Six Days. Updates for 8/11 – 16.

Well, I finally started the walk… on the 11th.  Ha. Alright, so I’ve been busy updating the Facebook group, Instagram, and YouTube vids… I’ve hardly found time to sit down and write.  So here goes… I’ll try to sum it up with what little time I have right now.

I’m sitting here in the gazebo of a restaurant called Wood’s Kitchen. It’s owned by legendary Master Luthier Randy Wood. It’s funny how things come together. That’s what an adventure is all about, right? We will get back to this in a bit. Let me start you from the beginning of the trip.

Day One – 8/11

When I first left Tybee Beach, within the first five minutes of my walk I ran into Mark and Catherine. They appeared to be the owners of some kind of slushy establishment. They were very friendly and pretty amused at what I was doing, even more amused that they caught me right in the beginning of my walk.

I told them about Hidradenitis Suppurativa and gave them the cards I had printed out which had links on them to find out more. They filled up my water and gave me a bottle that was frozen solid. I love that. They melt slowly and in a little while they give you a present of ice cold water. It’s a great way to have some of your bottles so you can battle the heat. This Georgia heat is insane.

I went on my way and not much further down the road I bumped into a nice couple named Lafayette and Erica. They were super kind to me. This was not but minutes after I met Mark and Catherine, so I was pretty stoked at having such a quick and warm reception. They told me about some of their own issues, so it was nice to be able to relate to one another. They gave me well wishes and I went on my way.

I have a hands free setup with my phone, so I was able to walk and talk to my best friend Jeremy who is currently designing a video game in Florida. It was pretty cool to be able to do that, talk to my bestie despite being utterly alone on a long walk across America, granted, at this point the walk had just started.

I went for miles and miles until I left the comfy sunny disposition of downtown Tybee and started getting into the outskirts of civilization on the island. The roads became straight and long. The terrain became troublesome and swampy.

For the most part, drivers did a pretty good job staying away from me while I was walking, but I of course had to make sure to watch their every move and act accordingly. At one point a driver pulled over on the side of the road ahead of me and put on his flashers. An older guy with Kevin on his name badge walked over to me and handed me eight bucks, saying it’s not much but he figured it would help. He was right. Very cool of him, thank you, Kevin.

He walked back to his truck ahead of me while I fumbled around with my stuff, finding my stash spot for the cash. I drank some water and noticed he hadn’t left yet. I walked on up and he asked me if I had enough water. Now, Nate Damm, who walked across America in 2011, had said something to the tune of “Use what you got” or something, which he meant as if something is offered, just take it, you will need it. Well at that moment my urge to be polite outweighed the power of my memory and I totally lapsed. “Oh, thanks, yeah I have plenty”, I said. Should have gotten the water!

The biggest issue by far was finding a place to sleep. By the time it started getting dark I hadn’t found anywhere remotely capable of hiding me. The hard dirt and grass only extended several feet beyond the shoulders of the roads and stopped at the tree line. I couldn’t go behind the trees because the ground was untreated at the treeline and immediately transitioned into weedy swamp. I really mean it, there was an immediate change at the trees, everywhere I looked.

Eventually I was able to find a portion of the road where the treeline on my left staggered just enough that one lane of traffic wouldn’t be able to see me until they were right on me. That was helpful. There was also some thin stringy leaves hanging down from some tropical trees that served as just enough cover for me to lay my cot under and conceal myself with my camo net.

It was a hot and miserable sleep, if you can call it sleep. I was sweaty and sticky and bathing in my own juices. I was fighting off creep crawlies and random itches, trying to breath the thick air but finding myself out of breath. I’m not sure I got much sleep at all, but at least I was able to give my body a break from walking.

Day 2 – 8/12

I woke the next morning as the sun was coming up. I was a little slow getting up. I should have broke camp slightly sooner so as to conceal myself better. I figure it’s better to be seen breaking camp than making camp though. At least if somebody confronts me I would already be on my way out.

It wasn’t a great morning. The ground was wet, I had accidentally left my shoes far from my cot in my hurry to hide myself the previous night. I walked to get them, occasionally pricking my feet on thorns in the dewy grass.

