Saturday, June 28, 2008

one ass-kicker of a walk

Although the distance isn't that great from Centralia to Lewis and Clark State Park, it's been a hellish walk thanks to the heat and all the direct sunlight (yes, Mom, I've applied lotion many times, but I just sweat it right off). Thank goodness I haven't also had to contend with major inclines!

More to come when I finally arrive at my campsite and set up camp (I got a call from the camp's office and heard that hiker/biker sites should be available in plenty; you'll recall that this is a first-come, first-serve campground, unlike Millersylvania). I'm thinking about staying there two nights; my feet are starting to ache a bit too much for my taste.


thank you, Dave and Ardeth!

I had written a rather lengthy thank-you post to (and about) Dave and Ardeth, who so kindly hosted me for my night and morning in Centralia, but that post got sucked into the vortex of cyber-oblivion, so I'm writing this significantly shorter post to express:

(1) my apologies for the various little inconveniences I caused you (including obliging Dave to find and return my Camelbak, which had fallen somewhere during our morning tour of the town);
(2) my sincere thanks for a tasty spaghetti-and-salad dinner last night and a lovely pile of pancakes this morning;
(3) my appreciation for introducing me to Centralia as a living community and historic town; and
(4) my gratitude for introducing me to black currant tea, which could well become a new addiction.

Thanks, guys, for everything!


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shout-out to Matt (front passenger), Bryan (driver), Kaitlyn (the lone intrepid female), and John (back, shrouded in darkness)

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thoughts that occupy men in bathroom stalls (2): love and death are not-two; eros and thanatos are ever intertwined

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thoughts that occupy men in bathroom stalls (1): MY crapper!

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ye gods! I ordered a "chocolate pie," and this is the monster that arrived

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meet Nicole, who kindly pointed me to a nearby restaurant

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this bear's posture is priceless: "Good Lord! I'm naked!"

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car fair already in full swing at 10AM

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Dave gallantly hauls my stuff through Centralia College this morning

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Dave and Ardeth, my kind hosts in Centralia

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Lewis and Clark State Park?

Lewis and Clark State Park appears to be my next destination, but whether there'll be any spaces left for me is an open question. They might have hiker/biker spots, which would be nice. I have to check.

I've also got some blister action to deal with. Oy.

By the way: Deep Woods Off doesn't repel the most determined mosquitoes. Sorry, Dad and David. I guess my natural fragrance is simply too overpoweringly sexy for the little suckers.



So I've passed the 200-mile mark for this walk, and the 27th also marked the one-month "anniversary" of the start of the walk. I left Alexandria, VA on May 26, but started walking from White Rock, BC on the 27th.

If the Underwood's bathroom scale is to be trusted (and Dave smilingly hinted that it isn't), I may also have dropped below the 270-pound mark. The scale said I was 260-something, which puts me close to my (admittedly inauspicious) weight of 255, the weight I was when I started teaching at Sookmyung Women's University. I hope eventually to get down to my 1990 weight of 200 even, which is what I was when I came back from nearly a whole calendar year in Switzerland. After the walk is over, the question will be how to maintain that weight.

If I walk 200 miles per month and assume the walk across the country will be around 3000 miles (you'll recall that the shortest route is about 2500 miles and the southward-dipping long route would be about 4000 miles), I could finish the trek in fifteen months, which would be in time for my 40th birthday. Keep your fingers and tentacles crossed.


with the Underwoods

Dave Underwood, a peppy, athletic guy, met me not far past the county line on his bike. He was trailing a large carrier into which he very kindly placed my backpack, thereby allowing me to walk unencumbered for the final four-point-something miles to his residence in Centralia.

Dave and his wife Ardeth are an interesting couple. Dave is a Christian (Episcopalian) while Ardeth, who has a background as a Unitarian, has entered a Sufi order, but has also engaged in Buddhist and Hindu practice.

I know next to nothing about Sufism, so it was fascinating to hear about her practice and the inner life that goes along with it: much emphasis is placed, for example, on the notion of inquiry, and if I understand correctly, inquiry is a major component in a very personal spiritual journey, one that takes place with the aid of a guide (guide, not master). Ardeth also mentioned a Sufi notion I had never heard before: "polishing the rust from the heart." (I hope I phrased that correctly.) The idea here seems to have some links with contemplative/introspective practices found in other traditions; the object is to examine the source of the "rust" that obscures one's spiritual heart, and eventually to return the heart to its original, pristine, polished state, one that allows it to be a perfect reflector for the divine light.

The man who brought Sufism to America (didn't catch the name, alas) seems to have been a convergent pluralist insofar as he saw the great religious traditions as having the same fundamental focus. Would he have agreed with John Hick that that focus is "the turn from self-centeredness to Reality-centeredness"? I don't know.

I was very impressed by Dave's offer to carry my bag the final few miles. He and Ardeth also prepared a lovely vegan dinner of spaghetti and salad, with rhubarb for dessert (glutton that I am, I had seconds).

