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Journal

From Carbondale, IL

Added: 30-9-2006

Four days away from the Internet. Not good for people who need to know about such things as football results, farewell speeches of British leaders, cheap motel prices or local weather. Four days not without incident, however, as we moved further south into Illinois and then west. With no further ado:

  • Tuesday 26th September. Shawneetown to Karbers Ridge. Sunshine. Miles: 18.6. After finally tracking down some local maps from the Shawneetown City Hall we left the town behind, although not before waving at a gang of convicts (community servive do-ers?) doing roadwork on the edge of town. Had a small argument over whether or not I purposefully tried to deafen Dave when shooting Tom Martin's rifle in his garden on Monday night. I apologised but the end result was still the same: Dave slightly deaf in one ear. Once out of town we headed south through some hills, good weather, good distance covered. Ate lunch seperately because Dave couldn't find the turning I had taken to find shade to sit in. Reconvined again at a motel later that afternoon for a drink of coke - served by a man who looked earily reminiscent of Pop from the League of Gentlemen. After that we moved on to another of Tom and Janet Martin's residences - a beautiful cabin on a farm set back from the woods on Karbers ridge. Spent pleasant evening eating pizza, eating chocolate and watching The Daily Show, South Park, Seinfeld, Malcolm in the Middle and The Chapelle Show. Went to bed comedied out...
  • Wednesday 27th September. Karbers Ridge to Herod. Sunshine. 11.9 Miles. Up early to meet Wade - Janet Martin's son and farmer of some farms nearby. Had hot chocolate for breakfast - put salt in it by mistake. Not nice taste. Wade takes me to the local store for supplies and very kindly pays for all our goods (loads of chocolate, sandwiches, crisps etc.). Very kind man, Wade. Back to house, pick up Dave, begin walk to Garden of the Gods. On trail today, winding its way up through hills to the north. Different going - we've been used to roads. First we take High Knob, then onto the Garden. Garden of the Gods amazing (nb. location used in Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods', v.good read), large rockery at the top of a hill, to put it in very basic terms. Amazing views. We head down the other side of the ridge, do video diaries with more amazing views and rendezvous with a kind lady called Pam who we met on the road on Monday - she offered to put us up for the night. Pam's place is a lovely farm, we shower and wash clothes, eat dinner when husband Mike comes home from work (awesome marinaded venison, baked potato and salad). spend evening chatting about US and UK differences, drinking locally produced wine. Bed at 11, Dave snoring for England.
  • Thursday 28th September. Herod to Mount Moriah. Bit overcast, sunny later. 24.5 miles. Change of plan: Dave and I sight a college town on the map. Abandon ADT in favour of night out in college town and possibility of watching American Football college game at Southern Illinois University. Get a move on - pace up to 3.5 mph, speeding out of Herod northwestward. Loads of food in packs, including deer pepperami. Mmmm. Backroads are the route, very pleasant and the sun comes out, but not before some rain. We finally meet some Rainbow People - they stop their car and ask us if we know the way to a gathering. They look as if they have tried to go to Glastonbury and got lost...car full of colorful characters, cooking equipment, boxes and cans of Busch Lite, a large dog and an old fella called Little Hawk who we gathered was quite important, although he told a long and involved story about deciduous trees. Confused us a little. Moving on, we walk for ages and try to find a campsite. For the first time in 1400 miles we are received suspciciously, in one case by a man who comes to his door with his rifle. Nice. Eventually we are lucky enough to stay at the home of Joanne and Charlie, and their kids Baxter and Cassie. Lovely folk, we chat until we go to bed. At 8.45pm. Rock on.
  • Friday 29th September. Mount Moriah to Devil's Kitchen Lake. Pretty gloomy. 21 miles. Up very early because there was a rooster outside my tent, drowning out the sounds of a sleeping Dave next door. Excellent surprise follows - breakfast cooked for us by Joanne. We chat with the family and get a great start to the day. On to Creal Springs on a beautiful morning. More coffee at the gas station, continued fast pace further west. Just when we thought we were in the middle of nowhere, a Bar-B-Que place appears. We eat Bar-B-Que. Then we leave and walk further west past a giant power station. Then we meet an amazing fella called Satish who is so kind it's unbelievable - one mention of us eating bad food and he gives us $20 each, and it's not for our charity mind, he's certain of that. Dumbstruck we move on, talk to another kind person who stops, Shane, an attorney. This is a Good Thing, because you never know when you might need one of them. More walking, good pace, good mileage acheived. We reach campsite at Devil's Lake. We buy firewood from the man in charge who later comes to our pitch and tells us he can't find any, sorry. An odd comment, especially as we are camped in the middle of the woods. Anyway, Dave finds wood and starts fire, I put up tents and overcook the evening's pasta. Then we play tunes, sing badly (esp. Tiny Dancer by Elton John) and drink a tot of whisky or two by the lake. Quite a party, and when we're done we turn in. It is 9.45pm.
  • Saturday 30th September. Devil's Kitchen to Carbondale. Overcast. 13 miles. We make it to Carbondale. Easily over 100 miles since Monday. rains a bit on the way in but now we're here we're pretty confident we're gonna get to see the game and do a bit of partying. Life is good - we are camping in the back yard of the local outfitters and have already been invited to one party. More news when we get it...

Cast and Crew:

Location Managers: Tom Martin, Pam
Location Manager's Assistant: Janet Martin

Extreme Kindness in the Area of Buying Goods: Lori, Satish,Wade

Costumes: Tim Scales

Catering: Pam, Joanne

Transport over bridge: Gordy Freizinger

Useless wood finding: The bloke at Devil's Kitchen Lake

Award for Beyond the Call of Duty help: The lady at Shawneetown Town Hall who stayed afer work on Monday night in case we came into town and wanted to use the library. Someone we had met that day had phoned ahead and said we might be coming....

Soundtrack:

Sebastien Tellier - La Ritournelle
Led Zeppelin - Ramble On
The Seven Dwarves- Hi Ho, Hi Ho (It's Off To Work We Go)
The Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Loving Feeling
The Monkees - I'm A Believer
David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Small Girl in Trails Cafe,Ohio - You Put Your Foot In
Bonnie Tyler - Heartache
Public Enemy- Don't Believe The Hype
Nina- 99 Red Balloons
Wilco - Ashes Of American Flags
Wilco- Heavy Metal Drummer
The Beatles - The Night Before
The Beatles - Ticket To Ride
Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights

An Another one along in a minute production. 2006.





StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Come on, feel the Illinoise...

