The Beginning: The Walking Fool Attempts to Walk Across the Country! (Sunday April 8, 2001)

This blog follows the adventures of Mark E. Phillips, A.K.A. the Walking Fool, who on April 8th, 2001, began his attempt to walk across the United States of America -- from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This blog is an account of that 2001 hike, and also his SECOND attempt to walk the U.S., which he began this year!

But back in spring of 2001, Mark nervously packed his backpack, loaded his tent, slapped on a pair of 20 dollar K-Mart Shoes and left his studio apartment to begin his journey. At approximately 4pm EST, the Fool (trying to come up with some ceremonial beginning) dipped his hand in the Atlantic Ocean, at Sandy Hook, NJ (and then a wave crashed in and soaked his feet).

After waving goodbye to family and friends, Mark turned and started heading West. (Actually, he had to walk 3 miles south to get on a main road, but THEN he headed West.)

Week 1: Stretching out them legs and getting through New Jersey (April 15, 2001)

After leaving the shores of Sandy Hook, NJ the Fool continued traversing the Garden State, hitting Jamesville, South Brunswick, and Princeton over several days. By the end of the week, he left New Jersey and marched to New Hope, PA, with very tender feet. He then hobbled along to Doylestown, and ended up in Quakertown, PA by Sunday evening.

During this first week, his meals have included a Dairy Queen Blizzard, an orange, tea, and salami & muenster on a pita, among other things.

The rain (on and off for 4 days of the first week) has been pretty disheartening, forcing him to stay in motels 2 nights to let his very damp and blistered feet heal and dry out.

Sunday night found him sleeping in a small patch of woods between 2 houses, in Quakertown. He is expected to spend all day Monday in the tent, as the forecast called for rain all day. There's also rumor of snow coming in later that week.

He has been shooting a lot of footage of himself cursing his foolishness, as well as lots of interviews with townsfolk and idiots that he meets along the way.

Week 2: Coal towns, sore ankles, and BK (April 22, 2001)

The weather got better after a really cruddy first week, and Mark was able to take advantage of it during this second week.

Early in the week he passed through good old 'Allentown, PA,' famous in song. (Well, one Billy Joel song at least.) A series of coal towns followed, which Mark described as 'creepy and depressing.' He walked over the top of Blue Mountain, where his path crossed that of the Appalachian Trail. Other towns he passed through include Tamaqua, Mt Carmel and Shamokin, before reaching Sunbury. (HE couldn't remember much about those towns, other than their names.) He actually spent Sunday night outside of Sunbury, towards Lewisburg. (This might seem like not a large distinction, looking at a map, to you car-driving losers, but to a walking fool, it is a an important one.) Sunday night found him camped out under the stars, near some RR tracks, not far from the good old Susquehanna River ...praying for no rain.

Annoyances: Mark's ankle has been gradually hurting more and more over the past 4-5 days, and he suspects it is sprained. He's planning on spending 2 days at a campsite not far from Sunbury/Lewisburg letting it heal, or almost heal, before hitting the road again.

Good News!
* The blisters seem to be mostly gone!
* Mark has been able to push through almost 20 miles a day for most of this past week.
* There has been a preponderance of Burger King restaurants along his route, meaning he has been feasting on BK salads and BK chicken sandwiches.

Week 3: State College, hunters, and a food report (April 29, 2001)

Mark is traveling through the Appalachian Mountains at this point, in case you were not aware. This involves a certain amount of hills. But it isn't all hills - there are also a lot of Amish farms in the flat parts between the hills.

Well, Mark's right ankle doesn't hurt as much now - but the left one hurts quite a bit! But as Mark always says, "Life's funny that way. I just think of all the folks pulling for me, and then the pain just keeps hurting." (He doesn't really say that.)

He left the campground near Lewsiburg on Monday, and headed through Mifflinburg and Hartleton, on his way to the glorious middle-PA mecca of STATE COLLEGE, home of Penn State! Mark was able to get some special hiking socks (to reduce blisters) in a camping goods store in State College (although they only had XL). The clerks all dropped everything and rushed over to help him, as soon as he stepped into the store - one benefit of being a grizzled-looking guy with a big heavy backpack. The guys at the store encouraged Mark to join them at a bar later that night, and he had visions of admiring college kids sitting at his feet, buying him drinks, listening to the tales of his journey, wiping his brow, feeding him grapes, etc., but it wasn't to be. By the time he got to his motel, a mile outside of town, it was really late, and he collapsed in bed, instead of doing any more hiking that day.

Upon leaving State College, he headed towards Black Moshannon State Park, which proved to be very remote, and picturesque. One gentleman slowed his car down to ask Mark where the heck he was headed, and just laughed when Mark named the park. When Mark finally reached the reservoir in the middle of the park, wherre he was going to camp, he was surprised by a guy who popped out of nowhere, taking "nature pictures." He made Mark a litle nervous, but he eventually left. (Don't worry - the guy doesn't come back and cook Mark and eat him. I'm just trying to put together some sort of story from the brief details he gives me and so I've gotta include everything he gives me.)

Getting out of the park proved to be a pretty hard trip - lots of those hills discussed earlier. He made it out, and to Phillipsburg, where he was greeted by a brass band and a crowd, given the key to the city, and offered his pick of any maiden in the town. (Because his last name is Phillips, get it? Actually nothing like that happened in Phillipsburg.) Anyway, he then pushed on to Clearfield, where an old truck full of hunters hooted and hollered at him as they drove by. He said it brought a tear to his eye, as it made him think back being picked on in high school gym class.

FOOD REPORT: While in hunting country, he stopped at some vending machines outside a bar, and the machine stole his money. He decided not to go inside and ask for his money back, due to the large number of hooligans he suspected were inside. One of his main staples has been pita bread, stuffed with cheese and some sort of cross between salami and bologna (apparently available only in PA). He tries to eat an orange a day, to keep away the scurvy, and for vegetables he thought he'd eat a lot of those baby carrots, until he realized that he doesn't like baby carrots. The Burger Kings have become fewer and further between, though he did have some Taco Bell in State College. When he does stop for fast food, he goes for the "healthy stuff."

Week 4: Boredom, crappy road signs, and 'the center of Pennsylvania' (May 6, 2001)

BIG NEWS! The walking Fool reached Ohio on Satruday May 5th.! That makes 2 whole states that he was walked across, which is 1 more than he thought he would actually walk across a few weeks ago.

He was in Clearfield a week ago, and from there he marched through Luthersburg, Reynoldsville, Dubois, Clarion, and Emlenton. Even though it is clear on a map that Clearfield is about three quarters of the way across PA, the owner of the motel that he stayed at insisted that Clearfield is "the CENTER OF PENNSYLVANIA." There was no arguing with her.

BOREDOM ON HE ROAD Somewhere in PA (Mark can't quite remember where) he broke down and bought himself a walkman, because he was getting really bored. Unfortunately he is now discovering firsthand that the music industry is really phasing out the "cassette" format. So far his sonic resources include "some classical music tape", a 70s mix tape, an 80s mix tape, Play by Moby, and the new Vitamin C tape. (The webmaster will be sending Mark some more tapes in a few weeks.)

THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS Mark pulled a really long walk (25 miles in a day) in order to make it to Grove City, where he figured he could relax in a bar and catch the Knicks game that was on that night. Unfortunately upon arrival in Grove City, he discovered that it's a dry town. He then walked 5 more miles to London, PA, on the outskirts of Grove City, where he collapsed at the Elephant & Castle theme restaurant. He had barely started an incredibly refreshing tall glass of Bass, when he was informed that some guy down the bar was buying it for him, since he looked like he could use it. After another beer paid for by another bar patron, Mark received his meal on the house from the manager, who also tried to get him a free room at a nearby motel (to no avail.) Even though the Knicks lost, it was a fine, fine evening. A day or two later, he was eating breakfast in a small diner, and a nice old lady put 5 dollars down to pay for his meal as she was leaving. He's pretty sure she realized he wasn't a bum, although he is looking a bit scruffy lately.

ROAD HALLUCINATIONS OR JUST BAD SIGNAGE? Mark would like to have a word with the folks who make some of the mileage signs around Dubois, PA. As he was approaching town, the first sign said DUBOIS 6 MILES. After a couple more miles, he passed a sign stating DUBOIS 6 MILES. Then after another mile, a sign warned him DUBOIS 6 MILES. His bafflement and rage subsided when he got to a sign that said DUBOIS 5 MILES, shortly thereafter, but unfortunately that was followed by a sign that said DUBOIS 8 MILES. The next sign, about a mile further said DUBOIS 3 MILES. This one was actually somewhat accurate.

Week 5: Gunshots, free subs, and hills (May 13, 2001)

The Walking Fool rested for three days in Youngstown, OH. Partly due to exhaustion, partly due to cold rainy weather. While there he ate lots of fast food (attempting to keep to the healthy stuff), roamed the mall, played some video games, and rested. (Actually, he didn't play video games.)

While in Youngstown he also made a journey to a Federal Express shipping depot, to pick up a package that his trusty roommate Jeff sent him, which turned into a strange little adventure. The FedEx place was a bit off the beaten track - being at the intersection of Salt Springs Rd. and Salt Springs Rd, in a remote office park or somewhere like that, and so Mark journeyed forth - luckily with directions from the FedEx guy. Unfortunately it started to rain, but he was eager to get his package. As he was walking past and above a gully beside the road, he heard gunshots. He looked down into the gully, and there were two guys crouching behind a car. As he watched, they stood up, and casually held up their hands, as if they were "giving up" - to somebody. Mark didn't stick around to see if they were giving up to him or to someone else, but instead ran as fast as he could (while wearing his big old pack) the rest of the way to the FedEx place. (That's all that happened.)

