Monday, May 27, 2013

Everything Changes....

I like to try the impossible. Not saying I succeed, I just like to give it a try. Maybe it's the idea of conquering something... whatever it is, often times when I start a project I have to add obstacles to make it more of a challenge; more difficult.  Like for example, I'm already walking across America but I decided to register for school online to do while on the road. I also wanted to run across Colorado and the route I choose would take me straight through the desert and over the Rockies.... I know what your thinking, "seriously?" Well it seems none of that is going to work out... and I'm pretty bummed out about it.

Let me back up a bit. Early Friday morning I walked into Price Utah from Helper. It's a short walk just about 7miles. As we were pullin in I was stopped by a group of people who were standing outside. We chatted it up and took pictures together for about half an hour. During that time a guy (I like to call him farmer James... but its more like inventor James) that had seen us waking the day before through the canyon stopped and brought some food for Leeroy. He mentioned that he lives in Wellington which is just past Price and that if we needed anything I could call him. So I got his number and fully planned on using it. 

Now let me tell you about James. He was born and raised in Price (from what I can tell), married, has 3 boys and owned a few businesses. He recently sold them and at the age of 32 has developed a wireless technology that is made for underground minors so they can use cell phones underground. He seems like a guy that would fit in really well in Portland. His fashion and his way of thinking or life. James was a great host and he is great with his kids. A very gentle hearted guy. I enjoy being around him.

Back to the story, so Saturday night we are all siting around a bond fire, just hanging out and getting to know each other (telling stories and what not). When (as always with me) the conversation turned to one of faith and God. The mood instantly changed and our light hearted conversation turned serious. Talking about faith usually isn't the issue, It's when you disagree that the air gets tense.

So James says "I think it all works out in the end man. It all balances out...Like what the buddhists believe...we do some good and some evil... just try and do more good." He takes a drag of his cigar as he looks up at the night sky and stares at the full moon. I respond with, "it doesn't work like that man." I take the last drag of my cigar and then flick the rest into the fire. In my head I'm thinking here we go, I know this is the turning point of the conversation. James looks at me and I can see the hint of joy in his eyes...He loves to debate! James raises his hand as if to point at me and says with a seriousness in his voice, "Steve man, look at what you're doing" (I have had this used on me a few times in past debates). I quickly respond with "Just because I am trying to help orphans in Africa doesn't erase all the bad things I've done or balance out my wrongs in some way."

He bends down and picks up a handful of rocks with his left hand while holding his right hand up and away so he doesn't burn himself with the cigar in case some ash fell. He tells me to put my hands out and as I lean towards him in my chair he pours a few rocks in my left hand and says "that's your mistakes." And then pours the rest into my right hand and says "that's the things you have done right, it will all balance out."

 I start sharing with him all the mistakes I have made in the past. How I was more or less a womanizer and everything else I've done. My point was that this project or the good I do doesn't balance that stuff out. And just as I was going to go for the "home run" and break out the bible verses I've been really going over the last week, he stood up and says he has to go pee. It seems like the last few times I've been in these debates something happens right before I get to the good part!

When he returned the conversation turned. We talked about the rest of my route to Denver. I thought that I would try and bring the convo back around when the moment was right. I was about to walk in to 150 miles of pure desert and James had a lot to say about what was ahead but I didn't really listen at first. I said I would deal with it as it came... I'll find a way. But he was persistent and got me worried. Not just about the desert but about what came after the desert. The Roosevelt tunnel was about 2 miles long and there was no where for Leeroy and I to walk  through and getting around it would add a ton of miles. I said I'll figure it out. He said once I was past that, there is about a ten mile stretch with no shoulder that's right on the side of a cliff. Not to mention making it to Vail. The highest pass I would have to cross. At 12000 feet it would still have snow on it! Again I said stubbornly, I can beat all that I'll figure it out. But all that lingered in my head. He kept mentioning high way 40 and how great it was, easy, lots of food and water for both Leeroy and I. As the night ended and we made plans to have another bond fire the next night. 

The next day I took a ride out through the desert and was trying to come up with a plan. I got worried not for me but for LeeRoy. I needed to figure out food. The landscape literally turned into just dirt. I got back to Price and thought about all the possible ways to do this. I got on the phone and talked to a few different people. The best idea was to go ahead, bury food and water for us both about every 30 miles. I was stoked! I had a plan! I want to try the impossible...
To be continued....

Friday, May 24, 2013

Am I going crazy?

