The last time we spoke, Jack told you how the next day was going to be tough, this time I’m going to tell you how it was because of me, and how much I regret pushing the two of us.
18 miles is a long way to walk. It’s a long way to walk for the majority of you reading (trust me, however far 18 miles is in your head, its further). It’s also a long way to walk for us, it just happens that we currently do that (and more) every day, and have done for the last 8 weeks; on this occasion 18 miles was probably 12 miles too far for our feet.
The night before, I swear to god GoogleMaps told me the journey was 14 miles; the next morning it had turned into 18. I don’t know how and I don’t know why it changed, but the fact was that there wasn’t going to be a chance to camp, eat, drink or refuel before those 18 miles. I decided it was best to keep this information from Jack and just press on with the day.
I’m not proud to say it, but I’m a pretty convincing liar. I’ve come a long way from eating some icing on a cake and just blaming it on my brother; these days id tell you that the heat given off by the lights above it caused the icing to evaporate. and you’d believe me. but it’s very difficult to convince someone who has just walked 6 miles that they have only walked 2. It’s even harder when you get onto a path that has signs indicating the miles to the next town. What I’m trying to say in an incredibly convoluted way, is that Jack was onto me. I think the knowledge that there was an Irish bar in the next town was the only thing that kept us going all day.
Getting into North Judson was a good feeling, getting into an Irish bar with the A/C on full blast was incredible.
As usual the bar lady recognised the accents, asked us where we were from and what we were doing, commented on how much I look like Ron Weasley, and then finally pulled us a pint. Now that we were in North Judson, we had to find somewhere to sleep. We’d been promised that there was a campsite in the town, there wasn’t. We’d been told we could camp in the town park, we couldn’t. Finding somewhere to sleep at night is the only thing that really stresses me out on this trip, and at that moment I was stressed.
We didn’t know it at the time, but the bar lady had disappeared to make a phone call to the bars owner, letting him know how and why we had found ourselves in his bar. A stress and Guinness filled hour later, in walked Mike Conlan who refilled our glasses, handed us a menu and told us everything was on the house. This is something I haven’t gotten used to and hope I never do. It’s probably a small thing for a business owner, but it absolutely makes our day.
Mike told us we were more than welcome to come and stay with either him or one of his neighbours, but that they all lived about 20 miles in the wrong direction. This was a tough offer to turn down, but it would mean retracing our steps, which neither of us fancied at that moment in time. As Jack and I looked at each other to try to mind-read the others decision, our phone started ringing and there was a picture of Diana Geisler. Jack took it outside, and when he returned he had the biggest smile on his face.
Diana had been in touch with someone she used to teach with; he lived in North Judson, was letting us stay at his house, and was on his way to pick us up.
I don’t believe in fate or coincidence, but Laura and Richard Strohl came into our lives at the right time, on the right day. Mike wished us well, we loaded our stuff into the car, and headed towards our temporary home.
The Strohl’s had been having a family reunion canoe trip that day, and as we pulled onto the property there were a lot of people getting out of a lot of cars. I panic in social situations; when I first meet someone I find it hard to remember their name because I’m so focused on getting my own right. When there is a crowd of people to meet all at once, I don’t even bother, I just give my name and ask them theirs again later, and I told them this upfront. It didn’t matter, everyone was so welcoming, offering us food or a beer, and luckily they all left fairly soon so I only had the four names to focus on.
Laura insisted we drank some water, had a shower and made ourselves comfortable. Straight away we both felt at home.
Apart from having raised three boys of their own, Laura and Richard have fostered almost 30 other children, and it really shows in how loving and welcoming they were to us from the minute we arrived. we sat around a bonfire in the garden and had the usual conversations about the walk, american politics, and the differences across the Atlantic.
The Strohl’s are members of a southern Baptist church in North Judson, and they had invited us to join them the next morning for sunday service. It was nice to sleep in a real bed that night, and even nicer to have a fan above my bed, keeping me cool. I woke up early to a strange voice; obviously this happens a lot when we’re sleeping in different beds each night, but this was a voice we hadn’t met the night before.
“He tried to run me off the road, Laura. but I wasn’t speeding up for him or nuthin’! ya know?”. This was the voice of the man, the legend: Uncle Jack. Laura’s uncle Jack to be specific. He had left his house (20 minutes away) two hours before, and only just made it to his destination. When I walked down stairs I was met with “I wasn’t keeping an eye out for the indian, so I missed the turn, and I just kept on going, yep”. Jack rides a moped to get himself from place to place, but had been having a bit of trouble remembering which turns to take, hence why the journey took him so long. Right from the crazy introduction, Jack (Chalkley) and I loved Jack Sr; everything the man was saying had us crying our eyes out. probably not the best man for us to sit beside in church though.