Conversation lasted long after dinnertime as both spouses shared stories about their personal lives and work, their insights about Washington State and small-town life, and their wisdom about what I can expect next, depending on where I go.

And speaking of where I'm going, it's past time for me to check on what's happening next in my travels. Alan has once again lined things up superlatively and has noted that I've received more CouchSurfing offers down the line.

So off I go.


Friday, June 27, 2008

kinda speaks for itself

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the llamas of Lewis County (2)

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the llamas of Lewis County (1)

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a brief break before slogging on

I had a very late start today, despite having gotten up around 7:30AM: I left Millersylvania State Park a little after noon! Not good when you've got a 16.6-mile walk to Centralia ahead of you, but some things needed taking care of, including a proper airing-out of the tent and fly, a proper (if somewhat clumsy) takedown of same, some time to write the entries I wrote this morning, figuring out how self-registration at the camp was supposed to work, totally emptying and repacking my pack, and MapQuesting my current park-to-Centralia route (which has been one of the most gorgeous stretches I've walked, by the way; Tilley Road is something else).

I ran out of water with no shop or resto in sight and resigned myself to a few hours of mouth-dryness, but was saved from all that when my path took me by a gas station/grocery, which is where I am now. I've just guzzled some Mountain Dew Voltage (not bad, especially when you're thirsty), filled my Camebak with a 2:1 mixture of Gatorade and water, eaten some jerky, and downed a small bag of peanut M&Ms.

My buddy Tom called me while I was in a poor-signal area on Tillet Road, but it was great to hear from him. Tom and I have known each other since 1994, when we taught together at the same awful language institute in Seoul. Tom's the guy from whom I learned the expression "dingleberry dickhead," which has come in handy a few times over the years. He's been in the States almost a week and is leaving right around the Fourth of July. Have a good rest-of-stay in St. Louis, dude.

So now I need to tend to a few emails and text messages, then hit the road pronto. My host for this evening has already(!) called to check on my progress.


Kelly's shot of me (with sweat marks for added flavor)

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Kelly and Denny

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uninvited guest in my backpack

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a pic for the homies in Korea: if you're out in da boonies, rely on the Marmot!

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don't fart in your sleeping bag

Good morning! It was a decent night, all in all, fueled by a sense of smug self-satisfaction from having figured the new tent out. My toiletry bag served as my pillow, and I was fine with that through the quiet, nearly windless night.

The tent's design represents an interesting solution to the classic condensation problem of the old pup tents. I'm not sure how clear this is in the interior shots I just posted, but the fly basically serves as both fly and tent: the interior layer, what I'm tempted to call "the tent itself," is little more than a standard tent floor topped by mosquito netting. In other words, you have to set up both the tent and the fly; the two parts are integral. The mosquito netting prevents condensation, and the fly, because it doesn't touch the ground, maintains breathability and circulation. Very clever, indeed.

It's a good thing I'm not claustrophobic, though: when they call this a one-man tent, they mean it. The experience of sleeping in the tent reminds me of nothing so much as the night I spent inside a kapsuro (capsule hotel) in downtown Fukuoka-- the highlight of my one evening in Japan.

So now it's time to strike camp. I was lucky to catch two camp staffers who were on their way out last night; the camp's main office wasn't open, and I had wondered how I was supposed to register for the evening. They told me there was a self-registration procedure I could simply do in the morning, and because I had no car, I could set up camp in the so-called "hiker/biker section," whose entrance would be marked with a "do not enter" sign-- perfect for an introvert. Sure enough, I was all alone in the HB section, which isn't even shown on the map; all the group tents and RVs were elsewhere. Ha!

I'm fortunate, too, because I arrived on a Thursday night, which meant fewer people. As summer progresses, I imagine this sort of quasi-solitude will become less likely.

Today promises to be sunny and in the 80s. Shit. Definitely not looking forward to this, and can't even imagine what it's like in southern California and Arizona.

Oy. Gotta pack. And put on sunscreen.


a shot of the thing that set up the tent

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a shot of the tent's interior, down toward my feet

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one happy camper

The last time I was near anything resembling a hoop tent-- one of those domed, self-supporting structures that looked like a cross between an igloo and a Moon Bounce-- it was 1990 and I was camping with some Georgetown classmates at the eastern edge of the Brienzersee in Interlaken, Switzerland. For shelter, I had packed a tarp, some cord, and a groundcloth for two people (me and one other guy named Steve), as well as a foam pad and sleeping bag just for me. The girls had brought a multi-person hoop tent they had borrowed from one of their Swiss host families.

My tarp was easy to set up, largely thanks to the trees, but the girls, who insisted they needed no help, ended up creating something on the lakeshore that looked more like a melting teepee than a proud dome: the poles had ended up concave instead of convex. Katty and Jessica actually spent the night in it, too, this conical (and comical) monstrosity.

