Friday, April 29, 2011

Marching on Washington

I left the Annapolis suburb of Parole early this morning with Dad as my walking companion. The conditions were ideal all day, with temperatures in the 60s with no chance of rain. Grothar, the Santharian god of weather was rooting for us and our pace was fantastic as a result.
The roads were the only issue, with less shoulder than we felt safe with at times and our first hills combining with some twisty thoroughfares to make the going a little tense at times. Even so the fifteen miles to our hotel in Bowie went quickly and we arrived shortly after one thirty.
The most intriguing of the man-made objects on our route was the Patuxent Bridge. This rusty hunk of iron looks about ready to call it a career. The surface is akin to walking on an open grate, giving one an opportunity to see the water below and imagine what it will be like for the person's car that is unlucky enough to be rolling over the span when the decrepit structure finally collapses.
We also saw some interesting avians along the way. A pair of guinea fowl acting like guard dogs chased us along the edge of one home owner's property. Later I saw a downy woodpecker, the smallest of the woodpecker species found in the United States, according to amateur birder/walking companion Peter McCandless.
After arriving at the hotel in Bowie so early I regrouped and decided to head out to knock out a few more miles during the afternoon. I trod about five more to make my total distance for the day 19 miles, pushing me above the one hundred mile mark to a smooth 109 for the first week's total.
The Bowie I saw mainly consists of shopping centers and doesn't have the amazing history that Annapolis boasts, but they can brag of the Belair Mansion, where several Maryland governors have called home. The Fresh Prince was not in residence at the time. The city also once held one of the world's great treasures, my mom's childhood friend Duffy, her husband Michael and their two fabulous daughters Sara and Liz.
I'll be starting back up in the Old Bowie area tomorrow with my destination point Greenbelt, Maryland. From there I can take the metro to visit my friends Sue and Scott.

19 miles/109 total miles

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Anne's City

I arrived in Annapolis after my shortest day on the ADT yet. As I mentioned, yesterday's route ended right at the hotel, so Nalan and I just exited the lobby and headed straight back onto Highway 18 where we crossed the first of three large bridges for the day and vacated Kent Narrows. The shadow of the imposing structure of the Highway 50 bridge loomed overhead and the roiling waters of the bay lay below.
As soon as we finished the bridge we joined the Cross Island Trail. The trail was marked with the first ADT sign I have seen in Maryland so far and parallels the main highways of 18 and 50 through woods and marshland, a much better alternative to facing the heavy traffic of those roads. Nalan again proved a great nature spotter, finding a five foot black snake of unknown species alive astride the path. I got a very good picture - we have now seen large snakes on three consecutive days, I'm thinking of setting up a Vietnamese restaurant nearby.
The trail ended in Stevensville after 5 miles and we had to go by car to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, as pedestrians are not allowed on the span. We then proceeded to another man-made triumph over water, the Severn River Bridge. The view from there was spectacular. I snapped pictures of the Naval Academy and some of the seven figure manor houses sitting astride the river whilst I crossed into Annapolis.
We left the trail after the bridge to explore the city of Annapolis, where we could duck into the cover of a couple of pubs during the rain that fell for most of the late morning. Dad and I wandered about the Naval Academy campus where we got a close look at the splendid chapel and the crypt below that holds the remains of John Paul Jones. Like fellow musician Jim Morrison, he was buried in Paris. Unlike the Lizard King, he was dug up and brought back to the US one hundred years later (I guess that could still happen to Jim). JP also was an important captain who captured numerous British vessels for the nascent American forces during the Revolutionary war. What a versatile dude.
The Capital building is also another site one should not miss if coming to Annapolis. The building is the longest serving state house in all of the country, dating back to the 1770s. During the Articles of Confederation period before the signing of the Constitution Annapolis actually served as the nation's capital. For most of the 18th century and a bit earlier the city was one of the most important ports in the colonies.
Finally, we saw the Kunta Kinte/Arthur Haley memorial, honoring the famous character from "Roots" and his creator. The real Kinte is said to have arrived in Annapolis harbor on a slave ship from Gambia.
In summation, I did six miles of the ADT today and then an unknown number of miles walking around Annapolis. Dad, Nalan, and I are spending the night in the suburb of Parole*. I am off now to discover whether the citizens of said town are known as Parolees.

