Saturday, June 14, 2008

missing miles 1

Address of the Samish Island Community of Christ camp:

11795 Scott Rd
Bow, WA 98232

Address of the College Way Best Western in Mount Vernon, the place Glen kindly drove me to:

300 W College Way
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

MapQuest walking distance calculation:

16.09 miles

I can only guess at how far I walked on the day I got picked up by the state police. The total walk from Monroe to Bothell was supposed to be 17.69 miles; I did approximately 11 miles of that walk, assuming I did 4.1 miles along Route 522 before I hit that bridge (and according to Google Maps, that's the correct distance). That means my ride was 6.69 miles.

So: 16.09 + 6.69 = 22.78 miles for me to make up-- an entire day's walk. Here's hoping I don't rack up more.


Officer Chuck's question is mine as well

Remember the genial Officer Chuck, whom I encountered in the outskirts of Monroe? During our friendly chat, he asked me what I was doing without a chase vehicle.

Good question, Chuck. I've been wondering about that myself.

A lot of long-distance walkers have chase vehicles-- a van or small truck or station wagon with supplies for the walker (George Martin, whose blog A Journey for 9/11 is on my sidebar, has an entire support team... he's about to finish his walk, by the way). One of the main advantages of a chase vehicle is that the walker can stop wherever, and can then be whisked off somewhere convenient, such as a campground (if the walker insists on camping) or to a hotel/motel, or to someone's residence, for the night. The walker might even sleep in the vehicle itself if it parks for the night. The next day, the walker can pick up exactly where s/he left off-- s/he can be driven back to the previous day's stopping point, which becomes the new day's starting point (Steve Vaught did something like this on many occasions, but he often took long breaks for various reasons, which is what I'd rather avoid).

Having a chase vehicle also frees the walker up in terms of his/her encumbrance: I'm barely into the beginning of my own walk, but lazy putz that I am, I already fantasize about pulling my fifty pounds of gear behind me into one of those jogger's strollers designed for people with kids. Oh, to walk without pressure on my spine! To breathe freely!

Because it hasn't rained over the past three days, I've had the chance to walk without rain gear on, which means I can tighten my hip belt further and relieve a lot of the back pressure (the hip belt can't get a grip on the rain jacket). Here, alas, the problem is that the belt slowly loosens up thanks to my gut's constant outward pressure (I have to pull that belt tight to make it work at all, otherwise the pack's bottom just slides down to cover the upper half of my butt, which is all wrong). I can't blame Gregory, the company that made my backpack, for that problem; I have only myself to blame. The situation will improve as I continue to thin out and actually reacquire hips (my waist-to-hip ratio remains well over 1.0 at this point; for guys, the ideal is about 0.9), but in the meantime, it's annoying to have to constantly retighten my belt.*

As I've walked through various towns, I've seen plenty of cars on sale. Many are under $2000, which is within my price range. Would it be worth someone's while if I were to purchase a car, take care of title, tax, tags, and insurance (gack), and recruit one or several chase car drivers? I seriously doubt I can find a single person to perform such a service for the entire walk, but what if people signed up to do "tours" with me, each tour lasting, oh, I don't know... a week? Does this sound workable to any of my readers? Does it sound like a way to spend a week of summer vacation? Should I buy a car, put an ad out on, and pray I don't wind up with crazies as my chauffeurs?

And what are the disadvantages of having a chase car? Let's chew on that for a moment.

First and foremost, a second person is going to be inconvenienced, because that person will have to be on site. S/he will be taking time out of his/her life to help out without being able to go home right away, and that's not an easy thing to do. There's also the food, clothing, and shelter problem: instead of dealing with only one person's needs out in the field, the addition of a driver effectively doubles the pressure. How does this affect finances?

Second-- and this is just as serious an issue-- I have no clear concept as to how expensive it would be to have and maintain a chase car, and whether I would really be saving money by having one. If, for example, I'm using the chase car to cart me to a motel every night, then having such a car would offer no advantages: I'd be paying for lodging plus the vehicle's normal expenses. Why bother? I imagine I can clear most of this issue up through research, but I don't know how much time I can devote to it while on the road.

Third, despite my ignorance of specific costs, I can imagine, in general terms, how expensive things might get if the car broke down. Very, very expensive.