I didn't sneer at the girls, because even though I had offered to help them, I had never dealt with a hoop tent before, and felt stymied just looking at it. The tents were becoming hugely popular in the late 1980s and early 90s, but many of us, yours truly included, had stuck with the more traditional design over the years: the two-man pup tent.

What could be easier to set up than such a tent? It had an easy-to-understand rectangular footprint (these days, "footprint" means "groundsheet" or "groundcloth"), two easy-to-assemble poles for the front and back end, and six loops or grommets into which you'd hammer six of your eight or ten stakes. The remaining stakes would be for the lines that radiated from the tent's front and back, and possibly for whatever type of tent fly you had.

So I admit I was apprehensive when I saw that my folks had FedExed me a new tent based on the classic hoop tent design. Having witnessed the girls' disaster all those years ago, I was prepared to wrestle with this thing until long after dark.

But as it turned out, the tent was very easy to put together once you got past the oblique instructions, which was how I wasted ten or fifteen minutes.

The tent pole for my one-man pup tent is a huge, spidery, Y-shaped thing; you lay out your footprint, lay out the tent on top of it, then feed the long part of the Y through the loops along the tent's spine, making sure to stab the pole's end through that final grommet. After you do that, you feed the shorter branches of the Y through the loops that help define the tent's front face. Once the pole has had all three of its ends put through those grommets, the natural tension of the bent Y is what keeps the tent up.

Do that-- a process that takes less than a minute-- and you're 90% done.

The rest of the setup will be familiar to anyone who has put together an old-style pup tent: loops and lines, hammer and stakes. Add the fly to the structure, do a bit more staking, and you're good to go. I finished with plenty of daylight to spare, and was thankful that temps were in the low sixties and the wind was practically zero. It was the perfect night for a practice run, and now that I know how truly easy the setup is, I'll be even faster next time.

And on that note, I'm going to leave this wooden pavilion I'm at (it's got electric sockets so that groups can cook or do other things here; I've been recharging the poor BlackBerry even as I've been sending photos and blogging) and head off to bed.

Oh, wait: I need to give a shout-out to Mark Johnson, the construction worker whose pic I'd uploaded earlier. Mark had wanted to know what I was up to when I was passing through his work zone, so I told him. He thought the idea for the walk was sound and he wished me well. So, ladies, go take a look at Mark!

As I was on the final road to the state park (Tilley, I think), I saw a sort of general store and went in to buy some drinks, some jerky, and some carbs in the form of cookies. This is how I met Andy, a friendly motorcycle-riding customer, and Bill, the store's genial owner. Andy's wife is Mongolian and he's been to Mongolia with her; Bill impressed us both with his encyclopedic knowledge of the area's restaurants and social hotspots. Both Andy and Bill kindly wished me well, so I snapped their pics and promised to blog them, too.

Right: NOW it's time for bed!


and they say power doesn't grow on trees! behold the secret of my blogging ability!

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Kevin masters, sort of, the modern version of the hoop tent

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Millersylvania State Park campground entrance

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woo-hoo! finally at the campsite at 7:20PM!

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image of St. Martin

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the front of Old Main at SMU (admin offices, classrooms, student dining, monks' refectory)

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retrospective: a (hortatory!) depiction of monastic life

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look carefully at what Father Sebastian Ruth is drawing and you'll see this image has a recursive aspect (thanks, Brother Luke!)

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retrospective: the arrival of SMU's very first student, Angus McDonald

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retrospective: a visual chronology of SMU's origins

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

meet Bill (story later)

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meet Andy (whose wife is Mongolian!)

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meet Mark Johnson (story later)

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I'm on Old State Road 99, about five miles out from the campground, and I just passed what appeared to be a downed beehive, with all the bees still milling about it. You just saw the pic of it in the previous post. Incredible, eh?

A long time ago, my buddy Sam and I used to make it our mission to destroy wasp nests. Our last and greatest mission involved a gigantic nest tucked inside the overhang of a neighbor's house. These weren't the regular wasps with their tiny, frilly little nests. No: these were German wasps-- bigger, more tactically coordinated, and superior architects to boot.

Sam had a marvelous slingshot, so he used it to fire a heavy pebble at the nest which was, in my childhood memory of the event, as huge as a jumbo-sized grapefruit.

Direct hit-- then disaster: a black cloud of German wasps came pouring out of the hole Sam had punched into the nest; we turned and ran like hell. Miraculously, we weren't stung.

Both of us knew we had to finish the job, so when we got back to the nest, Sam gave me the slingshot. You can guess what happened: direct hit, cloud of wasps, run like hell.

Being chased twice by a cloud of angry wasps is a hint that even two dense guys like us could take: time to change tactics. I don't remember which of us thought it up-- might've been Sam-- but we shifted to heavier weaponry: water balloons.