*Parole was established as a POW camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Black in Back

I knocked out my best mileage day yet today, going a smidgen under twenty to raise my total to eighty-four for the trip. After several days of wearing sunglasses I now have the most bad-ass raccoon eyes ever. Everyone has complimented me on them or just pointed and wondered aloud, "what is wrong with that guy's face?"
Dad formed my company on today's jaunt and we started just South of the village of Starr. After about a mile we saw Back Starr Road, which appeared on my Google map as Black Starr Road.
I pondered for the next few miles how much of a difference just that one letter could make. The Michael J. Fox classic would now be "Black to the Future" and Will Smith would ride a pimped out Cadillac with spinning rims into the 1950s where things would go quickly awry for him after he gazed for two seconds upon a white woman. The Sci-fi comedy in which Will Smith starred in reality would now be "Men in Back," a classic man-love flick. The inspirational equestrian story "Black Beauty" would become "Back Beauty" a story of a woman who could have been a perfect ten - as long as she did not turn around. If you can tell from these thoughts that the first ten miles were boring please treat yourself to a cookie, perhaps two if you feel particularly proud.
The second half of the day held much more for the eyes to behold. We hit Highway 18 and started along the approach to the bay, passing the towns of Queenstown, Grasonville (where Dad left me to go grab a beer, smarter than I he is, syntax of Yoda have me), and Kent Narrows (where I stopped for the night).
We lunched in Queenstown, which boasts an old courthouse dating back to early in the 18th century. Further along 18 we heard tell of an amazing battle from the war of 1812. A historical marker commemorated the tale of martial glory. Two people died as well as the British commander's horse. Apparently no one had taught the sign maker the word "skirmish."
We are headed out shortly to join my friend Frank and his wife Jamie for dinner at the Crab Deck, across the road from the hotel. The word is that Maryland crab straight out of the Chesapeake Bay is not terrible. I imagine I will be able to down a bite or two, just to be polite to my Terrapin hosts of course.

Postscript: The food was indeed wonderful and the restaurant surrounded by a panoramic view of the bay. Many crabs gave their lives for us. The company was the best of all, it would be hard to have a better end to a day.

20 miles/84 total miles

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Bay Bridge Cometh

I took a shorter hike today, but the length was not what I had anticipated. My feet felt good the whole time, even if I do have a blister on my right foot the size of a weather balloon. The weather was cooler and windier plus the day was cloudier, combining for a more comfortable walk than the previous two.
Nalan joined me on the trail today as Dad rested after our major chafage of the day before. I'll leave off on more details, but if you need more information please dial 1-800-Alastair's Upper Thigh. Operators are currently awaiting your call.
We managed to knock out a bit over 13 miles, starting in beautiful downtown Denton. Denton was a major hub of the underground railroad and also boasts the birthplace of Frederick Douglass nearby. Mr. Douglass may not have been quite as proud of his birthplace since he was a slave at the time.
Lunchtime was a rare treat after heading thru nothing but rural areas the last couple days. Our route ran through the small town of Ridgely, where we stopped at the Batter Up restaurant. I enjoyed a Veal Parmesan sandwich. Vote for your favorite meal of mine at I sure hope that's not a pornography site for indifferent partners.
The highlight of the day was a traipse through Tuckahoe State Park, which boasts a lovely lake and a small dam. Nalan spotted an extremely large snapping turtle resting on a log. She thought it was dead, but I assured her he was just resting for twenty or thirty hours as turtles are wont to do. We separated a bit on the way out of the park, so sadly I missed a 4-5 foot black and gray snake Nalan noticed in the ditch aside the road.
We are only about six miles from Highway 18, which heads down toward the Bay Bridge and Annapolis. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery - farms are great, but I think I will see my fair share in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, etc.

13 miles/64 total miles

Monday, April 25, 2011

We're Not in Delaware Anymore Toto

The first state has been knocked out. Dad walked with me today and our caravan of two passed over the state line on a back road sometime in the early afternoon. We finished up on the outskirts on Denton, Maryland, a picturesque town sitting aside the Choptank River. I highly recommend the Guinness Burger at the Market Street Public House there.
Delaware was pretty easy. I haven't looked at a map yet, but if all the states are this small I will be done by the end of May. Seriously though, today was the most difficult yet as the miles have worn on my feet after another hike just under 20 miles. Tomorrow the plan is to take it a little easier and stay in the same hotel in Denton -I'm thinking of making Tuckahoe State Park the destination, about 10-12 miles to the west.
The route today was again mostly farmland with a little bit of forest at the border of Delaware and Maryland. We saw a great deal of wildlife including a white-tailed deer, a muskrat, two caterpillars, numerous butterflies, and hundreds of vultures that are just waiting until I pass out and die on the road somewhere.
We also witnessed the gruesome carnage that ensued when a group of deer attempted to re-enact the climactic scene of "Reservoir Dogs." Several of the dead animals were strewn across the road right around the border. My official welcome to Maryland I suppose.

