Wrong Impressions

Firstly please bear with me, my writing is that of a primary school child, so I hope this is readable.

We are still walking through Pennsylvania, just past half way through, and the scenery has not changed much: tree’s, farms and mountains. The walking has been much the same, but we’re making good progress and as I write this we are sitting in a Super 8 Motel in Clearfield resting our weary feet.

When Kieran last updated you we were just setting off from Andi’s house near Belfonte, (unfortunately) in the rain, but (luckily) without the cart, as Andi was going to pick us up at the end of the day, and take us back to the safety (and dryness) of her beautiful home. We managed to achieve the 20 mile target of that day to get to the center of the Black Moshanon park. We both wished it was called Black Moshanon mountain so we could have at least prepared for the ordeal. It was a very hard trek up the twisting  road to the top of the mountain, but it would have been a lot harder had it not been for Andi letting us leave the cart at hers.

That evening we went back to Andi’s. Her and her family where amazing to us, they made us feel so welcome, and made sure we were well fed and comfortable. Andi even went out and brought us Penn State football jerseys (which we have been wearing with pride). She also filled our cart with food to keep us going for the next few weeks.

When we left our New Jersey family we both thought we may have left our best times behind us, but Andi and her family made us realise that there are amazing people everywhere, and this pattern would continue after we left Andi’s…

We were dropped off in the centre of Black Moshannon park where we left off, and walked through to the other side. It was a beautiful walk through thick forest, and lovely scenery. There was always a cloud of butterflies around, some as big as your head. It was very beautiful.

As we where walking a truck pulled up beside us “ You boys are going to wanna watch out ya hear, there is a rattler in the middle of the road down der.” We thanked the old boy, and proceeded on, camera in hand. Unfortunately we missed the snake, but not before another pickup pulled up beside us. “you boys don’t happen to know where the big oil company are round ere do ya.”

“sorry mate, we are from the UK, we hardly know where we are”. The guy in the pick up smiled and looked a little confused, but thanked us and went on his way. As we carried on walking we saw a bar and thought we had earned a cheeky half, as we approached the bar we saw the pickup from before.

Now you know in the movies when someone walks in a bar in the middle of nowhere, full of red necks: every face turns to look at them, they can feel eyes burning into the back of their head? Well it was like that. We ordered our drinks and thought we would drink them quickly and get out of there.

Well safe to say we finished our drinks in a hurry, but only because we had another already ordered in by the guy from the pick up. Everyone was interested in what we where doing, they where interested in our story, and offered to help in any way they could. We found out there was a camp site 4 miles off the track – 4 miles out of our way. So Ron, the guy in the pickup, said he would drive us, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “there is a storm coming boys, and I wont let you walk”. We took the lift.
As we left the bar they all asked for a photo of us outside with our cart, it was funny seeing all the old timers using there smart phones “this damn-thing is smarter than me, I can’t figure out how to use it.”

As we drove round Ron pulled into a side turning and told us he was just picking something up before he dropped us off. He pulled into a small local butchers. He ran in, and we waited in the truck. When we came back he handed Kieran a white plastic bag full of beef jerky and bologna. But not your Wallmart (Tesco’s for those at home) brand jerky; this stuff was the real deal, it was amazing.

Ron dropped us off and helped us explain to the camp site staff what we where doing and why we had a bicycle trailer with us and no car. The staff where more than friendly, and wouldn’t let us pay for our plot. They even said we could use the local fishing lake.

When Ron left he gave us a crate of beer and wished us luck. He was an incredible guy, with an amazing story. Thank you Ron Henry.

We set up our tent, and decided to fish. It was Kieran’s first time fishing, and I haven’t fished since I was a young’n with my dad. So picture the scene, two half cut blokes on the edge of a lake, worrying about putting the worm on the end of the hook, because we didn’t want to hurt it….

Believe it or not Kieran was the first person to hook something, we both had no clue what to do, and all my knowledge at this point was from Robson’s extreme fishing, and this fish was nothing near extreme. It was a tiddler at best, but once we picked the courage up to pick up the fish in an old rag, and get the hook out of the poor fishes mouth (us both profusely apologizing to it) we got a photo with Kieran and his catch, the former as proud as punch.

I then managed to pull in a fish much the same size, again we took the photo. I was even happier that the worm remained on the end of the line, at least we could spare another from the same fate. Kieran’s rod then took a massive pull, he had something big, then followed the confusion of what the hell do we do? but before we could figure it out the line snapped.

While Kieran was at in the office fetching another rod I was casting out my line, I wanted to throw this thing out as far as possible, but in my vigor my rod snapped at the handle and the whole thing except for the handle flew into the lake. Oh dear. I panicked, I had no clue what to do, so I sat down and finished my beer and waited for Kieran to return so we could figure out what to do.