Breaking camp took longer than expected. I think I much prefer hammock camping if I can manage it, but at the time cot camping was the only option.

I started walking again, pondering how long it would take me to reach the bridges that led back to Savannah. What would I do when I got to them? I knew one of them looked pretty uncrossable, but I figure I would give it a shot.

After what seemed like ages, I finally arrived to a monstrous bridge. The shoulders were non-existent. On the ride in I had eyeballed them and thought, no biggie, I won’t be on the bridge long and people will see me and drive around.

Well, in a car it can feel like no big deal. When I actually arrived to the bridge on foot the feeling was one-hundred percent different. The bridge now seemed incredibly long and tall and narrow. I was blown away by how different the feeling of its vastness was now that I had attuned myself to a snail-like foot pace.

It wasn’t going to happen. No way in heck was I going to try to cross that bridge. I definitely couldn’t cross the river either, so only one option existed: find somebody with a pick-up truck to escort me over it.

I looked down-hill to my left and right to see what was going on under the bridge on the river. Slap me silly and call me a goose, there was some kind of commercial establishment. I took the risk and went with my bike trailer down a super steep grassy hill, knowing there was no way I would get back up without taking the mysterious driveway on the river out.

When I got to the bottom I realized it was a makeshift parking lot for the customers. I saw a sign pointing under the bridge that said “Captain Derek’s Dolphin Tours” with an arrow instructing you to proceed further on foot. Perfect. I’m only on foot.

I went on through and made my way to a little office on a river dock. A young man was standing outside waiting for me as I approached. This kid was awesome. His name was Clayton. I told Clayton all about what I was doing and he said he had a pickup truck he would use to escort me over the bridge if I waited until he got off work. I was delighted. I waited around and hour, just eating tuna and crackers and updating social media.

I road in the back of his pickup truck with my trailer since the wheels don’t seem to lock. In retrospect I probably could have bungeed the trailer down, but I think I was more comfortable holding on to it. It was a short drive anyway.

He dropped me off on the other side and I went on my way. I encountered three more bridges over time, but I was able to cross them all on foot, though I probably shouldn’t have. One of them was super scary and had no shoulder.

By the time I arrived in Savannah I was feeling very much in danger of being too hot. I have to cut this a little short because I have to start walking soon, but that day in a nutshell was my tire coming off the bead, my bike pump not working, me being way overheated, and it started raining. All around a very difficult day. I cooled off in the rain, got some donuts and coffee, bought a new bike pump, fixed my tire, and made my way to Forsyth Park. It was a beautiful place. I probably wasn’t meant to camp there, but I got away with it.

Day 3 – 8/13

The next day the tire kept coming off the bead, making it near impossible to travel far. Turns out it was more my fault for not being good at managing the tire than it was the tire’s fault. It’s a perfectly good trailer.

Anyway, in an effort to figure out the tire and overhaul my whole trailer so things became more accessible, I went ahead and got a cheap motel room to dedicate my day to reprepare myself for the walk now that I was able to isolate some of the problems I am having in the beginning. Getting a room will be a rare thing, but it had to be done so I was calibrated properly for the rest of this walk.

Day 4 – 8/14

I’ve had so many days to catch up with on this blog that I am having trouble remembering what happened during them. The easiest way to keep up with the walk is on the Facebook group in the links up above in the menu. I hardly have time to update the blog but I will do my best. Since I can’t remember much, I’ll just skip to what happened at the end of the day.

I had been walking down highway 80, worried about finding a place to sleep. It was very difficult. Most nooks and crannies I found in the trees were covered in litter. Lots of alcohol containers. I didn’t feel like encountering any drunk or potentially dangerous people, so I kept moving forward.

Eventually I saw a business, “Randy Wood Guitars”, with another sign under it that said, “Wood’s Kitchen”. I thought, hey, this guy makes guitars and has a restaurant, he is probably a really chill dude. I called him up to ask if I could throw my hammock somewhere on his property as it was getting dark and sounded like it was about to rain.

Without even meeting me he said yes and even let me hang my hammock in the outdoor gazebo of the restaurant. I was amazed. What a cool dude. I met him and his wife Irene the following morning and they took me to Cracker Barrel for breakfast. What kind and incredible people. Also, the man is an absolute legend. He has made guitars for Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, and done inlay work for Elvis.

