Day 19 – Time Travel with Kayla

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Thursday, June 22nd, 7:25 a.m. –  Departed from the Clark gas station in Stockton, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

 

 

 

Morning Conditions – Temp – 72* with high humidity / Wind – W at 5 mph / Skies – Overcast, heavy rain and thunderstorms to the north and south.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Remained at around 72* / Wind – W at 10 mph, gusting up to 25 mph as a result of passing storms / Overcast throughout the day with heavy rain and thunderstorms.

10:45 a.m. – Arrived at the Max Conrad Municipal Airport in Winona, Minnesota, 7.9 miles, 21,300 steps, 217 miles remaining.

The Day’s Highs – 

  • Beautiful Highway 23 – County Highway 23 stretches from the small town of Stockton, Minnesota to just north of Winona, Minnesota. It was slightly longer miles-wise than continuing on Highway 14, but in this case, worth every step. There was significantly less traffic than on Highway 14, and truck traffic was almost nonexistent. Relatively flat, the road curved around the beautiful, forested bluffs that the area is known for. Picturesque farm sites were tucked up against the hillsides, and rivers meandered through the valleys. Yes, it was a few more miles to walk, but those miles were as calm and relaxing as a summer evening.
  • Patrick Stevens – I was nearly to the Winona Airport when a pickup truck pulled to a stop along side me. Patrick Stevens – the elderly gentleman behind the wheel – had a question: “You that fella I saw on TV last night?” I replied that I was, and we began to chat. A 71-year-old retired construction worker, Patrick lived in St. Charles – a town I had just passed through on the previous day. He told me that being out and about was part of his daily routine. ” I get tired of the same old conversations in my hometown,” he said, “so I go around to different towns and have coffee. I call it getting my head right. Saves me $100 an hour on a psychiatrist!” He shook my hand twice, and continued on his way. I can only hope I age as wisely and gracefully as Patrick…
  • Time Travel with Kayla – I made some really cool friends while attending UW-Superior. Kayla Weltzien is one of them. Her family lives just south of Arcadia, Wisconsin, just across the river from Winona, Minnesota. Kayla graciously offered to come and pick me up at the airport and take me out to visit her family’s farm. At 11:00 a.m. – just before the skies let loose with incredible downpours – Kayla walked into the airport building. Words cannot describe how good it was to see her…Hanging out at the Weltzien farm reminded me so much of my younger days, and it took no time at all for me to feel welcome and at home. We had a delicious lunch, then went across the road to their barns. I learned what it takes to raise poultry on a large scale, stood amongst their Angus cattle and generally took a step back in time. While I no longer live the farming life, there are things about it that I truly miss. Thank you, Kayla. You made my day…

The Day’s Lows – 

  • Long, Short Walk – On a walk such as this, a change in perspective is inevitable. While practicing and conditioning myself before departing nearly four weeks ago, I considered 8 miles to be an impressive accomplishment. Now, walking 20 miles each day on average, that same 8 miles usually feels more like walking across the grocery store parking lot. Not today, though. Today it was the last 8 miles miles before taking a week-long break at our beautiful home in Duluth. Tired, sore and just wanting it to be done, the steps came really hard.
  • Minnesota’s End – Reaching Winona, Minnesota meant several things to me. I felt great pride at the accomplishment of walking nearly 400 miles, and at traversing the entire Minnesota segment of the journey without serious accident or incident. I felt much stronger and wiser than when I began. I also felt a tinge of sadness. Looking back on all of the things I’d seen and the experiences I’d had, I couldn’t help but wish there had been more of them. Like anything else in life, there’s been a learning curve involved with this adventure. Now nearly two-thirds done, it feels like I’m just hitting my groove. Another walk in the future? Let’s just say I’m not ruling it out…

Lessons Learned – It has been 36 years since I lived or worked on a farm. Yet the rich experiences had while in that environment are never all that far away. Whether I want to admit it or not, the farming life formed me; its sights, smells and sounds can quickly pull me back to a time when dreams seemed simpler, and the life I would live was still largely in front of me. There was a magic in the anticipation of that life that has no equal in adulthood. While I would not want to go back, I would like to experience that magic again, if only for a day.

Day 18 – Highway 14 and the Diesel Breeze

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Wednesday, June 21st, 6:45 a.m. –  Departed from the city park in Dover, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 54* with low humidity / Wind – Calm / Skies – Clear. High cirrus clouds to the north and east, band of rain approaching from the west.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 73* / Wind – SSW at 10 mph / Skies – Clear to the north and east, storm clouds moving to the south, weather system approaching from the west.

4:30 p.m. – Arrived at the Clark gas station in Stockton, Minnesota, 20.0 miles, 51,200 steps, 225 miles remaining.

