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Journal

Stopped. Feet up.

Added: 28-10-2006

Well, that'll do us. We made it to Independence and since then we've been living the life of Riley at the house of Carly and Colin in Westport, Kansas City. We get up, we don't walk. We go shopping, and we don't even look for packet pasta. It's over for this year and all is good.

We had originally planned to walk without packs from Independence to the centre of Kansas City yesterday but we got up and looked outside...rain, no weather for us to be in. So we went back to sleep. The rest of the day went by...and no thoughts of walking entered our heads. Instead, as the day went on a dawning feeling that this part of the trip was finished came over us and...well, to cut to the chase - we think it will be best if we start from Independence next year. We've met cool people here who will let us stay for a night or two in April 2007 so we'll do it then. No point doing walking in the rain for the sake of it...

And besides, it leaves us more time for shopping. Yesterday's haul included about 15 LPs which cost me hardly anything and would be worth loads more in Europe. Have to love second hand shops with no idea of how much their records are worth...today we continued the trend, hitting some god-awful mall and buying cheap jeans to tide us over - we're sick of going in bars looking like advertisements from the Outdoor pages of catalogues and by God we're gonna try and fit in with our new cheap trousers.

Anyway, that's all no doubt boring and by the by. Basically, we've finished walking and, once it actually sinks in, we'll be right proud of ourselves. We think we've done about 1600 miles in total, once our shortcuts and diversions from the ADT route are taken into account, and we can both still (just about) walk. We're still talking to each other and very occasionally one of us can come up with a new joke to make the other one laugh. This is not a bad state of affairs for  two people who have spent the last five months together.

In short, it bodes well for next year. Bring on the plains of Kansas and Colorado, the Rocky Mountains, the deserts of Utah and Nevada, more mountains, San Francisco and the sea. Bring on more horrifying FM country music and identical restaurant menus, strip malls and Fox News reports. But most of all bring on more of the people we have met and got to hang around with - the Democrats, the Republicans, the religious, the not-so-religious, the conspiracy theorists, the well-travelled, the non-travelled, the people who have never seen the sea, the people who asked if we speak English in England, the people who think Dave looks like Tony Blair/Prince Charles and are convinced I am from Australia. Let us stay with the rich, the poor, the good cooks and the bad ones, the Nascar fans and the Dead heads, the librarians and the people whose book collections that are crying out - crying out! - for order. We'll take them all, each and every one, for the last four months have been quite a time and I think it's fair to say that we've enjoyed nearly everything that has befallen us. Except the FM country music. That sucks.

But there you go, a first attempt  at summing  up. More in a Project entry once I get back to DC. Until then, I shall enjoy Dave's  birthday present to me - the complete Trapped in the Closet series on DVD, R Kelly's masterpiece in a manageable form. It is time for me to find out exactly what Rufus said to Kath, and how Chuck handles rejection...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Found: One Toolan, AKA Needless Marathon Boy

Added: 26-10-2006

Found him. Or at least he should be here in the library soon, unless he gets lost again. Now Dave will never say that he has technically been lost, it's not his style, but after speaking to him on the phone two minutes ago it does appear that he took a wrong turning that, er, enabled him to better explore the area surrounding Indpendence and walk some six miles more than he had to. All credit to the Toolan for practically walking a marathon; I'm just glad I got to do a bit more sitting down.

Anyway, relief all round at the library. All we need to do now is navigate the local bus system and all will be well. We hope.

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Lost: One Toolan, last seen eating breakfast

Added: 26-10-2006

Well, it's the penultimate day of walking for us two hobos and to add some more excitement into the mix, I've gone and lost Dave. Not on purpose, you understand, but as I sit and write this now in the public library in downtown Independence, I have to say I haven't seen Dave since 11.30am this morning.

Hmmm. So where can he be? We spent yesterday on a walk from Higginsville due west (at this point major thanks go out to Connie Dilley, our guardian in Higginsville, Father Jim of the local catholic church, the only priest who has ever given me recommendations on where to buy vinyl, all at the Crazy Cone for good burgers and amazing ice cream and Hollie on the local paper - top people all of you) and covered a good 18 miles before sleeping on a local farmer's land and being beseiged by fearless barn cats all night (they tried to get in the tents every chance they got, one of them ended up sleeping on Dave's guitar and in the process knocked out some fairly deep modal cat jazz). Dave's tendonitis reared its ugly head once more but we made and ate food, slept (thankfully not in the subzero temperatures we were expecting) and got up without any problems save the darned cats.

I left the Toolan to massage his tendons and walked on ahead 9 miles. There he caught me up and all was good. As he hadn't had a break he stopped, I went on and...well, I waited for him again for almost an hour over lunchtime and no sign. About 4pm I got into Indpendence and I've been trying to figure out where he can be since. As his lightweight backpacking philosophy extends to not carrying a phone I'm not sure how to proceed from here, although I am positive that a man such as Dave will attract attention in any town he moves through and that I shall find him soon enough. Hopefully - we have to get a bus into Westport this evening to meet our contact...

More soon come...

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Dont lie to me, where did you sleep last night?

Added: 24-10-2006

It seems repetitive to go on about our good luck but once again we find ourselves on the receiving end of great hospitality...we're in a motel on the edge of Higginsville, MO, kindly arranged for by a marvellous lady called Connie who, in association with a local church association, are our latest heroes of the walk.