Day 5 – 8/15

Thanks to my superhero friend Felicia, with the permission of the Bulloch County Sherrif’s Office I was able to get permission to camp on the Ogeechee River. What a hot day… so dangerous. It was nice to have a safe place to sleep though.

Day 6  – 8/16

Another hot and dangerous day. Lots of sunburn. Body not responding well to the heat. Felicia and the Sherrif’s Office once again coming through for me, allowing me to camp in Stilson Park. I felt the worst I’ve felt yesterday. Achey, nauseous, dizzy, etc… ended up being the best sleep of the walk so far.

On Motivations

So how did I end up here? Why the walk? Why hidradenitis? I’m not going to paint a rosier picture of myself than I believe is accurate…

I’ve always had trouble sticking with one thing. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I don’t think I deserve any better than the status quo, but I have an unquenchable thirst for something more. My resume is a long list of very different things, but all of them were short lived. When I did them, more often than not I did them well – I just never did them for very long.

I think on a personal level I am a very dependable person in many ways. People knowing what I am going to do next is not one of those ways. I don’t say that from a point of ego; I don’t think it is necessarily a good thing. People like to romanticize unpredictability. The problem is, I myself don’t know what I am going to do next either. I feel pretty lost most of the time. It’s not a great feeling.

Walking Across America

So why walk the beast? I put it to a friend of mine like this recently… You ever get mad, sad, or confused and decide to go on a long walk to sort things out? It’s kind of like that, but a really, really, long walk to sort a whole lot of things out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking for yourself. Not everyone has to walk for some external cause, trying to venture forward for a charitable effort. There is nothing wrong with just dropping everything and walking away to find your answers, walking just for yourself and yourself alone. I don’t think it’s selfish.

Maybe you just want to have an adventure. Go for it. No reason to make it complicated. Walking across the country hardly ever births from a want though, I think it comes from a need. I don’t think it is some kind of lazy escape for those frightened of “real world” responsibility. I think people reach a natural boiling point and just find themselves having to walk.

If you need to take some time off to find yourself and battle your demons, do it. It’s probably the most important priority you have. There is a reason flight attendants advise you to secure your oxygen mask before trying to help others. My parents deserve better than a broken son, my siblings deserve better than a broken brother, and my friends deserve better than a broken friend. I know being a broken husband, father, worker or business owner isn’t what I want in my future, so I need to secure my oxygen mask first. You don’t try to fix a machine with a broken wrench. If you need to find yourself, if you are lost, go do it. It’s not selfish.

That being said, due to the specific circumstances of my own life, I have never felt more selfish. I knew I had to attach some meaning to this walk beyond myself. Not everyone has to, and that’s fine, but me specifically – I had to as part of my growth. It has to be different for me because I feel like I have been very selfish in my life and I am trying to atone.

Walking for Hidradenitis Suppurativa

I hardly ever go to the doctor. I find myself between so many jobs that I rarely find myself with health insurance. I had basically been crawling the internet since I was twelve looking for information on what might be wrong with me. I knew it wasn’t contagious, I knew it wasn’t an STD. I stumbled upon Hidradenitis and everything matched up. I finally got around to going to the doctor in 2010 and got an official diagnosis. He said without a doubt, that’s what it was. Until that moment, it wasn’t real. In the back of my mind there always lingered a thought: It could just be some strange horrible acne. But now… it was real. Now I knew what I had was an incurable, progressive disease, that tends to worsen over time. I was crushed.

Leading up to that last paragraph, I had before been talking about not wanting to walk for just myself. So wouldn’t my motivations be selfish if I decided to walk for HS? The thought crossed my mind. I thought, people will think that the only reason I care about HS is because I have it. People will think I am just trying to find a cure for myself. I thought, perhaps I should walk for something else. I had an ex whose nephew has CF. That always touched my heart. My niece has eczema and severe food allergies, maybe I could walk for that? I have grandparents who have had heart disease, emphysema, and cancer. Maybe walk for them? What can I do that is the most selfless?