Fourth, let's say that having a chase car frees me up to walk nearly unencumbered in almost any terrain, so I attempt something like the Rockies during a dangerous season. A breakdown would strand not only me, but also my driver. Two people would find themselves in a potentially deadly situation where only one person should properly be. This is another sense in which a breakdown would be "expensive": it could potentially cost more lives than necessary.

So there's a lot to consider. I don't have to buy a car, necessarily; perhaps the people willing to do a week-long "tour" with me would be willing to provide their own car. After all, I doubt I can walk more than 140 or 150 miles in a single week, which means that a person who finishes his or her tour can drive back home in just a few short hours.

For me, the advantages of having a chase car seem almost-- almost-- to outweigh the disadvantages, but I'm very wary of the risks involved in including a second on-site person in this walk. Even though that person would likely be a cheerful volunteer, I would never be able to forgive myself if something were to happen to him/her.

So tonight's Kevin is a torn Kevin. Comments on the chase car issue are welcome.

*Strap adjustment is a simple fact of life when backpacking; you never really stop tweaking your straps as you're moving along. Loads naturally shift; certain patches of skin and muscle become more (or less) comfortable throughout the day. The natural rock, roll, or bounce of your stride can throw straps out of adjustment. My point is that the hip belt issue will never really go away, but it will improve greatly once my body is significantly less doughy.


SGI kaikan main hall, viewed from the stage

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

SGI kaikan interior, main hall with large butsudan

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

SGI Seattle Cultural Center (kaikan): exterior

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Paul C's butsudan (Buddha shrine)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Paul C and his dawg Indiana

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T HQ on the hill

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

the view from Paul C's window (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

resting and typing away

Since a bit after noon today, I've been at the home of Paul C., an air traffic controller and SGI practitioner (like the Wood family in Arlington). Paul knows a lot about local history (who knew Seattle had such seedy beginnings?), and has been a wealth of information not only on Soka Gakkai, but on other religions as well. His place is downtown in Pioneer Square, almost right by the water, a little over two miles away from Choboji, where I was last night and this morning. I was happy that most of the walk to Paul's place was downhill, but now that I'm close to the water's edge, I fear what sort of walk awaits me tomorrow. At least I have more time to rest my feet today.

Paul took me out to the airport to pick up his girlfriend Ginger, who is Korean (for clarity's sake: she's an American citizen) and a Mormon (or is that lapsed Mormon?). Because we had some time before her flight touched down, we did lunch alng with Paul's golden retriever Indiana, put Indy back into the apartment, then visited the local SGI kaikan (Kor. hwae-gwan, which translates various ways into English; "[convention] center" or "meeting hall" come to mind as possibilities), where Paul explained a goodly bit of SGI's early history. While in the kaikan, he shared an interesting insight with me: "Religion provides a framework for our spiritual knowledge." (I hope I'm quoting that right; this was another of those moments where I should have been recording.)

Paul owns (yes, owns) a nice apartment right next to Qwest Field, the stadium where the Seattle Mariners play their games. He's given me the run of a spare laptop, so I'll be catching up on typing all this evening, uploading more photos from my digicam and Blackberry, and finalizing where I'll be staying tomorrow night. If I can, I'll also try transcribing the recorded dialogue I had with Genjo last night (patience, Charles... uploading will happen, but I'm hoping for files of sufficient sound quality to be worth the listeners' while), as well as blogging about some of the other fascinating conversations I've had (including one this morning with Genjo's Zen group).

Stay tuned!


a Seattle "land and water" tour vehicle (is it really amphibious?)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

when passing by Seattle U., you have to get a pic of DA CHIEF!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

awesome bird art: scorpion turd on East Madison Street

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

leaving temple 3: one last look over the front gate (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

leaving temple 2: wind chimes that punctuated my evening

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

leaving temple 1 (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Genjo with yours truly unconsciously imitating him

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Genjo (left, butt hidden) and da krew

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 6

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

sneaky shot of Carolyn, wife of Genjo

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 5 (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 4 (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 3: socializing (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 2 (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

zendo 1 (6/14)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

accidental shot of the abbot's butt

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

arrival at Choboji yesterday (6/13): front yard Buddha lurking

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

inside the fence and standing in the front yard of Choboji

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

in Seattle and at the temple

Before I began this walk, I wondered how often I would actually be able to stay on the grounds of the places of worship I was visiting. As things have turned out, I've stayed on the grounds in a high percentage of cases:

Blaine: two nights at FCU

Lynden: one night in the gurdwara's outbuilding

Bellingham: one night in the Zen center basement

Arlington: one night in the Woods' house, where one corner of their living room is actually a shrine

Seattle: tonight I find myself in the well-appointed basement of the Zen temple I'm visiting.