After leaving Youngstown on Wednesday morning, he walked through Braceville Ridge, and made it to Hudson by Thursday night. Friday found him in Brunswick, where he feasted at the local Pizza Hut, and entertained his servers with tales of his blisters. By Saturday he was in Lagrange, and by Sunday night he had made it to Norwalk, OH, which is just three miles from Thomas Edison's birthplace.

FAST FOOD BONUS! After he chowed down at a Burger King in Brunswick, and told the employees about his trip, the they pooled their money, and gave him about $2.50. Then another woman in the BK came over the gave him $5.00 and blessed him! And in Hudson the manager of a Blimpie sub shop gave him a bunch of coupons for free subs. Unfortunately she didn't have a map of all the Blimpies so he could plan his journey to take advantage of them. BUT maybe Mark can use the "Blimpie Store Locator" on the official Blimpie Website, next time he hits a computer at a library or Kinkos.

THE SLOPE REPORT: The Fool has discovered that Ohio is NOT as flat as advertised, or as he had been warned. He ran into a 17 degree slope (uphill) in one spot, which nearly killed him. Just in case you are curious, this is a 17 degree slope:

THE FEET REPORT: The Fool managed to get a small case of poison ivy on his feet - inside his shoes. How, you ask? Well, he took off his shoes and socks to get into his sleeping bag one night, and then walked around a bit while taking care of his bedtime duties. Voila.

Week 6: Poison ivy, insults, and nice people (May 20, 2001)

It's been a rough week for The Fool. The poison ivy on his feet got pretty bad, and so Mark stayed in a motel in Norwalk, OH, for 3 days starting on Monday of the past week, to let his feet get better. Then he headed out. Unfortunately this wasn't enough healing time, and so the walking that he did over the next few days made things get pretty nasty. He is now going to take another two or three days off in Bowling Green to let his feet REALLY heal.

THE UNKINDNESS OF STRANGERS The Fool has found that most of the people who insult him are teenagers, but due to watching too much TV, their insults are usually not very clever. In fact, mostly they just yell something like "Duuuuhh!!" or "Hooooooo-bluh!" instead of actual insults. This week, due to the bad mood brought on by the poison ivy and whatnot, Mark found himself firing back his first 'return' insult of the entire trip, at a 12 year old on a bike who yelled at him to get off the road. This made The Fool feel simultaneously happy and pathetic. Click and highlight between the question marks with your mouse to read what Mark's response was. ?? "Do me a favor and suck my dick." ??


* In Helena , OH, Mark was passing through a residential neighborhood, when a guy yelled from his front door, "Hey - I drove past you today! Want a pop?" Mark accepted a much appreciated glass of water from the guy, and talked to him for a while. (Pop isn't really that good for hydration.)

* Mark got to the public library in Freemont, OH, about an hour and a half before closing time. After filling out the paperwork for a temporary library card (so he could use the computer to check his e-mail and guestbook) he didn't have that much time. When the guy came around to tell Mark to log-off, Mark blurted out, "But I'm walking across America, and I'm trying to check my e-mail!" The guy generously gave Mark 5 extra minutes!

* Mark got a shout-out from a local radio station, after he called up and talked to the DJ. He also got a couple of shot-outs from a college radio station back in PA or NJ that he forgot to mention earlier.


* Raccoons can sound a LOT like people walking around outside your tent in the middle of the night.

* Traffic, and cars in general, SUCK.

* Mark's pack makes a lot of noise while he's in motion. Some days a new noise will start up, and it takes him while to figure out what is making it.

* Mark has been stopped by a cop in every state so far. At first they are a bit suspicious, but once they find out he's walking across America, they are amazed. They have not let him make their siren go, or try on their hats, though.

POISON IVY REPORT (WARNING - If you are squeamish don't read this part) The poison ivy was really nasty. Mark had blisters the size of quarters on the bottoms of his feet, and then it spread to between his toes. When he finally got to Bowling Green on Saturday, a blister on his pinky toe had popped and was bleeding. He's very serious about letting it really heal this time.

Week 7: Foot trouble, galoshes, and not much else (May 27, 2001)

The Fool reached Indiana!!! That means he has crossed three entire states, and is working on number four. And he is almost in his third time zone!!! This week was not hugely eventful, but the Journal this week will fill you in on some of the mundane details of his life on the road.

Well, contrary to what was posted last week, the Fool did not stay for several days in Bowling Green to let his poison ivy heal. He gave it one night, and then the high motel rates drove him out of town. Sunday night (May 20th) he had planned to camp in BG, but the patch of woods behind the Burger King was just a bit too sparse to give him good cover. So he headed to a Best Western, and was shocked by the "college-town" rates. To add insult to (financial) injury, the jerky kid behind the counter was the first motel clerk on the entire trip who didn't offer him a discount, on hearing about his trip. He's gotten at least 10 bucks off at every other motel, but this kid was a cranky clone of the lead singer of Green Day, wearing his one white dress shirt, and he could only offer up, "If you had Triple A you could get a discount." He didn't seem to quite get the "walking across America" part of his story.

So anyway, on Monday the WF did a short hike to get six miles outisde of Bowling Green, and then rested the rest of the day. He stopped for a meal in a KFC, where he accidentally left behind his pepper spray - his only defense against the wily racoons and possums of the midwest. Luckily he realized this while checking out a nearby mall, and when he ran back, they had it behind the counter.

Just after dusk, on some farm road outside of Bowling Green, an older man pulled over in his car when he saw the Walking Fool and got pretty excited when he heard his story. He was disappointed that he wouldn't have the chance to tell the local papers before the WF would be gone. One odd note: there was an unseen passenger (from the Fool's viewpoint) in the car when this guy pulled over, and all he heard or saw of him was an occasional "Oh, yeeeaaah?" throughout the Fool's telling of his trip across the US.

The next day the Fool was walking past some guy mowing his lawn... again on some farm road in the middle of nowhere, OH. The guy stopped his mowing and called the Fool over, smiling and waving, acting like he knew him. It turned out this was the mysterious unseen passenger from the night before. The Fool enjoyed a glass of water on his porch, met his wife, and then was again on his way.

On Tuesday the WF's feet felt healed enough to do 26 miles. (A slightly above average day). Part of what allowed him to do this was the drive to "get the hell out of Ohio." The feeling that he had been in Ohio for his entire life started to override the need to let his feet heal. He also spent part of Tuesday in a Wendy's, doing some editing of video footage. (He has 2 cameras with him and can dub/edit from one to the other, in a somewhat painstaking fashion.) He is desperately readying the first batch of footage to send home for broadcast. The only problem was that people wouldn't stop asking him questions, even when he had headphones on and was peering into a camera.

Wednesday was another big mileage day, at about 28 miles. Again, the "Get the hell out of Ohio!" drive was pushing him onward. Unfortunately, Wednesday was also marked by a severe lack of food and water. He ran out of both food and water in the late afternoon, and when he finally reached a mini-mart near WIlliams Center at 9:15 pm, the fact that it had closed at 6 caused him to scream curses that had never before been heard in Ohio. To add to the fun of Wednesday, he accidentally got off track and had to backtrack one mile, and then it started to rain just as he was setting up his tent.

The rain kept up until late morning on Thursday, so he didn't head out until about 1 pm. (Just FYI, it usually takes him about 45 minutes to an hour to pack everything up and get his tent taken down before heading out.) It was about 7-8 miles to Edgarton, and by mile 6 the lack of water had him feeling a bit woozy. Shortly after that, a nice guy named Matt pulled over and offered him some water. (No, Matt was not a hallucination. He shows up later.) The Fool was then rejuvented enough to make it to the Subway on the other side of Edgarton, where who did he see again but Matt. Matt was too late to pay for his meal, but he bought him some more water and trail mix, and then actually drove home and brought back a map and a pair of socks to give to him. Thursday was only aobut an 11 eleven mile day, due to the rain and dehydration.

Friday marked the day the WF crossed into Indiana! It also marked the day that he had heard all the tapes in his meager collection of cassettes too many times, and he called his old pal Woodsy in desperation Friday night. They worked out a plan to send some tapes by Express Mail, c/o General Delivery to Kendalville, IN. It was a long shot, since the post office there closes at noon, and Express Mail couldn't guarantee delivery before then, but it was a desperate situation. He spent the night sleeping near a creek, where frogs serenaded him all night long. He also heard some sort of large animal (cow? horse?) making big slurpy drinking noises in the middle of the night, and he's pretty sure that some deer brushed against his tent in the morning and then freaked out and ran away.

Saturday morning found the Fool at the Post Office, where his package had arrived! But, in typical Fool fashion, he bought a really cheap walkman, and it now plays most tapes at widely varying rates of speed, giving them a nausea-inducing warble effect. Next chance he gets he will be investing in a decent walkman. He also picked up some rubber boot covers (aka "galoshes") in Kendallville.

It continued to rain on and off on Saturday, and by evening it was still raining and there were no woods in site. The Fool tried to wait it out under a very tiny awning of some sort of industrial/warehouse building in the middle of nowhere, near Wawaka, IN, and eventually the rain diminished. Then the wind picked up! The WF camped out behind this warehouse (due to the lack of woods or other cover) and really didn't get any sleep until about 5 am, because the wind was flipping his tent and fly so loudly. This was definitely one of the most miserable nights of the entire journey.

He slept until noon on Sunday, due to lack of sleep the night before, and then rewarded himself with a combo platter at a KFC/Taco Bell along the way. He then spent a solid hour in the bathroom, ignoring the banging of the other customer's on the door while he dried his sock and shoes with the hand dryer. He was also able to charge his cell phone with a plug near the gumball machines! He actually left the phone behind when he left and had to run back and get it - luckily it was still there. He managed to still do about 18 miles on Sunday, ending up not far from Napanee, camped out in a field full of weeds. He's looking forward to pushing through Indiana and making it to Chicago by the end of this week.

