Phew, finally made it to the east coast by the skin of my teeth, still two days of grace on my visa.
A joyous sensation of relief, plunging into the Atlantic on Saturday late afternoon. That said, I soon turned numb (it’s pretty parky now) but it was nice while it lasted.
Hard to believe it’s been nearly six months and 2700 miles on the road: a hard road sometimes for sure (all the best ones are) but one full of wonders that I’ve been so lucky to complete.
I’d never have made it without the terrific support of so many of you, as these recent posts show.
Day 155 to 159
Well, there’s been a Paris in Texas, now it’s a Dublin in Georgia, with shamrocks galore lining the roads.
Last night I bivvied in a park in Dudley. I turned up as light was fading and had the good fortune to bump into the mayor, the sheriff and the pastor all having a chinwag: it’s a small town.
Sheriff Kyle, all 6ft 6 of him, said I could sleep by the baseball ground, a perfect spot with basic shelter. A top fellow who later sorted me a chicken dinner and checked on my walking today.
Well, it’s now bucketing down hard in Dublin so I’ve ducked into a cheapo place called Red Carpet Inn. Bit of a misnomer as the carpet is green and has enough stains to flummox a dozen CSI teams but other than that, and the bed bugs, a delight. Tomorrow, on towards Savannah and the sea, but no room for complacency, still over a 100 miles to go…
Day 159 to 162
Phew, this backpack takes some lugging, come back Koko, all is forgiven.
Hefting 25 odd pounds, my shoulders take all the strain, whereas with Koko, her two little wheels really help out.
That said, though slower, with the pack it’s easier to walk freely on grass, gravel and through woods and when you take it off, so giddy is the feeling of lightness and relief, you almost levitate with glee.
The pack has not been without mishaps though. Yesterday, while singing along to Ian Dury and the Blockheads, I tripped, tumbled down a steep, grassy verge, and landed on my arse in a ditch full of damp leaves, legs flailing.
I put this clumsiness partly down to hitting my 50s. Other symptons include searching for my head torch, when it’s already on my head; groaning like a speared bison everytime I lift up my pack and chewing countless Werther’s Butterscotch Originals.
Fortunately the good people of Georgia have looked out for me.
In Farm House Cafe in the town of Adrian, after a drizzly 20 miler, I asked the jovial owner, John, where I could camp. He called his friend Mark, ‘The Sermonator’, an engineer and preacher, who kindly let me kip at the local Methodist Church. I’ve spent more time on church pews over these last months than the last few decades!
Mark’s church was especially interesting as the grave of a Titanic victim, Jacques Futrelle, is here along with his mother, a local woman, who died of a broken heart weeks after her son drowned on that fateful night of April 15, 1912.
Mark, John and the gang were so kind to me in Adrian and that kindness has continued through to Twin City, where I walked today, a possible tornado on my heels.
Day 163 to 165
When I walked into Twin City a tornado was on its way, so I asked the local police where to find shelter.
Chief Beach (scary Bruce Willis lookalike) and Officer Rivera (on left) told me the old, historic jail (built in 1906), derelict now but still standing, would be the best spot.
When the rain and lightning kicked off they kindly led me to an alternative shelter with better protection.
The Chief, for all his toughness, was generosity itself. His family track record of service to others is undeniable – his father had served in Vietnam and lost a leg in battle, the Chief had been shot in the line of duty as a cop and his son had been wounded serving in Afghanistan and was now a policeman in a nearby town. The Chief was also actively involved raising funds for veterans with amputated limbs.
Before I met the Chief, I’d been told he’s a good guy unless you mess with him – true I’m sure.
Drugs are ruining our great country, Tom,’ he said. ‘Some turn a blind eye. Not me, I act.’
What impressed me most about the Chief was, despite his seniority, he still did all the little jobs: made coffee for the team, swept the station, helped out smelly Brits and when I left town the following morning at 7am, there he was on traffic duty. A human dynamo.
Although it was stormy in Twin City, the actual tornado didn’t hit – but it did wreak havoc in south Alabama, tragically killing 38 people and leaving destruction and floods in its wake; the worst tornado in the region for years.
The next day walking to Statesboro was strangely spring-like, though tonight the mercury is due to drop below freezing again, so I’m lucky to be under cover in the Old Fellowship Church in Stilson, where I joined in a supper with Pastor Chuck and other generous souls.
The countryside continues to delight, especially fields of red sour grass which is so prevalent it looks like a crop, but is actually a stunning weed. Frogs chirrup and burp, hawks swoop and I’m sure I saw a beaver in a woodland creek today, its tail like a plump, sheeny-black rudder. Magic.
Day 166 to 167
Yeehaa! The last camp before I hit the Atlantic and what a peach of a setting.
