Southbound

On November 11th, 2020, my much anticipated third walk across America should begin. I purposefully throw in some sort of disclaimer when I talk about my upcoming journey. During these unprecedented times, plans can change in an instant. When folks have asked how long this walk will take, I tell them “exactly four to eight months” because truthfully, I don’t know how things are going to go. Flexibility and staying positive will be essential if I hope to successfully complete my crossing of the Southern States. With so many unknowns and our country in a constant state of change, I have adopted three key mantras for my walk. “Control what I can control,” “a new set of problems requires a new set of solutions,” and my personal favorite, “one day, one step at a time.”

In theory, my walk will begin in Jacksonville, Florida, and I will trek west for the foreseeable future, passing through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas (with 800 miles of walking in the Lone Star State, I’ll let you know if everything really is bigger in Texas), New Mexico, Arizona, and California. My walk will end in San Diego and will take as long as it takes.

First, I would like to address the elephant in the room (or maybe it’s a donkey, depending on the outcome of the election). It’s no surprise that I have caught a little flak about deciding to walk across the country in the midst of a pandemic and potential election-related chaos. I fully comprehend what is at stake and have a plan in place to keep myself, and others, safe.

Here are my self-imposed guidelines. Wear a mask in public. Sanitize my hands regularly. Carry a week’s supply of food and water to limit grocery store/gas station trips (gasp, that means less coffee since I don’t carry a stove!). Avoid staying in hotels/motels (I’m frugal by nature and love camping, so no problem there). Avoid bars and parties (check, I’m in recovery). Limited indoor dining (I’m fine with tuna fish, cheese-wiz, and peanut butter, thank you). Avoid crowds and large gatherings (I feel uncomfortable in crowds anyway). Socialize with people outdoors (I will be outside 99.9 percent of the time on this journey). I’m also planning on avoiding densely populated areas and big cities whenever possible. Though I would like to visit the Alamo in San Antonio. Fortunately, I will have plenty of solitude on this walk, but I assure you, I will respect local rules and regulations relating to COVID. If a state locks down, I will lock it down, too.

Now, onto the fun stuff! My “jogging” stroller, PJ, is already packed up and on his way to Jacksonville. Currently, he is aboard a UPS semi-truck – probably in the middle of Missouri or Illinois. He will probably beat me to Jacksonville by a day. After I land on November 10th, I will make the 25 mile, three hour, city bus trip from Jacksonville International Airport to The UPS Store in Atlantic Beach where I will pick up and reassemble a very claustrophobic and pissed off stroller (PJ doesn’t like confined spaces). From there, we will walk four miles north to Kathryn Abbey Hanna County Park and camp for the night. My walk will begin on the beach the following morning.

I took PJ out for several evening training walks while preparing for my upcoming journey. He is certainly showing his age (there are 5,500 miles on those axles and rims) but I’m confident the old boy has what it takes to lug my gear from the Atlantic to the Pacific one more time.

Physically, I am ready for the journey. I spent the summer as a “lawn care professional,” (though I prefer “grubby lawn guy”) cutting grass. After mowing roughly 1,400 lawns (and walking about 1,500 miles) over the summer, trading a lawn mower for a jogging stroller should be a relatively easy transition. My summer and fall also included plenty of hikes in the mountains and evening walks. I was on my feet a lot! I’m hoping to dive right in and start covering some decent miles (22-26 miles per day) right away.

My training for this walk didn’t stop at cutting grass. The incline in Manitou is one of my favorite hikes. I also climbed up and down Pikes Peak in late August. The 26 mile ascent and descent took about 10 hours.
One of my highlights from 2020 was making the trip to Western Wyoming and hiking 23 miles over two days on the Oregon Trail with my good friends, Anj and Jan.

My next update, hopefully, will be from the shoulder of Highway 90 in the Florida Panhandle.

I realize how blessed I am to be able to attempt a third crossing of the U.S. on foot. None of this would be possible without my sobriety (which began on May 14th, 2017), my evolving spirituality, and the amazing support from friends and family scattered throughout the country. Walking is a powerful tool that I utilize on a daily basis in recovery. I hope that my journey inspires you to walk. I hope that if you are struggling with alcoholism or an addiction issue, my story encourages you to ask for help. If my experience and efforts help even one person, all of this will be worthwhile.

Get ready for some great stories from the highway shoulders of the South and plenty of mediocre puns. This is going to be a blast!

Walk on,

Ben

3 thoughts on “Southbound

  1. Kris & I are ready for the journey. God be with you and Bless you every step of the way. Can’t wait to hear how you and PJ are doing. One step at a time. Walk ON

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  2. So enjoyed your post today, Ben, looking for the upcoming ones. As a new supporter and friend on this walk, will certainly relate to most of the areas. We lived in Florida and Texas while in Air Forces, traveled several times through the others. Enjoy the Spanish Moss and walking a few beaches. Hope you get to see The Alamo🥰. God be with you every step of the way, also praying for your Family and PJ. Onward Christian Soldier!

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  3. Godspeed Ben! Call if you need anything. We’re behind you 100%. Roll on PJ, walk on Ben 🙂
    It’s so good to see someone so happy sharing it with others. Woohoo!!!

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