Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Waking up to Woodstock

I awoke after a rainy Sunday night of being lost in the fog of the Catskills and found my way to a sleepy little hamlet named Woodstock.
In no hurry to rush through the nostalgic symbol of peace and love, I found the coin-laundry and began washing a large load of clothes. The other patrons were all older than I. All the men had greying long hair and the women all were wearing garments in the style of the sixties like I had seen in films of the time when the concert outside the town changed its destiny forever.
I amused myself thinking I was in a convoluted Rip VanWinkle tale in which I had awakened after a long sleep. In this version I hadn't aged but all the "children of love" were now ancient.
A rerun episode of Mr.Ed aired on the flat screen over the banks of modern washing machines as more geriatric flower children arrived to fill the machines, then settle into their "laundry day" routines.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Appalachian Trail

After walking from Nashville to Asheville I spent the next few days with three dogs, parked by the A-T at a concrete slab Helo-pad, built for the Forest Service. It was at the end of a rough gravel road which intersected the trail as it weaved into national forest lands. It was the perfect place for three large dogs, two of which were normally attached to their owner at the hip.
There I set up a hammock under some low hanging trees with the three dogs, Red. Busy and Nice. We lay around waiting for for Red and Busy's mother to return from her business each day. The view was great and the shaded camp was comfortable but the summer heat, even in the mountains, was stifling.
At the end of the week, when my friend had finished her business I drove the van north to my sister's place in Arlington for her Birthday celebration.
When my visit there was over I was one tank of gas away from cooler temperatures if I went north, so I worked my way along remote highways, through Maryland and Pennsylvania, to NewYork.
As it grew dark I was lost in the Catskills.
In a fog, after a heavy rain. I found a place to pull off and sleep next to the thru-way and fell sleep.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Black Mountain

The leaking of air made it obvious I had missed something in repairing the world. Even the morning sun couldn't keep the pressure up . Filling it with the portable pump was working until I could find a place under some kind of cover where I could inflate the bladder outside of it's skin to find a small hole.
As it happened, I walked to a used car lot who had an open garage bay that I could use. The mechanic rode me to retrieve the van for extra supplies. In a few hours I had pulled the bladder , found two small holes, repacked and inflated the world and patched some areas on the still-wet canvas. The man who owned the car lot was diabetic. He gave me a photo of us walking by his business and said, "...you've always got an advocate here in Black Mountain."
The sun was high by then but we had only walked a few miles and I didn't want to impose. I was concerned for Nice (the dog). On the same property as the car lot was a beauty salon and out from it came Nice's angel for the day, was concerned for him too. She kept him in the salon all afternoon while I walked through the town of Black Mountain (great touring stop) and found a place to stop at its far end. A spot just before the mountain pass that drops to the eastern side of The Smokey Mountains. When she came with him in her car at the end of the day, Nice was thoroughly exhausted from her patrons attention and looking longingly for me at the door of the Dreams Salon.
She took me to a good health food store on the way back to the van. We even went shopping at the Goodwill for a thin long sleeved shirt. We got along like old friends. I'll always remember her as the the girl of my Dreams...Salon.
The next day we walked a few miles to the old10 mountain pass highway. Now it is part of parklands, overgrown only used by pedestrians and cyclists. The kudzu covered most of the deteriorating concrete road in many places. An asphalt lane had been laid to preserve it enough for foot traffic but the mountain, it is evident, is taking over in slow-motion.
The sights of the mountains. The narrow pass twisting through the forest and the one pedestrian I met along its miles made the previous days worthwhile. The pedestrian, an old man, recalled driving the highway as a child with his grandfather and told some stories of the area that only a local of his age would.
The vistas through the trees were amongst the most beautiful of all I had seen in crossing over the Smokies.
The park ended on a back road to the town of Old Fort. Along it were some of the more comfortable home settings I had seen since Arlington, Tennessee. In town I was given a few pairs of socks by the owner of the sock outlet beside it's manufacturing building.
The gas station by the expressway where I waited all afternoon for my ride back up the mountain was the place where all the men gather to stand and watch people. I watched them watch for hours. When my ride came, the Mechanic from the car lot. He had offered a ride should I get to Old Fort and not meet anyone on the park path. I pulled the plug on the World so I could put it up when I returned. Heavy rain clouds were moving in. I got back to the ball just in time, before the rain. A few blocks away was the local grocery. After the rain I asked, and received, permission to park in the rear of the parking lot by the railroad tracks. The storms didn't seem over yet so after eating dinner I fell asleep in the van, using the world as my pillow. I was going to inflate it early in the morning. The next town was Marion and getting there would take all the cool hours of the morning. After the rain I was awakened around eleven by the town police. He had passed through the lot earlier, I was walking toward him when he had sped off. The police chief was diabetic and after a little small-talk he brought me back an Old Fort Police patch while I inflated the world. I got going after two, I then had only to put a little air in it and go. The wake up visit made my early start easier.
The only place stirring at the hour I left Old Fort was the factory at the edge of town. Even in the dark we attracted visitors from the loading dock.
We made it to Marion just as the heat of the day began to force us to the occasional shaded spot. At the corner of a lumber supply chain parking lot, we were sitting under a tree when a man who worked at the plant we had passed in the dark pulled up. He insisted on helping me with a ride, dinner, a shower. I told him I needed to find a laundromat, he insisted I wash my clothes a his house. Maybe we could go fishing too, he said. I took the ride and when we got back to the van I deflated the world and called the man who had gone home to start preparing his favorite southern mountain food. Just as I had the world stuffed away in the van the clouds began to open up with rain. The man arrived and led me to his home. I got a shower and had the "Killed lettuce, white eyed beans and flat backs" he had made 'special, along with the chicken tenders , mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy his wife had picked up while I was in the shower. (Not making any judgments) his wife was not happy with her husband bringing in a stranger though and this father of four daughters, four granddaughters, with one small grandson was no match for her. His attempt to take charge of his castle was admirable... He insisted on getting me a room at the local motel despite my assuring him it was unnecessary.
The next morning I found a coin laundry that was open early and after I washing clothes, getting out the world, meeting a coworker of my precious friend of the previous day who offered a ride at the days end, I was off to Nebo; the next town.
At the town of Nebo the food/gas mart had a small parking area but next to it was an Italian restaurant with a large space. I went inside to inquire about a place to park for the night and buy an hearty meal. The dinning room was occupied by two men finishing their meal. Before I could talk to the manager the men insisted on hearing my story. They had seen me on the road and as I answered the questions the young girl who was working, the daughter and granddaughter of the owners who were in the kitchen offered me tea. I asked her if I could speak to the manager, she said she would go to get her mother. Out of the kitchen stormed an angry Italian man who informed me he could have killed me that day when I was in the middle of the road and flailed his arms at me before pushing his way back through the swing doors of the kitchen. I thought I was in the scene of a skit about an angry Italian. The two men were undeterred in and continued talking. One of them owned a restaurant close by and he told me his food supplier calls on his establishment just before comes to the angry Italian's. he said they dread the inevitable confrontation that should be only a delivery. The other man contacted his daughter who had recently moved from their house a few blocks from there to ask if I could stay there. The men then drove me back to town. It was on their way. The man's daughter brought me a plate of dinner and told me I could use the outside electrical outlet for my fan. That night I slept well without waking up in a sweat. Except for the occasional angry Italian I met great folks in North Carolina.
The next morning I got the call from my friend who needed me to watch her dogs while she had important business in the state that week.
I had walked from Nashville to Asheville , continued to the foothills on the east of the mountain range. The heat was becoming harsh in the lowlands.
At the end of the day I would suspend walking the world around North Carolina to dog-sit.
All day I told people the walk there was almost at it's end. A few hundred yards from the Dollar store where I stopped I was interviewed by a newspaper reporter. She was preparing dinner when her husband put the camera in her hand, pushed out the door while telling her the world was passing by and she needed to get the story.