To get here though, we had to wade through other amazing kindnesses - first there was Neil and his wife Anita in Marshall who not only did us roast chicken on Saturday night, but sorted us out with a superb English breakfast on Sunday morning and sent us on our way with all items cleaned and ready to go. We left there yesterday lunchtime and ventured out into the cold world - temperatures are going down like Argentine defenders around here and we're now trekking in layer after layer of clothing - yesterday topped off with a cheap scarf purchased in that temple of cheapness, Wal-Mart. We did twelve miles yesterday and ended up camping on the farm of the lovely Connors - Seth, Diane, Bailey and Shea.

The Connors were extremely kind to two unexpected travellers and we had a great time learning about their passion - rodeo. Following demonstrations and discussions of the finer points of goat tying and steer roping we now feel fully qualified to head to our first rodeo - if we can find one. The whole deal looks really funky, stetsons and all, and this morning we were further intrigued by a quick tour of Seth's farm, meeting the horses, seeing the rodeo practice arena and marvelling at the billy goats.

Mind you, to get to the tour we had to brave the night. cold. so cold. got down to 27 degrees farenheit last night, which is nearly -3 degrees centigrade for you brits reading this. So cold. It was alright until about 4am and then man alive it was freezing. My sleeping bag was stuffed full of clothes, my hat was on, my longjohns were working as hard as they could...and it was still unbelievable. Seth had offered to cook us breakfast at 7ish and when I called Dave at 6.35am expecting his normal arrangement of grunts and complicated assertions that he will be with me in a minute, I instead received a very clear 'Yes'. Both of us had been awake for a while trying to pretend that warm sleep would return.

So breakfast was great and we were on our way. 20 miles today, a cold bright day that I commemorated with a doomed songwriters session on my ipod (Nirvana Unplugged, Elliot Smith's 'From a Basement on a Hill', Nick Drake 'Bryter Later') and some strong walking - we only rested once for lunch during that 20 miles, stopping for lunch at a tiny place called Alma to eat polish sausage and saurkraut. We reached Higginsville at 4ish and headed for the library - only to find it closed.

On our way though we met Connie, a local lady who took us under her wing in the most amazing way, sorting out accomodation for us, arranging an interview with the local newspaper and then taking us for dinner at a nearby restaurant and all the while encouraging us to eat more and more food in order to put meat on our walking bones.

We are so grateful to Connie...not only am I now warm in front of some rubbish TV (the best kind, it's easier to shout at) with Dave playing guitar to my right but I can also stay here all night - sheer luxury - and not have to brave even lower temperatures than last night in our tents outside. Amazing.

And now we have only about 50 miles to go to KC where there is the promise of a trivia night on Thursday. Rocking...


StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

God save the Queen...

Added: 22-10-2006

Back in the lap of luxury once again...as I write this a very kind man named Neil (the Misplaced Brit) has bought me a steaming cup of char (er, tea) and downstairs I can hear the calming sounds of Open All Hours from the TV. It's British heaven here tonight as Neil and his wife Anita are also preparing us roast chicken with all the trimmings...

How did we get here? well, as ever, we got here slowly. only today we got here way more wetter than usual. yesterday we left Boonville and headed about 12 miles further west in delightful afternoon sunshine. the going was good, our spirits were high and there seemed to be a rather large number of Adult XXX shops on the way. In a quite rural area too. Odd. Anyway, we camped up last night behind some hay bales in a field, cooked up some food (our supply of cooking alcohol has run out and we were using whisky - don't try this at home kids, it's a slow and boring process that produced lukewarm pasta. mmm.) and got to sleep about 9.45pm. Another cracking Friday.

This morning looked good - for about twenty minutes. After that it's just been rain, all day. At first it's dealable with, the rain, because you're trucking along and can kinda convince yourself that, hey, it's not too bad, I'm not getting that wet and my hood/cap combo is really working. After three hours your confidence falls a bit as the legs of your trousers slowly become sodden and then after that it's all downhill as there is no way to deny that you're totally soaked and will be so for the foreseeable future unless it stops raining immediately and just around the corner is an industrial-size air hand-dryer.

So we just walked, in the end covering 21 miles in 7 hours. 15 minutes for lunch in that figure, taken on someone's back porch watching the strangest kids hang around in this tiny hamlet with three houses and an abandoned building that a) may have been a meth factory or b) was the type of abandoned building that kids like to hang around in. One of the kids looked like Silent Bob. Weird. Oh, and we also picked up another dog for today's walk - Barry (AKA Barry the Furthest, AKA Barry Stamina, AKA Dave's mate Rodders without his glasses, AKA Thom Yorke). Barry followed us for easily over 15 miles in the rain, having a ball and exploring everything. Lord knows where he is now though, we lost him when we entered Marshall (for that is where we are now)...

But the wetess and the walking is now all over with and we're currently drying out, hanging out and preparing ourselves for good food and a good evening. Nothing like being inside when it's raining and nearly freezing outside...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Quicky.

Added: 20-10-2006

Crikey its cold. Only one week to go and counting down has begun. We are away from civilisation for 35 miles and desperately in need of a shower if anyone can helicopter anything in. New pictures in gallery of recent adventures.

