Shirt happens: Visit the Onny and Oboe Outlet today. (Click me)

A year after reaching the beaches and concluding the Walk Across America, we still have some miles to go before the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund can begin helping the families of heart transplant patients. Maybe you can’t walk a mile in my shoes, but now you can in my hoodie. Presenting: The Onny and Oboe Outlet — gifts, gear and gulping devices (gotta stay hydrated) that make perfect holiday presents. Not only do you outfit someone you like in some meaningful threads, but also make a contribution to the Onny and Oboe Fund. All profits go directly towards helping some deserving warriors. It’s the answer to the complex question: 1) How can I still help now that the Walk Across America is over?, and 2) What’s in it for me?

Bang a gong, get it on.

Treat yourself. Treat your friends. Treat that guy who laughs too hard at your jokes. Kill your enemies with love. The Onny and Oboe Fund is alive and well, but we need your help. Never mind the Mayans. If the world ends on 12/21 your karma will be on a hot one. Be bold. Walk confidently into 2013. As the snow lands outside your window ledge and your nephews spike the hot apple cider, warm everybody’s hearts with a gift from the Onny and Oboe Outlet. Forget that tired North Face. You can get your O & O face.

Of course, you can still donate directly to the Onny and Oboe fund here or press the “Donate Now” button to the left.

Aaaah, what's in the box?

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What, no Oboe? Jess and Ryan lead the Onny and Oboe All-Star players by the sea.

After walking through the summer, into the fall and weathering the winter, I was getting used to layering and waiting for the white stuff to drop. So it’s been kind of surreal being back in the Sunshine State, wearing shorts in January, as if I just hyperspaced after a six-month slog across the country’s asphalt. Sitting in the window seat on the plane from Philly International, I couldn’t even bear to watch the landscape zoom past (covering in six hours the distance it took me six months to walk). I couldn’t bear to watch, pulling the window shade down and sleeping it off, as if a bad dream.

Tuckered out in Laguna

Man’s fantasy of flight is nowhere inside me. I longed to be among the trees and the bluffs, or at river’s edge. But it didn’t take long for the Pacific seabreeze and California love to take hold. Last Sunday, Brooke and I celebrated the walk with family and friends (and collected donations for the Onny and Oboe Fund) in Laguna Beach, where our hosts, Jessica and Ryan, even entertained the gatherers on violin and guitar. We walk on. We walk together. On such a winter’s day.

Thanks to John Loftus of the Northeast Times in my native NE Philly for his thoughtful piece on the conclusion of the walk across America (CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLE). A nice feeling to have the hometown paper come out and keep the Onny and Oboe fire burning back in the Great Northeast. And, yes, I’m still scanning the outside of buildings looking for outdoor electrical sockets to charge my phone.

The road to a new life, of possibilities, has no endpoint.

A couple weeks before I reached the beach in New Jersey, I posited the question “How do we stop?” to some friends, friends who’ve similarly walked across America. There was a sense of anxiety about an imminent finish line when walking all day, every day had been the norm for much of the past year. Nate, a walker who had finished in San Francisco a month before me admitted his jealousy that I still had weeks to go. It’s not a reluctance to rest, but a want to carry that mad momentum into static life, where each day ends in a predictable place. “Back to the real world,” people have joked in the walk’s waning days. But the epic walker’s life is more real than any I have known.

Following is some of the advice I received from my fellow transcontinental walkers. Their wisdom is universal. It applies to the life we all walk today. “How do we stop?” We don’t!

“You’ll truly need to find some effective way to channel all of this massive energy and momentum. Channel it in a way that benefits you as well as everyone around you. You’ve finished walking across America — something beyond what so many people even think could ever be possible — yet the impossibility of which simply resides within their minds. Perhaps the next tremendous, superhuman feat will be on the same scale for you (I hope you see that it is). Whatever you choose to do next with your time and resources, make the best of it. For if you were to die tomorrow, ideally you’d have a smile on your face in light of the life you’ve been living. Make sure this remains the case throughout your future.”

– George Throop, currently walking amid a tornado warning in Houston (enjoythewalk.com)

“Keep fueling the ‘fire in the belly’! … and yes, KEEP walking. We are built for it. We need it. Others need it. Our communities need it.
– Jonathan Stalls, On-foot Initiator (walk2connect.com)

“Oh my! ‘Ending the walk!’ What a topic! Use the momentum to direct your purpose! If the walk has helped you to become more in your element, then trust it. There is no one saying that you can’t keep walking, so to speak. Keep following your heart and passion, and you may always keep walking (metaphorically or literally!). Keep being extraordinary.”
– Katie Visco, ran across America 2009, founder paveyourlane.com

“Experience everything as it comes. When you do a run or walk like that, you get a new mindset — aware of the moment right in front of you, and how the choices you make right then affect you at the end of the day, the next day. For me, everything became a hell of a lot simpler, and freer. Hold on to whatever mindset you got into and let that guide you towards choosing your “post-adventure” lifestyle.
– Zoë Romano, running cross-country for the Boys & Girls Clubs


Thanks to Joshua Batt, a medical student who reached out during my walk through the mountains of central Pennsylvania, for his thought-provoking blog post regarding our brief encounter outside Breezewood. “What Do You Stand For?” appeared on Medscape Connect, a forum for medical students to share their insights and experiences, good and bad, in order to create a community of support and understanding.