The Day’s Highs – 

  • Honkers and Wavers – After doing the interview with KTTC that aired on their evening news, a lot of people recognized me. Drivers honked and waved as they passed (I made sure to verify which finger they were waving with…) and generally supported and cheered me along. Some people even pulled up in their vehicles to shake my hand. What a difference that made in my mood! I also met a lady named Marsha who was out running with her 5-month old black lab. Although camera shy because of her early morning appearance, he told me her very motivational story about being a lymphoma survivor. Very cool.
  • Midday Break at Paul and Sharon’s House – Taking a good break in the middle of the day is really important. Doing so at someone’s house is like the best of all worlds. There’s easy access to fresh water, food, shelter from the sun, and even a bed! Even though it was kind of hard to get going again, it was COMPLETELY worth it!
  • Early Start, Early Finish – The early morning hours are by far the best time to move. Getting an early start also offers the added bonus of finishing the day early. On this particular day, I was in an air conditioned vehicle heading back to Paul and Sharon’s house by 5:00!

The Day’s Lows – 

  • Dangerous Walk on Highway 14 – Walking on State Highway 14 wasn’t a whole lot of fun. While it was a nice direct route on a road with wide shoulders, the sheer volume of traffic just wore me down. Lots of vehicles drifted onto the shoulder as they approached me, only to cut back out into he lane as they passed. I’m glad this part of the walk is behind me…
  • Too Much Diesel Breeze – As semi trucks go past on the highway, they sort of make their own breeze. Even though that breeze smells of diesel, grease and hot rubber from the tires, on a hot day with no wind, it can actually be welcome. On the stretch of Highway 14 that I walked, I was met by hundreds if not thousands of grain trucks through the course of the day. Each time one came towards me, I was required to hold my hat on to prevent it from blowing off my head. By the time I reached Stockton, I was good and ready to be done with Highway 14 and its heavy truck traffic.

Lessons Learned – A little support goes a long way. Having people actually recognize me and applaud my efforts makes a big difference. It can help me sustain a positive attitude, a task that can sometimes be quite challenging.

 

DAY 17 – KTTC and the Road to Dover

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Tuesday, June 20th, 9:35 a.m. –  Departed from the KwikTrip at 37th St. and Broadway Ave North in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 62* with low humidity / Wind – N at 7 mph / Skies – Partly cloudy, cirrus and altocumulus clouds. 

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 73* / Wind – Remained N, increased to 15 mph / Skies – Clear with high cirrus clouds in the west by evening.

6:35 p.m. – Arrived at the city park in Dover, Minnesota, 21.4 miles, 52, 300 steps, 245 miles remaining.

The Day’s Highs – 

  • KCCT – a local television station – did an interview with me today while I passing through the northeast part of Rochester. It really means a lot to me when the media finds this walk interesting enough to come out and talk to me about it. I don’t really have any expections about the outcomes, but it is really nice to gain some visibility as I walk through the area.
  • Paul and Sharon’s House – A the end of the day today, I got to stay at my friends house in Utica, Minnesota. I’ll be able to use Paul and Sharon’s home as a sort of base for the next few days as well. After tenting and utilizing inexpensive hotel rooms for the past several weeks, it’ll be really nice to sleep in a soft bed and be in the company of good friends. After staying with my sister in Rochester and now the Fosters, this week is beginning to feel pretty cushy…

The Day’s Lows – 

  • Construction Zone – Sometimes I choose to walk down roads that are under construction to avoid heavy traffic on other routes. Depending on the project, they can actually be quite peaceful, although it’s difficult to tell what I’ll run into down the road. County Road 9 – my planned route going east out of Rochester – started out being beautiful. About a mile and a half down the road, however, it got really ugly. For the better part of an hour, I spent my time dodging construction vehicles and pulling the trailer through deep ruts and loose, uneven dirt and gravel. Always a crap shoot, this construction zone did NOT pay off.
  • Wrong side of Chester Woods Park – Choosing a place to take a break in the middle of the day can be really important. Chester Woods Park stretches between two roads: State Highway 14 and County Road 9.  I chose to walk on County Road 9 to avoid heavy traffic, hoping that I could get into the park from either side. That was a bad bet; there was no entrance on the County 9 side. Only a fence. I had been imagining a break in a pretty, shaded park. Yeah, not so much. Pretty grumpy there for a while…
  • No Apples?! – I stopped at the Sekapp Orchard because their signs for Honeycrisp apples got me to craving them. Can you believe it? I was told there would be no apples for a couple of months. Who knew that apples don’t ripen until autumn? The look on the proprietor’s face said it all…

Lessons Learned – When calculating risk and weighing options, it is important to remember that things will not always work out for the best. That’s why they’re called risks and options. While challenging at times, it is of the utmost importance to remain positive, even when NOTHING is going as planned.