18 miles/51 total miles

Sunday, April 24, 2011

30 Measuring Cups and A Dream

I know we early days yet, but I accomplished a major milestone today when I passed the mileage total of the great Tramposaurus. Click here to read his legendary blog and hear the tails of an amazing journey from the coast of Delaware all the way to the middle of Delaware. Trust me, the wisdom of Tramposaurus is worth your time. I'm just satisfied to know that, although I am not the person most suited to taking this trip, I'm not the least suited either.
Nalan walked with me today and we knocked out somewhere in the vicinity of 17-18 miles depending on which way you read the distances on the ADT turn-by-turn. There appears to be an error in the mileage, but the directions have been easy to follow thus far.
Our journey took us through the farms and forest between Milton and Bridgeville, including Redden State Forest, where we got down on our knees and thanked the pagan God of shade for his/her kindness. I was raised in hot as Hades Charleston and I'm starting to wonder when 80 degrees became unbearably hot to me. About time to get over that I imagine - I don't suppose it will be getting any cooler in June and July.

17 miles/33 total miles

Off We Go

As first days go I doubt I could have expected anything better than yesterday. I was joined by my father, my stepmother, my friends Scott and Sue, as well as Sue's parents and aunt at the starting line.
The expedition began in an ominous fashion, with dark clouds and a bumbling trip around Henlopen trying to find the famed bunker at the starting line. I then managed to "lose" my camera in one of my many pockets.
Fortunately, we eventually found the beginning of the trail, the weather cleared by late morning, and my camera showed up in the pocket it had been residing in the whole time I was freaking myself out needlessly about its absence. Scott and Dad both joined me on the trail for the day, a simple traipse through flat land from Cape Henlopen to Milton.
We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Taste of Italy in the picturesque seaside community of Lewes along the way. The kind of fresh, delicious ingredients they serve are unparalleled in Greenville - my sandwich was perhaps the best I have ever eaten. I also got called pal about eight times by the guy at the register, so I think I made my first friend.
The remaining thirteen miles between Lewes and Milton were fairly uneventful. I know how much I already miss the company of Scott and Dad, having them with me for company and conversation made the distance melt away. My stepmother will be joining me today for my Easter walk.
We were rewarded by our arrival in Milton with the sight of Irish Eyes, a lovely pub where we congratulated each other on a great day with a tasty pint. The rest of the crew met up with us there and after a shower at the hotel we headed to Rehoboth Beach and enjoyed a flight of brews and a fabulous dinner at the Dogfish Head restaurant there. I want to thank everyone who joined me for Day One on the American Discovery Trail, your presence eased my apprehension and made the first miles very memorable ones.

16 miles/16 total miles

Saturday, April 23, 2011

At the Starting Line

I'm in the hotel in Dewy Beach as I write this - we arrived around eleven in the evening last night after a drive that took a little longer than expected. Rain pounded us for the first half of the ride and drizzle followed us the rest of the way. We are here safely and its hard to complain - how can I? If my leg hurts I can think about the Wounded Warriors who lost a leg or even both and my whining about a twinge in my knee seems small in comparison. If the weather is uncomfortable I can think about my friends on duty in Iraq, suffering in the heat of another 110+ degree day or those in Afghanistan freezing their butts off on the top of the world. What can I possibly moan about in my cozy life as a civilian? Well maybe Dad's snoring - I know artillery fire is loud, but I wonder if it can compete with a night spent sleeping across the room from a human wood chipper. Seriously though, no complaining for me unless I can pull it off subtly. Of course, my version of subtlety has often been compared with a train wreck, so we'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Insert Nike Slogan Here

I'm finishing up the final preparations for my long walk, a trip bound to rival that of Jack Kerouac's albeit slower and without the copious use of narcotics. I'll be driving up with Dad and Nalan (stepmom) on Friday, a ten hour marathon via car to the starting line in Delaware. They will be walking with me on Saturday as will my friend Scott - his wife Sue and her parents will also be joining us at various stages.
For those of you who have requested PayPal info from me so you could help with expenses, I have added a widget to the website - you'll see the chip in button to the right, just click there and you can make your contribution.
I just wanted to say one last thank you to all those who have helped me with preparations, donations, pledges, and sponsorships. I would never have even gotten to the starting line without your help and encouragement - I am lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful friends, a supportive family, and some great new friends I have met while preparing for the journey. As I have found during the last weeks, opinions are like noses, everyone has one (except for maybe lepers). The conversations I have had with many of you have helped me to be a lot more ready than I would be otherwise.
I want so much to pay back your faith in me and to make the walk a great success for the Wounded Warrior Project. Most of us appreciate good dialogue, but the action sequences are where the money is made.