Then I thought, it’s not just about selflessness for the sake of selflessness, it’s about using what value I have to help others. Where can I do the most good with my own experience, that specific experience value that is unique to me? What makes us love each other is what we share with other people. Sure, I love every one of those people I mentioned that have those other ailments, with all my heart, and I empathize with them, but I know there is a struggle out there with HS that I can empathize with all the way to the core on a knowing and personal level.

This isn’t about comparing one persons disease to another. This is about sharing. People I can turn to and say, I understand, and if I don’t now, I will soon as my condition worsens. When I tell someone I understand, they need to know it’s true or that it will be true someday. That somehow I am in the same boat as them and know what it feels like to have the water pooling around my feet.

So my fellow people with HS, I am walking for you. I am walking for me, but for you too.

Walking for Everyone

Beyond funding and friendships I know the act of the walk itself doesn’t do much good for anyone else. I am just walking. I can walk all day and no matter how far I walk you as an individual will still have your everyday struggles. I don’t want to glorify something mundane. I’m just walking. But I know that I personally grew inspired and was able to reflect inward just by watching and reading about the travels of Nate Damm, Andrew Forsthoefel, Logan Mayberry, and many others that have done this before me and are doing it now. I hope my walk will do the same for others.

Through this walk, for myself I am gifting personal growth. I hope to mentally, physically, and spiritually come out the other end of this a better person. The person the people I know deserve to know.

Through this walk, for those with HS, I hope to bring funding for more research and better treatments, to spread awareness of this disease, and to develop new and unbreakable friendships through our common struggle.

Through this walk I hope to inspire others to get up and adventure, say no to the status quo, and reach out and make new friendships. Whether you or someone you know has HS, eczema, CF, cancer, lung disease, heart disease, or any other physical, mental, or spiritual struggle. If you or someone you know is just going through a hard time, a struggle that can’t be assigned to any particular category, but are just under the burden of life – I am walking for you too.

Angie, Nico, and Red XIII

Today is a good day. I was prepared to wait for my returned sike trailer to make it back to Amazon before having to wait an additional three days to get credited back my money. I would then have had to order another more expensive bike trailer and go through the process all over again. Finding something that will do the job and is inexpensive is pretty tough when it comes to bike trailers, so I wasn’t looking forward to it.

My father, always trying to be of help, suggested taking another look at Craigslist. I was skeptical, telling him I had already peeled over Craigslist a lot recently and nothing good was available. Luckily he didn’t listen to me and began his search anyway. Sure enough, a decent looking bike trailer shows up for sale in our area, not far off at all. It was a good price and was already assembled. It was brand new. The owners just didn’t need one so big. Good thing for them, I definitely needed something big enough to haul my stuff in.

When we arrived at Angie’s house, we pulled up in our huge handicap bus. She laughed and told us she was glad we brought it because she was worried we would pull up with a car that wouldn’t be big enough to load the bike trailer. She was really cool, I immediately liked her. We walked up into her garage, bringing my chihuahua Marty with us. For those of you that don’t know Marty, he is the chillest, mellowest, chihuahua ever.

Angie, of course, thought the trailer would be used for Marty. That would make sense, it is a pet trailer and I arrived to check it out with my pet in tow. I explained to her that I was walking across the country for Hidradenitis Suppurativa awareness and that Marty wouldn’t be going, rather I would be using the trailer to haul my supplies. She thought it was a great idea and was delighted that she would get to watch her trailer get put to good use.

Angie had a sweet little yorkie mix (I think) named Nico. Super adorable dog. Him and Marty friskily checked each other out, sniffing each other in circles. At one point Marty gave a little growl because he hasn’t had canine company in a little while so he was a little surprised. In the end they became doggy friends. They had a little time to bond while I walked around Angie’s neighborhood testing the trailer.

I ended up getting it. I didn’t expect to have a trailer today, so it was really an unexpected and welcome direction for things to go in.  I snapped a quick pic outside with it. I plan on having a White Walker and a Storm Trooper ride with me the whole way. Going to try to get a tiny American flag to put in the White Walker’s hand. Maybe strap a little sign around his neck that says “Winter is Coming.”

