Old Journal Entries Pt. 2

Editor’s note: Just a few old journal entries I enjoy looking back on to help remember the smaller details of this trip. It’s easy to lose some of these memories in the grand scheme of the trip, but it’s the summation of all these small details that have made the experience so great. 

7/28 – Delta, Utah

I love the common expressions we hear on the road. “It’s the journey, not the destination.” I love when people use them honestly and completely un-ironically. Even the movie quotes that people pull out. Ones that slightly pertain to what we’re doing. We hear the same dozen every day; a fact which would have driven me crazy before the walk, but I have come to truly appreciate. “Are you guys trying to be Forrest Gump? Haha ‘I think I’ll go home now,'” or “Where you’re going, you won’t need roads.” Actually we will though, because Caddy is a pain in the ass to push on gravel. At some point in their life they heard these expressions and quotes and identified with it in a way. “I don’t have hobbies, I have obsessions,” a newfound friend told us at the picnic table at Antelope RV Park in Delta, Utah. He’d just finished describing in detail the dozens of motorcycles he’d built and repaired in his life. “This thing (he said some fancy sounding brand of motorcycle) is comprised entirely

original parts. Except for the one thing (some piece of machinery I pretended to know) that I had to use an old stop… have you ever seen a stop sign in the wind? It waves and flaps, but never bends. Perfect material to weld into a part.” We sat with them for over an hour, talking about our walk, our lives, their lives, their bikes, and the beautiful things we’ve both seen in our time on the road. “I don’t have hobbies, I have obsessions.” When he said it, I laughed. Because I’d heard that expression a hundred times, but here it came out honest and truthful, as a simple way to explain one small part of his complicated self.

8/9 – In between Ely & Eureka, Nevada

Tonight is our last night before reaching Eureka, a 76 mile stretch of highway 50 in between services. These stretches of desert highway have consistent noises throughout the night. The echo of the cars driving in the canyons, and the time it takes to realize whether the car is driving towards or away from you. The deafening roar of the crickets when it’s the only noise for miles. The short conversations we’ve had with a half dozen to a dozen cross country bikers we’ve met, the countless adventurers by car, and our one fellow walker. When there’s so little to hear and pay attention to throughout the day, these few moments of interaction carry us throughout the day.

Last night, the second night after leaving Ely, and the second night before reaching Eureka, the cows mooed late into the night before disappearing to their sleeping arrangements, and before we had our first encounter with wildlife. Nearly two hours after Abby and I had both definitively fallen asleep, I awoke to a howling that sounded as if it were miles away, and frightened me as if it was ten feet away. Coyotes. We never worried they were near, or that we were in danger, and yet I was terrified by the possibility of them approaching us. As I’m writing this post the following night, I hear a yelping howl off in the distance, this time sounding even further away, and yet sounding like it’s in the same valley as us. I’m happy to have my bear spray and knife with me, but I know it wouldn’t serve me any good if they approach when I’m sleeping. Everyone promises us the coyotes are more afraid of us than we should be of them, but that advice falls on deaf ears when you’re telling it to a Long Island native with little to no camping experience before this trip.

8/28 – Genoa, Nevada

The mesh of my tent can obscure my view some nights. It blocks out bits of starry desert nights, and obscures lightly the objects nearby, but tonight, the ridge line of the mountains are made clear by the midnight brightness of a full moon. The refractory light of the moon, the lowhanging clouds at our high altitude, and the mesh of my REI tent work together to provide a picturesque, hazy mountaintop painting. The cows moan and rustle in the valleys below us. The crickets lose their individual rhythmic hum when they fill the area around you, replacing a repetition with a continual drone. The fear of a bear sighting has kept me awake this long, while the only sounds keeping me awake come from within my head. Off in the distance, the tail lights of travelers braking at the bend in the highway will occasionally illuminate my peripherals with a red glow. The glow is harmless and gone soon, serving as a reminder that we’ve reentered civilization, days removed from the solitude of the desert, and the solipsistic mentality the desert can put you in, and are reemerged in the questions of the future and a career that haunted me months ago, thousands of miles ago, before I’d given myself the chance to give myself over to this trip entirely. It’s all back now, and with it comes the pleasures of company, and the comforts of home, but gone, it can feel, are the ideals of connecting to the world around us, and digging continually deeper within oneself, when it’s intentional or not.

