Monday, August 24, 2009

Key to the highway

It's the middle of August and things are starting to take shape. I have a 1991, 29-foot motor home, a car, a towing dolly, a moped, and a bicycle. And shoes.

The plan is to start walking after Labor Day, heading south from my home in west Michigan, down into Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, all the way through Mississippi, and arrive in New Orleans by some time in December. This will require working up to at least 100 miles of walking per week. At New Orleans I'll strike west, across Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, to Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean, where I will dip my big toe in the water. If all goes well, that will be in April. Total distance, over 3000 miles.

Everyone I've talked to about this naturally wonders about the logistics. Then when I begin to explain, their eyes glaze over and I invariably have to repeat myself, wishing I had a blackboard or some sort of three-dimensional visual aids to use. So let me start with the big picture, as they say.

Since I'm doing this solo, I will not have someone to drop me off and be waiting at the other end when I finish walking for the day. (Who the hell would that be, anyway? My wife has a life of her own, not to mention a job. If I could afford it, I suppose I could hire a servant, but I doubt if we would enjoy one another's company that much in such close quarters.)

On the other hand, I can't afford to stay in a motel every night, and I have no desire to carry a backpack and stop and sleep under the stars. Nor would I be interested in staying in peoples' houses--depending on the kindess of strangers, like Blanche Dubois. That prospect is more creepy than sleeping in a ditch covered with a tarp, fighting off raccoons and mosquitos. I think of all the jokes I've ever heard about people who stop at farms and ask to sleep in the barn. Then I invariably think of the scene early in the movie Slingblade where Billy Bob Thornton as the just-released Carl Childers is spending the night at the home of the hospital superintendent before he goes back to his hometown. They're all in the living room after supper--mom, dad, the kids--with old Carl, the freed murderer, nobody making eye contact or saying a word, nervously twiddling their thumbs and wondering how the hell they ever agreed to such a thing. Naw, I'm just too misanthropic to try to make nice with folks every night in exchange for a bunk and a meal. Maybe in another life. Besides, I'm not doing this for a cause, or for a disease, or to prove that triple amputees are people too, or any of that. (And no, I'm not a triple amputee.)

So how the hell will he do it, you're wondering? I will tell you. NOW PAY ATTENTION, damn it. I want to walk from point A to point B. Let's say the distance is 20 miles. I drive the motor home, with the car in tow, to the aforementioned point B. Then I ride the moped (or maybe the bicycle if I'm feeling particularly energetic) back to point A . I secure the moped (or bike) somewhere, and then I WALK the WALK, to point B, where the motor home and the car await. Then I drive the car (because it gets 32-36 mpg rather the 7-8 mpg the motor home gets) back to pick up the moped, and return to the motor home, where I spend the night comfortably, by myself. Next day I do it again from there to point C.

Some of the more swift of you may have noticed my method requires that, in order to walk the distance from point A to point B, I must cover that distance no fewer than five times--once by motor home, once on foot, once by moped or bike, and twice by car. So no, I'm not doing this to save the planet or reduce my carbon footprint or any of that. Not that I'm against any of that stuff. Just tell me where to send my check and I'm on it.

Back to the walk, the most swift among you will have deduced that I could reduce the number of times I cover the same distance from five to three, and eliminate the need for the moped or the bike, if I chose to walk the walk in reverse. Not literally backwards, but from point B back to point A, instead of the other way around. I could leave the car at point A, drive the motor home to point B, walk back to point A, and drive the car back up to the motor home. Simple. Compelling. The only problem is that I would be walking to California by walking each day away from California. And that's not what I set out to do. So, at the cost of more preparation, more physical exertion, and more time, I will walk in the direction I am heading.

Who knew such a simple idea could get so complicated?

Peter Teeuwissen

No comments: