It is rare that I am in a town long enough to see the local paper hit the stands with a fresh interview painting my face somewhere upon the newsprint. When I am still on location I am excited, and yet there are the parts of my body coiled in a worrisome cringe; what sentence have I left open for misinterpretation, will three years of walking and writing about it's people be reduced into a 4"x4" frame with all intentions assumed and dismissed.
Jim Fossett from the NKC Tribume was an animated and enjoyable interviewer that hung on my every word, having driven directly to the Roslyn's City Hall across from The Brick to jump on the story. Even with the best of intentions some things get misprinted along the way. This is my journey though, my passion, so I will just clarify some points, remaining very thankful to Jim for his interest in this story.
The article opens up with a note from Ed Talhone, a trails expert at the American Hiking Society saying as many as five people hike across America each year. (What makes someone an expert on backpackers, or hikers that don't follow prescribed trails? As Einstein said, "genius is following your own trail?) Five people may walk across America on trails wobbling from coast to coast taking far less than 3 years ...but I have not walked trails across America or walked straight from A to B. I have walked 8,000 miles of small town America, blue highways, very limited trail use, gravitating toward places that caught my heart and imagination like here in Roslyn, Washington, Louisiana, New Mexico, and the mountains of Virginia where I sipped moonshine and smelled the heady sweet smell of corn mash coming through the trees. I have walked for nearly three years and still I heard about the fat man walking for months to lose weight. I know all about the man pulling the cross and where he was almost beat to death on Pig Alley...because I walked that street alone too. I have never met another man that walked this journey of three years and 8,000 miles with stops no more than a month long, and only one of those. (It was only in Thermopolis WY that I ever stay in one place that long.) Peter Jenkins is the only man I know of that walked a similar trek back in the seventies and I admire that, but I walk alone and it is 2008. Walks of this length are done very rarely, especially with a book of America always part of the original intention.
So, the shape of the walk is more of 'W' which was planned from the beginning, though the details of the walk are made along the way based on the seasons and the people I meet more than anything(although I often seemed to hit the worst of all weather wherever I walked).
I would love to agree that people fed me frequently. This is not true though, I was not even invited into a home until I got to PA. and I started walking in Maine, and most of the open land of the west is just that, miles and sometimes into a week before I'd see a lone ranch house.
It was in New Mexico that I was shot at. Although only once, 13 rounds with a rifle. I still can not hear a car backfire or a hunter shoot without new sweat instantly cold on my brow. My tent was hit that evening with one bullet and I was in that tent two hundred yards out against the mesa and shear rim rock walls without a stick to hide behind and bullets slapping around my head peeking out the tent flap door. 120 miles of empty desert still had to be walked through to the next town, Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Never did I break into anything locked...not even a fence. I did untwist barb wire to get to a windmill water tanks. This I have done many times and would have perished without.
Thank you again Jim Fossett for your time and labor. I talk fast and put out alot of information even when I am being recorded. This is all I do. After three years of walking and working across America I have not earned one dollar. Not One. Though my savings is battered it is this money I earned before the walk that I live on and that provides my food and provides for my needs. To be able to do this walk, to work in your fields, pick your fruit, level the door of your house, shingle your roof AND KNOW YOU, I have given my labor, my knowledge. I talk fast because this walk is the one thing that I know after three years of living it.
I am in Roslyn now and for this I am blessed.