Taking A Walk

Walking Down US Highway 11 – Winchester, Virginia to Louisiana

Taking A Walk header image 1

Done Any More Walking?

June 7th, 2011 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

People ask me the title question. This is short for

Have you done any more walking?

Similar question I am asked are

Are you still walking?

When you going walking again?

The answer is always the same,

No (with a smile)

Walking from Reston, Virginia down to Louisiana was fun – a lot of fun. I would like to walk US route 51 from New Orleans to Chicago. I would like to walk US route 50 from the coast of Maryland to California (3,000 miles). The 3,000-mile walk would take about six months and cost some $20,000. I suppose I could do that. But, I’ve done a long walk, so maybe I should try to do something else instead.

→ No CommentsTags: Observations

Natural Bridge (Virginia)

January 15th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Sometimes you are right at something, but you cannot see it. Then you tell people that the thing isn’t there. Then you learn later that you were standing on it. Then, well I don’t know what happens then.

Such is Natural Bridge in Rockbridge County Virginia (the county is of course named after the rock bridge). Here come the links.

Wikipedia’s page on the Natural Bridge has several excellent photos taken from below. One of the “photos” is from a painting in the 1800s. The text of the article states that Route 11 runs on top of the bridge. I walked on Route 11 right there. I didn’t see anything except a big wooden fence that blocks the view of everything. I edited the Wikipedia page so that it no longer claimed that Route 11 passes on the bridge. Someone changed it back the next day. They were right; I was wrong.

Well, I went back to look at aerial photos of the place. This site gives the best aerial photo I could find (Virginia Home Town Locator). Wait a minute! The creek that shows up in all the photos of the bridge does seem to go right under Route 11.

Then I zoomed in on this photo from Natural Bridge taken in 2005. It was taken at a time of year when most of the leaves are gone from the trees. (Click on the photo on this page, then click again to continue to zoom in.) At the top of the photo, on the right end of the bridge are road signs. To the left end of the bridge is a big wooden fence. Those things aren’t visible in the other photos that were taken when the trees were covered with leaves.

But there it is. The big wooden fence that I saw on Route 11 while walking. I was standing on Natural Bridge the whole time. I couldn’t see it because I was looking for it to be off in the distance. As the saying goes,

it was right under my nose

I cannot believe it. Well, you learn something new everyday. Sometimes that something new comes 18 months after you did it.

→ No CommentsTags: Rockbridge County · Virginia

The Evening Checklist

January 14th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

While looking at different things I used while taking a walk, I found a little file on the desktop of my computer called “Checklist.txt.” I created this early in the walk and used it often to help myself remember to do things each evening. I was, after all, a bit tired each evening and likely to forget something for a day or three. Items on my evening checklist (there are 17 things on this list. Wow, that was a lot of little things to do every evening.):

E-mail – Check my gmail account for incoming mail.

Twitter – Look to see what was being tweeted.

Facebook – Were any of my friends talking to me?

Linkedin – Were any of my Linked In colleagues talking to me?

Corporate E-mail – Check the email server of my employer.

Download iPhone photos to iPhoto – Move the photos I took with my iPhone to my computer.

Download camera photos to iPhoto – Move the photos I took with my camera to my computer.

Decide which photos go to Images Folder – This one required a bit more thought. What photos from the day did I want to keep in a special place for posting to the Internet?

Edit index.html in Images Folder – Move those chosen photos to a special area on my computer and label them as to their content and importance.

Decide which photos go to Wikipedia – A bit more thought here.

Decide which photos go to Taking A Walk blog – Even more thought here.

Put photos up to Wikipedia – This was some work, but I enjoyed enriching the Wikipedia pages for the towns I traversed. I was usually surprised what little, little towns had Wikipedia pages. I was also surprised what larger towns had photo-less pages.

Taking  A Walk blog – I wrote the blog for that day.

Wayfaring.com – I updated the progress map I was using on Wayfaring.

Receipts and mileage entered into spreadsheet – Ah, accounting, but a good thing to do every day.

Backup – I backed up everything to a USB memory stick every day.

Reading – I tried to read some each evening. This was hard at times due simply to fatigue. Reading at least ten minutes helped me to sleep, and I did need a good night’s sleep.

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Walking Up the Hill

January 13th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

Pulaski, Virginia – It is a nice small city with a population of about 10,000 people. I remember walking in from the north (as the road goes). There was the Volkswagen van parking lot. I never figured out what that was. I also remember a large furniture factory that had been closed. That was depressing.

My wife Karen and I walked around in a few circles downtown. Pulaski has a pretty good downtown where almost all the storefronts are occupied. A few too many for my taste were campaign offices (the election of 2008) and government-run aid programs. I guess when you have closed factories you also have government-run aid programs.