Week 8: The Amish, the Meanest Librarian in the World, and Chicago! (June 3, 2001)

The Fool is now in state number FIVE (Illinois) on his journey, and shortly will hit number SIX (Wisconsin)!

After leaving Napanee, IN, he walked through Amish Acres. Amish Acres is quite a curious place - there are really no Amish people there. There ARE lots of Amish craft shops and even a Christmas shop. He checked out some of the Amish crafts, and briefly considered buying an Amish hoe, but then he realized that his tent really only has room for himself, and he can probably pick up a pretty good hoe when he gets back to NYC.

The Fool spent a little time chatting with various people in Amish Acres, mainly just asking anyone he saw "Are you Amish?" The most excitemenmt came when he asked this big biker dude with lots of tattoos if he was Amish. His two female friends chatted and giggled with him, while the biker just sat there and flexed his muscles over and over, saying nothing. When the WF finally admitted that he knew that the biker was not Amish, since the Amish do not "desecrate" their bodies with tattoos, the dude responded "Yeah how about if I desecrate your face?! Huh?! Your face! I'll desecrate your face! Huh?!" Things calmed down quckly, and as the Fool was leaving these nice folks, the biker dude said something in spanish. All the Fool could catch was "tu madre" (meaning 'your mother') - and he assured the dude that he was keeping in regular contact with his mother, so that she wouldn't worry about him.

Earlier, the Walking Fool actually saw a couple of Amish people getting McFlurries as McDonalds, which either means that they've loosened up the rules, or they work at the Amish nick-nack store at the mall.

The Fool stopped for a snack at a Subway in Walkerton, IN, and ended up chatting with two nice old guys, who bought him a sub, after listening to some stories of his journey. One old guy said he knew a guy who had walked around the world (?) and had to fight off bandits with machetes. After he got his sandwich from the Subway server, the Fool noticed a wall plug near one of the tables, so decided that this would be a great oppurtunity to recharge his phone and camera batteries. Unfortuantely he keeps the camera charger at the very bottom of his pack, so he had to take everything out of his pack to get to it. So there he was, surrounded by piles of VERY dirty laundry, and all his other belongings, and then the MANAGER comes strolling over and say "Looks like you're moving in!" Our fumbling fool got kind of nervous, but then the guy sat down and started asking him where he was going, where he came from, blah blah blah. (PHEW!) The manager was so psyched for the Fool, he loaded him up with a couple of bags of free chips, and some free cookies, as well as a bunch of Subway coupons.

The only noticeable incident in Westville was the Fool's encounter with the meanest librarian in the world. It had been a week or more since he had been able to check his email and read the guestbook, and he was anxious to check in, but the librarian told him that without a library card he was out of luck. And he couldn't get a library card if he wasn't from the town. THE BOARD had decreed it. THE BOARD made the rules. THE RULES could not be broken. The Fool did his best to remain polite, and tried to tell her that he was walking across the country, etc etc, but, in the Fool's words, "As I tried to explain my story, she just looked at me as if I was holding a porno magazine open in front of her, and was saying 'hey - how about this one? - whaddayathink of this one? huh? huh?' " The scowl on her face just got deeper and deeper, and the WF left the library, and left Westville.

This entire week has been very cold and rainy - and so has most of the WF's time in Indiana. Thursday night found The Fool in Griffith, IN, where he supped upon the 12 dollar rip-off steak at Ponderosa. And to cap off that crappy meal, he stayed in the Motel 6, to get a break from his damp tent, where he was offered no discount.

The Fool slept in a bit on Friday, and then headed towards the border between Indiana and Illinois, going through the town of East Chicago, IL. Friday afternoon also marked the Fool's first radio interview (called in by phone), on a Chicago AM station (arranged by his handler, Bill, back in NYC).

Friday afternoon, the Walking Fool entered the south side of Chicago, which several people had "warned him" about. While he found some areas that were full of boarded up storefronts, he didn't have any problems, and enjoyed the long walk along the lake that took him into downtown Chicago. He headed for the home of his Webmaster's sister-in-law, where Gitte and her husband Charles served him some of that fine Chicago pizza pie. He stayed in Chicago until Monday morning, staying with Gitte and Charles, and also with Gitte's cousin Julie and her roommates. He caught a movie and did a little shopping in Chicago, picking up some new sneakers, the new Depeche Mode tape, and the South Park Movie soundtrack. He gives the DM tape a big thumbs-up, but he gives "The Animal" with Rob Schneider and Colleen from Survivor a big thumbs down (with raspberry noise.)


* Some Fool fans have been expressing concern that the Fool is eating too much fast food, and he gave his Web Development Team some insight into his diet. He is trying to eat well, but he's also burning a heck of a lot of calories, so he's not too worried about eating too much fast food. Fast food restaurants also provide a dry and warm place to sit and rest, and often have a handy electrical outlet where he can recharge his phone and camera. Fast food is also pretty cheap - cheaper than other kinds of restaurants, which is definitely a concern. The Fool doesn't eat fast food every day, but it's also sort of hard to carry and keep lots of tasty and healthy food from supermarkets - so he often ends up eating deli-type-sandwiches from mini-marts. He also tries to eat some fruit every day, and grabs salads whenever he comes upon them.
* The Fool is actually thinking of writing to Burger king to tell them how much he has appreciated their restaurants and their fine 99 cent menu on his trip. The Chicken Tender Sandwich is definitely his favorite item, and he says the Jalapeno Poppers are pretty good too. (They're much better than the ones at Arby's which cost 3 times as much, and taste kind of funny.) He says the mozzarella sticks are good if they're fresh.

Week 9: Flying milkshakes, cops, and nice people (June 10, 2001)

After leaving Chicago, The Fool toddled along to Niles, IL in crappy weather. He was getting pretty tired of the endless suburbs, and really was longing for some countryside. The next best thing was a "Forest Preserve" in Niles, where he camped Monday night. Although there weren't any "NO CAMPING" signs around, he suspected that camping was not a welcome activity there, so he made sure to hide himself pretty well. He slept under the stars, but then around 4am it started to rain, and he got to practice his rapid tent deployment skills. He started to scream in frustration when he thought he had lost the tent stakes, but then he found them. It was still drizzling throughout the morning the next day, so he finally just packed up around noon during a brief break in the rain.

The rain was just a warm-up for his visit to the Niles Burger King that afternoon. He was sitting down with some food, and was charging his cell-phone at a nearby outlet, when the manager stomped over and yanked the cord out of the wall and started yelling all about "This is private property!!! You can't do that!!!" The WF tried to explain that he was walking across America, and how he had found Burger Kings (and their managers) to be very hospitable along the way. She replied "I don't care!!!" He left Niles with a heavy heart - unsure if he would return to Burger King again on his journey. (Don't worry - those Chicken Tender Sandwiches will bring him back. He's a fool... remember?)

The Fool's big destination of the week was coming up - Des Plaines, Illinois! It is home to the FIRST MCDONALD'S IN THE WORLD!!! Unfortunately Mark discovered that the McDonald's museum that occupies the building is only open 3 days a week, and Tuesday isn't one of those days. Mark had to satisfy himself with a meal in the modern McDonald's restaurant across the street. While Mark was in the McDonald's, he became aware that he had attracted the attention of a bunch of 16-17 yr old 'hooligans.' He could tell by the silence as he walked by, followed by weird dopey laughter. When he was leaving, he realized that the teens were leaving too, packing into their mom's luxury SUV. The Fool continued on walking, by was quickly caught up by the SUV full of the jerky teens who screamed the typical "Duuuhh-blaaaa-gaa-huuurrrrhh!!!" as they drove by. Mark started to prepare himself for worse, and also tried to come up with something clever to say, as he saw the SUV turn around, back in his direction. Then, as the SUV whipped by, someone threw a milkshake at him. It all happened in slow motion... he tried to turn... he started to jump sideways... but it hit him anyway. Just to make sure they knew they were dealing with a Fool, he took off running after them - with full pack! They managed to shoot off on a side street, and so they were spared his Fool Vengeance. The adventures of the day, combined with the continuing rain, seemed to all point to one thing:


Shortly after what has come to be known as the Milkshake Incident, Mark encountered a slightly nutty but nice homeless guy, who lives in his van "by the river." He took the WF for a traveling homeless guy (as many police officers seem to do) and asked if he needed a day's work. The scruffy man said knew a place that would hire him for sure. He also commented that the Fool had traveled a hell of a long way to see a hamburger joint. The WF had no comment in return. Interestingly, the guy also said "Don't even think about sleeping in the Forest Preserve. The cops'll get you for sure and drag you to the station way over on the other side of town.

As if to adjust the cosmic balance for The Fool unwittingly escaping the notice of the authorities the night before, he was "pulled over" about 10 miles outside of Des Plaines. The officer used number 3 out of the three standard excuses that The Fool has become familiar with:

1. "I thought you might need a ride."
2. "I thought you were going to get hit by a car."
3. "Did you just throw something - a bottle or something - back there - back at that intersection?"

She pulled him over by pulling in front of him into a parking lot that he was crossing. After a quick ID check, she seemed satisfied, and let him continue his walk across the country. While The Fool understands that the men and women of law enforcement have a job to do, and he is definitely an unusual sight, he's getting a bit tired of the "game" that he keeps having to play with them, where they sort of invent a reason for stopping him, and then they eventually ask him what his story is, and then they let him go. He can't really suggest a better way to do things, but it's getting old, nonetheless.

The cops would probably have frowned on it, but The Fool camped out in the woods near some railroad tracks, not long after his encounter with the officer.

