Breakdown, Emotional This Time…
I walked through a wooded path off the bike trail to the roadside park. I’ve never been to the Caribbean, but have seen pictures of the turquoise waters. These waters if the Straits of Mackinac, part of Lake Huron, were the same aquamarine blue-green color. A mowed grassy field stretched to the water, a narrow rocky shoreline edged the water. It was breathtaking, and I realized I was at the TOP of the “mitten” of Michigan. That alone was a bit overwhelming. I parked Panda in the parking lot and walked to the water’s edge, taking a few pictures. When I got closer to the water, I saw off to the distance, the famous Mackinac Bridge spanning to the Upper Peninsula. It’s a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge… beautiful. I didn’t know I would see it, that I was close enough to, so it was a surprise, I don’t know why, but I was overwhelmed with emotion. Not only was it jaw-dropping pretty, I suddenly realized how far I’d come. I started bawling. Emotions of all kinds welled up.
Mackinac is a milestone, a turning point, physically, as when I get to the Upper Peninsula I again turn west, and a turning point mentally, as my route becomes more remote, more hurried, and will require more metal grit. And, just a couple miles back, my GPS “rolled over” to 1400 miles.
The fact that I’d walked that far, been through that much, and seen that much all came rushing over me.
I don’t know if I’ll make it to Washington State before the snows, I don’t know if Panda will break again, or my vague neurological disease will return, or if I’ll become grizzly shit, but I walked to the top of Michigan, from the bottom of New Jersey. I’ve seen the boardwalks and industries and the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. I’ve seen the outskirts of Princeton, Revolutionary War era homes, Colonial Homes, Victorian homes, modern homes, modest homes, the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, the flat corn and wheat farms of northern Ohio and southern Michigan, The Alleghenies, the Appalachians, the Poconos, countless rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls. I’ve walked through hot flat lands, cool hilly forested lands, on paved roads and dirt roads and rails-to-trails bike paths.
I’ve been sunburned and I’ve been rained on, I’ve been hot and I’ve been cold. I’ve slept in hotels, campgrounds, hidden spots along creeks and in city parks, and with so many wonderfully generous people, including families, bikers, truckers, retired people, a janitor, a pile driver, hippies, short-hairs, city folk and plain country folk, on their couches or in beds. I met a millionaire, I was passed by Amish in their buggies.
I’ve bathed in rivers, roadside streams, behind a restaurant with a garden hose, with a wet bandana or wet wipes, nice hot showers, wicked cold ones.
I skirted big cities and walked miles of country. I swam (briefly!) in the Clarion River, I crossed the Sturgeon River, the Delaware River, and countless others. I rode on a Harley to Lake Erie. I rode an ATV through dense woods and prairie and past acres of wildflowers. Strangers have bought my meals, bought me beers, covered my tab, handed me cash and offered me rides. I took refuge in a stranger’s garage during a downpour. Strangers have honked and given me the thumbs up. (Strangers have honked and flipped me off as well, when there’s been limited shoulder to walk on…) People take their picture with me. I’ve been interviewed for a local paper. People shake my hand.
People have given me not just money, but food, water, a rain suit, oddly, an American Flag, matches, lighter fluid, marijuana, beer, shirts, a camera, socks, rides, and encouragement. Even a couple back rubs.
I’ve been stopped by the police at least eight times, and made to get in a police car once. People have called 911 about me several times, thinking I was pushing a baby, or going to jump off a bridge, or that I was dead, when I was resting roadside.
I’ve had more blisters than I care to remember.
I’ve seen deer, raccoons, rodents, ground hogs, muskrats, birds of all kinds, I *think* a fox (didn’t get a good enough look), turtles, frogs, lizards, a snake, and innumerable dead possums. I was followed by a dog, barked at by many, loved on by many, and nearly bitten by one. I saw a bird picking berries yesterday, and have seen big hawks chased by angry songbirds protecting their nests. Even a dead bear cub, hit by a car. I’ve heard coyotes howl and bullfrogs croak and whippoorwills warble. I’ve heard woodpeckers chipping away at bark, crows cawing, songbirds singing in the morning.
I’ve seen the sun rise and set over so many different terrains. I’ve eaten in local diners, and bent my elbow at local dive bars. I’ve passed adorable vintage motels and abandoned run down ones. I’ve been to tourist towns and quiet unassuming villages.
I’ve met strangers who became friends, got a birth announcement from a sweet pregnant girl I’d stayed with, well wishes from many many people. Many of the people I’ve met have stayed in contact with me. One or two of them took up residence in my heart. I’ve cried myself to sleep missing the cowboy, and have cried tears of joy, like yesterday, like several days, when I suddenly realize I’m walking across America and it’s fucking AWESOME. One man texts me all the time, and he’s never met me, he just heard about me. He ran a marathon, and sends me all kinds of encouragement.
Some days are work, long hours, long distance, high heat, humidity, threats of rainshowers. Blisters, headaches, thirst. Some days I sight-see like a tourist. Some days I deeply question what the hell I’m doing. Some days I walk along smiling and waving at cars passing me, singing to my iPod. Most days I feel like I’ll never make it to Washington, or at least not in one shot, or before winter, and some days I feel like I can.
I’ve seen so much, met so many people, had so many ups and downs, good days and bad days, i’ve seen what’s along my trail, the roads I’ve chosen to walk, some on purpose, some by accident, some because it’s the most direct route. I’m only partway through my journey. Today I’ll be riding the ferryboat to Mackinac Island and again to St. Ignace in the U.P. I’ll meet more people, shake more hands, make more friends, take more pictures, get more blisters, see more of the country.
I’m seeing America at three miles an hour, and it’s one fucking awesome trip.