The tactic worked. We filled a mess of balloons up, bombarded that nest, and after a few hits the thing dropped from its corner with a heavy splat, just like soggy newsprint.

No Buddhists, we: elated, we charged over to the nest and stomped the crap out it, demolishing the little chambers, crushing the white-shrouded larvae, and generally ignoring what adult wasps remained. Ah, victory was sweet.

I was reminded of all that just now... but now, as an adult, what I was thinking when I passed that insectile crowd was: Thank God these are just honeybees. Had they been wasps or hornets, I would never have gotten that close to take a pic.


that brown thing might look like poop to you, but it's actually HONEYBEES!

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the Ashok story

I was barely a mile from the SMU campus entrance when I stopped at a gas station to buy a gallon of water for my Camelbak. Inside was a friendly Indian gentleman who asked me where I had come from, so I told him my story, then mentioned I needed to get some water for my Camelbak. I found a gallon jug and went to the counter to pay.

"Is that all you want?" the man asked. I looked down and saw beef jerky sticks-- two for a dollar.

"I guess I'll take two of those, too," I said.

"Have it," he said. I thought I'd misheard him, but before I could ask what he meant, he asked, "You sure you don't want a cold drink or something?" I said I was OK, but in good Asian fashion, the man walked out from behind his counter, plucked a cold drink from one of his fridges, and brought it to me. A Korean would understand this behavior.

"How much?" I asked.

The man smiled and shook his head, obviously indicating that everything was free. I was shocked. "I have to pay you!" I said.

"It's all right," he answered.

I shook my head in wonder and thanked the man for his generosity. Then I said, "I'm doing this walk for religious reasons. You wouldn't, by chance, have a religion, would you?"

"I'm Hindu," was the response.

"Ah, one of the great, old religions," I said, thereby ignoring years of academic teaching to the effect that "Hinduism" is an umbrella term for what is really a wide variety of religious traditions. It was only late in Indian history that Indians themselves embraced the designation. For centuries their own belief and practice would have been referred to with terms like sanatana dharma, the eternal law.

Anyway, the man nodded proudly. "Older than Christianity," he said. No argument here: it's a toss-up as to which is older-- the ancient Hebrew religions that gave rise to Judaism, or the proto-Vedic traditions that gave rise to what we collectively call Hinduism. Both are arguably millennia older than Christianity, which along with Islam ranks as one of the "young punk" religions in human history. Buddhism and philosophical Taoism are both roughly a half-millennium older than Christianity, so they might be considered rather green, too, from the larger perspective. A little humility is called for when you face your elders.

I went outside to fill my Camelbak and eat the beef sticks. Then a thought struck me and I went back into the shop.

"Excuse me, but what's your name?" I asked.

"Ashok," Ashok said.

"Like the great king," I smiled. Ashok grinned and wished me well on my journey. Some other customers came in, and it belatedly occurred to me that I should get the man's picture, which I did.

I left the gas station feeling great about the weather, and a little better about the human world. No reckoning of humanity's wickedness is complete without a fair account of the many and varied kindnesses we do each other... sometimes without anyone's asking.

I hope this post doesn't get Ashok in trouble. It would be a shame to repay his kindness with inconvenience. I'm relying on my low site stats to save him.


the corpse of Kenny can't be far off

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this is Ashok-- a very generous guy (story later)

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old and new sleeping bags

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final breffus

Just had my final breakfast and shower here at the abbey. Once I pack my things, I'll be heading to the Millersylvania State Park for some camping (my first night of camping!), then over to Centralia on Friday. Many thanks to the parents for the care package, which arrived yesterday, though I'm baffled by the inclusion of two pairs of sunglasses-- I can wear only one pair at a time until I grow another set of eyestalks, guys!

Breakfast this morning seemed hastier than the two previous mornings; many of the monks were finished barely ten minutes into their repast. The guest house lost Matt and Lisa yesterday morning, but gained two new guests later in the day: a gent named Tom and a lady whose name I haven't learned. We three sat at the guest table this morning, but because we ate silently, we didn't introduce ourselves to each other. I hope these two enjoy their stay as much as I've enjoyed mine. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I've regained a pound or three.)

A few parting thoughts before I finish packing and head for the open road:

I came to this abbey partly out of curiosity (Alan had found it and recommended it as one possible stopping point), but also partly to talk interreligious dialogue with the Catholics and, moreover, to rest my feet.

So how did it go? As far as my feet are concerned, the four nights of rest were a very good thing. My right foot looks awful with all that dead skin hanging off it, but both feet feel infinitely better, ready to travel.

In terms of satisfying my curiosity, well... I'd need to stay here for a few years to begin truly to understand all the architecture, imagery, history, and living reality of the place. I arrived at a quiet time, so I also missed out on a true taste of wild and wacky campus life, something I hope to see more of when September finally rolls around (man... where will I be in September?). I also missed the 6:25AM prayer every day of my stay, though I have witnessed the brief noon prayer and caught vespers my first day here. If I'd had the time, I'd have explored the Benedictine monk's daily routine in depth.