For the first 13 years of my life, I went to church every single sunday, but I have only been a handful of times since then. This service was like nothing I had ever seen before. Pastor Brian was so passionate in delivering his sermon! Members of the congregation sporadically got up and professed their love for the lord, and spoke about how instrumental he was in their lives. It amazes me the level of faith some people have; it was so interesting to experience it first hand, and delivered with such emotion. There were things Pastor Brian said that I did and didn’t agree with, but it was clear he was a man who gave himself completely to the lord. Richard and Laura introduced us to all of their friends in attendance; such lovely people, and one even offered us a place to stay in Denver; an offer we’ll definitely be chasing up. The rest of the day was spent chatting inside, escaping the heat, and the swarms of mosquitos surrounding the house.
I had a rough night and not only was I having difficulty walking but I woke the next morning feeling unable to stomach water, let alone walk all day in 100F heat. Jack and Laura decided for me that id be staying in bed all day while Jack walked as normal, with Richard offering to pick him up at the finish line and bring him back to the house.
When Jack did return, he was a wreck. The local news had a severe weather warning, suggesting people refrain from doing anything strenuous in the heat. Laura made another decision that we were both to rest , and to ride out the heat-wave with them; I was feeling a little better but was more than happy to oblige.
After another days rest, and a cooler evening ahead, Laura asked us if we’d like to go and take a look at the county fair. As you’ve seen, we get presented with a lot of invitations and opportunities, and unless they involve mint-shower gel we are usually more than happy to oblige.
Uncle Jack had returned and we were so happy he had agreed to come with us. Richard told us how he sometimes speaks about his love of Ferris wheels, but that he hasn’t been on one since he was a boy, and that the last time he was on one people were rocking it all over the place; we promised not to do the same. The fair was huge, and we were told that this was a very modestly sized one! There was a large fairground, an arena, a dressage/rodeo area for the horses, then a massive section full of all different kinds of (prize-winning) live stock. We wandered around eating funnel cake, listening to Jack (Sr)’s stories of growing up on a farm, rearing cattle and riding horses with no saddles.
Devastation struck when we got into the fairground just in time to see the guy closing up the Ferris wheel for the night. I tried to ask him if we had time for one more go but he just grunted and walked away. We carried on walking around the different rides without realising Richard had run off to convince the guy to turn it back on for one final ride.
We climbed aboard, with Laura gripping my arm and telling me just how much she loved theme park rides, but how afraid of heights and carnivals she was. Unfortunately for all of us Laura’s fear was realised that night when the ride broke just as we were about to get off. It’s never nice to see a guy walk away then break into a panicked run, but its even worse when he sprints back with ten other guys tasked with trying to get us down safely. Well clearly we did get down and walked away unharmed, but not before hearing one of them say “we’ve got to take this down for good, its fucked!”.
Richard and Jack Sr had disappeared to use the facilities, but through the darkness we could just about see them and hear their voices. The conversation we could hear and the sight that emerged showed us that, in his desperation, Uncle Jack had pissed on the side of a police car. “When you gotta go, you gotta go. ya know?”. We decided it might be time to head home.
Saying goodbye to Richard and Laura (sadly Jack had left before we woke) was one of the hardest of the trip so far. It’s difficult to say goodbye to everyone, but these two had been so loving; caring for me when I was sick, picking up Jack, taking us places, showing us things… I apologise if that sentence doesn’t make much sense, but I’ve deleted it and re-written it over and over. What I’m trying to say is that I genuinely love the pair of them, and I cant wait to (hopefully) see them again in a couple of weeks.
Next Stop Chicago.
I will pick up from where Kieran left off. Diana had just dropped us off. We walked for the day, it was a relatively easy day’s walk. Whilst we were walking we had a call from Sara, a woman we met the day before (her father had the beautiful bar in his house) and she had a friend, Pat, who lived in Rochester who was happy to put us up. She lived right next to Lake Manitou. We were so thankful.
We gave Pat a call, and she was happy to come and pick us up, and said we were more than welcome to stay at hers. We met Pat a little while later and she drove us back to Rochester to her house. It was beautiful.
Her house sits right on the edge of the lake and the first thing she told us to do on a hot day like it was to jump straight into the lake. Of course I was a little worried about sharks, but I manned up and jumped in. It was the most refreshing thing imaginable (luckily the sharks weren’t biting either).
We swam around in the lake as Pat and her friend finished a mural in her hot tub room (that’s right a hot tub room!) I got brave and started diving and flipping into the water. It was exactly what we needed after a hard day’s walk. Kieran’s ankle started to play up a bit that day, so a good swim was what we thought might help put him back on the mend.
After an hour or so messing around in the water, Pat and her neighbor came and had a chat with us about what we are doing, such lovely people. Pat then asked us what we wanted for dinner. Kieran and I are easy going with food, we will eat anything so said it was up to Pat. While she cooked she told us we could go out in the kayaks.
