Road Blog
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Thursday, August 31, 2006

All in a day's work, no. 3


Chloe, a ten-year-old basset hound, works as a therapy dog in the burns institute at the Shriners Hospital for Children, Cincinnati, and lives with Ken and Terri Ralenkotter. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk to me.

'I've been doing this job for the past eight and a half years, and I'm the longest-serving dog at the hospital.

'Kids are often very scared when they're admitted to hospital, and they like to see familiar things that remind them of home. A lot of them have dogs themselves, and their faces light up when they see me. They pet me, which is very therapeutic for them, and I also do tricks like jumping through hoops and over sticks, which makes them laugh.

'I visit once or twice a week for between 45 and 60 minutes - any more than that, and I'm exhausted. I also work in adult daycare centres and nursing homes.

'I started this job when my owner Terri's daughter, Eleanor, was in hospital at the age of four. They saw some therapy dogs, and because I've always been very friendly, Terri thought maybe it was something I could do.

'I was tested by Therapy Dogs International, and I had to be registered, certified and insured. Every two years, my temperament is reevaluated to make sure I'm OK with patients and with other animals. I have to meet and greet a stranger, and they also do things like dropping a saucepan behind me and squeezing my feet and pulling my tail - these are the kinds of things that the kids do.

'I have to be at home with wheelchairs, and with the face masks that some of the children wear to smooth the scarring from their burns. The testers also simulate arguments and push each other around, just like people do in real life, but I don't bat an eyelid.

'You might think it's a bit unhygienic having dogs wandering round a hospital, but I have to be bathed 24 hours before each visit and protected against fleas and ticks. I also have throat cultures and other tests carried out every six months.

'I have various costumes for special occasions, like an evening gown, Halloween costumes, Easter bonnets and Christmas antlers. But I don't wear them very often. Once, a guy yelled at Terri: 'That dog should be out chasing rabbits, not dressing up like a kid'. What he didn't realise was that chasing rabbits is one of my favourite occupations.

'I've been on TV several times. I gained an honorary mention in the Awards for Canine Excellence, and two years ago I was inducted into the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association's Animal Hall of Fame. In 2002, I was named Miss Basset Hound Club of America.

'I visit all the different parts of the hospital - intensive care, radiology and so on - except the birthing centre. I figure the people there have other things on their minds.'

Walton, Kentucky. 700 miles.

There are two things I particularly associate with Kentucky: horses, and white fences.

I've seen plenty of both since I crossed the Ohio river into the state two days ago, and as I look out of the window here on the farm where I'm staying, the rolling hills are dotted with grazing horses. Route 42, the quiet country road I'm following south to Louisville, passes the end of the driveway.

Last night, a photographer from the Kentucky Enquirer came to take my picture while I was out hiking. As he finished, he gestured in the direction I was headed. 'Couple of miles that way, the road narrows to two lanes. Once you get past there, they're all good folks,' he said.

I thought he was generalising somewhat, but so it has proved: I bumped into Terri in a restaurant having dinner with three friends, and after about two minutes' conversation she'd invited me home to meet husband Ken, daughter Eleanor and a veritable Noah's ark of horses, cats, birds, fish - and dogs, of which more in a moment.

Terri has a 21st-century portfolio career: she provides boarding for horses, works in a veterinary clinic, and runs a graphic design business. Ken is a draughtsman with an engineering company in Cincinnati.

There's a definite chill in the air this morning, and the weather has acquired an autumnal tinge. The temperatures, which have been in the 80s Fahrenheit every day since I arrived, have now slipped into the 70s, and a couple of days ago I found myself trudging through piles of dead leaves for the first time. That's why I'm making my way southwards: I'm enjoying the summer, and I want it to last as long as possible.



Monday, August 28, 2006

Cincinnati, Ohio. 680 miles.


I can't be bothered to do an entry today, so in true Glasgow Herald spirit, I'm going to let other people write it for me.