Added: 26-9-2006

OK, the entry title is a straight lift from Sufjan Stevens but there you go - Sufjan's the man. Have just returned from being trapped in the arms of total luxury…Dave and I yesterday won again (not, thankfully, in the stlye of the Bee Gees) by being invited to stay at the truly amazing house of Tom Martin, a retired doctor who resides near Shawneetown, Illinois. We crossed over the state line from Indiana yesterday morning, after spending Sunday night camping on the land of local farmer Steve Ward (early to bed, amazing night's sleep in new sleeping bag). This morning the sun was up bright and early, as were we, ready for an extended day's walking order to find this Shanrgi-la near Shawneetown.

This mission, however, was not without its blind spots. Dave had an email from Tom inviting us to stay but as we had no idea where Shawneetown was at the time (we stick rigidly to a code of only buying state maps once we get near the border in order to induce surprise (or in this case shock and awe at how far south we had to go to pick up the ADT – we reckon we could make Saint Louis in a week if we just headed west) into our traveling) the number wasn't written down anywhere.

Anyway, all of this led to a plan of intense walking to get to Shawneetown Library before it closed (not a good plan in retrospect - it's closed on Mondays) in order to retrieve the number and see if we could get hold of Tom. About 26 miles we thought, and we were nearly right. Some of these miles were knocked off via the non-pedestrian bridge over the Wabash river (many thanks to Gordy Freizinger, a fine fellow who gave us a lift when it counted) but we still had many more to do on our own. Fortunately we had been featured in the Sunday newspaper for the area (we didn't get Lifestyle, apparently we are more Local Business. click here for more) so everywhere we went people were driving past and beeping us and waving manicly (Phil, I know what your 'tooting days' are now). Tell the good people of Indiana they are from the waviest state and it only encourages them. The people from Illinois obviously want to get involved though – we spent yesterday waving and stopping to chat with loads of people, some of whom stopped their vehicles by the side of the road to chat or give us Gatorade, baseball caps or offers of guns for sale. Newspaper publicity, working for us…

Luckily for us though, one of the people who stopped for us was Tom Martin himself. Fine fellow, took about 30 seconds to give us the directions to his house and throw our rucksacks in the back of his van to leave us with only 9 miles of packless walking to his place. Yesterday was sunny indeed to start, followed by the formation of fluffy little clouds on the horizon before they moved off across the wide skies we are now becoming used to. For the second part of the day's walk it was clouding over a bit but the overall Illinois effect was still the same – walking along very long, very straight, very flat roads past widely spaced farms, some with grain elevators, some without, all with crops ready to be harvested (the soy has now turned golden, some of the corn has already been chopped leaving fields that look traumatized) and all of the above under wide wide skies.

So after 23 miles of this we were ready to stop. Directions were followed, feet were tired…Tom himself met us at the gate to his place and led us up the drive. Seriously, you would never have known this place was here…set at the top of a hill (while most of Illinois is tabletop flat, the southernmost part has hills and is apparently quite rugged due to the glaciers stopping there) there was a beautiful house with a gigantic glass front and a marvellous garage/guest house where Dave and I were put up. One hot tub later we were drinking beers and eating fried fish straight from Tom's lake, and chatting all sorts of politics and general travel topics with Tom and his wife Jan. Following this we retired to the garage to play pool on a pool table constructed in 1917 and admire Tom's 1967 Austin Healey which was used in the Royal Tennenbaums (Gwyneth Paltrow apparently sat it in, you may remember Owen Wilson crashing it at the end of the movie...)...

Yet another great night. Now we're in the local library getting ready to leave...for Tom's country house. We're quite south in the state, heading into wilderness and Tom and Jan have a place up on Karber's Ridge where we'll be tonight. The River to River trail, which we shall be following, will keep us in wilderness for a few days so we're not sure when the next journal entry will be - likely at the weekend. until then we continue to move, heading west all the way and then northwest up to Saint Louis. More soon come, apologies to all those I owe emails to, promise I'll reply as soon as possible...


StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Mostly dry...

Added: 23-9-2006

still in E-Ville. things are not bad though, in fact they are extremely good - we're trapped in a world of severe weather warnings and tornado alerts but we're hanging out in a warm, dry place. JD and Melissa Dubber's warm, dry place to be exact, a fine house in Evansville where Dave and I can look out of the window and be grateful we're not outdoors.

JD and Melissa are some of the brains behind Top Spot Outdoors, our new favourite outfitters, and we met them on Thursday night after they very kindly invited us to a chicken wings cookout in their back garden. we hung out round the fire and talked walk with them and Nick, met new people (Josh, Brandon and Ed) and ended up being invited to stay for as long as we wanted to, slackpack a way down the route and generally chill in good company.

which we're still doing. yesterday we got 8 miles in before the heavens opened like the Last Days and forced us to seek shelter on the porch of a random house. the owners quickly got over their surprise and we hung out with the man of the house, Gary, for half an hour while we waited for our ride back to Evansville. the weather really has gone downhill in the past couple of days, the city is flooding in parts and we were in two counties yesterday that were issued with tornado alerts. it's raining like Blade Runner and it's a good time to have somewhere dry to stay.

so we're making the most of our time - sleeping, hanging out, eating breakfast at Crackerbarrel (the excitement!), digesting the news that my football team have become completely useless during my absence from Europe (5 points from 6 games...can anyone tell me what the point of Jermaine Jenas is?!), teaching Americans new, important words (pls see Guestbook), going to Pizza restaurants with a great big crew of people, going next door to watch Ed's band rehearse (quality version of Sharp Dressed Man fellas), discussing the finer qualities of Busch Lite, trying to work out if Bin Laden is dead or not, doing a radio interview on a local station, doing an interview for the local paper that will be published tomorrow (we're hoping to be in the 'Lifestyle' section), buying a new sleeping bag and getting extremely excited, enjoying my new belt for it is holding my trousers up, wondering whether or not to watch JD's DVD of The Goonies, loving the Ryder Cup score, debating whether or not to drink a can of Diet Ski. in short, we are doing all possible things except walking.

back on the road tomorrow though, only 17 miles to the state line. before then we must do a bit more sleeping and then prepare a meal for folk tonight. tough life, this (Dave's asleep in the other room)....

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

E-Ville

Added: 22-9-2006

We have made it to Evansville - or E-Ville as our good friend Pete would say. all is good, we've just come fresh from the hair salon (Walkingthestates takes hair seriously) and now we're at the brand spanking new library on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It's a fine place.

following on from yesterday's journal entry, we left the good people at Boonville library, detoured via some other good people at the local Subway (entered with nothing, left with tons of free cookies and chips - much appreciated!) and then walked down to Newburgh on the Ohio river over the course of the afternoon. we had another sunny day, the temperature was a bit crisper but it was still shorts and t-shirt weather. a pretty uneventful walk, about 11 miles or so through up and down country, passing on the way a few schools and the inevitable out of town mall.

