Ten Miles

Added: 17-5-2007

Aha. back on the road. the feel of the tarmac, the roar of the traffic. yes, today was an Urban day, and with Urban days come sidewalks and dust and all sorts of cars to avoid. today’s route was from Independence, where we left off last year, into the centre of Kansas City and it was indeed pretty easy. ten miles, no problems. it even ended nicely too, with a friend of a friend we met in Missouri, the one and only Tabletop Tom, taking us to lunch at an old bar in Westport which used to be owned by a grandson of Daniel Boone. one of the bar areas was apparently where livestock and whatnot would be sold back in the days of the civil war. all very interesting, and they do a good pizza slice. Tom was good company, chatting US foreign policy and scouting with us for a couple of hours, and we got back here about two hours ago well satisfied with our day. as to how Tabletop Tom got his name…that’s a good story. so good we’ll save it for the book…

so tomorrow we cross into Kansas proper (the city sits on the state line with Missouri). Kansas is a state we’ve been secretly dreading all along, even if people are telling us (well, one person – that’s you Butch) that it will be way nicer than we imagine. having driven across the beggar last week I’m not so sure Dave and I are feeling that way but, as we can’t do anything, we are going into this latest challenge with as much optimism as we can possibly muster. it will be good, it will have plenty of places showing the Champions League final next Wednesday, and there will be plentiful Internet access all over. there will be no need to download spoken word versions of The Lord of the Rings or War and Peace for the scenery will be so interesting. there will be several varieties of tree, and not just the one telegraph pole that we have been told about. Scarlet Johansson and Natalie Portman will be crossing the state on foot at about the same time and we will run into them on the second day. we have new, bigger tents. there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

or maybe not. either way we are taking no chances. in an effort to make things more interesting we have bought a football (soccer ball) and will be kicking it across Kansas. how this will work out I haven’t a clue, but it seemed a good idea when we passed the Hispanic football store on Independence Boulevard this morning. All we have to do now is work out how to dribble the ball out of downtown Kansas City…

Stuart                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Ghost towns and robbery opportunities

Added: 30-5-2007

This one is coming from the extremely nice public library in Marion, KS. the library was converted from the city’s old train depot and it opened brand spanking new in 2002. having seen many libraries on this trip, this one has to be one of the nicest…

library talk aside, Marion is where we have made it to today. in our last installment we were in Strong City but now we’ve moved along some thirty-odd miles to the west. Strong City was good to us – so good in fact we’re going back. The two owners of one of the local bars, Scott and Justin, put us up on Monday night and offered to come and pick us up on the road this Friday to take us to the rodeo. yes, R-O-D-E-O, people, Dave and I will be be whoopin’ and a hollerin’ with the locals in Strong City this weekend. dancing on the bar is strongly encouraged, apparently, and this was enough to convince us that this weekend our place is watching the calf-tiers and barrel racers. looking forward to it.

in other news, we walked out of Strong City via some nasty rain and a prolonged stop at ‘Bummies‘ (nb. not in Strong City) which is a fantastic country store owned and run by a marvellous 94 year old lady whose name escapes me (the store exists at the same temperature as my Grandma’s flat – Dave fell asleep at the table it was so soporific). we waited out the rain in Bummies for almost two hours and then did some good late afternoon walking along the 150 in the direction of Hillsboro. camp last night wasn’t one of our greatest – we were basically by the side of the 150 on some flat-ish ground that refused to take tent pegs. Dave accidentally flooded his tent and I really had to work to get mine up. lovely sunset though.

this morning we’ve been working right hard too. 13 miles before we had a chance of food and we caned it. the 150 is obviously the cattle trucker’s road of choice however, and large trucks flying by at great speed meant huge buffeting tailwinds that momentarily paralysed us, followed by a gentle stench of animalswhodon’twanttobeinatruck.

still, we made it to Marion and it seems a nice place (it’s the county seat, has a fine courthouse, a Main Street with functioning businesses, and some very busy cafes). I had a breakfast of ice cream and necked a couple of coffees waiting for Dave. now that we have lunched (for any robbers planning something in Marion County, I would suggest Wednesday lunchtime between 12-1 as almost all of the county’s sheriff’s, highway patrolmen, state troopers and firemen seemed to be in our restaurant eating ice cream) our plans now involve relaxing Internetting, uploading pictures and taking a leisurely three hour stroll west towards Hillsboro later. at this point we can both still walk and the trench foot has disappeared. which is a bonus.

all for now. check the website later for new pictures that Dave is adding as I type. oh: my phone is still being extremely frustrating – I was unable to send text messages yesterday, despite sitting under a mobile phone mast. apologies once more to people I owe texts to (including parents!)


PS: Fritz: we are definitely on for Burning Man (apparently!). as for San Fran it is definitely on, as long as I can, er, make it through five more medical tests without a hitch. this is my problem: I want to send out a big invite to all of y’all to join us for Haight-Ashbury shindigs, but I can’t do it yet in case I’m not there! Don’t want anyone to buy their tickets for nothing…mind you, if there are people who want to do that, we hope to be in San Fran by late October/early November. vague enough for ya?!

PPS: This is as good a time as any to say that if anyone would care to donate to the Association of International Cancer Research and their cutting edge work on Cancer treatment, please click here!

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Huge update

Added: 29-5-2007

So much to tell, so excuse the length. here I sit in the back room of a bar in Strong City, KS, with a Bud in front of me and nothing but good feelings from the 20 mins we’ve spent in this town. Strong City – to me it sounds like a Hip Hop stronghold but instead it’s apparently a wee part of Kansas where the fellas are doing it for themselves, if you see what I mean, and more power to them. San Francisco, Brighton…and now Strong City. Rock on the Dorothy Dollar…

sooo…Saturday morning was the last update. we left the library and went to the local cafe in Osage City, the Copper Oven. there we ate amazing pie, received gifts of contact lense solution for the forgetful Englishman, and even had everything paid for by the kind people at the local paper when we tried to leave. on the way out of town we met a cross country biker, Julia, who has since come back to us with tons of tips about which churches to camp behind in western Kansas, and after that it was just roads – and rain. a massive drenching during the afternoon during which all chance of shelter was spurned as we hacked through (wet socks, shoes…wet everything. Dave even had an incident with a wet tick) some 15 miles to the other side of some turnpike road (‘scuse vagueness). after 25 miles the day before we were knackered and with no houses visible around about the time Dave lost his hat again, we were worried.

you see, houses are getting further apart out here. luckily we were helped at the first one we got to after the hat incident, and for that we owe great thanks to Marcia and Brett Hoffman. Marcia took us in with out any discussion, washing clothes and then taking us out for prime rib down at the local bar in Allen. more hospitality, all on the house – unbelievable.

we camped in their garden Saturday night and, after a fine breakfast on Sunday, set off for Council Grove some 24 miles west. it was very overcast yesterday, cool for sure – good for walking – but when the rains came our shoes and socks once again got soaked. luckily this didn’t happen before we had re-met Marcia on the road with her son Neil, annoyed a snapping turtle (they’re vicious, although most are dead and in bits all over the roads), and made the latest in a large number of herds of cows follow our every move. we walk along roads and all the cattle are so curious they just herd up and follow along in the fields next to us. we try to communicate, to no avail, but it’s obvious they’re waiting for something. some sort of sign is needed I think, to unlock their angst. I hope to get Dave to take a picture of me preaching to them – they are desperately in need of a message, and we could be the ones to help.