So today's walk was about 18 miles thanks to my frustrating delay; had everything gone well, it would have been merely 15. MapQuest had told me to go "west toward 9th Avenue" at the start of today's journey, but my compass told me that going toward 9th Avenue was clearly going east. I went for about 35 minutes before finally heeded my gut feeling that MapQuest was right to send me toward 9th Avenue, but had erred in calling it "west."

I got confused a couple other times during the walk; as happens in DC, Seattle streets often disappear and reappear a few blocks later; also like DC, streets often meet at odd angles. I got to the temple eventually, though, and quite without police intervention today, thank you.

When I was directly across from the Zen temple, I saw my very first hummingbird. I've seen plenty of these little guys on TV, but never in person. It was quite a sight, but the hummingbird flicked away long before I could train my lens on it.

The temple itself is a house with a large wooden fence; I opened the gate, stepped into the front yard, and snapped some photos of the front. Genjo Marinello appeared moments later with a cheerful, "You made it! Oh, my God!" Genjo was looking relaxed in his casual clothing; he showed me to my nicer-than-expected basement digs, gave me a quick tour, let me meet his dogs, then told me he had a date with his wife. Before he left, he reminded me that there was a nearby Safeway where I could shop for dinner if I wanted.

My feet started screaming the moment I tried to resume walking (I think this walk may also have reopened the hip abrasion on my left side.) It's almost funny: I've been walking long enough to develop callused blisters. Go figure. But I willed myself into motion and gallumphed in my sweat-soaked tee shirt over to Safeway.

Let me tell you-- when you're tired and hungry, Safeway is a beautiful sight. As soon as I went in, I knew I had to eat everything. I restricted myself to a very large pre-made Cobb salad, a wrap sandwich, a small box of toothpick-ready sausage and cheese bites, and two tiny cups of pudding (chocolate and tapioca, the latter being a favorite ever since my buddy Mike's Grandma Margaret fed it to me when I was young). I scarfed this glorious mess down with a jug of Sunny Delight, then showered and laundered my clothes in the basement sink.

I was going to hang-dry my clothes, but Genjo said he had a clothes dryer, so I handed my wet clothes to him. They came back perfectly dry.

While my clothes were drying, Genjo and I sat down for a 30-minute one-on-one, which I recorded. We covered a host of subjects; I hope to write up a transcript of the conversation soon.

While I have a ton more to say about today, it'll have to wait until some other time because I feel myself getting drowsy.

Signing off!


Friday, June 13, 2008

ah... HUSKY Stadium!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

rush hour

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

U. of Washington 2

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

U. of Washington 1

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

I see more of these here in WA than in NoVA

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

yesterday's (6/12) entry into Bothell

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

a sign I saw on 522 yesterday (6/12), before getting picked up by police

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

walking into Seattle today

For those keeping track:

I got turned around this morning (MapQuest said one thing while my compass clearly said another) and wasted about 70 minutes, but am now heading toward a Zen temple about 15 miles from the Extended Stay America I was in last night (I highly recommend that chain, by the way). The road I'm on was called Locust Way until I left Bothell and hit the boundary of Kenmore; now it's called 61 Place NE.

The abbot said the best time to meet him would be between 3 and 5PM, but I'll be hard-pressed to make that time, given my foot blisters and (finally!) the general hilliness of the terrain. I've had it easy thus far; now we're getting some up-and-down.

So I'd better stop here and get a-moving. Every time I blog or email or take a call on this BlackBerry, I'm obliged to stop walking, so I'm losing precious time.

And we're off!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Howard and Scottie

On June 11, I was making my slow, plodding way to Joshua and Heather's place in Monroe when a station wagon pulled over onto the right shoulder of the road and a long-haired, bearded, mustachioed, baseball-capped gentleman got out. He appeared to be waiting for me, and in fact he was. He offered me a ride and I politely declined, explaining what I was doing. The man, named Howard Davis, shook his head in amazement and said, "You gotta meet my mother and tell her your story. She's the one who said we should stop for you."

