An Evening with Old Friends

Saturday, July 31
Last night I had a happy rendezvous with another friend, Nick Gillespie, who lives in the Jackson area. Nick's father Jim and I have been friends for many years and I have had the opportunity of watching him grow into the fine young man that he is. He works for the National Park Service and it was fun to share an evening together. An additional benefit was that Nick brought me a special present - my credit card! My wife Cynthia had sent it to him by express mail and a big thanks is in order to both. We had a great evening together topped off with some of Nick's great guitar playing. I would never have guessed that I would walk over 700 miles from home and spend an evening with old friends.

In Jackson Hole

Saturday, July 31
One interesting aspect of this trip is that I never know what a new day will bring. One day may find me camped along the side of the road in some out-of-the-way location, another may find me in a cheap motel afraid to climb into the sheets, and today I find myself in a plush lodge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, surrounded by the rich and famous wondering how I ended up here?
Three days ago my good friend Ken Clark and his wife Lillian picked me up and forwarded me 60 miles ahead to Jackson so that I could enjoy their company and more comfortable accommodations. It has quite the change and I cannot express my appreciation for their companionship and generosity. Outside my window is a pool with two artificial waterfalls that I can see as I sit and type. Pretty people are laughing at the pool's edge as waiters supply their every need and want. I feel a social commentary is in order but for now I will refrain and enjoy my unusual surroundings.
Tomorrow I will return to the road. Ken and Lill will drop me off where they picked me up and continue home to Oregon. These moments are always a little awkward and make me feel the most lonely. Eventually, the feeling will pass and I will again be fine. I have never liked goodbyes.
Returning to Jackson, I will now have the advantage of being somewhat familiar with the route I have to walk. The mountain pass I must cross did not seem as steep as I expected but I was traveling by car - we'll see how it is on foot. I am also going to inquire about possibly leaving part of my load here to pick it up when I return in three days. If so, this will lighten my cart and make the climb up the mountain easier. We'll see.

An A.M. ATM Nightmare

Wednesday, July 28
As I started down Highway 33 ready to leave Rexburg behind I was feeling on top of the world. I'd had my shower, eaten a breakfast, the cart was packed, and I wondered what new adventures awaited me as I headed toward the Rocky Mountains silhouetted against the eastern sky. This "perfect day" was about to soon change when I decided to get some additional cash from an ATM machine while leaving town. This small act would began a series of events that would test my "be like water" philosophy.
Succinctly put:
1. 6:30 A.M. I got money from the machine but forgot to retrieve my card.
2. I realize this when I hear the machine buzzing and I run back in time to watch my card disappear into the bowels of the ATM.
3. In ignorance I think that a bank employee will be able to retrieve my card when they open for business at 9:30 and I patiently wait the three hours.
4. As the bank's first customer of the day, I am shocked as the teller tells me that my card has been automatically shredded for security reasons.

I will leave out describing my disappointment at hearing this. I now had only my driver's license and some petty cash with 2,300 miles to go - that's it.
Now what?

Random Thoughts

Stopped again by the police yesterday morning on Route 33. For those of you keeping count this was investigation number four. This time it was a Madison County sheriff's officer. He was a young officer who just had to "check it out" to see what I was up to. It's interesting that all four stops have been by sheriff's departments. He was another nice guy to talk to and then go on my way - as always, I gave him my card.
I should have some sort of a contest - predict the number of times I will be stopped by the police before I finish my trip. Any guesses?

My wife pointed out that I have not shared much of what others have shared with me. I wish to compile these after having talked to enough people to get a true pulse. I can say that taxes and abortion - the traditional hot buttons - have been hardly mentioned at all. People are concerned about many issues and those do not seem to be at the top of the list. Does the news media play a role in what we talk about rather that what we should talk about?

After walking through southern Idaho I can say that the people should build a monument to the Snake River for it truly is their life source. I overheard a farmer talking to another with the simple advice, "Keep it wet." So true! There can be an emerald green of bumper crops right beside an arid sagebrush plain. So many use the Snake River for water it's amazing any flows onward. It seems that everyone has their straw in the water. I wonder how deep it would naturally be if it flowed unmolested? I'm not advocating this position - just a curious thought.

No matter how physically tired I am at night, I always have bounced back by morning. I am lucky thus far in this respect.

I learned that most construction workers in Idaho wear lime green shirts while on the job. It is supposed to make them more visible and safe according to the state safety board. You see them everywhere - cement truck drivers, surveyors, you name it. At least they get up every day knowing what they will wear.
Now who's against school uniforms?

The farmers all use little four-wheel drive machines to race about - seriously, all of them. This is a big change from romping around the farm in the old dusty pickup. Cell phones are big, too. No more, "Go get your dad in the lower forty." Now, it's just give him a call.

I finally broke down and bought a can of shaving cream. I had been using bar soap which I did not agree with. Oh well, what's a few ounces more to lug?

When I talk to people and particularly when I am listening, I accept all views without judgement while it is being shared. For example, if I am talking to a racist, I listen to his viewpoints without challenging them. If I am talking to a political extremist - I also listen. I want to hear people's views unfettered by political correctness.