Day 16 – Easy Street

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Monday, June 19th, 9:05 a.m. – Departed from the Kwik Trip in Pine Island, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood


Morning Conditions – Temp – 63* with low humidity / Wind – NW at 11 mph / Skies – Partly cloudy, cumulus/cumulonimbus clouds moving in from the west, threatening rain/thundershowers.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 73*  / Wind – Remained NW, increasing to 15 mph, gusting to 25 / Skies – Thunder showers in the vicinity throughout the afternoon, clear skies with high cirrus clouds by evening.

7:05 p.m. – Arrived at Connemara Drive in Rochester, Minnesota, 20.8 miles, 56,800 steps, 266 miles remaining

Good Parts of the Day

  1. The Douglas Trail that stretches between Pine Island, MN and Rochester, MN made for a spectacular Monday morning walk – one of the nicest and most relaxing I’ve had so far. The canopy above the trail created by the hardwood trees growing adjacent to it let through an almost magical light, and the air was cool and refreshing.
  2. I got to stay in a spectacular house that my sister was taking care of. Better than any hotel, it wasn’t fancy, but was of considerable size. It also had gadgets throughout that I didn’t even know existed. Also, the house had a cat (Ruby). I stayed in this house for two nights. Made a tent seem like, well, a substandard option…
  3. Much of today’s walk was within the city of Rochester. Walking in a city really helps to pass the time; there are so many things to look at, and a lot of really awesome photo opportunities.

Not So Good Parts of the Day

  1. The only thing that really wasn’t great about this day was that, in order to get to the house that my sister was staying at, I had do a major hill climb at the very end of the day. I was aware of the hill, and knew that climbing it would be required. That did not, however, make it any easier after nearly 20 miles of walking. I’ve asked her to find houses to take care of in the future that are NOT on mountain tops, or accessed by roads that have the name “Summit” in them. It just seems sensible for those of us who are required to walk there. 

Lessons Learned – When having an effortless day, it is very easy to get lulled into complacency. It is important that I never let my guard down, both for my personal well being, and for my ability to physically perform.

Day 15 – Home Stretch

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Friday, July 16th, 11:15 a.m. – Departed from the Coffee Mill in Zumbrota, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood





Morning Conditions – Temp – 75* with moderate humidity / Wind – SW at 5 mph / Skies – Overcast, thunderstorms in the vicinity.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached 85* with increasing humidity / Wind – S at 5 mph /  Skies – Overcast with increasing thunderstorm activity throughout the day.

3:15 p.m. – Arrived at the KwikTrip in Pine Island, Minnesota, 9.1 miles, 28,400 steps, 287 miles remaining

Best of the Day

  1. It had been two weeks since I’d seen my home. It would be difficult to imagine being more motivated to walk 9.1 miles!
  2. The Coffee Mill Restaurant in Zumbrota was an awesome place to spend a few hours in the morning trying to catch up on some writing. Sharla, Carol, Paul, Shane and Nicole (not pictured) made me feel completely at home as I did so. Also, the rhubarb pie was amazing!
  3. The sight of my friends Paul and Sharon Foster arriving to pick me up for the ride back to Duluth. I can’t possibly overstate the importance of support from friends and family in this adventure. Thank you both for the lift.
  4. Seeing Jill again. I don’t think anything more needs to be said…
  5. Reaching the halfway point of the walk. Just under 300 miles behind me, and my third pair of shoes retired. These shoes were covered with the mud, dust and asphalt of four counties! 

Worst of the Day

  1. I opted to take an alternate route to avoid a dangerous crossing of Highway 52 in a construction zone. It added 1.3 miles to my day. Not the end of the world, but this stuff adds up.
  2. In addition to the extra miles, the alternate route was a gravel road and offered some VERY challenging hills. Even in just 9.1 miles, the gravel and hills took their toll on my body.

Lessons Learned

The GPS is not infallible. There are things that it doesn’t know, and it couldn’t care less about its user’s misery. Use it with care, blame it for all wrong turns and difficult routes.

Coffee Mill – Zumbrota, MN

Coffee Mill Crew

Paul and Sharon

Jill and me in Cloquet, MN

Pair #3 – Served me well

Day 14 – The Marathon Day

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The Atmosphere’s Mood

Thursday, July 15th, 10:05 a.m. –  Departed from the Nerstrand Big Woods State Park near Nerstrand, Minnesota.

Morning Conditions – Temp – 75* with low humidity / Wind – W at 10 mph, gusting to 15 (cold front passed in the night) / Skies – Clear. Not a cloud in the sky, half moon hanging on the western horizon.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached 85*, skies remained clear with fair weather cumulus late in the day. Winds remained W, increasing to 15 mph, gusting up to 25.