All for now folks.

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Of broken men and muddled conversation...

Added: 20-10-2006

Walking the states is a long and tiring business. We get up, we pack up, we complain about how cold it is, we walk three or four or eight miles to somewhere that is selling breakfast. Once there we complain about American food whilst stuffing down tasty plates of eggs, bacon, sausage (patties over here, links (er, proper shaped sausages) are a treat and always selected if on the menu), hash browns and, discovery of discoveries, pancakes to finish covered in healthy synthetic maple syrup. Thus set up for the day and considerably fatter, we wander off in whatever direction is required and put in some miles until the next place we can eat.

Therefore a lot of our focus is on food. Conversation after conversation about food, often starting in the morning with reminisences of great breakfasts gone by, moving on around lunchtime to the composition of the perfect sandwich and then moving into the always fun section of playing spot-the-same-menu when we arrive near an evening hostelry. Sometimes we ask ourselves "What would Jesus eat?" but as that's verging on extremely irreligious in some parts of this country we change it to "What would Andrew Skurka eat?" (nb. Andy Skurka is the world's premier lightweight backpacker, and his name is invoked daily on our mission, often is such situations as "How would Andy Skurka cross this road?", "What would Andy Skurka wear to this bar?" etc.). Oftentimes we play fantasy roast dinner - what would it have, where would it be eaten and who would you invite?

You see, after four months together we are scraping the barrel of conversation. Far from being annoyed from each other about this, we are both completely aware that we have started asking the same questions or telling the same stories over again, albeit sometimes with different endings (there's the great South Park episode where the kids are all telling the same story but differently...mind you, I think all the stories end with them getting ice cream and everything being great) just to mix things up. The other thing we have started doing is taking the last refuge of bored men - making lists of things to while away the time, or asking trivial questions in an effort to make sure that all the loose ends of random queries in our minds are tied up. For example, here are some lists made just this week:

  • Top five sitcom characters in the world ever (FYI, in no particular order: Homer Simpson, Basil Fawlty, David Brent, Frank Spenser, Derick 'Del Boy' Trotter)
  • Songs named after people's first names (Mandy, Ben, Daniel, Bernadette, er, loads more)
  • Top five people to start again with after a nuclear war (we got as far as Ray Mears, Cat Power and Natalie Portman, but then couldn't work out someone who was really practical at building mechanical things. I mean, Ray Mears is going to be useful in the woods and that, but can he go mechanical?)
  • Sexiest cartoon characters (this was last night, it was very cold, we got bored of it quite quickly and digressed a lot on the subject of the Flintstones)
  • Ugly footballers first XI (Steve Ogrizovic in goal, obviously, Iain Dowie up front, loads of others in there inc Peter Beardsley, Carlton Palmer, Martin Keown, Wayne "Best looking man in England" Rooney...we actually ended up with quite a creative team, just needed a few ballwinners...)

But far and away the most asked question on the entire trip is "Hu is the President of China?" which is so not funny it's untrue, and yet is asked on a daily basis, along with other such hilarious enquiries like "Hu let the dogs out?". Honestly, we are having such a time.

Anyway, today we're in Boonville, our second Boonville of the trip and one that has so far provided us with a great breakfast. We're on our way up to Marshall where we shall meet with Neil the Misplaced Brit and hopefully do laundry and eat good food. All for now. It's cold here by the way, getting colder all the time...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

And I think my spaceship knows which way to go...

Added: 19-10-2006

sometimes we get lucky...today's it's Abigails Restaurant in Rocheport - great food, nice people and wi-fi. we are, to put it bluntly, bored to tears of finding the same menu in every place we go into on our walk (ok, we know we're only walking through the smallest imaginable places where the locals don't want a culinary adventure, they just want a burger but still, fried everything can get extremely distressing for one's constitution after a while) so to come in here and get clam chowder and then some decent penne has been a treat...

so yes, we're in Rocheport, further down the Katy Trail in Missouri. I walked on autopilot this morning to get here through lovely scenery, bluffs and amazing colours on the trees....we left Columbia yesterday afternoon in a light drizzle, walked 9 miles and spent the night at a place called McBaine, allegedly named for the character in the Simpsons. Allegedly. anyway, we rested up there, kicked back by playing the entire second side of 'Abbey Road' on the jukebox and played pool until the table broke. then we ate, er, burgers and fried okra and watch the Saint Louis Cardinals send everyone in the Saint Louis area into despair by losing game 6 of their play-off for the World Series. tonight's the decider, we're heading for a bar or somewhere that's showing it...

not much else to say for now, we're on a strict division of time on the laptop. the very nice woman chef here at the restaurant is making us cookies, there is chill music on the cafe stereo and we only have 10 miles to do this afternoon. magic...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

On Mojos and Bi-Polar bears...