“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.

Genoa, Colorado

When we turned onto the I-70 frontage road, I saw a sea of broken machinery, rundown trailers and dilapidated homes, spray-paint covered trains filled with raw materials, and a single grain mill, acting as the standalone skyscraper of the town, Genoa, Colorado. At the top of the mill were the words Genoa Grain Co., faded gray into the off-white coloring of the concrete. At the bottom was a man working in a dark blue jumpsuit, with any further description made impossible by the distance between us. The man was working at the base of the building, using a shovel to lift something off the bottom step of the staircase leading into the building, and then methodically turning to drop the substance into a bucket. After performing this task for a bit, he switched his tool of choice to a broom. He stretched his leg to the third step, nimbly avoiding sullying his work on the first two, and began sweeping the third step, as deliberate with his broom as he was with his shovel. I watched this man perform these simple tasks, and I felt a confusing mixture of admiration and discouragement. Admiration for the commitment to craft that was evident in his accomplishment of a simple task like sweeping. Discouragement at the loneliness of the sight, and, what then felt to me, like the poverty of the landscape behind him. 

In hindsight, I am ashamed of my sadness at the situation. I realize now it was not sadness I felt, but pity. From what vantage point did I have to feel pity for someone? Moments before we entered Genoa, I’d been listening to the Joe Rogan podcast, where he and Sebastian Junger discussed Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging. In the interview, Junger asserted that “human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others. These values are considered ‘intrinsic’ to human happiness and far outweigh ‘extrinsic’ values such as beauty, money and status.” In my moment of pitying the man, I had resorted to a condescension connected to the comforts of my life before the walk. I was assuming that the ways of life that I have always known, and that modernity has conditioned me into, were not only superior to life in Genoa, but were simply a more desirable way to live. An accumulation of possessions, an ownership of things, and an ascension to a certain stratosphere of social status were all the methods of measuring oneself, and developing a sense of ones own worth. This man seemed to be in pursuit of the inverse of these values. He seemed to be closer aligned with the prescribed practices Junger detailed in Tribe. Again, this is all an assumption, made in a moment of internal debate, based on an interpretation of events seen from a distance. I assumed this man lived in Genoa, a town of 139 of people in eastern Colorado. I assumed he had lived there his whole life, and had worked this job for most of it. And I had taken a negative outlook towards these assumptions. I did not pay attention to the admiration I felt for him, for the pride he took in his work, and the diligent effort he was putting into it. I did not assume that by living in a town of 139 people, he might have developed intense bonds with his community. I did not assume that he might love his job, and the satisfaction he might get from working at the same place for many years. The more I thought about the little personal information I had about this man, the more I realized how misguided my discouragement was, and how, although our lives are greatly different, we derive our meaning from the same things.

I am incredibly lucky, grateful and privileged to have all the comforts in life that I have. But it is not the comforts or the possessions I have that make me happy, or make me fulfilled. It’s all the things that I presume to have in common with the man at the mill. A family or community to love and be loved by. A few friends to call on or laugh with. A duty or task to find purpose in. These few things can create a sense of identity and a sense of purpose in anyone, and are all we should ever be looking for, according to Sebastian Junger. This man has his home here in Genoa, presumably along with his family and his community. He has his job here at the mill, where he performs his duties with due diligence, and takes pride in his work. That is a life well-lived. 

In the moment, as I questioned my own reaction, I turned and faced away from the man. I looked away, across the bustling interstate, towards a gray-blue farmhouse, where one man was exiting the house and another was approaching it. I watched these two men, clad in black leather biker gear, grab each other in a warm embrace on the front lawn, and turn back towards the building. They crossed the driveway, with a picturesque background of golden wheat fields, passing the rundown pickup truck and trailer in the driveway, to reenter what I now recognize was their home.

– danny

Old Journal Entries

Editor’s note: These are a few old journal entries that I reread recently that capture the sentiments I held in the early goings of the walk. Some are comical, some are enthusiastic, and some are anxious for things to come, with no real awareness of how the trip would unfold.

