Saturday, August 2, 2008


A big shout-out to the huge cast of characters I had the great fortune to meet yesterday: Mystery Lady (who drove me across the river but didn't give me her name), Frank (my second driver, who had some interesting things to say about Buddhism and who knew one of the residents of the CS home I just left), Rachael and Todd (the dynamic mom and dad of this CS family), Anaïs and Che (the equally dynamic offspring), Shanti (the guest who's practically a member of the family), Lakota and Venus (the two huge dogs), and Vago (pronounced "vay-goh," not "vah-goh"; the horse).

I had a great time, and sincerely hope we keep in touch. Good luck with the future vineyard and the myriad other personal projects in which everyone seems to be engaged!


Todd and Rachael, my CS hosts, in their awesome house

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Frank (my benefactor) and Shanti (de facto family member); it turns out these two know each other

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I've had to reject two anonymous comments. It's too bad, really; I wish people took the time to read the comments policy (click the link on the sidebar, folks; it's not hard). Neither comment was uncivil or otherwise objectionable. Alas.


Friday, August 1, 2008

trouble reading this blog?

Blogspot seems to be squeezing out a major brain fart right now, so don't be surprised if you're unable to read my blog (other Blogspot blogs are affected, too). I'm putting this message up in the hopes that you'll move the "Internet Explorer cannot open... Operation aborted" popup and read this text, which should be visible on your monitor.

[UPDATE: Is this a SiteMeter issue? (via Instapundit) I've removed SiteMeter for now and will replace it once the SM folks take care of their mess.]

Some interesting updates (read these once the brain fart clears up):

1. Today was a crazy day. The weather was one reason for the insanity: it started raining last night, so I had to pack the tent wet (and dirty) and haven't unrolled it yet to air (and clean) it out. The walk was characterized by simultaneous rain, wind, and sun, the latter member of that group being somewhat unexpected. I remember hearing, long ago, that on a day when it's both sunny and rainy, the Devil is kissing his wife. Heh. I would have thought that the Devil, being the Devil, would spend more time cheating on his wife.

2. I had been told that I would have to hitch a ride across the Hood River Bridge, and this was indeed the case. Many thanks to the very nice lady who drove me across.

3. After the bridge crossing, I began walking westward along Route 14 (this is in Washington, mind you; I've crossed the state line). It didn't take long before the shoulder disappeared almost completely, which was scary given the amount of traffic heading at me on that part of the road. Luckily, a dude drove past me and stopped at a pull-off; he waited patiently until I approached and asked me where I was headed. I gave him a vague idea where the Couchsurfing family's house was (it's in the town of Underwood); he very kindly drove me there, and even met the CS family. Turns out he knows one of the family's long-term house guests-- small world, eh?

4. Speaking of scary, I-84 can be scary, too. The freeway's shoulders are normally pretty wide; I generally feel safe walking on them. Occasionally, though, the shoulders will narrow to nearly nothing in the most inconvenient places, like bridges. This happened to me today as I was on the eastbound shoulder, just before Exit 63 (I was supposed to leave I-84 at Exit 64 to hit the Hood River Bridge): a small bridge appeared before me, basically an overpass, and the shoulder narrowed to nothing. I had little choice but to move rightward and uphill, which proved to be the right thing to do: I topped the rise and waded through some tall grass and onto private property-- a car repair place of some sort, with engine blocks and empty chassis all over the place. I never saw the owner and didn't feel like knocking on his door to apologize for the intrusion, so I simply hit the street in front of the shop and wandered onward into Hood River proper, still following I-84, which was visible beneath me. In fact, when I looked over at the freeway, I saw there was a pedestrian lane... but it was on the westbound side. Bad day for me to choose to walk along the eastbound side, eh?

5. Tons of grasshoppers over the past few days. A lot of the grass along I-84 was recently mown, so it all looks like an orgy of hay. In the midst of this chaos are light brown grasshoppers that leap crazily in all directions like wigged-out children fleeing a rampaging dragon. The most hilarious grasshoppers are the ones that leap so strongly that they're caught by the Gorge's strong winds and blown toward I-84's traffic. The image brings back the old riddle: "What's the last thing to go through a bug's mind when it hits your windshield?" You know the answer.

6. I made the news! Thank you, Sue Ryan, for your kind article in the Hood River News. Everyone: go take a look.

7. At my current CS residence, I had the chance to weigh myself: 256.2 pounds. Down from 297 at the beginning of this walk: a loss of 40.8 pounds. Still fat, though. As Yoda might say: Much to lose, you have. A nice, even 200 will be nice. Any bets on whether I hit that figure by the time I exit the Plains states?