cow preaching aside, yesterday was notable also for lunch on the Johnsons’ porch. we basically got so soaked we walked up to the first house we saw and asked if we could eat on their porch and dry our clothes. Tim, Lisa, Jordan and Jody – we are in your debt. more so since when we finally reached Council Grove some 10 miles later the Johnsons’ found us and made sure we ate well at their church bar-b-que. then we were given a place to camp on the church grounds and some fine folding chairs in which to spend an evening relaxing. Kansas hospitality rolls on….

so basically we are back to our walking ways. what sort of condition are we in? well, Dave is suffering from some sort of trench foot he’s got from wearing wet shoes – he’s developing a small blister farm on the toes of one of his feet. me, my feet are fine after my one small blister decided to muck in with the rest of the toes, although my feet in general are curious. they appear to be widening, to the extent that my shoes are showing propensity to split – basically I have Hulk feet. add to this my tan, which is a disgrace (I’m neopolitan ice cream on my legs – white feet, a bit of pink above that where the leg didn’t get tanned last year and now it’s turning, and then luxurious brown further up – and have what appear to be brown ladies’ evening gloves on my arms as my shoulder resolutely refuse to turn darker than off-white) and the fact that the picture in the Topeka paper made me look pregnant (I was wearing a hip belt goddamit – I don’t normally look like Geoff Capes) and I am a real prize. Ladies: love me.

so we’re looking good and are back in the old routine. we walk, we wave at the drivers who don’t laugh uproariously at us, and we take a break every hour to air our feet. we are remembering last year’s curious stares, the way that motorcyclists either wave or give you the Bike Face, and the fact that an embargo on waving to Humvee drivers is the correct way to go (we want to drag them from their military vehicles and shout “Where’s the war?!!!”). we are also continously tackling the big questions while walking, such as “Is it possible to tan your palms?” add to this discussions on God and Jesus (both very big around here, and no disrespect meant on that, it’s just how it is) and we’re onto some very big topics. we’ve also considered just how interesting this journey would be if we were British Muslims…

of course, we’ve also returned to the way of life where songs are constantly playing in your head all day. today it’s been Neil Diamond, Kate Bush and the Police (it’s a big summer of Police over here after their Reformation) getting the appalling Stu singing treatment. sadly, over the winter break I have learned no more lyrics and in fact may even have forgotten a few, which leads me to singing songs with lyrics from different verses all mixed up together and not rhyming. saddest of all I have re-realised that the most lyrics to any song that I know are those from “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, which means that at least three times a day I am to be found walking a Kansas back road playing air drums for the big solo…

so yes, there’s an update. it’s difficult to get regular access out here so excuse the length. we’re having such a great time in Kansas I felt y’all should know. the people are all amazingly friendly, helping us at the drop of a hat and being kind in so many ways. there is still the odd jarring moment – in the gas station this morning we were asked if we had had ‘trouble’ at least three times and this preoccupation with the bad things that could befall us is one that is found in all the other states. watching Fox News Kansas the other night I can see why – there was a story about a babysitter who shook a baby and who was now on her way to prison. the article was presented in such a way as to make you think “My god, everyone is just a baby-shaker waiting to happen!!!”. I think the (2nd) ‘Concerned Mother’ they interviewed said it best: “I don’t think I can trust anyone anymore!!!!”

thankfully, Dave and I remain doe-eyed people trusters. Kansas, watch out, we’re coming further west any minute now (after I’ve finished my second hospitality beer of the evening!!!)

Many thanks: the very kind people who stopped us yesterday on the 56 and gave us donations for the charity; Marcia and Brett and Neil; all of the Johnsons; all of the church people in Council Grove; Dave at Dave’s Place; Scott and Justin of Strong City on whose computer I am writing this; Jeff in Osage City; the good man at the local paper in Osage City whose name I have shamefully forgotten but you are a star, sir; everyone who has sat through this drivel to the end.

Many apologies: anyone who has texted me – my reception is awful and cannot seem to reply. damn you Cingular…

Stuart                             Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Osage City

Added: 26-5-2007

Things from the last 2 days:

More unbelievable hospitality. Within an hour of arriving in Overbrook we had 2 seperate offers of places to stay. Huge thanks to Mary and Conrad and family for all their kindness.

Remembering how annoying insects are. Mosquitoes and flies – the absolute worst things to be walking through, worse than rain.

Only 7 days in and struggling for conversation already. Yesterday’s topics included the life and works of Phil Collins and whether it is possible to tan the palms of one’s hands (The walkingthestates roadside research team will be investigating this one further. We will keep you posted.)

Over 25 miles walked yesterday. It felt, surprisingly, not too bad. It seems that our legs have remembered their jobs.

The towns are starting to thin out. The next town is nearly 40 miles away so we will be camping in the middle of nowhere tonight. We are looking forward to this. As amazing as it is to be the object of people’s curiosity and generosity, sometimes you just want to eat a rehydrated pasta meal and play a very small guitar in an empty field before zipping your tent to the world.

Dave                           Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Overbrook to Osage City

Added: 26-5-2007

Osage City. Sounds like it should be big but it isn’t. it is, however, a rather nice place full of rather nice people. we arrived last night after a titanic march, way too long for this stage of the walk really, and one that has left me sporting this year’s first blister on my left little toe. not good.

we walked from Overbrook, which is a smaller town some 25 miles north-east of where we now reside. there we were luxuriously hosted by Mary and Conrad from Conrad’s Bar in town and, with food and beer flowing, and comfortable beds, I would say that a tradition of Kansas hospitality has been well and truly laid down. Mary bought us breakfast yesterday morning and sent us on our way with only one deli sandwich left behind (we haven’t lost too many things so far, although I think I managed to mislay my contact lense solution somewhere along the way, and Dave has lost the end of one of his walking sticks, rendering his shambling aids slightly obsolete). from Overbrook we set off in what I assume will be a normal Kansas style –  down one long straight road south, then down another long straight road west, then another one south etc. in this way we managed 25 miles yesterday averaging 3.3 miles an hour (woo) and got into Osage City round about 8ish. the journey was reasonably uneventful (cool weather, green rolling views, Aretha Franklin on the headphones) save for an hour break to be interviewed by Adrielle from the Topeka Capital Journal (the article is online here, but it appears to require tortuous registration) on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere.

upon reaching Osage the B&B was full so it was back to the tried and tested technique of going to the bar. Ribs n’ Bibs I think it was called, and any place with 3 pool tables can’t be bad. the usual scene ensued: loads of curious people, plenty of  chat about America and also where people had been in England, games of pool, discussion of accents, offer of a place to stay. a very nice bar. Last night’s star was Jeff, owner of a pool playing style described as ‘surgical’, and an army man about to leave for Kosovo. his poolside shed was our castle, and all was good with the world.

so now we’re hanging out in the public library, getting recognised by people because of the newspaper article (nb. for another piece we did in Lawrence, and also (tada!) video footage of idiots walking, click here. I have to take issue with the bit where it says that “They both said the perception of the war is more favorable here than in England.” – while true to an extent, this doesn’t really tell the whole story: we meet loads of people here who are against the war) and trying to work out how far we will walk today. we’re considering a turn to the south to go through tall grass prairie country, and need to work out resupply in light of this.

anyway, all for now. Spurs have signed Gareth Bale, this is good. Jon, your plan for me to kick Dave across Kansas instead of the ball is, well, interesting. Hornets fans Marcia and Jim Ransom – we would love to visit that restaurant, but we may not approach on the 56. keep an eye out for us though….