Wednesday found him in Crystal Lake. Perhaps the inspiration for the lake in the Friday the 13th movies? Who knows. Crystal Lake was interesting in that it was sort of a city that sprang up out of nowhere, and had TONS of shops and plazas - even old familiar sites such as Barnes & Noble, Circuit City, etc, that he hasn't seen much of since he left the east coast.

Since his tent was REALLY starting to get stinky and mildewed and covered with mud, from all the rain, he made it a priority to visit a laundromat in Crystal Lake. That done, it was getting late, and so he grabbed a snack in a Mobil station before finding a spot to camp. As he paid for his Slim-Jim and King Size Snickers Bar (which contains a whopping 600 calories, by the way - that's about a meal right there), he asked the punkish kid (who was listening to punkish music on a little radio) how far he had to go to get out of town - to where the stores ended and he might be able to camp out. The punkish kid REALLY did not comprehend what the Fool was asking, in a fundamental way. He really seemed confused. He came back with "Where are you going? What town do you want to go to?" "If you want a place to stay there's a motel over there." He couldn't grasp the idea of utilizing the space between the towns.

Thursday was a decent day. The Fool walked through Woodstock and Harvard, and then crossed into Wisconsin near a little town called Bigfoot! (That makes his sixth state!) He ended up camping in Walworth, WI Thursday night.

The Fool has been seeing lots of Norwegian flags all over the place now, and he actually met a really nice Norwegian farmer as he walked by a house on a little country road. The guy had been in the Korean War, and had also climbed Mt. Fuji in Japan. He revealed a fact that The Fool was unaware of - Mt. Fuji is all sandy - it's made of lots of volcanic ash. So when you walk up it, you take two steps up and sink one step down.

Friday was marked by an encounter with another random nice guy named Phil. The Fool had collapsed for a rest on the side of a little back road, and as a car pulled out of a driveway, he realized he was actually sitting on part of the guy's lawn, but the guy didn't say anything and just drove away. A few minutes later he came back, and asked him if he was ok, if he needed a drink, etc etc - he said he looked like a professional hiker. (Phil should do some workshops for the police force over in Illinois, perhaps.) The WF went up and sat in the shade while Phil brought him some cider and water. Phil then had to leave again for work, but told him to use the bathroom if he needed to, and gave him his sister's address outside Madison, and said she would give him some food, and even let him ride her horses if he wanted. The Walking Fool finally headed out, but later that day, just as he was passing through a roadside picnic area, Phil drove up in his car, to give him a corrected version of his sister's address and a few snacks. Phil is definitely the nice guy of the week - and maybe of the month.

The Fool thinks that Friday might have been one of his longest days in terms of distance covered – close to 31 miles. He went through Darien, wound all around and finally got to Janesville by evening. Friday night The Fool found a Motel 6 in Janeville for 33 bucks - he didn't even bother to ask for a discount, at that rate.

Saturday night brought him to Edgerton, where he got a hot meal at an A&W restaurant, then camped with the mosquitoes.

Sunday was a somewhat crappy day, because The Fool accidentally went 2 miles backwards (that being EAST) and then had to march back over his footsteps. This was especially annoying because he has to be in Madison at 6am the next morning for a TV interview on NBC 15!!! The Fool kept up a good pace on Sunday, and soon made up his lost time. Unfortunately he forgot to listen to his body, and as he came into Stoughton, he found he had an amazingly powerful need to use a restroom. He quickly discovered that all the restaurants etc are on "the other side of Stoughton" - which he eventually reached, just in time. McDonald's is now forgiven for the strange hours of the "First McDonald's Museum."

As of this journal posting, The Fool has not set up camp for Sunday night yet, but it will be "somewhere in Madison."

Week 10: Robot World, Cow Pies, and weird people in the night (June 17, 2001)

Well, it's been another week where the map makes it look like The Fool hasn't gone very far, but his feet (and his heart) have journeyed quite a distance. (He took a zig-zaggy route, ok?)

Monday morning, 6 am found the Fool in the studios of NBC 15 in Madison, being interviewed on their morning show. They said the interview would be about 2 minutes, but he says it felt like 10. (Not quite forever, but he was surprised that they kept him on so long.) He kept expecting them to wrap it up, but they kept him on the air. The mood of the interview stayed pretty serious, with lots of talk about how "inspirational" he was, but this was probably just due to the fact that the Fool was balancing out all the Timothy McVeigh execution coverage they were doing. The hostess DID skooch away from him right on cue when he tried out his poison ivy jokes, though.

As our friend walked through Madison, a couple of people yelled from their cars, "HEYYY!! Walking FOOOOOLLL! GO FOR IT!!" This boost him up and actually caused him to strut around town. His strutting slowed down to a stroll when he passed a really freaky drunk guy sitting in a yard near the campus, who slurred out, as the WF passed (to nobody on particular) "That guy was on TV."

The Fool had dinner with his old college buddy Matt in Madison, and Matt loaded him down with 7 (SEVEN!!) new mix tapes for the road. Matt treated the Fool to some very tasty Afghan food, and the Fool sacked out in a a HoJo's in the heart of Madison on Monday night.

The rest of the week has been REALLY rainy, with occasional lightning and thunder. That's meant a pretty crappy week, with several nights in motels. By Wednesday The Fool had reached Devil's Lake State Park, [Cool VR and aerial photos available! See what the Fool saw!] He really enjoyed the hike on the East side of the lake, along the cliff, with the nice cool breezes blowing up the bluff.

Thursday was a lousy day, as the sound on the WF's video camera started to crap out. He's not quite sure what he will do if it breaks entirely. He reached Baraboo, WI, on Thursday, and to entertain himself, tried out his fake Wisconsin accent at the local KFC. The woman behind the counter didn't seem to notice. One nice thing that happened in Baraboo was that he got a free Cow Pie¨ from Baraboo Candy! Then things took a down turn when he crossed the street to buy some milk to go along with his Cow Pie¨... the clerk at the store REFUSED to take his Canadian quarter. In return for this shoddy treatment, The Fool littered in the parking lot. The Fool has also been a bit disappointed by "The Dairy State" (that would be Wisconsin) - he was expecting free-flowing fountains of milk at every turn, and a wheel of cheese on every lawn, but it hasn't been quite like that.

Friday was rainy, and the Walking Fool holed up in a motel early in the afternoon to try and dry out and try to fix his camera, to no avail. On Saturday he got up and decided to spend the day hitting the tourist attractions of "The World Famous Wisconsin Dells!!!" This is a whole region of Wisconsin that i littered with dells. (What's a dell, you say? Well, The Fool asked the same question, and an old man answered, "Why, it's a valley, by definition.") So the Wisconsin Dells are a scenic area with lots of valleys, plus 8 gazillion motels, by the Fool's count. And each motel has its own water slide, and there is a motel named for every single animal that you could ever think of. (Flamingo? Got it. Polar Bear? Got it. Name an animal - they've got it.) One creepy thing that happened on Friday was The Fool kept pace for a good part of the day with a really odd looking bald hitchiking farmer character. The weird guy kept getting short rides, and the Fool kept taking side jaunts, and then he would just catch up to him again.

Other tourist stuff that The Fool experienced in The Dells included a roller coaster named "Zeus", which was heralded as 'the tallest coaster in the world!', but The Fool is calling them on that claim. He also visited "The Funhouse of the Future!", which is shaped like a big pyramid with a spaceship on top. He asked the ticket-seller what amazing technology funhouses in the future have which they've brought back to our time. All she could come up with was, "Well, it's got a time machine in there... but it only goes into the past... not the future." The big excitement was Robot World. The Fool was a bit nervous as he entered, and asked every single attendant the same question - "Is that robot going to attack me?" "No" was the answer every time, but Mark was still a bit wary. Robot World works like this: you enter through a door, a robot yanks the $10 entry fee out of your hand, and then a conveyor belt (powered by robots) just sends you right out the door.

A little known fact about Robot World is that the film "Heartbeeps," with Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters as two robots who fall in love and run away, took place entirely within Robot World. (Actually that's a total lie. Sorry.)

Saturday night brought The Fool to the outskirts of the Dells, but the fun didn't end there. He was walking out on a back road in the middle of nowhere, with no lights, when all of a sudden he came upon two guys sitting in a golf cart at the side of the road. (Which totally scared the crap out of him.) He said "Hi", they said "Uh?!" and took off. Then just as he had relaxed from that encounter, he heard faint music, and saw shimmering lights up ahead. As he approached, he discovered a "biker jamboree" at the side of the road, with booze, bonfires, music, and a pro light system. The WF passed the biker jamboree without incident.

Shortly after that, he camped out in some nice pine woods. He started out with no tent, since it was a nice night, but as soon as he settled in and turned off his flashlight, the raccoons and possums started scurrying all over the place, and all he could think of was one running across his face. Then some animal made a huge freaky hissing noise in the trees, and The Fool had his tent up in record time.

Sunday was pretty rainy, and the Walking Fool ended up spending a decent amount of time waiting out the rain in a Subway restaurant. He's got a new blister on his pinky toe, but he's really looking forward to the next 2-3 days, as he will be hiking a trail that goes from Elroy to Sparta, which has NO CARS!!!! Nothing but hikers, and nature, and nice little camp sites, going through several small towns. The Fool wishes more of the country would build trails like this one. (The Fool also wishes everyone would buy a mug or t-shirt!)

Week 11: Rail trails, tunnels, and bikes (June 24, 2001 )

The Fool has reached Minnesota! That makes state number seven. He has walked from New Jersey to Minnesota in 11 weeks. That is a looooong way.

Last Sunday found The Fool in a public campground in Elroy, Wisconsin. He was the only human being in the campground. He had spent the earlier part of the afternoon and evening hanging out in a Subway restaurant, waiting for the rain to clear, and trying to explain to a belligerent truck driver that he really wanted to walk, and that he didn't need a ride somewhere.