I think I've probably lost close to 20 pounds since my 202 last winter. My body fat has disappeared.

I passed a new pickup truck broken down with the driver cussing under its hood. He was embarrassed as I pushed my cart past him and continued down the road leaving him behind. Any guesses on how I felt?

Cemeteries are a good place to sleep for the night. The usually have some trees with green grass and are always at the edge of town with no one to bother you.

I wish to thank my grandfather for showing me how to blow my nose with no tissue. It has been a handy trick on this trip.

I camped at Craters of the Moon campground and they were surveying it at the time. I inquired as to the reason and the guy said it was to widen the road and pull-ins for the ever larger campers.
Did you know that the National Theater in London had to put in new seating to accommodate the enlarged American rears? No comment at this time.

Upon my visual inspection thus far, Americans have too much junk lying around - old cars, old trucks, broken washing machines - you name it. We really need to clean up our act but where would those chickens live?

85 degrees is very cool compared to 105.

Finally saw my first prickly pear cactus. It reminded me of an old story about John Colter escaping the Indians that I may relay one day.

I have never seen so many field mice in my life - a raptor's paradise.

Most people wave if you wave to them - especially in the morning. I suppose there is a lesson in that.

The wind from passing trucks can sweep the hat completely from my head. I always feel indignant and grumble when it happens - about three or four times a day.

I have learned that you can still eat a warm deli sandwich after three days without refrigeration. I seriously questioned myself but went for it and survived. Just don't go for the mayonnaise.

I don't want to disrespect the people of Idaho but I have to say, "Come on folks, get real. Why do you not have a deposit on your cans and bottles? There was an immediate increase in the amount of trash along the road when I crossed the state line. I love you guys but no excuse for this one because getting covered by weeds does not count."

Most dogs will back down if you face them squarely with a proper attitude but this one can't be faked - you have to really mean it for a dog senses fear. "If you don't get the hell out of here and leave me alone I am going to kick your doggy ass butt - mutt!" A hefty rock also serves as a good backup. (Did that one slip through the censors?)

There is an acceptance of dust everywhere. Its just a part of the high desert life.

Every day of this trip has been a joy.

Onward and Upward

Tuesday, July 27
Tomorrow I begin what would normally be a three day walk to Victor, Idaho which is the jumping off point to Jackson, Wyoming. Jackson is only 24 miles additional miles from Victor but I believe it will be the steepest climb of my entire trip. I would expect to arrive there on Saturday but my story now has an additional twist. My friend Ken Clark and his wife Lill are headed to Wyoming to cap a vacation in the Tetons. They will find me Thursday and drive me to Jackson for a day or two to relax and take momentary advantage of having a car. They will then return me and I can retrace the route.
In addition, I have another friend, Nick Gillespie, who lives in the Jackson area. I'm sure he can give me some advice and show me around a bit.
I'm now ahead of my original schedule and a pause in the Teton area should be fun.
We'll see how this turns out.

Relaxing in Rexburg

Tuesday Morning, July 27
The last two days have not provided much "grist for the mill" as far as writing goes. People stop, talk, take my picture and give me things for which I am always thankful but this has now become pretty much routine. But Sunday I met a young man worth mentioning.
While walking down the hot highway I stopped to converse with a man about 20 years old bicycling the mountains from New Mexico to Canada. With his dreadlocks and some other obvious clues I quickly surmised he was a bit "different." He looked and sounded as if he had just left a Rainbow Gathering but I'm cool with that - no problem. Then he held up a plastic bag containing a dead jack rabbit he had picked up earlier from the road. He told me that he was trying to live off nature as much as possible and wanted my opinion if it would be OK to eat. My reply was, "Go for it, but I wouldn't. It's probably gotten a little ripe in this hot sun." Undaunted by my reply, he said he would try boiling it for dinner that night.
I was glad to say goodbye.

I arrived yesterday in Rexburg and have decided to spend a second night to rest, recuperate, and add to my blog. After being on the road, a shower and bed in a nice hotel is well worth the cost.

The Tetons in Sight!

Saturday, July 24
I was up early today and on the road before dawn. These early mornings are particularly enjoyable for the mornings are cool, the animals are stirring, and as I am walking east I am always able to watch the sun rise. Today was to provide a particular joy for there in the distance silhouetted by the gray dawn were the Grand Tetons of the Rockies! This first sighting stirred within me many mixed emotions - a feeling of elation and a sense of accomplishment, but also some anxiety and concern for they represent a new chapter of challenges. I suppose that I will have time to mentally prepare myself, for like the pioneers of old - you see them long before you experience them.
It turned out to be another hot day but not quite as hot as it has been. Only a few degrees cooler can make a marked difference in comfort and this slight relief was appreciated. The road was also fairly flat which made it nice and several people stopped to talk and take my picture. A man gave me $5.00 and told me to buy a hamburger saying how much he supported what I am doing. He said he was going to tell his whole family about me and that it was a large one with 30 grandchildren!
Arriving at Mud Lake, a car pulled over and two burly brothers hopped out asking if I would return to their house to share some cold lemonade and conversation. Suspicious of their size and the strangeness of the situation, I replied that I didn’t like walking backwards but they implored that I talk with them and their family. They pointed to the house and as it was but two blocks past - I reluctantly relented. I turns out that they had driven past me several days ago and now that I had just just walked past their front door their curiosity was overwhelmed. So there I sat on the Jensen family porch sharing my ideas and listening to theirs. They were proud Mormons and stated that they supported the Constitution, my goals, and wished me all the best. Leroy Jenkins, suffering from some health issues, told me he wished he could be with me when I concluded my journey. They wanted to feed me before sending me on my way but I politely refused and after warm goodbyes, I headed on down the road.
I slept soundly that night in an old grain mill.