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Pain Stops Play

Added: 25-5-2007

Our attempt to set a new record for kicking a football across Kansas has been unfortunately cancelled due to realisation of stupidity.

This idea was definitely our most stupid since walking across America.
Dave                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook


Added: 25-5-2007

hasty journal entry we drove out to the suburbs of Lawrence for a healthy McDonald’s breakfast and then were dropped off back at the village of Stull by fine new friend Rory, whose comfortable floor we will be sad to leave. it was tragic weather for walking when we started, all hair-messin’ winds and soaking rain, and for the first hour and a half of the day (which began at a rather late 11am) we weren’t enjoying things much.

still, it brightened up, we were on the back roads and the country was quiet and green. not much notable to mention, save for some enthusiastic dogs who greeted Dave by jumping all over him and getting mud all up his just washed trousers. we’ve amused ourselves with some music and radio, talked more about our meeting with the Baptists the other day (too much to mention here, it will have to go in a project entry to be written….hmmm.) and fell into our normal habits of imagining food and worldly/imaginary goods that we would like. in short, the day was a relaxing 18 mile stroll reminiscent of some of the back roads of Missouri and Indiana – this is no flat country with nothing to see for miles, it is in fact just as green and rolling as anywhere in the UK. we’re told the flat stuff comes further to the west…

so now we’re in the library and trying to figure out where to camp. Overbrook is a small town, perhaps the Sheriff can be persuaded to let us pitch on the park…

Stuart                                   Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Leaving Lawrence

Added: 24-5-2007

very quick entry as we prepare to head back out on the road. we had a day off yesterday for the dire Champions League final and then amused ourselves in the bars of Lawrence in the evening, in particular enjoying our hosts’ Rory and Russ at a local open mike night (I hadn’t been to an open mike night in ages – it can be a brutal experience for the sensivitve singer songwriters in the line-up).

right about now, 9.48 on Thursday morning, we are preparing to finally get back on the road. we’re heading out later than usual because it’s been raining and we very sensibly decided to sleep through it. we’ve also made a change of plans – apparently the Phelps are off picketing funerals down in Texas (these people, so much fun) so we’ve decided to give Topeka a miss and start tacking SW down the ADT towards Osage City. goodbye civilisation (Lawrence is great!) and hello…Kansas. more when we next get Internet…

Stuart                                 Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

New friends, media exposure and satanic churches

Added: 23-5-2007

we got lucky again. as I was writing yesterday’s Journal rant Dave was out exploring Lawrence. there in the street he ran into the very waitress who served us breakfast yesterday morning in Desoto and the rest is history. Gretchen, for she is our waitress saviour, and her boyfriend Rory offered to put us up for the night in Lawrence and who were we to say no?

we got a shower (much needed) and some serious hospitality. we got to hang out and shoot the breeze with some fine people. we got to stay up late and get up waaay to early this morning. why? we’re back on the ringingthelocalnewspaper wagon. this morning it was the Lawrence Journal Worldand its reporter Scott who was lucky enough to have two half-asleep Englishmen try to answer his questions. after that it was coffee and bagels with the lovely Grace, the waitress at Henry’s cafe who told us all about the delights of rural Kansas and the town of Lucas where apparently there is some dead bloke in a glass coffin outside his house (rest assured we will investigate this, if possible).

more media exposure then followed as we got on the road (without packs – Rory has been kind enough to put us up for another night (as I write this he is in the kitchen making us ‘special sandwiches’ for dinner) and we could slackpack) and hooked up with the team from 6News Lawrence. media shambles commenced as Dave and I did our first TV interviews. it’ll be online so we’ll put a link up soon so you can see us in our full ‘What do we do with our hands?’ and Umming and Aaahing glory.

after that the rest of the day was a little anti-climatic and it was just walking. still, without packs walking is good and we covered a few miles to the west of Lawrence. the country is green and the roads are up and down – this eastern side of Kansas is definitely not flat. we’re diverting from the ADT to try and find the Phelps family and see what they are up to. could be interesting. we will also be seeing if the infamous church of Stull is still worth visiting (possibly one of the 7 gateways to hell? rest assured Dave and I will explore! (do they have Internet access in Hell? which circle?))

anyway, all for now. special sandiwches are up, we have musicians coming over for a party and tomorrow promises a day off in Lawrence, haircuts and the Champions League final. nice.

Stuart                              Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

In defence of idiot walkers

Added: 22-5-2007

Here at Walking the States we take things so seriously and our skin is so thin that any hint of criticism makes us yelp like a scalded dog. In such a situation we either curl into a ball or walk another twenty miles and hope that any harsh words uttered will have disappeared by the time we arrive in the next town. Or…we write back. Mike on the Guestbook, we love you because you care. Quite obviously about America, as has everybody else we have met, but also about the sales of our book. I have to take issue with your assessment of our sales chances however – I’m not sure people will want to read hundreds of pages of us insulting our hosts. Actually, in light of what you said, I’m not actually sure we’re doing that all – insulting I mean. Take the boring shopping centres for example – is pointing out the fact that the Kansas City suburbs look like the ones in Saint Louis or Cincinnatti such a terrible revelation? I think most of the Americans we have met would agree. It is worth pointing out on our journal, as any walkers in our footsteps would likely get confused by the number of CVS pharmacies on the way out of Shawnee Mission and they might turn right at the wrong one (nb. you go past three identical shopping centres before you turn right on to Shawnee Mission Parkway, followers of our footsteps). At the same time as this I am not pretending that in England the shopping centres are designed in a Gothic style by master craftsmen who have been at it for 25 generations. No, in fact, our out of town shopping centres are starting to look like yours! Of course, it is handy to know exactly how to navigate a mall, and Dave and I will come back experts in it, but is this a good thing, that everywhere looks the same? Are we supposed to not comment on it, or pretend that things look nicer than they are?