Elroy is the beginning of a nice trail that goes along an old RR bed. The Fool really likes these kind of trails, because he is SOOOO tired of walking next to cars. Also, because it is on an old RR bed, it has a nice low grade, because it had to be flat for the trains, and so he is often walking above the general lay of the land on built up ridges, or through hillsides that were blasted open. This makes for interesting walking. This trail also happens to have three old tunnels on it, one almost a mile long. Some friendly kids were at the opposite end of the first tunnel, and they were kind enough to help The Fool find his way by screaming to him the entire time he was in the tunnel. He camped Monday night near tunnel number 2.

Tuesday The WF had a meal in Norwalk, and he met a doctor who had actually happened to hear him on the radio when he was interviewed in Chicago, several weeks before, which was pretty odd. He camped in Rockland that night, and then was able to take another rail trail all the way to La Crosse. This rail trail had a working RR on it, though. In La Crosse he finally broke down and ate in his first Burger King since the "cellphone incident", a few weeks ago.

He forged on, and crossed the Mississippi at La Crosse, thereby entering Minnesota, in the town of La Crescent. It was another rainy week, so he took a break, and spent two nights in a motel there, so he could do some video editing. The motel he stayed in was the Ranch motel, and it had lovely shag carpeting, fake wood panel walls, and a strange funky smell that intensified with the rain.

On Friday he reached Houston, MN, and he also bumped into a woman who was a news anchor on Channel 8 (CBS) at a gas station, who seemed interested in his story, but he was headed the wrong direction for her station.

He was able to take another trail starting on Friday, called the Root River Trail. (See map here.) The Root River Trail is VERY zig-zaggy. The weirdest thing about this trail was that he was traveling on it on Saturday and Sunday, and so he was sharing it with TONS of rollerbladers and cyclists. This is sort of a new thing - having other people to say hello to while he is walking. The Fool found it sort of disconcerting having to say "Hey, how's it going?" to people so often - especially the bikers, who came in a constant stream. He's more accustomed to zoning out while walking, and tuing out the traffic. There were a lot of cute couples on tandem bikes on the trail, too. Even with all the other folks around, on Saturday The Fool saw a wild turkey.

Sunday night found The Fool camped out in Fountain, MN. And just an FYI -- Fountain is only about 4 miles from a town called Bucksnort. No joke.

Week 12: Mosquitoes, SPAM, and hallucinations (July 1, 2001)

Minnesota is a wide and boring state. There isn't much to break up the flatness, except for the Karst Topography. (What that means is that there's limestone under the surface, and water erodes it pretty easily, and creates a variety of features above and below the ground, such as caves, potholes and sinkholes.) The Fool thanked god for karst topography Sunday night, because he was able to camp out in the middle of a nice pothole on the outskirts of Fountain, which was surrounded by trees, with a nice flat dirt floor in the center.

Monday found The Fool stocking up on provisions in Wykoff, and dealing with a number of people asking him "Want a ride?" in a smart-ass fashion. His foodstuffs included such fine products as Slim Jims, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, and Mt. Dew's new Code Red!!

The walking right now is pretty boring and miserable, between towns. The roads have narrowed, and there isn't much shoulder, and there are swarms of gnats and sometimes mosquitoes that hover constantly around him. The gnats are the most fun, because they just keep slamming into his face and head, over and over. He even went so far as to put on his gortex jacket and hat at one point, despite the temperature being in the 90s, to shield himself from the gnats. On Tuesday, after a fine breakfast at the Pine Cone Diner, the heat and humidity, and the gnats and mosquitoes, and the fact that he had ended up on a dirt side road, plus the eggs and bacon churning in his stomach, all combined to cause him to kick the ground, and scream an obscenity (It's a synonym for sex and it starts with f-u-c-k.) But then, somehow, magically the dark cloud lifted, and he started picking up an NPR station on his radio, and things got better for a while.

Austin is a strange town, in that you can't really enter it by walking from the east. You have to get on the Interstate to make it in to town, but walking is illegal on the Interstate. With no other reasonable options, the Fool snuck onto the freeway, scurried a half-mile, and entered Austin, home of the SPAM Museum, and Hormel Headquarters. The weirdest thing is that the museum is in a mall. The Fool took a day off on Wednesday to experience Austin. After touring the SPAM Museum, he feasted on a chili burrito, made with SPAM, at the mall, saw Moulin Rouge at the movies, and then headed to Subway for dinner. While he was at Subway, the employees started all giggling at him, which was sort of annoying. As his revenge, he stole a bag of corn chips while they weren't looking. As he ate the corn chips later that evening, he reflected on the old saying "A salted corn chip is much sweeter when stolen." "So true, so true", he thought to himself...

Thursday was wet and humid, and so he spent 4 hours in a Hardees restaurant doing video editing. He camped in some state marshland near Albert Lea, where he was eaten alive by mosquitoes. By his count, he now has 7 million mosquito bites.

The town of Albert Lea was pretty annoying, since all the useful businesses have left downtown, and are in plazas on the outskirts of town, with no sidewalks to get to them or between them. Main St. is basically just offices in the old storefronts. The Walking Fool found himself falling asleep on a park bench on Main St. in Albert Lea on Friday morning at around 9:30. The he realized what was happening, screamed, got up, and marched to Blue Earth by Saturday afternoon. He crashed in a motel there, and then spent Sunday pushing himself to walk all the way to Fairmont.

The heat was pretty bad, and he kept having hallucinations where he would see the Kool-Aid guy off on the horizon. But that was actually kind of fun!

Week 13: Brandon, SD (Sunday July 8, 2001)

LUCKY WEEK 13!! This week certainly did bring The Fool luck - some bad and some good. Mostly bad.

Bad Luck:

* A barber cut The Fool's hair WAY too short. Especially on top.
* The mildew in his tent (from the early rainy part of the journey) has now spread to all his other belongings, and he smells like mildew when he sweats.
* Many towns marked on the map in western MN are just one house at an intersection. This especially sucks when you are out of water.
* He shelled out 20 bucks for new sunglasses, and lost them 2 hours later.
* Lots of dogs have been chasing him, because no one ties up their dogs in western MN.

Good Luck:

* A nice family let him sleep in their yard one night, in Manley, MN.
* The overeager barber recommended a steakhouse, and the WF ended up having a pretty good steak there the next night.
* Burger King Chicken Tenders are still only 99 cents.

The WF left Fairmont Monday, and the first town he encountered was Welcome, which welcomed him with a rainstorm. He ran into a bunch of DETOUR signs the next day, but he ignored them. This is one nice thing about being a Walking Fool - you don't have to take detours, unless a bridge is out - you just walk past the road construction.

Spafford is one of those "one house" towns discussed above. The Fool may start a campaign to have towns like this removed from the map. He feels they are a trick - especially when their dot on the map is the same size as other small towns that have stores and whatnot. Some days he has to go 20 or 30 miles between towns, and although he carries a certain amount of food and water, it's pretty frustrating to expect a town, and get a house.

Tuesday night, he found some woods to camp in, amazingly enough. Woods are pretty scarce out there. It's mostly corn fields, and since the corn is only knee-high right now, he couldn't even camp hidden in the corn if he wanted to. So finding a spot to camp is actually a real pain in the neck. He tries not to trespass overtly when he camps, especially in fields or yards or whatever, and he likes to be pretty much out of sight, so as not to attract undue attention. He even has anxiety dreams about where to camp. Tuesday night brought The Fool a dream where he was camping out, and then all these people - a family of some sort - kept running by his tent, and he realized that he had accidentally camped in someone's yard, and he was going to get in "big trouble".

Wednesday The Fool crashed in a motel in Worthington, and drowned his sorrows in Burger King Chicken Tenders. He also had breakfast and lunch there the following day, and just hung out there poring over his maps all the next morning, not really feeling like walking. (This is not surprising, since the temperature out there has been in the 90s, with around 80% humidity. And there is nothing to see. And there are lots of mean dogs.) Another delaying tactic was to get a haircut. (see bad luck section above)

Thursday The Fool hit Adrian, where he had the steak recommended by the barber. He also passed through Rushmore and Magnolia that day - both names of fine independent films! (Well, you might fine some disagreement about Magnolia, but whatever...) Friday through Sunday he hovered near the border between SD and MN, in a town called Luverne. He hit the library to check e-mail, and relaxed a little bit. It was actually Monday morning when hit finally crossed over into South Dakota - his eigth state! There wasn't much fanfare, and there wasn't even a sign noting the border - The WF thinks it might have fallen down, or something. (There were a couple of suspicious concrete stumps along the road at one point.)

Week 14: The End of the Fool's First Attempted Transcontinental Walk (July 10, 2001)

The Walking Fool has taken a breather, back in NYC. The road got pretty crazy, what with the heat, humidity, lack of towns, mildew, dogs, and whatnot. He may finish the trip at some point, but he needed a break, and he didn't want to end up in the Rockies in November or something crazy like that, so if he resumes it will be next year or something.

Thanks for being part of the Walking Fool community. He appreciated all the support, and he hopes you can understand that he needed a break.

Just FYI, he made it to Sioux Falls, SD, and then caught a bus to Omaha, where he grabbed the train back to NYC. (He bought a ticket - he didn't do the 'hobo' thing by boxcar.)

Prepping For Another Massive Walk

Years and years have passed since Mark, A.K.A. the Walking Fool, quit his attempted walk across the country. And since then, he's been pretty bummed -- he's even been having God-awful anxiety dreams about it. So finally, he decided, "What the heck? Why don't I just try it again?"

He did a couple practice walks to make sure he could still hike around wearing a 60 lb. backpack without collapsing after 1 mile. After successfully walking from New York to Boston, he heartily slapped his thigh and exclaimed, "Okay! Let's do this!" Then slowly extended his finger and pointed west.