Newburgh was kinda nice when we got there though, with the river looking big and blue and inviting at the end of the afternoon. we had been told to go and eat fiddlers at the Knob Hill Tavern (er) and this we dutifully did, and although we weren't convinced of the fiddlers (small fried catfish, for those not in the know) themselves we did manage to get pretty full pretty quickly. after that it was dark and find-a-place-to-camp time...

luckily a good fella named John, who we met at the town's other bar, Cricket's (last night hosting a darts competition taking place with plastic tipped darts - a strange take on the game to my eyes, but one that somehow lets an electronic scoreboard do the fuzzy math work), took pity on us and drove us back to his house to camp in his yard. one campfire and several Bud Lites later we were chatting politics like old friends...

not so sharp this morning, we hit Newburgh once more for breakfast at the Newburgh Cafe, where the owner Lynn kindly showered us with free muffins. we're currently weighed down with biscuits and cookies, just how I like it...also met a nice bunch of people there and also at the local library - many thanks to the staff there who made us coffee...

Newburgh to Evansville has been pretty undramatic too, even if it was a nice walk for a few miles and then horrifying strip mall hell for another few. honestly, the outsides of loads of larger towns/cities over here just look exactly the same, it's mind numbing...anyway, we had good Chinese food for lunch, explained to the staff of the restaurant our mission (badly) and then headed to meet our Evansville contact, Nicolas Fueling of Top Spot Outdoors - an outfitters which has so far supplied me with a belt (my trousers now stay up, remarkable I didn't think of a belt before) and Dave with a torch (no longer will Dave go to bed in pitch-black bewilderment for he is now the proud possessor of Backpacker magazine's Torch of the Year. Impressive). later this evening we shall be heading out with Nick for some grilling and beers which will be right good. the only downside is that we miss Thong Thursdays at some place in town, the ladies at the Hair Salon couldn't believe we weren't gonna make it there...

anyway, more to come. very nearly out of Indiana...

PS: A big thanks to Neil McKenzie who has become the latest person to sponsor us - nice one!

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Fall is coming...

Added: 20-9-2006

a bright morning after a cold night. the weather's on the turn alright...what are we now, 20th September? well, it ain't summer anymore. Dave and I last night, sitting round a candle, wearing all our clothes. a good look. Dave played guitar until his fingers went numb. time for some gloves and a sleeping bag liner for me..

this morning we're in Boonville, Indiana. since we left Saint Meinrad on Monday we've been rained on, extensively, and we've stopped at a really trippy place - Santa Claus, home of Holiday World. only the Americans can come up with Santa Claus, a bustling place in the summer no doubt, but a deserted and surreal one at this time of the year (picture Walley World from the end of National Lampoon's Vacation). still, it was a great place with great people - we actually got there after a ten mile wet walk from St. Meinrad and we holed up in the local subway waiting for the rain to pass. when it didn't, and instead got heavier, a very kind staff member telephoned the local motel and got us a good room rate for the night. sweet.

so yes, there we were at Santa's Lodge. a driveway full of Christmas lights, with two 25 foot tall Santas in the garden. no guests, it appeared, save us. and, of course, as soon as we got in the room it stopped raining and turned into a lovely evening. brilliant.

we watched TV; we always look forward to it and it's always rubbish. basically, we always end up watching Fox News which is kinda comedy/horror and cracks us up. that Bill O'Reilly, he's a treat. according to 80% of Fox viewers the US is winning the war on terror, which must give the Commander in Chief Heart...we tried to balance up our viewing by watching O'Reilly's opposite, Bill Maher - and he was rubbish as well. American TV didn't do so well for us this Monday..

but the good people of Santa Claus really came through. step forward Lu Heiney and her sons Ryan and Hunter. We met Lu in the local beverage store and she very kindly invited us over to her place to view her 13 alpacas (a kinda of half-size llama, to put it very simply) and 19 parrots. it was quite an experience - Lu even paid for our motel room at Santa's Lodge (amazing - many thanks!) and provided a wine tasting service as well as tours of the animals' domains. a totally unexpected experience from Santa Claus, and one we won't forget (man, those Alpacas can spit...). very nice people indeed, and if anyone is in the market for alpacas (lovely animals, very soft, just don't annoy the spitting ones) then visit santaclausalpacas.com

so yesterday morning we left town and headed further west, along some of the straightest roads we have yet faced. we're really getting into the Midwest now, the extremely familiar fields of corn and soy are getting flatter and larger, and the skies are getting bigger. yesterday was a day of firsts - it was cold for the first time at points and, bizarrely, there was the first constant breeze I can remember feeling in three months. as I said at the top, the weather is on the turn...

all in all it was 22 miles yesterday. we ended up sleeping in the back field of the very kind George Lewis, a local lawn equipment vendor. a tip to thru-hikers - when searching for a place to stay, if possible select a man who knows about lawns - last night's surface was flat and freshly mowed, all good for the overnight camper...

so now we're nearing Evansville. I think there will be new pictures up on the site later this morning as Dave has loads to go on...lets see. should be into Illinois by the weekend, but only after trying fiddlers and, if possible, brain sandwiches in Newburgh. full report to follow...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Surreal Santa Claus

Added: 20-9-2006

Yesterday we left St Meinrad heading for Santa Claus and lunch and then on to Leavenworth. The skies were leaden, there had been heavy rain overnight and we were tented in our waterproofs against the drizzle as we covered the 9 slow miles to food.

Santa Claus is a peculiar place. Because of its name it attracts a large tourist crowd and there is a big amusement park whose rollercoaster we could see from miles away across the soy fields as we approached. We were coming to town outside of the tourist season; the amusement park was closed and there was an air of desolation similar to that of a seaside resort during the winter months. Beyond the fenced-in amusement park though, there was absolutely nothing to suggest why people would want to come here - no windswept romanticism, no lingering sense of summer memories set in the long shadows of winter sun. This place was just weird. Here, where the 2 highways crossed in what one presumed was the centre of town, there was a strip mall with the usual gas station, pizza restaurants and liquor stores. On the edge of the strip was a clump of tourist stores, each with a Christmas theme – Frosty's Funhouse, Santa's Candy Castle. There were giant Santa Claus figures, plastic reindeers and sagging lines of Christmas lights. It was very surreal and starting to rain heavily as we traipsed toward the strip. Starving we headed for the only open place we could see, a Subway sandwich restaurant.

Its funny how, as the walk has gone on, the lines between private and public space have blurred, almost disappeared. When we stop at a gas station, store or diner, we essentially move in. Backpacks are emptied and their contents scattered, shoes are removed and stretches are performed. Restrooms are used for changing, teeth-brushing, shaving and washing socks. The laptop comes out, journals are updated and video diaries filmed. We inhabit several tables. We have lost any self-consciousness about this and yesterday we may have broken the world record for the longest continuous occupancy of a Subway restaurant. We had been told earlier in the day that the rain would subside by lunchtime. We arrived at Subway at about 1pm determined to sit it out. We dried ourselves off, ordered large sandwiches and spent hours in a plastic booth staring out of the rain-streaked window and reading. It felt like holidays in England. By 4.30 it was either get very wet in the rain or get very dry in the motel across the street. We had got to know the staff pretty well by this point and they called the motel to get us a cheap deal. Sorted. We got a room and napped, when I woke about a couple of hours later it was a beautiful evening. \

DaveHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

With the monks once more...