Terrible food – if you eat it, say it. Breakfast in America? Amazing! Lunchtime menus in the small towns that we go through? well, they are very similar, as they would be in small towns in the UK. you’ve got to pitch to your audience, right diner chefs? it’s not the restaurant’s fault that Dave and I are coming through town expecting Kobe beef. you see, this is the thing: America is a big country, and walking through it takes a very long time, and you tend to notice a lot of repetition, through no fault of the country’s (save for the fact that it’s there!). if you drive through the places that we are walking through, you get a totally different impression of things. when all you can cover is 20 miles a day, it will inevitably mean you have two days of suburbs when crossing a place like Kansas City. it’s boring. the scenery sucks. the cars suck. the cookie cutter houses suck (they do!!) but that’s how it is. we’re saying it how we see it. when we’re out of towns it all changes quickly, and the landscapes we have seen have been anything but boring. mind you, we haven’t crossed western Kansas yet.

now, to God-fearing people. yes, I believe a suspicion of God fearing people can be found running through Dave’s and my work on this site. but then again, we’ve had some of the best times in the company of very religious people. or at least extremely interesting times. we are always talking about religion in the US, trying to understand it. take this morning – we were taken to breakfast by Joshua, a preacher at a Baptist church we camped near last night. the food was on him, the chat was on all our shoulders and we came away having had an hour and a half discussion with the sort of person we really don’t run into every day in England. if it is insulting to mention that religion is taken more seriously over here, then I guess we are guilty as charged. but I say we are guilty with an open mind – people hold strong beliefs and we respect that. if you don’t agree with someone that doesn’t mean you hate them does it?

also, if you haven’t already noticed, we do like our humour on this site.

right, rants aside, today was a good day. we walked, my shoulders ached, I discovered that the new Kings of Leon album was good but that the new Wilco was a massive disappointment (joining The Arcade Fire. what is going on?). we’ve done about 35 miles in two days, walking from Shawnee Mission to Desoto last night and then on to Lawrence today. I’ve been for my blood test and met the lovely people at the hospital here in Lawrence, and got all confused about payment (who was I supposed to give the money to!?!). Here’s a thing too, talking about good things in America: the hospital was spotless, the whole building modern and the staff courteous and nice. Well done America!!!

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Pain, Dogs, Music, Near-salvation, Lawrence

Added: 22-5-2007

Well, it feels great to be back on the road. Back to the heat, the smell of roadkill, the invasive chaffing, the oncoming traffic, the desperate need for a shower and the bruised shoulders and hips. Despite all this, it does genuinely feel good to be back. I am currently sitting down which perhaps helps my mood (I may not have felt quite so positive an hour ago.) We have also arrived in the college town of Lawrence, Kansas which also helps. I started hearing good things about Lawrence 10 years ago from my good friend Phil (Rodders) who studied there and we have heard nothing but good things along the trip so I have been looking forward to it. It looks like the sort of place we will enjoy.

The road between Kansas City and Lawrence has, for the most part been fairly busy with traffic. It hasn’t been the most spectacular scenery but it does mean an endless supply of the one thing guaranteed to cheer me up – dogs with their heads out of car windows. Today I saw a succession of them, wide-eyes with excitement, tongues flapping like mainsails, enjoying, at 60 mph, an abundance of thrills undreamt of by a pedestrian dog.  So many smells, so quickly.

Stuart and I both bought cheap mp3 players in Kansas City so we have both been employing those this afternoon in an effort to make the last few miles to Lawrence more manageable. I have been enjoying some ska which seems to put a bounce in my step otherwise lacking. A walkman makes a huge difference to one’s quality of life when you walk as much as we do. I had to be careful today not to dance along. I had a day last year where I got a bit carried away with some Northern Soul classics and did my Achilles a proper mischief. The legs are holding up pretty well all in all. The worst thing for me is the visible and extremely painful bruising around my hips. Every time I put my pack back on after resting, it is incredibly painful for about half a mile..

The best thing about being back on the road is how welcoming and generous people have been. Despite the fact that we’ve spent all winter telling people how well we’ve been treated over here, I think we almost forgot ourselves and went all nervous again in approaching people about water, directions, places to camp etc. It has been a welcome continuation of last year’s benevolence though. We were treated to breakfast and some excellent conversation this morning by Josh Turk who is the Associate Pastor of the Clearview Baptist Church near DeSoto on whose grounds we camped yesterday evening. His Grandfather, the Pastor Louis R. Turk, had tried to ‘save’ Stu and I the previous evening.

We have a very different challenge in Lawrencethough. It is an entirely more complex skill to find somewhere to stay in a town or city where you can’t pitch a tent. The technique – ‘the bar yogi’ generally involves alcohol and extreme Englishness. You have to be on form and have a little luck to pull it off though and Stu and I are very rusty (and very tired.) We will let you know tomorrow how we got on.

Dave                          Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

South by Southwest

Added: 18-5-2007

15 miles yesterday – a bit tougher on the unready limbs and joints. we’ve now cleared Kansas City proper and are stopped somewhere out in the suburbs – large lanes of identikit McMansions with kids on trikes and skateboards hooning round out front. yesterday was another day of slackpacking after Carly dropped us off on the trail at 9am. not that much to report really, we headed south then west, south then west as we tacked down through the city towards a park on the southwest of the city near Shawnee Mission. we did, however, break up the monotony by buying more things at one of the near-identical shopping malls we passed through. yes, we became Wal-Martyrs again (Dave’s pace quickened noticeably as we approached the entrence to the temple of cheapness) and filled in the remaining gaps in our provision list: shaving oil for the cleanshaven one of us; cheap t-shirts; MP3 players with radio for the monotony of Kansas; and a new child’s guitar to replace the one that Dave left back in DC. now we are nearly prepared.

we suffered an early lapse in our plan to kick a football all the way across Kansas however – we forgot it when we left the house in the morning. we have now refined our plan to the much more realistic ‘Kick A Football Nearly All The Way Across Kansas.’ This is a better plan.

so, yeah, that’s about it. tomorrow morning we will try to see the FA Cup final, but that doesn’t look likely, and then we will either leave properly for Lawrence after that or on Sunday morning, depending on how much we have to do (Kit cleaning, kit repairing, buying of cheap packet pasta, clinic route planning – all of these things remain undone). after Lawrence we head west near Topeka and I am hoping to take a detour here to see if we can meet the most hated family in America. I saw a documentary about them recently and they looked a lovely bunch. I might even email ahead to see if they will consider turning out to picket us (check their site, with some rather bad news for sodomites, here. don’t check it if you are offended by, well, websites with bad news for sodomites/rather testy proclamations on the state of God’s love.)

all for now. I leave you with a list:

Animals we saw in Utah:
Jack rabbit
Raccoons (dead)
An antelope thingy
Prairie Dogs

Stuart                              Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Ten Miles

Added: 17-5-2007

Aha. back on the road. the feel of the tarmac, the roar of the traffic. yes, today was an Urban day, and with Urban days come sidewalks and dust and all sorts of cars to avoid. today’s route was from Independence, where we left off last year, into the centre of Kansas City and it was indeed pretty easy. ten miles, no problems. it even ended nicely too, with a friend of a friend we met in Missouri, the one and only Tabletop Tom, taking us to lunch at an old bar in Westport which used to be owned by a grandson of Daniel Boone. one of the bar areas was apparently where livestock and whatnot would be sold back in the days of the civil war. all very interesting, and they do a good pizza slice. Tom was good company, chatting US foreign policy and scouting with us for a couple of hours, and we got back here about two hours ago well satisfied with our day. as to how Tabletop Tom got his name…that’s a good story. so good we’ll save it for the book…

so tomorrow we cross into Kansas proper (the city sits on the state line with Missouri). Kansas is a state we’ve been secretly dreading all along, even if people are telling us (well, one person – that’s you Butch) that it will be way nicer than we imagine. having driven across the beggar last week I’m not so sure Dave and I are feeling that way but, as we can’t do anything, we are going into this latest challenge with as much optimism as we can possibly muster. it will be good, it will have plenty of places showing the Champions League final next Wednesday, and there will be plentiful Internet access all over. there will be no need to download spoken word versions of The Lord of the Rings or War and Peace for the scenery will be so interesting. there will be several varieties of tree, and not just the one telegraph pole that we have been told about. Scarlet Johansson and Natalie Portman will be crossing the state on foot at about the same time and we will run into them on the second day. we have new, bigger tents. there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

or maybe not. either way we are taking no chances. in an effort to make things more interesting we have bought a football (soccer ball) and will be kicking it across Kansas. how this will work out I haven’t a clue, but it seemed a good idea when we passed the Hispanic football store on Independence Boulevard this morning. All we have to do now is work out how to dribble the ball out of downtown Kansas City…

Stuart                             Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

The West.