We paddled into the lake, down one of the estuaries, through high reeds and huge lily pads. It was a great experience, and so peaceful.
We rowed around for an hour or so before we headed back to Pat’s. Kieran was limping at this point, and it seemed his foot was just getting stiffer and stiffer, and my feet were covered in blisters, something only time and good care could solve.
We sat down to eat, and chatted about our lives with Pat. She told us how seeing us jumping into the lake, laughing and having fun reminded her of when her kids where younger, doing the same thing. It must have been such a lovely place to grow up, and we were happy that Pat was getting something back from having us there.
We discussed our injuries at the table, and spoke about how we walked through western Pennsylvania and Ohio Kieran’s other ankle was playing up, and now it’s his left one. Pat said that if we didn’t feel any better we were more than welcome to stay another day.
Before we went to bed Pat took us round the lake on her boat as the sun went down. It was such an amazing place; it would be like living at a beautiful holiday home all year round. We went all the way around the lake. There were so many different types of houses scattered around the edge of the lake, including one that was built on a small island, that turned out to be for sale (Mum…please?).
We pulled back up to the house and we were both bushed; we went straight to bed and as soon as our heads hit the pillow we were asleep. We woke up feeling refreshed, but unfortunately Kieran’s foot was still strained. I went down stairs to chat with Pat while Kieran tried to stretch it out and get ready for walking.
I told Pat that if she didn’t mind, we would stay for the day. Kieran wanted to try and walk, but knowing what happened while he tried to walk through it in Western Pennsylvania, I thought it a good idea to take the day to rest.
Pat made us a lovely pancake and bacon breakfast; she told us how she had guests coming the next day and needed to tidy the house. So Kieran and I decided to take it upon ourselves to help. We swept and mopped the entire house (it was the least we could do to repay her for her amazing hospitality).
Once the chores were done, we went back out onto the lake in the kayaks, we rowed back to the same area we went to the day before and just relaxed. As we sat there a storm began to surround us. It closed in on us from all sides, so we paddled back to Pat’s as quick as we could. We thought being out during a storm with metal poles in our hands was probably not the best idea, plus I have heard the sharks become a bit more bite-y during storms!
We got back to Pat’s just in time, the heavens opened as we pulled the kayaks back onto dry land. We sat inside and Pat set up a game of Rumikub. Now, neither of us has ever played this game, and I don’t know about Kieran, but I was not particularly looking forward to it. Well I was wrong; I’m a big fan of the board game Risk – me and my mates would spend many a night round a big map of the earth battling it out for world domination. Well not any more, Rumikub is the one from now on! Great game, especially with the great company, I won the first game, and Pat won the following two. That’s right, Kieran didn’t win any……..not one.
Any who… Once the weather cleared Pat asked if we fancied going out on the speed boat, we could have a go at water skiing or wake boarding. Kieran unfortunately thought it wise to miss out, because of his ankle. I couldn’t believe my luck; I snowboard, so I thought wake boarding must be quite similar.
Pat water skied herself but it was one of her sons and her daughter that wake boarded so she could only offer a few tips. She did say to be prepared to land on your face a while before you manage to get up. She wasn’t wrong.
Poor Kieran and Pat were so patient with me; I got dragged quite a distance before I managed to finally get up. I remember the boat pulling off, I had to remember everything I had learnt from falling 10 times before: keep my knees bent, lean forward until I had been pulled up, then push my weight on the back foot. Somehow it all went to plan, I was up and getting pulled along. I couldn’t believe it, it was working, I was so shocked I let go of the rope and cheered, Idiot. I could have carried on going, but in my surprise all I could do was throw my hands up and scream.
Well, safe to say I had another go and…fell flat on my face. One more go I said to Pat, one more go, she was more than happy to oblige. On my last go I got it, I got up on the board, travelled a while before I thought I would try a jump on the wake of the boat, I managed to turn in, I pushed my weight down ready to try and take off, and I fell, face first into the water. That was the most fun I have had, it was amazing. Thank you for that opportunity, Pat.
We went back to the house, ate dinner and chatted a bit more. We then sat down to watch a film, Crazy, Stupid Love. I told Pat how my girlfriend loved Ryan Gosling, she disagreed, until the point he took his t-shirt off, and then we all agreed, we probably would.
We slept well again that night, and got up early to walk on to Bruce Lake, 18 miles from Pat’s place. We were both unhappy to leave Pat’s, she became another member of our American family. We have met so many amazing people along our travels so far, everyone from our family in New Jersey to Sara who we spent all together maybe 2 hours with, but nonetheless we will remember her forever. Everyone has helped us get as far as we have, and without all this help we would have gone home a long time ago.