Added: 18-10-2006

this one from the best public library yet on the trip - the new building in Columbia, Missouri - a right beaut.

taking another detour from the trail, we headed up from Fulton to Columbia in order to have another night out. after seeing Dave this morning I can safely say I don't think we'll be needing another one of these for a while and therefore I think a quiet few days beckons.

we did 24 miles yesterday along one single road of sporadic traffic, fall-coloured trees and single-storey houses to get here, and the town didn't disappoint. it's full of students, there are universities and colleges everywhere and plenty of bars and restaurants to keep travellers like us happy. we actually ended up at a place called Mojos, watching some angry guitar strummer called Hamell on Trial (angry diatribes against politicians, amusing songs about what not to tell your kids about your youth, all delivered in a style somewhere between aggressive and, well, more aggressive. funny bloke though) who was supported by the marvellous Bi-Polar Bears (in reality, one man and a Eukele). all was well with the night, we met new friends Nancy and Bryce and were adopted by the very special Lisa and Sarah who kindly let us stay at their fine house along with their two cats, both of whom were a bit punchy (you know the kind of cat, you go to stroke them and they start boxing you). hospitality much appreciated, and fine music lovers the both of them. ladies, we hope you enjoy Project Runway tonight...

what else...we've just had coffee with Heather, a library PhD student here in Columbia who has been following our walk since we started...the upshot of this is that I've had great fun talking shop for half and hour or so, and I kinda realised I miss my job a bit (I think my feet prefered it when I was sitting down most of the day) and really need to get caught up on work/world affairs. s'very difficult keeping up with the world when my immediate concerns are to ensure one foot is continually placed in front of another in order to tot up 24 miles by the end of each day. think I really need some time off from this, kinda let what we've been doing sink in...

but for now, there's no time for that. back to the Katy trail, now clad in our brand new American Discovery Trail tech t-shirts, kindly sent to us by Trail PR Guru Dick Bratton. On we roll...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Walking lucky.

Added: 17-10-2006

We are in Fulton, sitting in a coffee shop watching the rain slide down the windows
We have, as ever, colonised a large area of the establishment, "its our corner now." Its been raining all day. Our wet clothes are hung from the chairs, shoes are off, the air in our corner is pungent.

We have been, as I have just read Jack London write, revelling in the "delights of drifting along with the whimsicalities of chance." We have come up winners again in our ongoing walking lottery. I don't believe we could have hand-picked a better crew with whom to partake in the varied pleasures (both beer and wine) of Hermann's Oktoberfest than that which plucked us out of a dark car park with an almost immediate offer of accomodation and hospitality.

By 2 o'clock on Saturday afternoon there were obvious casualties staggering around the town.We paced ourselves beautifully so we still had plenty of energy left for dancing on the bar as the night progressed.

We have had a fantastic weekend in Hermann, big thanks to Chris and Becky for putting us up and a big hello to everyone we met. We can add another load of people to our 'must see again' list. Check out Fritz's website www.fritztheartist.com - great stuff.

Yesterday we rehomed a Barry. Today we got wet. Tonight we shower.
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Post Hermann, Pre-Columbia

Added: 17-10-2006

Writing now from the town of Fulton, some 15 or so miles north of the Katy Trail and therefore off the ADT. Since I last wrote much has happened, and most of it is Hermann related...

Hermann (and its Oktoberfest) basically proved to be one of the highlights of our trip so far. To see an entire town (plus 8000 outsiders) enjoying the fruits of its wineries in a US-German style takes some beating...Dave and I got to see Hermanners at their best, and eat and drink alongside some of the finest people we have met so far on our journey. Not sure how to best describe Saturday so I shall once again turn to the time-honoured tactic of bullet points:

Sat morning:
  • Library, journal writing
  • Barbers for a trim, some small kid playing with a toy pig that kept singing 'My Girl'
  • Wander round Hermann itself, people boozing at 11.30am. Begin to suspect that the weekend could be rather, er, up our street
Sat afternoon:
  • Back to Chris and Becky's for their Oktoberfest party. Begin to meet a succession of very cool and funny people, including Joe and Allie. Kick back, listen to lots of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, sample local wine, get washing done and display my hiker's tan in public, sit under a very blue blanket to prevent freezing. Enjoy Fritz's variety of hats, including a fine one reminscent of a skunk. Watch Chris deep fry two turkeys, quite a scene. Eat very good food, feel very happy
Sat evening:
  • Quite toasty now. watch the Saint Louis Cardinals begin to beet the Mets. more people turn up, more laughs are had. more local wine sampled. head down town to the Barrel (the oldest continually operating tavern west of the Mississippi), much debauchery in progress, join in because it would be rude not to
  • Sometime later Dave is having an argument with an evangelical Christian who keeps trying to hug/hit him. Sometime after this Dave is dancing on the bar
  • Sometime after that I basically forget everything, except that the evening was played out to a soundtrack of classic rock and everyone sings along with the Allman Brothers
Sunday morning:
  • Ouch.
  • Fritz's spicy eggs. Ouch.
Enough of that. A top time, more descriptions in a our book. Suffice to say that Chris and Becky were amazing hosts (Becky would not let us leave until everything we owned was clean) and all their guests were just great. A pleasure to be part of it.