Karen and I split up, she took the car south three miles to a parking spot, and I started walking. First, I stopped in a little used book store. I bought a Coke and looked around for just a few minutes. There wasn’t much to my liking, so I started walking.  There was a nice minor league baseball park on the edge of town.

And then I started walking up the hill. Soon the climb was pretty steep. And then the road started the classic switchback pattern. This way, sharp curve, that way, sharp curve. I was a bit worried about some of those sharp curves. On half of them I was walking on the inside of the curve. There wasn’t much room between the edge of the curve and side of the mountain. If a car came around and edged a bit too far towards me. Well, I could slide up the side of the mountain, and… Fortunately, that never happened.

After 20 minutes I stopped worrying about the curves and started wondering about when I would reach the top of the hill. I had walked up hill on prior days for half an hour, but only half an hour. Plus, the hills I had walked before weren’t this steep and didn’t have the switchbacks. I was tired of this.

After another ten minutes I met Karen. I asked her how much farther it was to the top of the hill. Karen isn’t good at judging distance and time. She didn’t have an answer. We kept walking. We kept walking. We kept climbing.

An hour from the minor league baseball park we reached the top of the hill. There was a large parking area at the top of the hill. It had a great view of the Draper Valley to the south. I don’t recall being able to see back into Pulaski. The hill and the trees blocked the view. There was a tall, old chimney up there on the top of the hill. I never learned why it was there. My guess is that there was a small building up there built during the Depression (the great one back in the 1930s) that had a fireplace for heat.

The best I can determine, the top of the hill was at 2,800 feet elevation. Pulaski was at 2,000 feet elevation. I had climbed 800 feet in an hour. That is an 80-story building, right? How many flights of stairs is that? Are you kidding?

Anyways, at 2,800 feet and this latitude it would be pretty cold in the winter. A large fireplace would be a good idea.

Then came the big disappointment. I figured that I could now run down the hill. Hills are, after all, the same height on one side as on the other? Sorry, but no they are not. The downhill side seemed only has as tall as the uphill side. Look at a terrain map on Google and see for yourself. Rats.

Taking a walk was a lot of fun. It wasn’t much fun switching back and forth for an hour walking up that hill. Since then, however, it has been a lot of fun recalling that afternoon.

→ No CommentsTags: Virginia

Without Paper

January 12th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

While I was taking a walk, I was what I’ll call “semi-employed.” During 2008, I was employed by the government. During 2009, I was employed by a corporation. Well, sort of employed. The situation was very different in the two years, but equally complex. I won’t go into the details (boring), but suffice to say that I had to keep up with what was happening in the world and with my jobs.

My semi-employment kept me busy on a computer in the morning and the evening of each day. I blogged about walking every day. I studied technology and blogged about that every day (see here and here for a specific example). I kept records on miles walked, miles driven, and all expenses. I kept photographs and ordered them by day and type of photo. My semi-employment kept me busy. Many evenings were tough to do as I was tired from the day.

One morning while researching technical trends, I read a post about the search in vain for the paperless office. I have never worked in a paperless office, and the blog writer had not either. At that moment I realized that while taking a walk I was working in a paperless office. I did not have a printer with me. I did not have a ream of paper with me – not even a sheet of printer paper. All my notes were on my computer and on the blogs “out there in the clouds” as the marketing people would proclaim.

I had a paperless office.

Wow. Maybe I was on the cutting edge of something. I doubt that, but I was doing something that I had never done. I love to work on paper while writing. A sheet of paper helps me to “see” the big picture of what I am doing. For me, “seeing” everything like that has always been important. Yet, here I was writing, organizing, managing, working, and planning without a single sheet of paper. I had adapted and was functioning sufficiently.

I had not thought about his before the walk began. That is an embarrassed admission as I try to think of everything before embarking on such an endeavor. This – the paper – was one thing I had not considered.

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But How did You…Logistics Part Zero

January 11th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

My wife Karen accompanied me for the first half of the walk – Reston, Virginia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She drove our car and walked much of the way as well. The basic scheme was:

  • Karen drops me at Point A
  • Karen drives the car to Point B and parks it there
  • I start walking from Point A to Point B
  • Karen starts walking from Point B back to Point A
  • We meet about halfway between Points A and B
  • We walk together to Point B

This worked well. I walked the full distance from Point A to Point B. Karen walked about halfway from Point B to Point A twice.

There were several problems to this scheme. One was when Route 11 became a four-lane road and there were woods between the divided lanes. We couldn’t see across the woods to the other side. I would jump into the woods now and then to see if she was approaching. We never missed one another.

Another problem was Karen finding a place to park the car. Churches are a great place to park. Most rural churches are unused during weekdays. Those churches who had staff at the buildings always have friendly staff who don’t mind you parking. They like to come out of the office and chat.

Another good parking place was a gas station. Gas stations have bathrooms. A technique we used was to never fill the car’s tank with gas. We kept it around a quarter tank. That way, when Karen parked at a gas station, she could first buy gas, then use the restroom and ask about parking. No one turned us away.

