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.