After that, Sunday morning was a bit slow. We got back on the trail and Dave just kept laughing to himself about the weekend. I couldn't have agreed more. We kinda meandered down the trail in overcast conditions and had lunch at a tavern in Rhineland. Great burger there. The afternoon was shaping up to be quite dull until the arrival of the best dog on the entire trip - Barry, or Barry Superior as he shall be known, in order to mark him out from the other Barrys who came before him. Barry was a silver-grey duck hunting dog (so we heard), a finely bred Weinmarner (??) who followed us for over 5 miles, protecting us at every turn from squirrel attacks and strange noises in the bushes. A better companion you could not have wished for and I think Dave and I both wanted to take Barry further with us but it was not to be. He'd obviously thrown in his lot with us for when we reached the tavern at Portland he simply sat outside waiting for us...the very nice people at the Riverfront Bar and Grill at Portland kinda took charge of Barry's fate from here (thankfully so, I guess, for I still can't come up with any feasible way we could have kept Barry, much as we wanted to) and eventually a local lady came to pick him up and put an ad in the local paper to try and find his owner (I should point out here that we didn't nick Barry from anyone, he joined the mission under his own steam and literally came out of nowhere at Blufton - a local lady there said she didn't know whose dog he was). At the end Barry was shaking and didn't want to get in the car with her and it really was a bit of a choking moment. Still, a good home to go to and all that, and would he really have wanted to spend all day with us today walking in the rain?

Because yes, as I write this we are a bit soaked in a cafe in Fulton. We've come off the trail to head up to Columbia, a college town where we suspect a good night out might be had (that and to make some time to ensure we get to Kansas City by the 27th). today we've done 21.9 miles, all in rain. can't complain though - it's the only day of the entire trip where it's rained continually, plus we're walking through amazing fall colours as the trees do their thing and change into the most amazing colours. we're wet but happy with good coffee and the prospect of a cheap motel not half a mile from here. no Barry but good memories of the weekend. all for now, roll on better weather...

PS: Many thanks to Eddie and Tom who we met in the gas station in Hams Prarie earlier today - cheers for all the advice and chat...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Oktoberfest

Added: 14-10-2006

Life is good. We have fallen on our feet again.

After approximately 11 seconds of relative misery in a cold dark car park we have been rescued by a man with a suitably Germanic moustache and name. This man was Fritz and his immediately enthused rescue squad consisted of Chris, Becky, Leslie and Lisa. Fantastic people.

We are now showered and rested, though slightly hung over, and have set the day aside to partake in the Oktoberfest celebrations which evidently feature the local breweries and vineyards prominently. God bless the Germans.

At this very moment our hosts Chris and Becky are deep-frying whole turkeys back at the house. Thats where I'm going.

Quick mentions: I have just put new pictures in the gallery which you can visit by clicking on this word. Big thanks to Angela at the Alpine Store in St Louis for sorting my feet out with new footbeds and again to the supremely generous (and incredibly well-travelled) Tom from the Huck Finn hostel for getting me there.

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I want turkey...

Added: 14-10-2006

Location: Hermann, MO
Status: Clean, Showered, Ready to eat deep fried turkey
Word of the Day: Oktoberfest

Dave and I have reached Hermann, a small town of nearly 3000 people south of the Katy Trail and the Missouri River. In our never-ending quest to ensure we are in a pub for Friday night, yesterday we walked 24 miles in order to give ourselves a shot at hitching over a bridge to Hermann, a town which is currently in the throes of a gigantic month-long Oktoberfest.

Getting here was not without incident though, as we started the day yesterday in Marthasville in freezing temperatures. We arrived in Marthasville on Thursday night pretty exhausted and repaired to a local hostelry for extremely cheap beer and a giant piece of pork. We knew temperatures were going to drop (parts of the country, especially the Eastern seaboard, have just been hit by extremely early snowfalls) but it was still a rude shock to wake up at 6am and have to frantically begin stuffing clothes into my sleeping bag, don a hat and curl into as small a ball of warmth as possible for another hour and a half. there is an upside to all of this cold weather though - the last two days have been incredibly clear, very sunny and a pleasure to walk through (execpt after 20 miles that is, when nothing is a pleasure any more and the King Baboon walk comes into play). The Katy Trail is proving to be quite a hit with us - it's like an endurance pub crawl where we walk 20 miles between pubs and then collapse. During these miles we get to walk through very secluded areas of Missouri, often with high bluffs on our right and the shining, fast flowing Missouri river on our left. Extremely nice fall walking.

Anyway, to return to our current status - last night we got lucky again in the extreme, running into some excellent people in a bar near the Katy Trail who were kind enough to take us over the bridge into town and let us stay at their house instead of freezing in a tent. Our new friends - Chris (AKA Edgar) and his wife Becky, Fritz and his wife Leslie and Fritz's sister Lisa - have persuaded us to take a zero day and experience the town's Oktoberfest, a party which we are assurred will involve half the town being drunk by 3pm and then everyone dancing on tables. After being out in town last night I can believe this will happen - the atmosphere in the pub we eventually ended up in was great (the Saint Louis Cardinals baseball team are currently in a play-off game to see who goes to the 'World' Series and they won last night - cue gigantic amounts of high-fiving and general happiness in the pub. Dave and I are now quite into the Cardinals, very unexpected), the people were extremely friendly (especially after the live act announced Dave and I's presence in the bar over the mike - a great way to get drinks bought for us) and everyone seems very happy to live in a town with about 5 wineries and a brewery. Consequently staying here for a day was a no-brainer really, we're sold on it and here we are. Oh, and as I write Chris is at home preparing whole turkeys to be deep fried. Have to love these German towns...