Added: 17-5-2007

We have arrived back in Kansas City to stay for a few days with our good friends Colin and Carly, who are the funniest, most easy-going hosts you can imagine. It feels like we never left and it feels incredibly good to be here.

We will spend today crouched over laptops, catching up on admin tasks. Tomorrow we will walk from Independence back to Kansas City. It will be good to be walking again. Today its just good not to be in a car. Stu has just told me that he feels an overwhelming compulsion to go out into the street and bury water.

In the last 8 days, we have driven over 4000 miles. Huge thanks are owed to the peerless Mr. Rudolf who drove every mile and then, after he dropped us in Kansas City last night, having driven non-stop from West Colorado, drove 700 miles home to Ohio. Fortunately having a bionic steering arm, this caused him no problem whatsoever.

It seems a long time ago that we left Ohio to drive west and we have packed a huge amount into the last week. Driving out in Jon’s truck to cache the water that we will need as we walk through the deserts of Utah, we saw an unbelievable variety of new landscapes, all of which we will walk through over the coming months. I spent much of the long drive back from Colorado yesterday downloading the pictures from the trip and writing about the landscapes we have seen (OK. I did quite a lot of sleeping too.) I have just put the pictures up here (click me) and the following is a little bit about the landscape that we traveled through. It is hard to give a good impression of the sheer scale of what we saw to those back in the UK but I will try.

The first section of the drive takes us back to Kansas City, where we finished our walk last year, via Interstate 70. The 70 runs very close to many of the towns through which we walked last year and the road signs bring back great memories of the people we met there, in St. Louis, Marshall, Higginsville, Columbia, Hermann and many other places.

From Kansas City we drive west across Kansas and Eastern Colorado to Denver. What will take Stu and myself 6 weeks or more when we set out next week, takes us 9 hours. Kansas starts out looking much like Missouri – rolling hills, scattered trees, farms and pasture lands. After a few hours driving, the topography grows flatter, the towns further apart and the landscape brown and bare. This is where the corn, soy and wheat has been planted but is not yet showing. Arable lands. During the fall and late summer last year, in the Mid-West, we walked through a lot of corn which was heavy with crop, ready to eat, golden and full. It made for a warm, welcoming landscape through which to walk. I fear that the rows of small green shoots that will accompany us for many miles of Kansas will not make for such a picturesque backdrop.

As we drive further west the sense of isolation becomes tangible. This is unmistakably plains country – huge skies, and prairie lands stretching austerely to distant horizons. There are very few towns and, beyond the Interstate, few signs of civilization but for miles of wire fencing and a few cattle and horses.

Along the Interstate, motels and restaurants are advertised that we will not see for another 80 miles – there is simply nothing in between. We learn of a modest attraction, offering piglet- petting and the worlds largest prairie dog, 57 miles before we reach it. Either side of the interstate we can see for miles to the horizon. There is nothing, the odd farm or grain escalator, an occasional tree, but mostly nothing, for miles, hours. We watch plumb-line-straight roads disappear in dust to the horizon, to nowhere. For someone who will soon be traveling this stretch at 3 mph. the remoteness is chilling.

The next town signed is Limon, in Colorado, 121 miles away. For towns like Limon survival now depends on their remoteness. Their main businesses are clustered off the interstate – motels, gas stations, fast food restaurants.

We stop there, for gas and for food at Oscars (every dish is named after a movie – I choose A League of Their Own. Like the film it is predictably poor) From our booth by the window we can see a group of five guys and a girl approaching. All are dressed in full Western gear – cowboy shirts, huge buckles and Stetsons. Jon tells us to listen for the jangle when they come in, see if they’re wearing spurs. Sure enough every one of them, even the girl, are wearing spurs. I ask Jon why they are dressed like that. ‘Are they coming back from a rodeo?’ ‘Just going to Walmart.’ returns Jon in his slow Ohio drawl.

Eastern Colorado looks much like Western Kansas but it rises steadily, a huge wedge, gaining nearly 4000 ft up to Denver and the foot of the Rockies. After 1200 miles of flat, our first glimpse of the mountains is thrilling. They rise up sheer and immediate beyond the city in two distinct horizontal bands, the first dark against the horizon and, above that, the snow-covered higher peaks, whiter than the clouds. The suddenness with which the rolling prairies give way to the mountains is awesome, I can only imagine the excitement of next seeing them reappear after 6 weeks of walking.

After a night in Denver we set off for Grand Junction on the Eastern side of the Rockies. We climb up through the Arapaho National Forest, thick with pine, and pass old gold mines and ramshackle wooden towns crowded into steep-sided valleys.  Within an hour we are up at 10,000 ft. Above us the snow is smooth and full, completely covering the crisp peaks. Around us it remains thick in shady areas, on roofs, and on the western sides of the slopes. At this altitude my brain feels sticky, sinuses tight. We pass through the Eisenhower Memorial tunnel at 11,143 feet, the highest Stuart or I have ever been outside of an airplane.

Once we pass the Continental Divide, the apex of the Rocky Mountains that splits the US North to South we start to descend. First through spectacular canyons, then into wider and flatter valleys. There is still snow on the highest peaks but here fencing reappears and cattle graze on the dry, bleached scrub. Any remaining pine trees are squat, hardy pinyon pines. Cowboy country.

By Fruita, on the very western edge of Colorado we have dropped 6000ft. The air is hot and dry. The red rock mesas which fan out in huge dusty buttresses, are bare or scoured with scrub The ground is parched. It is in the desert country west of here that we will begin caching the water. We stop at a supermarket and load 24 gallon jugs into the truck. We will drop a gallon each every 10 miles, plenty enough to keep us well-hydrated in the full heat of summer.

For the first drops we leave the highway and drive off road, on the Kokopelli Trail a mountain bike trail that winds round red rock canyons near the Colorado River. We cross the border with Utah off road; there are no signs to indicate the state line. The red rock country is everything I imagined but on an even more immense scale. We wind between the canyons following the meandering route that we will take in August. While Stu writes notes on the gallon jugs in case they are found, I wander round looking for a safe place to stash the water. Although it is hot, the air is crisp and clean and filled with the fragrance of sage and juniper. Some of the juniper trees are hundreds of years old but they will never reach more than 15 feet. Instead they grow gnarly and thick against the winds that sweep the plateaus and contort their limbs. The desert floor is alive with colour. There are blue wildflowers but most are red, orange, pink or purple in complement to the sandstone cliffs that surround them. There are beautiful flowering Prickly Pear cacti. Some of the cacti here will bloom only one day in the year. We have arrived at a perfect time to see the colours which are given life by the snow melt coming down from the higher mountains.