When Kieran came back we decided I had better fish it out, I found the reel in the water and pulled it in. The line was still attached to the snapped rod, but as we pulled it in we realized there was actually a fish on the end of the line as well, this time it wasn’t a tiddler, it was huge! (I’m exaggerating it wasn’t any bigger than my lower arm) I screamed and wanted to get out of the water, in fear of getting eaten.

Eventually we released the whopper, and decided to call it a day. Luckily John who worked at the camp site found the story funny and didn’t mind that the rod had snapped. He and his wife did warn us of the potential of storms that night though, advice we took into account when setting up our tent, and parking our cart under cover.

They where right about the weather, the storm started at about 3am, and continued through, it was the loudest and longest storm I have ever heard, and the rain pounded down on our tent. Luckily she held strong, and not a drop of water leaked through.

There was a break in the weather at about 7am, so we quickly packed up, and showered to get on out way, we thanked John and Christie for having us, we gifted John the few beers we had left and got on our way.

Today we walked to Clearfield, we planned to arrive at the Super 8 motel to rest for the night out of the storms, but unfortunately our map took us to the wrong side of town, we aimed for the McDonalds, but it turns out this town has two, so we walked around 5 miles in the wrong direction.

We rested our feet and took advantage of the McWiFi. We needed to walk 8 miles to get to the motel, 8 miles we really didn’t need. Our feet are beginning to catch up on us. As we sat and moaned about what we needed todo, an old boy approached us, interested in our accent. His name was Louis, and after a short chat he said he wanted to drive us to Super 8. It was on his way. We where so thankful. the extra 8 miles that we didn’t need to do could have broke us.

So now we are tucked up, in the comfy Super 8 motel, with a double bed each, and plenty of food to keep us going (thank you, Andi) we are hoping our feet will improve tomorrow. We have a couch surfer planned for tomorrow, and look forward to meeting him. Its a bit of a trek to DuBois, but fingers crossed all goes to plan.

Thinking back on the last few weeks has made us both realise that first impressions mean nothing, every person we have met, and made conversation with has been amazing. Getting out there and meeting people, finding out their story, and telling ours has brought us close to so many people, and we have met people that we hope we will continue to stay in contact with long after this is finished. So to all those people that have helped us this far, and to all those people we will meet going forward, a tip of the hat to you all.

Cheers

Jack (checked and corrected by Kieran)

Red (necks), White (bread) & Blue (hair)

We leave “home” again, cross another state border, hide from the Amish, and experience amazing generosity

Day 11 – Bellefonte, Pennsylvania

So the last time I wrote, we were staying with (the incredible) big John, Cindy, Cruise and little John in Hackettstown, NJ, we’ve come a long way since then.

Saying goodbye to the Ruso’s was harder than I’d expected it would be, they treated us so well and did so much for us. I couldn’t list everything for you, but answer me this: would you (or anyone you know) pick two complete strangers up 20miles away from your house, take them in, feed them, drop them back there the next day, take them in again (after they walk to your house), feed them again, then pick them up 20 miles further down the road, bring them back to your house, feed them again, then drop them further along where you picked them up? no? Didn’t think so. These complete strangers (then, not now) looked after us for 5 days without hesitation; and it was only through our absolute insistence that they let us do anything to help around the house (we smashed up and ripped out concrete around their swimming pool – it was more fun than work).

After leaving the Ruso’s we crossed over into Pennsylvania via the Delaware gap. Beautiful. It’s the lushest green that I’ve seen in a while, in fact it looks a little bit like Chamonix during the summer (which made me miss my old flat), and its almost as hilly! We’ve been making ridiculous progress so far, pretty much 20 odd miles a day, and with the added benefit of having amazing people pick us up and take us to their homes, we’ve relaxed in luxury most evenings too (right now I’m drinking the best peanut butter milkshake you’ve ever tasted, courtesy of Andi Biddle)

I wont bore you with long days of endless walking along busy ‘a’ roads, nothing ‘b’ roads, under seemingly endless tree-lines, or beside farm after farm with a giant red barn; instead I’ll tell you about Danny Dyer’s naughtiest religions: the Amish. This mob are old school! No rubber on their tires, don’t use phones (very smart), haven’t got time to be mucking about with chains for bicycles –  just use a bloody scooter! Even the locals give this lot a wide berth, (probably because they travel by horse drawn cart and that’s the correct highway etiquette) so you can believe we were keeping our nuts down.

After walking along 80 for quite a while and seeing nothing but road kill, cigarettes and bottles filled with a strange yellow liquid we were desperate to see something different, “the real America” that I’d spoken so much about in interviews before we left. We got off of the highway and were walking through Lamar when we needed to find a place to camp for the night.There was a little community ball park ahead of us not too far from a pretty stream with a large picnic area which looked perfect for us. Kevin (the contact on the sign) we were instructed to contact upon entering told us we could not camp there. Oh well, we still had energy and were prepared to go a little further, but before we could a family (all with dyed blue hair) in the parking lot asked us what we were up to, offered us freezing cold bottles of water (heaven), and informed us of a guy named Howard, “He’s real big keen into boy scoutin’ and such”. He had a big farm and apparently let hikers and passers by camp on his land.