Day 1: The Walk Begins (Again)

Shortly before ten on a chilly Tuesday morning, the Fool began his journey for a second time with another ceremonial dipping of the hands in the Atlantic Ocean, this time on a beach on New York's Staten Island. He then headed northwest, accompanied by one of the Friends of the Fool. Along the hospital grounds to their right they saw a number of huge male wild turkeys. One of them even gobbled in support for the Fool's upcoming adventure. At the Dongan Hills station of the Staten Island Railway, Friends the Fool departed and our walking hero was finally on his own. He headed northwest for the Bayonne Bridge, the only pedestrian-accessible bridge between Staten Island and New Jersey.

Along the way to the bridge the Fool met a man from the former Yugoslavia who told him how he hitchhiked around Europe in the Sixties and Seventies. But in the Eighties, he said, no one would pick him up; times had changed. "Maybe we need a revolution," the Fool suggested. The man raised his fist in agreement.

The Fool crossed the Bayonne Bridge into New Jersey and walked northeast through the city of Bayonne. Because the only bridge across Newark Bay is closed to walkers, the Fool had to continue northeast all the way up to Jersey City, to the mouth of the Hackensack River. There he headed west again and proceeded into downtown Newark, where he settled down for the night at the Robert Treat Hotel.

Day 2: Jersey Fun

On Wednesday the Fool left Trenton and headed southwest through Elizabeth, Linden, and Rahway. In Menlo Park, yards away from where the light bulb was invented, some ne'er-do-wells tossed an empty soda bottle at the Fool, and then threw another at some commuters walking ahead of him. The Fool whooped ironically, which led the other walkers to think he might have been the thrower.

Undaunted, the Fool continued southwest into Metuchen and then into Edison. Here the Fool stopped for the night at a Days Inn on Route 1.

Route thus far

Day 3: Let the Tenting Begin

From Edison the Fool headed west, crossing the Raritan River into New Brunswick. He was headed for a trail that runs along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. He reached the canal at East Millstone, then headed southwest down the trail until just south of Griggstown, where he set up his tent for the first time and spent the night.

Day 4: Princeton and Rain

The next day the Fool headed south along the canal trail to Princeton. He headed into town, aiming for the public library to research places to stay around Trenton. Princeton is significant in that he went through this town on his first walk. And like the lst time he walked through this town, the Fool was greeted with rainfall. After finding cheap lodgings on the library computer, the Fool left Princeton and got back onto the canal trail... as cold, heavy rain continued to pour down. Several miles later, he left the trail at Route 1 and proceeded a short distance to the Howard Johnson's in Bakersville, eager to dry off.

Route thus far

Day 5: Resting Them Feet

The Fool took a break today, hanging out at the Howard Johnson's.

No walking, unless you count the 1/2 mile or so the Fool wandered trying to find a place that sold Neosporin so he could apply some healing action to his bleeding toes and his chafing thighs.

He found nothing, but was allowed to raid the hotel's first-aid kit affixed to a wall in the dank room behind the front desk. Unfortunately, all he found was a few packets of iodine, several rolls of gauze of various sizes, and a half-used stick of deodorant (undoubtedly for the 3rd shift night clerk). He took the packets of iodine and retired to his room to watch 24-hour news on CNN as it rained outside.

Day 6: Friends of the Fool

On Sunday, the Friends of the Fool headed out to visit him. They took a New Jersey Transit train from New York down to the Hamilton station northeast of Trenton.

The Fool checked out of the HoJo's and a walked a couple of miles south to meet them. They headed east to a nearby movie theater where they saw Semi-Pro after lunching at a Pizzeria Uno. Then they walked back to the train station. They sat for a while under a sculpture watching Canada geese do their thing (eat grass, follow the leader). There were Canada geese all over the place.

After the Friends left the Fool, he walked a few miles southwest into Trenton. He stayed at the Budget Inn -- an unpleasant motel. The Fool touched as few surfaces as possible in the room that night.

Day 7: Into Pennsylvania

The Fool walked from Trenton to Philadelphia today -- nearly 29 miles!

After gingerly removing himself from the malodorous Budget Inn, our hero walked through downtown Trenton and crossed the Delaware River at the Calhoun Street Bridge. He hooked up with a canal trail right by the river and followed it about ten miles to the town of Bristol, PA. Then he got onto Route 13 and walked all the way into Philly. He stayed at a Days Inn on Roosevelt Boulevard near Frankford Creek.

Route thus far

Day 8: Phillystyle

From his hotel in Philadelphia, the Fool walked over to Broad Street. He headed south on Broad all the way downtown where he visited the main public library. He did some online research there after waiting a while for a computer to become available.

Then the Fool went southwest, toward Chester where his next overnight stay would be. He walked through some very tough neighborhoods on his way there. But he shook his fist vigorously which seemed to intimidate most of the ruffians.

Route thus far

Day 9: Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?

The Fool walked from his Days Inn Hotel to the Chester public library, where he did some more research. Then he proceeded southwest, through an area of oil tanks and refineries. Here the Fool had his first encounter with cops!

He had his video camera out and was filming the industrial landscape when he saw some trucks go by. A few minutes later a police car arrived. The officer asked the Fool what he was doing there, why he was filming, etc. Another car was called. Eventually five police cars were there. The police officers asked to see what the Fool had taped. He rewound the tape and showed them some of his footage. After about 20 minutes of patiently answering questions, complying with requests, and completing paperwork, the Fool was free to leave.

He crossed the state border into Delaware — his fourth state — and walked into Wilmington. He asked a local man there about the best routes which would take him west out of the city. According to the man, all the west-bound routes went through "dicey" neighborhoods. However the Fool discovered that the so-called dicey areas were rather ordinary.

The Fool found a wooded area about 5 miles west of Wilmington and set up his tent for the night.

Route thus far

Day 10

The Walking Fool got up and slipped into Newark, DE, where he stared at pretty, pert college students from the University of Delaware. After creeping out many young coeds, the WF left town and entered the next state of Maryland! (This route he's taking really cruises through the different states fast!) A few miles later, he reached the town of Blueball... and had a good laugh at the name. At least the locals had the good sense NOT to pluralize the town name.

As night fell, he set up camp east of Calvert, MD.

Route thus far

Day 11: A Dam Foolish Crossing

Waking up in a patch of trees outside of Calvert, the Fool trounced forward, eager to get to the Pumpton Park "Zoo," which is famous for having the largest menagerie of chickens in the state. However, our traveling friend became crestfallen when he discovered a large wooden "CLOSED FOR THE SEASON" sign blocking the entrance. Dejected but determined to move on, the Fool walked to the next town of Rising Sun for a delicious McDonald's lunch. Soon after, the Fool started hearing tales from locals about the upcoming dam's passability. According to the seasoned natives of this area, the Conowingo Dam is not very pedestrian-friendly... in fact, one set of grizzled farmers warned him that there's a distinct possibility of getting arrested by the local police if caught walking on the dam.

After a brief consideration of detouring north, the Fool finally decided to go for it. He took a deep breath, pulled up his britches and made a mad dash across the Conowingo Dam! Cars honked, sirens went off and the shoulder on the road narrowed from 16 inches to zero... but the Fool made it. He collapsed for the night a few miles southwest of the river crossing.

Route thus far

Day 12: Walking Fool or Expert Malefactor

The Fool woke up from his tent in a small patch of trees in a fairly wooded rural area of Maryland. As he was airing out his tent and groundsheet, a big fella in a pickup truck pulled along side the road and asked what he was doing. The Fool said something or another about hiking and camping and America and then asked the man what exactly was he implying. The man in the P/U truck revealed that there had been a few robberies in the area and he just wanted to make sure he wasn't the vexing thief they've been looking for. Once the WF convinced the local in the truck that he was a mere backpacker and not a mastermind criminal who camps two miles from the latest house he robbed from, the man waved and drove off.

Later, the WF reached Bel Air, MD and looked around for the Fresh Prince. Once he was informed he was looking in the wrong state and that he was looking for a fictional character, the Walking Fool checked out of town. He continued walking into the early evening, light rain starting to trickle down. He camped in Gunpowder Falls State Park a ways from the road.

Route thus far

Day 13: Baltimore

About 11 miles traveled today.

The WF was woken up at the break of dawn by a curious dog being walked by his early-riser owner. But before he was able to pee on the Fool's tent, the dog was whisked away by its owner and the Fool was able to break down his (illegally) camp. Rain still drizzled down as he left Gunpowder Falls Park, draggimg himself through the mushy mud, back onto U.S. 1.

He walked south to Herring Run Park, closing in on the city of Baltimore. As he reached his cruddy hotel on the north side of town, the sun came out and shined upon his weary shoulders. The Fool gave the sky a thumbs up and checked into his 50 dollar room.: :

Route thus far

Day 14: A Stabbing Good Time

The WF woke up and slumped downstairs where he chatted with some friendly Baltimore police in the breakfast lounge of the hotel. They were very excited for the the Fool's journey and were highly impressed with his progress so far. They had many more questions to ask but were suddenly called away by the dispatch to go to a 102 in progress. They said goodbye and dashed out, clutching their weapons.

The Fool left the hotel and wandered around outside, getting lost in the massive tangle of off- and on-ramps, and over- and under-passes. He finally found his way to Route 40, which took him into central Baltimore. After a quick stop at a library branch near Patterson Park, he crossed into the downtown waterfront neighborhood. He looped around the downtown area and reserved a room at the upscale Hilton, near the harbor.