Added: 18-9-2006

quick journal entry...I'm writing this from the library of the Bendictine Monastery at St Meinrad, somewhere in the south of Indiana, my second Benedictine monastery of the trip...Dave and I camped Saturday night in the garden of a diner in Sulphur (we've nipped off the ADT again to save us some time - we only have about six weeks walking left this year) and yesterday saw us ready to attempt a 22 mile stretch to St Meinrad.

Saturday we did well, with the crossing of the bridge and a grand total of about 19 miles, and so yesterday we thought we were good value for another long day. It was hot again yesterday, so of course we decided that the best approach to such a day was to go really fast along the route. 3.5 miles an hour, for about six hours...suffice to say we are both now suffering from blisters - Dave got six and I got two - and are perhaps regreting our record pace.

Still, we had an interesting enough day, stopping off at the Roadkill Cafe at Kettermans Corner and enjoying the service of the sullen serving girl (She: "What do you want on your sandwich?" Me: "Any salad you've got please." She: "You can have mustard or mayonnaise."), or reliving the previous day's bridge experience once more. The day ended when we finally, 22.9 miles later, made it to the rather fine monastery and seminary at St Meinrad. Here we were received warmly by Trey, a lay student at the seminary, and Karen, his girlfriend, both from Louisville. We were going to camp on the grounds of the monastery courtesy of Brother Morris's hospitality, but in the end (in the face of a heavy night's rain) we accepted Trey's offer to stay at the rectory he was currently inhabiting some 15 miles down the road. It ended being a fine night - a long chat about religion in the US and good company. As religion is one of the major facets of the US we are trying to get our heads around, it was really interesting to spend a couple of hours with committed people who knew their stuff. Plenty to ponder, more in a future Project entry no doubt...

So now we are heading on further west, to Gentryville. Tomorrow it should be Boonville, then Newburgh and then Evansville on Thursday. More soon come...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Executing the Perfect Crossing

Added: 16-9-2006

 Yesterday afternoon we hiked at breakneck speed (about 3 and a half miles per hour) energised by our meeting with Mohammad Ali. All we need is to meet an international superstar every day from here until California and we will make it in record time. We were itching to tell people about it and kept telling each other - limited fun as we both already knew.

We spent a great night camping out near Corydon chatting over the experience and letting it sink in. Its all still abit of a blur. This morning was great walking - wide open meadows dotted with hay bails, and perfect weather - deep blue sky crossed with vapour trails and dressed with high, high clouds. The colours in the leaves are starting to singe towards autumn colours and it was a beautiful area to walk through. We were making good time and even had a short-cut planned on one of the trails in the State Park. From the map that we had, which was lacking specifics, the short cut was to take us across Blue River (I was soon to discover this was something of a misnomer) on something called the Iron Bridge.

I was the first to reach the bridge as Stuart was answering a call of nature a few yards away. My first reaction was a loud and sustained expletive.

"Are there gaps?" Stuart responded sounding a little concerned. Were there gaps? The bridge was built almost entirely of gaps. Where any bridge-maker of note might have put a floor or a side, the architect of this particular bridge had put gaps. The bridge looked like an old railroad bridge but there was nothing to suggest that it had been crossed by anyone in a long time. It looked crossable but extremely dangerous. Our only other option was to backtrack 7 or 8 miles back around by way of the highway, thus delaying lunch by a couple of hours.

We were hungry.

It looked like there was a way across by edging along the beam nearest the edge and steadying oneself by means of a bar, at about shoulder-height, running the length of the bridge. The problem with this, apart from the fact that any wrong step would land about 50 feet below, was that in order to see where you were putting your feet you had to look down. I am not too good with heights and any glance down would lead to an irresistable vertiginous urge forwards and downwards, offset only by 35 pounds of backpack trying to pull me backwards and downwards. I managed to shuffle along very slowly above the water.  In this fashion, with a tight grip on the rusty girder, I both made it about 100 feet along the bridge and over the river. The worst was still to come.

By the time I made it to the second concrete pillar, before the final section over ground, Stuart was well ahead and almost across the final section. There had been some loud swearing from the advanced party. I soon discovered why. For the final section, what had been a double-width girder became single-width, barely wider than a shoe. There was also a section where the 'handrail,' that I had been holding on to for dear life, disappeared. To cap it all, because this section was above ground rather than river, there were vines and branches obstructing the cumbersome hiker at every step.

I waited, breathing heavily. When Stuart reached the safety of the far bank his pronouncement was that it was 'terrifying but doable.' I weighed up my options for a very long, sweaty 5 minutes sat on the concrete pillar. I decided that theoretically it was doable but at this particular moment, in actuality, it was not. I would drop the valuables off the platform to a waiting Stuart below. and then drop my pack down. Before I did that, I changed in to my trunks; I was going to go back and swim across.

Going back was easier without the pack and now knowing exactly how bad it was going to get. Soon I was at the other side and ready from my dip. Staring at the thick brown water I was not sure whether I had made the right choice. I put my foot in - cold - still not sure. With a grinning Stuart egging me on from the side, I had no choice. I would like to say that I dived in gracefully. In fact, while trying to edge forward as far as possible without getting wet, my shoes slipped on the mud bottom and I fell in. That was it, I was instantly swimming.  

When I got to the other side I knew I had made the right choice - it might be cold and muddy but you can't fall off water. I felt invigorated and happy to have had the adventure, great fun the minute it was over. Now lunch.
DaveHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

The Crossing of the Iron Bridge

Added: 16-9-2006

Everything seems a little bit of an anti-climax after yesterday's encounter with The Greatest, but we are still making fun for ourselves as we head west.

Yesterday evening, for example, we camped in the wrong front garden after getting directions from a local farmer quite wrong. Such a move obviously caused a stir in the local neighbourhood (three houses, two of which housed members of the same family) and Keith, an 87 year old WWII veteran and the local farmer's father, was dispatched on his quad-bike to track us down and see if things were ok. Luckily for everyone, things were just fine.

So last night we were about six miles west of Corydon, a distance that we covered in extremely fast time - most likely due to us feeling pretty good after our day in Louisville. If only we could meet a world-famous celebrity every day our pace would be monstrous...

This morning has seen wonderful weather and we are now 9 miles further west in the town of Leavenworth, in the Breeden Memorial Library. Getting here, however, has been a struggle - it involved The Crossing of the Iron Bridge.