9:20 p.m. – Arrived at Covered Bridge State Park in Zumbrota, Minnesota,  26.2 miles, 71,555 steps, 296 miles remaining

Best of the Day 

  1. I walked the miles of a marathon today! That’s a first on this walk, and something I wasn’t sure I’d be capable of doing.
  2. After leaving Nerstrand, the next town was Wanamingo. That was 18 miles of walking in the countryside!
  3. Individually, I unknowingly met two sisters in Nerstrand who I thought were pretty cool. Because of that and the rest of my experiences there,  Nerstrand holds a special place in my heart.
  4. Growing up on a hard working farm in southwestern Minnesota, I could never really appreciate the vast, wide open spaces. Today, I took the time to recognize and enjoy their beauty.

 

 

 

Worst of the Day 

  1. Don’t let anyone try to fool you. Whether walking or running, 26.2 miles is a LONG WAY to move on foot! I was sore and exhausted by the end of the day, and had completely depleted my reserves. 
  2. There are some really challenging hills in Goodhue County!

Lessons Learned 

The body is capable of amazing feats, but it is the strength and fortitude of the human mind that makes this amazing work possible. The body’s capacity to perform amounts to nothing without tenacity of mind and spirit!

Day 12 – Reaching the Limit

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Tuesday, July 13th, 9:30 a.m. –  Departed from the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area/Pilot Truck Stop in Inver Grove Heights, MN.

Morning Conditions – Temp – 73* / Wind – SE at 8 mph/ Skies – Hazy, high overcast. 

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached 89* with very high humidity / Wind – 10-15 mph out of the SSE, gusting to 25 mph by late afternoon / Skies – Hazy with scattered to broken cumulus, heavy thunderstorms approaching from the west.

5:00 p.m. – Arrived at Little Oscars Restaurant in Hampton, MN, 18.0 miles, 52,300 steps, 344 miles remaining.

Measure of the Man – Long after this walk is completed, this day will stand out in my memory as a challenging test of my will, and an experience that defined my personal limits with physical exertion under intensely hot and humid conditions. There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with reaching those limits, but also a frustration in knowing and having to admit that they exist. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” I got a little bit stronger today.

I didn’t wake up as early as I’d planned this morning. There had been an alarm set, but shutting it off to get some much needed sleep seemed a better use of my time by far. When finally rolling out of the tent, I was sluggish, slow to get moving and already being affected by the morning heat and humidity. 

The tent was near a regional trail, but in what I thought was a relatively remote area, so I didn’t expect to get any company at 6:15 a.m. Imagine my surprise when, while standing in my underwear by the tent, a cyclist sped by on trail, looking my way as he did so. Just a few minutes later, a construction vehicle with four workers in it – presumably heading to the backside of the same mud hole that had caused my so much grief on the previous night – rolled by on the trail as well, all four heads turning to witness or admire the spectacle before them. My brain wasn’t in what I’d call “high function mode” at the moment, but it was still able to come to a logical conclusion: time to get moving.

Once motivated to do so, it didn’t take me long to pack up and hit the road. About a mile down the road was a Pilot Truck Stop, and the idea of a hot meal and a shower sounded pretty darn good to me. As I arrived there, memories of my 1-year career as an over-the-road truck driver came swimming back into my brain. It struck me that this walk isn’t all that different from driving a truck over the road. Unpredictable sleep and eating schedule, never quite knowing where I’ll spend the night and pressing onward when it’s the last thing I want to do are the standards of over-the-road trucking driving. Much like this walk, the life can’t really be described. It must be lived to truly understand it. I was grateful for the shower, the food and the air conditioning, but wasted no time in moving along. There was a big day of walking in front of me.

The first couple of hours of the morning were spent circumventing the Pine Bend Refinery and the landfill adjacent to it. The air was foul, the roadsides were strewn with garbage and the truck traffic was almost unbearable. Dump trucks, garbage trucks and tanker trucks of all shapes and sizes came and went in an almost constant steam, bringing with them the smells of garbage, hot diesel and petroleum products. I kept thinking, “This is where the garbage goes, this is where the fuel comes from. It seems ironic that the two are side by side.” Walking down this particular 2-mile stretch of road was an eye opener, and I could not help but reevaluate my personal consumption, as well as my “reduce and reuse” habits. I would hope that anyone would. It was not at all a pleasant place to spend time. 

By late morning, the temperature had climbed well in the 80s, and the humidity was climbing right along with it. The only thing that was making the day tolerable was a strong southeast wind, but even that felt much like opening an oven door for a sustained period of time. The area I was walking through was largely farm country, and for the most part, there were no good places to take breaks for any amount of time. I had learned back in Isanti County that sitting down wherever I  pleased was not necessarily a great plan of action. 

The hours of the afternoon blurred on by, with my intital destination of Hampton, Minnesota inching ever closer. Water was my biggest concern. With 4 miles left until Hampton, supply was running low, and finding a place to restock was becoming imperative. While descending into a wide, partially forested valley, I notice on the left what appeared to be a small park area. Arriving there, I realized that it was actually a horse farm, and there was a young man just pulling out of the stable with a tractor and manure spreader. This was going to be my best chance! I asked if there might be any chance of refilling my water bottles there. His name was Louise, and he quickly obliged by leading me to small restroom in the stable. While he swept the stable, I wasted no time filling up. As I hooked the trailer up and was turning to leave, I handed him a business card for the walk, saying, “Muchas gracias, Amigo!” With a wide smile, he wished me the best of luck on my journey.