“I’ve traveled more in the last five months than any time before. With interviews and rotations literally from coast to coast, there were endless picturesque sites, fascinating people and lessons to be learned. The road between interviews has plenty to teach. If not by free flowing thoughts in hours of solitude, then by audible or visual stimuli around every corner. One turn in particular caught my attention as motorists sped through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. On the narrow shoulder to our right, a man walked steadily uphill pushing his belongings in a stroller-converted-porter. A sign affixed to his back had thick black letters that read, “Mikeywalks.com”. He had a purpose, a reason for walking and surely a destined goal ahead. Once I reached the top of the hill, I stopped to refuel and before continuing my journey headed to the website. A one-man adventure across the United States from the West to the East, on foot, one day at a time. He walks in support of a scholarship organization that helps recipients of heart transplants obtain a post-secondary education. Mikey stands for something.
What do I stand for? What do you stand for? What are we doing about it? Proclaiming that we want to “help people” may sound like a reasonable idea, but what are we willing to do to make that difference? The example of a walking stranger was enough to encourage my consideration of what I may or may not be doing. I called him, because offering a ride would defeat his purpose. Applauding his motives and journey through our brief conversation was the least I could do. Looking back, I probably should have bought him dinner. You may not have the opportunity to see him along the roads you travel, but you can follow his efforts on his site, MikeyWalks.com. So thanks Mikey for being an example to us all of what it means to be passionate and stand for something!”

It takes a borough: The end of one road finds me on another, with good company.

Fare thee well, my three-wheeled friend

The faces, the places … familiar. The circumstances, wholly different. In the days following our first Mikey Walks *Fun*raiser, there is a humbled gratitude for the extended “family” that awaited my arrival on the east coast. Family and friends from across the country gathered in the basement room at Paddy Whack’s Pub in Northeast Philadelphia on Dec. 30 to celebrate the Walk, reunite and continue building the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund. They brought baskets to raffle off. They brought their holiday cash to donate to the cause. They brought the love and support that called me back here from as far away as Santa Monica, California. There was always unfinished business for me back here, and Friday’s fete went a long way towards completing it.

A broken hand couldn't keep Ed out of the Silly Walk.

“The real joy to be found in the walk soon became apparent,” I told them. “It was in the collaboration. It was building something together.” On this night, I was but one of many Onny and Oboe supporters opening their hearts to give transplant patients and their families a second chance to dream; to not only live, but to live fully. The celebration included a Silly Walk contest (won by niece Kylie for a “Happy Feet” waddle in a photo-finish with nephew Barry, whose spirited silliness included his head hitting the drop ceiling), a rousing auction for my old framed Dr. J poster (buddy Steve has just the wall space) and even a fond farewell for my trusted partner “Coogs” (the baby jogger landing with pal Brian, who joined me three separate times on the Walk Across America). Out with the old and in with the familiar. As the Onny and Oboe drive moves into Phase Two, it’s good to know where One began.

Hat's off to all of those who stand with Onny and Oboe. A second chance to live is a second chance to dream.

Go, Team: The work to build the Onny and Oboe Fund continues tonight.

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”
~Henry David Thoreau

The Silly Walk blues on tap at Paddy Whack's.

A man occupies his mind with much as he walks. He even begins sentences in his head with “Me thinks …” But I know what HDT was getting at. Amid an eight-hour walk (after the day prior’s eight-hour walk) you’re bound to repeat some of the same thought topics as yesterday … and last week. I can’t count the number of times I’d considered my finish — what the beach would look like, who might be there, how it’ll feel to halt. Maybe I’d just roll my baby jogger into the sea, look around and ask “what’s next?” I practiced my response to the inevitable TV interviewer: “Hey Mikey Walks, you just walked across the country. What are you going to do now?” Then I saw the Music Pier in Ocean City, NJ, on my last stretch of land to trod and I couldn’t remember a word of it. Something about “taking a few days with my baby (my wife Brooke), kicking back with my feet up (on a tropical island) and getting drunk (Hello, tiki bar). Then, it’ll be time to get back to work building the scholarship fund.” That’s what I might’ve told the gushing camera crews on the beach, had there been any. In the end, I was relieved there weren’t. And not just because I couldn’t recall my silly, planned diatribe.

