Monday, December 15, 2014

The Tennessee Dragon

All journeys have personal beasts to conquer, or harness to your resolve, helping spur you on to the next mountain or continental divide.
Loosing my Mother to diabetes has certainly been one of those Dragons for me.
My Uncle has been my banner, my inspiration, at 87 he has managed his diabetes for decades. His dedication deserves more recognition than the loss of my Mother at 54.
In walking, I believe I have staved off diabetes in myself, kept this Dragon at bay while alerting others of this beast that ravages far and wide.
In their honor, I have walked thousands of miles and will likely walk thousands more, waving the banner, lamenting the loss, chasing Dragons...

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Secret Service Escort.

The last miles to the edge of Nashville proper from Madison started famously with a man claiming to be the director of the Secret Service. He was wearing an old aluminum framed pack, a ball cap and blue jeans. He had gotten off the transit bus a moment earlier. The bus had let him off midway between stops. I am certain the driver was more than happy to comply with the direction to "Stop the bus!" From a man of such importance.
The Director of the Secret Service, (obviously working "under cover") though he was on his way to meet the President that evening, announced he was going to walk with me all the way into Nashville!
Honored as I was, this seemed a "detail" doomed for failure.
We approached the intersection onto a side street as a car was turning in. While the car passed Nice (the dog) sat on the ground in front of The Director. Without noticing the eighty pound dog at his feet, The Director then tripped over the dog, tumbled head over heal and bedroll onto the middle of the roadway.
For a moment he wallowed like a prone turtle before he can get an arm on solid ground.
I rolled the World alongside him and blocked the intersection while he righted himself.
The "detail" was showing a lack of attention to hazard.
When I entered a quick-mart for my morning coffee, The Director stood by the door explaining (in his own style) who I was and what I was doing. He must have canvassed the route ahead of time, the clerks behind the counter glared at him as if they knew him. I paid for my coffee without incident.
The Quick-mart was on a corner of a major intersection. The Director informed me this was a dangerous one. Without looking he threw his arms up, marched out on the crossway, blocking the path of a twenty-foot rental truck, stopped, turned about. He didn't see the truck stopped five feet from him until he had turned completely around. He flailed his arms in frustration then marched the rest of the distance over the five lane crosswalk.
The crossing light flashed from a red hand to white, a white pedestrian figure, I rolled the World safely to the other side.
Red flags were plaguing the operation.
The Director informed me that once he had escorted me to the next major intersection I should be safe.
While he screened another poor someone in a car who had stopped in a parking lot ahead of me, I rolled behind a strip of shops along the highway and rolled to the next crossroad on my own.
The "detail" was cut short..

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Parade Rest

I had heard of the Christmas Parade in Hendersonville from a few people during the day. They thought I should be in it. Not thinking anymore about it, I was surprised when I rolled over the rise approaching town to see the main thoroughfare lined with thousands of people and blocked by a wall of police vehicles.
Nice (the dog), usually quiet, becomes a barking ,lunging, excited mess of a dog at parades.
This is because the first parade we were in we had lined up behind The Bubble Truck. This thing was covered with tubes and whirligigs that pumped out hundred of bubbles large and small. The entire parade Nice (the dog) had one thing on his mind and that was to stop the evil bubble truck.
It was a Halloween Parade. I was wearing a Gargoyle costume with wings which opened to eight feet and a tail that dragged on the ground. Holding at bay a frothing, barking, lunging beast added added an extra dimension to the ghoulish imagery. All through the parade young children and many adults who knew Nice came out on the parade route to pet him even though he was acting as if he wanted to eat the Bubble Truck.
I suppose all this positive attention ingrained in him that during any parade his job was to bark and lunge as if he were going to bite the rear bumper from the Bubble Truck.
Unfortunately the Hendersonville Christmas parade passed over the bridge of a lake. Too far to walk around the lake, we took a rest at the city park on the lake alongside the bridge and waited for the festivities to end. I had to patch a hole in the fabric of the World. All the while Nice obsessed over the sound of the woman master-of-ceremonies' voice booming over the loudspeaker announcing each of the slow moving parade entries, filling the gaps between them with disingenuous enthusiastic banter.
I repaired the World.
When the parade ended and the sun had nearly set, the crowds cleared from the sidewalk on the bridge. We continued on toward Nashville. By the time the traffic that had backed up for two hours finally cleared to normal, darkness had fallen.
We walked into the night, meeting many folks despite the lack of light, until we were to the outskirts of the Nashville Mtro bus route in Madison.
We got a ride safely back to the van that was seventeen miles back in Gallatin and "worlds" away in terms of scenery. We had started the day from an idillic historic town, lined with wreaths and christmas lighting. We ended the day across from a liqueur store with bars over the windows and side streets ornamented by police surveillance cameras with blinking blue lights. I felt equally as safe at both.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The New Tennessee Gentry