His place was only 100M back in the other direction, then another 50m down a little track. Those 50M seemed to be a portal into the deep south. Hesitantly walking over a bridge guarded by 4 pissed off, rowdy dogs we were met by six or seven good ole boys, a few working on the engines of their pickups, and a few ripping round on dirt-bikes. Howard jr got onto the phone to Howard sr, who wasn’t happy about us staying on his land while he was away, “coz of libility(liability*), y’know?”.

We didn’t realize that across the road from the ball park there was a Jehovah’s witness camp, and once we told them what we were about they were more than happy to let us camp there, as long as we swore that we would bringing no alcohol or marijuana onto the site. After setting up camp we cooked dinner (tuna, pasta and tomato soup, seeing as you asked) and ate it in relative silence. We both admitted to feeling extremely emotional but neither of us could attribute it to anything specific; it wasnt that I was feeling homesick, obviously I missed everyone, but I just felt like I was a very, very long way from home. Watching Anchorman in a small tent was a good temporary cure.

Sunday 9th June we woke up cold and dirty, but feeling somewhat refreshed and energized, ready for the 20 miles of farmland towards Bellefonte, PA where, little did we know, another guardian angel awaited us.

If youre ever in or around central Pennsylvania, make a special trip to visit the Hublersburg Inn, just outside of Bellefonte. Its owned and run by the best milkshake maker I’ve ever met – Andi Biddle. When we came off of the road looking for a place to refill our water and to possibly buy some bread Andi was just driving away from the inn, but she later told us that she thought we looked in need of something so she called the inn’s manager to let her know we were about. When Andi returned she chatted to us about what we were doing, and where we were headed further along the trip; we asked her where we would be able to camp in and around Bellefonte, when she quickly suggested the sofas in her living room. perfect.

Andi’s home (along with being absolutely amazing) is filled with framed photos of family holidays, many of which were to the national parks we cant wait to see. She presented us with two pints of Guinness, and a box of maps for all over the country; we knew what we would be doing for the rest of the evening.

When we woke up on the Monday morning it was bucketing down. absolutely disgusting weather, which we were not looking forward to – then Andi appeared with breakfast and a suggestion, “Why don’t you guys leave your cart in the garage today, go and do your usual miles, then give me a call when you’re done and I’ll pick you up, stay here again, then I’ll drop you off at the same place in the morning?”. So that’s exactly what we did; Like i said, she fits the description of guardian angel.

Its time to walk now, so until next time…

Kieran

 

 

 

 

America’s (walkers) got talent

Tears, Raccoons, Adoption and… a car
Its been almost a week since we last posted a blog, and i’m sure you can guess that so much has happened in that time.

Saturday 1st June we began the walk from the YMCA on west 63rd street; my uncle Martin walking the first couple of blocks with us. Most people reading this will know either Jack or myself quite well; so you’ll also know that we talk a lot, don’t necessarily do all of the things we say we will, and of the things we actually do, we might not plan so well. We’ve talked a lot about walking across America, we are walking across America, and believe it or not we actually did a lot of planning. We couldn’t have planned the heat wave that hit NYC.

It was 30C and 90% humidity at 11.30am when we stepped out of the hostel, with each of us carrying 25kg on our backs. It didn’t take long for us to look at each other and wonder what we had let ourselves in for.

Walking up the west side highway we got a lot of support and cheers from the passing cyclist and joggers, which really lifted our spirits. People were really good at giving us a wide berth, until we came across two joggers just stood in the middle of the track, showing no signs of movement. I was ready to ask them angrily to get out of the way when they said, “We think what you’re doing is amazing! How do we follow you guys?” I felt guilty. The two joggers were Zack and Rachel, and they were our first real American supporters (apart from our amazingly generous corporate sponsors: USIS, Siemon, Corning and LMG).

The George Washington bridge is big, deceptively so (annoyingly so when its your halfway point for the day), and not only is it not getting any bigger, it’s actually seems to be getting smaller. But after a short-ish (distance, not time-wise) walk up through Harlem, we reached it and its twin peaks. This was where things started to go wrong. We stopped in between the two towers and for the second time that day we contemplated what exactly we had let ourselves in for. We had walked 7 and a half miles, Jack had already run out of water once, the supporting frame of my bag had buckled under the weight so it had to be strapped up and repositioned every time we stopped, and most importantly we were exhausted, the heat had done us in.

