“What do you think about all day?”

Abby – 

One of the best (and worst) things about walking across America is it provides ample time to think. I am often asked how I pass the time on the road and what I think about along the way. I occasionally listen to podcasts, music, or books on tape, but most of the time I am just alone with my thoughts. Going into the walk I expected this to be a great opportunity for self-reflection and creative thinking. However, more often than I’d like to admit, that’s not the case. I haven’t come up with any solutions for world peace or climate change or figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life and where I want to live. Most of my everyday ponderings are usually banal and involve food.


  1. I get intense salt cravings and this can manifest into some strange food fantasies. I once killed an hour imagining myself with a giant bucket of french fries licking the salt off each one. Don’t ask my why I didn’t just eat the whole fry in this day dream; salt cravings never make me rational.
  2. Once on a really hot day I saw a billboard for an icey minute maid fruity slushy at McDonalds. Contrary to popular belief, McDonalds is not taking over the country and I had to walk a whole 72 hours before spotting the golden arches. Well you betcha I spent almost that entire time thinking about those slushies. I imagined swimming in pools and playing in water parks filled with them. I pictured myself ordering 3 of every flavor and lounging for hours in the air conditioned booth leisurely sipping each one.  I wondered about the intricacies of every flavor and what the largest size I could order it in would be.
  3. After starting the walk we sent back a lot of gear we didn’t need and very rarely have we bought new gear along the way. The one exception to this is our $5 fanny packs from Walmart. Let me tell you, this was a game changer and should be considered an essential piece of equipment by any long distance walker. I spent a lot of time thinking about why such a practical and useful item has a nerdy tourist dad reputation. I then occupied my thoughts creating my own designer fanny pack line, with the hopes of making fanny packs cool again. Maybe this will solve the what I want to do with my life question.
  4. One of the questions I most often ask Danny is “do you think the next town will have ice cream?” With limited cell service in the desert I can’t just look up the answer, so I spend a lot of time pondering this question. Sometimes I will play a little game with the cracks in the road; I’ll pick a point in the distance and then each crack I step on will rotate every other “town has ice cream,” or “town sucks.”  Whatever answer I land on at the point in the distance gives me my answer. It’s sort of like the game kids play when when they pluck petals off flowers and rotate “he loves me” or “he loves me not.” My game is about love too.
  5. The animal I most commonly see across the country are cows. These guys are real characters and without fault they always shoot us the fiercest death stare whenever we walk by. I have never seen an animal or human with a meaner mug.  I passed a lot of time in the Midwest making up a parody to Snoop Dog’s song “Drop it Like it’s Hot,” called “Mean Muggin’ Cows.” I made up the lyrics and then imaged Snoop and I frolicking in the pastures making a music video with the cows. Snoop, if you’re reading this, let me know if we can make this happen.

Danny – 

What do you think about all day? It’s something we’re frequently asked, and the answer is always unpredictable. Throughout the day, ideas drift in and out, internal debates and conversations continually start and daydreams of the most mundane or magnificent things begin.

All day? It’s mostly logistical things, like the weather, or the terrain, or whether we will find a shaded area to rest, or whether a full 9 person lineup of American musical artists  would beat a lineup from the U.K. Important things like that. In no order, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Ray Charles, Bruce,  Aretha, Stevie Wonder, and the Talking Heads. All apologies to Tony Orlando fans and 90’s children, but that is quite the murderer’s row. Does it beat The Beatles, David Bowie, The Clash, The Rolling Stones… you know what? It’s not even worth the argument. America wins. I didn’t even include Prince, LCD Soundsystem, or any other modern music. I’ve managed to convince myself of Biggie over Pac, Nas over them both, and, again, Tony Orlando over all. Thanks to the ten hours a day I spend in my own head, I’ve become quite the cultural critic, with no one to debate but myself.

Sometimes I think about Bucky Fuller and the Earth’s rotation. Bucky Fuller was an architect, an inventor, a scientist and an author. He developed numerous inventions and architectural designs, like the geodesic dome, but his biggest impact on me came from his unique understanding of the Earth. He believed words like “up” and “down” were terms that were developed in a time when the Earth was wrongly understood to be flat, and were inconsistent with the spherical nature of Earth (Sorry Kyrie, and all the flat-earthers). Rather than saying upstairs and downstairs, Fuller believed we should say “instairs” and “outstairs,” since stairs lead inward and outward in respect to the center of Earth. I really enjoy the simple alterations to speech that he offered, and try to use them to remind myself of the fact we’re on a massive rock flying through space. Every once in awhile I’ll remind Abby that, although we are walking three miles an hour westward across the United States, the Earth is actually spinning nearly 1000 mph in the opposite direction. Silly, I know, but it’s a fun mental exercise to occupy yourself with while you’re, like we said, walking three miles an hour for three straight weeks on the same road in the same direction.