In terms of talking shop with people of the cloth, I think I was well rewarded, having spent over an hour talking with the erudite and humorous Brother Luke, whose thoughts will-- eventually-- be transcribed here. Our conversation was rich and wide-ranging, and I'm thankful for it.

It was also great to meet the hardworking and cheerful Father Paul, Guestmaster of the Saint Martin's Abbey Guest House, who gave advice on procedure while at vespers and that first evening meal, and who kindly did my laundry twice (on two separate occasions, I mean, not twice in rapid succession!). Father deserves a lot of credit for having made my stay so pleasant.

Furthermore, I was happy to meet Matt and Lisa, my fellow guests-- a bright and happy young couple who struck me as very much in love, and very comfortable in the Church (Matt's an SMU alum, by the way). It was great to talk with them, however briefly. I wish them the best in all their future pursuits, and yes, I'll be sure to email them and to check out Matt's websites (he's a musician, too).

So-- as has been true of the other places I've visited and people I've met, it's with a heavy heart that I leave this place.

Thank you, SMU, for your hospitality!

And now... the walk goes on.

UPDATE: Today's the day I definitely break the 200-mile mark.

UPDATE 2: I need to add that, if ever you find yourself in the Olympia/Lacey area, the SMU Guest House is a marvelous place to stay. The monks will alert you to when the mealtimes and prayer times are, but they'll never force you or otherwise insist that you attend any of their activities. I paid $40/night for three meals per day and a nice room (communal bathroom, dorm-style, but very neatly appointed and maintained).

The campus itself is relaxing and beautiful-- a great place for strolling. This is a far better place to stay than any motel (it seems almost insulting even to compare this place with a motel), and if you're Catholic, it's a chance to stay connected to your inner life of prayer and contemplation. Call the guest house, make arrangements, and enjoy a few days of peace!


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

prayer and work

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shout-out to Brother Luke

Brother Luke took some time out of his busy schedule-- an hour and fifteen minutes, in fact-- to talk with me about issues in interreligious dialogue (lay and monastic), Catholic doctrine, who Saint Martin was, and other issues. I'm very thankful to have had that time with him, but I now face the daunting task of transcribing that exchange as well! It's over twice as long as the Kevin/Genjo dialogue, which I've only barely begun to transcribe.

Good luck with Korean homework, Brother Luke, and continued good luck with your other studies and pursuits! Thanks for mentioning all those websites for me to check out.


on behalf of Alan Cook (IMPORTANT!!!)

I've been meaning to write this post for a while, and now that I've got some free time, I have to carpe that diem.

I'm not sure how many of my readers understand and appreciate what Alan Cook, a man I've never met face-to-face, has been doing for Kevin's Walk. In fact, I'm not sure that I myself know the full extent of Alan's commitment, but I can say this: managing the Walk is a full-time business, and Alan is shouldering this burden alone, despite having a personal life and a full-time freelance job.

Alan hasn't uttered a single word of complaint about what he's been doing, even though he has every right to. On my behalf, he (1) researches possible/plausible routes for me to take, often noting distances between cities and possible obstacles in the form of terrain or special property (e.g., military bases); (2) notes with great thoroughness what the likely religious institutions in the area are, and attempts to contact them well in advance of my arrival; (3) manages my CouchSurfing account, sending internal messages to likely hosts on my behalf, then relaying to me which hosts have responded and how best to contact them; and (4) offers common-sense advice to me when he feels I might be making a rash or misguided decision. On top of all this, Alan finds the energy to leave erudite and/or humorous comments on my blog.

Any one of the above duties is practically a full-time job in itself. Alan Cook basically is Kevin's Walk Central, and his behind-the-scenes work has allowed me simply to walk onward and to contact only those individuals and institutions that are both likely to be along my path and likely to respond affirmatively to the prospect of hosting me.

Such research and communication takes hours and hours per day, and while Alan hasn't complained, I worry that he will one day suddenly collapse like a black hole because of the stress, taking the planet with him. He's taken on an immense burden, one that, by all rights, should be distributed among at least ten people.

So now we reach the crux, the purpose of this little essay, which is to beseech my readers to get actively involved in this project of mine and to take some of this enormous burden off Alan's shoulders. This has to be done even if Alan has experienced no stress thus far: he's already told me that his assistance has a time limit-- for various reasons (including his own transcontinental project), he won't be able to see this Walk through to its conclusion.

So let me talk a bit about what Alan and I have discussed and decided, and what remains undecided.