By around 4:00 p.m., I was finally approaching Hampton from the northwest. With less than a mile to go, the outskirts of the town could already be seen. There were problems, however. I was walking straight into a 15 or 20 mph wind on the bumpy, gravel shoulder of busy Highway 50. Those conditions were quickly sapping what little energy I had left after walking 15 miles in the heat and humidity. When I saw the pictured statue, I truly began to wonder if the heat had taken taken its toll. After assuring myself that it was in fact real, I pushed on as best I could. 

About a quarter mile from town, I stopped. I knew I had to, and it didn’t matter where. I was lucky enough to find a gun club (obviously wouldn’t be my first choice…) right next to the road. I didn’t see where I had much choice. What I was feeling was something a little like claustrophobia. In spite of the oppressive heat, I was beginning to get chills, and even in the shade, it was really difficult for me to cool down. I took off as many clothes as I realistically could, not wanting to make the local news with a headline of, “Naked Man Found Trespassing at Hampton Gun Club.” I drank more water, ate more food, and eventually returned to a normal enough state to continue into town. The episode scared me though, and helped me to define and recognize my limits on the really bad days.

Decision Time – After collecting myself, I walked into Hampton and to the other side of Highway 52 to Little Oscars Restaurant. In the process of doing so, I noticed the Siver Bell motel right next to the restaurant. While my initial plan for the day had been to continue another 9 miles to the Stanton Airport, I decided to attempt getting a room there. I wasn’t able to, but considering the heat, my exhausted condition and the severe weather that I knew to be approaching, finding a room became my highest priority. 

While having dinner at Little Oscars, I searced for anything that might be available. The closest I could find was in Canon Fall, Minnesota – 13 miles to the south. I knew there was no way I could walk there, but booked it immediately just the same, believing that I would be able to find a ride. I explained my dilemma to my server who immediately asked one of the other servers in the restaurant if she could help me out. She said it would be no problem at all, and within half an hour, I was in an air conditioned room at the Caravan Motel in Canon Falls. Thank you so much, Faith and Aaron, for the lift. It wasn’t a matter of life and death, but it was beginning to feel like it…

Another day behind me, another important lesson learned. Respect the heat and humidity, and pay attention to the warning. I am not indestructible. I am human, and suffer from that condition like all other humans. On the upside, I survived the day, and believe myself to be better for the experience! See you out there…

Day 11 – Ruled by the Great Outdoors

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Monday, June 12th, 8:00 a.m. –  Departed from Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN.

Morning Conditions – Temp – 63* / Wind – Calm / Skies – Clear but hazy. increasing to 10-15 mph out of the SSE by late afternoon. / Skies – Clear, but hazy.

Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached 82* with high humidity / Wind – 10-15 mph out of the SSE by late afternoon / Skies – Thickening cirrus and stratocumulus clouds throughout the day, thunderstorms late afternoon.

10:15 p.m. – Arrived at the Pine Bend Bluffs Scientific and Natural Area in Inver Grove Heights, MN, 21.0 miles, 58,700 steps, 362 miles remaining.

Monday, Monday – One of things I looked forward to most about this walk was being outside in nature for long periods of time. I romanticized about being like an animal or a bird, totally dictated by the goings on of nature, and living by that set of rules. Being human, though, I am accustomed to shelter when it is needed, and also to be able to work around  the ways of nature if I choose to do so. It would seem that I’m having to make some adjustments out here, and I get the feeling that nature is having a good laugh at my expense. 

The day started out so beautifully. Jill and I had spent the weekend together in Minneapolis. There’d been time to recharge and recuperate, and even though I wasn’t crazy about the idea of getting back out there and walking 20 miles, there was a quickness in my step as I walked away from Minnehaha Park. Waving goodbye to Jill, I remember thinking, “What a wonderfully peaceful place!” The thought had no more than left my mind when they arrived. Coming out of the thick woods adjacent to the Mississippi River were thousands of small, skilled, hungry mosquitos. It will never fail to amaze me how they are able to find the tiniest patch of exposed skin! For the better part of an hour, the battle raged. It wasn’t until climbing out of the river bottom and up onto the Mendota Bridge that I was able to break free of them. Even though I’d been wearing a hat, my newly shaved head looked as if it had contracted a case of the measles. The breeze on the bridge was welcome, as was the spectacular view.

