Days 17-20 – Downingtown to Hanover

The past couple days we walked from Downingstown, PA to Hanover, PA stopping in Christiana, Hallam, Lancaster and York. While in Lancaster we stayed with couch surfing hosts Sheldon and Naomi. After hearing we had done Americorps, Sheldon and Naomi invited their family friends Amy and Kerry over, who are both NCCC Americorp alums. Amy now works for an organization building affordable housing in Lancaster, and Kerry will be biking across part of the country, and building affordable homes along the way, with a program called Bike to Build. Stay tuned for a blog post to learn more about the affordable housing issues affecting Lancaster.

We owe a big thanks to Sheldon and Naomi for their hospitality, and for connecting us with their friends, Roger and Donna, who later hosted us in York.

We head to Gettysburg today, and will be camping in state forests for the next few nights!

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Danny taking on a huge hill east of York

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Outside Hanover, PA

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Downtown York, PA

Walking with Dignity

It takes five minutes to drive through a town like Coatesville, Pennsylvania, but in the forty minutes it took us to walk, we were struck by the simple beauty of it’s design, and the warmth and hospitality of the residents we encountered.

Take Tom, for instance. Our first interaction in the town, Tom had a handsome, white beard, a round face, and United States Army veteran hat atop his head. Tom was outside his home, shoveling snow, when we came walking by with our massive pushcart and neon safety vests. We helped him shovel his walkway, he shared stories from his childhood in Coatesville, and from his experience in the army, and soon we had developed a rapport with this stranger. Before we parted ways, Tom made a donation to JOIN, paid for our lunch, and urged us to be safe on our journey with the sincerity of a close friend.

Or take the man shoveling outside the massive brick building, who saw our cart, and, assuming we were homeless, invited us inside for a warm meal. “It’s not much, but it does the job,” he said, motioning us over from the street. Even after we explained we weren’t homeless, and talked about the walk, he still invited us in, eager to help out a neighbor. They may not have had much, but the soup was warm, we rested our legs, and the one man working exuded a gentle grace and humility that would welcome any stranger. “Quiet dignity” was how we described it afterwards. With a quiet dignity and calming grace, they were serving those most in need in their community. We left that building frustrated by the evident lack of resources available for them, curious what homelessness looked like in a city so small, and grateful for the beautiful, humbling experience they invited us into.

Or take the woman driving past us towards the freeway, who slowed her car down, and shouted at us “where ya going?” When we replied San Francisco, she grabbed a $20 bill from her pocket, raised her hand to the sky, and waited for us to cross traffic to retrieve it.

Often people see our cart and assume we are homeless. They avoid eye contact with us, looking away before reading our sign. What has struck us about some places is how friendly people are to us, despite thinking we might be homeless.

Quiet dignity. A community like Coatesville was ready to embrace a stranger as if they were neighbors, even if that stranger was actually just two crazy kids, trying to walk across America.

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Day 16 – Downington, PA

We’re getting an early start today, headed back out in the snow towards Christiana, PA! Above is a picture of Abby pushing the cart along the highway, through the snow-covered hills in West Chester.

We wanted to extend a special thank you to Susan and George, our hosts for the past three nights. After we arrived at their home in West Chester, PA, which they were kind enough to welcome us into, they invited us to stay there for the duration of the storm, providing us with delicious, home cooked meals, great book references, a tour of an arboretum, and an abundance of good conversation. Thank you again for your incredible hospitality! It was a wonderful chance to refuel and reenergize for our journey!

Philadelphia, PA

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I’d like to see Rocky try conquering these stairs with a 70 lb cart to push!

After following two days of rest in the great city of Philadelphia with an unnecessarily strenuous hike for this photo-op, we are headed out of the city towards West Chester. We are incredibly grateful to our hosts the past three nights, Conor and Elana, who let us tend to our blisters in their apartments, fueled us up on cheese-steaks and Thai food, and watched us plan the next leg of our route towards Pittsburgh. As always, many thanks to all the beautiful people we’ve met and interacted with along the way!

The Things We Carry

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We have received a lot of questions lately about our gear, and what we have brought with us, so we unpacked our cart and laid everything out for this post.