It takes a borough to build a scholarship fund.

Since when did I plan ahead more than a few days anyway. It wasn’t a hackneyed pitch and red pen route that got me across the country on foot. It was a willingness to let go; a want to be led by forces bigger than my little world. The week following my finish was a stark reminder to heed the lessons learned out there in eight-hour thought sessions. Let go. Be in the moment. Plans are fine, but those forces are going to shake ‘em like a snow globe. Soon after I checked into Chez Hatfield (my sister’s house), my body did a six-month exhale and I got sick, as if to say “if we’re going to rest now, we’re really going to rest.” There would be no tropical island, no revelry, no whisking away my woman in heroic fashion. I was laying prostrate before the tissue box and Nyquil by Christmas morning. Things change. The road turns. And that’s OK. Because the really important part of my silly planned quote might have sounded an afterthought: “… then it’ll be time to get back to work building the scholarship fund.”

Gave that philanthropic dog a bone.

Tonight, that work continues in earnest, at the first Mikey Walks *Fun*raiser in Northeast Philadelphia (CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS). The walk was but the beginning, the first steps in a much broader journey. Me thinks this is bigger than my little world.

 

 

Hey guys, I can accept rides now.

A banner night for Onny & Oboe: Put the "fun" in fundraiser on Friday, Dec. 30.

Channel your inner-Cleese to win $$$ in our Silly Walk contest.

The size 11s have been lifted to the rafters. Coogs the cart is in dry dock. The moisture-wicking wardrobe spin cycle. While the walk to Ocean City may have ended, the journey to fund the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund is just beginning, the families that will be empowered still fighting. Please join us on Friday, Dec. 30 (from 8 to 11 p.m.) at Paddy Whack’s in Northeast Philadelphia for a night of celebration & cheer, shiny things & silly walks in commemoration of the Walk Across America. All proceeds will go directly to the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund, providing the families of heart transplant patients with a second chance to pursue their dreams. Wear your well-worn walking shoes. Prepare a “silly walk” for a cash contest. Play tickle and chase. It’s all good, and all in the playful spirit of Onny and Oboe. A $40 cover charge includes all-you-can-eat buffet; beer, wine and soda at our private bar (cash bar for the stiffer stuff); door prizes, raffles, baskets and shiny surprises; DJ and dancing; a special appearance by “Coogs”; Siamese acrobats in Cosby sweaters; and much, much more. Bring some extra cash to partake in the contests and bid on the take-home treasures.

Who wants to wait till 2012 to "bring it" (in worn-out shoes)?

Paddy Whacks is located at 9241-43 Roosevelt Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19114 (215.464.7544). We will have a private room downstairs. You can peep their website here. For those traveling from far and wide (people after my own heart), there is a Sheraton and Roosevelt Hotel located within a half-mile (or a preferred 10-minute walk!). All ages welcome! Bring your friends, your family, your allies and your mates.

We will need to compile an accurate head count by Wednesday, Dec. 28. I know it’s short notice, but the road can be a fickle, winding, enthralling guide that turns on a whim and stokes the spirit. Trust it. Put the wraps on the holiday season with a gift that keeps on giving. Start the New Year on a righteous road. Please RSVP to either mikeytwalks@gmail.com or brookeryan.tittinger@gmail.com. You can pay $40 at the door or online through PayPal (Please add $1.50 per ticket for “PayPal’s take”).


From all of us at Mikey Walks (because no one walks alone), we thank you for your continued support, we wish you the best of holiday seasons and we look forward to meeting up along the road to Paddy Whack’s.

Child transporter, Walk across America gear carrier or mobile beer cart? The walk to Paddy Whacks is lined with dreams and Yuenglings.

The excitement was palpable heading into Ocean City, final stop on the walk across America.

Words fall short of conveying the feelings that crashed over me, like the Atlantic to my left, as our spontaneous parade climbed the ramp to the Ocean City Boardwalk. With a police escort out front, the fabled Music Pier — the Walk Across America’s endpoint — loomed larger each step. The continent’s edge; where Deanna left this earth amid the waves and seagulls overhead, my only company that late December day in 2000 when I spread her ashes. It was cold that day; gray and freezing. I couldn’t stop shaking. Not this day. The sun shone over a cloudless sky, its guiding warmth belying the 40-degree temperatures. Along the final 14 miles, I was reunited with my beautiful Brooke, and joined by family and friends as we headed for Somers Point and prepared for the final push into O.C. Before we’d reached the Ocean Avenue Bridge, a fleet of police cars greeted us, providing escort into the city where this whole odyssey began a decade ago. Our parade streamed down Wesley Avenue, a joyous celebration of walkers united in spirit and love.

Retracing my (final) step: The Jersey shoreline was time for remembrance, reflection and celebration.