So I walked over to the idling station wagon and met Mercedes, nicknamed Scottie. I told her my story; she offered me some food she had in the car with her, but I again declined, this time because I had just eaten bangers and mash at that pub. As I had done with other folks, I explained that I had flown to Vancouver from the DC-Metro area, had crossed the border on foot, and have been walking ever since.

Scottie told me to watch out for all the "corkscrews" out there; I told her that no one had given me any trouble thus far. I asked Scottie how she had gotten her nickname; she said it was the name of her uncle's best friend, who had died in "the war," by which I assume Scottie meant World War 2. Howard again shook his head in amazement, this time at his mother; "That's the first time I ever heard that story," he said.

Howard told me that he appreciates the need for interreligious dialogue because, as a Mormon, he gets a lot of flak (including from his mother). We both had a chuckle at that.

Soon after, it was time for Howard and Scottie to go. We all shook hands; I received more "God bless"es and "be careful"s, and away they went. Quite a pair, those two: Howard looked to be in his late 40s or early 50s, and might have been taking care of his mother. They were a great example of the sort of welcome I've had from many people in the region. It was wonderful to meet and talk with them, however briefly.

Take care, you two!


ride offers

I've neglected to mention that

1. A young, bearded guy with a solemn expression on his face offered me a ride when I was in Arlington and close to the Wood residence;

2. A very nice gent and his mother (I'll blog more about them later-- what a pair!) offered me a ride when I was on my way to Everett; and

3. Maybe an hour before I was picked up by Officer Boisen, a tiny Asian guy in a pickup stopped on the shoulder of 522 to offer me a ride.

People have been very nice to me.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Thursday, June 12, 2008

picked up by the police!

Today, I had my first-ever ride in the back of a police car. It's not as dramatic as it sounds; I wasn't arrested, and the trooper didn't even ask for my ID.

I had been walking from Monroe to Bothell; after shipping home ten pounds of my possessions at the local UPS branch, I had walked over to the on-ramp for Route 522, which according to MapQuest I was to follow for a little over eight miles.

There had been no precipitation all day long, and we even had a good bit of sun. Route 522 isn't a freeway (so yes, it's legal to walk on it), but with all the car and truck traffic roaring by in both directions, it feels like one. I walked along in my rain gear, sweating away as per usual, enjoying those moments when I happened to pass under tree shadows and experienced a bit of coolness. I squeezed my eyes shut whenever large trucks went by; their turbulence stirred up all the dust and grit that blanketed the road shoulder, and I didn't want to be breaking out the contact lens saline solution in such an environment.

About four miles into the 522 portion of my walk, the road curved and suddenly I found myself facing a two-lane bridge-- one with no sidewalk or bike path. "Oh, shit," I said to myself, wondering how I was going to make it across without being squished.

I noticed that there actually was a shoulder of sorts on the bridge. It wasn't wide enough for me to walk facing forward, but I saw that if I turned sideways and rested my backpack on the Jersey barrier, I could walk forward when there were breaks in the traffic, and stand still whenever cars and trucks were passing by.

After debating with my cowardice for a minute or so, I found a break in the traffic and started onto the bridge. As in previous walks, I stopped whenever vehicles blew by, but the difference this time was that I was up against a Jersey barrier, and often had to wait more than a minute before I could get moving again-- there were that many cars.

It was during one of those long pauses that a police car pulled up. I sighed. He was obviously here for me. State police, not local. Through his closed window, the trooper shouted something about getting off the bridge, but I couldn't hear him too well, so, presuming, I opened his passenger-side door and leaned in to ask what he was saying.

The trooper, Officer Boisen, was polite enough, even though we had effectively stopped traffic in the lane he was occupying. "Please get in the back," Officer Boisen said. I asked him to pull his car a bit away from the Jersey barrier so I should shrug off my backpack (taking it off and putting it on is a major chore). I eventually wrestled the pack into the car, then stuffed myself in along with it.

And that's how, for the first time in my life, I ended up in the back of a police car. While it's not an experience I'd heartily recommend, there was something undeniably cool about this particular experience.

Officer Boisen asked me where I was headed and what I was doing on the road. He also said, "You're not wanted for anything, are you?" The question took me by surprise, and I laughed involuntarily. "No, sir," I answered as our car started forward-- back the way I'd come.