I'll start with a sneaky cut-and-paste from the blog of fellow long-distance hikers Dave and Stu which explains where I am and what I'm doing:
'I have to be quick, because if not I'll miss the finger buffet. This one comes to you from the 21st floor of the Hyatt in downtown Cincinnati where we are staying as the guest of the one and only Phil Goddard - another English coast to coast walker you might remember we met in Hancock, Maryland. To cut a long story short, our paths have crossed again with Phil and we've decided to meet up and talk walk.

'We're here in this marvellous location because last night Phil ...got a good deal on a room here at the Hyatt. So here we are, sitting in the lap of luxury, about to go to the free buffet down the hall...'
Continuing with an email from Jack at the Association for International Cancer Research, the charity I'm walking for, who is clearly short of gainful employment at the moment:
'If you Google "Glasgow Herald plagiarism" (without the inverted commas), your posting appears eighth in the list. That'll teach them!

'Even more hilariously, try Googling "failure" or miserable failure" (apologies if you know this one already).'
And finally, a word from Michelle, easily the funniest person I have met on my trip. Not content with inviting me to dinner, putting me in touch with all her media contacts and regaling me with jokes in a range of stunningly convincing international accents, she wrote a song and sang it down the phone to me. No one has ever written me a song before. It goes like this:
The walking man's song

I met a man from London town
Walking down Madison Road;
I said 'Come on and climb on in
And lighten your backpack load.'*

He said he'd journeyed two months now
Starting in New York City;
He'd taken 40 west he said -
The cornfields sure were pretty.

The inspiration for this trek
Was his lady Jayne.
The cancer came and claimed her quick
And now he walks through the pain.

So if you meet him on his way,
Help him with a donation
To raise funds for the international
Cancer research foundation.
*I didn't cheat by accepting a ride - Michelle later drove me back to the exact location where we'd met, so I could continue walking. There ought to be a word for this, like "slackpacking" for walking without a pack. Any suggestions?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pleasant Ridge, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati). 672 miles.

I'm immensely grateful for every one of the 156 donations on my Justgiving website, which are from friends, family, and people I've met or who have read about me along the way. But some have stories behind them that make them particularly special to me.

One was the $500 donated by children from Meadow Run school in Farmington, Pennsylvania, the proceeds of selling homemade bread to passing drivers. Another was the 99.66 given by Candis Roberts (I still don't know who she is), taking my total to exactly 10,000.

And then there was the donation from 'Technical crew, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang UK tour', which had me mystified for a long time. It turns out that Henry, the brother of my brother-in-law Richard, is a lighting technician on the musical of that name. He and his colleagues were in the pub, and they decided to forego a round of drinks and send the money to me instead.

And the most recent appears in the name of the Glasgow Word Thieves. It was sent by Richard (the same one), who's a Florida-based freelance journalist. A few months ago, he wrote a story on the space shuttle for the Guardian newspaper in the UK . Days later, he was horrified to find large chunks reproduced verbatim in the Glasgow Herald under another reporter's name. He took them to task.

'We thought it was important for our readers that we have some coverage of the shuttle, even if it was from another paper,' they blustered. They didn't apologise (they still haven't), but they offered to pay a token amount. So the resulting 50 is now there on my site for all the world to see, testimony to a shameless act of plagiarism that brings further disgrace to an already deeply tarnished profession.


(Thanks to Tom and Mo Stull for their generosity, and their contribution to another wonderful day of slackpacking)

Friday, August 25, 2006

All in a day's work, no. 2.



I met Harry Gaia, 49, preaching at a busy intersection in the northern suburbs of Cincinnati.

?The Lord has told me to go from city to city and town to town telling people that this is the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ. I drive and sleep in my truck. I?ve been doing it since January, but it all started long before then, when I lost my job as a plasma cutter, cutting metal for a steel company in Memphis, Tennessee.

?I was living in a bad neighbourhood. I was sitting in my my car, which had broken down, when God appeared to me on the sidewalk. He told me: ?God wants you to do something.? ?What do you want me to do?? I asked him, but he just put his hand upon me.

?As a result of this, I became totally different. My wife became afraid of me and divorced me, and she and my 19-year-old son left.