We said goodbye to Pat and walked on. That day was hard. Like most days the morning starts off nicely, we chat about how the last 48 hours has turned out, we discuss the other highlights of the trip, and just have a laugh. Kieran’s ankle was still playing up, but he wanted to try and push through it.
We stopped for lunch that day like we usually do, around 1, before the heat of the day hits its peak, we then rest for a few hours, until the day cools. We usually get a bit fidgety around 3 and then crack on.
My little toes then began to start to give me grief, I had a serious limp and we both put our headphones on to distract us and tried to pick up the pace to get to our camp site as quick as possible.
Kieran marched on as I moaned about my feet. We then saw the lake and the camp site was ahead of us. We walked around the site, trying to find someone to ask if we could put up out tent. I saw a guy in baggy jeans and a white wife beater approach. Turned out he was the owner’s brother; the owner was out of town for the next 40 minutes. He told us it would be $20 dollars and we could camp on the grass area outside the front, normally they don’t let people camp in tents, but because of what we were doing they would help.
We sat down on a bench and made our dinner, boil in the bag rice with Campbell’s jerk chicken soup. Lovely. We were both so tired at this point, neither of us where looking forward to a night in a hot sweaty tent. As Kieran showered I started to put up our small two man tent, and the owner returned. He came over to me, and we chatted about why we were walking across the country. He very kindly said “Well it’s too hot to sleep in a tent, we have a few cabins free, why don’t you sleep in one of them, free of charge.” AMAZING.
We had a little cabin, with full working kitchen, a small TV and, wait for it… Air Conditioning. We sat down and watch something my dad would be proud of, Jason and the Argonauts. We both fixed our blisters, popping them (yummy) and covering them with alcohol, and wrapping them with moleskin.
We rested that night, and got up early. The next day we were heading for Tippecanoe River State forest. There was a camp site there and we left early to beat the heat of the day.
The sun was really beating down on us that day, we stopped as usual around 1 for lunch, and we sat and rested for a few hours. We had put a good shift in the morning so we only had 4 miles to do that afternoon. We trekked on and reached the campsite before 5.
They told us is was $25 to pitch a tent, but the prospect of staying in the tent with the heat was not good so we asked if they had any cabins available, which unfortunately they didn’t, luckily one of the kind ladies behind the desk told us she was trying to sell her trailer, but for $20 we could stay there, it had air con so we were sorted.
Our feet were on fire, the blisters we had patched up the night before had gotten worse, so we spent the rest of the day off our feet, and went to work on them with a scalpel, more alcohol and some moleskin.
The next day we planned to walk just 18 miles to North Judson, but our feet were a mess and Kieran’s ankle was just getting worse. We tried our best to rest well, because the next day was going to be a hard one.
Our motivation on a day-to-day basis is the money that has been raised so far (thank you), but without all the help from Pat and the other amazing people who have helped us along our way we would be nowhere.
At the moment we are staying with Laura and Richard Strohl (their story will be in the next blog) and they are just one of a long list of people who have helped us get this far. We would still be way back in Pennsylvania or worse: home, if it wasn’t for them. We are doing all the walking, but having these people to help us at the end of a long day is priceless.
So please keep spreading the word, keep telling your friends, and if you haven’t already, please donate HERE.
Waking up in a different bed (campsite) every morning is a weird feeling, so when it’s a bed you stayed in five nights before, it’s a welcome change. I can’t remember if I mentioned that this wasnt the first time meeting the notorious Johnny Israel but, this wasn’t the first time meeting the notorious Johnny Israel. It was whilst we were on tour with the boys that we had our first meeting.
When Cindy and the boys go on tour they aren’t fortunate enough to have a label paying their way, so they have to get their own hotel rooms, or alternatively they stay with families through the Christian organization RYFO (I think that’s what it’s called (don’t ask me what it stands for)). These families welcome christian musicians (musicians that are Christians, not specifically Christians that play Christian music, although I’m sure they’re welcome too) into their homes. So Karen is one of these homeowners, and Johnny Israel is one of its residents.
Long story short, after we had left the boys it’s was another few days walk back in the right direction to Johnny Israel. Now the blog can really begin.
Waking up in a different bed (campsite) every morning is a weird feeling… We’ve been here before, literally this time.
When Johnny woke up after a late night, he suggested we have a BBQ and take the day as our rest day; we’re ahead of schedule and actually wasting some time before we meet my brother, and cousin Amy in Chicago so we jumped at the offer. Karen’s daughter Channelle and her husband Matt came round and suggested that we have the BBQ at their house, where we could meet their three children Remy, Kash and Mason, and their two beautiful dogs.
We spent the afternoon relaxing on the sofa, chatting about anything you can imagine while Matt and Channelle regularly checked on the grill. Just before the time came to eat, Johnny had to rush off as he had some (as Matt would say) “Johnny Israel stuff to do”. After we ate, fixed Johnny a plate and headed back to Karen’s house, we sat on the sofa and chatted with Matt for another few hours.