At this point I’d like to say that if your name is Rosemary, Trudy, Siobhan, Marie, Dora, Amy, Charlotte, Gerard, Dave or Joseph, then please do not worry. It gets a little bit worse from here, but then it gets so much better, trust me.

We’ll fast forward to our Motel, because the rest of the day was: walk, drink, walk, rest, readjust, repeat. The Days Inn Ridgefield is a shit hole, but it had a comfortable bed, WiFi and air conditioning so it was sanctuary for the evening. After checking in we got straight onto the laptop to try to find a local Wal-Mart or Home Depot that could supply us with a bicycle trailer that we desperately needed. Not only could they not provide us with the trailer, they couldn’t even understand our accents or the language that we were speaking, so they decided that hanging up on us was the best course of action. The laptop was about to die along with our spirits, but at least the former could be plugged in and recharged. Nope. The plug adapter we’d picked up in NY had decided to break, and in doing so it broke us too. We were completely lost, and I can tell you that one or both of us may have had a complete meltdown.

We needed to eat, drink, get rid of some of the unnecessary weight from our bags, and then sleep. If you’re expecting these tasks happened without failure then you’re wrong. We had bought pasta and soup with the intention of boiling the pasta in the rooms coffee machine, then doing the same with the soup. The coffee machine didn’t work. We flicked every switch, we shouted at it, bargained with it, pleaded with it but it just wouldn’t work. It WAS plugged in. So we had to take a walk down to the local ShopRite to buy some microwave meals and something sugary to lift our spirits. On the way back we came face to face with a raccoon and we were fascinated; we tried to approach it (something we would later be told we mustn’t do) but he just ran away. Back at the motel, the microwave didn’t work. It wasn’t plugged in. We ate microwaved steak and mashed potato, then watched How to train your dragon, in silence.

Next came the cull. We had so much weight in our bags and we knew we had to get rid of some, but what? Everything we had we thought we needed. We were ruthless. I think we probably got rid of 5kg each and at 11.30pm it felt like a major difference. We were happy. We went to sleep that night looking forward to the next 17 (11) miles.

After a solid nights sleep, only waking up once to tell Jack to stop hugging me in his sleep (we were sharing a double bed) we were fresh and ready to go; this would be short lived. The first 2 miles were without incident, but after that it was back to the previous days pattern: walk, drink, rest, readjust, walk, repeat. I was trying to trick Jack into walking 17miles instead of the 11 I told him we were attempting, but it quickly became apparent that 11 would be the best either of us could do.

Before we set off on this adventure we had done a lot of searching for places to stay on CouchSurfer; it was on here that we got in contact with a wonderful woman name Cindy who had agreed to let us stay at her home with her family. Little did we know the four of them would end up being our saviors.

Cindy came and picked us up off of route 80 and took us back to hers where the family were having a BBQ before the two sons did an online show for their (pretty successful (they got really far on America’s got talent)) band (ReverseOrder, check them out!). Cindy and Jon are our New Jersey adoptive parents; they’re feeding us, keeping us hydrated and making sure that we are rested before starting again.

I think I should mention at this point that we’ve clearly changed some of our own rules. Obviously we have traveled in a car now, but the day after we were picked up Cindy dropped us back to where she got us and we walked the 2 days to make up the miles. Apologies If any of you reading think that this is wrong, but despite the fact we are raising money for two great charities, we’re also trying to keep ourselves alive. New Jersey are suffering an unseasonal heat wave right now and we were walking through it for four days when most people were told not to exert themselves in any way.

Anyways, we’re on track miles-wise and time-wise, and we’ve still got our eyes on the Christmas prize. We are £2,500 away from our £10,000 goal, so thank you all so much for your continued support.

Until next time,
Kieran

The long anticipated second post

We’re here! we have arrived in  rainy, cloudy NYC.

After starting our journeys almost 24 hours before, we finally fell into our bunkbeds at midnight (local time).

We dont mind sharing with you that being here has made the enormity of the task all the more real. Dont worry, we’re no less serious about getting it done; but without the Atlantic ocean seperating us it seems a lot bigger. But everything is bigger here. so maybe we’ll just take bigger steps.

One day at a time is how we plan to tackle it. Looking at it any other way would probably drive us insane.

We’ve got our first week fully planned out: places to go, sights to see, family and friends to meet.

Thank you so much to all of you who have sent us messages of support, and to those of you who have donated to the charities in recent weeks.

We’re off to explore the city for the day.

Until next time,

Kieran and Jack

Our first post

Welcome to our brand new website!

Here you’ll be able to find out all the info about the walk, keep track of us as we go, read our blog (which we’ll endeavor to update as often as possible), and there may even be a few video updates from time to time.

Take a look around and let us know what you think,

Kieran and Jack

Kieran and Jack representing their respective charities

Kieran and Jack representing their respective charities