8. A few things I can say about the place I'm staying at: first, this is a family that knows how to cook. Nothing but great smells emanated from that kitchen this evening; dinner was largely Indian-style, with some good ol' salad thrown in at the end, and a magnificent pie that awaits my gullet when my hosts return from an evening outing (I had promised to wait until Todd and Rachael, the parents, had come back from a First Friday celebration). Second, this is obviously a very loving family: the daughter and son, Che and Anaïs, are cheerful and energetic teens; the teenaged house guest, Shanti, is also a great guy and seems to be part of the family. Third, what's not to like about two huge, cool dogs? Fourth, everyone here is brimming with creative and intellectual energy, and we've already had some pretty intense discussions about religion, atheism, education, mycology (a subject about which I know nothing), music, various cultures, and what the future holds on both a personal and corporate level. Rachael asked me what I had learned so far on my trip; I told her I'd learned that I probably shouldn't be too cynical about people, given the sheer number of kindnesses, large and small, from which I've benefitted. It's true.

And that's your update for now. Here's hoping the Blogspot nonsense clears up soon, so you can read all this.


amid all the dust and noise, a spot of beauty on I-84

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it's raining again

I hope my hosts for tonight won't mind that I'll be setting up my tent on their property to air it out.

I'm walking about 15 miles to Underwood, Washington. Part of the walk includes a crossing of the Hood River Bridge, which according to my host can be done only by hitchhiking, so today will be my first experience with that. I've never put my thumb up for a car before.

Hey...I didn't eat anything yesterday! I think I was more thirsty-- and tired-- than hungry; I crawled into my tent before 8PM and went to sleep, woke up cold around 2:30AM, deployed my sleeping bag as a blanket, and went back to sleep.

More later, but BlackBerrying in the rain isn't a good idea, so updates won't be frequent.


Thursday, July 31, 2008


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whopper of a view from the shoulder of I-84

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As you can see in the previous pic, I'm taking a brief rest before moving on. I'm just off I-84, along which I've been walking most of this time, having taken Exit 51 (Wyeth campground exit) to get away from traffic and enjoy a spot of shade. I've been walking for about two hours, and have been moving along at a surprising rate of about 3mph. I attribute this more to the generally smooth terrain than to my improved physical condition; I still have a long, long way to go before I can declare myself "in shape."

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Barb and Bob, pictured earlier, for being such gracious and friendly hosts during my four-night stay at their KOA campground. All the staff were friendly and quick to help out; I had a good time. (Now let's see about introducing $15/night hiker/biker rates, like many state parks!)

Also, a big GET WELL SOON to Malcolm, who's been laid up in the hospital. Meanwhile, his group of Job's comforters have been hammering at his naturalistic take on morality (or at least the origins of morality); scroll down and have yourself a read. One post has over a hundred comments!

Yesterday, my brother David told me his longtime boss very suddenly died of a heart attack. Everyone at his office is in shock; the lady in question was to all appearances in perfect health, and was preparing to retire. You never know when death's gonna come a-knockin', so make sure you enjoy each moment as fully as you can.

And with that, break's over. Time to saddle up and head on to Mile 56, Viento State Park, where I'm stopping for the day. Tomorrow, I'll be staying at a Couchsurfing home across the river in Washington (this apparently requires a hitchhike across the bridge, which means I'll have some distance to make up by walking). More on my schedule once I settle in later today.


taking a break

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Bob (left), Barb (right), and two more generations between them

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

crossings and transitions

While at the library today, I overheard a conversation between a dude at another computer and a teenaged girl who was amazed to discover that the guy was on a transcontinental walk. In his case, he's walking from Mexico to Canada ("sure beats having a summer job") along the Pacific Crest trail. No fireworks, no fanfare-- just walking. He ditched his tent somewhere along the way: "too heavy." Now he's down to a sleeping bag and little else. Gotta respect that. Hiking the trail must be tough.

As I was leaving, I shook the guy's hand and told him I was on my own walk. His name's Jordan, a name that evokes crossings and personal transitions (e.g., baptism in the Jordan). Happy trails, man. Walk well; stay safe.


a possible change in the Ten Religious Questions

Toward the end of my interiew with Sue Ryan yesterday, I mentioned that I had begun to dwell more and more on the question of lack of interest among believers when it comes to finding out about other religions. I used the image of the valley community to make the point that many folks are satisfied with where they are in their valley, and aren't all that curious about what might be going on in the next valley over.