"Be Careful out There - It's Rough Country"

Friday, July 23
Had a large restaurant breakfast and started toward Howe, Idaho. Nothing new to report - hot sun, hot desert, hot roadway - just another day on the high plateau. A man stopped his car after reading my sign and wanted to hear my story. When leaving he gave me some food and a warning, “Be careful out there - it's rough country.” He is not the first to warn me of the desert. I have probably not addressed this enough but those guys are right - it is rough. You need water, food, and stamina for the basics but there are plenty of secondary issues - one being the hot roadway. The asphalt heats to such a degree that your feet also heat in spite of your shoes. This causes swelling which cannot be avoided and as a result my next pair of shoes will increase by a half size.
In addition, you must have a large hat - no ball caps - a very wide brimmed hat! Shade does not exist for there are no trees. This is hard to believe if you’ve never been West, but the pioneers themselves complained about it. In addition, there are the many animals killed by passing vehicles - jackrabbits mostly, followed by badgers, porcupines, coyotes, deer, elk, hawks, owls, and various ground birds. This requires some toughening of your olfactory senses but mostly I try to hold my breath while passing. I thought deer were the worst until one afternoon I passed a dead elk - it now ranks as #1.
By late afternoon I had arrived in Howe where I had hoped to find a store or perhaps a gas station but Howe had neither. The only establishment in the town (really a collection of houses) was a German restaurant run by a very nice family. At their suggestion, I set up camp in a small park and then came back for an enjoyable time eating and conversing with the owners.
"Gutte Nacht."

I'm off in the Morning

Thurs. Evening, July 22
I leave Arco in the morning to begin an 87 mile segment to Rexburg, Idaho. I believe it is the last of the rather flat terrain I have been experiencing and will deposit me at the western base of the Rockies. I will be following Highway 33 and camp for the next three nights. After that I will be in Rexburg hopefully in a motel. I could try to make it in three days but it is just a lot more work. Pushing a 160+ pound vehicle I average about 22 miles in eight hours, 26-28 miles in ten hours, and 32 in twelve. So much is dependent on the terrain. These averages include the various breaks and lunch. I checked on Map Quest a moment ago and it shows me having walked 670 miles. Cool.

The First Atomic City

Thursday, July 22
I arrived in Arco yesterday after another long hot walk. It is a somewhat larger town than the last several and as such, has slightly more amenities. It is located at the base of the central Rockies of Idaho and boasts of being the first municipality in the country to be fully powered by atomic energy. That being said, I, myself, arrived on low energy and checked into a motel that had not been my first choice. It had no air-conditioning (which the proprietor had failed to mention) and their so called internet access was unable to be accessed. On the positive - I did my laundry, ate at a restaurant, and talked to a man who had recently moved to Arco. As it was a warm evening we sat outside and discussed a variety of issues. He is originally from Israel and it was nice to hear his perspectives.
Enjoying the town and the recuperation, I decided to stay another day but to check into a motel with air-conditioning and internet service. Therefore, this morning I loaded my cart and wheeled down the main street of Arco.
While passing the local newspaper office a woman bounded out asking about my project. We talked for a while and she then asked if I would come inside for a brief interview which I happily did. After the interview and a couple of photographs I was again on my way. I found a nice motel room but had to wait two hours until it was ready for occupancy. Cool, but what for now? I left my cart at the motel and decided to walk around town.
Passing a sign saying, “Butte County Prosecutor” I had visions of the Old West with the prosecutor and judge running frontier law with their own brand of justice. I wondered what he thought about the Bill of Rights? As a prosecutor, would he support them or see them as hindrances to him doing his job? I decided to step in and find out.
To my surprise and delight, though busy, he gave me 20 minutes of conversation on the topic. It was refreshing to converse a man who was quite knowledgeable of the law. Had he not a tight schedule, we could have talked at length.
Walking out I thought I do believe in miracles.
I had spent 20 minutes with a lawyer and it didn’t cost a dime.

Love that 2nd Amendment!

The other day a woman stopped her Cadillac SUV to inquire as to why was I walking down the road out in the middle of nowhere. I went through my now polished explanation and she, in an rather aggressive tone asked, “What do you think of the 2nd Amendment?” In our discussion she assured me she would never give up her guns. I then asked her how she felt about the other liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Her reply was, “What are they?”
I handed her a copy and continued down the road.
"Hope springs eternal."