The Ever-Expanding Role of Honor

Donny Abercrombie
Steve Borklund
John Bowman
Dan Buckley
John Byrd
Rhea and Christine Byrd
Weston and Cheryl Cheatham
Sue Donnelly
Jessica Fowler
Chad Gangwer
Scott and Sue Gelinas
Brady and Jennifer Gilbert
Barbara Green
Devon Wray Hanahan
Kathy Haney
Anne Hawkes
Ellen Hawkes
Paul and Sally Hoover
Scott Lariviere
Cindi May
Dr. Amy McCandless, Dean College of Charleston Graduate School
Colin McCandless
Dr. Peter McCandless and Nalan Gurun
Timothy McGrath
Ed Moroney
Mark and Melissa Normington
John O'Neill
Bill and Tammy Patterson
Michael and Duffy Petty
Sara and Chris Rice
Gail Riley
Tedo Simeonov
Corey Smith
Robert Smith (no, not the lead singer of the Cure or the Vikings running back)
Colin Stewart
Jen Thompson
Alex and Liz Thorpe
Dr. David Wiseman
Kevin Yee - Kevin is a graphic designer who is making my business card. Check out his work here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Final Countdown

Final countdown time has come for me, with little over a week before my departure. I figured that a picture of the water tower along my regular walking route might be a fitting piece of Americana to symbolize that impending departure onto the roads spanning our great land. I want to thank Jimbob and Leah for adding a bit of flair as well as a smattering of class to the Rutherford Road tower's original design. I just hope Jimbob's passion resulted in the loving bonds of matrimony rather than the waiting embrace of a police car after the issuance of a restraining order by Leah's family.
Speaking of H2O, I finally purchased a water filter for the trip today. My procrastination was ended after I listened to a friend from my softball team painstaking tell of his own experience with a bout of giardia. I do not care to partake myself.
People are beginning to take notice of my wandering ambulations through the nether regions between Taylors and Greenville. Our local UPS driver stopped by me this afternoon and asked how far I would be walking today. Maybe I could convince his superiors to have trucks come and carry my pack to where I plan to stop for the day - it sure would be helpful not have to lug the heavy thing around. Hey, I promised to walk across the country, I didn't say my dirty T-shirts were going to go every little bitty step of the way with me.
I want to thank Brady Gilbert and the Traveler's Rest Area Business Association for allowing me to talk to them during their luncheon on Tuesday. Although I gave one of the more bumbling speeches in the history of oratory they treated me wonderfully and I met a great group of people who I hope will be tagging along with me on the journey - at least virtually.
I will be out of Greenville this weekend attending nuptials on Edisto Island for the delightful Dan Hastings and the fetching Brianna Rabon, but if anyone would like to join me for a sending off I will be out at the Irish Pub on Sunday evening, please come visit - everyone is welcome to smash champagne bottles against my head like they do with new ships before their inaugural passage.
I leave you now with a lovely rendition of "the Final Countdown" by Europe, a band that would begin and end their shows with that same tune, their one hit. Most critics lambasted the 80s hair band powerhouse for using such a set list strategy. These nitpickers would say that the band was admitting they had no other powerfully moving songs in their repertoire. I say no to these accusations. Rather Europe was defying convention by doing something that no other band was willing to do. Maybe we have something in common.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Two Weeks and Counting

So much to do and so little time. I've gotten up to 12+ miles for my daily average. Still not good enough, but an improvement. I've lost about ten pounds, although I could use to be a little bit thinner. I'm told bulimia is not an option so I'm just going to have to keep working.
Doing the same route over and over again definitely gets boring. I've started to count the roadkill - we have a current tie at one with raccoons, possums, and rabbits all biting the automobullet. On a less morbid note, I spotted a beautiful green lunar moth today, which although stunned in a ditch (or perhaps he had been drinking with Edgar Allen Poe) appeared as if it would survive.
I'm looking forward to doing Table Rock on Saturday with my brother for a change of pace, although the steepness of the mountain will be a serious challenge for us both, especially as I shall be carrying a heavy pack. I barely made it two months ago and the difficulty of that lovely hill will be a good gauge of where I currently stand in my cardio preparedness.
I still need to purchase a large water carrier and a water filtering device. If anyone has a suggestion for a good brand please let me know. I also have some Wounded Warrior decals in the mail coming my way, so I will be glad to give those out to any of you who have donated, pledged, sponsored, or helped me in any way. Just let me know where to send them. So far $750+ has been donated to the WWP and an additional $1800 has been pledged. We still have a long way to go but off to a good start.

Cheers, Alastair