?What really made me take to the road was when George Bush passed a law allowing radio stations to buy up TV companies and newspapers. He said ?I love diversity?, but he was creating exactly the opposite, taking control of the media for the Antichrist.

?So I bought my bullhorn and made up my signs, and the first place I drove to was St Louis. I got out of my truck, walked a few blocks and stood outside the courthouse. I was scared to death, shaking with nerves, but the Lord put all this fear and anxiety out of me and I preached for seven hours solid.

'I go to intersections like this one, and places where crowds gather, like ballgames. Most people just drive by, but some people shout ?Praise God? or ?God be with you?, and others pray with me or invite me to church. Others curse me or throw stuff, but I ask the Lord to forgive them. I preach for an average of six hours a day. Sometimes the police tell me I can?t use my bullhorn, so then I just shout, which makes me hoarse.

?I never know where I?m going next, because the Lord has given me free will. If you asked me what my job description was, I?d say I?m an instrument of God.?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Waynesville, Ohio. 637 miles.

Today was my best day of hiking yet, thanks to Mary Taylor and husband Steve. Remember the people from CrossWalk America I bumped into a couple of weeks ago, heading in the opposite direction to me? Well, two of them stayed with Mary and Steve, and when Mary read about me on their website she phoned and asked if I'd like to stay too. That's what kind of person she is.

I arrived in Xenia, the nearest town, and Mary picked me up. She suggested I stay two nights, and they'd collect me from wherever I ended up walking today. That's what kind of person she is too.


Steve, Mary and their two corgis Vinnie and Shy Ann pose outside their delightful Spring Valley home
(C) Hello! magazine 2006

This meant I could walk for an entire day and leave my pack at their house, which was my idea of heaven. By the way, it's called slackpacking - I'm indebted to fellow British cross-country footsloggers Dave and Stu for this nugget of information.

The walking was idyllic - at Steve's suggestion, I left the road and followed the Ohio to Erie trail, a secluded, treelined cycle path. As usual, the sun shone from a near-cloudless sky. I went for another swim, in the Little Miami river. And I celebrated my good fortune by breaking my No Beers With Lunch Because They Dehydrate You rule, giving me the worst headache I've ever had in my life, a real thudder that ruined my afternoon. Trust me to blow it just when things are going so well.

Placenames. I'm sorry to trivialise all these delightful historic towns by being so preocupied with their names, but anyone who knows me will be aware that I have a near-autistic obsession with words, and I'm really pleased that after my visit to Zanesville, in the past two days I've been through Yellow Springs, Xenia and Waynesville. Notice a pattern emerging?

Also, this is definitely the first place in the world I've visited whose name starts with X. I don't want any smartarses telling me I've been to a hamlet in Greece called Xeroftikon, because I haven't.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Summerford, Ohio. 581 miles.

I enjoyed a rare taste of freedom yesterday. Pete Yoder, whose hospitality I'm enjoying at the moment, ferried my backpack here in his car, allowing me to walk for half a day with nothing to carry for the first time. It was a real treat. I don't mind my pack, but it weighs 40 pounds and sometimes, especially towards the end of the day, it can be a real burden as I constantly shift it around in an attempt to get comfortable.

I was in a bookshop the other day reading a book on ultra-lightweight camping, and it had a whole chapter on how to reduce your pack weight to 5 pounds. That's the kind of thing I can only dream of. I'm usually good at travelling light, and I constantly review the contents of my luggage (a couple of days ago, my 700-page guidebook was consigned to the bin because it's mainly about big cities, and this trip is mainly about small towns), but I really feel I need all the stuff I have.

As I walked, I spotted a hidden bend in the river beside the road. Show me any expanse of open water, and I feel a compulsion to immerse myself in it, so I dabbled for half an hour as the cars sped by a hundred yards away. The opposite bank was a firmament of star-shaped purple and yellow flowers, the air filled with pale-blue mayflies and monarch butterflies and the hum of crickets. So much goes on unseen by human eyes, especially in this vast country.

The landscape changes abruptly west of Columbus: horizons broaden, the sky and the clouds assume a more dominant presence, and the road is lined with huge expanses of corn and soybeans. It's beautiful, but you can have too much of a good thing.