Addt’l editor’s note: The editor and author of this article are the same person. Basically, there is no editor for this site.

Today felt easy enough. A good headspace in the morning, with some nice interactions outside the post office, followed by frustration over the lack of interviews we’ve done with people, the lack of pictures I have taken, and the lack of writing I’ve done. Some Kanye, a Sports Movie Hall of Fame podcast episode, and, of course, walking, cured some of that negativity. We’re about 100 steps from the road right now, about 300 from someone’s home, 5 from running water, and I feel pretty on edge. I’m going to have to get used to this I guess. The good news is that tent life seems more opportunistic for writing, which will certainly be helpful in the near future. While my memory of today feels strangely vague, it’s walking experiences like today, where the monotony and repetition of it are able to therapeutically lift me out of some negativity. I haven’t quite reached the transcendent walking experience that I imagined, and hoped for, (and laughed at the idea of), but it is nice to be able to recognize the cathartic, balancing elements of the walk while it’s happening. In the days and weeks to come, I hope my mind naturally continues to turn inward. For now, I’ll start my nightly routine of listening to standup comedy and passing out.


3/22 One of our first nights camping. We were just off the highway, in an area of woods we weren’t certain we could camp in. We may have been all smiles for the camera, but we certainly weren’t smiling when it dropped to 15 degrees that night!


Today felt like one of the easiest, quickest days in awhile. We got a good night of rest at the motel yesterday, and were able to squeeze in a good, free breakfast out of them too before heading out. And after that it was just a straight shot down Route 30 all day long. We stopped for bathroom breaks, and to buy some apples and take some pictures, but aside from both the great lunch break we took, and beginning to ascend the mountain in the last hour, today mostly felt like a blur. But lunch was great, our waitresses were incredibly friendly and intrigued by the walk, and both the mom with her four kids, and the older woman in the booth next to her, were wonderful. Both simultaneously managed to be supportive and friendly, while maintaining their concern and incredulity. Especially the mom. She even offered to pick up our lunch, but, at that point, another patron at the diner, a mysterious one who left without interacting with us, had paid our tab already. That diner was a microcosm of countless interactions we’ve had. We have our recited responses to their familiar questions, and we have the certain jokes we make whenever we’re talking with people, but it’s always the kindness and concern we receive from these strangers that makes walking all day easy. And the spot we’re camping tonight? Couldn’t be more ideal (fingers crossed). It’s just off route 30, so we can hop right back on in the morning. It’s flat for our camping gear. It’s near a precipice that looks out into the valley of the state forest, with the peaks and ridges towering behind us, and, most importantly, it’s warm. So far, it’s as comfortable as the hotel beds we’ve slept in, with the added comfort of solitude in my tent, the stars above me, and the chirping of cricks lulling me to sleep.


3/24 Still one of our favorite campsites. We found this ledge looking out over the Appalachian Trail just in time for a beautiful Pennsylvanian sunset.


2 nights in a row camping, 2 days in a row pushing Caddie up and down mountains, 2 and 1/2 days without a shower. Sleep deprived, sore and smelling like shit, we have officially begun experiencing what the rest of the trip will be like. It finally feels like we are living on the road, experiencing each day as a backpacking, instead of the young couchsurfing adventurers we began this trip as. It’s easy to idealize the values and experiences that led us to this trip when you have a kind, welcoming audience to wax poetic to about it. Now, we are removed from familiar places, pushing ourselves physically and the internal questions we were excited for seem that much more daunting. It was easier to feel safe and secure when we had a destination to reach, a warm bed to end our day in, and a hot shower to begin the next day with. The comforts of music and Marc Maron, and of reading and writing, are going to have to carry me that much farther. Pleasant interactions won’t just be something to write about at the end of the day. They will be all I have to write about at the end of the day. The challenges of the past two days have made the challenges to come on this trip that much clearer. With some music to walk to, a pen and paper to write with, and an open mindset, I feel ready to confront them.


3/26 Just an example of some of the rolling hills we had to climb in Pennsylvania.

– danny

6 ways people greet us on the road

The One Finger Salute — Not to be confused with the New York one finger salute, this is the minimum amount a Midwesterner will do while driving past in their car. It’s a way of maintaining their reputation for Midwestern politeness, while still offering the disregard of a New York one finger salute.