More news when we have it. We'll set off again tomorrow and continue heading towards Kansas City. Only a couple of weeks left, gonna be tight to get there for my birthday but anything could happen...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

On the Katy Trail

Added: 12-10-2006

Back on the road and we've cleared Saint Louis (finally, it went on forever). We left Soulard on Tuesday morning after a good night out with Tom from the youth hostel, and we had almost cleared the city limits when we stopped to camp on some abandoned ground near a hospital on Tuesday night. We spent most of Tuesday walking through the poshest areas we'd seen on the whole trip - massive houses, some tasteless, the odd one tasteful - and around every corner was a new gated community for those want to stay away from everyone else. Not really our sort of place, and certainly it looked for a while like we'd have nowhere to camp...

Anyway, we solved that with the abandoned ground and woke up yesterday to our new weather: cold. it's trousers and long sleeves time, the wind is biting and waterproofs are kept handy. yesterday morning was spent in a desperate 3 mph search for breakfast which finally succeeded about 11.30am with the discovery of a giant mall complex and a Bob Evans restaurant. he does good omlettes, does Bob...

because of our poor day Monday we were off the ADT Tuesday and Wednesday, hacking west across Saint Louis to pick up the Katy Trail just over the Missouri river. We had a hairy bridge crossing to get there, but as of about 2pm yesterday we are now on the Katy Trail (an old railway since turned into a pretty nice walking and trail) heading west towards Kansas city. So far things have been great - good time has been made and good people have been met in the garden centers and bars of a small town called Defiance. This morning we got up in the cold and have moved on about 8 miles to another small town called Augusta which is really a nice place - a very small community with some B&Bs, a cosy cafe (great breakfasts) and a couple of bars. And the nice library from where I write this.

anyway, that's all for now, we've cleared the big city and are back walking in the country. only a couple of weeks left, got to get to Kansas...

StuartHave a comment? Please sign the guestbook

3 miles.

Added: 10-10-2006

a pitiful excuse of a day for Walkingthestates. 3 miles walked in total, we weren't able to cover enough ground to get out of Saint Louis proper and now we're back in the youth hostel in Soulard. very depressing...an apparent combination of a not-specifically-specific enough leaving time is to blame, along with an inablity to get all admin work done within the past three days. the end result: both of us in moods and no one willing to take responsibility. great stuff. still, could be worse, we could have carried on walking and could about now be wondering which inner city car park we should sleep in. instead we are once again enjoying the hospitality of Tom's Huckleberry Finn youth hostel and at least we're close to the 30 bars in the Soulard area of Saint Louis (a great place).

don't really know what else to write, I suppose tomorrow we're just going to have to try harder to leave. all for now.


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Leaving Saint Louis...

Added: 9-10-2006

Time to leave Saint Louis. Not entirely sure where we're headed yet, in that we haven't consulted any notes or maps, we just know that it's time to head on. The weekend has been just what we needed, time to check emails, work on the website, catch up with admin and mooch around the city checking places and faces. Been nice to get some time on our own too to do our own things...yesterday I spent the afternoon in University City, a place with a long drag of shops and cafes, plenty of people going about their Sunday business. I checked the cinema - the new Michael Gondry movie 'Science of Sleep' which was pretty good but with a rubbish ending. interesting though...

anyway, a pleasant afternoon and I also managed to buy some new walking socks for my new very red trail runners. the socks I tried on in the shop turned out to be different to the ones I ended up with - I now am wearing a pair of very short white socks which reveal to all the world the ridiculous hiker's tan I have spent the summer developing. rocking a three shade leg look, not the hottest...

so just a short entry today. back to the trail. new pictures are up in the Gallery, I'm also trying to get a new Project entry up soon...so much to do, and not even three days off is enough to do it in...

PS: Big thanks to Tom at the Huckleberry Finn Youth Hostel for putting us up this weekend - much appreciated!

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And our latest sponsor is...Salomon.

Added: 8-10-2006

Yes, new sponsor alert! There's a new journal entry below this one detailing our journey to Saint Louis but for now there's only time for a word from our new sponsor - Salomon. Say it, go on, savour it like saying 'Saruman'. Salomon. That's who.

Amongst other things, Salomon make really good footwear. Really good footwear. Basically, I have worn only one pair of shoes on this entire trip so far - they're called the Revo GCS GTX and they've been amazing...1500 miles from one pair of shoes has been quite a surprise to me. In light of this I contacted the good people at Salomon, told them what we were doing and they have donated four more pairs of shoes to the cause, three pairs of trail runners and another pair of Revos. For this I thank Dave Munk at Salomon - the help is really appreciated. Take a while to check out their website if you're in the market for some hard-wearing lightweight hiking or running shoes - they're pretty smart.

So anyway, today I retired my boots (still undefeated) and donned a pair of the trail runners for the first time. Feeling good, looking...red. I am ClownFeetWalker, look for me in Missouri in the next three weeks...


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The road to Saint Louis is full of holes...

Added: 8-10-2006

Epic times for Walkingthestates. Five days and 108 miles or so - not the land speed record but pretty impressive (we think) for the pair of us more used to socialising than 'putting it in'. In short: we made it to Saint Louis (where I now sit) with a half a day to spare before the England game. Things didn't quite pan out however, as the tale below relates. Format seemed to work well last weekend, so, same again...