For someone we were told “doesn’t like anyone”, Matt was one of the most interesting, generous, and welcoming guys I have ever met in my life.
We both decided that we needed sleep, and that an early night was in order. Little did we know tomorrow was going to be “one of them days”.
It’s shit when you have to backtrack on miles you’ve already done, but two days previous we had sacrificed four miles for the offer of a bed. We didn’t mind too much seeing as the two miles we’d have to repeat would take us back on to the Nickel Plate trail, which we’d follow all the way up to Rochester in northern Indiana.
Maybe it was the fact that we started the day with our headphones in, or that its always hard to restart walking after a rest, either way we were both pissed off with each other.
We walked a good 6 or 7 miles before anything came of it. I’ll admit upfront that I was the cause, the antagonist, the wanker in the argument, but I’m pretty sure Jack won’t have read this far, do please don’t mention it to him.
We had like $24 left, and Jack suggested it was a good idea to stop at one of the many cash points around us. I decided that as we had a cart full of water, food, supplies, and the fact that we were modern day Baden Powells, we’d be fine. Glares were had, words were thrown, names were called… Money was drawn out. One nil Jack.
2 hours of silence.
Jack went into a shop to grab a drink while I went in the other direction and grabbed a sandwich, when he returned he had a found us a place to stay for the night. Sara, the owner of the store had suggested her fathers property 8 miles up the road where we could camp for the evening. I felt it was a good time to apologies for being the instigator. I offered a handshake by way of apology, to which Jack met with a hug. As quick as that it was all washed away! We beamed at the prospect of another place to stay at the hand of another kind stranger.
The 8 miles were gruesome, the heat was in the low nineties and some bastard had left the humidity on high. By the time we eventually reached Sara’s dad’s property we were tired, thirsty, and our feet were literally (honestly, literally) covered in blisters.
While Jack was on the phone and we were about to set up our tent, Sara pulled in (remember I hadn’t met her at this point) and greeted me like an old friend. She saw the state of my feet and without hesitation rang a doctor friend, asking her to bring round medical supplies. She took us up to the house to meet her dad, Doc.
I’m sorry I don’t have a picture to show you of the property. Doc and his friend had built this place on their own. Besides being a full time dentist, Doc is a carpenter, musician, amateur historian, and craft beer connoisseur. As you can see below, this guy had a full bar in his house. He sang us a few Johnny Cash numbers (along with one about home grown tomatos, which was my favourite) whilst I tended to my blisters, and Sara pulled us a pint.
The reason Jack was on the phone earlier was that Diane (someone from couch surfer) had rung offering to come pick us up and take us to stay at her house in the next town.
After her friend Jenni gave us the much needed medical supplies, Sara dropped us off where Diane’s son Justin had come to meet us. He explained how his mum was working late but that she was more than happy to have us come and stay.
Another beautiful house (with our own rooms) to stay in. When Diane got home she was naturally curious about who we were, what we were doing, and how we had found ourselves in her little town in Indiana. Diane and Justin were some of the first people we have met who have not only travelled out of America, but been to England for more than a flight change; more than that, they had even traveled through Stevenage to get to Cambridge.
Grits, 4th of July, the Made in America tour, and 6 flags
For some reason ‘griiiiitttssss’ has become the word for the trip; we say it when we’re trying to do an american accent, I don’t know why, but it just seems to come out. We first had grits when we were staying with just outside of Pittsburg. They don’t taste good, and yet people here seem to love them.
When we last left you we were staying in a RV park on the edge of Pennsylvania. The kind people who owned the park refused to let us pay when we checked in, but when we were getting ready to leave they insisted on bringing us into their prayer circle and saying a prayer for us. Neither of us are particularly religious, but it’s always interesting to see what people put their faith in, and just how dedicated they are to that faith.
My right foot hadn’t been in a very good shape since we left Andi in Centre county, PA, but now it was really bad. I could barely walk. That’s not to say I wasn’t still walking on it. We had a long day before we reached anywhere, and it was a day of constant ups and downs (hills). At the end of the day i was done, i literally couldn’t walk anymore. We found a dirt cheap motel and I put my feet up and didn’t move for 2 days. Fast forward. I’d love to tell you that it was a miracle cure; that I stretched religiously, gave my foot/ankle the hot and cold treatment every twenty minutes, that I woke up on the third day and I walked 30 miles. Well I did do all of those things (bar the last one), but walking across the border into Ohio was one of the most consistently agonising experiences of my life. The next 5 days were identical to each other: wakeup, pain, shoes on, pain, walk, pain, rest, walk, pain, eat, sleep and repeat. It wasn’t until Cleveland that I’d really be able to rest.