The next few hours of walking were quite relaxing. An overcast sky kept the temperature bearable, and the trails I was walking on were easy and nearly deserted. As noon approached, things began to change. The overcast gave way to hot sun and high humidity, and things started getting uncomfortable. From that moment forward, every piece of my clothing was sticking to my body in every place it could, making me feel a bit like I’d been wrapped in plastic. In an effort to ward off the bad attitude that seemed inevitable, I stopped at a Super America to take a break and get some food. I crouched down to cable my trailer to a “Car Wash” sign, and when standing back up, smacked my head hard on the bottom of the metal sign. I believe I said something like, “Oh golly, that stings.” My mood slipped another notch or two as well. I thought I might take a nice long break in the shade. That always helps, right? Then I looked at the weather radar on my phone. Giant red and pink blobs were rapidly approaching from the southwest. There would be no break in my immediate future…

I almost made it to the South St. Paul Airport in the nick of time; there were only two or three minutes of walking through giant, blowing raindrops. Walking through the door of the airport building, I remember thinking it was technically a win because I hadn’t been struck by lightning? Everything is relative, I suppose.

Happy to be inside the airport building, I made my way to the flight planning room to dry off and collect myself. There I found John Schmidt. A teacher of 31 years and a fellow pilot, he and I easily struck up an engaging conversation while waiting for the weather to pass. We talked about airplanes, airports, students, politics, and things in our personal lives. Best of all, we talked about what John is planning to do after he retires in 2027. I don’t feel as if I have the right to divulge his plans, but they involve Ireland, France, 48 states, drinking and flying (obviously not at the same time). It was truly a pleasure to meet John, and I really appreciated the engaging conversation. Sometime around 6:00, he left for a dinner date, and I set out to cover another 6 miles. 

The evening walk was actually quite beautiful. It was still steamy and hazy, but at lest the temperature had dropped. About 2 miles before reaching my destination, I was lucky enough to happen upon a paved regional trail that took me almost directly to where I wanted to end up. The sunset was beautiful, the day was pretty much in the bank, and I was already looking forward to some food and good night’s sleep. Just two tenths of a mile to go and…A giant mud hole. There was no way I could have known it would be there. It stood between me and the end of the day like a mote filled with alligators. To avoid it meant backtracking nearly 2 miles – not acceptable at the end of a long day. After inspecting it closely, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I had found a way to get through it. I took a step. Then another step. It was on the third step that my foot sunk into the mud up to my ankle. After that was nothing but swearing and a weird, sloshing running maneuaver that proved to be COMPLETELY ineffective. I’m almost positive I heard laughter from above. Or was that just my imagination?

To make things just a little worse, my planned destination fell through. I found an alternate, but it meant backtracking about a mile. Tired, sweaty and grumbling, I made my camp for the night. It was nearly 11:00 p.m. by the time I laid down to go to sleep. With heavy eyes, I looked outside the tent, and was rewarded with the most spectacular firefly display I’ve seen to this day. It appeared as if the stars had come down and were twinkiling amongst the tall grasses. I watched until I could no longer keep my eyes open. Perhaps nature felt some remorse for the challenging day it served up? I sure would like to think so…

Day 10 – Walk Without Fear, Write Without Fear

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Friday, June 9th, 6:05 a.m. –  Departed from the Emergency Operations Training Center in Minneapolis, MN.

Conditions –  Temp – 63* / Calm, increasing to 10-15 mph out of the SSE by late afternoon. /  Sky Conditions – Clear but hazy, thickening cirrus and stratocumulus clouds throughout the day. Temperature reached 82* by late afternoon.

7:20 p.m. –  Arrived at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN, 19.8 miles, 53,00 steps, 383 miles remaining.

 

The Walk through Minneapolis

I decided that for Day 10 – the part of the walk that started in northeast Minneapolis, went directly down Hennepin Avenue through downtown and ended at Minnehaha Falls – I would simply let the pictures that were taken tell the story. It was an amazing walk fueled by the energy of the city itself, the diversity of which is evident in the photographs. The images that were captured with a camera – and especially those in my mind’s eye – will be carried with me for as long as I live. I hope the collection below will give you some idea of how impactful this day was on the Walk for New Wings, and how beauty can be observed and enjoyed in so many different ways! The images are in no particular order. Have a look at them, then read on below for some observations I’ve been able to make after being on the road for 10 days, both about the logistical challenges of the walk, and my personal struggles in writing about the experience.

10 Days Worth of Observations about the Walk

Good Things, Bad Things, Disturbing Things

Good Things

  1. I have found the goodwill of people to be an amazing constant.  From little boys donating bags of change to people giving me food and supplies to people stopping me on the road to say, “Nice job!”,  everyplace I’ve gone, there’s been support for what I’m doing, and a willingness to help me in any way possible!
  2. I’m losing weight. Apparently over the course of being in college for a few years, I gained more than just knowledge…
  3. I have a new appreciation for my home, my loved ones and the many cool people in my life. I love and miss you all!