Sometimes I fantasize about grandiose ideas of being a guest on Stephen Colbert, and reminding him, to his surprise, of the time we rubbed shoulders at a Neutral Milk Hotel concert, and I uncomfortably introduced myself to his wife. Sometimes I conjure up imaginary conversations with my friends in New York. I imagine writing a book of our experiences after the walk. I imagine, I imagine, I imagine, all day long. I use the soothing rasp of Marc Maron’s interviews to break the spell of my imagination, and then I imagine hearing the rasp in person, through his headphones, sitting at his table in his garage being interviewed.

I daydream about music and movies, food and king-sized beds. I focus on important things like our mileage and water supply, and the timeline until we finish. I think about the day we’ll finish, when we will cross the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, walk the couple miles to the beach with our family and friends beside us, dive headfirst into the Pacific Ocean, celebrate and then fly home. With less than 700 miles to go, that’s the thought that most consumes me.

Green River to Salina – 110 miles of Utah desert

There’s been more difficult terrain. There will be less traveled roads. But the five days between Green River and Salina, Utah were what we expect to be the hardest stretch of our trip. 110 miles. 110 miles with no access to food, running water or gas stations. It was a 110 mile odyssey in the midst of our 3,200 mile walk. For many, that two hour drive between Green River and Salina can feel long, vacant and expansive. For us, it was a daunting challenge indicative of the last third of our trip through Nevada, and another reminder of the natural beauty of this country, and the incredible kindness of the strangers that populate it.

Water would be our biggest challenge for this trek. There were no gas stations, houses, or even streams along the way, and we would not be able to carry enough with us for the 5-6 days. In preparation for this, we found Americorps volunteers in Green River who generously offered to drop off water every 20 miles along the way on their drive out to a national park. However, even with careful preparation, things did not go as planned.

We arrived at the first rest stop at the San Rafael Swell outside of Green River at noon on our first day of walking. We dropped our gear, grabbed our food and water, and found the only shade in the area. Directly outside the outhouse. Not the best smelling place to sit by. We sat in the shade for the next five hours, awkwardly greeting every incoming tourist looking to tinkle with a grin and an explanation of why we were sitting where we were. Countless strangers gave us water, food and Gatorade. When we finally got to where our first water drop-off was, we were nervous to find that one of the two gallons we had requested was missing. Luckily, with all of the water we’d received at the rest stop earlier, we felt confident we would be okay.

We arrived at our second water drop at the Ghost Rock viewpoint and were a little worried again to find two gallons instead of three. With our extra supply from the day before, however, we again figured we would make it until the next drop. While setting up our tents on behind Ghost Rock on the side of the road, we were surprised to find someone already camped out; usually we are the only ones setting up on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere. A man in his late thirties wearing a tye-dye shirt and flip flops emerged, equally surprised to see us. He told us he was doing a fast in the desert and had been camping throughout Utah during it. He asked us if we needed anything and gave us a friendly honk and wave when he passed us on the highway the next day. In the morning as we left, we met a man dropping his kids off at summer camp. He lived north of the area and left us with his phone number to contact him if we needed anything or had anymore trouble with water.

By day three, the 110 mile trek between services began to feel like a blur. It was our hottest day yet, and, although we were surrounded by beautiful Utah scenery, the long stretches of highway had begun blending together. It wasn’t until we reached our rest stop for the day that things came into focus. We climbed the hill up to the viewpoint of the Salt Wash, excited to use restrooms and for the water that awaited us. Again though, our water needs were not to be met. Someone had taken the two gallons the Americorps volunteers left for us, and, although we knew we could ask people for water, we were worried about dehydrating. Fortunately, as continually seems to happen on this trip, we met countless kind strangers, willing to assist us in any way they could. We met an older Canadian couple, motorcycling across the United States to visit America’s National Parks, who filled our waters and offered us trail mix. We met a group of people who were traveling with a local youth group, who gave us plenty of chips and cookies, and a massive watermelon that we ate with our pocket knife. We met a young man named Austin from upstate New York, who stopped and talked with us about our journey, took a portrait of us, and left us with a jug of water and two bananas. We met a Costa Rican man named Luis, who was traveling to Las Vegas with his family in an RV. We conversed in the little English he spoke, and the little Spanish we spoke, and he left with a promise to host us if we ever visited Costa Rica. We were feeling down and anxious about our water needs when we arrived at the rest stop. By the time we left, we’d made friends with more strangers on the side of the road, we had received enough food and water to last us the rest of our trip, and we had high spirits carrying us into the last two days of our trek.


On our fourth day we reached a rest stop with running water, drinking fountains, and covered picnic tables. It felt like a palace. We met a family who was on their own road-trip adventure. They had stopped to make lunch and gave us cheesy bacon mashed potatoes, glasses of moscato and asked to take pictures with us.  With our bellies full and our bodies rested, we started our late afternoon walking in the rain and with the temperature dropping. That night, we rushed to set up our tents in the cold rain and howling winds. We had twenty six miles until Salina, and we decided to push ourselves the next day, in order to reach town, and finish this part of our journey. Despite switching to the unpaved, dirt frontage road, two encounters with flooded underpasses, and one massive uphill, we reached our destination safely. All we had left to do was stock up on Gatorade, coconut water, beer and Mexican food, to ensure we enjoyed our short stay at the Super 8 in Salina, Utah.