As for the extra days out of Asheville, I had challenges and some of the best moments of the journey. The last day I took one of my favorite images, making me thankful to the boy on Swanannoa for slowing my roll so I could meet Loretta
before she got ready for church on Sunday morning outside of Nebo, North Carolina.

Thursday, June 25, 2015


I awoke after a night of rain and storms. At midnight I looked out the window. The wind gusts had not shorn the World from the door hinge. All was well.
Refreshed, from the pounding of rain on the roof while I had been sleeping, I awoke at six. Still raining, not yet light.
Looking out I didn't see the World. Looking close I saw it had lost all it's air, it was collapsed in a puddle with pools of water ponding on the pile of canvas.
I pulled out the air pump and ten minutes later it was whole again but the hissing of air quickly revealed the World had been vandalized through the night.
My first thought was that a young, angry child in a grown man's body just had to take it out on the World. Without anger I took action to repair the World.
The delay, I thought, would allow me meet someone I'd have missed had I walked away from the large parking lot with the post office, grocery chain store, Papa John's Pizza, and a hardware. Many intermediate storefronts were vacant.
There were two Knife holes that I could see, so I rolled the ball quickly under the overhang on the semi-vacant mall to get out of the rain. I rolled the quickly shrinking world in front of a closed dialysis business and began repairs.
The World had suffered a drive-by stabbing.
I would have to spend the day in Swannanoa pulling out the inner-tube, fixing three knife holes that I found and patched with a pool repair kit. The canvas needed repair also, so I set about preparing new canvas with adhesive for the patches I would need after stuffing the bladder back into the small hole of the wet painted canvas surface, then allowing the sun to semi-dry the painted canvas ball.
Removing the bladder, when the patch covered canvas skin is soaking wet, is problematic. The patches can loosen, a seam can rip apart when the bladder is folded and inserted in the small hole then re inflated. When the bladder works itself back to form it exerts a great deal of stress on the old seams, now held together with glue and surface patches. I took out the bladder two times that day. I thought the largest patch was leaking. I re patched it to make sure.
Of coarse a seam tore. A large number of patches and the knife holes had to be applied. I spent much of the day watching glue dry after the sun broke trough and the sky cleared.
About five hours later.
I was sitting on my folding chair watching glue dry,when a young man on a bicycle rode up and stopped to talk. We talked for awhile about what I was doing and why. I expressed my lack of anger at the attempted destruction of the World and my gratitude for the relaxing day I was having.
We had been talking about ten minutes. Now comfortable with the young man I casually asked which of his angry young friends might have driven by after midnight to do such a thing. Someone like him perhaps,who should have been at school for the last two days of class before the summer break...
Before he could answer another young man rolled up on his bicycle. He was carrying a B-B pistol in a shoulder holster. Before we had made an introduction he asked if I would hold it for him while he went into the grocery. " I can't take it inside or I will get arrested.", he said. "And I just got it back from that lady. She wouldn't give it back until she made sure it wasn't loaded."
I believe I had the perpetrator in my sights, as it were.
The second young man had little sense. He revealed in his questions and statements that he may, on this subject, know too much.
I said there were three knife holes.
He said that they had gone by at one in the morning and the ball was already flat.
"But we didn't do it..."
He then mumbled that he didn't even have a knife. (A boy carrying a toy pistol who doesn't have a blade... Preposterous.)
I arose from my chair and checked the "tack" of the glue on the half inflated ball's canvas. (Enough to keep the round form but not so tight as to further separate the torn seam I was working with.) The second boy then began to advise me how to find the hole in the inner-liner.
His companion interrupted, "shut up! He's already patched the holes!"
As I often do with people I meet, I raised my phone and took a picture if the young man. He asked, "Why you takin' my picture, fer' evidence?"
Turning to his companion with my camera-phone, who had been sitting there for twenty minutes, the first young man quickly turned a rode away so I couldn't get a clear view.
Please sign here...