After Pete had shown me round some of his own farmland, we sat down at the dining table with a pile of maps. 'There's lots more of this on route 40,' he told me. 'Basically, it's like this all the way across Indiana and Illinois. If I were you, I'd start heading south. Go to Kentucky. It's much more scenic - it even has hills.'

So that's what I'm going to do. Route 40 has served me well for more than 300 miles, and it could have taken me to Salt Lake City, but it's time for a parting of the ways.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Columbus, Ohio. 554 miles.

Some useful statistics. Well, sort of.
  • Car crashes witnessed: 1
  • TV interviews: 1
  • Times told off by police officers for walking on interstate: 1
  • Times walked on interstate without being spotted by police officers: 1
  • Radio interviews: 2
  • Dogs that haven't barked at me: 3 (but one of these was Maxy, who's so clever he must be Albert Einstein reincarnated in canine form)
  • Autographs signed: 4 (but one of these was "in case you get famous")
  • Consumption of Subway Foot-Long Veggie Delites on wheat bread with pepper jack cheese, all the veggies and lite mayonnaise: 7 (I have a rule that if I'm hungry and I go past a Subway, I eat one. I don't know why, because I'm getting fed up with them. It's a bit like Supersize Me, but without the trans fatty acids)
  • Nights in tent: 9
  • Nights in people's homes: 11
  • Newspaper interviews: 18
  • Nights in motels: 34
  • Dogs that have barked at me: approx. 150
  • People walking or cycling across America at any one time: approx. 1 million. This figure was extrapolated by my brother Nigel based on the number of people I've met who are doing a similar thing, the population of the US, and the number of possible routes across the country. He doesn't have any statistical qualifications that I know of, and I think he may have added a few extra zeroes by mistake.
  • Approximate number of steps taken: 1,329,600
And some thankyous...
to Shirley Haynes, John and Shirley Vingle, Diane and Ted Mueller, and Dan, Mim, Logan and Emma Halterman, for all your generous hospitality.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What the papers say

I'm starting to add links to my cuttings file in case you're interested. It's no good linking to the papers themselves, because a lot of them start charging for content after 14 days.

If you read some of these pieces and think "Phil would never say something like that," it's because Phil never did say anything like that. Much as I'm grateful to all the journalists for the valuable publicity they've given me, they do have a habit of making up quotes now and then. "Bugging the heck out of your doctor"? I may be going native a bit (today I tried a glass of root beer with my lunch and almost enjoyed it), but does that sound even remotely like me?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bexley, Ohio. 549 miles.

My favourite person of the week is someone I've never met. I don't know who she is or where she lives, but her name is Candis Roberts. She visited my Justgiving website, calculated that I needed 99.66 to achieve my 10,000 goal, and donated precisely that amount. I like her because her generosity is equalled only by her sense of humour.

Candis - if you're reading this, please phone or email so I can thank you properly for helping me to achieve this milestone. Meanwhile, I've upped my target to 12,000 ($22,700), which I hope is not too optimistic.

Bexley is a posh district of Columbus - the governor of Ohio lives here, and so does the city's mayor - named after the nondescript south London suburb just a few miles from where I live.

I'm still following route 40 after more than 250 miles, and it's been very strange over the past 24 hours to see the road evolve from a relatively sleepy cornfield-lined two-lane country road into the main street of a metropolitan area that's home to 1.7 million people.

This is my first big city since New York, and I must confess to a sneaking enjoyment of the eight miles of strip mall-land I passed through today - unlike the cornfields, there's always something going on to make the time pass more quickly. And while I'm no great fan of Starbucks' bid for global domination, I couldn't resist nipping into their first branch since New York for an espresso - a commodity I miss very much simply because I can never find it here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Zanesville, Ohio. Exactly 500 miles.

My much-loved but pedantic friend Tim has reminded me that I've also been to Zermatt, Switzerland and Zeebrugge, Belgium. Well, OK, but you get the idea.