We agree on what the "flow chart" for a team-based version of Kevin's Walk Central should look like. At the top would be Admin (or Coordination, if you prefer), staffed by one or more individuals. Under this would be several "departments":

1. Pathfinders: this department would deal with issues like where Kevin should go next (e.g., a more southerly route or a more easterly route?), what the distances are between cities/towns, what the terrain will be like, what roads and trails will be walkable, what bridges will be illegal(!), and other on-the-ground specifics. While this department wouldn't have the final say on what my ultimate path will be (that would be Admin's responsibility), their input would need to be heeded by all the remaining departments (see below) so that waypoints aren't strung together willy-nilly, with no consideration of how plausible a route actually is. This department might also work closely with Admin to look at the Big Picture aspect of my path across the country.

2. Catholic: this department would focus exclusively on contacting Catholic churches, abbeys, cloisters, convents, and other such communities in the hopes of finding groups or individuals willing to host me for a night or three (always in the knowledge that I'll need a place to do laundry and sleep; food remains optional). [We might also include Orthodox establishments in this department.]

3. Protestant: as above, but for a target demographic of Protestants. I imagine this department will be very busy throughout my entire Walk, as will the Catholic department; Christians are still the largest religious demographic in the US, and most of my time will be spent with them.

4. Buddhist: as above with (2), but with Buddhists. Zen temples, Tibetan temples, Soka Gakkai communities, Vipassana centers, Buddhist individuals, etc., are the target demographic here.

5. Hindu/Sikh/Jain: as above with (2), but dealing with the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities. Given my experience in attempting to communicate with Sikh gurdwaras (and as Satpal Sidhu himself warned me), I think at least one department member should be familiar with some of the languages and cultures of the Indian subcontinent.

6. Islam: as with (2), but dealing with Muslim individuals and communities. There might be language issues here as well.

7. Judaism: as with (2), but dealing with Jewish individuals and communities.

8. Unitarian Universalism: as with (2), etc.

9. Miscellaneous Religions: what have I missed? Native American communities, new religious movements, Scientology, Shinto, religious (or, heck, philosophical) Taoism, shamanism, and whatever other "-isms" might be out there. Avoid crazy cults that might be more likely to view me as a human sacrifice or sex slave than as an interlocutor.

10. Academia: this department would scout along my projected path for whatever colleges and universities might be interested in setting me up both for lodging and for some energetic exchanges with bright young minds (as well as profs, of course!). I actually hope to hit a LOT of institutes of higher learning along the way (better luck during the normal academic year, I surmise), so this department has the potential to be very near and dear to me. And hey, if the people who staff this department of Kevin's Walk Central can finagle my ass into, say, a three-day religious conference or an on-campus interfaith event, tant mieux (all the better). Not to speak at such an event, mind you-- just to attend.

11. CouchSurfing: this department would take over Alan's stellar work in using my CouchSurfing profile to solicit potential hosts along my projected itinerary. Alan could train newbies in how to do this. It's not an easy job, but the CS site itself does much of the work: it's a bit like a dating service, matching travelers and hosts.

12. Non-CouchSurfing (NCS): this department would have the unenviable task of approaching individuals not affiliated with CouchSurfing with requests to lodge me for free. Not an easy sell, but possible if you're resourceful, connected, and sociable. The job would be nearly impossible for an introvert (such as yours truly), methinks.

13. Campsites and Boonies: this department would look at where I'm generally heading, divide my probable path into 10- or 20-mile bites, and gather info on what campsites (or campable areas in the boonies) might be available. This is also the department that might arrange either a chase vehicle (water, food, sleep space, etc.) for those barren stretches, or a driver who will pick me up when I've reached Point X by Time Y, take me to someone's house to crash that night, then drive me back to the exact point where I was picked up the previous evening.

You'll have noted that one of the unstated objects of all the above departments is to keep me moving along without having to pay for lodging, a major problem up to now, as I've been bleeding cash. Unfortunately, even religious centers have gotten into the pay-to-stay game (not that I blame them; how else can they maintain their facilities?), so this goal is hard to achieve unless I decide to spend most of my nights illegally camped somewhere.

But paid accommodation will sometimes be necessary, so the final department is:

14. Hotels, Motels, B&Bs, etc.: this department will scout along my route and check out rates and locations (and the relative quality) of whatever lodging is out there.

[NB: If the other departments can find only paid lodging with the various institutions they look up, then so be it. That in itself is information for a future book.]

I think that just about covers the departments. Alan told me he had conceived of a flow chart pretty much along these lines, so I assume the above schema is more or less acceptable to him.

I would encourage the above departments to talk to each other, but ultimately it'll be up to Admin to whittle the plethora of choices down to a single, walkable path. This will also mean that the various departments will have to go back to the temples, churches, CouchSurfers, etc., whose sites have been ELIMINATED, and inform them that they are no longer needed, thanks. This is a basic courtesy: it keeps individuals and institutions from being strung along.

It would be nice if each department consisted of two or more people. As I said, the duties of even a single department constitute a full-time obligation. Many hands make light work. It's hard for a single person to toss Kevin across a river, but not a problem for twenty people to get together and do it.

