July 2011

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Down for the count: After ticking off her mile steps, Kerry toed the changing sands.

During a recent interview, a reporter invariably asked: “So, what do you think about out there all day?” What seems like an easy question typically stumps me. It’s always a challenge. The short answer is everything, anything. It’s hard to quantify at the end of the day. Your mind is turning like clock hands. Whatever you want to focus on, work through, meditate on. Forward, backward and on its end. The trick is to keep it positive, because whatever energy you bring to the roadside will shadow you all day.

A shoe tree just west of Hinckley beckons visitors to rid their soles.

My niece Kerry decided to count footsteps for an entire mile, a feat of concentration in itself. Try counting by ones for 20 minutes, into the thousands. More than once I pulled her to the shoulder to avoid oncoming cars. And when she passed the mile marker and the sign didn’t register, I had to snap her out of counting mode. (2240 steps, by the way).

Earlier in the day, walking with nephew Jim, it was an imagining of the lives of the ants that constructed massive ant hills 20 miles west of Hinckley and Delta, Utah — their size and scope, their architecture, whether there are warring factions, whether they had smart growth or just got all Dubai up in there. Did their young workforce move on to flashier, new ant hills and leave their foreants holding the bag? … What do I think about all day? Good question.

Splendor in the grass: Jimmy channels his inner "Gladiator" ending scene.

An off day took the Mikey Walks team to the capital in Salt Lake City.

Thanks to Jed Boal of KSL TV-5 (NBC) for his report on the Walk Across America for the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund while we were in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Jed’s report (CLICK HERE) really got to the essence of the walk and it’s forward-looking approach. What began as a frantic day off in “the SLC” — dropping off nephew Shane at the airport, picking up his sister Kerry, shopping for new walking kicks and buying a (don’t-call-it-a-stroller) chariot/jogger for when I’ll be walking solo — finished on a high note at the picturesque Utah capitol, followed by some coldies at Squatters Brew Pub.

Forget crossing lights. In the SLC you get to let your freak flag fly.

Dont call the Chariot Carriers Cougar 1 a "baby stroller" or fit it in the support car

The fossil hunters weathered the storm to hear the tale of Onny and Oboe.

With black skies and wicked winds heading our way, it wasn’t that unlikely to find a couple of chasers out there on the road some 40 miles west of Delta. But Tom and JR are fossil hunters, as in dinosaurs. In fact, JR said he’s awaiting word from New York on the possible new species he found in Buffalo, South Dakota (JRaurasaurus?). Attracted by the dry Siever Lake bed (which Jimmy and I thought was full of water for the three hours we walked towards it), Tom and JR soon turned their attention to us and our mission, making an on-the-spot donation. It’s a long way back to Michigan, especially heading west toward Nevada. Thanks, guys.

Room with a view: SLC beckons from Inn on the Hills' porch.

Taking a day off in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, as my nephew Shane returns home to Huntingtown, MD, and is replaced by sister Kerry, the newest member of the MikeyWalks team. Our night in the SLC was made remarkable by the hospitality shown by Inn on the Hill (CLICK HERE), a beautiful 1906 mansion a block from the state capital that features striking views of downtown, a billiards room and access to a pretty bustling little city (the first city I’ve seen in a month; sensory overload!). Resting the paws made easy.

 

Something wicked this way comes (Near Delta, UT).

Method to his madness: Shane instructs in the art of 'planking.'

Good and Bad battle it out in the Utah sky above us. The thunderstorm hits are expected to keep on coming.

It was a long walk through Nevada — much to love, but I could have kissed Utah on the mouth (if they don’t frown on such things). Still, the map doesn’t look much better, in terms of towns dotting the squiggly route lines. (And it looks so much flatter on paper). Halfway to Delta (our next town) left us fighting through our first thunderstorm, a sky that turned dark fast and prompted the highway patrol to check on us. Nothing to see here, just a couple guys walking through the desert in the rain.

Water fight: Tensions in the desert over precious resources. Cleaning a shirt wasn't the best use of water?

In Delta, a decision to make — stay on the 50 and tick off as many miles as I can while I have support, or head north, where there’s more people, more press opportunities and more miles to cover. The more the 50 in Utah resembles the 50 in Nevada, the more the 2nd option appeals to me. I guess the good news is I have three long days to consider it. Bob in Eureka said the geography and people change pretty consistent with state lines. We’ll see.

Support Team 3.0 gets rolling Friday, looking to put Nevada in the dust.

Hey, Utah! With the new support team in tow, we “pinned our ears back” and went hard for our third state border. It was a sweet sunset outside the Border Inn, where slot machines line the Nevada border, a gray hotel the Utah side. On Thursday, Jimmy and Shane Tittinger –my nephews from Huntingtown, MD — landed in Ely and kept the Mikey Walks mission motoring along. From Ely, Nevada, we headed East and camped in a barren picnic area. Apparently, two cans of beans opened with a Bear Gryllis knife and cooked over a wind-aided fire was all the, um, fuel we needed to hit the ground walking today, with thoughts of red rock mesas dancing in our heads. That, and more stars then we’d ever sen in my life. I think we spotted the twin constellations of Onny and Oboe between the Dipper and Orion’s belt.

Skullduggery: No word if that's a terrapin the Maryland frosh found on the Fifty.

Thanks for being here, Jimmy and Shane. I know all the kids are walking through the desert on summer break from college these days, but I appreciate it all the same. Get a good night’s rest … We got walking to do.

 

 

 

Tom, 62, rode away from Daytona Beach, FL, because he "felt like a potato." Click picture to view his website.