Karen and I had a lot of fun walking like this. We had celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary a couple of months before starting the walk. We get along well and enjoy each the company of one another.

→ No CommentsTags: Tennessee · Virginia

Flat Tires

January 10th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

I used a bicycle for a good part of the walk (see here for details). Two times I had a flat tire on my bicycle.

Let me start by writing that I am not a mechanic. I am not good at this; I have had little interest in it my entire life; I don’t practice it much, and I guess those things contribute to me not being good at it.

I prepared myself for flat tires on a bicycle. I watched a few YouTube videos on how to repair a flat tire on a bike while out on the road. I bought the right tools for the job. I carried those tools in my backpack which was always on my back. I was prepared, well…

I was prepared as a mechanic, but I was not prepared for the fatigue. That was a major oversight.

Two flats:

(1) South of Chattanooga, Tennessee – This was the first morning that I was walking alone with my bicycle. It was warm, cloudy, extremely humid, and the road was probably the worst section for walking that I encountered the entire walk. I felt like I was going down into a basement. The trees where close to the road and hanging over it. It was dark. I was soaked with perspiration after 15 minutes.

I walked four miles to the spot that I had planned to stop, hop on the bicycle, and ride back to my van. As soon as I sat on the bike, I noticed that the front tire was flat. And then it started raining.

I carried the bicycle a half mile in the rain to a church that had a covered porch. I went to work on the flat. The problem was that the spare inner tube I had also had a hole in it. I don’t know how a new inner tube has a hole in it, but … I locked the bicycle to a nearby telephone pole and walked the four miles back to my van. Back up that awful road. I drove to the bike, loaded it, and thought a while.

I was too tired and wet (perspiration) to wrestle with the bike. I searched for a bicycle shop on my iPhone. I found several back up in the city of Chattanooga. Sigh, I drove into the city and stopped at River City Bicycles. They took care of me. I mean they really took care of me. It was a great relief. The weight of the world fell from my shoulders. Calmed, reassured, rested – I drove back down to the spot  I left. I ate lunch at a bar-b-que place at the Interstate exit and continued.

(2) Springville, Alabama – I had just finished eating lunch in a diner in this town. I had walked a mile from my van when I noticed a flat on my rear tire. It was hot. It was in the middle of the afternoon. I was again soaked with perspiration, and I was tired.

I sat in the grass under a shade tree and again used my iPhone to find a bicycle shop. I was surprised and delighted to find one ten miles down the road in Trussville – a northern suburb of Birmingham.

I carried the bike back to the van, loaded it, and drove into Trussvile to Cahaba Cycles. They also took great care of me. I was hot, soaked with perspiration, and tired. Once again, the weight of the world fell from my shoulders.

Instead of going back to Springville, I walked a few miles north and south of Cahaba Cycles. I returned to walk at Springville the next morning.

Notes about the flats: In both instances, the kind folks at the bike shops examined my wheels and the tires that had holes in them. They couldn’t find anything that would have caused the flats. No nails, thorns, cuts, spurs, nothing. I guess that sometimes you just have a flat, but then I am not a mechanic. I know that I had two flats and they were both in about the best location that they could have occurred.

→ No CommentsTags: Alabama · Tennessee

Sometimes It Wasn’t Much Fun

January 9th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

No, it wasn’t always fun. There were the times…

Loud windy days on the four-lane road – This was mostly in Tennessee, but there was one afternoon in Alabama as well. People drive faster on a four-lane divided highway than they do on a two-lane road. Much of the wind experienced while walking comes from the passing vehicles. Faster vehicles generate more wind than slower ones. Faster vehicles are also louder as they create a sort of loud hissing noise that drains the energy from me. Wind blows off your Tilley hat, so I had to use the strings to hold the hat on my head. That works, but is uncomfortable and offends my sense of style (such that it is).

Horns Honking in Alabama – I still slouch in pain when I think of this. People in Alabama honked their horns more than all the other states combined. I never understood if they were angry or saying a friendly hello. Many of these folks mastered the art of tapping on the horn at the instant that would grab me the most. I never jumped, but I felt like it often.

Walking the bike into traffic – For part of the walk, I used a bicycle to go back and forth to my van (see the details here). This worked well, but it was not much fun when I had to walk the bicycle into heavy traffic. Two occasions come to mind. (1) It was 7 AM and I was walking out of the town of  Springville, Alabama. It seemed that everyone in the world was driving into Springville to either go to school or access the Interstate. The grass was soaked with dew, it was cold, and the paved shoulder of the road must have been all of a half inch wide. (2) It was a hot afternoon in Trussville, Alabama and everyone in Alabama was coming from and going to a nearby shopping center. The cars created more heat. The sun glinted off all the windshields. There was no shoulder, and I was really tired.