The iron bridge crosses the Blue River (real colour: brown) which flows down to the Ohio river. It is end the end of the 'adventure' trail that comes out of a state park the name of which I cannot remember. When we asked a lady at the park this morning the quickest way to our destination she sent us off down the adventure trail and over the iron bridge. What she neglected to tell us though, and what we found out on arrival, is that the iron bridge has little substance left on it for one to cross over or, as Dave put it, is made entirely of gaps.

Not good. We'll put up photos later but basically we were walking about 30 feet above the river on girders, full packs on our backs. Now there was a guardrail (it now has the shapes of our fingers permanently imprinted on it) and that was good, but mostly it was shuffle along and don't look down. I went first, it wasn't too bad (but I'd rather be doing other things) but when I reached 2/3 of the way across the pain went up a level and the surface I was walking on changed from one girder to two. about another ten feet on the guardrail disappeared. not quite sure how I made it, but make it I did (Spense! John! I'm ready to descend in the Picos again!) and had the luxury (we all know it) of looking back to see someone else trying to do the dangerous thing you've already completed.

Dave wasn't so keen on the last section. He made it 2/3 of the way across and then decided that my foolishness was not his foolishness. Now we had to think creatively...I got him to throw his stuff 30 feet down to me (the last third of the bridge was over ground - the river had been crossed) and reapplied my goalkeeping skills to ensuring $600 camera and $30 guitar were safely caught. Then we got the rucksack down and Dave went slowly back over the other side of the bridge. Because I am a charitable guy with an eye for a picture, I filmed the whole crossing for posterity/potential disaster. The final part of the manouvere was for Dave to bite the bullet and jump in the river and swim the 30 or so metres across - simple for a man of his David Wilkie-like skills.

so that was that, the Crossing of the Iron Bridge. It only took, ooh, about 90 minutes and now we're starving. Looking back at the state of the river, it will be interesting to see if tonight Dave glows in the dark...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

The Greatest.

Added: 15-9-2006

My face is currently numb, partly from the fact that we have just driven 20 jowel-flapping miles back from Louisville in the back of an open-top jeep and partly from constant dazed grinning. You would have to chisel the smile off my face at the moment.

Its 3pm and we are back in Corydon library. Yesterday at 3pm we were sat in exactly the same spot when we received a call from the Mohammad Ali Centre telling us that Ali was going to be in town and asking 'did we want to meet him?'

Did we?

We did.

The social congestion that we have experienced over the last few weeks means that we have been moving West at a record slow pace; we should have passed by Louisville weeks ago. In a random chain of events that began who knows when, fate has dictated that we passed through town at exactly the right time to coincide with a rare visit by Mohammad to the centre. Fortune truly favours the slow.

A very surreal experience began in the cavernous lobby of the Centre where chattering huddles of schoolkids were lined up to take group pictures with Mohammad. There were members of the public, news crews, reporters, security guards and, amongst all, a couple of bemused and excited Englishmen. The room burst into applause as Ali entered the room, aided by his wife, Lonnie, and made his way to a large chair that had been set up in a corner.

The groups of kids were the first to go up. Due to his condition, Ali's movements are very restricted but it was a genuine pleasure to see him with the kids, who surrounded him like he was Father Christmas. Although he does not speak at such events the eyes and the movements that he does make speak volumes. He was giving the old-fashioned dukes-up pose and touching kids hands.

We had been given special queue-jumping dispensation due to our status as shambling walkers. This meant that we were first to have our pictures taken as indivduals with the great man which, in turn, meant that we didn't have a clue what we were doing as we were ushered to his chair. I was first up and I handed Stu the camera while I mumbled half-formed innanities about how great it was to meet him and how far we had come. I had to tell an even more awe-struck Stu to press the shutter-button on the camera that he was holding like it was a completely alien device. Then Stu joined us for a picture with both of them as the President of the Centre announced us to the crowd, we got the second, slightly less-enthusiastic and far less-deserved round of applause of the day.

There was a real atmosphere in the building and perhaps it was just Ali's fame that drew people in and that led people to view him in such awe. We had heard, though, from people at the centre that people had had really emotional reactions to meeting with him. I was left with an overwhelming sense of  his humanity and a gracious combination of humility and pride that shines through his disability. I think I probably told him 3 or 4 times as I delivered my wide-eyed soliloquy but it really was an honour to meet him.

We went on to chat with Lonnie and she bought us T-shirts on behalf of herself and Mohammad. I will leave Stuart to fill in the details while I do my chores with the pictures but suffice to say it was an incredible day.

I want to particularly thank Treye who we met at the front desk of the centre on our original visit. Treye proceded to send an email round to all the staff in the building detailing our story and everything since has led from that action. He was not there today so we did not get a chance to thank him in person. Top man.

Now we have an answer to the much-asked question, 'what is the most memorable thing about the trip so far?'

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"Im a bad man, I shook up the world!"

Added: 15-9-2006

and so it came to pass that this morning we met Muhammad Ali...difficult to describe exactly what this meant to us as it was so unexpected and completely amazing. I'd been saying for months before I left that I was going to try and meet Ali, although I had no real idea how to go about it save for a vague notion that he might accept visitors if they turned up on his doorstep and told him they'd walked to get there. A silly idea yes, but the only one I had...

but yesterday afternoon we got a phone call which meant I no longer had to fall back on this stupid plan. Jeanie, the Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at the Ali Center (who we met on Monday) informed me that Muhammad was making an unscheduled visit to the centre today and meeting with Senator Barak Obama, and would we consider coming back from Corydon to Louisville to meet with him?

a no-brainer, obviously. thanks to the help of Stacy, a new heroine to us and the Media and Communications Specialist at the Center, we were picked up from Corydon and ferried back to Louisville where we spent the night at Stacy and her husband David's amazing house...a very fine night, good beers and company, and David had even bought us some shoe insoles as a present (he also offered us a guide for postmen to know when dogs are playful/about to attack/aroused but that's a different story). we got to shower and get clean (no one should meet Muhammad Ali smelling like we can) and left this morning for the Center totally refreshed.

in return for all this treatment we ended up putting out flyers for the big man's arrival all over downtown. Ali called the centre to inform them of his visit yesterday after lunch and there was next to no publicity. Apparently he still loves a spontaneous appearance...anyway, to get the word out we walked about handing out flyers, checking out town (nice) and meeting again with our friend Emily who had been so kind to us earlier this week (I asked her on the phone if she wanted to meet Ali - she was like, "Duh. Stupid question."). about 11.30 we assembled along with about four classloads of elementary school kids and various other lucky folks in the foyer of the building. quite an amazing feeling...everyone waiting for this man who at one point, and who knows, maybe still now, was apparently the most recognised face on the planet. it was a great feeling, not really experienced anything like it...so he finally appears and it's all worth the wait, people get in line to meet him...like magic somehow we made it to about third in the line and got a proper introduction, Jeanie telling Muhammad what we were up to and him listening in intently...the President of the Center, Mike, introduced us to the crowd as we were having our picture taken and everyone gave us a round of apalause...totally weird, our faces set in ridiculous grins, cameras going off and whatnot, got some great video footage courtesy of Stacy...