Dancing in the Dark

Tuesday evening, July 20
If you’ve ever seen a cat thrown into water, you would have a good idea as to how I would end up before the evening was done. Having arrived in Carey by late afternoon, I was told to camp at the fairgrounds and it was there I set out my things. A great location it was, but I was a bit suspicious of the green grass and looked around for any nearby sprinkler heads that might activate while I slept. I felt a bit smug as I covered each with a weighted-down bucket (all except the one I had apparently overlooked). As I snuggled into my bag, I went to sleep thinking a few mosquitoes were to be my biggest problem of the night. It turned out I was very wrong.
Around midnight, I was rudely awakened by a large stream of water dousing me thoroughly. I immediately hopped into action but as it was pitch black and having no flashlight, I could not immediately find the source of the spray. It was a rather comical situation with me dancing around in my privies while getting thoroughly soaked. I soon located the culprit and with a large heavy board I “capped the well” but the damage was done. I stood there drenched in the dark under a cold starlit sky and for a moment, I was able to appreciate the humor of my situation. With little choice, I slipped into my wet sleeping bag, pulled up the zipper, and fell into a shivering sleep. I comforted myself knowing that the situation was temporary and I would soon again have the heat of the day.
Heading down the highway I was a funny sight with the wet bag strewn over my cart to dry.

Hello Ritchfield - Goodbye Ritchfield

Sunday, July 18
As my next destination, Ritchfield, was only 17 miles away, I figured I could sleep in a bit, enjoy a second cup of coffee, and generally take my time getting under way. I did not leave until after 9:00 and soon paid the price for it quickly warmed to another 100 degree day. Not wanting to be repetitive with the reader, allow me to say I arrived in Ritchfield, Idaho, very hot and very tired.
Asking a local where I might stay, I was told the town park was the nicest place and no one would bother me. It was a lovely little park surrounded on all sides by neighborhood houses. As I rolled out my sleeping bag I’m sure a few residents wondered who was I and why was I there. In Eugene, I would have been mistaken as just another homeless man hardly noticed, but in tiny Richfield, population 450 in the middle of nowhere - a stranger in town is indeed noted.
The sign said the park closed at 8:00 but I was assured the rule is not enforced.

Early Tuesday, July 19
I had set my alarm to 3:45 AM hoping for time to make breakfast and get still get an early start on my day - but my breakfast was not to be. Unfortunately, as soon as I slipped out of my sleeping bag a dog started barking setting off a chain reaction of others. Now though I’m technically in the country, in reality, I’m in the middle of a dark rural neighborhood and a chorus of barking dogs at that hour represented a real problem. It seemed that no matter how quiet I was, one particular dog knew I was there and would not stop barking. As a result of the noise several house lights began turning on and I figured it was time to quickly “make tracks” and get out of there. Hurriedly packing my cart, I soon left the canine cacophony behind and disappeared into the darkness of another early morning.
Watching for the sun to rise I convinced myself that I didn’t really want that coffee anyway.

Goodbye Shoshone, Idaho

Saturday, July 17
After a good cafe breakfast I walked the 28 miles from Bliss to Shoshone and arrived hot, tired, and cranky having acquired my first foot blister of the trip. The temperature was over 100 degrees and I just wanted to be in some shade - any shade at all and to check into a room. Sitting down on a sidewalk bench, I called the only motel in town and was told, “Sorry, but we’re full.” Surprise - another twist in the road! Now what to do? I started wandering somewhat aimlessly but as my foot hurt, I soon stopped to rest and consider the options. I decided I would just have to ask for permission to use someone's yard for the night. Picking myself up and hobbling down the street, I noticed a mobile home with a “For Rent” sign so I knocked at a neighbor’s to inquire about the possibilities it presented. It was but two knocks and a giant dog tried to lunge through the door! What a commotion I had caused! Through the door window I could see him snarling and gnashing away while a man inside yelled something I did not comprehend. With my heart in my throat I quickly moved on forgetting that I even had a blister!
It was then that I spied a small RV park nestled behind a gasoline station. This would be my home for the night - another last minute deliverance.
All was right with the world again.

* Eastern Oregon / Idaho

Bliss(ed) in Idaho

Friday, July 16
I did not get going until 9:30 this morning which is late for it is already hot by 9:30 - 10:00.
Last night I was up trying unsuccessfully to set up a PayPal account which others have suggested I do. One of these days I'll get if figured out. Not much new to report except I now have my first foot blister. Other than that - hot, dusty, and tired in Bliss, Idaho.
I begin walking Highway 26 toward Craters of the Moon tomorrow. This could be a real test - check it out on the map.

Glenns Ferry, Idaho

Thursday, July 15
I left Mountain Home at 6:30 and it was good to be back on the road. Walking quietly in the cool early morning you hear many birds and see many small animals as they too, begin their day. Lots of jackrabbits, deer and coyotes. I have seen several badgers - their holes are everywhere. Two pronghorn antelope, the first of this trip, watched me this morning from a safe distance before bounding away. And always, the horses and cows! They say that the horse is man's best friend after the dog, but where is the cow? When a horse looks at me I wonder what it's thinking. When a cow looks, I wonder if it's thinking. My wife grew up on a dairy farm, I'll ask her opinion on this matter.
On the topic of thinking, my doctor told me this trip would allow for a great amount of thought. Cool, who knows what type of insight or profound thoughts might be generated? Well, I will share two of these so called "great thoughts" that plagued me throughout the day. One - I could not remember all the words to the Beverly Hillbillies song. Now don't laugh. If you are between the ages of 50 and 65 you should be able to do it. After singing and mumbling hoping the words would come out, they eventually did. I was so proud of myself. No big deal? Then you try it. There were two introductory verses and a third verse at the end of the show. I worked on it for several hours before finally getting them all.
The other thing that that plagued my mind were thoughts of a strawberry milkshake! It was so hot and so dry out there and I haven't had one in years. As a child, my father would take my sister and me for milkshakes at a local dairy as a special treat. Today, in the hot afternoon I kept thinking about how good one would be.
Other than lots of sweat and time, not much else to report for the day except that there was a ice cream store at the Glenns Ferry city limits.