As night fell, the Fool went into historic Fells Point, with its cobbled stone streets and its picturesque waterfront landscape. He went on a self-guided "bar crawl," having beers at many of the charmingly old and rickety pubs. At one such drinking establishment, he met and joined a small, jovial crew of folks out for an evening of social entertainment. Heather, one of the Fool's new gleeful, good-natured companions, admitted to him that she was secretly a stabbing addict. She explained that she, along with a small fringe group of others, enjoy getting stabbed for pleasure. "Pen knives, letter openers, nail clippers... anything small and sanitary," she explained to a stunned Fool. Then, after showing a deep scar on her belly, she added, "Of course, I'm just making all this up. That scar is from when I got my appendix taken out."

"Oh yeah, I knew that. I knew you were just joking," the Fool lied. He then sheepishly hid in the corner to chug several lagers... or ales... or... at that point, he didn't really care.

Route thus far

Day 15: Breakfast of Chumpions

Waking up in the lap of luxury known to outsiders as the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Baltimore ($208 per night = bargain), the Walking Fool crawled out of his plush bed, bearing a slight hangover. After gulping a few Advils, taking a long hot shower and releasing a long, hearty bowel movement, the WF went downstairs for his complimentary continental breakfast. Observing the half-assed breakfasts offered at Super 8's and Best Westerns, the fool was delighted to find a vast array of breakfast choices from bacon to pancakes to good ol' toast. After taking a modest portion of meats and potatoes and requesting a simple order of 2 scrambled eggs, the fool earned his moniker by discovering a huge sign advertising the low, low cost of $12.95 for the small sampling of food items on his plate. WF slapped his forehead and received a check from a waiter who had an expression on his face that seemed to imply he suspected the fool was somehow trying to steal food.

An hour later, the Fool moseyed past the harbor, waved to tourists, and received convoluted and inaccurate directions from a 75-year old man at the Baltimore Visitors Center. The WF found out later that even though the elderly man was officially employed by the Visitors Center, his job was to restock the brochure tables (plus rumor has it that the man often thought he was in Boise, ID).

Eventually, he made it to the outskirts of the city which would mostly likely be described by the Wilmington man (see Day 9) as "extremely dicey." But he made it through the tough neighborhoods unscathed, finding his way to the Balt/Wash International Airport which had a convenient hike/bike trail that followed the entire border. The Fool enjoyed the off-road trail that would have been extremely tranquil if it wasn't for the booming airplanes that roared a few feet above his head every 5-10 minutes.

After the airport, the WF was back on-road. As he approached the town of Odenton, the fool waved to some young kids whose earnest eyes were glued to his every footstep. The town of Odenton offered a couple things -- a freestanding BBQ stand that served ribs and chili; suspicious police officer that drove very slowly past the fool; and the WB&A trail that went southwest towards the fool's next large destination: Washington, DC.

He camped out just off the trail and inches away from one of the many residential housing communities that were built post-1995.

Day 16: Land of Meyers

The Fool woke up stiff and groggy after semi-sleeping through another 25-degree night. He hopped back onto the rail-trail just as a young lady was power walking by. The lady seemed a bit shaken by this sudden companion who happened to be walking at the same speed, only a few paces behind her. Clearly this frightened her enough to finally switch into a speedy jaunt and put some distance between her and the Fool. She did this until she could reach the safety of the next crossroad.

About an hour later, the Fool was off the trail and found himself at the dead end of a road near a local refinery/factory/some-sort-of-industrial-building. The fool was confused since his map indicated that there was a thru-road that crossed the river, passed a racetrack and hooked back up with the rail trail. He stopped a local workman in his bulldozer/car and asked how to get to the racetrack. The man sullenly shook his head and pointed back the direction where the fool came. He said just 2 words: "route 3." The man drove away and the fool consulted his map. Route 3 was at least 5-6 miles away and would then take him another 5-6 miles out of his way before hooking back up with the racetrack. Desperate, the Fool flagged down another worker in his pickup truck. The kindly man told WF that the roads that led to the river were all owned by the Meyers who didn't take to kindly to trespassers. He also added a tidbit that the Meyers owned many guns and all were eagle-eyed. But the workman didn't seem to dissuade the fool too much. He actually encouraged him to give it a shot, but said to just "keep moving."

Even though the man told him about the disgruntled Meyers and the fact that the bridge was out, the Fool finally decided to go for it. He rambled through the woods for an hour, trying to stay out of sight of any of the Meyers' homes. When he reached the river, the WF discovered it was indeed bridgeless, but fairly broken up. So he took off his shoes and waded through one section, put his shoes back on and walked across a narrow log to get over the 2nd half of the river -- all this while listening to distant gun fire being rattled off at some firing range.

Making it back onto the rail trail by the racetrack, unshot by Meyers and undampened by the river, the sky then proceeded to rain 14 inches of water onto his head and body.

Cold and soaking wet, the Fool decided to check into another hotel. He ate McDonalds and watched "American Idol" at the creepy Red Roof Inn, about 6-7 miles outside of DC.

Day 17: Washington DC

The Fool left the Red Roof Inn, heading into the District of Columbia. The wind was against him -- 35 mph worth. The Fool entered the District like Peter Sellers in "Being There," awestruck by the impressive landmarks. After passing the Capitol Dome, the Washington Monument and the heavily-guarded White House, he reached the Lincoln Memorial right at sunset. He sat on top of the monument's edge, his feet dangling in the orange-colored light. "Ahh!" he sighed, "this is what this walk is all about."
About 3 minutes later, his butt started freezing to the concrete wall he was sitting on. He jumped up and walked through Georgetown to get to the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal trail.

The WF camped on the seemingly quiet Potomac river, thinking he was out of the government sector. He became nervous when he found out from the one of his friends that he was actually less than a mile away from the Vice President's house. To add to his fears, helicopters rattled over ever 20 minutes or so, spotlights scanning the area. The Fool hoped he wouldn't get spotted.

Day 18: Canal Trail Mix

The Fool got up ready to spend the next 10 to 12 days on the C&O trail. Except he forgot to get supplies. So he backtracked to the town of Cabin John to stock up, and sit down for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He plugged in his phone there to recharge it, which was met with many curses from the restaurant manager. After the Chinese scream match, the Fool went back on the trail to hike another 15 miles. Along the way he met nice man with a dog, and saw elderly ladies. Further along the canal he was spooked by catfishermen in hip-high waders and wearing red lights on helmets.

Day 19: Finding Food

Food becoming in short supply, the Fool anxiously worked his way northwest on the trail. He hit the town of Whites Ferry, which was promised to have a shop to buy food and drink. He approached the store which was next to the only ferry crossing on the Potomac River. But he was disappointed to find out that the promised store was closed for the season! The crinkled sun-dyed paper sign in the window said "See you next year!!" and had a little drawing of a snowman waving. Thankfully, there was at least a pair of soda machines there ... and they actually worked. After passing more catfishermen on the trail, a growingly hungry Fool picked up the pace, trying to get to the next town of Point of Rocks. He was told that there was a restaurant right off the trail, called "Aroma House" where he could get a good hot meal. The WF was practically salivating when he saw the dim light of the small town ahead of him, like a small beacon in a large black abiss. But alas, the restaurant that was supposed to be open, was in fact, closed. There was just a liquor store there. "Open 265 days a year" the throaty cashier announced to the Fool as he showcased an array of wines and spirits... but no food.

With an empty stomach, the WF camped on the trail a few miles north of town. The wind was chilly as it swirled off the river and bouncing off the rock cliffs. He shakily set up his tent and ate the last of his kibble -- a small can of soup he cooked in an empty soda can and a few pieces of beef jerky. Yum!

Route thus far

Day 20: The Appalachian Trail and a quick visit to West Virginia

The Fool walked along the trail to Brunswick, following sidewalks and side roads to a McDonald's northwest of the town. After a healthy Big Mac and hot fudge sundae (the kid behind the counter gave him extra peanuts), he then went back down the hill and onto the trail, which coincided with Appalachian Trail for a while. A few mile later he crossed over to Harpers Ferry, WV. Some AT hikers he met along the way claimed the town was the central point of that colossal trail which extends 2,175 miles from Georgia to Maine. As soon as he arrived, he could tell the historic little town was practically screaming "Quaint!" The lower, riverfront area is actually the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, which is maintained to look and feel like a 19th century village. The WF strolled down the picturesque streets, visiting the rustic shops, history exhibits and museums. After chatting with several hippy carpenters visiting from Ohio (who warned him of snowstorms they just left back home), the WF went and bought some much needed liner socks at a hiking store at the top of the steep hill. As the orange sun started dipping into the horizon, the Walking Fool went back into MD. He then camped a couple miles up the trail... ready for another cold night.

Day 21: A Bloody Mess

The Fool woke up cold and shivery after another below-freezing night. He also didn't get much sleep due to the fact that he was about 50 yards from an active railroad line. He slowly made his way up the hill, grumbling. Things got worse as his right foot began to bleed, which was fitting as he got off the trail and visited Antietam, the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War.

He continued on, limping along a back road, trying not to irritate his aching bloody feet. After a quick break to weep, he hobbled on through a hilly farm road, where he met a middle-aged couple in their SUV. They pulled over and offered him a drink, which he declined -- all he wanted was a bed. Having their drink offer rejected, they then offered him some advice: "There are some unsavory folks around here," the balding man warned, "so if a bunch of guys in a pick up truck pull over, I suggest you run." With that, they drove away, letting out a friendly toot on their horn. The Fool finally reached a patch of trees a few miles south of Williamsport, MD where he could set up his tent and rest his injured feet.

A few extra weeps could be heard from passing cars.

Route thus far

Day 22: Tom's Tale

The next morning, after another icy-cold night, the condensation on the inside of tent had frozen. As the Fool shook the tent to fold it, it looked like a snow globe. He headed up the road in eager anticipation of a hotel break in town. As soon as he hit the blacktop road, he happily noted that his right foot was feeling much better. The bleeding had stopped and it didn't really hurt at all. But then, almost 2 minutes later, he stumbled on some gravel in the shoulder of the road, and badly twisted his left ankle. He yelled many bad words into his sky at at the gravel.