Later that day, while continuing my glue-vigil, I met Paul. We were talking of health issues when he shared his experience with several close friends and relatives who had used asparagus to reduce, sometimes disappearing cancerous tumors. Twice a day consumption for a period of months and his loved ones had greatly reduced growths on their lungs, kidney and liver. With "goose-bumps " and near tears he told me several instances.
Perhaps Paul was that person I had thought I should meet while I was delayed.
The second tube repair didn't seem to do the trick.
The World still had a slow leak when I began the next morning.
I was not going to give the young school-vagrant the satisfaction of keeping the World down for another day by staying another day in Swanannoa.
I used my portable battery powered air pump to keep the World inflated until I found a place at Black Mountain, the next town.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All about the goal...

Nashville to Asheville.
It had a nice ring.
Made it to the center.
Circled the park,
I had again done the thing.
Louisville to Kansas, or Nashville, twice to Pittsburgh then Michigan.
Where would the journey continue?
To Asheville wasn't enough.
Why not save the ride home for later?
It really is the steps of the journey where you learn.
When does a diabetic stop?
I continued the next day from Bliss,
Tattoo parlor.
Stopped in the last fire station out of town
Asked for a card, the man handed me a patch.
Met a man cutting grass at a hotel,
he offered a ride after work.
A policeman stopped behind me while I was pushed up in the trees at one of the tightest spots of the entire trip.
He said he just wanted to get a picture...
Walked along the ditch by the railroad
Found two old bottles from a dairy that had closed decades before.
A right-of-way with history.
Walked to the next town.
The man called after work
Happy to give me a ride.
He said I was bringing attention to something people hated to do.
Take care of themselves.
When he dropped me off he asked
"Where are you going to end up?"
I replied, "After fourteen walks, thousands of miles, what more do you want from me?..."
The old man said, "I love you man!", and sped off.
It stormed though the night.

The Asheville news...


The Studio

From West Asheville to the Television studio in South Asheville was too many miles to walk. The World had a shine from new paint so I loaded it into the van and took it across town. I found the station and parked in the back where I inflated the World, made sure the patches and paint were whole and hoped there would be no rain until six in the morning when it was time to get the six foot ball into the building.
Then I saw something that changed my perspective... A flying ant had landed on the fabric of my open van door. While I watched it the winged ant reached around with its pinchers and tore off one wing, then the other. It gave me something to think about while I spent the night awaiting the final segment of my Asheville walk. The goal, Asheville.
When Paul, the production Director came out he realized the large overhead door to the rear of the studio was padlocked so I had to bring it in the front door, down a six foot hallway, turn a corner then down another hall before getting to the back door of the studio. I started early and needed all the time I had to get the World down the tight corridor.
All the effort was successful. The segment went well, I think. I was the last spot of the Sunday morning news.
I then had to get the ball outside, stuff it in the van after letting out the air again.
It seemed a shame to repair and paint the world just to go back home to Kentucky after walking to Asheville so I returned to downtown while it was still early and toured around the city center, this time without and impending rainstorm. There were many who had seen the piece on the news that morning and many more who had seem the segment the station had been showing for several days when I was twenty miles outside the city.After I had spent the day there I returned to the van. ( this time I had it parked close by )
My goal to walk to Asheville, North Carolina fulfilled, I deflated the ball to put it away, but I felt I had more to do.
As I pushed the air from the canvas I looked at the bumper-sticker on the car next to where I was parked. It made me think...