Pictured above are all of the supplies we bought before beginning our journey. With everything from our camping equipment to the electronics we’re using to communicate with you, we worked hard to keep our equipment to only the essentials. And while this is everything we packed into our cart, it is important to note we are both carrying our clothes in our individual packs.

Below we have also included a picture of our trusted cart, Caddy. We often refer to her as the Cadillac of carts to the people we are meeting, and soon the name Caddy stuck. She might require a lot of effort to go uphill, but she has provided us with ample storage for all the necessities for our trip.

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#InCaddywetrust

Day 8

We crossed the Delaware River today, officially leaving New Jersey and entering Pennsylvania! While it was our longest day yet, at 23 miles, we felt some extra motivation after seeing this sign directing us towards our goal, San Francisco.

Thank you to our couch surfing host Zak, as well as his roommates, for letting us stay with them at Princeton  yesterday, and to Lauren and Tim for hosting us tonight in Holland, Pennsylvania!

 

Erich from Jersey City, NJ

Erich Sekel from Jersey City, New Jersey.

“Jersey City is the United States.  We are the most ethnically diverse city in the country, which is what makes us so amazing.  I’m obviously biased because I’m from here, but in Jersey City, people of all backgrounds, ethnic and religious live together. We are a proud city.

I am part of Jersey City Together, which is a coalition of clergy and lay community members united by common concerns in our communities.  Violence, and affordable housing are two issues that have been discussed in depth over the last few years.  We are working to stem the violence in some of our neighborhoods, and fight for maintained and enhanced affordable housing.  What makes Jersey City great is its diversity both ethnic, religious and income.  Our fear is as Jersey City becomes more popular, it may exclude individuals of modest means from remaining in Jersey City.”

  • It was a pleasure getting to talk with Erich in our short time in Jersey City. He was both a gracious host, and an incredible source of knowledge about the city and the challenges facing it’s residents. Erich works as the Associate Director of Campus Ministry for Community Service at Saint Peter’s University. There have been strong ties between Saint Peter’s and the community of Jersey City for many years, and Erich’s relationship to the area has only further cemented it. Erich grew up in Jersey City, and quickly embraced his role’s requirement of working directly with the community, teaching students about the various issues facing the residents that they share their city with. Last year, St. Peter’s students spent over 50,000 hours volunteering and working in the community. As Erich told us, “We are not a closed institution of higher learning, we are in the community striving to better the lives of the residents of Jersey City.” A special thank you to Erich for his kindness and hospitality along our journey.

Day 7 – Princeton, NJ

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While walking through Princeton, NJ today, we were stopped by a family along the road. They had been sitting and eating pizza when they saw us walk by the restaurant window, and wanted to ask us about our journey.

Just before they saw us, the mother was offering words of encouragement to the two boys, explaining to them that they were capable of accomplishing anything when they were older. After seeing us, and the sign on the front of our cart, the boys began asking her questions about our journey, and if they could some day walk across the country too. They finished eating their pizza, drove down the road to find us, and gave us some money so we could get our own pizza too!

After posing for this picture with the boys, and saying goodbye, we both left that moment in high-spirits. We knew our friends and family were following along on our journey, but it was affirming to see the ways our walk connected us with complete strangers. We arrived at our Couchsurfing location in Princeton tonight incredibly grateful for the kindness and generosity of the countless strangers we have met these past few days. But especially for these two, who gave us a lift when we needed one.

 

Day 5

Day 5 – Newark, NJ

 

We passed by this mural after leaving Jersey City, along our route towards Cranford, New Jersey. For us, it was an encapsulation of the beauty of America, and the promise of opportunity that it is to so many people. We spent the night before with Erich Sekel, talking about the beautiful, immigrant communities that populate much of Jersey City. After a night discussing the great lessons that a community like Jersey City could offer the rest of the country, we could not pass up a photo-op like this!

From Cranford, we are headed to Highland Park, New Jersey. We’ll update further when we get there!

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge

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We made it from Bed-Stuy to the Upper West Side yesterday! A big thank you to all the people we met and talked with yesterday on the street, and a bigger thank you to Phil and Julie Finnegan for opening their doors and feeding us some delicious gumbo! We’re off to Jersey City today via the George Washington Bridge.

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