so after all that we shuffled off to the side, pretty elated. everyone in the foyer was milling around waiting for Senator Obama so I headed for the gift shop to pick up our stuff...there I ran straight into Muhammad's wife Lonnie and got chatting...she was the nicest woman, interested in the trip and pretty much straight away telling me, Dave and Emily to pick out some t-shirts that she and Muhammad would buy for us...talk about speechless...

frankly, it was probably the best experience of the trip so far, even better than Moose's three mile an hour escort down Route 50 at 3am (er, see the journal entries for August 22). difficult to describe meeting a hero. all I can really say is huge thanks to everyone that made this happen - Jeanie, Stacy and David, Emily, Treye, Ben, everyone at the Ali Center really. not really much else to write about at this point, feeling very happy indeed...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

New Albany/Louisville

Added: 14-9-2006

Well, we've had a quite a time since the last entry...first, we left the library in search of the Rustic Frog, the bar to which we had been invited for free beer and food. it was quite a route, off of main street New Albany and down to the Ohio river, down lanes strewn with abandoned vehicles and bordered by chemical plants. it kinda reminded us of the type of place where the Mafia might take you to put a bullet in your head...

anyway, at the end of all of this we found the fabled Rustic Frog, and what we expected to be a riverrat bar with people flying out of windows while still sat on their bar stools turned out to be a gigantic two-storey building with pool tables and loads of space inside for fun fun fun. quite a place. we met the bar staff who were all very cool, especially Emily who later took pity on two English hikers and took us across the bridge to Louisville in search of live music. we didn't leave, however, before putting the final nail in any future bid on my behalf to be Prime Minister - pictures of Dave and I working the, er, dancer's pole in the club upstairs. coming to a Walkingthestates gallery near you soon...

Emily took us on a tour of Louisville by night (v.nice) which culminated in an Irish pub and The Worst Band of the Entire Trip So Far. We had stumbled on audition night, and the female singer of the band we were lucky enough to see was appalling at best, criminal at worst. They opened by bludgeoning some Cranberries song to death and continued in the same vein for the rest of the night, screetching vocal tricks a-plenty on the way. The highlight for me had to be an extremely troubling version of Led Zep's 'D'ya maker' which will now forever in my memory be associated with the singer's disturbing 'oh oh oh's. Think we definitely came on the wrong night...

Emily's flatmate Heidi let us crash on the floor of her apartment after that and a good night's sleep ensued. Following breakfast in downtown Louisville we headed to the Muhammad Ali Center. I'd been wanting to go here ever since I heard it had opened last November, and it didn't disappoint...tons of Ali stuff, great films and displays, a recap of his fight career screened on to a boxing ring, loads of fights available to watch in their entirety...it was pretty amazing. It got even better after we had finished our tour because Trey, the guy on the front desk had let management know we were in the building. We met Jeannie, the director, and loads of other great people and were issued with free chapeaus (or hats) from Ben in the store..we also got to do an interview for their website which I hope will be up soon...basically, the day was just made by the trip to the center and I was a grinning fool on leaving the building...

and after that, we just got back to our normal existance of walking. Emily dropped us off back in New Albany and we got in a couple of hours before knocking on the door of Eileen Hauber and family and asking if we could camp in one of their fields. again, nothing but hospitality from people...Eileen's son Ben gave us a tour of the farm (with Dave and I taking it in turns to drive a golf cart - the first vehicle I have driven in years. after experiencing the thrill of ten miles an hour (seven faster than we normally go) I think I willl soon ready to return to the world of driving cars...) and then later on he kindly came down to our field with popcorn, peppermints, nasal spray and two bottles of Fosters. top stuff, and many thanks to the Haubers...

so now we're in the town of Corydon - the old state capital of Indiana. we've come straight to the library which is quite an amazing building - a lovely space even if it looks like they let Prince choose the decor: it's all purple. looks good though...

more revelations as soon as we have them.

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Wet.

Added: 12-9-2006

We've made it to New Albany and it's wet. A nasty bit of weather moved in overnight and we've spent four hours today walking in (at times near-torrential) rain. Everything I've been wearing is soaked, including boots.

And it was all going so well. We got back to Madison yesterday morning and hooked up once more with Pete and Tammy Debuque, our kind hosts from last week. Pete let us stay last night again and this enabled us to do a ten mile walk yesterday afternoon, from Henryville to Bennetsville, without packs. It felt good to be walking once more after what seemed like ages away from the trail, and Dave and I covered the distance in one go, pausing only to pick up a dog, promptly christened 'Barry', who followed us five miles. Dogs love to follow us and this one was no exception. It's great to have a travelling companion for a bit but less than great when said travelling companion gets a kick out of wandering all over the road and causing oncoming traffic all sorts of problems. Barry was even a recruiter - at one point he lured another dog - Terry - into following us for a mile or so before Terry saw the light and headed home to where he could be fed. As for Barry, he hung out with us at the gas station where we stopped and I think he would have been quite happy to stay there if he could. We felt guilty though so we dropped him back home when Mike came to pick us up. I wonder if his owners believed him when he told them how he spent the afternoon...

Anyway, after that we were knackered and had an early night. On a boat. Yes, we were lucky enough to be able to sleep on Pete's father-in-law's boat which is moored in his garden. Felt a bit like kids setting up camp under a table or something, but it was kinda cool, if a little tomb-like...

So back to today. We have finally got on the road again properly again, leaving behind the hospitality of our Madison friends. After two hours of rain however, we rain into New Albany hospitality - Darell, the pastor at the local Baptist Church, rescued us from the rain, gave us towels and loads of energy bars and then took us to lunch at Taco Bell. Smart. On top of this he called the local paper and advised us on a good route into town. This was a good route indeed because without it we wouldn't have met a bloke called John who owns a bar and who has invited us to come and eat and drink all we want there this evening. Gotta love New Albany...

But we'd also like to get over to Louisville for some live music. So much hospitality, such little time - and we have to get stuff dry too, my boots are squeaking with water and my trousers need to try. What will happen...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

New Photos

Added: 10-9-2006

a very quick journal entry as I listen to Roy Ayers at Suzanne's place in Milford...there are tons of new pictures up on the website, some of which are the best yet...pics from bocce in Toluca and plenty of others from our progress across Indiana so far. Dave has his camera back now so the quality has gone up...click here for the photos or just go straight to the gallery...