If you haven't driven on highway 6 from Soldier Summit to Price Utah, its something you have to experience! Personally I love the city, that's no secret. I love the business of it all... people everywhere, apartment buildings, sky raises that seem to touch the sky....But something happened yesterday… I found a new joy. I don't even think joy is the right word. I found a new love! There was this moment... I was walking around 4 miles past the Summit when I hit a stretch of flat road. At about the middle I could see several miles in every direction. The sky was perfect blue with out a cloud to be seen. The sun hung high in the air but the air was crisp and cold. Felt like a tug-of-war between the heat of the sun and the cold of the air on my skin. There were no cars in sight and I had a moment when I felt like I was the only person on earth; absolutely alone but not afraid. It was totally quite and peaceful. It had a majestic feeling to it. All I could hear was the sound of my shoes shuffling acrossed the rocks that coverd the edge of the road. Along with the pitter patter of Leeroy's hoofs hitting the asphalt. I stopped and just took in the moment. Something has changed in me…. this is the first time I have ever truly enjoyed the outdoors.

The next few miles I thought about how I used to love being at a spot in the city, drinking coffee, people watching and just feeling the energy around me. I truly love the city life and honestly hated spending time in the "Great Outdoors". But I found this new affection for being out in the middle of nowhere. There's no flashing lights, no people, no business... It was perfect!

One of the things that I enjoy doing while walking this time around is listening to audio books. I'm currently listening to "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand. It is awesome! I put my body on auto pilot and drift into the story. Speaking of stories, here's one for you….

Often times as I'm walking I spend time praying for my friends, my family, the Uzima staff and kids, for Leeroy and for this entire project in general. Here's where it gets funny. As I'm walking yesterday I started praying for a couple who are going through a difficult time. She's condescending and belittles her husband while he looks for reasons to stay longer at work and not come home. I was praying that their relationship would be restored and that they would develop an understanding for each other when I realized…. that this couple are actually two characters from the book I'm listening to. THEY'RE NOT REAL!!! I was confused and in shock that I started praying for people that technically don't exist.  I promptly ended the prayer with an "Amen" while laughing to myself. Am I going crazy?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Back at it, round 2....

Part 2 of the walk and its been a rough start. As always things didn't go as I had planned. I was suppose to leave May 2nd as I did last year but its May 22nd and I just finished my second day of walking. I'm currently on top of Soldier Summit in Utah sitting at a gas station feeling physically drained. I had no idea the altitude here would affect me as it has. I'm having a hard time breathing, massive headache, nausea, slight dizziness and just feeling weak. I had a hard time sleeping last night cause I kept waking up feeling like I was suffocating. Combine that with a really bad sunburn and it just hasn't been a good start. Yet with all that physical stuff I  have a new sense of confidence in the remainder of the walk. I feel like I own this road… like I've built it myself. Its so odd but I feel home again. No longer feeling like I'm racing against the clock or like there's pressure for me to get to the end. More or less I feel like I have the freedom to enjoy the journey this time around.

Some really cool things have happened getting from Seattle to Utah. One of the more memorable was when I stood on the corner of a freeway on ramp with Leeroy and a sign asking to hitch a ride to Utah. Within 20minutes the Portland news crew showed up wanting to know what I was up to. Its been a while since my last interview and I definitely wasn't expecting them to show up when they did. I felt a little rusty and don't think I did a good job. After the interview people started taking pictures with their phones ( as usual) and donating to the cause. To me that's when it officially started again.

I found out later that day that a man who was walking from Seattle to Brazil while dribbling a soccer ball was struck by a car and killed along the Oregon coast. He'd been walking for two weeks and just made it to Lincoln City when his journey ended. It was a really hard thing to find out about having had walked over 1500 miles myself. We walked almost the same route through Washington and it was a sobering reminder of how dangerous the roads are. I couldn't stop thinking about his story…  I went on his website wanting to know more. It was an eerie feeling seeing that he had just posted a YouTube video an hour before the accident had happened. I had so many people calling/ texting telling me that they were worried about my safety. 

I ended up hitching a ride with my old youth pastor who happened to be driving through Portland back to Bend and then on to Ontario. I spoke at his church last year while walking through Oregon and ended up speaking again at the youth service that Wednesday evening. I love to share, inspire, and encourage the young people to step outside of themselves and get involved in the world around them. Friday we drove to Ontario and I got picked up by my friend Mary whom I met last year in Redmond. She moved to Boise for college and volunteered to pick us up and take us to my friend Noah's house. Noah used to be my roommate back in the day when we lived in Spokane. After a few days hanging out with him and his family, Mary drove me on to Utah where I left off on my journey last winter.
It was extremely odd getting dropped off at the same spot again. I left there feeling defeated and a little disappointed in myself. It was not how I thought this would go, but I'm back for more. I would like to add "and this time I'm ready" but I don't think you can ever be fully ready for what happens when you walk across America with a goat.