This may be one reason why connections between and among religious communities tend to be incestuous: Zennists know other Buddhists, but might not have ties with the local Sikhs; the Sikhs are well networked with other Sikhs, but might not have connections with local Catholic churches, and so on.

The issue of incuriousness (if that's even a word) is worth exploring, and I'm beginning to wonder whether I should replace one of my Ten Questions with one about this phenomenon. Perhaps the answer to the question lies in simple human psychology: people tend to settle, and tend to think only in terms of their own needs. But while that may be true, there has to be more to the issue, especially given the open-heartedness that religions supposedly preach.

More on this later; right now, I'm about to hit the 'brary again.

(By the way, the Hood River News article is slated to appear on Saturday.)



The rain has ended and BlackBerry service is fully back: I can even surf to Blogger, which is how I'm typing this entry. I'll be extending my stay by one more day to give my tent time to dry (it rained most of the night), which means I might be able to make it over to City Hall to use a library computer and get some route work done today. We'll see.


Es regnet!

I left my BlackBerry in the campground's main building to charge for two hours, from 6 to 8PM. During that time, Mother Nature finally realized she hadn't truly rained on me in a while, so after teasing us all day with light and random shower activity, she suddenly opened the floodgates and let loose with a real summer rain.

This changes my immediate plans, of course, because unlike the typical weekend traveler, I can't say to myself, "I can pack the tent wet; I'll just air it out when I get home." My tent, billed as a "three-season" shelter (i.e., all but winter), goes where I go, and home isn't a place I'll be seeing for at least another year. Packing the tent wet means risking mold and mildew.

So I can't afford simply to pack and go; the tent will need time to dry up and air out, and since tomorrow's forecast is partly cloudy, I'm hoping that'll be sufficient for my purposes.

Upshot: I'm staying an extra day.

PS: Internet capability restored, but wouldn't you know it: I still can't access Blogger (the browser times out), so I'm once again resorting to moblogging via email.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

would you buy this if it were colored in, and on a mug or tee-shirt? (I made a watercolor version for the Metanoia Peace Community in Portland)

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my site, T-13, before the real rain started

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KOA Kamping Kabins [sic]

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KOA Kampground [sic] entrance

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watch that spelling, schoolies!

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a very pleasant interview

Many thanks to Sue Ryan of The Hood River News for stopping by my regal KOA digs and chatting with me today. Thanks, too, for the wealth of information about Native American sights to see along the river and WA/OR border. I know next to nothing about Native American religion, and it would be a shame if my walk failed to include any mention of this aspect of the American religious landscape.

(NB to readers: The Hood River News is available online; I'll check with Sue as to when the article comes out, but feel free to give her paper some traffic before then!)

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thwarted post-hamburger

I had a very nice and fattening lunch of bacon double cheeseburger (no onions!), tater tots, and a large chocolate milkshake, all from that hamburger/ice cream joint. The burger was easily one of the best I've ever eaten; the tater tots were deep-fried and salted to perfection; the only thing not totally spot-on was the milkshake, which was great at first, but which became cloyingly sweet by the end. Lesson learned: order a smaller milkshake next time, and carry around some water as a chaser.

But it looks as though I won't be hitting the library again. I finished lunch around noon and reached the 'brary about 12:10 (I had set up camp under one of the eaves of the marine park's visitor center, which kept me shielded from the periodic showers we've been having today); when I got to the library's door, I looked inside and saw the place was packed with a ring of elementary schoolers and adult chaperones-- some sort of story hour, at a guess. I considered waiting, but realized that my interview was scheduled for 2PM, which meant I'd have almost no computer time at all. So I decided to head on back to the KOA campground, which is where I'm meeting my interviewer, and where I am now. Since the 'brary closes at 3, I won't be going back there unless I stay in Cascade Locks an extra day.

Still no Internet on my BlackBerry. I can use the phone, send text messages, and send emails without attachments, but everything else is dead. I still don't know why this suddenly occurred (I had Internet when I first arrived at KOA), and I can say I'm literally an unhappy camper right now.

Tomorrow I head out to Viento State Park, which is about 12 to 15 miles from where I am (I have to go from Exit 44 to Exit 56 of I-84; tack on some extra mileage for those stretches of road before and after the exits). I'll be doing this without MapQuest, so I can't calculate exact mileage.

Viento is a first-come, first-serve campground; because it's a state park, I'm hoping it'll have a hiker/biker section like the parks in Washington. The rates seem about the same as WA state park rates ($14-15/night); where I am now, at KOA, there's no hiker/biker rate, so I'm paying about $30/night. See where my money goes? And you thought I was pissing my finances away on booze and three meals a day, didn't you?

