Day 20 – The Reluctant Restart

Uncategorized No Comments »

Sunday, July 2nd, 4:00 p.m. – Departed from Max Conrad Airport in Winona, Minnesota.

The Atmosphere’s Mood


Afternoon/Evening Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 79* / Wind – N at 5 mph / Skies – Clear.

9:00 p.m. – Arrived at Perrot State Park near Trempealeau, Wisconsin, 15.0 miles, 38,400 steps, 202miles remaining.

Highs of the Day

  • Restarting after the Break – After taking a week off to give my body some much needed rest, the idea of getting back out there again was exciting. The adventurous spirit is live and well, and continues to push me to GET OUT THERE AND DO!
  • The Day with Jill – We haven’t had a lot of time together for the past month. We got to camp together for a night, and then spend almost an entire day together. We had breakfast at the Golden Frog in Fountain City (and a Bloody Mary for me), drove around and checked out some neighboring towns, and got to see a couple of State Parks. It was awesome! 
  • Perrot State Park – Before Jill left for the day, we went down to Perrot State Park to check it out and see if we could get me a campsite. We were successful, and that really took a lot of pressure out of the day for me. Not knowing where the day is going to end can be stressful, and sometimes doesn’t end well. We also found the park to be quite beautiful. Set amongst the bluffs adjacent to the Mississippi River, its fields of wildflowers, Black Walnut trees and variety of birds and waterfowl made it a place I looked forward to staying at. Both Jill and I are hoping to return there.

Lows of the Day

  • Restating after a Break – Yes, it was a pro and a con. The adventurous part of me wanted to GO. The rest of me just wanted to go home. It can be a tricky balance at times, and was particularly difficult on this day. I had enjoyed my week off at home, and wouldn’t have minded going back there at all. Soon…
  • Saying Goodbye – Both Jill and I really struggled with saying goodbye. We’ve been doing it a lot lately, and it just keeps getting harder. I have no choice but to think of that as a good thing. I can’t wait until we can spend enough time together again to be sick of one another…:-)

Lessons Learned – Like anything else in life, there are pros and cons to consider when embarking on an adventure such as this. While it’s a lot of fun and there are so many things to see and people to meet, missing home and the people I love is part of it too. A big part. Especially today, that part was quite a struggle.

The Flight Home, The Week to Relax

Uncategorized No Comments »

Tuesday, June 23rd, 7:05 a.m. –  Departed from the Max Conrad Municipal Airport in Winona, Minnesota in N9407H ( a Cessna 172).

The Atmosphere’s Mood

Morning Conditions – Temp – 57* with low humidity / Wind – NW at 3 mph / Skies – Clear with ground fog persisting in the valleys.

Arrival Conditions – Temp – Reached a high of 63* / Wind – WNW 11  mph, gusting to 20 / Skies – Clear at the airport, but low cumulus clouds and light showers were immediately to the northwest of the airfield and approaching rapidly.

8:32 a.m. – Arrived at the Burnett County Airport near Siren, Wisconsin, 108 nautical miles (124 statute miles), very few steps required. 🙂

The Week’s Highs – 

  • The Flight with Paul Foster – I really enjoy flying with Paul. Always have. We fly as a crew, and make sure to watch out for one another so that both of us get to live to fly another day. Flying isn’t as dangerous as most people believe it is. Being safe in an aircraft is all about mindset and preparedness. This was Paul’s flight, and he managed the flight planning, decision making and the flight itself with skill and expertise. I got to look out the window a lot. That was a really good thing. Thank you Paul…
  • Jill – When Paul and I taxied up to the Burnett County ramp, Jill was sitting at a picnic table waiting for us. There are no words to describe how I felt in my heart when I saw her. My Love…
  • The Wedding – On this same day, we attended the wedding of some friends at Superior Shores just outside of Two Harbors. It was a beautiful, outdoor wedding on the shore of Lake Superior. It and the activities that followed were really fun, and exactly what both Jill and I needed. Congratulations Jake and Caralyn!
  • Home – There is nothing quite like the feeling of coming home after and extended absence. It’s just so easy to appreciate even the simplest of things! The cat, the couch, the porch with the view of the park and the harbor; all of these things can so easily be taken for granted. We live in such a beautiful place! Returning home served as a pleasant reminder of that fact. 🙂
  • Variety of Activities – I got to do a lot of things during the week I was home. Besides the usual catching up on laundry and getting things ready to go again, I got to do a ton of gardening, got the kayak in the water, and took a cool bicycle ride or two. I also accomplished some long awaited repairs on my old motorcycle, and took that out for a few rides too. I went out with some friends from college (Good luck, Ali. You’re gonna do great!), and got to see some old friends as well. AND, I got to fly again. It was just a quick currency flight, but the skies were most spectacular that morning. I couldn’t have asked for a better week, except for…

The Week’s  Lows – 

  • Jill is in Cape Cod – Jill and I sort of changed places this week. She was in Cape Cod for the entire week while I was at home watching the house and the cat. While the week was fun and relaxing, it would have been way more fun if Jill had been here too.
  • The week went so quickly! – Today is Saturday, the end of my week off. It’s been such a busy week that it feels like I just got here! On a positive note, I caught up on my sleep, got some much needed home and cat time, and am thankful for every moment spent in our home on the hillside. It was just the recharge I needed!

Lessons Learned – Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. Yeah, I know. It’s not an original or earth-shattering revelation. It is, however, something that I’ve felt pretty strongly about throughout this past week.

Day 19 – Time Travel with Kayla

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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

Uncategorized No Comments »

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…