Knowing that the flowers will not be in bloom in August when we return, I am desperate to linger. We see tiny prairie dogs, brightly-coloured lizards, new birds. I am fascinated by the life here and want to know all I can about the plants and animals we see. We are on a tight schedule though. We have 30 water caches to lay across Utah, many of them in places very difficult to reach. Most days we will be running drops from first light until sunset. I have time to run around and snap a few pictures when we stop, mostly of Stu or Jon pointing into a juniper bush, the recent recipient of a 2 gallon present. We jump back into the truck, doors slam, dust flies.

It is the first time Stu or myself have been off-road. It is both thrilling and terrifying. At each jolt and creak of metal I am convinced we have broken Jon’s car. Jon is in his element, leaping out of the car before tough uphill sections to lock the front hubs and engage the four-wheel drive. The canyons are filled with the red dust earned by the elements from the great sandstone mesas above. The truck churns up the dust and we suck it in through open windows. A thin film of red sits on everything. We taste dust, breathe dust, nostrils, eyes and pores clogged.

That first evening in Utah we camp out on a butte overlooking Bitter Creek, the Tablelands beyond, and much of the winding trail that we had driven that day. There is nowhere to pitch a tent. We just lay our sleeping pads and bags on the slickrock and enjoy the view.

The next morning we wake to our second day in red rock country. We finish caching the Kokopelli trail, pick up more water in Moab and drive into Canyonlands National Park. The scenery shifts up another gear. As we drive though them I already can’t wait to walk through these areas. Canyonlands is incredible. Every direction is a Roadrunner cartoon.

The huge mesas are burned, pocked and whittled by a million seasons, carved away to leave impossibly balanced rocks, turrets and arches, sloughs, gullies and channels, scored totemic columns, a thousand sandstone faces. We spend the day driving and camp in the shadows of these great monoliths. We have no fire so look up instead. There is almost no light pollution here. The brightness of the stars is incredible, not just overhead but clear to the horizon – the silhouetted walls of the canyons – stark black against the sky.

We stop at Needles Outpost for breakfast and to pick up supplies. We are told that the temperatures will be pushing 100 today. We are heading out of the stifling Canyonlands, though, up into the mountains again.

It becomes immediately apparent when trying to plot our routes west that America, though it is a country born of westward travel, is not one designed for it. Huge tectonic forces squeezed America like an accordion creating the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada and the many smaller ranges between, all running North to South. To cross Utah we will need to go over, or around, countless mountain ranges. The same will be true of Nevada.

We head up into the Henry Mountains, down again and up into the Escalante Mountains. Nearly every time I unscrew my water bottle it fizzes with the change in altitude and air pressure. We watch the altometer in jon’s truck swing like a pendulum between 5,000 and 10,000 ft: ears pop. Dusty jeep roads climb up through the high passes. From the switchback, the vistas are amazing.

The terrain is infinitely varied. We are only a few miles from the bare red rocks in the canyons below but in the mountains we are in a different world. The aspens are beautiful, tall, silvery, and leafless but for the highest boughs. We see elk, wild turkeys, chipmunks, deer. In the Tushar Mountains our path is blocked by a thick snowdrift. We are forced to turn around and find another route, only to have that obstructed by a fallen tree. We try again, driving across creeks and down rocky hillsides until we are back down into the heat below.

Once we have worked our way into the western half of the state we will be walking on the highway.  It is impossible for us, because of time constraints, to complete the water drops that would be needed to complete the state on trail. From what we see from the road we are not missing too much.  This is now a truly desolate landscape. The bare lower ranges rise in sharp, grey, ridges, between them miles of flat scrubland, parched desert. We drive along Highway 21, stopping every 10 miles to drop water. Along the road the heat vibrates above the asphalt making a black mirror of the pavement. Single-strung telegraph poles stand thirsty along the length of the highway. We scare a jackrabbit which jolts off into the desert, the odd buzzard soars overhead. Besides that not much moves. In the heat of mid-summer, tar sticky underfoot, this will be brutal walking. There is no shade. In this climate no life dares rise more than a few feet above the desert floor.

Green road sign: Garrisson 56 miles

Garrisson: A farm. A few houses, some abandoned trucks, a gas station – shut down.

Blue road sign: Next Services 86 miles.

We turn round before we hit the Nevada state border and head back East. We will cross that state when we come to it, as the saying goes. We have driven about 500 miles a day for the past few days, much of it off road. An average day will have seen us spend eight or nine hours in the truck. Even though Stu and I have just been passengers, it has been exhausting. I can only imagine how exhausting it has been for Jon who has driven these distances. We are incredibly grateful for his help.

We have been reluctant to see this landscape in any other way than on foot, it sort of ruins the sense of discovery. We console ourselves, though, with the fact that there are many sections of the route that we have not seen, as we often we dropped water via larger roads that intersected with the trail. It has been a hugely exciting trip, we have a much better idea of the conditions that will be waiting for us out west and, most importantly, we have the water cached that will hopefully get us safely across Utah – the biggest logistical challenge of the trip. All that remains now is to walk 700 miles across Kansas and East Colorado until that magical moment when we see the mountains reappear. From then on the landscape will be amazing.

Dave                                  Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

On the way back to Kansas...

Added: 14-5-2007

the burying has finished and we’re knackered. right about now we’ve made it to Grand Junction, CO, and in about 30 minutes we start our 14 hour drive back east. our very kind host for the evening was Jon’s family friend Larry Ball and he’s been kind enough to furnish us with beds, beers and breakfast – much appreciated. out in the drive the car smells like dead mammoths, everything is covered in dust kncluding all technical equipment, bags, clothes and hikers, and basically everything looks like it’s been driven through quicksand. we are satisfied.

yesterday was our final water stretch, driving some 150 miles out from our mountain campsite near a town called Junction west to the Nevada state line. man, it looks empty out there, long straight roads with no traffic on them, burning sun and even some nasty crosswinds. not sure how we’re gonna handle that part psychologically, but there is at least a town (Baker) just over the state line so we have something (small) to look forward to. Utah is going to be a long state.

anyway, now back to Kansas. we won’t be here again for a couple of months, and first of all we have to cross that flat beast of farms and fields. exciting? not sure. long? over 500 miles apparently. cannot wait.

more soon. this entry was written at 7.35am and I am not awake.

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From right now

Added: 12-5-2007

Below this you can see an entry I did last night at a rather fine campsite some 8500 feet up. This one comes from a well-earned motel somewhere in a place called Torrey, and all is well with the world. Jon is in the hot tub, dave is relaxing sorting out some fine pictures for your viewing pleasure, and I am kicking back safe in the knowledge that downstairs my funky clothes are in the launderette.