Meanwhile, we're still in Milford, although we're back on the trail tomorrow. We did our presentation at the trail festival yesterday and it went well - we hadn't presented anything together before so I think we did quite well (people laughed in the right places and got into the whole politics discussion at the end. more presentations coming to a venue near you in the winter: Walking the States - Halfway). after the presentation we retired to the nearby American Legion bar for college football and a Neil Young kinda tribute band, and then we hit Kentucky for a bar crawl through Covington. Here we learned the amazing fact that Jerry Springer, once mayor of Cincinnati, had got Suzanne, our host, her job. Mad world...

All for now. Signing off with a long overdue list of tunes we've been singing and stuff being listened to...

Being Sung:
Sway; Can You Hear Me Knocking - The Rolling Stones
Strange Relationship, Raspberry Berret - Prince (am not the best Prince impersonator, but...)
Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Helpless - Neil Young
Lynnrd Skynrd - Free Bird (oh yes we are)
Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton (don't ask)
I Feel Love - Donna Summer
Blue - The Jayhawks
Michael Row The Boat Ashore (Hallelujah)
On Ilkley Moor (Baht Hat)
Layla - Derek and the Dominos
I Feel Free, Crossroads - Cream
Baba O'Reilly - The Who

Listening:
An Announcement to Answer - Quantic
Meme - Milosh
Dr Who Dat? - Beat Journey
The Eraser - Thom Yorke


StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Weekend in Milford and musings on 9/11

Added: 9-9-2006 1

Another weekend off, the third in a row, and this time we're in Milford, Ohio again for the Junction Trail Festival. This website really should be called socialising the states...

Not that we mind. We're staying at the great old house of Suzanne Stagg, a 12 room beaut with themed rooms (I'm in the Ancestral Room; Dave is upstairs playing in the Toys Room) and fridges so stocked with essentials that we're once again totally spoiled. We're here as the guests of the festival organisers and last night we attended talks by Brent (Festival organiser, walked the whole Buckeye Trail with his girlfriend Amy a few years back) and Andy Skurka, Backpacker Magazine's Man of the Year 2005 and a bloke who makes Dave and I look like the shambolic amateurs we are. Andy's presentation included loads of information on how to get by over 11 months and 7800 miles carrying, well, basically bugger all, and it was really something to compare and contrast our approaches to long distance hiking. Us: guitars, laptops, video cameras, iPods, novels. Andy: clothes made of the lightest materials known to man (I suspect they were woven by spiders), a sleeping bag with the back cut out, a pair of extremely short shorts.

Anyway, it was great, very informative and gave us loads of ideas. Today we are apparently to do a presentation - we learned of this yesterday afternoon so it is obvious a shamblesfest awaits this evening. We have loads of photographs but Dave and I have never presented before and seem to have different views on how to go about things (PhD training, can't let it go) so it will be interesting to see how badly we screw up/how triumphant our presentational victory will be. At the very least we might debut the Roadkill Gallery, a collection of over 200 lovingly shot pictures of roadkill that none of you guys have had the chance to check yet...

More details on that when it's done. Other big things at the moment, for me at least, is the impending anniversary of 9/11. A big focus of mine, at work for the last four years, and one of the reasons behind my trip here. We were hoping to be in Louisville to do vox pops with the video camera but I'm not sure we'll make it (because that would mean we would actually be walking, and that would be...). Anyway, I'm busying myself with all sorts of news articles, trying to keep up with how the US is dealing with this anniversary. One of the weirdest/darkest things I have ever come across is coming up on 9/11 itself - CNN will replay the entire day's TV feed exactly as it happened...is it me or is this just the most screwed up thing you've ever heard? The potential for confusion is truly great, don't want to get up hungover and unaware that morning...not sure if replaying a heinous attack over a period of hours is the best way to honour the dead, but I guess it's a good way of making sure everyone remains terrified of how the world is turning. Anyway, it would appear that the President is keen to remind everyone of exactly why we are in Iraq - it's the War on Terror you know - despite this news yesterday that Saddam Hussein had no links to Al-Qaeda before 9/11. It's a strange thing that many of the people we have talked to and many more that we have heard about are happy to link Iraq to 9/11...mind you, other people we have spoken to don't believe it was terrorists at all, and instead subscribe to the types of theory being discussed here...conspiracy is rife as the 5th anniversary rolls around...

anyway, enough politics. if it's the weekend it must be the English Premier League and I am now lucky enough to be in a house where I can see my team most likely whupped by Manchester United. to the couch...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

On Madison and Harlan Hubbard

Added: 7-9-2006 2

A really strange and wonderful few days for Walkingthestates. when I last wrote I was sitting in this same chair in the same library - it seems that we are destined to spend longer in the Madison area that we first thought...

so on Tuesday afternoon we ambled about 10 miles up the round out of Madison and out through the small town of Hanover (walk highlights: not many, a bugger of a hill and some hot hot heat) where we called our main man in the area, Pete Dubuqe (he of the banjo playing last Thursday night and the lift up to Colombus last Friday afternoon). Pete offered to put us up for the night and drove out on the trail with his wife Tammy to pick us up. Things got better from here on in as he basically offered us a few days' slackpacking - we camp in his garden and leave our bags there, go out walking and then he comes and picks us up in the evening. bonza.

therefore, after a Tuesday night of excellent food and music chez Dubque, Dave and I hit the road again very early Wednesday morning. an incredibly misty start was followed by an amazing sunny day, even if we were walking under the dark shadow of R Kelly's Trapped in the Closet. Dring the weekend in Toluca we foolishly decided to re-view the astonishing/groundbreaking/lunatic VMA performance by R Kelly (a man whose bedroom pursuits we are in no way endorsing through this mention) that can be found here. A bad idea this truly was, for yesterday's walk, all 20 miles of it, was punctuated by cries of "Now he's opening the closet!", "Kathy said 'Rufus!'", "Rufus said 'Kathy!'", "Don't you think that's a bit extreme?" and "I'm going back to my wife!!!!". Please do not view the video clip if you are easily fooled into singing rubbish...

other interesting things yesterday included our second near arrest, as we were stopped once again by The Man. this time we were on the most country of country roads, sun beating down and a gentle stroll on. the sherrif pulled up in front of us and as we approached he made a very definite stop sign. the only effect this had was to make us start laughing...not a great way to deal with the police but there you go. we explained ourselves, he expained that a local had reported us as 'suspicious' (there had previously been a break-in in the area) and names were handed over. satisfied with our explanation ("But sir, we are the slowest burglars in the world!") he sent us on our way, but not before we got to overhear a wonderful exchange over the CB which involved him telling HQ that we were just a pair of people walking the the west coast and the guy on the other end loudly exclaiming "They don't have a car!??!"