OK...all for the moment. Once my Internet capability is back, I'll put up some more pics I've taken. It's a great little town.

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at the 'brary

I'm writing this post from Cascade Locks's City Hall, which doubles (triples?) as a public library and gym. You sign up for a half-hour of computer time and if no one else comes, you can sign up for another half-hour, etc. The 'brary's open from 10AM to 3PM.

My campground turned into a dead zone for data exchange, so I was completely unable to surf from the BlackBerry yesterday afternoon and evening. Now that I've relocated a mile down the road to the library... just a sec... checking... I appear to be having the same problem. You'll recall that I had this problem on my previous BlackBerry as well. I had thought the problem was with signal strength or some other issue external to my handheld, but now I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't something about my device that's overly finicky. The message I keep getting, when I try to surf to a given site, is "A problem occurred while trying to render the page." This usually pops up after the progress bar has been loading for a few seconds, followed by the Twirling Hourglass of Death. The message appears with a friendly "OK" prompt; I click "OK" and that's that. This is why it's dangerous to cathect your BlackBerry.

There's a burger joint up the street that everyone flocks to, and even though I've been in this town a few days, I haven't visited it yet (nor have I visited the massive Char Burger at the "front" end of town). When my time runs out on this computer around 11AM, I plan to lumber over to the burger joint before there's a crowd and find out what the fuss is all about. The place also sells ice cream, so this might be a burger-and-ice-cream sort of lunch.

While doing laundry early this morning (I went to sleep very early, then woke at 5:30AM with a cramp in my neck), I found myself staring at a map of the US. I traced my progress downward from White Rock, BC to Portland, OR, then eastward to Cascade Locks, and saw how little progress I've made in two months (Sunday was the 2-month anniversary). I've crossed one state and am crossing it again, in a sense, by following its southern border eastward. Or maybe you could say I'm crossing two states at once since Washington and Oregon share this particular border. Anyway, it's humbling to realize how far I have to go.

Burger break now. When I get back, I'll get on Google Maps and really figure out how long that recent walk was.


Monday, July 28, 2008

daytime blackout

I don't know what the deal is, but I'm once again in some sort of data dead zone, unable to surf anywhere with the BlackBerry's browser. I'm using email to publish this blind, which ought to be OK: I've managed to send other emails even while the browser's been funky.

An interview I'm hoping to have with Susan Ryan, a staff writer at the Hood River News, has been moved to tomorrow (Tues.), so today's just a day for chillin' out. I'll likely do laundry tomorrow morning, well before the interview.

My Solio charger works, but requires a long time-- about an hour-- to soak up enough sun to provide even a few minutes' charge. I probably need to let it sit in direct sunlight for nearly a whole day if I want it to build up enough power to charge the BlackBerry even halfway.

Planning the day-by-day specifics of the route requires the BlackBerry, but it's charging off a wall socket of the KOA campground's main building and is, as noted, currently useless for surfing. So I'm stuck by the building for the time being. With so much out of my hands right now, I might turn in early again tonight.

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Cascade Locks marine park and RV campground

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goose bathing in hose spray (marine park)

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Solio charger at work

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interesting talk

I had a very nice half-hour chat with Bernice Harbaugh this morning. Given the snail's pace at which I work, I suppose it'll be at least a month before you see the transcript. This conversation was probably the first in which I actually went down my list of religious questions.* We didn't do all ten, but we got through a lot of them, and luckily for me, my interviewee had a lot to say.

Thank you, Bernice, for taking the time to sit down with me!

*Correction: it's the first recorded conversation where that happened. My Saturday-morning conversation with Genjo's meditation group at Choboji in Seattle also used the questions as a framework.


the stern-wheeler cruise I won't be taking

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Cascade Locks: day

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Guten Morgen!

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in the tent and ready to sleep

It's a red-letter day when a vampire like me gets to bed before 10PM, but believe it or not, I'm outta here at 9:15. As was true of my previous nights in the woods (Lewis and Clark State Park and Millersylvania State Park), I think I've been very lucky to have been able to set my tent up in ideal conditions-- on a campground, in pleasant weather, with almost no wind.

I'm here at this KOA campground for three nights, leaving right before the rain (we hope). Tomorrow morning, I'm interviewing Bernice Harbaugh, the very nice lady who runs the Cascade Motel. Later in the day I'll be mailing back even more bulky "unnecessaries," and continuing to work on my route planning while also fiddling with my Solio solar charger.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, July 27, 2008


If I'm not careful, this could be me.

Actually, I'm not the type to text while walking, nor do I like talking on the phone while walking. In both cases, I prefer to stop and devote my full attention to the telephone/online activity, not so much because I'm practicing mindfulness as because I'm an awful multitasker.