Today was more of the same i.e. we got up, drove like madmen, dropped water and then drove some more. There was one notable event during the day that has to be mentioned however, namely the incredible stunt jump we did quite unexpectedly early this morning while on the trail towards Hite. following some computergamedriving at high speeds over some berms we shot up in the air, quite high – all I could see was blue – and then, at great speed, down towards the ground we went. when this was done we decided to repeat the process, again quite unexpectedly, by bouncing on the trail at very high speed and going up in the air again. it was quite wonderful/terrifying/extremely dangerous/extremely funny. I’m not sure I should feel this way about an event that left us all laughing manically at our near death experience but hey, it’s all a learning curve.

so, off road antics aside, today has seen us cover more miles and drop more water. it was extremely hot again, leading Dave and I to wonder what we’re getting into/how much weight I will lose (Dave can’t afford to lose much more weight, he’ll disappear). it’s going to be quite an experience for sure, we’re literally crossing the state armed only with water, liptons packet pasta and as many trail snacks and chocolate bars we can keep from melting. we will have to rely on our wits, and in the past we’ve been short of those at points (but rolling in them at others. it should be all good. we hope.)

we now have one more day to finish the state and then it’s turnaround time. Dave will be putting up fantastic pics no doubt. be sure to look at the ones of us pointing at water hidden in bushes. they’re swell.

last note: many thanks to all who signed the Guestbook. Dave Brett – mate! good to hear you. the mysterious Mgbada and Supreme Being – we love you too (who are you?!!). keep ’em coming…

Stuart                         Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From day before yesterday

Added: 12-5-2007

Utah. Land of dinosaurs. Land of Mormons. We’ve seen a lot of Utah now, especially its back roads, and I feel qualified to make a couple of comments. First, it’s red. In some places it’s yellow. There’s a lot of rocks, plenty of sand, some trees and some rivers. There are canyons, and there are valleys and there are many many many bone-breakingly obscure trails and back routes that you have to go down in order to cache water. Our last three days have involved crazy driving, lots of being in the car in immense heat and lots of hasty map turning and correcting of directions. We’ve also added, for good measure, some absolutely stunning campgrounds (one on top of a view of Lord knows how many miles out over the Kokopelli bike trail and its dust tracks and free standing giant rocks, and another down in a canyon nearing some imposing mesas. Both campsites came free with astonishing night skies and silence so loud it hurts your ears). Mostly it’s been the driving though, and what a time it’s been. Having never done any off road 4X4 driving before I had no idea what it would be like, and to discover that spending all day on these tracks appears to closely resemble being trapped in a spin driver and driven repeatedly up and down stairs has been great.

We got out of Fruita on Tuesday and set to caching water immediately. The programme is this. We get on a trail, drive ten miles and then all jump out in different directions: me to write on gallon water jugs with a permanent marker (“Dear sir, please leave this life-giving water well alone – fools depend on it and you don’t want to mess with fools. Not in average August temperatures of 104 degrees.”), Dave to wander about with his camera and Jon to locate a secret place near the trail, hopefully recognizable to fools, that we can stash the water in. Then we all assemble at this point, ceremonially hide the jugs, pose for a photo pointing at the stash and then mark its co-ordinates on the GPS. Then we get back in the car, drive another ten miles down the trail and do the whole thing again. So far I calculate that we have done this 16 times, in conditions from hot to very hot, from nowhere to the middle of nowhere. We have really been out there, and it’s quite apparent that later this summer Dave and I will be undertaking some walks the like of which we have not attempted before – in very high temps and very very isolated places. All good.

As a caching team we are bearing up well. As we spend most of the day cocooned in Jon’s Toyota truck this is a Good Thing. Jon is Driver, he feels the road like he’s born to it (he wanted me to say something nice) and basically I find it difficult to imagine how we would be able to do this without him. He’s quite obviously an amazing driver and, one incident on Elephant Hill apart (we tried to take on this back road that we only later discovered, after reading the map properly, was one of the most hardcore 4X4 routes in the whole of Utah and required some sort of Monster Truck to tackle (incidentally, there was Monster Truck TV on in the bar we had lunch in yesterday)) his performance has been impeccable, coping ably with ridiculous inclines and permanently inane commentary from English passengers. Dave has been photographing like mad, remembering only one line of every song he attempts to sing, and dropping vegetables for dinner in the dust and hoping we won’t see him franctically washing them off. For my part I have been trying to rid myself of a very sore throat (made worse at altitude – I’m at 8500 feet writing this (nb. We do not have wi-fi at 8500 feet, this is one I prepared earlier)) by chaining Halls throat sweets and even manfully moving up to super strength Halls when they didn’t work (I had to dissolve three of the buggers in my mouth in a row and they tasted disgusting), and also by trying to work my iPod when needed – it has taken to sounding like it has gears inside, and is worrying me for Kansas without music will be like, I don’t know, suicide without the correct approach.

Anyway, all for now. Dave and Jon have finished cooking the dinner and the fire needs feeding. Tomorrow we come down out of this high country and continue heading west to drop water. Two more days of drops to go, we think, and then back east to Kansas City. Then, we walk.

Stuart                              Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Quickly from West Colorado

Added: 9-5-2007 0

very quick journal entry from the West Colorado town of Fuita…we’re all in top shape after a good night’s sleep at Jon’s friend Arwen’s place, good breakfast this morning of cinamon rolls and then bacon and eggs…back in the car after that and over the Rockies with spectacular views and altitudes of up to 11,000 feet…sooo, here we are now, about to stock up with 20 gallons of water and drive out to the middle of nowhere, Utah, with ’em, bury ’em with a nice note and then hope they’re still there when we return in the summer. fingers crossed and all that (I should say many thanks to Troy from Over the Edge sports in Fuita for advice on water on the Kokopelli trail).

and then we camp. back in the tents after all these months (we also ordered some brand new tents today – lighter and bigger, don’t get much better than that). already dinner is being planned….

Stuart                                Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

From Denver

Added: 8-5-2007 0

so we have reverted to our natural state – dressed in hiking clothes and stinking. not a walking stink though, more a side effect of being in a car for two days straight. we left Yellow Springs on Sunday morning (Dave Chappelle lives there, if the previous post seemed a little confusing) and put in mile after mile to reach Kansas City by 8ish last night. a quick trip to Arthur Bryant’s to pick up some funny looks from customers and some top notch ribs (in an effort to consume our our weight in pork we ate ribs twice on Saturday and then had them again for dinner last night. this morning I mixed it up and ate bacon) later and we were back at our friends Colin and Carly’s place – without them in it. very kindly they let us stay and very nicely we did, falling asleep at about 9.30 extremely knackered.

well, the time and motion machine that is Jon Rudolf got us up at 6.30am this morning and now, as I write this in a rather nice n’funky Denver coffee shop, I am tired once more. not sure how, seeing as all I’ve done all day is sit in a car watching expanses of nothing go by (Kansas took hours and hours) but there you go. Dave and I took turns to snore in the back seat while Jon just drove. and drove. amazing really, but that’s American road trips I guess. anyway, by 4ish this afternoon we were in Denver and heading to the camping/outfitters district to spend yet more money on vital things that we will definitely need. like Swiss Army knives with bottle openers, because I cannot keep one in my possession for more than a month, Lord knows how I lose these things so easily…

so, yeah, so far so road trip. we’ve got more driving to do tomorrow but at least it’s interesting. Kansas was suicidal, who knows how we’re gonna walk across it. the only fun to be had is to watch the advertising hoardings by the side of the road go by as the small towns desperately try to entice people to stop in and spend dollars in the name of tourism. Do you want to see the World’s Largest Prairie Dogs? What about the Wizard of Oz museum, or the Hall of Ancient Telephony? it’s all there for you, just a few miles drive across fields and dotted cattle. yesterday we also had more of the same, but the clear winner was Ann’s Bra Shop – a hoarding 20 feet tall with the immortal line “Do you have a swimsuit problem?”  Needless to say, this got us all asking ourselves serious questions.

so now we stay in Denver for the night and after this entry I go and join Jon and Dave in My Brother’s Bar, an ex-haunt of the one and only Jack Kerouac and the longest functioning bar in Denver. nice nice. after that we are staying with some of Jon’s friends and then tomorrow it’s over the Rockies. we’re at 6000 feet or so here already, and tomorrow we go higher like Sly and the Family Stone…

Stuart                               Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

It is happening again...