Did I really have to order the large?

Lonely in Mountain View

Wednesday, July 14
I awoke early and donned my Son of Liberty outfit in order to be at my sidewalk post before the morning traffic. I had previously picked a spot where I might interact with people and arrived at 6:45 A.M. armed with copies of the Bill of Rights. In less than one minute a sheriff pulled up and asked what I was doing. I politely replied that I did not have to tell him but would voluntarily do so. This response made him sit up straighter in his seat and I then told him of my mission. He was a nice man and after listening said he supported what I was doing fully and handed me $20 wanting to help me out. Imagine that - a sheriff giving me a donation. His generosity warmed me.
After that interaction, things slowed down - how is that possible? The problem with many of our communities is that they are vehicular based. Mountain View, like Caldwell, is spread out over a large area with no one central core in which citizens interact in passing. In two hours I had received handfuls of waves from passing cars but not one pedestrian walked by. Four car drivers did pull over - three wanted to talk and one wanted to "save me" and gave me a Bible (that's two so far). A surprisingly hot 9:00 A.M. sun sent me home early and discouraged. What today serves as our public well? Where is the forum for citizens with different views and perspectives to come together to share and discuss ideas instead of simply parroting group think and cliches? We seem to sequester ourselves away from others unlike ourselves both intentionally and not. People live in walled communities, belong to private clubs, and watch news networks that support views instead of challenging them. Computers too have allowed people to further alienate for we tend to read and visit sites that agree with our present perspective. I have always remembered an old Apple commercial where the theater audience is dressed exactly alike with the same sunglasses staring at the screen as one. An Olympian type female comes running into the theater and throws a sledgehammer shattering the screen to release the audience.

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning, but I don't, so instead I will start early to Glenns Ferry 27.2 miles away.

The Rattlesnake as a Symbol in Early America

We've all seen them - the yellow flags with "Don't Tread On Me" emblazoned under a coiled and sinister looking rattlesnake. Today, many people associate this flag with certain political groups but that is not necessarily true nor has it always been the case.
In our early history, two symbols were used to depict the British Colonies in America - the Indian maiden and the rattlesnake. A look through old literature will often show an idealized image of a young Indian woman drawn as an embellished preface to some written work on North America. The other image was the rattlesnake.
The rattlesnake is indigenous to the Americas alone and as such, tall tales of it were heard in England. Many were the British soldiers arriving in America equally concerned about encountering " buzzer snakes" as well as Indians.
In Colonial America, Britain regularly sent its undesirables to our shores. The most detested of these newcomers were the criminals and convicts. Year after year they came in such numbers that it caused resentment toward the mother country. In 1751, Benjamin Franklin published an editorial in the Pennsylvania Gazette protesting the practice stating that perhaps in exchange American rattlesnakes should be "boxed and sent to London to be distributed in St. James Court and certain other gardens."
In May of 1754, a rattlesnake drawing is also printed by Franklin to become the first political cartoon published in America. It is a drawing of a snake cut into pieces with each segment representing a particular American colony. This image was used to enlist support for a formal union to thwart the French and Indians menacing the western borders at that time. In addition, an old superstition existed that a snake could be cut into pieces and yet live if the segments were rejoined before sunset. Hence the message, there's still time to "Join" together as a group - or "Die" individually at the hands of the French and their Indian allies. This symbol, first used in the Seven Years War against the French, was later resurrected and reused by the Sons of Liberty during the American Revolution.
The yellow flag that is most familiar is called the Gadsen flag. Congressman Gadsen, of South Carolina, while in Philadelphia, watched a contingent of marines parading and playing yellow drums with rattlesnake images and the words, "Don't tread on me" painted on their sides. He then designed a flag based on this observation and presented it to Ezra Hopkins, the first naval commander. This created a connection to the United States Navy that exists to this day.
The next familiar rattlesnake flag is often called the first Navy Jack. It is a flag showing an uncoiled snake against the striped flag of the Sons of Liberty (that's where stripes on the United States flag arose). If you count you will notice 13 rattles. This flag has been used periodically over the years and by decree, is now to be flown on all navy ships until the war on terrorism is complete.
If you're around a seaport - look for it.

Home Sweet "Mountain Home"

Tuesday, July 13
I'm in Mountain Home, Idaho with not much to report. Walked the five miles to town this morning rather quickly. On the way a woman saw my sign and stopped her car to give me $20 telling how thankful she was to me. Checked into a motel early, showered, and did my laundry including my sleeping bag.
I might bring the "Son of Liberty" out of the closet tomorrow and hit a street corner.
Stay tuned.