When we made it north to Cleveland we were both elated. Me because I had a week of going on tour, not having to walk, and Jack because he wouldn’t be the only one having to put up with my incessant moaning.
Meeting up with Cruise, Johnny, and Drew was an absolutely amazing morale boost. For those of you dont know who im talking about, collectively they are ReverseOrder. Remember back in New Jersey when we stayed with the one and only Russo-Zirkel family? Them. Well, minus John, Parker and Cindy (but she’d be along shortly)
In regards to what went on during the tour, Jack assures me there will be a video blog of it all very shortly, so i’ll just tell you we went from Cleveland to Chicago, Chicago to Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne to Detroit, and finally Detroit to southern Indiana. A whirlwind tour of the midwest in 9 days.
We left Cindy and the guys on July 4th, Independence day (apparently its a big deal). But we spent all day with them at a local waterpark where the boys were playing a show. Being on tour with the guys was so great, but im sure you can imagine it was not all fun and games. After we had unloaded the vans and set up all of the equipment there was little else for us to do, apart from handing out promotional cards to their hoards of teenage, female fans. But come 6 oclock, the water park was closed for cleaning for an hour. That hour was not just for cleaning, that hour was also for us. We’d been told that the 5 of us had free reign over the pools and slides, no lifeguards and no rules. Again, this is probably something that Jack will try to show you in the video, but the camera ran out of battery just as we were getting started.
You know those little charity bins in supermarkets where you put a penny into a slot, then watch it spin round and around before it drops into the small hole at the bottom? They had one of those for humans! It was the highest and steepest slide in the park, with the pure intention of shooting you as fast as possible into the bowl. We abused the privilege of their being no lifeguards by having 3 of us go down the slide at once. The result was a bruised hip, cracked toenails, a bloody elbow and a whole lot of laughter.
I dont know if you can tell, but im really struggling to write this one; we’ve walked a long way (even by our standards) in the last two days, and my body just wants to veg out and watch a film. We’re lucky enough to have been taken in by two separate people over the last two nights. Yesterday we were walking along a trail when a lady jogged by us,”Where are you boys headed?“, “California” , she stopped. “Well do you have a place to stay tonight?“.
Ruth Osmond and her husband took us in and fed us for the night, but we were disappointed to find out that we were not the first cross-country walkers they had taken in this year. In May, Ruth had met a guy in exactly the same place she met us; his name is Ryan Herrmann and he too is walking across country to raise money for charity. The name of his walk is Herrmann’s Hike, check him out.
This evening we are staying with a guy named Johnny Israel who, along with his brother (Ed Money) is a big name in the local hip-hop scene. He doesn’t look like your typical rapper though: 6 foot white guy in skinny jeans, with shoulder length hair and a metal beard (if you are either of my grandmothers, then i mean metal as a genre of music, and not a material). He lives on the edge of a prison and airforce base, so you can imagine we got some really funny looks walking along the road. Especially when we were taking the photo below.
We’re really happy with how the walk is going at the moment, and have made great progress since linking onto the American Discovery trail (which spans the country, Delaware-San Francisco). We’ll be able to take it almost all the way up to our next stop in Chicago, then from Chicago we can take it all the way across Iowa, Nebraska, Cleveland and a large chunk of Utah.
I hope the next blog I write is a bit more coherent, but thanks for sticking with me.
We camped in Clintonville, with no problems, it wasn’t a very entertaining evening, we ate noodles and watched some Arrested Development on my lap top. We woke early and walked on to Grove City.
The days have become hot, and Kieran has become burnt. We are getting through water quickly, but luckily we have the means to carry 8L a day, so we are fine. We have got into a pattern of walking till around 1, finding a shaded area, making lunch, and waiting for the day to start to cool.
We arrived in Grove City around 5. We were staying with a lovely lady called Michelle and her daughter Maegan, we met them through CouchSurfer. It was so nice of them to let us stay, they are in the middle of moving house, so even though it was a really hectic time they still found time to help us out, which is amazing.
We sat in their kitchen ate and chatted the night away, Michelle mentioned she wanted to take us to Pittsburgh the next day, which was a really cool prospect for us because we haven’t been in a big city since New York, plus Pittsburgh is were they filmed Batman. It was a great evening, and they were both great company.
The next evening Michelle took us to Pittsburgh, there was a premier of a documentary called GasLand2, which was about fractural mining, or Fracking. It was first come first serve to get in though, so we had our fingers crossed.
Pittsburgh is a cool city, we went to the cathedral of learning, which is the tallest university building in the world. It also has a very similar feel as Hogwarts from the inside, so Kieran got a little grief. He tells alot of people here, he is Ron Weasleys stunt double after all.
It was a very interesting building, on the first few floors, all the classrooms have different country themes, it had a nice feel, we found the welsh room quite funny, it was pretty much a normal classroom, I didnt know what was implied, boring welsh?