Alan and I have not settled on how to deal with emails, but we have discussed the issue. As I see it, we can handle emails one of two ways:

1. Each department of KWC gets its own email address. For example:

This cuts down on the confusion of having all the emails in one place.

2. We keep the single email address and use the Gmail "labels" function to separate out the emails being sent and received. This keeps things simple for the people who want to send us emails, but the potential for internal confusion goes up if, for example, incoming/outgoing mails are mislabeled, or if people forget to apply labels at all (sometimes labels need to be manually applied if, for example, an email comes in with a subject heading that doesn't produce an automatic label).

Alan had a concern about several people logging on to the same email account at once, but my own experience in Seoul was that I could have my old email account open on two different computers without there being a problem.

So-- what say? We could use some volunteers. Alan could definitely use a break, even though he hasn't said so. Because Alan is running Kevin's Walk Central right now, I'd ask you to approach him directly if you'd care to volunteer. Write him at:

kevinswalkcentral [at] gmail [dot] com

One other thing: when I say "volunteer," I'm not saying "volunteer for the entire duration of the Walk." If you could devote, say, two or three months to it, that would be great. When your time gets short, find a replacement and train that person in what you were doing. That way, KWC retains a sort of "institutional memory," with procedures being passed from replacement to replacement as necessary.

Another thing to consider: if you're a Christian, why not volunteer to head up or work in a non-Christian department? Same if you're a Buddhist, or a Whatever. Just something to think about.

Right... that's all I have to say about the situation for now. I'm sure Alan might have something to add, so check the comments to this post. And if you feel you can devote some time to helping out, please write Alan (who is de facto Admin Dept.) and work something out.

Thanks in advance to all you potential volunteers, and a thousand thanks to Alan for the amazing job he's done so far.


pic dump 6: my belt and
yesterday's (6/24) walk to Olympia

First, two shots of the holes I've punched into my belt:

I punched another hole into the belt (not pictured) just two nights ago. The thing fits now, but it's tight enough to make my hips even more chunkily feminine than they were.

What follows now is yesterday's walk.

When you move past the 'brary and tennis court into the woods leading to the residence halls, you see the Ent:

The following picture depicts one of the most gratifying things about this region: people here understand how to build and use roundabouts. In DC, which was designed by a Frenchman (which means the citizens and later city designers really ought to know better), we have no clue how to handle roundabouts (ronds-points in French; don't ask me why they don't say points ronds).

Roundabouts, when done correctly, have only two explicit and easy-to-remember traffic rules: (1) traffic always circulates counterclockwise, so you always turn right to enter the roundabout, circulate leftward, and exit rightward; and (2) the cars inside the roundabout have the right of way. Simple. And much easier to manage than four-way stop intersections (though I've noticed many of those around these parts as well).

Below, you see I've found the Batmobile (or the San Francisco version of it, judging by the frilly crap hanging from the rear view mirror):

Below: Taco Bell and Pizza Hut caught having sex with each other! Here's a picture of their illicit union:

We have such fast food fusions in the DC-Metro area, but they're usually confined to college campuses.

Brother Luke, who's familiar with the east coast, had mentioned Long John Silver's, but that produced blank stares. Mention a chain called Skipper's, though...


Barely twenty yards later:

I was surprised that St. Martin's is that close to Olympia. The Olympia city limit is barely a mile or so from the campus entrance.

This is annoying: a road whose name isn't a proper noun, but merely a generic term:

I once worked for two weeks as a telemarketer; this was years and years ago, back when I was stupider than I am today. The company had a shady aura, as was evident in its name: Dealer Broker Trust. What the hell kind of name is that? I quit soon after joining once I realized that the positive response rate to my cold calls was under half a percent.

My route from the campus took me first to College Way, then to Pacific Avenue, then to State Avenue. Along Pacific, I saw:

The romanization tips us off to the fact that the place is Korean, because what you're seeing is the Korean pronunciation of those characters. "Myeong" (or "myong," or "myung") is "ming" in Chinese. I don't know what it is in Japanese. "Myeong" means "bright" or "brilliant." The "sae" is a character found in the pair "sae-gye," or "world," so I'm pretty sure "myeong sae" is "bright world."

Our first glimpse of the capitol:

I think this building houses a local newspaper, The Olympian:

We're heading steadily downhill and closer to both the capitol and the water. Cool painting, bad dumpsters:

Below, we're downtown and moving uphill toward the capitol:

I think the stone below marks the spot where Lewis and Clark stopped walking, looked at each other, shouted, "We're fucking DONE!" and then exploded in a shower of blood, bone, and meat.

Monument to John Rankin Rogers, two-time governor of Washington:

Below: a BBQ joint whose smell had impressed me the previous day:

We're at the capitol! Note the wacky tree, all puffed out on the [our] left side. There were weird trees all over the grounds there.