  • Monday. Now, I know I've already told you about Monday but it's an important day in the last week because of one thing: we had a shower. Fresh and clean we were, smiles as bright as day and a pep in our step as we left Linda and John's place and headed up the Mississippi river towards Chester. As related, Monday night was spent in the fine company of Nick and Gary, two fellas who extended incredible hunting cabin hospitality and made sure that we ate, drank and were extremely merry by 10pm. Love these late nights we're having, you can get quite tidy and still get 8 hours sleep...19.1 Miles, very hot, sunny all day, unseasonably warm, confusion regarding weather all round
  • Tuesday. As ever, a good day to follow Monday. Up at 7am, on the road and Dave is away. A fifth gear has Dave these days - he was about a mile in front of me by 9am. Of course, I could have caught him up but I was busy cultivating the mother of all blisters, bigger even than Dave's 'Bob' in West Virginia. More on that later. We hit Chester, as related in a previous entry, did the library and food thing and headed out of town. I confess to quite a lot of discomfort at this stage, blisters and chaffing leading me to the cherished title of 'King Baboon' by Dave's reckoning. We camped for the evening at a rest area and received more amazing hospitality: first picnicing couple Tony and Dana donated a whole lemon creme cake to our cause and then a car full of Mulhollands (Kodi, John and mother-in-law Ellen) arrived and offered to go get us dinner. 20 minutes later we were in fast food heaven, snacking on burgers on picnic tables as the sun went down. Dinner provided two nights in a row, great stuff. Later we witnessed what may or may not have been meth deals in the park. The highs and lows of life on the road. More on meth later...Miles: 20, very hot again, baboon walking, possibly my most uncomfortable day on the whole trip. No Shower.
  • Wednesday. We switch to a 6.30am wake up call. Dave's morning grunts convey some displeasure at new arrangement but we head out of rest area via local lady Barbara's house where we are presented with peaches and given water. Barbara also phones ahead to the Pop-a-Top tavern in Ellis Grove where we are treated to a royal breakfast on the house (many thanks Rosie and Roland!)  in a bar that has some fantastic pictures of Elvis on the walls - you name your favourite Elvis (fat, thin, crazydrugstzartoNixonElvis) and he was represented on their walls. Class. We spent the rest of the day walking, my blister really taking shape now (it had plenty of room to, located as it was on the bottom of my left foot near the arch, a lovely big saggy bag of fluid forming slowly and surely) and both of us not particularly enjoying the heat. By the time we reached Prairie du Rocher (US fact: please do not attempt to pronounce any French-looking town names in French - it will not get you anything but blank stares from people) Dave was queasy and for a while we had Man Down in a garden. We made it to lunch however, stocked up and knocked out another load of miles on the road. Ended up spending the night on our 3rd baseball diamond of the trip, the very kind guests of Merrell and Cheryl in the village of Fults who also donated us dinner for the third night in a row. We had full run of the nearby pavillion too - a Good Thing as the weather finally broke and we witnessed a tremendous storm. Then we retired about 8.30pm and I spent the night sleeping in the orange glare of a street light serenaded by Dave's snoring. Miles 23.4, Hot Hot Hot until it got cold, blister tremendous and out of control. No shower, starting to reek.
  • Thursday. 6.30am again. Colder. We get up and get into action realising that we really do have a chance of reaching Saint Louis for the game. Breakfast is a peach, and a sandwich. Again I lag behind but Dave's tendonitis is kicking in again so it's two cripples neck and neck for twenty miles, gaining and losing the lead in a desperately slow long distance walk. Average speed down to 2.8, the day is filled with talk of what we will eat in Saint Louis. That and singing Led Zeppelin and Randy Newman songs about levees (we are shadowing the Missippi levees into Saint Louis. In 1993 there was a massive flood that left a lot of the area we walked through under water. There would have been no baseball in Fults that year...). By the end of the day we are into massive corn and soy fields, disturbing slightly-too-happy housewives for water (is that a Martini you're hiding madam?) and limping along in a very complaining fashion. Blister now unbelievable, four inches long from top to bottom, like walking on a gel pad. I grouch. We camp for the night over the back of one of the levees near a very smelly farm. I swear at one point I heard pigs screaming...anyway, very very cold night, glad my sleeping bag goes up to 11. Miles 23.5, cold to start then warmer and sunny at the end. No shower, totally honking now.
  • Friday. Make or break. Really cold when we wake up, Dave complaining and myself not too far behind. The day is bright and brisk and we walk along the first of many levees to a porridge breakfast. We know we're gonna make it, it's just a question of how much damage we can do to ourselves. Eventually we see the Saint Louis Arch in the distance which is very encouraging because it means one thing: a shower. Well, it signifies other things to, such as Saint Louis being the Gateway of the West but we don't care about that. We need the healing power of jets of water. The walk progresses, incorporating a deaf shopkeeper, lots of railroad tracks, several sections where we appear to have to trespass through a power station and then, eventually, we walk across the Eads Bridge into Saint Louis. 107.7 miles in five days. I wish I could say we did a small jig and collapse sobbing etc. but instead we loiter aorund the Vistors' Center, wait ages for a bus and coverse with a strange guy at a bus stop who, as Dave put it, seemed to be reading his lines from the back of his eyelids. Despite this lowkey end to the day our week's been an acheivement, we are marvellous (briefly). Miles: 21.7. Sunny sunny sunny, blister gargantuan, completely terrifying and difficult to know what it will do next. Mood: ecstatic, ready for beer.
So obviously we headed straight for our hostel and fell straight into the sleep of the Victorious and Nearly Ruined. And then we showered - for a long time. It was a good effort on our behalf, and yesterday night we went out with the only other guy in the youth hotel, good fella Dave, and celebrated. This morning we went straight back down the pub...and discovered that nowhere in the city was showing the England-Macedonia game. All that effort for nothing. Brilliant.