There were also blackboards in each classroom, so obviously the need to find chalk and draw a penis on the blackboards ensued. When we eventually found chalk we thought better of ourselves (or just got too scared).
We went to the 36th floor to a room with a view of the city, it was beautiful, and such a nice thing to be able to do. As Pittsburgh isnt on our route, we never thought we would see this city, so it was great to tick it off the list, and also just a nice feeling to be in a city again.
We finished at the cathedral for learning and went and sat in the Shenley Plaza and had bubble tea, and ate some Iranian food. We finished and went onto the premier at the soldiers and sailors memorial hall.
We were lucky that it was a huge space (beautiful too) so we didnt have any trouble getting in. There were a few stalls of people giving information on various causes, obviously the main focus was on Fracking.
The film was great, it was introduced by the director, Josh Fox. It was all about how Fracking, which is were they drill a mile or so into the earth, then pump at high pressure water and chemicals into the rock, which makes it crumble and release natural gasses. Most of the water for houses here is pulled from wells and spring supplies, so these chemicals and gasses are being brought up in peoples water. There are videos of people literally holding a lighter to there tap which creates a ball of flame. Its pretty scary stuff.
It was a great watch, and well worth looking into, if you are in the US, the documentary airs on HBO on the 8th July (at 9pm) for everyone at home, it will probably be on the internet somewhere, its called GasLand2.
There was a questions and answer session after which was great. Kieran and I were being pretty childish and making Fracking puns. “Why the frack are they doing this?” or “you can Frack off.” We found it way too funny.
Maegan had a little chat with the director after, he was a very nice down to earth guy, so it was nice that he could give advice to her.
We then went back to Grove City for a good nights sleep. We were walking to Mercer the next day so we needed some rest. We had had a great day and seen a new City, our next will be Cleveland.
We said goodbye to Michelle and Maegan in the morning around 10 and set off, it was a hot morning, so we did as many miles as we could in the morning before it got too hot. We made turkey rolls (which Michelle very kindly brought us) and sat in the shade, it was cool, but we are always on the look out for snakes and ticks in the woods, and obviously bears, (which John and his friend told us we would never see)
When we set off getting back out in the sun really hit us, we both put our music on and marched as quick as our feet would let us.We got into Mercer, and planned to walk through to the other side where there was a campsite. We walked past a yard sale and a women at the sale stopped us “Are you the boys doing the charity walk.” We couldnt believe she new, the newspaper we were in was quite a few towns back, so we didnt know how she new. She gave us $5 for water and food, we couldn’t believe it , we were very thankful. As the day was drawing to a close and Mercer in our view. We decided to stop in a bar for a quick beer.
The bartender, Tom got us too large pints of Yeungling and chatted to us, we told him what we are doing and he was a little shocked. He went and got his colleague, Amanda. She couldn’t believe what we were saying and walked off, she came back with two bar T-Shirts and handed us some money, we couldn’t believe our luck.
We both chatted to the bartender Tom a bit more. He got us another free drink, and invited us to his place, he told us he was going to take us out and get us good and drunk. We hesitated to begin with, and the thought of walking hung over the next day, but we did it any way.
We walked to Toms, he drove his Crysler 300c with huge chrome rims, slowly beside us. We got to his garage, greeted by the ‘man cave’ sign. It was amazing, decked in different bar signs, huge sculptures of indians, and two life size statues of the blues brothers and princess layer. With 2 litre bottle of fire whiskey to boot. We had a few drinks with his brother and headed out for the evening.
On the drive to the bar Tom picked up his cousin Dame, who is actually the cousin of Trent Reznor (the singer from nine inch nails). He gave us a signed back stage pass, which was cool. Any who, we drove to a mexican bar and brought some huge margaritas and watched a band out the front. We met a couple outside the bar and chatted to them about the walk. They were lovely, and even spoke to the band and got them to dedicate a song to us, it was lovely. Such a nice couple.
The beers they were-a-flowing. by the end of the night we were a mess, we realized today that we only ate the two rolls earlier, and had been drinking since 4. We needed to get out of the bars and back to some kind of bed. Luckily Dame saw the state we were and took us back to his. He very kindly gave up his bed, and Kieran slept in a spare room.
Dame was a really cool kid, who lives in Pittsburgh most of the time. He mentioned possibilities of getting us Lulapalooza tickets, which would be unbelievable. He took our number, and we hope to stay in touch with him.
We woke this morning hanging, the day was already getting hot and we needed to be on our way. We decided to walk the 4 miles to the camp site past Mercer and stay there tonight, which was hard enough, the road was very busy, and in our state of desperation that morning we forgot to put any suncream on, and were only wearing the clothes we had on the night before. We needed a shower. Desperately.