"You're not supposed to be on that bridge," the trooper said.

"But walking on 522 is legal, right?" I asked.

Officer Boisen pulled his car into a turnaround to point me back toward Bothell, my goal for today.

"Yes," he responded, "but the bridge isn't open to pedestrian traffic."

This prompted the obvious question: "So if it's legal to be on the road but not on the bridge, how am I supposed to cross the bridge?"

I'm not sure I understood (or even correctly recall) the answer. If I'm not mistaken, Officer Boisen's basic point was that, even though it was technically legal to walk 522, the road wasn't "intended for" (his words) pedestrian traffic. The legal implications of "intended for" are lost to me; I'm curious to look up the actual law relevant to what happened today-- not because I dispute Officer Boisen's interpretation of it, but because I want to be clear about it in future, so as not to cause any trouble.

"I'll take you up to 228th street and let you off. You can walk to your motel from there," said my driver. I told Officer Boisen that this was my first-ever ride in a police car, and he laughed. Like Officer Chuck, he was a good-natured fellow, despite the fact that I had caused him to obstruct traffic for three minutes.

We arrived at the drop-off point. I thanked the trooper for having given me a lift, but also scolded him: "I'm going to have to make these miles up, you know," I told him. We shook hands when I was out of the car; Officer Boisen refused to let me take his picture, but after he shook my hand he wished me good luck on my walk, of which only 3.6 miles remained thanks to the state of Washington's kind intervention.

In case you're wondering: the back of a squad car is hard and uncomfortable, like the molded plastic seating in some subways. A clear shield (glass? PlexiGlas? Kryptonite?) separates the, uh, passenger from the driver. There's very little leg room, which must be a pain if you're the kind of felon who's used to luxury. I was happy that today's ride wasn't an arrest; I imagine the whole thing would have felt unpleasant had circumstances been grimmer. Luckily, they weren't, and the upshot is that I arrived in Bothell several hours earlier than planned, and have had time to rest my feet a bit more.

What a day, eh? Amazing!


Mike, Joe, and Jack at the UPS branch this morning

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

on my way to Bothell

I've just been to a UPS branch where I dropped off ten pounds' worth of unnecessary possessions. Damn, what a difference ten pounds makes! So I'm shouldering only fifty pounds now, and I already feel much lighter on my feet.

Big shout-out to employees Jack and Joe, as well as to school bus driver Mike (another UPS customer), who all gave kind words of encouragement and asked questions about the walk. They've got the blog's URL now, so here's hoping they spread the word!

[I joked that my mother, who has worked many years at a postal workers' union office, will kill me for using UPS.]

Am walking to Bothell (I learned a few days ago that it's pronounced "BAH-th'll," not "buh-THELL," which is what I wanted to say), then officially heading into Seattle on Friday, where I'll be staying at Choboji, a Zen temple in the Soto Rinzai Zen tradition.

And lastly: sometime today, I'll finally break the 100-mile mark. Only about 2900 more miles to go!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

in Monroe and achy but fine

My walk to Monroe went very slowly; my shoes remain wet, which doesn't help the condition of my feet. I keep hoping for a series of warm, dry days, but I might need to pull out of the state of Washington to get them.

I'm at the home of Joshua and Heather, a very nice young couple who live in a fine house right next door to Heather's parents, i.e. Joshua's in-laws. Joshua is a man of many talents, as is his wife. The house is pretty teched-up with several computers, audio, and video systems. Joshua is a dance instructor (he has even auditioned for "So You Think You Can Dance") and composer, among other things.

He and I had an interesting discussion about Christianity and Christian belief that merits another post; for now, I'll note that Joshua is adamantly against belonging to a particular denomination, but he is a very strong Christian who is unafraid of following the logical implications of his beliefs. I like his sincerity, even though he and I are on opposite sides of the fence on most of the issues we discussed.

