   except to carry on down the road, reciprocating as and when I can, and remembering my gratitude practices along the way!

Photos to follow.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Whoa! A lucky meeting, and my first tornado sighting. (!)

Part of my learning curve:  the plains are not all 'dead flat'.  Some of this rolling hill terrain has been a surprising amount of work in view of my previous assumptions.  I remember crossing the plains in a car and can only say that on foot the variations in terrain become much more, and sometimes painfully apparent!  All is gorgeously green right now, what with the wet weather. 

Speaking of road angels!  In one town of about 350 population (Bartley) I sought out the public park and then crossed the street to inquire of the folks at work splitting logs as to whether they knew about the lawn sprinkler schedule (something to which one must always pay attention when camping on city property!)  The man replied that he wouldn't be turning on the sprinkler system as rain was expected(!)  I had asked the right person!  And before I knew it I was sitting with the family on their covered deck, enjoying a meal and some homemade brew.  Over the next several intermittently rainy days I was adopted by this town's maintenance manager and family and included in their week-end activities.  Also continued my walk to the next nearby town and was brought back to Bartley for another night indoors.  Believe me, it was not easy to say a final good-bye yesterday.

The night before my departure a tornado edged close enough to Bartley for the warning sirens to be activated.  While it was not headed directly toward the town, we learned that it had actually touched down in the town of Indianola, through which I had passed (and had lunch) on my way to Bartley.  A Colorado friend reported tornadoes in their area, too, in this past week.  Well, this is the season, I hear!

Top of the tornado

Being hosted in a corner of paradise.