Sometimes, added motivation rolls up in the most unexpected places. Walking into Ely on Monday, in what was expected to be a nice, flat victory stroll into a town with a McDonald’s and ice cream fountains, became a slog into 30 mph “face”winds. It was a disappointing, discouraging, face-leathering. Then, there was Tom (www.thepedalpushnsenior.com), who came pedaling up behind us, pulling a cart and flag flapping in the wind. “I’d been hearing about you from several of the other riders I’ve passed,” he said. Tom, 62, had already ridden from his home in Daytona Beach, FL, to California and was heading east, to Chicago, “with the wind in my face every direction I went.” Retired, he was starting to feel like a potato before rolling out of Florida. When I told him I’d woken up 40 and felt I needed to do something, he could only smile broadly. He said he could never walk like I am, but I don’t believe it. Tom Harwood is riding for the Children’s Hunger Fund and plans to keep on going until winter snows him off the road. “How far you going?’ I asked him Tuesday, when our paths crossed again at an Elk spotting site. “As far as 8:30 will take me.” Keep on push’n, Tom. We’ll be following.

Hans, from Munich, said I'd made his "Hall of Fame."

While I’ve yet to cross paths with other walkers, I’ve been struck by the number of adventurous cyclists criss-crossing the country. Including Hans, from Munich, who laughed heartily when we crossed paths on a seriously barren stretch of the “Loneliest Road,” accompanied by only ancient petroglyphs. “I like crazy people like you,” Hans told me, a I offered him a Gatorade. “You are in my trip Hall of Fame, which is about 80 people. My Hall of Shame? Less than 10.” This partitioned peloton of cyclists crossing the nation left me thinking … Next year, mikeyrides.com?

While not the actual horses seen that day, they pose a striking, if more dramatic, resemblance

Thanks to Bonnie Matton for pulling her truck over on a lonely stretch of Nevada asphalt to ask whatabout the walkabout. Her story for the Dayton Courier (CLICK HERE) also appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal last week, before we took on the “Loneliest Road in America”. Besides journalism, Matton’s other passion is working to safeguard the state’s wild horses (or, most of the country’s wild horses). As luck would have it, there was a six-pack of them off in the distance as she lined up her camera. “You either love Nevada or you hate it,” Matton told me. What’s not to love?

‘Go West.’ It’s the natural order of things. The Blue Pacific and the friendly shore climes. The sun at your back in the morning, it sets before you like a divine artwork at day’s end, a natural reward for your ambition to go forward and steal time. Manifest Destiny.The poets speak of its innate call. That only those awake and bold enough answer. And they ride into the sunset heroes of time, to the Pacific, with scant memory of the travails that brought them.

But I choose to go East. Into the sun each morning new. The past no longer something to pack away or set adrift. The sun sets behind me, but I dare not look back. Into the headwinds I go. Against the grain, the current at my chin. I walk East, where time has already passed without me, where the heroes have already ridden off. There I will face what was, not what could be.

Legends aren’t drawn with their backs to the sun. It’s truth I seek. I walk East.

– Eureka County, Nevada (7/15/11)

The desert has proven a challenge to post, update, blog ... even find paper for my typewriter. Still, the walk goes on.

These are dark days, my friends. Into the desert abyss, cell phone reception and Internet connections are spotty at best. You know those cell phone commercials where they mock AT&T by showing people looking through their coverage maps? That’s where we are. Center-to-east Nevada. The updates are sporadic, but the wheels are turning. More posts to come when possible. But looking at the upcoming Utah map, there’s a lot of room to watch the TV between towns on that map too. Still, the walk goes on. The mission continues. If you’ve been thinking of making a donation to the Onny and Oboe Scholarship Fund, please make the move today. We’ve already logged 500-plus miles and bearing down on third state line (Hello, Utah!). Time has a way of slipping by — summer vacations, back-to-school, Arbor Day blowouts. Don’t put it off. Back-burners are for meatballs, not good intentions.
Thanks. We’ll see you on the road.

Dredging lakes, Burning Man, cruising dirt roads at 70 mph -- it's all good at Miles End in Kingston, a world-class B&B in the middle of the Nevada desert.

When the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., you’re rolling up your tent in town park wearing sweatpants, then taking a sink-bath in the public restroom, you realize there’s a fine line between adventurer and homeless. Ah, the beauty of not knowing what each day will bring. On Wednesday, after some long days slogging through the desert, Brooke and I were hitting the proverbial sand wall when a reprieve came from the most unexpected place — Kingston, a tiny mountain hamlet (population 100). Needing to backtrack more than 40 miles, we were on the verge of canceling our offer to spend the night at Miles End B&B (CLICK HERE). What a mistake it would have been! When a hand reaches out to you on a journey such as this, you take it.

Located at the base of Bunker Hill, where the sun sets just between a set of mountain peaks and casts a dreamlike glow over the town, we found the stone house. Inside, we found a world-class bed and breakfast operated by John and Ann Miles for the past two years. The professional kitchen, the vaulted ceilings, the complete bar, the buffalo heads on the walls — it rivaled any place we’d ever stayed in. This is destination lodging in the middle of the Nevada desert, a blip on the map that most “Loneliest Road” trekkers sweep past getting their Route 50 Survival Guides stamped. Welcome the unexpected and be rewarded. The Miles’ love of the land, quiet acceptance and world view made our guests among the most interesting people we’ve met. And their standing Burning Man invitation has us thinking hard about the Black Rock Desert. There was much to learn beyond “the year of the mosquito hawk,” why birds find the road delicious and the value of not saying “someday”, but the walk had to go on. Shame. We’ll remember Miles End next time we’re popping and dropping in the next town’s centennial park.

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