Exchange with the Jehovah's Witness

Monday, July 12
Well, after yesterday, things had to improve. I didn't want to awaken in the middle of an morning military exercise so I got up early and hit the road. On the way I was stopped by the Idaho National Guard MP's wanting to know what I was up to. Both young men were friendly and we talked for quite a while about the Constitution and the government. I told them where I had slept the night before and hoped they wouldn't have to remove my eyes or anything - they thought that was pretty funny. I gave them one of my cards and we parted as friends.
I took a longer and safer route to Mountain Home refusing to do Map Quest's suggested gravel road. A gravel road is hard work! Remember riding a bicycle in loose gravel? Well, it was the same for me with my cart. "Fool me once shame on Map Quest, fool me twice shame on me." Anyway, I eventually made it to a paved road again and had a brisk wind to my back.
As I walk along people stop and talk with me - too many to note them all but today I met a man worth mentioning - Griff, the Jehovah's Witness.
I was walking past a mobile home with several barking dogs when a middle aged man came lumbering out telling his dogs to hush. Like other people, he wondered what I was up to and listened attentively while I spoke. When I finally finished, he surprised me by stating that he was not interested in such matters for all government was corrupt and that God's New Kingdom will soon take its place. Since he had politely listened to me,  I figured I owed him the same favor in return. Standing there under the hot Idaho sun we had a great discussion and though we did not agree, we could agree to part as friends. I respect him for his beliefs and he said he respected me for mine. Isn't there a lesson here? I felt a bond of mutual respect had developed between us even though we had very different views. Before departing, he handed me some Watchtower publications and I gave him a copy of the Bill of Rights. Bidding farewell, I continued down the rural roadway musing over our sincere exchange of ideas. I had not gone far when Griff came driving up to deliver another parting gift - a very cold can of Pepsi and a bag containing 20 Power Bars! We thanked each other, shook hands, and departed with good feelings once again. Kidding him as I walked away, I suggested he might want to leave his power running while waiting for the New Kingdom. He thought that over for a moment, then chuckled.
I guess Jehovah's Witnesses too have a sense of humor.

I had wanted to make it to Mountain View but with 5 more miles at the end of another long day, I made camp outside of town.

Quiz Time

Two are tolerable, one is terrible, one can be neutral or terrible, and another is great. Do you know which is which?

A Day in Purgatory

Sunday, July 11
I am a martial artist and through a lifetime of dedication and training I have learned many lessons about life and dealing with obstacles. For this journey, one of my goals is to be like water. Water can be hard and strong, soft and fluid, invisible and light. Water is the universal solvent. All obstacles can be gotten over, under or around in some way. This day was to put me the test.
While I slept snugly and smugly under the arbor the previous night it rained. In addition, the lawn sprinklers activated and between the two my cart received a serious drenching. Unfortunately, my notebook was ruined - ink gel blotted out by rain water! Did I get upset? No, instead I tried to "go with the flow," thinking perhaps I could remember most of what it had contained and rewrite it. Unfortunately, this is not what put me to the test. I had also lost my copied directions for walking to Bliss, Idaho. "Hmmm, okay, be like water, lets get around this." I decided to trust Map Quest via my cell phone for direction to Mountain Home as an alternative. This was the mistake. I now know that Map Quest pays no attention to available water or food, populated or not, paved road or cowpath. If you type in a" walking route" - check it with a real map for it will literally direct you down dirt and gravel roads.
Following my cell phone's directions - this paved road became a dirt road which turned into a path which concluded in a cow field. I had opened and closed two cattle gates before finally coming to a dead end at a barbed wire fence. I could see the other alternative and to get there I had to unload my cart completely, lift it over the fence, reload it and continue down a gopher studded dirt road in the heat of the day. To make a long story shorter let it suffice that this led me ( Yes, according to Map Quest I was right on target) to a 15 mile up and down gravel road through the Idaho National Guard training area! Several people stopped and talked thinking it was unusual that someone was pulling a cart through the wilds of Idaho in the heat of the day as I was doing. Not to worry - plenty of food and water. I ended this miserable day sleeping in a training area for those being deployed to Iraq. I kid you not and have included some pictures.
Never trust Map Quest without checking with a regular map too.
Live and learn - there's always tomorrow.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Saturday, July 10
Business Route 84 out of Caldwell is a long strip road with businesses and eateries which normally I do not find appealing but today it was a godsend. First my score at Walmart - gas canisters, dehydrated supplies, and a campchair. The chair is really a child's chair that works perfectly for me. It was tough deciding between the blue Buzz Light Year or the hot pink Barbie. I was about to fly with Buzz when I spied a plain orange one under the stack - I bought it.
Another quick stop at a hardware store and then to McDonald's. I make no apologies for eating at McDonald's while on this trip, and this particular morning became a great interactive experience. While drinking coffee I could hear some elderly men in the next booth conversing about many different issues of the day. This was too good of a opportunity to let pass so I went outside to retrieve my pen and notebook. Then without permission, I boldly sat down with them, told them what I was doing, and asked if they would like to share their thoughts with me. Forty-five minues later I thanked them, took their photograph, and we said our goodbyes. Again, more encouragement as they wished me well and expressed appreciation.
Another hot day. I walked through Nampa and then Kuna where I hoped to find lodging for the evening. As I neared the city limits I flagged down a policeman and asked where I could find a place - he told me there were none closer than eight miles at the freeway - this information represented an immediate change in my plans. I had been looking forward to a warm shower but instead I must now find a place to place my tent.
As luck would have it, in short time I walked past a home for sale with a very private lush lawn in the back. I had passed up a situation like this once before and vowed I would not again, therefore, I walked up to the door and knocked. With a radio on in the garage, closed curtains, and a real estate lock on the door - it had all the markings of "NO ONE LIVES HERE." I did a quick peek through the window and before you know it, my tent was set up under the grape arbor in the back. What a choice place surrounded by dry dirt and sagebrush! I was almost asleep when I heard a car pull into the driveway. Music and engine were running and I heard laughter. Local kids I assumed that knew a vacant driveway in which to park on a Saturday night. I didn't mind them in the front as long as they didn't come to the back. I admit my heart was pounding until I heard them finally drive away. In the morning I enjoyed oatmeal and coffee while sitting on someone's deck and then - gone without a trace.

Off to Explore Idaho

Evening of Friday, July 9
I'm leaving Caldwell in the morning and will work my way south-east toward the little town of Bliss, Idaho. From there I will take Highway 26 across most of the state to either Blackfoot or Idaho Falls. This road I am told, is not mountainous and goes through Craters of the Moon National Monument. I'm looking forward to being on the road again after a day and a half layover. I walked around all afternoon trying to find a couple of things I need - the small propane gas containers that are made for lanterns and single burner stoves, and some dehydrated food. I could not find either so I will make due for now. I am really limited by not having a car but the trade off is worth it.

* Early Morning in Idaho

In Idaho!

Thursday, July 8
I awoke around 3:30 AM and could not get back to sleep so I got up and wrote a bit in my journal trying to remember the events of the past few days. I was itching to get an early start, so after a quick thank you note to Fred and Lucy, I took off before daylight. I will not leave this early in the future for duh - it's dark! Even though I have little headlights it is still too dangerous to be out before dawn.
Finally, I entered into Idaho.
I do not wish to say anything disparaging about Idaho, but just let it be said that I love Oregon and am partial to it. I'm sure the hawks flying overhead see no difference in the two states, but to me, it just seemed a little more "run down" looking or depressed. Perhaps it just happened to be the area I was in. Anyway, there are immediately more people living along the road for some reason and I surprised many a farmer or his wife as they came to their mailbox to get the morning paper. With more people come more dogs and today I got out my pepper spray for the first time. Now, I do not want to upset a dog's owner by spraying his pooch but I'll do it before I let some canine make a ham sandwich out of my backside. One dog in particular did not want me to pass and it was a standoff - Ray Brown verses Fido. After a tense moment, a hefty rock sent him on his way leaving me the victor.
While walking through Wilder, Idaho I went past a house with a giant flag on a pole hanging listlessly with its bottom draping the ground. I figured that they must be patriotic (Why else the giant flag?) so I wrote a note telling them that their flag was too large for the pole and it should never touch the ground. Therefore - go buy a smaller flag. I left this note, along with a copy of the Bill of Rights, and one of my business cards placed under the windshield of their car before moving on down the road.
My goal was to finish the 23 miles to Caldwell. Now, instead of fields and streams, it has become fields and irrigation. Lots of irrigation water from the Snake River makes for some very emerald fields. Lots of traffic and dust - the most so far - and by the time I reached Caldwell my throat tasted like fertilizer. I wondered whether it has any long term effect on the children's health that live here. Probably no one cares, for fertilizer means profits and profits mean making a living. As a child I grew up in Eastern Ohio. One day while driving up the river valley I commented to my father about all the smoke and pollution coming from the steel mills. I have never forgotten his reply, "As long as there's smoke coming from those stacks - you've got butter on your bread." I'm sure that here in farm country, the fertilizers means "butter on the bread."
As luck would have it, as I entered Caldwell, a trailer bolt broke in half which left me hot, frustrated, and somewhat stranded for I could not push it without replacing the bolt. What to do? Ah, I had some duct tape - the universal repair material that I recommend in every repair kit. This emergency repair allowed me to limp to an auto parts store and in short time I had replaced the bolt and all was well again. In this situation, I have the choice of feeling frustrated or lucky - I chose lucky. Things like this happen periodically and we just have to deal with them as they arise. I feel fortunate that this happened in a town during daylight hours and that there was a store that could help me. Conversely, had this happened out in the hinterlands it would have been a very different situation. Live and learn - I bought an extra bolt to put in with my tools.
I have decided to spend two days in Caldwell before continuing onward. Freshen up, do my laundry, get a bite to eat, and enter some posts to my blog site. The motel I'm in is a little on the" iffy" side but I did not have a lot of choice. Yesterday, when I pulled back the sheets, it looked like a modern "Shroud of Turin." But instead of an outline of Jesus, it looked like an outline of someone who had on too much massage oil leaving their outline on the sheets. Hence, I'm sleeping on top of the bed in my sleeping bag! Oh well, it's only $32 a night. What do we expect. Did I tell you there were no towels either? I'm lucky I brought my own.

* The Last of Oregon

Near the Oregon Border

Wednesday, July 7
Morning in Vale, Oregon
After breakfast at a local diner I decided go to a grocery store before heading out of town. One thing the reader must keep in mind is that these side jaunts all involve putting in extra miles and time. In a car, a half mile or more to a store is nothing, but on foot, these little trips can quickly add up.
While in a drugstore to buy sundry items a lawyer overheard me talking to the cashier. He approached me for small conversation and asked if I would stop by his office to talk briefly before leaving town. He and his law partner had read an article about me in the newspaper and thought it sounded interesting. Both gentlemen expressed support and wished me well as I left around 9:00 in the morning - which is late in this hot weather. Leaving Vale I walked quite a few miles uphill to get over the pass and then drop down to the Snake River Country. I unfortunately had left my map at the lawyers office and was dependent on my cell phone whose reception was shady at best. There is a historical Oregon Trail information center at the top of the pass. I stopped and reflected on the thousands of people (250,000 according to the display) walking west in those days.

Lost Stool
The biggest bummer of my day was discovered when I stopped for lunch - I had lost my stool! Now that might be a good thing for Grandpa to brag about, but that is not the type of stool to which I am referring - my camp stool!!! It had been a very essential item and now it was gone. I remember leaning it against the wall of the Bates Motel while packing and I suppose there it shall remain. I must replace it soon.
I won't bore you with "it was another long hot day," but know it was - another long hot day. The heat seems to be growing since I left Eugene, I am drinking over a gallon of water a day to stay hydrated.

An Afternoon "Religious Experience"
I was walking down the road in the middle of nowhere when a car behind me started honking its horn and then pulled over. I stopped and a lady jumped out asking me if I was "the man" who was walking across the country she had read about in the paper. I replied that I was and she said that she was very excited for me and supported what I was doing. She then asked me if I was a Christian and told me that her whole church was going to pray for me and my safety. I told her to please do so to which she replied, "Let's you and I now pray right here in the roadway," and before I knew what happened, she had both of my hands in hers and started into a long and fervent prayer for my physical safety and spiritual well being. She then implored me to take care and departed wishing me well. Five minutes later she had returned with her two young children and some gifts for me - a copy of the New Testament with $20 tucked inside and a cold bottle of water. She sincerely wanted to help me out and for her two children to meet me. It is the everyday common people that continue to give me inspiration. I do not remember her name - but I will always remember her.

An Evening Surprise
I was resting along the road toward the end of the day contemplating where I might pitch my tent when a man stopped his truck and asked if I needed a place to stay. I hesitated only for a moment before replying, "Yes." He said his was the first house on the right after crossing the bridge. Wow, he had a beautiful home on the eastern bank of the Snake River. Nice house, shady green lawn, a fishing dock, cabins along the river - the whole deal. I couldn't believe my good fortune! Again, the kindness of strangers.
Fred Beirig and his lovely wife Lucy invited me into their home as if they had known me for years. Surrounded by three young grandchildren and various cat and dogs, they brushed things aside to create a welcome space for me that I am most thankful for. I had a great conversation with them both as Lucy made a great dinner served with wine and dessert. At bedtime, they would not hear of me pitching my tent and insisted I sleep in one of their air-condition cabins along the river. Before turning in for the night, I wandered down to their boat dock marveling at the river sights while watching the evening sun set.
Never underestimate the unexpected.


Tuesday, July 6
My goal today was to get to Vale, Oregon (33 miles away) so after my morning routine I was on the road at 5:15. Great day of walking along the Malheur River in the sun. More up and down of a roadway today. I prefer it flat as a pancake if possible - do I have to cross the Rockies?
My longtime friend Bert Eliason surprised me with a visit. He had been in Bend and drove out Highway 20 to try to find me - which he did. Bert had brought carrots, apples, chicken, and cold beer and the two of us had a regular picnic. While eating Bert received a surprise of his own. Wearing shorts he had sat directly on a red ant hill and it was only a miracle that he didn't literally have "ants in his pants." He sure aroused their attention - and they aroued his!
We talked briefly to a Malheur sheriff deputy name Officer Johnson. He seemed like a really nice guy. When he found out I was walking to support the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, he told me that he had had to take an oath to support the state and federal constitution when he took his job. I appreciated his sincerity and sharing.
After lunch and a fond farewell - Bert headed west and I headed east. I had to bust my butt big time to get to Vale. This was the most I have yet walked and it had some hills as well. I was so tired that when I hit the city limits I immediately got a room at the only motel in town - "The Bates Motel!" I'm not a movie trivia buff but I do remember that Alford Hitchcock's "Psycho" took place at the Bates Motel. This place even looked like it could be the one - cheap, not so fancy, and totally retro.
It was a little creepy taking a shower there, not because of the movie, but because of the shower (I didn't know mildew came in that color).
For those of you that know the movie - check out the pictures.

* Central and Eastern Oregon