I’d often thought about the finish line these past six months, approaching it at a 3 m.p.h.-clip for six months, but never wanted a planned outcome. It would unfold naturally, as the road always seemed to for 3,500 miles. But this was more than I’d ever imagined. On the Boardwalk, the others fell back, leaving me to walk alone once more. It was then that it all made sense. Everything made sense, this whole leap of faith I’d taken and asked everyone around me to take. A plunge into the unknown. I was feeling complete in a way I hadn’t in years. The emotions poured out of me at the water line as we remembered Deanna, then traced my footprints for the “Final Step” in celebration. There was just one thing left to do. The healing waters before us were borderline freezing, but it had to be done. The polar plunge! Flanked by my nephews, we ran into the Atlantic Ocean with racing hearts and joyous smiles.

Returned: A shell of Deanna's and handwritten note left for the universe.

Overhead, the seagulls cawed and set out toward the deep blue ocean. A world away.

Healing waters: Friends don't let friends (or nephews) polar plunge alone.

With a few thousand miles ahead, it would have been easy to feel alone. I didn't.

Today, we storm the beach. Walking the Black Horse Pike, the 322 and the state 50 (there’s that number again) on a gray winter’s day through south Jersey, I was reminded of something my friend Kevin wrote me last week. “We are here, you just don’t see us because we are all behind you.” It summed up everything about walking the past 3,486 miles, from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Music Pier. The daily words of encouragement, the e-mails, the tweets, the simplest of texts … they meant everything during the hardest stretches of open road; of endless road. I hung onto them like buoys in a storm. Some days they were the only communication I had before bedding down in a tent on a nameless road, seemingly alone. Remarkably (or maybe not so, given the magic of these six months), the messages would come from someone different each day — my wife, a friend, a nephew, even someone I had met two towns back. Setting forth, there was a want to be alone, a need to rebuild self-confidence and a desire for simple self-sufficiency. There was much to prove. To myself. But it didn’t take long to discover that this journey was no solo undertaking. It was the most collaborative effort with which I’ve been involved. The Onny and Oboe Fund is being built on the backs of all those who connected (and re-connected) since June 18 — exactly six months ago. And while this walk may conclude today in Ocean City, this was no finite race. The steps that have worn through seven pairs of sneakers were a beginning, not an end. And we march forward together, the hundreds of donors, family and friends (new and old) alongside the future recipients of this scholarship fund. Us dreamers united.
Today, WE storm the beach.

Jersey Girl: Down the shore, everything's all right ...

So after about 3,500 miles, the lion’s share spent on and around Route 50, it has come to this — three more days of walking. A long weekend. A scout’s honor signal. These days three, ‘ere the other side we see. Stopping for the night in Blackwood, New Jersey, after crossing my final state border, there’s that number again. 50 … Fifty states. Fifty lives a donor can change. It’s fifty miles to the beach and fifty miles of making up songs to keep my mind occupied. When I realized I’d left my phone charger “cube” back at the hotel, it was a good 20 minutes of channeling Tony Bennett for “I Left My Cube in Philadelphia.” As I caught a glimpse of the Howard Johnson on the hill, signaling an end to my rain-soaked walk, my inner Lizard King was wriggling to the bluesy “Mr. HoJo Risin’.” As I told a friend today, here in the flat Garden State, only the mental mountains remain. But even they have been tempered for weeks, with 50 friends and family members emerging alongside the road to walk with me, to donate, to shake hands and offer encouragement. I’ve heard from my first kindergarten friend, my first girlfriend, my first co-workers. The miles have never been so easy, even as they pile up on the ticker behind me.

Fox Chase revisited: Eddie and his son kept the walk on track amid all the surprise cameos.

The day began in Olde City Philadelphia, where our founders took their first steps as Americans, and led me and Coogs over the Ben Franklin Bridge and into New Jersey, last stop. Descending the 42 metal steps from the bridge (the Philly side has a ramp for non-homeless cart pushers), I was at Rutgers University staring down a looooong walk through the river city. The warnings came right away: “Don’t be walking around here at night,” “Head as far south as you can,” “Let the police know you’re walking through.” Well, it was one last big city between me and the beach. After Camden, I expect to see flatlands, pine needles and traffic circles as one small town blends into the next. Walking south on Mt. Ephraim Avenue, past the cemeteries and “Liquoramas,” I found myself puffing my arms out wide, as if to appear bigger. As if I’d encountered a bear. It was silly. I dropped my inflated guard and kept rolling. Nothing would touch me this day, these last days. I’d approached the areas I hadn’t seen before with optimism and Beginner’s Mind, from California to Gettysburg. It made no sense to fear the places with which I was familiar. I’ll just sing a happy tune. Or make one up.

Olde City, Philadelphia.

Camden wasn't going to make the Garden State entry easy.

« Older entries