Added: 5-5-2007 2

We’re here. and we’re tired. Dave has just gone for a nap and I have a sore throat, a headache and jetlag. it’s all good though, for we are at the house of Jon and Kathy Rudolf in Ohio and we are Preparing.

well, we’ve been Preparing for a few a days now. Dave got in on Sunday after practically going from our party in Hackney, while I arrived in DC on Tuesday. since then we’ve mostly been yawning, picking over kit, reviewing video tapes and generally trying to acclimatise once more to American life. as we suspected, things this year are a lot more logistically complex, what with us trying to cross deserts and mountains and stuff. if last year was the warm-up this year is more of the real hiking deal; 3000 miles of serious up and down (Kansas aside) with deserts and canyons thrown in for good measure.

to this end I’ve just spent the last two hours listening to 70s radio (and now, bizarrely enough, the Uncensored Speed Metal channel) and inputting an endless succession of water drop waypoints into the computer/GPS for us to deal with in the coming week. this is proper planning – Dave and I are been driven to Utah by our good friend Jon and between us we will try to stash water every ten miles or so on the parts of our route that require it. in this way we shall not die come the summer.

so yes, for the next week we will get ahead of ourselves and see the delights of flat Kansas, rocky Colorado and dusty Utah, all at higher speeds than we are used to. after that we’ll head back to Kansas City and start the walk proper. simple. or it would be if I could actually walk at all at this point – in addition to a horrible cough/headache/throatache (did you know you can get 800mg Ibuprofen over here? can we get them in England? where?!) I am also walking like an idiot due to playing football on Tuesday without warming up. not only did I contribute gloriously as a goalkeeper in an 11-5 thrashing (that’s 11 I let in, including 3 that rebounded off the back wall and into my despairing dives) I also failed to warm up (we arrived late) and consequently am now crippled. at 32 I thought I would be in my prime of life – instead I am old before my time.

enough complaining though, and time for some thanks. it’s been a struggle in some ways to get this far, what with cancer and all, and therefore I am severely in the debt of everyone who has helped me even be in a position to undertake the next stage of the walk. therefore, in time honoured tradition I would like to give big shouts out to: Biggus Mickus, Leila G, Marni, Sonya (God I’m hoping I’m spelling your name right Sonia (see what I did there)), The one and only Malouin, Steph, Loida, Alison (email coming soon!), The Man Who Has Asked Not To Be Named, J&K Rudolf (that’s Rudolf), and of course my one and only Mother and Father and Sis who have been right nice and there for me in every way since I came back from the US last November. between all of you I have very very nearly reached the required amount of money needed to continue walking and have needles stuck in me every month, and for that I am truly truly grateful. You are all great.

Before this begins to sound like an R&B album’s sleevenotes I would also like to point out that we are now supporting a new charity on this leg of the walk, the Association of International Cancer Research. This was a bit of a no-brainer really, what with the cancer, and therefore I am inviting anyone who feels so inclined to donate to this most fine of charities by going here and donating. To American readers: please consider donating – this is a charity that helps people on an international scale and not just people in the UK. which reminds me – more thanks must go to the very cool people who supported our walk last year with 566 quid’s worth of donations to the British heart Foundation: Paul,Gordy, Kevin, Neil, Jimmy, Carla, Katja, Jon,Carl, Mel, Phil, Sandra, Rich, Liv, all those at the Hobgoblin gig, Edward, Megan, Lucy, Nejla, Jez, Si, and Amelia.

with fawning-but-much-justified thanks over, let me finally say that there are new pics to check out of our London party in the Gallery (click here) and that now is the time for all y’all to step up one more time to the Guestbook and send any news you have. sorry about the long entry. more interesting ones soon, we’ll be on the road tomorrow…

Stuart                              Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

Round up

Added: 1-5-2007 1

And so it begins. Dave has already left, I am on my way today. After 5 months of work and rest and blood tests and chest x-rays – today I return to the US. Although it sounds odd, and despite doing loads over recent months, it really feels like I only left the US yesterday. Weird.

Am excited to be going back. Business to finish and all that. Before we get on to the walking however, we have other stuff to sort out – for a start we have Washington DC socialising (it never ends) but then we actually get ahead of ourselves and travel to Utah (courtesy of the Jon Rudolph long distance lift service) in order to bury the water supplies we will need in August. then we head back to Kansas City, then we start walking again. all things being equal, this should be about May 14th.

During this time our good friend Phil Goddard will be finishing his coast to coast walk (check the blog here) too, so if you haven’t already checked out his website do so before Phil disappears from the blogosphere or whatever it is that it’s called. Good work Phil.

Other news…we’ll have some new text up on the front page in the next couple of days, and a new page detailing our new plans to raise money for a new sponsor – the Association of International Cancer Research. More news on that in a later journal entry but, in brief, we’ve switched from the British Heart Association to a charity which is a bit more relevant in light of the events of late last year.

Healthwise, I am doing fine. I’ve mentioned it before but the weird thing about my ‘cancer situation’ is that I haven’t once felt ill during the past six months. things happened, hospitals were visited, I felt inconvinienced and pissed off, but not once have I felt ill. My most recent blood test and chest x-ray results came back all good on Monday, and now all I have to do to maintain my walk and my fitness is to plan a hideous schedule of monthly blood tests and bi-monthly chest x-rays in the US. While I guess it could be a nice study of medical facilities in different states I’m more sure that it will be an annoyance to the trip requiring detours and delays. bugger. still, at least I’m there at all – and I wouldn’t be without the help of some wonderful donors who have really helped me nearly cover the cost of my tests. because of the high medical bills in the US this help is SO massively appreciated I don’t know where to begin. perhaps just by saying huge thanks, it’s a massive effort (I’m still a little short on funds for the chest x-rays, but I hope I’m going to get there. to even have the blood tests covered is amazing…).

so now all that remains is to wish farewell to England and all that, say more thanks and biggups to all who attended the warehouse throwdown on Saturday night (you, the Germans, and the Dane on the decks; Rich C, Paul S, Dougie, Spense, Dan, even the Toolan, Nik and her sister, Uncle Jeff…so many more. sorry that you got stuck at the Blackwall Tunnel Rob, but we love you anyway. Colonel, cheers for coming down to London mate, nice South African pasta. all others, too many to mention (Chris! Kleena! Charlie! Jen! Shiran!). Pictures are up soon but in the meantime check some of Dave’s excellent snaps of the Lake District (at least one of us did some walking). Click here for them, they are some of his best yet….

To the States. Go……

Stuart                                    Have a comment? Please sign the guestbook

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