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Fears, Ferries, and New Friends




How to Walk Across a Continent—a poem


“Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to walk across the United States?”


This Step (the hardest)

This step

This step

This step

This step

This step

This step

This step

This step

This step


“Hey, remember that time we walked across the United States?”


That’s how it sometimes feels as we suddenly realize that we are about halfway across the country and it seems like we just left.

It’s been three months and a week since we left the Atlantic and then yesterday crossed the Mississippi!

***


I can’t recall which of podcaster Rich Roll’s hard-ass guests said this, but it really rings true when you’re thinking about pulling the plug on your life and heading off in an entirely new direction, so I’ll share it anyway.

“That’s the definition of courage: to be scared but to go out and do the fucking thing anyway.”


He also talked about the concept of PTG, or post-traumatic growth as a response to PTSD.

We all know that humans are resistant to change until exposed to pain—physical or emotional. But, have fate throw a little heart attack, a divorce, our way, and oh boy, are we ready and willing to make some big changes!

So, PTG is an opportunity for us to respond to pain in positive, life-affirming ways.


Julie has had a rough past couple of years. Lung cancer (successful surgery and great prognosis,) the death of one of her closest friends, and the inability to do what she has been called to do for the past decade or more, go to Haiti and run medical clinics, due to the horrible gang violence.

And, all this while working in a Level One Trauma ER during Covid.

When we hatched this plan to walk the country hoping to make even the tiniest dent in the number of overdose deaths, we had hoped that she could come back to her job this winter. But her leave of absence was denied at the last minute and she chose to resign.

It took a lot of courage for her to “just go out and do the fucking thing anyway.”


(Here comes mom and Mooka!)


So, here we are walking and talking. And of course she’s healing. Nothing like 3 hours/day outside, walking under the sun, dealing with wind, hills, heat, and cold to set the spirit straight.


(A BRRRRRR! day)

***


A couple of days ago, I walked the last miles to The River. Julie met me a block from the water, as per "new state protocol," so we could do it together. We did it together and I asked a couple of ladies who were walking down the adjacent dock if they would take our photograph. They were happy to do it and then we all continued on our paths in life…which, coincidentally, led us all to the same bar across the street, where we wanted to make a rare public house appearance for a celebratory beer.

Kary came over to our table just as a terrific downpour struck the river town. “I see you guys aren’t walking!” she joked.

We got to talking about our “mission” and she told us that she is a pharmacy tech by night, and a middle school teacher by day.

Whoa! Now, that’s a hard-workin’ gal.

She had some stories about ambulances that didn’t carry Narcan and a young man who died as a result. And then she said, “I just have to tell you. When you saw us on the dock a little bit ago, I was scattering my brother’s ashes into the river. He died in Georgia and his wish was to be brought back to the Mississippi. So, April and I came down tonight to fulfill Claude’s wish.”

Boy, I felt like a real heal interrupting their ceremony to ask her to take our dumb picture. But she didn’t seem to mind.

We are all witnesses to one another’s ceremonies in each encounter.


(April, Julie, and Kary celebrating and commemorating at the Mississippi River)


***

We’ve renamed the Dog-formerly-known-as-Giizhik “Mooka’an.”

Sunrise.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Eastern time, Central, Daylight Savings… she is there at my side of the bed nosing at me, staring, and, if necessary (and it often is necessary) putting her front paws up on my hip, fifteen minutes before sunrise.

Usually I just roll out and walk around with her, watching the light gain strength in the east. It’s not so bad, even though I’ve never referred to myself as a “morning person.”

This morning I elbowed Julie and muttered, “You wanna do the honors?”

She is always game, but I hate to wake her up from her dreaming; she’s an excellent sleeper. She clambered over me and staggered out into the dawn chill, and I pulled the quilt over my head with just a tiny bit of guilt.

So, Mooka it is. Mooka’an Giizhik Skoden St. Marie Bev Koski


***

The KATY Trail is the roadbed of the former Kansas-Texas Railroad, which was just called the KATY for short.

I’m here to tell you that Missouri does a hell of a job with this trail. It’s part of their Missouri State Park system. So, it’s actually a 240 mile long state park, with all the rules, but none of the entry fees, etc. And, unfortunately, no camping. But, there are hostels, BnB’s, campgrounds, cafes, breweries, and wineries all along the trail... a symbiotic relationship. Bikers and hikers need to drink, eat and sleep; these sleepy little prairie villages need the business.

It would be awesome if every state had an east/west and north/south version of the Katy Trail!




My Missouri book is Jane Smiley’s “1000 Acres.” As ‘in-between’ books I’ve plowed through three of Richard Wagamese's books, “One Story, One Song,” “Embers,” and his novel “Dream Wheel.” Also, Ken Burn’s “Lewis and Clark,” since we are following their path for a couple hundred miles.



We are within a few inches of being halfway across the country, and the mornings are getting pretty crispy. Campgrounds are starting to circle the wagons. The soybean and corn harvests are wrapping up. There are still crickets out there; I can hear them now.

We're continuing to tweak the route as we edge away from the highest mountains looming ahead and thinking that far southern Colorado and northern New Mexico/Arizona will be about as much cold as we can risk.

But we're making good time lately--20-30 miles per day and feeling no pain.

We are at 1711 miles per my calculations.


We've gotten a little bit of media attention this past month with an interview with WITP Community Radio 91.7 Grand Marais Thanks, Staci Lola Drouillard! https://wtip.org/features/walk-for-the-love-a-walk-across-america/

The Duluth News-Tribune is also going to run a story in the next week (we will post a link on social media of course.)


Here are a few snapshots of pretty things and more of the awesome people we've bumped into.

Keep moving and breathing, and feel free to drive over/up/down and walk a few miles with us!



(Lovely!)

(First sunset over the Missouri River)

(Alex setting up the grub table for a cycling tour he was workin' and gave me some tips.)

(Luke and Michelle seem swell!)

(Make up your mind Meriweather!)

(Diane, Robby, and Gary from Kansas adding another rails-to-trails to their resume')

(It's no Lutsen maple ridge, but there is some fall color)

(Oh...did I mention that this is a "plant-powered" walk? No? Well, have a seat...)

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5 Comments


billkoski
Nov 10, 2023

You guys are doing great. I’m so proud of you.! It is very sad about the families who are living in such poverty.

For some reason, I don’t think you’re ever going to forget that beagle😃

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marcotgood
Oct 22, 2023

Rick and Rosie Novitsky just linked me up with your blog, after a fine musical evening to celebrate Rick’s birthday. Thank you both for doing such good work, and for sharing it with us all. Marco Good, Grand Marais.

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james.manley
Oct 19, 2023

At the present moment, everything is very bright when thinking of you. Your posts are thoughtful reads with a cadence and patience relationship on our delicate planet. The light is at a certain angle where volcanic grains of sand, soil and tiny plants are shining gloriously. The hot weather continues on The CO Plateau. 41F in the morning and close to 80 during the day. KUYI Hopi forecast shares a snowy and cold winter maybe approaching so walk on (listen to the U2 song called "Walk On" really loud). I must retreat to rest after a long night of harvesting my medicine. I love the book surprise sent to Tempe. Many speak of lifting a veil without realizing how bli…

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shirleen.hieb
Oct 19, 2023

Thank you for your update!!! I’m thrilled for your experiences. Life is so wonderful when we keep our eyes open ❤️

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peacelovehaiti
Oct 19, 2023
Replying to

Thanks, Shirleen! Nice to know peeps are out there. Say hi to Mike!

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