so yes, we are still suspicious. Pete picked us up later that afternoon after a good day's hike and took us back to his place where a right old evening was developing. It was Pete's band practice night and, sho' nuff, there on the porch we immediately hit it with two guitars, a mandolin and a banjo. More people arrived, beer was a-flowing and eventually the back porch was comandeered for a real Dubuque ho-down - at times incorporating three Djembe drums, three guitars, the mandolin, a trumpet and of course, the banjo. I shook a shaker for a bit.

top night. We were going to walk today but during the course of the evening around these great people (big shouts: Tootsie, Jimmy, Mandy, RJ, Tanner, Emily, Melody and of course Roy Gentry who supplied a most timely ode to Steve Irwin, "Crocodile Man Blues") we got talking to Paul Hassfurder, he of the trumpet and Mandolin, and he invited us to see the house of a local - and national - notary named Harlan Hubbard. This is where we have been today - over to Kentucky to an amazing house that Harlan built with his wife Anna from the 1952 onwards. Harlan's is a story far too long to do justice to here, but he lived his life as he saw fit, moving back towards nature in a way that let him built his house, raise his livestock and crops, paint his paintings and write his journals, and play musical duets with his wife. Quite an incredible place which Dave's photos will bring to life for y'all (btw, we left our USB cable in the SUV we took to Toluca - no new photos until tomorrow)...I left feeling like I had been to a very special place (not least 'cos you have to hike 14 minutes down a disguised track to get to it - it's right on the banks of the Ohio, on the Kentucky side - and there is no electicity or running water. Paul, who helped Harlan out towards the end of his life (he died in 1988), lives out at the house as often as he can keep it as Harlan would have wanted it)...

so special I just went and got a haircut. Tomorrow we get picked up from here and head backwards to Milford, Ohio. It's been a weird three weeks...ever since the Danes arrived we've been on some sort of event overdrive, doing loads of interesting things and meeting tons of interesting people but rarely walking more than three days in a row. This is kinda weird...we've basically had a huge safety net under us for three weeks, knowing that we're gonna be here this weekend, there that one...it's been great but I sure am looking forward to getting back to some proper walking. I want the road; without the road I suffer from feeling a lack of progress. I actually don't feel like I've physically tested myself yet on this jaunt, I want more walking and more distance covered. I want life at 3 m.p.h. After this weekend we got to get going - it's getting colder and there's hundreds of miles to go towards Kansas, this year's finish point...

PS: before I sign off this immensely long entry I gotta give big thanks to the people who have taken our funds raised to over 600 quid (that's, er, over $1000): Carla, Katja and Jimmy - nice work...

PPS: and y'all should most definitely check out Steph's movie on the Bocce Ball in Toluca, 'Watch the Palino'. It's right good :)

PPS: This journal entry would not have been possible without the help of Andre, the very patient IT support person at Madison library. Darned computers...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

After Toluca

Added: 5-9-2006 1

Not much to report post Toluca. Dave and I have successfully made it back to Madison to resumer our walk after a good day of driving yesterday with David, Judy and John. I got quite into the American road trip, five people crammed in a car talking rubbish for hours while the scenery flies by. Very entertaining, and much faster than walking...

We got dropped off in Greensburg, a town noted for having a tree growing out of its courthouse roof. Camping took place on the field of the YMCA (YMCA people, if you are reading this I hope you got my note and many thanks for, er, letting us stay on your field) and all was good apart from the fact it was very wet last night and our tents' integrity seems to be being tested. I woke and I think - I think - there were drips inside the tent from condensation (although it might just have been my usual early morning confusion), while Dave spent the night in a tent suffering from broken tent poles. We only had the beggars repaired the other week, so a new breakage is very unwelcome. Today we seek a hardware store...

Anyway, we hitched out of Greensburg this morning after a breakfast at Stories diner that a very kind mystery benefactor paid for (Mystery Benefactor! We did not get to thank you! Thank you!). Paul, 82, was our first lift and he took us through the towns of Smyrna and Kuntzville to Versailles. There a good fella named Patrick took us on to Madison and now we're back in the library with our clothes spinning away in the laundromat. Time to get walking again today, we hope to make it to New Albany/Louisville by Friday...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Labour Day

Added: 4-9-2006 1

Well, our Bocce efforts are over for another year. Despite a fine start in the tournament, (we won our opening match) Dave and I utterly capitulated to some fellas who knew what they were doing in our second game. 12-0. Humiliation. And things were going so well...

We've had a great weekend up here in Toluca. I'm writing this from a motel on the edge of the town (population 1400, most of them in the streets playing Bocce ball yesterday) and all is good. Things are clean, things are recharged, life is sweet. All we need to do now is drive the 400 miles back to where we left the trail. We got picked up on Saturday morning after spending Friday night in our tents camped under a billboard near Interstate 65. A most beautiful campsite, with perfect views of a 24 hour garage and Taco Bell. We'd been given a lift out of Madison by the endlessly entertaining Pete Debuque (a great musician we met in town on Thursday night - he found us about to hitch on Friday afternoon and instead took us back to his house where we listened to him play banjo and amazing drums and heard tales of him being at Woodstock in 1969 and the civil war in Sierra Leone a couple of years back. Then he gave us about a 60 mile lift up the highway.  Quite a character) but failed to hitch any further. Luckily Saturday morning was a bit better and Ella and Emma (on their way to quite a family reunion, buy the sounds of things) came to our rescue and got us to our rendevous point in Greenwood, just south of Indianapolis.

Once there our friends from DC, David, Jon and Judy picked us up and we drove another three hours under massive Illinois skies to Toluca. David had brought us large amounts of resupply stuff and we are now amply packed with fresh batteries, DV tapes, english confectionary (courtesy of Leila - many thanks!) and, thankfully, Dave's hair gel.

So, yeah, we've basically just had an American version of the British Bank Holiday weekend. It's Labour day today, one of the few public holidays in America. The town of Toluca has a labour day festival every year and there's a carnival, live music, a beer tent and, of course, Bocce. Bocce is the game, a kinda of Italian version of Petanque, and this year there were probably about 500 men, women and children competing in an open tournament that is played all day sunday. The men's final took place last night about 10pm in the pouring rain - dedication. The best thing about the tournament is that games can be played anywhere downtown - there are games going on across people's gardens, in alleys and on the railroad tracks. Very entertaining, especially as there is much liquid entertainment - rules dictate that the winners of each game have to buy the losers a beer.

All was fun then. We've got more of this festvial lark to come too - Milford Trail Festival next weekend. Before then we've got to get back to the trail and do a couple of days walking out of Madison. For those interested in our continuing misadventures in print I should point out that the Madison Courier did a piece on us last week (front page! read it here) which was entertaining, not least because Dave is now officially recongnised as a "hybrid musician, photographer, videographer and writer" but also because my first question to the interviewer was apparently about where we could find bars. Mother, it's not true...


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E-mail: stu@walkingthestates.com and dave@walkingthestates.com | Phone: (00 1) 301 538 0308