Bad Things

  1. There is an appalling amount of garbage on our roadsides. As I got closer to the Minneapolis area, the amount decreased, but was still significant. I understand that some of it is blown there by the wind, but not all. Please dispose of trash and recyclables appropriately!
  2. Pain – I came to this realization at the end of the first week: Pain is part of this experience. Deal with it, or go home.
  3. Days seldom work out as they are planned. Especially when trying to find places to sleep, the process can be, shall we say, trying…

Disturbing Things

  1. Especially in the first week of walking, a significant amount of the garbage on the side of the road was alcohol related. I was under the impression that more progress had been made about the dangers of drinking and driving! Also, I have seen hypodermic needles and those little orange caps from them in every county so far. This is not good news either.
  2. The dye in my Duluth Trading Buck Naked underwear is unstable. On those really hot days when I sweat for hours on end, my buttocks turn the color of my underwear! Should a file a complaint? Some of the colors don’t mix well…
  3. Lastly, I’ve never minded spending time by myself. However, I believe that a limit may have been reached. Not that I’m losing my mind or anything. It’s just that some of the things my mind conjures up after countless hours alone in the sun are suspect even to me! No worries. I’m working through it. Maybe I’ll get a dog…

Writing Observations

Walking 20 miles a day AND keeping up with social media and a daily blog is challenging to say the least. The blog especially is quite time consuming, and there are times when my mind is so tired or in such a state that I can’t even tell if what I’ve written is good or bad. Concerning the blog, then, I’ve come to a couple of realizations. First, aside from grammatical and spelling errors, it’s going to be what it’s going to be. While I would love to have someone go over it with a fine tooth comb, that is never going to be a reality. What I post stands, and that’s just the way it is. So again, I say to myself, deal with it, or go home.

Secondly, and more importantly, the style of writing in my blog has been slowly changing. While initially it felt more like I was “reporting” my daily occurrences, more recent editions include more introspective. I imagine there will be more of that in the future. I feel almost as if I’ve been holding back in a way, and that’s not fair to me, or anyone reading what I write. Future editions are likely to include more intimate details about my feelings and observations throughout each day, in addition to the physical trials and tribulations of the walk on a relatively personal level. I’m no superhuman. I don’t want anyone to think I am. So I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes you’re going to read about my green buttocks, and we’re both going to have to be okay with that. For my part, I do feel better for having warned you…Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9 – Adjusting to the New Dimension

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Thursday, June 8th, 9:50 a.m. –  Departed from the AmericInn Hotel in Ham Lake, MN.

Conditions –  Temp – 73* / Winds – NW at 6, remaining northwesterly throughout the day, increasing to 15 mph by late afternoon. /  Sky Conditions – Clear skies with spotty cumulus popping up towards afternoon/evening. Temperature reached 82* in the late afternoon.

9:15 p.m. –  Arrived at the Emergency Operations Training Facility (EOTF) in Minneapolis, MN, 18.6 miles, 53,100 steps, 403 miles remaining.

It’s been discussed that, when moving into an urban area like Minneapolis/St. Paul, there are noticeable changes in pace and energy. In the case this of walk, the changes in physical environment require an adaptation of traveling style as well. Traffic lights are long; road crossings can be time consuming, and eat up a bigger part of the day. Motorists move quickly and are sometimes unforgiving as well. More care must taken to safeguard one’s self, and a raised awareness of surroundings becomes critical to survival. Temperatures become more of a factor too, as concrete and asphalt absorb the heat of the sun. By late afternoon, the heat radiating up from the pavement can easily exceed 100 degrees.

The morning’s walk began quite beautifully. I was refreshed from a night in a hotel room, skies were clear, winds were light and I was excited about moving deeper into the urban environment. The plan was to get as close as possible to downtown Minneapolis, but still find a place where I could put my tent down for the night. That proved to be an interesting challenge, and it weighed on my mind as the day progressed.

There was one thing I was really excited about: no more walking on Highway 65! From Ham Lake south, it was possible to move on surface streets, making the experience a far more pleasant one. As I began moving in the soft, late morning light, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of my surroundings, although a different kind of beauty from what I ‘d been seeing. Meticulously cared for parks, parkways and green spaces seemed almost too neat and tidy, but were a great pleasure to walk through. Especially at first, I felt very much like a visitor, and took it all in as any tourist would. Its beauty, though, lulled me into a sort of false sense of security. It was too easy, and caused me to let my guard down.

Moving out of Ham Lake and into the suburb of Blaine, the landscape began to change. The rolling, tree-line parkway I’d been traveling on gave way to vast open spaces, grid-like street patterns and a more industrialized area. That change was accompanied by the disappearance of sidewalks, and finding a suitably safe route became more and more challenging. My initial destination was the Anoka County – Blaine Airport, and the roads I had chosen to travel on to get there left me with little choice but to move across grass boulevards, making the task of pulling the trailer a much more difficult one. By the time I ‘d covered the 7 miles to the airport, it was early afternoon, the day was heating up, and a break was definitely in order.