We walked out of historic downtown Gallatin just as it was becoming light. The Main Street and the Square were still illuminated by the Christmas lighting on the town's tree while all the details of the buildings became clear. The older business's had decorations and ornaments that surely were older than me. I felt nostalgic about box radios, black and white televisions and pony heads on a stick. A few blocks later and the sharp light of day led me to the main drag, US-31, Nashville Pike, with its outlet stores and chain restaurants.
In the miles before Gallatin, from Sideview and Bethpage, I had seen signs of the new "gentrification" of Tennessee. Large houses built up along the highway or a twisted lane amid pasture and crop land developed with McMansions where a few years past all one might have seen would have been a barn or an old silo. I met folks who had moved in from other states as well as older landowners and farmers, smiling, well-to-do from building up their frontage with homes rather than a line of trees for wind-breaks; driving in expensive SUVs that would never haul a bail of hay. The once quiet, neglected old 31 that meanders thru the newer highway is now becoming the lane to a subdivision named after an almost forgotten town.
The miles to Hendersonville show more signs, with new shopping centers being built and vast tracks of rolling hill pastures now gated community. The once rural produce business now flanked by mini malls and expressway on-ramps.
As one man said to me, "a few years ago there was nothing to see but cows or horses, and now..."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Westmoreland to Gallatin

After lite rains overnight the skies were clouded but the roads were mostly dry when I arose in Westmoreland. Draping my rain jacket over the backpack and dressing Nice (the dog) in his winter gear, we bounded into the day with enthusiasm.
We were on the road for only twenty minutes when the rain returned. Short intervals of soaking drops followed by a mist reminiscent of the northwest coast (where I came to appreciate walking in the rain) fell throughout the day. Nice (the dog) didn't seem to mind the mist. During the heavy downpours he tucks himself between me and the World for shelter as we walk.
A woman who stopped, she had once rode a horse across country with her Dalmatian , called the Nashville tv news. Sometime later I was being interviewed as we walked in the rain.
A man, who had found me after seeing a friends posting on social media, helped contact the elementary school in the small town of Bethpage, all I had to do was take the old road that paralleled the main highway. The entire student body came out while I gave a short explanation of my purpose. He also helped me find a good place to park for the night in the smaller town of Sideview, before shuttling me to the van back in Westmoreland.
It rained again overnight, stronger than the night before but, again, the roads dried so off we went. Again the rains returned. The temperature was warm and as the day progressed it eventually cleared long enough for us to get into downtown Gallatin. There the same man from the previous day helped coordinate a ride with the youth director at the Baptist Church who arranged for me to have a shower and a place where I could park the van behind the church facilities in the heart of downtown Gallatin.
Two days of rain-walking necessitated a trip to the local laundry , the dog has only one set of clothes and a pile of my wet clothes don't keep for long in the van. The rain is fun but it comes with a price. The fresh paint I had on the ball wears away quickly and it can only bear so many days of puddle-wheeling before some of the glued-on patches begin to fail.
We settled in after the laundry and my shower just in time for take night where it rained heavily most of the night. I fought my stubborn urge to press on today and repaired the worst of the pealed patches after letting the world dry until the afternoon .
It has taken most of the day for the roads to begin to dry. The shied have been cloudy and the temperature has dropped throughout the day.
We did get out and walk around downtown (without the world) to take in the history before retiring back to the van in the church parking lot.
With dry clothes we will be ready to bundle up and head closer to Nashville in the morning.
Many thanks to all that helped keep us safe here in Tennessee.

The pleasures of wetness

Splash through puddles, slip and slide in tall grass, dance along muddy ditches.
See rain come in waves.
Clouds of mist engulfing, from the wake of oncoming trucks.
Water rolling from the hat brim, droplets brown from its stain.
The World, a buffer against the wetness.
The tremendous weight of it, as waterfalls roll over, slightly slower than its forward motion.
Keep it moving, keep it warm, walk until dry.
Enjoy the wetness.

Friday, December 5, 2014

If you roll it, they will come...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stepping into Tennessee

The first day was cool, overcast, walking into a slight breeze. The emergency lane gave me all the room I needed to keep the World on the pavement and stay off the white "fog line". I tuned to the first local radio station on my soon-to-be obsolete "Walkman" AM/FM.
It was country.
I danced alongside the World, a slight two-step to my gait.

Only a few stopped on this cool afternoon. The first pulled off within sight of the van. He was a church-goer on his way to haul Christmas Trees. The next was a woman with a bottle of water, a fresh Christmas Tree in the bed of her pickup truck. There was Mary Ann from the newspaper in Westmoreland, she had puffy colorful fingerless gloves. We talked about "drawls" and how Northerners won't let you leave just so they can hear you bend an "I" like a guitar string.
I was within sight of town when Jim stopped and asked if I needed any help. He had read about us on the "Internet". He was willing to give me a ride from the nearby dollar store to my van. I had parked at the state line.
Jim, it seems, had diabetes as a result of "agent orange". He recalled being in the jungles of Viet-Nam as the helicopters coated them until they were wet.
He thought I should write songs...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tennessee Update

I crossed the border into Tennessee a month ago, called a man I met that morning with a truck, deflated the World and went back to Louisville.
My son was moving to his first apartment with a friend. He wanted me to help him move. The first box he took in had his first stuffed bear that was giving to him at the hospital where his was born. I'm not the best of parents but helping him get out on his own was a day I was glad to be include in.
Now he's past the first paycheck hick-up and is confident about being able to get to and from his place to work.
It's time for us to get back to Tennessee.
I hear there are dragons in Nashville...