What I learned in 9 miles

The walk was incredibly valuable as a learning experience. First and foremost, I am addicted to walking. I really did just want to get up and do it again the next day. I like having a plan and a mission and then completing it.

As we have been told, your plans and routes will change. You have to be prepared to think on your feet and make decisions when unexpected circumstances arise. There were many decisions, like walking a closed road or crossing a scary bridge, that had to be made, even in the short distance of 9 miles.

I learned that not everywhere you need to walk has sidewalks. You just have to make the best decisions you can as they arise. Be too cautious and you may end up walking 5 or even 10 miles out of your way, time that cannot really afford to be lost cross-country. However, if you aren’t cautious enough, you may may delay or even end your trek.

Water is key. It is AMAZING how much water you go through, especially with two people and four dogs. I have been told over and over again, water is the most important thing day to day. You always have to know where and how to get it, and you go through lots of it. Now I understand in a way that couldn’t be explained. We were grateful for gas stations and their ever-present coolers of water. I carried 2 liters and we (Max, Grace and I) used all of it. We had just enough for the day, but we could have easily used more.

Smart phones are very useful. The photos in the previous post are courtesy of my cell phone, sent via cell phone email. Its amazing what can be done with technology these days. I am slow to use, much less embrace, the constant “improvement” and updating in the technological world. However, I have found my cell phone and its capabilities surprisingly useful. 25 is probably too young to be this resistant to technology, and so I wage forward for the sake of my blog (still strange to me) and our walk across America.

The walking instructions from GoogleMaps aren’t too bad, though I think its fair to say that you don’t really know what you’re in for. If there aren’t sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly roads, GoogleMaps won’t hesitate to send you on a state route with a 55 mph speed limit or a highway on ramp. All that seems to be a guarantee is that there will be a road of some kind.

I love my Vibram FiveFingers and still hope to walk across the country in them. Nine miles and not a rub, blister, roll, or sprain. It feels good to really use my feet the way we are meant to. They also make me feel closer to the dogs. I am much more aware of the temperature of the surface we’re on and how the terrain feels on their feet. We plan to carry boots for them, but we don’t plan to use them all the time.

Walking on the road is HOT. Hiking 9 miles in the woods and trekking 9 miles on a sidewalk or street are two very different things. Your body (and the dog’s bodies) are absorbing all of the shock. There isn’t much cover from the elements on the road. Most trees were cleared when the road was constructed and the sun really takes it out of you. Cover, sunblock and water are that much more important. Concrete also gets very hot in the sun and reflects that heat back up at you. I believe this affects the dogs more than the people considering how much more of their bodies, specifically their bellies, are exposed to it. The road dirt also made an impact on me. Cars and roads are filthy and it leaves a layer of road grime on your skin. It is not the kindest of environments and should be prepared for as if you’re walking into a desert.

The dogs are out of shape. This makes sense as they have only been doing 2-6 miles a day recently, and not all at one time. Like John and I, Max and Grace have gotten a little lazy through the honeymoon phase and seem to have just gotten the memo about our walk next year. They managed the walk well with a water and rest break every 2 miles, but they were both wiped when we were finished. Max was back to his normal, ready-to-go self the next day, but Grace seemed to feel entitlement to a day off. Neither seemed stiff or sore the next day and none of their foot pads looked any worse for the wear.

I have no concerns about Max. He is good to go. Grace, notoriously lazy by nature, will only expend as much energy as is absolutely necessary. We’ll just have to keep working with her, watch, and see. I am confident that she had more go than most would give her credit for. Still, I am grateful for the support vehicle. Even if she ends up being a 10-mile-a day-dog, we won’t have to leave her behind. Although I do worry about the pampering feeding her princess complex…

I am out of shape. 9 miles is less than a 1/2 day if we plan to do 20 miles a day and I was ready to be finished. I shouldn’t just be walking, I should be jogging, lifting, doing push-ups, etc. It is time for this skinny little girl to transform herself into a machine.

Food and beer are the perfect reward at the end of a long day on the road and they taste twice as good when properly earned.

Looking forward to our next route, from the Highlands to John’s parents home in Prospect, KY. The distance is about 10.5 miles. We’re working up to 20 miles, rung by rung.

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One Response to What I learned in 9 miles

  1. Matt says:

    Well written! Even I’m getting excited now!

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