It was at this point – arriving at the the Anoka County – Blaine Airport – that I found myself really struggling to maintain an optimistic attitude. I was missing my home, my cat, and most of all, Jill and our two daughters. I began realizing how much I sometimes take for granted at our beautiful home in Duluth, and how much I was longing for its comforts. It was also the in between day. I knew that Friday – the next day – I would be seeing Jill, have a few days off to play in Minneapolis, and be able to recharge my personal batteries a bit. For the moment, though, things were looking pretty grim, and pulling myself up and out of it wasn’t an easy task. There’d been no uplifting moments in my day, and things I was trying accomplish just weren’t being realized. In the end, I did the only thing I really could: put one foot in front of another, and believe that things were going to improve in the very near future.

To get to the Anoka County – Blaine Airport, I had diverted somewhat to the east of the natural route into downtown Minneapolis. The next part of my journey was planned to follow the Mississippi River directly into the downtown area, so I began backtracking to the west to meet the river and the Mississippi River Regional Trail Corridor that follows it. Even though I’d made attempts to secure a place to be for the night, I’d had no luck, and that was definitely not helping my mood. Walking to the west also meant walking directly into the baking afternoon sun, and I could think of little else but to get into the shade of the beautiful, mature hardwood trees lining the Mississippi River and my route to the south. Reaching them helped me to smile, and as evening fell and the day cooled, my mood began to  improve.

One of the best parts about summer is that, as daylight turns to twilight and the intensity of the day fades, the evening world begins coming alive. A sort of “second wind” in a summer day’s routine, it is especially noticeable in an urban environment. People come out to play and socialize, nightlife comes alive and a different type of electricity is in the air. Revitalized with that energy, my journey south along the river continued. Even though I was within 65 blocks or so of downtown Minneapolis, I still didn’t no where my landing spot for the night would be. Somehow, though, it mattered less. Enjoying the beautiful evening became the highest priority.

Taking a break around 7:00 p.m. at the Islands of Peace Regional Park just north of Hwy 694, I evaluated my options. There wasn’t going to be any sort of campground or legitimate place for me to set up a tent, so creativity was once again going to be in order. I knew there were places along the river where a tent could be “hidden” in the woods, but I wasn’t crazy about the implications of doing so. As the area along the river is relatively industrial, my hope was that I might find a business that would let me stay on a small patch of grass for the night. At the very least, it would be safe.

Occupying many blocks between the river and the paved trail I was walking on was Minneapolis Waterworks property. Peering through the fence that separated it from the trail, all kinds waterworks equipment and infrastructure could be seen. I couldn’t help but think that, if only there was a way to get on the other side of that fence, there may be the possibility of talking to someone about staying there. Then, without warning, the scene beyond the fence began to change. Waterworks equipment was replaced with fire fighting equipment, and almost immediately, I recognized what I was looking at.

As a truck driving instructor at Lake Superior College in Duluth, MN, I had worked out of the Emergency Response Training Center (ERTC) in Fond du Lac. What I was seeing through the fence was all too familiar. This was a firefighter training facility of some kind! A fenced and gated facility, I again thought to myself what a wonderfully safe place it would be to spend the night f I could just get through the gate and talk to someone. I learned a lot about the goodwill of firefighters working with them at the ERTC, and felt confident they would help me out once I explained what I was doing. My paced quickened in anticipation of what I might find when arriving at the entrance.

Turning the corner on 37th Street N.E., I saw it: an open gate at the entrance of the Emergency Operations Training Facility (EOTF). In the parking lot just inside the gate were several cars; the building was lit and looked open. Things were looking up. I shot across the parking lot to the main entrance and tried the front door. Open. All I needed to do was find someone to talk to in order to secure my lodging for the night. Therein lied the problem. There was no one to talk to. I walked the entire building and facility looking for any sign of life, and found none. The place was deserted…

I found myself with an interesting dilemma. It was already after 9:00 p.m. There wan’t going to be any better place around than the EOTF, and I was sure if they knew my story, staying there would be no problem. On the other hand, I didn’t want to put my tent down, only to have someone wake me in the middle of the night, or worse yet, come and close the gate, trapping me in the facility. After careful consideration, I decided to put down my tent in an out of sight place, in hopes that the gate would still be open in the morning. I set an alarm to wake up before sunrise, and slept a difficult and fitful sleep due to the large, loud railroad switching yard just across East River Road, and my worry about being able to get out in the morning.

At 6:00 a.m. the following morning, I walked back out of the open gate. To my knowledge, no one ever came to the facility, except for the young firefighter coming in through the gate as I was walking out. He had the most confused look on his face. Someday, I will explain… For the time being though, it will remain something of a mystery to both of us, and I will be adding the EOTF to my list of places and people to thank who have no idea that they’ve done so. It was an interesting end to a not so great day. Quite comical in a way. One can just never know what will happen next…