I'll be leaving this fine neighborhood in the morning; it's too bad I arrived here so late this evening (nearly 9PM!). Thanks, J and H, for your hospitality!


shout-out to the dude in the black Corvette

He'll never see this blog entry, but I appreciate the horn-honk and thumbs-up I received from a very hairy dude driving a black Corvette earlier today (Wednesday the 11th; be not fooled by this blog's Eastern-time time stamp). This happened near the conclusion of today's 19.4-mile walk. The guy was driving in the opposite direction from the way I was going when he saw me, honked, and gave me a thumbs-up. He had a huge blond Afro and a full beard and mustache to match. Amazing.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

a nice email from Nomon Tim Burnett

Tim Burnett, the priest at the Red Cedar Zen Center in Bellingham, wrote me a very nice email that said in part:

I was interested to see the Anglican priest in Blaine used to practice Zen. I'll give him a buzz. Consider yourself a success at helping make connections, I'm sure that will happen for different people as you go along. A great service of your walk which might happen in your wake.

enjoy and good luck,

This was gratifying to read, and I hope others will see that connections can be made across religious lines. To be clear, Tim doesn't strike me as the type to cultivate a hermetic Zen community; quite the opposite: he and the members of Red Cedar are very open, welcoming folks. All the same, building more connections is never a bad thing.

Thanks again, Tim, for your and your community's gracious hospitality! I hope you do get in contact with Jay, and that something comes of all this. Heck, if you both could get together with Nan Geer and maybe start something up with the Sikhs, I'd be happy as a clam!

No pressure, though.


Kev leaves Arlington

Many thanks to Woody, who took several pics of me as I was leaving. This one shows off my backpack, which weighed in at 58 pounds on the morning I left Arlington. Thanks again, Woody, Kyoko, and family! I very much enjoyed my stay!


drive-in coffee bars are EVERYWHERE!

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Once I was south of Lynden, I began to notice more and more of these little drive-in coffee bars. They're everywhere, and they testify to a cultural addiction. Are we really that coffee-mad?

Imagine living most of your waking hours in a box like this. What a life, eh? It's easy to visualize if you've lived in East Asia, where merchants of all sorts live inside wooden or metal shoeboxes, plying their trades or purveying their products.


Officer Chuck

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Interesting story: I was about to walk into Monroe proper (6/11) when a guy in a pickup truck pulled up and offered me a ride. As happened with others who have offered me rides, I had to decline. A few minutes later, right as I was entering town, a police car drove toward me and parked on the roadside. The officer got out, and we had a very friendly conversation about who I was, what I was doing, and so on. I'm not sure how much of this I can reveal on the blog, but anyway... meet Officer Chuck (pictured above).

It turns out that the gent in the pickup was an off-duty policeman who called in the fact that a backpacker was strolling into town, which I suppose is why Officer Chuck checked me out.

Just to be clear: there were no hassles. Chuck was friendly from the get-go and even allowed me to get his picture. I gave him my blog's URL, so I hope he spreads the word about this walk. I'll do my part and spread the word that the local police force treats strangers very well, all while being vigilant.


note the lack of shoulder, which is problematic when there's traffic

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

today's bangers and mash

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

thoughts on the road

I'm sitting in a English-style pub. It's mostly empty at 2:45PM, but I imagine it'll liven up later this evening. I just got through a decent cup of clam chowder and am looking forward to a helping of bangers and mash.

A few random thoughts:

1. Drivers around here are way too polite. On roads with no shoulders, I'll stop and wait for cars to pass, and what many of the drivers do is to swerve so far out of my way that they're almost fully in the opposing lane. We Americans sometimes take this "personal space" thing a little too seriously, I think. That, or we're deathly afraid of lawsuits. Contrast this with vehicle-pedestrian interactions in Korea, where a typical Seoul day, for walker and driver alike, is a long series of near-collisions. It's weird, but sometimes I like the Korean way better. (Yeah, yeah-- I'll change my tune when I have my first accident.)

2. I've had to walk through two road-work zones today; both were bordered by people with those signs that say "slow" on one side and "stop" on the other. When I went through the first work zone, which was about 50-60 yards long, the sign-holders actually stopped all car traffic to let me through, which was embarrassing. The sign-holding lady at the beginning of the second road-work zone was a cutie in her twenties. She asked where I'd started walking, and when I told I'd started just across the US/Can border, she said in astonishment, "Shut--UP!" I smiled, but cringed inwardly because, in the grand scheme of things, I've barely begun this trek (though I'll be hitting the 100-mile mark in the next day or so) and don't merit any astonishment from anyone. You can rack up a hundred miles just walking around your home or office.

3. I still haven't said everything there is to be said about the Lynden Sikh temple experience.

4. I also need to write more about some interesting conversations I had with both the Wood family and with my most recent CouchSurfing host, Miles.