Because stopping during my walk is a chore-- it's devilishly hard to start back up again-- I prefer to make and receive calls only when I've settled somewhere. When I'm on the road, I'm sweaty, which means drenching the BlackBerry in sweat when someone calls.

This is one reason why I prefer emails and text messages. I've tried walking and talking before, but often find it hard to hear my interlocutor. The effort of talking while walking doesn't seem worth it when most conversations become laced with "Can you hear me now?"s and "Say again?"s, despite having the volume on maximum setting.


the route east

I've had several invitations to stay with various friends and acquaintances. The following picture is pretty sketchy and is, as always, open to revision, but perhaps if I try to lock these points down, it'll be easier for readers to help us connect the dots (as always, I ask you to click on the "How Can I Help?" link on the sidebar).

What I have so far:

1. An invitation to stay with a college buddy and his family in South Dakota (Paul).

2. Two invitations from people in Illinois (HK and S. Honeywell).

3. One invitation to stay at a location in Indiana (Terry Douglas's relatives, right, Terry?).

4. One invitation to finish the journey in New York City (Malcolm).

I've received other very kind invitations, but they were, for the most part, from regions too far south of the route I was leaning toward; I'd prefer to hang north because I know the heat will kill me. I may also have received other invitations along the general path described above (I'll need to get back to you with cities); if I've neglected to mention you, please remind me of your invitation.

So: from the Pacific Northwest, I'm thinking of connecting the dots across South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, and New York. That leaves a lot of gaps to be filled in, with a good bit of zigzagging possible based on weather, terrain, and human factors. Contact Kevin's Walk Central if you have suggestions.

In the meantime, here's Alan Cook's itinerary for me; it's designed to take me along the WA/OR border and into Lewiston, Idaho.

1. Cascade Locks to Hood River. (17 mi)

2. Hood River to The Dalles. (26 mi); I might stay here a couple days to visit with Alix-Gay's father and see the Dalles Dam.

3. The Dalles to Biggs, or to a campground at Maryhill State Park, WA (18-19 mi)

4. Biggs to a point halfway to Arlington: Chamberlin-Goodnoe Road (16.5 mi)

5. CG Road to Roosevelt, WA (19.5 mi)

6. Roosevelt to Crow Butte Park (20.5 mi)

7. Crow Butte Park to Paterson (12 mi)

8. Paterson, WA to Umatilla, OR (14.5 mi)

9. Umatilla to Hat Rock Campground (8 mi)

10. Hat Rock to Pierce's Green Valley Campground (approx. 19 mi)

11. Green Valley to Touchet (12 mi) or Lowden (17 mi)

12. Touchet or Lowden to Walla Walla (17.5 or 12.5 mi)

13. Walla Walla to Waitsburg (20 mi)

14. Waitsburg to Dayton (9.5 mi)

15. Dayton to Last Resort KOA Campground (approx. 17 mi)

16. LR KOA Campground to Pomeroy, WA (16 mi)

17. Pomeroy to Chief Timothy Park (22 mi)

18. Chief Timothy Park to Lewiston, ID (approx 10 mi)

If you've got remarks or suggestions about the route, please write Kevin's Walk Central:

kevinswalkcentral [at] gmail [dot] com

I hope this starts to clear things up. By the way, I might stop a while in Walla Walla and see about earning some cash. Does anyone need a French tutor/instructor, or someone to teach basic Korean? How about an informal course on major world religions? I'm also pretty good at moving boxes around (though not with a forklift), and would LOVE to earn money splitting wood (axe, not wedge; I'm no good with a sledge-and-wedge). I've got other skills, too, though my days as a gigolo are long gone.

Stay in touch.


rash update

The face rash appears finally to be receding. I'm left with two large pits on my face, one on the upper right side of my nose, the other under the inner corner of my right eye-- more souvenirs from this trip.

Of course, my problems pale in comparison to those of the people, both inside and outside the US, who've been hit by the recent hurricane; keep those folks in your thoughts and help them if you can.

More in a bit; I promised to give you an idea of my overall route, and that's coming up.


now I know why I slept more than a day

I did a MapQuest calculation connecting my Troutdale motel to Corbett High School, which I'd passed during my long walk, then did another calculation connecting the high school to the Cascade Motel. The result-- which is actually a conservative estimate-- showed that I had done about a whopping 31 miles from Troutdale to Cascade Locks. I'm thinking the actual distance was 32-34 miles, which is absolutely insane, not to mention a new record.

Never again. I hope.