Something bit me – This was in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I didn’t realize that something had bit me until I looked at my shin in the evening. All afternoon, every step sent a shock from my foot to my hip. I rested for a couple of days while visiting the dentist. I never thought going to the dentist for major work would be a relief from anything, but it was.

A Toothache – Just 48 hours before starting the walk, a tooth fell out of my mouth. I had to have the remains of the tooth pulled. I have a good dentist, and he did a great job of it it all. Still, I had pain in my jaw and headaches for several days. The funny thing was that after it all settled, I read the piece of paper that the dentist had given me regarding tooth removal. It recommended taking it easy for a few days after tooth removal. Well, I was walking and not running.

Walking in the rain – One thing I learned about the weather is that despite the forecasts, it rains only a small percentage of the time. Still, I walked in the rain on several occasions. It isn’t impossible, but it is annoying. It is downright painful when it rains and the temperature is below 40.

Blisters on my feet – I learned  much about blisters. I knew how to pierce and drain them and patch them. I never learned how to avoid them. Maybe my shoes didn’t fit properly. I had good shoes and good socks, but the blisters were a constant source of pain.

Cramps and diarrhea – Oh yes, I had this one day in Virginia. I guess I ate something that didn’t agree with me. I made it to the motel in the afternoon just in time. Fortunately, this only occurred once. I think I learned how to avoid it.

→ No CommentsTags: Alabama · Virginia

How Big is a Town?

January 7th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

That is a good question. I don’t have an answer. While taking a walk, I would refer to places as towns and cities. Some of the towns and their populations are:
  • Boligee, Alabama 345
  • Eutaw, Alabama 1,800
  • Calhoun, Tennessee 400
  • Sweetwater, Tennessee 5,500
  • New Market, Virginia 550
I found these numbers on Wikipedia. Some of the towns I walked didn’t have entries in Wikipedia. I guess they were too small for to list. Maybe they didn’t have a population. Some were “included in the town-nearby population area.”
If there was a place that had a sign and at least one building with the name repeated, I called it a town. Cities? Well, it took at least an hour to walk through them. Here are some cities:
  • Cleveland, Tennessee 37,000
  • Harrisonburg, Virginia 44,000
  • Hattiesburg, Mississippi 51,000
I found towns to be more interesting. One way to separate a town from a city is the national fast food chain. If there is a McDonald’s out by the Interstate and local cafes on Route 11, that is a town. If there is a McDonald’s out by the Interstate and on Route 11, that is a city.
I don’t know what you call a really small town like Boligee, Alabama. They have villages in Europe, but not in Alabama and Mississippi.

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Pace and Patience

January 6th, 2010 · No Comments

by Dwayne Phillips

“Relax, breathe, calm yourself,” is what I thought over and over.

On the road, especially when alone, I wanted to go faster. “If I could only walk four miles an hour, I could…” I don’t remember how many times I ran this calculation while walking. I never found a good answer to this “if.”

I suppose this is a curse I have. I loved walking, seeing the sights, smelling the odors, experiencing every step. Still, I found myself trying to walk faster so that I would reach the end sooner. Why try to finish something that I loved sooner? That didn’t make any sense, but that is what I was trying in vain to do.

My solution to this self-imposed problem was in two words: pace and patience. I found this early in the walk and thereby said these words aloud countless times during the days.

Pace had two meanings. The first was in the moment. How fast was I walking at this moment? How fast was I trying to walk at this moment? What time was it? If I walked fast during the morning, I suffered greater in the afternoon and covered fewer miles for the day. When I walked slower in the morning and took more and longer breaks, I had more energy in the afternoon. I could walk farther for the day and hurt less in the evening. Hurting less in the evening meant better sleep at night and more energy on the morrow. There is no use to hurry now, pace yourself.

The second meaning of pace came in the day-to-day of walking. I walked 20 miles on some days. Those days, however, were separated by days of lesser distances. Do twenty today, but not the next two days. How many days this week did I stretch myself? Today is Saturday, so I can push it today because I will not walk any tomorrow.

Patience, ah patience. I believe that I am more patient than most people. That comes from years of writing articles and books. Publishers move slowly, at least when seen from the writer’s perspective. Publishers may have a vastly different opinion on the pace of their work. Finished articles take months to appear in print. Finished books may take years to be published. And the checks that come in payment for the writing, well those take forever (actually, they come quarterly). Still, walking grew my patience. “The next town was five miles away, let’s go, let’s get there soon. No, patience. Five miles means about one and three-quarters hours. Walk your regular pace. Hurrying will not bring anything but pain. Be patient.”

Pace and patience.

Pace and patience.

Pace and patience.

I walked 1,100 miles. I was never able to take more than one step at a time. I was never able to walk four miles in one hour. Pace myself and be patient. Enjoy the walk.

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