5. Mexican and Thai food in this region has been consistently good (Thai food in particular stands out for its huge servings and cheap prices), while Chinese food has been consistently mediocre.

All for now. I'm on my way to Monroe, which is farther away than I thought: the city might be 16 miles away as the crow flies, but the actual walk is 19.4 miles. I'm done with the bangers and mash, so it's time to get a move on. I expect to arrive fairly late tonight, and need to tell my host this.


Kyoko and Woody step outside in the morning to bid me adieu

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

my wonderful Arlington, WA hosts, Woody and Kyoko

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Woody does his Darth Buddhist impression

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

the Wood family: Lacy does Miles's hair

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

FCU symbols/images of religious diversity

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

FCU sanctuary interior 11

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

FCU sanctuary interior 10

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

FCU sanctuary interior 9

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

FCU sanctuary interior 8: hymnal

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

in Marysville

I'm taking a break to write this entry. Am a couple miles into Marysville; in fact, I might be about to exit it, as I've gone a couple miles along State Avenue.

A few quick thoughts about the trip up to the Woods' house yesterday:

1. Thanks to the weather, the road to Arlington has been paved with slugs. I've become pretty good at spotting them in the grass as I'm walking along. Not that it's all that hard to spot them: some of those little bastards are fatter than I am. I haven't seen slugs this big since I lived in Switzerland. They make me hungry.

2. Slugs are naughty, naughty little creatures. At one point during yesterday's walk, I happened upon what appeared to be some sort of slug orgy-- a happy assemblage of slugs piled on top of each other. While other explanations for the pile did occur to me (rugby, stock trading, rock concert, huddling for warmth), orgy struck me as the most plausible of the lot. This was confirmed when one of the slugs pulled itself away from the slimy, writhing mass, fixed me with its eyestalks, and said, "Would you mind not staring?" Abashed, I walked on.

3. Yesterday's weather included some hellacious wind, and even a moment of hail. I'm not sure why, but when the hail started up, I started laughing. Maybe I found it ridiculous that Mother Nature had yet more to throw at me.

4. Many local roads have no shoulders, and as I got closer to the Wood residence, this became an issue: around evening rush hour, there were a lot of cars coming at me, so I ended up developing a rhythm: walk forward ten steps, step aside and stop, wait, then walk forward again. Sometimes I'd be forced to wait while a single car passed; at other times I'd have to wait as an entire herd passed me single-file, like sandpeople on their Banthas. The worst were the herds in which individual cars were very widely spaced: you'd think you had time to move forward, BUT NO! Traffic wasn't particularly dangerous, but the delays were annoying: walk, pause, walk, pause, walk, pause...

Woody actually met me on the road last evening when I was about two-tenths of a mile from his house. "You're almost there, Kevin!" he called from his truck. It was a relief from I finally made it to his home, met the family, had dinner, did laundry and a photo upload, and eventually collapsed into bed. I took a few family pics, and this morning Woody took some pics of me in my blue gear, in which I look like a giant Viagara tablet.

Many thanks again to the entire Wood family for their amazing hospitality. Thanks for this morning's breakfast and for allowing me to step part-way into the world of Soka Gakkai Nichiren Buddhism (nam-myoho-renge kyo). Good luck to the kids as they each embark on their personal endeavors, and good luck to the parents, who never seem to have a dull moment.

Thanks, too, Woody, for weighing my gear and discovering it is indeed 58 pounds-- I guessed well when I said "60"!

Speaking of poundage, this morning I weighed myself on a bathroom scale and discovered I was 275 pounds-- down from 293! Still another 75 pounds to go!

UPDATE: Am in Everett, staying with a gent named Miles who has kindly allowed me onto his computer. Miles is a great person to talk with about hiking, camping, etc.; he's quite an outdoorsman and I've already learned a lot (ah, but will Kevin retain what he's learned?). Miles just showed me how to make a camp stove out of two soda cans, a quarter, a pork-and-bean can, and denatured alcohol. Miles's religious orientation might best be described by the Korean term mu-gyo: he belongs to no specific tradition, though he did spend time with the Unitarians and actually knows Nan Geer, the feisty Unitarian pastor in Blaine! More in a bit; gonna try uploading some pics.

Here's Miles's gas stove:

And here's Miles himself, with demonic red-eye: