Our days off the trail in Athens were pretty packed, so we took a day off in Millfield, OH to catch up on some homework. We hunkered down in our good friend O.J.’s place where we could sit down and compile an application for an artist residency after the Walk. With deadlines looming, it was nice to not have to orchestrate it from a tent. We also got to enjoy the company of O.J.’s new wife, Angela, and his charming stepson, Ian. Thanks for the hospitality, O.J.!
Back on the road, we were overwhelmed with love and support walking through The Plains! So many people had seen us in the Athens News the day before, and offered us encouragement along the roadside. Moving out of The Plains, we picked up the Bike path that runs from Athens to Nelsonville.
I got to see a little bit of Athens County that I had never seen that day. Avoiding Route 33, we wandered up into the hills surrounding Nelsonville and walked slowly, enjoying a break in the rain in our favorite county. The next morning, we set out to make Logan. Just a mile into the day, we spotted a little coffee oasis out in a gravel lot. The man inside, David, treated us to coffee and spirited conversation.
We talked of politics and personal freedom, the secrets of success, and priorities in life. People ask him why he has this little coffee stand in the middle of nowhere – “You’ve GOT to be losing money!” – but he says it’s his office, where he gets the most work done. He works on other projects and reads while he sits in his coffee house, and gets to meet people from all walks of life. “I can see the whole world from this place,” he said, gesturing across the expanse of gravel to the little country road on the other side. David had a lot of good advice on the practice of living while you’re alive. Of the government and taxes, he said, “They can waste my money, so long as they don’t waste my time. Life is short, and all the money in the world won’t buy you another second.”
As we approached Logan, we were able to grab lunch with Stephanie, the heart and soul of Camelot Puppy Sanctuary, a no-kill animal rescue in McArthur, Ohio. Grace and Max were both adopted from Camelot, and Logan was about the closest we would get to walking by. Stephanie does amazing work with her animals, training and socializing them on her 40-acre farm property. Stephanie has known Grace for years, and it was good to hear her confirm that Grace and Max are in amazing shape, and Grace is as slow and deliberate as ever. She left us with homemade raw meat snacks of chicken livers and turkey – for the dogs.
Stephanie pumped us up with her unfailing positive outlook. She even told me a bit about Max’s origin story, and that the woman who pulled him from the euthanize list knows about our Walk. Hopefully, we will get in touch so I can thank her for saving my silly little dog. He spreads a lot of love in the world.
Our first brush with the law came later that day. Approaching Lancaster, our Google walking directions told us to take a 4-mile walk down the shoulder of Route 33. A local even told us that it was allowed to walk on that section, so we decided to go for it. No signs prohibiting pedestrians marked the on-ramps. The shoulder was wide and paved, offering us ample visibility and distance from the traffic. After 2 miles, a cruiser drove by – we waved, as we always do – and they slowed down fast. Speeding backwards down the shoulder to catch up to us, they summoned us to the car with a “whoop” of the siren.
“Uh, where are you headed?” asked the officer.
“Today? Lancaster. My wife and I are walking all the way to San Francisco.”
“Not on Route 33, you’re not.”
We were informed that we were mistaken to think we could walk on 33. We were directed to exit the roadway at the next gas station, and figure our new route out from there. Needless to say, we complied. A little study of the map and we had a solution, but it got late before we reached Lancaster, so we called ahead for our host to pick us up. In Lancaster, we had the pleasure of staying with our good friend Jon Slater the Third’s parents, Jon and Melody Slater. In a home where the kids have all gone off to college and the life beyond Lancaster, we were a welcome change of pace. Serendipitously, we got to spend Jon the Third’s birthday with his parents – while he was a country away, in San Francisco. It was as close as we could be to spending it with him.
Our visit was a welcome opportunity to get to know the extended family of our dear friend. They even joined us for a walk out of Lancaster, and left us feeling that we now knew Jon the Third a little better. Before we left Lancaster, we stopped into family-owned Slater’s Hardware for a look around. They have everything from key-cutting to custom-made weights for competitive lifting.
We moved on through rain and mist, down the original carriage road that runs between Lancaster and Columbus. Although it has a modern blacktop surface now, the stone and timber homes lining the path speak of the historic significance of a strip of packed dirt. Coming into the quaint haven of Lithopolis, we happened upon a strange structure, overgrown and seemingly abandoned. The walls were made of re-purposed aluminum cans and tires, held together by cement mortar.
As the wave of giddiness subsided, a car drove past us with a person hanging out the passenger window. “Damn Hippies!” came the call – followed by a big smile. Hank, another friendly face from our college years, had just returned from traveling abroad and was on a road he never drives, when he spotted us making our way down the shoulder. We caught up, exchanged some inspiration, and made plans to meet up in Columbus.
Finally, we made our way into Columbus. Yet again, the contrast and steady shift from rural landscape to industrial, inhospitable expanses of broken concrete was startling. The air quality changed, the environment became harder to navigate on foot,and the smiling drivers disappeared, replaced by scowling people who seemed trapped in their cars. We walked up through the southeast quadrant of Franklin county, toward German village and a friendly house.
The city’s got me down a bit. Time for some pet therapy.