Getting closer to the capitol and the Temple of Justice (not visible here, but sitting across from the capitol's front entrance):

Modern art tribute of some sort plus modern, stylized totem pole:

Another weird tree. This one looked like a brain that had sustained a blow from an axe:

Memorial to the fallen of WWI:


And the back of the monument's pediment pedestal (thanks, Charles) says...

The capitol building was too large for me and my modest camera to encompass, especially from up close. I tilted the camera to get this top-to-bottom shot. Sorry if it makes you dizzy:

Behold-- the Temple of Justice! I keep expecting superheroes to fly out of it.

Another dedication:

The following shot shows you an obelisk and, across the street, the other part of Capitol Campus:

But what's on the obelisk? Why...

The following pic shows a fountain that is supposedly a replica of the Tivoli Fountain in Italy.

Another shot of Capitol Campus:

This should be self-explanatory:

Below: the back of the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Today is 6/25, the date marking the beginning of the 1950-53 conflict in Korea. Maybe take some time out to remember those who fought, and to celebrate how far along Korea has come since those days.

When I saw this wall from a distance, I could have sworn it was a rock-climbing wall.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial, wide shot:


The Forgotten War (that's what it says in Korean, too):

Flowers at the monument:

These rocks mean something, but I don't know what:

A touching poem dedicated to those who fought:

[NB: If the image is cut off, right-click on it and do a "view image" or "view picture" command. This works for all such images, by the way.]

I wonder how well the English and Korean texts match up in this one, especially given the language about North Korea:

A closeup of the Korean soldier:

A closeup of the American soldier:

A footbridge that leads back across the street to the capitol side:

A shot of the nearby inlet. This was taken on the switchbacking path that lies behind the Temple of Justice and leads down to the water.

A sign about the Olympia-Yashiro friendship bridge, which extends 4th Avenue across the river:

This is the little, sculpted park uphill from that bridge that contains the world's weirdest park bench:

Another shot of the park:

As you see, it's called the Park of the Seven Oars.

More nifty landscaping at POTSO:

Voilà! Here at last is the world's weirdest park bench. You might not be able to tell, but the bench itself is tiny. The thing looked singularly unable to support my weight, so I didn't try sitting on it.

The eponymous oars:

You see how salmon figure prominently in the mindset of coastal Washingtonians:

Looking back from the park, across the river to the capitol:

A shot of the inlet's marina:

You know, if someone had asked me where I'd like to go for vacation, my first thought would never have been the Olympia/Lacey region. Now, though, I'd answer differently. The entire distance I've traveled since Blaine has been well worth the trip. There's a lot to see and do here. The only thing is that you have to put up with the often-gloomy weather, but that gloom is easy to forget when you have a string of bright and happy days, as the past few days have been.

I took the following pic mainly because I liked the clouds.

The following pic takes us back downtown toward the capitol and all that. I took this street pic because, whenever cars rolled over those bricks, the sound reminded me of the noise of horses galloping-- but sped up about five times. Horses on cocaine, then.

Ah, love. Sometimes it happens between a tall woman and a stubby man. (Not in Korea, though, where almost every college girl I talked to said she'd never marry a man shorter than she was, no matter how kind, smart, rich, and handsome he might be.)

A weird mixture of Japanese art and Arthur C. Clarke:

I'm dying to know what animals are on this totem pole, which stands at the foot of one of the two bridges crossing the water close to the capitol:

After circling the end of the inlet twice, I headed back up to the capitol and saw the Vietnam memorial:

Another shot:


A dedication:

More flags:

Crossing over to the Capitol Campus again, I was freaked out by how quintessentially Washington, DC the building architecture was:

Upon leaving Capitol Campus, I saw this strange, shady grove of boxed-in trees:

On my way back uphill toward Lacey, I had to get a shot of this kinky representation of clouds cheerfully eating each other's butts:

Thought I was joking? It even says, "I eat clouds"!!

And here, at long last, is the Yoda prank:

A closeup of the old guy:

Those traffic signal buttons usually look like this:

Below, you see Happy Teriyaki III, the place that serves the ever-mysterious "happy trio."

Finally, I took this pic of Han's Burgers, not far from the entrance to SMU. I wanted to capture this sign because, if I'm not mistaken, it's sacrilegious to refer to Philly's pride as a "Philly sub." It's a Philly cheesesteak, Mr. Han!

If you do a Googlefight between Philly cheesesteak and Philly sub, the latter wins, but this is because the phrases aren't wrapped in quotation marks. When you put quotation marks around those phrases and do the Googlefight, you get zero results for both. But if you wrap the phrases in quotation marks and use good old Google, you discover that "Philly sub" nets you a little over 6,000 results, whereas "Philly cheesesteak" nets you 215,000. Slam.

So! That was yesterday's walk. In a moment, I'll give you distance calculations and will add the update to this post.

UPDATE: Whoa-- not as far as I thought. 39.2 miles. I've made up the "cheated" distance, but only just barely.