Now limping on his other foot, the Walking Fool slowly inched his way to the town of Williamsport, MD. He went to a local McDonald's and chatted with Tom, a WWII vet, who claimed that he fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The WF wasn't sure whether to believe the talkative old man, because every 10 minutes or so he'd interject, "Most people think I'm full of shit!" Then he'd slyly look around and continue with one of his tall tales.

After a long morning at the McDonald's, the Fool walked across the street to the Red Roof Inn. He was delighted to find that the rooms were only $40 a night. The manager, seeing that the WF was weary and tired-looking, decided to put him in a room next to the ice machine, with no windows. But still, not bad for 40 bucks... although Old Man Tom claimed they would give him a room for free if he told them he was walking across the country. More evidence he was perhaps full of it.

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Day 23

The Fool took a full day off from walking to let his feet heal. He ordered a large pizza from the local Pizza Hut, not bothering to put on pants when the delivery guy came. The Fool gave him an ample tip for having to endure the sight.

Day 24: Big Pool

The Fool left Williamsport to get back on the C&O trail. He walked along the wooded path for about 15 miles utill he hit the tiny town of Big Pool. He was lured in the shady, run-down town by the sight of a glowing R&C Cola soda machine. Unfortunately, it was out of order... probably since 1993. So, he plopped down on a patch of grass and snacked on some crackers, staring into a nearby yard strewn with broken toys and discarded furniture. The Fool quickly realized that he stuck out like a sore thumb in the town of Big Pool -- mainly because he had a full set of teeth and was wearing a shirt.

He hightailed it out of there and set up camp about 5 miles up the trail.

Route thus far

Day 25

The Fool walked into the town of Hancock, MD to pick up a general delivery package. When he had to sign for it, he asked "Want me to put my John Hancock there?" but was met a blank stare. He filled up on Pizza Hut and stumbled through a junk yard to get back on the trail. The Fool bounded happily up the trail.

Route thus far

Day 26: A Shortcut is Never a Shortcut

The trail was starting to get the best of the Fool — the monotony of nine days on a canal towpath can get a bit tiresome. "I swear I passed this same rock two days ago," he was heard muttering. But things brightened up when he hit the small blip of a town called Little Orleans, that had, as promised, a small establishment to get food and supplies.

The Fool entered the rickety old building bearing a wooden sign that read, "BILL'S PLACE." Hunters and fisherman gazed upon the strange backpacking newcomer as he entered the dark room. He sat down on a creaky stool at the bar and got himself a hamburger sandwich with a root beer. He spent a good part of his lunch chatting with Bill himself, who was the shop's owner and operator and somewhat of a local celebrity. He's been interviewed by National Geographic Magazine – Twice! Just for being an old guy with the longest running establishment in Little Orleans. Go figure.

About a half hour later, after an inquisitive drunken fisherman in dark green waders started getting a little too much into the Fool's personal space, he figured it was time to depart. He exited Bill's Place and headed down the dirt driveway. However, the drunken fisherman kept following him, still slurring questions like, "Are you going to be camping alone tonight? Where ya gonna be?" followed by defensive, "Not as if I-- I wasn't gonna... I-I wouldn't..." The Fool didn't say anything. He just politely waved goodbye and dashed down the sloping road. Suddenly it dawned upon him that he gave this fishing fella his card earlier... with all his contact info on it. (This was before he got a little too creepy.) This was realized when the Fool bended the corner and he could hear the fisherman say, "I'm gonna EMAIL YOU!"

He has never heard that phrase sound more ominous in his entire life.

After escaping the patrons of Bill's Place, the Fool was soon back on the monotonous canal trail. Still bored with a continuous dirt path, the Fool saw an opportunity to take a shortcut and skip one of the loops of the Potomac River. This would shave several tedious miles from his trip. But when he reached the other side of the loop he came up against a wide and deep canal separating him from the trail. He was forced to shimmy along a marshy embankment at the canal's edge for about a half mile, scale the edge of a rocky cliff, and finally cross the watery canal on a log in order to get back to the towpath/trail. All this took way too long and, in retrospect, would have probably been the same time if he just stuck to the trail.

Next it was on to Paw Paw, WV which he reached through an old 4000-foot tunnel. In Paw Paw he settled down in a newly opened sub shop for a spaghetti dinner. The proprietor was keenly interested in what the Fool thought of his place. The conversation ended with the owner saying "Tell your hiker friends."

Day 27: Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

The Walking Fool got up shaky from another long night of cold weather. He wobbled his way to the town of Oldtown (they're planning on renovating the town soon) about 7 miles up the trail. To keep his mind occupied, the WF had a humorous conversation with God. Naturally, it wasn't really God, it was simply a voice he was doing -- which the "God" character often pointed out to the Fool. "I'm not really God, you know, I'm just a voice you're doing. This is why my vocabulary is so bad."

Once the Fool hit Oldtown, he gingerly headed into town — which consisted of a post office and two houses. The fool heard a rumor that there was a place to get food at an establishment called the "Schoolhouse Kitchen." The fool was wary that such a place existed in such a thin town. He's been burned before. But sure enough, he soon discovered the local high school and right outside the cafeteria entrance was a large banner proudly announcing the "Schoolhouse Kitchen." The Fool was still a little cautious, as it was a Sunday, and it could be closed. But to his utter jubilation, it was open for business and served him up a delicious plate of cafeteria food. (Extra gravy was free!!)

After throwing his napkin down, the WF paid his bill, waved goodbye to the locals and headed back to the trail with a full stomach. About 2 minutes later, that full stomach turned into a full case of diarrhea that bubbled and brewed for the next 3 miles till the Fool could find a port-a-john. He was a much happy walker as he eased his way up to the outskirts of Cumberland, the last stop on the C&O Canal trail.

Route thus far

Day 28: End of a Trail

The Walking Fool got up after a somewhat restful night in the tent and walked the last 2.25 miles of the C&O trail. The Fool shed a tear, waved adieu and headed into historic Cumberland, MD. He immediately discovered George Washington's headquarters from the French and Indian War sitting on the far bank of the Potomac river. The Fool tried to enter the monumental structure, but it was locked. He peered in thru the window and viewed the manniquin display inside.

The Fool then headed up the hillside to enter the heart of the town and happened upon an elevation map that reminded the Fool that he had much uphill to tackle before reaching the hotel in the next town of La Vale.

After waiting (literally) 20 minutes for his order of 2 hotdogs at the chain convenience store SHEETZ, the Fool uttered "holy sheetz!" and consumed the terrible meat byproducts on a bun with mustard.

The Fool then went up the twisting and narrow Braddock Road which led him up the mountainside and then back down to the valley of La Vale — but not before being warned by a local that he should be careful when walking because "people drive like idiots."

He made it to the next town with no harm from idiotic drivers, and got himself a Super 8 Motel room for the next 2 days (59.98 plus tax).

Day 29: A Day Off For Films

The Fool took a day off from his walk. He heard that there was a movie theater in the small La Valle community and decided to go out and find it. He went to where Google Maps said it was, but all he found was a man mowing his lawn. He then noticed a sign indicating a mall on the other side of a small hill. He headed that way. A 20-year-old guy with an open shirt came running down the hill and past the WF. He asked the guy if the mall had a movie theater, to which the guy replied, "Idunno," and continued his mad dash.

The Fool did find the theater which was indeed in the mall. He had an hour to kill until the show started so he watched a guitar video game contest in the food court. 11-year old Bill Foster kicked ass, but his 8-year old sister Betty was wiped out after three guitar licks. He finally went to the theater to see his movie... which was a bad teen/action flick with a dull plot, stupid dialogue, and about twelve cuts per second. The Walking Fool exercised his keen ability to walk... and walked out on the movie about two thirds through.

Day 30: Back on the Road

After a full day's rest, the Fool was ready to tackle western Maryland. First, he hand washed some clothes at the local depression-inducing laundromat. Once back on the road, he suddenly hit a big hill -- a mountain really. He had the divine pleasure to hike up nearly 3000 ft to reach the peak of Big Savage Mountain. And after consulting his map, it was confirmed that this was to be just one of many more peaks to come. The Fool walked 14 more miles where he bought a sub at a Subway and some pea pods at a farmer's market. He set up camp in some woods just outside of a town called Grantsville.

Day 31: The Jubilee Begins

The Walking Fool tramped his way up the steep hill and into Grantsville. He went to a local mini-mart/cafe to get some breakfast but didn't follow the proper ordering procedures so just bought a Powerade instead. He walked another 7 miles to a McDonald's in the middle of nowhere. He ate a hearty salad, packed a few one-dollar double cheeseburgers for later and headed out. As he hit the breezy air, the WF had to choose which way to go: either take a back road which was rough but more direct, or take route 219 which was a main thoroughfare and in better shape, but meandered a bit and would take the Fool a few miles out of his way. After careful consideration, the Fool foolishly chose the back way. Even the name Devils Half Acre Road didn't seem to deter him a bit. It should have, as the back roads were windy and hilly… but at least the cars were scant, so it was fairly quiet and peaceful.

By dusk, a very pooped Fool finally reached the town of Friendsville, MD where he had dinner at the Jubilee Diner. The folks were friendly and the food was fine, but the decor was a bit odd. All the walls were adorned with various bible-inspired sayings like "Work Hard, Pray Hard, Love God." Yet, for some reason, there were also a few inexplicable posters and photos of Don Knotts hung up in-between these reverent sayings.

The fool exited the diner and was greeted with rain. The fool greeted the rain with curse words and sloppily set up his wet tent off a muddy back road.