Thanks, Dad for helping me find this trailer! Thanks Angie for listing it and being so friendly. Thanks Nico for making Marty’s day. Thanks Momma for taking Marty to the park with me and taking Red XIII on a test run.

 

My Brand New Sike Trailer

Nope, that’s not a typo. I got psyched up for this new bike trailer then it siked me out. Today was a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been waiting for the better part of a week for my bike trailer to come in so I could assemble it, pack it, put it through a test run, and gauge any changes or preparations I need to make. It’s the one element that has been standing between me and a proper walking and camping trial out here in Louisville, Kentucky.

Three or four days later than it was supposed to arrive, I get this box left at my door. It looks like a t-rex got hold of it. There were so many holes in the box I got to preview the item before even opening it. Once I did open it I find that not only is the bike trailer the wrong color, but it’s structure is pretty damaged as well. Now, there is just about nothing I hate more than dealing with returning items and dealing with vendors, shippers, and manufacturers, so I decide, what the hey, I’m okay with blue and as long as this damage doesn’t keep me from using the trailer this will be just fine.

After an hour or two trying to put it together, its badly translated instruction manual offering little help, I finally get it in presentable and near functional form. I am pleased. I feel relief. Finally, the largest piece of my puzzle is in place and I can begin the final stages of fleshing out this trip across America. I know I want to keep everyone updated on my walk, so I get a picture of me taken with the bike trailer outside before airing up the tires.

Sike. I don’t have good tires. One is off alignment and the other is damaged so bad from shipping that it can’t be aired.

So, alright. I’m not sure what to do next. I think maybe I will get credit back from Amazon, ship it back tomorrow, and get myself something else off their store. If anybody has any tips on a great trailer, drop me a line!

Update: UPS should be picking up the trailer today. I’ll get Amazon credit back three days after they receive the bike trailer. I am thinking of getting a Schwinn trailer. I’ve always loved their bikes.

Friends in All Places

So since going public with my trip over the last day or so, I have encountered the kindest and coolest bunch of people from all over the nation (and beyond). Throughout the Hidradenitis Suppurativa community I have had people come forward already offering to meet up with me, to donate to me and help me with supplies, to give me a place to sleep and eat in their homes, and even people offering to walk part of the way with me.

The reception and support I’ve already been offered this soon, my feet not even hitting the pavement yet, is super touching. I just really want to take a moment to thank all of you. You all are awesome!

GoFundMe launched!

The default title for the first post of this WordPress template was, of course, as is customary on the internet: “Hello world!”. I was tempted to leave it because it fit so well – seeing as I’m writing to you, the people of the world, and also planning to venture out into the world itself. After no more than a minute I decided to take it down so nobody would casually glance the site mistaking it for unfinished.

To the news: Today I launched the GoFundMe.com campaign of Walk For HS! Or, earlier this morning rather, at roughly 3 AM, I groggily finished its rough draft. I wasn’t aware the campaign would go live during the editing process; I thought I would be able to edit it privately until hitting some kind of finished button. So, apologies for any blobbiness.

If you are reading this close to its time of posting, you are probably a member of one of the Hidradenitis Suppurativa Facebook support groups. I want to thank you for dropping in. Please check out my GoFundMe page if you haven’t already. It’s going to be pretty hard without your help.

What will be hard? This insane idea of walking across America. Sure, other people have done it and are doing it now, but it doesn’t make it any more sane. There is an element of danger to it, primarily from cars and trucks barreling down the road, but I think if handled properly it could be fairly safe otherwise and, hopefully, loads of fun.

There are three types of transcontinental walkers: Those who hike the wilderness across, those who take roads, and those who do a little of both. I’m in the second group. I have a deep and perhaps irrational fear of bears. This fear keeps me from camping too deep into the forests or mountains by myself.

Just last night I braved the jungle that is my backyard. My sleep gear had arrived in the mail a couple days ago and I needed to give it a test run out in nature. As I walked out my backdoor with my things I noticed some nasty spiders spinning some webs near where my head passed. I told myself, You’re going to get a few of those directly to the face when looking for camping spots, get used to it.

Anyway, can’t wait to get started!