Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Concentration Of Mind
Cedar Springs, Michigan
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Some followers of the blog might remember that I began the walk almost exactly a year ago. It was the day after Labor Day, as today is, but it was September 8. The first hopeful 10.1 miles, which seemed like a lot of walking at the time, commenced from the house and ended just down the road, practically in my own back yard. Over time I gradually (too gradually, in hindsight) increased the length of each day's walk until I reached a daily distance of about 21 miles, which was both manageable and filled the day up nicely, still leaving time for all the necessary driving back and forth followed by blogging.
Looking back after over two thousand miles I can say that some things went just about the way I thought they would, and some didn't. For instance, I figured I'd walk about five days a week, for a hundred miles total, and I did. I thought I'd walk five days and rest for two, whereas I usually walked three days and rested for one, which came out to a little more than a hundred miles a week. However, I didn't plan on taking as much time off from walking as I did. Trips back home for holidays and other rest aggregated to over ten weeks away from the walk--two and a half months. As a result of all that off time, when I stopped at the end of April I was almost a thousand miles short of where I originally thought I might be at that time. That meant that I wouldn't get to the west coast before summer. Contributing to that shortfall in distance was something else I hadn't anticipated--how tired I would get of being out there on the road alone. The solitude, in fact, was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It was my friend and my enemy. Eventually the loneliness of the trip would defeat my love of solitude, and I would begin to long for the company of family and friends and the comforts of home. Then a little bit of home would make me wish I were out on the road again. A cycle of discontentment. I think I'm stuck with that, and it'll only be the looming of the end of my life that will make me appreciate both things simultaneously. As Dr. Johnson said about the man who knows he is to be hanged soon, "it concentrates his mind wonderfully." I do not yet possess that concentration of mind.
Another aspect of the walk that went just about the way I'd hoped it would was the vehicular logistics. The motor home performed very well, except for the brake problem in Texas, and was a reasonably pleasant home away from home. Also, my car ran like a champ (270,000 miles and counting), and the towing dolly worked perfectly, except for some trouble with the lights. Even more importantly, the daily tasks of finding a place to park the motor home and my car, and the driving back and forth, almost always went off smoothly, especially after I learned to trust my instincts about spots that were both safe and inconspicuous. To be sure, in 118 days of walking I made a few parking mistakes, but to my surprise they involved the car and not the motor home. The closest I came to having my car towed was on a Sunday on the north side of Jackson, Mississippi, and fortunately for me my nephew was in a position to intervene on my behalf. As for the motor home, almost every night I parked it safely and for free in a Walmart parking lot, and never once did anyone complain. Even when I finally decided to sell the motor home and dolly, everything went off just as I'd hoped it would.
I can't say I had any firm expectations about the people I would meet along the road, but soon after I began I came to the conclusion that most folks want to mind their own business, or to be helpful. I have yet to cross paths with any of those few who wish to do harm to their fellows. Knock on wood there.
I mention all these things in case some of you might be wondering how you would do on a walk like this. I don't figure I'm much different from anyone else, except that I happen to be fortunate enough to have the desire, means, ability, and opportunity to take a trip like this, which I know some do not.
In the next post I'll tell you how my preparations for the resumption of the walk are going.