This is the Red Gate Campsite and, once again, I’m the only tent – though in the paddocks opposite are goats, horses, Jersey cows and a posse of skittish cats.
Tomorrow I will walk 20 miles through the historic city of Savannah and on towards the sea.
It seems incredible that I strode off from the Pacific coast back on September 22 and now, many steps later, the Atlantic awaits; the first stage of my journey nearly done.
No room for complacency though, still around 14,000 miles to go on the world walk as a whole.
The road continues to surprise. Today I saw a snake on the road which looked alarmingly alert but, sadly, on closer inspection, was as dead as Julius Caesar.
Excited to walk through Savannah tomorrow before plunging into the chilly ocean, then I have 60 hours to leave the country before my visa is kapoot.
Can’t wait to spend a few days with my daughter, Eliza, in Canada – she has a semester near Toronto – before re-entering America (if I’m allowed back in) and start the long march from Savannah to New York.
Outside my tent now, trees dripping with Spanish moss sway in the breeze, the sky is winking stars and a lone goat is bleating up a storm.
The east coast – made it yesterday!
The Atlantic had never looked so good: silver, shimmery, endless, so I just had to plunge in. It was a chilly evening and the beach was deserted at Tybee Island, 18 miles beyond Savannah, except for lovely Navie, who was meditating.
Being a trusting soul, she wasn’t shocked by a hairy Englishman sporting a backpack and ruined toenails (sorry!) and agreed to take some pics (you can hear her snickering on the video!).
The world walk so far started and finished in two beautiful cities: San Diego in California, and 2,700 miles later, Savannah in Georgia.
The first day’s walk, back in September, and this last day, were two of my favourites.
Yesterday, I marvelled at stone angels and trees drenched in Spanish moss, lush marshland studded with lighthouses plus wildlife galore – pelicans, turtles, white egrets flying in perfect synch.
But, for all the allure of San Diego and Savannah, my strongest memories are not of these famed landmarks, but the many little known places in between.
So far I have traversed six of America’s ten poorest states. These states have parts that are proud and thriving but others with chewed up trailer parks, crime hot spots and communities gripped by drug addiction.
Whether in charming market towns brimming with community spirit or areas stricken by poverty, the people nearly always treated me with equal kindness. Indeed, in some of the places I feared the most, the locals ended up really looking out for me: diamonds in the rough.
Yes, occasionally someone chucked an insult – ‘hobo!’ – or a bottle my way, but very rarely.
Walking 20 or so miles a day I had to tackle whatever the road threw at me each evening and mostly, it was kindness, from Americans of whatever class, creed and colour.
Strangers with generous hearts, that’s what sticks.
Right, next up, Eliza, Canada, vamos❤ Thanks so much for your support y’all.
Many thanks to so many people along the way, to the Kiy family and Einstein in San Diego, to Amy Christine and William Powers, to all at Camp Stevens, to Max and Olympia Mihailidis-Rossi and all at the Godwin Christian Institute in 29 Palms, to Dale and Aja Durham, to Maia Crespin and Trudy Draper-Jessen in Payson, to Humberto Venatt Gonzalez in New Mexico, and to Kimberly and Everett McArthur in Meadow, to Maria Teresa and Reynaldo in Lubbock and to Reynaldo, Ana, Sebastian and Brianda Patino to Rebecca Bejarano and family, to Becky Hernandez and Steve Acheson in Wichita Falls, to Valerie, Lonnie, Chad and Ryan Henscheid and Pat in Muenster to Bubba Medlin and Paula Nations Medlin, to Tad Dugal and to Juanet Gaskin in Strong, to Eric and Nicole Yeatman, to Amber Sisk, Lori Dees, Jakob Welch and to Pastor John and Patsy White, to Marcia and Julie and Teri in Garland City, Alex Fratesi, Lennis and Lanier Corbitt, Nekita and Preacher John in Sylacauga, Harriet and Mitch Williams, Gigi Copeland and Stan, all at Justin’s Place in Butler, Molly , Mackey and all the gang at Geneva church, all at La Casa Crimson in Brookwood, Rodney and Emily Cook, Pastor Mark and John at Farmhouse Cafe in Adrian, Sheriff Kyle Williams in Dudley, Chief Randal Beach in Twin City, Pastor Chuck in Stilson, Eric and Lydia at the Salt Isle Fish Cafe in Tybee and Navie.
Thanks too for the very kind charity donations these last two weeks from Linda and Nick Sirett, Belinda Gallop-Iliffe , Bubba and Paula Medlin and Claire Pearson. In total, since the start of the walk, over £2000 has now been raised between the three causes for which the charities and I are so grateful.