Still, Saint Louis looks nice and I just burst my blister. Quite a spectacular event, I nearly went white with the shock. Anyhow, I can now walk again and am ready for our final three weeks. Our new mission: To make Kansas City in time for my birthday on 27th October, so that we can listen to jazz in smoky bars. Wish us luck, many miles to go...


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Popeye lives here

Added: 3-10-2006

Dave and I have made it to Chester, home of Popeye. It's a fine little place, and we have just gorged at the home cooking place downtown. Feeling very full right now, sitting at a library computer with all our electrical equipment plugged into every available socket. Needs must and all that...

We left Murphysboro yesterday morning about 11am in steadily increasing heat. The weather has really taken a strange turn this week - we're pushing 90 degrees here and it feels (and smells) like we are back walking through West Virginia in July. Way too hot for me now - I was very grateful for the cooling down of things recently, it's easier to walk and far more pleasant to sleep. In consequence of this recent heatwave I have become afflicted with two really annoying blisters, one on the very underside of my left foot, and the other the result of the consequential compensatory walk - a real git of a blister sticking off the edge of my left big toe. I don't know...I wait 1000 miles for a blister and two come along at once.

but complaints aside, our excellent week which started with Linda and John's hospitality continued last night. We had one of the best nights of the trip in fact, as guests at the hunting cabin of two local fellas, Nick and Gary. Both guys worked and played hard - Nick putting in tons of hours at the local Chrysler factory and Gary working his farm pretty hard (farming was now his 'hobby' after retiring from a pretty punishing schedule of farming and work at a local powerplant). Despite our appearance out of the blue the guys received us so well - within seconds we were presented with corn on the cob and the best pork I think I've tasted - cooked outside over the fire and all that. Quite something. Following a quad bike and off-road vehicle (I can't quite describe Gary's vehicle - it was like a super-powered golf cart, seemingly able to scale hills of terrifying gradient with no problems whatsoever) tour of the farm, we spent the evening, as we always do, chatting all sorts of politics, race relations and simple US/European differences. On the menu was lite beer, er, locally produced spirits and then, as a crowning glory, a cup of tea served from a near-as-proper tea pot. Great work.

Now we proceed ever nearer to Saint Louis. Hopefully the heat and blisters will disappear and we will be able to complete our latest challenge: be sitting in an English pub by 11am on Saturday in order to catch the England-Macedonia game. we need to do nearly 70 miles by then. Let's see...

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Just quickly...

Added: 2-10-2006

Dave's been a busy man - even more photos are up in the gallery from Illinois, including a lot from our weekend in Carbondale. we're now in a town called Murphysboro, a nice little place with an intact Main Street and a pub which resembles something you might find in England - it even has a beer garden. Last night we were lucky enough to spend at the amazing house of Linda and John Dunn somewhere in the countryside around here. Linda met us in the Carbondale supermarket yesterday when Dave was slightly the worse for wear - she took pity on us and invited us to stay the night at her home. This invite came at just the right time as we were in need of a) a shower b) a washing machine and c) anything comfortable to sit on and sleep in after a big weekend. It was a highly enjoyable time, featured a highly enjoyable dinner (brocoli for the first time in months, forgotten what it looked like) and some great chat. John is the Provost of the local university (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale) and politics was immediately on the agenda. He informed me this morning that Andrew Card (former White House Chief of Staff for Dubya) was coming to speak at the university next week, v.upset to have missed him, especially in light of the last week's events concerning who knew what about the Al-Qaeda threat before 9/11 and Bob Woodward's new book...

so now we leave the area and head up to Saint Louis (rejoining the ADT) but not before we go to Chester, home of a 30 foot high statue of Popeye. until our next missive, many thanks to the good librarians here at the Murphysboro Library who have kindly let us on their computers for free...

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Outta Carbondale...

Added: 1-10-2006

Quick updates...Carbondale very good to us, camped on the back lawn of Andy, one of the fellas from the local outfitters. Didn't see him much though - we headed into town, watched Southern Illinois University humiliate Indiana State 55-3 at American Football (or girly rugby, as my good friend Colonel so succinctly put it), played a lot of pool, drank a few beers at a bar with new friends and then headed to a party until the small hours. A good town this. Up late this morning, the sun is very bright and I'm back in the library. Dave, on the other hand, is occupying a Burger King down the road and sorting out some of the pictures from the 116 shots he took last night...we have so many pictures now the laptop is practically out of memory. Still, the quality is there, click here for the latest Illinois gallery...

So now we head up to Saint Louis safe in the knowledge that Spurs have finally won. I know you've all been losing sleep over our poor run of form, lord knows I have, and now that we have a player willing to perform dives to get us penalties it's all good. Or is it?

Enough of that. More when we can....

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