Image result for midwestern salute one finger driving

The Jaw Dropper — The Jaw Dropper is usually someone in their 70’s or 80’s who slowly crawls by, mouth agape, completely unsure what they have just seen.  Somewhere between our dirt sooty faces, tattered clothes, and their inability to read our sign, these people stare with a bewildered, confused look at us. They never stop, but we suspect the Jaw Droppers are the ones who typically call the police on us. Presumably to report the couple that has been walking across America since the Dust Bowl.

The Break Eye Contact — We know these people see us. We see them see us. We’re hard to miss, and we wave pretty vigorously to make sure we’re hard to miss. These people look away so quickly, their heads 180 degrees like The Exorcist. We’re guessing they see our cart and look away from a combination of awkwardness and fear that we have a baby in our cart. Or they’re evil people. They’re probably evil.

People Come Bearing Gifts — Beers, bibles, and baloney are just a few of the ways these #roadangels bless us with their presence. One day it is 90 degrees out, and someone gifts us with a cooler of Gatorade. The next day, we are easing along casually, and we get bombarded with pamphlets about the nearest Jim Bakker gathering. Sometimes it takes all our self control not to drop to your knees and thank them, and other days all we can do is grit our teeth as we receive our 12th copy of the Our Father. We are always grateful to these road angels though, whether they’re giving us food, water, or something to talk about.


People who reverse towards us — Perhaps the most terrifying of the bunch, this group is both well-intentioned and misguided. They’ll pass by us on the road, see our sign, and slam on their brakes. They’ll reverse towards us down the highway, as they roll their window down, and take their eyes off the road. The problem is, when a car reverses towards us, we immediately become wary and defensive, and begin to assume diving positions to launch ourselves out of the car’s way. While these people are often reversing towards us to offer us assistance, the slight arrhythmia in our hearts it causes is rarely worth the free water.

Peace signs from fellow hippies — These are a polarizing bunch. They typically greet us with the peace sign and a honk, and a nod of their shaggy-haired head. Sometimes they’ll even pull over and offer up a Wooderson quote:

These were the people we were most excited to meet on the road. Cool, funny fellow travelers, who know the struggles of living out of a backpack, and share some wisdom with us in the moments we have together. Most of the time though, we get this:

And what a shocking realization it becomes. That living the dream of the 60’s will catch up to you by the late aughts. We’re looking forward to San Francisco already.

A Cast of Characters

Editor’s note: There is swearing in the article below.
Addt’l editor’s note: The editor and author of this article are the same person. Basically, there is no editor.

I don’t ever want to forget the man on the bike. Or how one of our hosts, Sheldon, forever changed my opinion on Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Nor do I want to forget what we learned tonight. That “south central Pennsylvania is the snacks capital of the world.” I don’t want to forget the fun we had on the biggest hill we’ve faced yet, as Abby took on her “Van Gogh” persona, and took dozens of soon-to-be-deleted photographs. I won’t forget Kim, the woman who ran her coffee shop like it was her home. The woman whose face remained resting in a smile, who welcomed us into her shop with warm coffee and stories to share. I don’t want to forget the first celebrity spotting we had, when a woman backed her BMW up a hill to tell us she recognized us from facebook, she was praying for us, and she would be donating money to JOIN for us. Most of all though, I don’t want to forget the man on the bike. What an imposition he was. What a know-it-all. What a ridiculous claim he made that the big war was coming. The one to end all wars. The one that the powers-that-be had been planning. The one that would kill all obese and technology-reliant people. What a character. What an un-self aware person. What a strangely caring, and concerned neighbor he was to us. What a fucking character. Like the man outside the auto body shop said, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” And this journey has had a cast of characters with more quotes than we can write down, and more wisdom to share than we could absorb in a lifetime. These journal entries are not being written by me, they are being colored by the beautifully unique individuals that are filling our days, feeding our hearts and fulfilling all the fantasies that we had about this trip, and the wonderful people we would meet along the way.

— Danny

Van Gogh’s work at her finest.

Van Gogh not taking photo time seriously