We rolled into the camp site around 2 this afternoon, its a huge place, with a swimming pool, fishing lake and loads of other activities. As soon as we spoke to reception they asked us were we are from, and about what we are doing. They then wouldn’t let us pay. Again such amazing generosity from the people here. Its very comforting to know that there are still so many amazing people out there.
We are now camping up, and tomorrow we hope to cross into Ohio. We have nearly finished in Pennsylvania. Its be such a great state to us, the people here have made us look forward to the rest of our trip. Fingers crossed Ohio is just as friendly.
Right, bare with me because I’m really hungover, so this is going to be a struggle.
its been a week since we last updated the blog, and that week has been packed full of new characters in our story. We decided that the easiest way to do this was to split the week in two, with me writing the first part and Jack the second. enjoy.
Last Saturday we stopped for the night in Corsica; there was a huge field that we could camp in, but we decided to opt for the dugout of the baseball diamond. Now dont ask me why we made this decision but im very glad that we did. we had this huge flat field, we could have pitched our tent anywhere, but we chose a patch of concrete just a little wider than our tent. Im so glad we did. After we had settled in for the evening and consumed our staple diet of Ramen noodles, we watched a few episodes of Arrested Development then started to think about going to sleep. Just as we decided to turn in for the evening the heavens opened wide. you know the kind of storm where its raining, then you get the 30 seconds of intense, huge droplets, hammering down? we had that for nearly four hours. if it hadnt been for the corrugated iron roof of the dugout i dont think our tent would have made it through the night. We’d have been sodden at the very least.
The next morning was glorious! The sun was shining, there were no clouds in the sky, the birds were singing – and i got very, very burnt. If your name is Rosemary, Dora, Marie or Siobhan, and right now youre thinking “he should have been wearing sun cream”, i was! i was wearing factor 50, a hat and a pretty long sleeved t shirt, i still got burned. I dont think that the luck of the Irish goes as far as achieving a sun tan. 24 years and i haven’t had one yet. Where was i?
We were walking towards Clarion to meet a man named John Miller. We’d got in contact with a lady on CouchSurfer who told us that she was traveling in Europe and wouldn’t be able to help us, but that she knew of a man who might be of some use. John had actually cycled across the states almost 30 years ago, so we were excited to meet him.
When we reached Clarion we made a pitstop for lunch in McDonalds, and gave John a call to let him know we were in town and to find out where we would find him. Lucky enough he was sitting in his store just a block away, so we packed up our stuff and headed in his direction. Artfunkels is a consignment store, it sells a bit of this and a bit of that. John seemed interested to meet us, but genuinely had no idea who we were or what we were doing in his store. His friend hadnt passed our information onto him, and when Jack had called there had been a pretty bad connection, so we had to go through everything again. Clarion is a university town and John told us that he owns a second home which he rents out to students during term, but as school was done for the summer, the house was empty and he told us we were welcome to the whole thing for as long as we liked. We couldn’t believe our luck.
The house was the equivalent of a normal two up, two down, except this one was fully detached, with a beautiful and huge flower garden. Johns wife is a professor at the university but her real passion is tending to the garden of the home they used to live in.
We sat and drank beer with John, his wife and their friend Joe (another incredibly interesting guy) who used to co-own the store with John.
We headed out for dinner that evening, with John and his wife telling us to order absolutely anything and insisting on paying for us. Then the three of them went through all of the things that could, should and would kill us as the journey continued. Nothing as it turned out, but apparently we might get some trouble from some over enthusiastic dogs.
After dinner, John’s wife dropped us at a local bar, and again insisted on paying for us. I chose the most disgusting dark ale, but because I’m such a handsome and charming individual, the (hot) bar lady offered to buy me another drink. We met a friend of friend of Johns who worked in the coffee house next to his store. Mackenzie (Mac’n’cheese to us) was an absolute legend, we didnt pay for a drink for the rest of the night. John is an absolute legend of a man, he told us stories of cycling across the country and the amazing people he met along the way.
Our wake up call came loud and clear at 5am. Clarion has a volunteer fire service, with a siren at either end of the town. luckily enough the siren for our end of town was just outside of the kitchen window. We had planned to head out that morning, but after a lack of sleep and with my right foot still giving me gip we took a rest day, did some washing then hung out in the coffee shop all day with the main man: Mac’n’cheese.
I completely forgot that on the last evening in Clarion I cooked our first proper meal since we started (Sausage and sweet potato mash seeing as you asked), but Jack said that the food was so amazing, and that i was such a gifted chef, that it would stupid not to include it. He said the way i maneuvered around the kitchen was so graceful. doing a thousand things at once. He hasn’t come out and said it (yet), but i can tell Jack really looks up to me. They say never meet your heros, well Jack is lucky enough to walk across a continent with his.