Anyway, those hardworking people in the coincidences department have been working overtime, and today they pulled off a real coup. As I walked out of Norwich, I saw four hikers heading towards me. Seeing anyone using their legs as a means of propulsion is rare enough in this country, but these were the first people in seven weeks who were actually walking on the road for its own sake, rather than because their car had broken down or something.

We stopped to chat, and I learned that they were part of a team of seven progressive Christians hiking from Phoenix to Washington DC in a project called CrossWalkAmerica, seeking to encourage greater tolerance and offer an alternative to religious fundamentalism. They'd notched up 2,100 miles since Easter Day, so the end was in sight. I particularly envied them for their support vehicle, which allowed them to concentrate on the thing that mattered most: putting one leg in front of the other. They invited me to dinner in the evening, I accepted with pleasure, and we said our farewells.


Left to right: Stephen Yarbrough, from Zanesville, spending a day with the walkers; Eric Elnes; Rebecca Glenn; Mark Creek-Water, who has been drinking from muddy brown rivers for the past ten years with no significant side effects.

Less than a minute later, as I was picking up my backpack and moving off, two cyclists rode up. "Are you crossing America for cancer research?" one of them asked. "So are we."

Jacob and Ezra Pierce are part of a six-strong group of college students, pedalling from San Francisco to Baltimore to raise money for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Three of them are from Britain's second best university.

Actually, I'm not sure "pedalling" is quite the right verb, evoking, as it does, little old ladies wobbling their way to village cricket matches. No, these guys are the real deal, streaking across the prairies at a phenomenal 600 miles a week, their bloodstreams untainted by even the merest hint of performance-enhancing substances. They left SF on 3 July, and expect to cross the finishing line on 14 or 15 August.

These people really put me in my place. Any reasonably fit person can walk across America if they want to, but not everyone can cycle it in less than six weeks. As if that weren't enough, the prose on their website is as finely crafted as a Shimano cotterless titanium alloy crankpin.

Dinner with my fellow walkers was a delight. We ate in the grounds of a church in Zanesville, compared notes on crucial issues of the day like blisters, daily mileages, and objects we'd found beside the road, and enjoyed a tour of this fascinating city.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Norwich, Ohio. 490 miles.

From one East Anglian city to another - though the locals very sensibly pronounce it Nor-Witch.* And talking of placenames, barring an encounter with a runaway truck I should be in Zanesville tomorrow. This is only the third place I've ever been to that begins with a Z, the others being Zurich, Switzerland and Ziguinchor, Senegal.

Absolutely nothing happened today, which is why I'm boring you with this trivia. I wrote my blog in a motel, walked 14 miles in an almost perfectly straight line and wrote my blog in another motel.

Actually, it's not totally true that nothing happened. I received a hugely generous 1,000 donation from the UK stationery chain John Menzies, leaving me a mere whisker away from my 10,000 target. It seemed such an impossibly large amount when I arbitrarily set it less than four months ago, and I remember wondering whether I'd even come close. Anyway, I've increased it to 12,000 (about $23,000), and if you haven't donated yet and would like to, please visit www.justgiving.com/uswalk. And thank you so much to everyone that has.

Yesterday was a one-day record for me, at 24 miles. This was due not to a burst of superhuman energy, but to my determination not to spend a second miserable night in the tent, even though the nearest motel was 24 miles away.

*Back home, it rhymes with porridge.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cambridge, Ohio. 476 miles.

On the Phil Goddard Acts of Kindness Scale, the attractive little town of St Clairsville (also known as "paradise on the hill") scores an impressive three.

First there was the manager of the Econolodge motel who, when he heard what I was doing, gave me a whopping discount on my room, presented me with a meal voucher for a Texan restaurant a mile down the road, and insisted on driving me there himself.

Then there was Charlie and Michelle Donley. They drove up to me, asked what my favourite milkshake flavour was, and brought me one as I continued walking.

Frank Curtis also came up to me in his car, said he was off to a Rotary Club lunch, and invited me to join him. He showed an instant and admirable understanding of the rules of my walk, offering to drive me back to exactly the same spot after we'd finished.

I received a warm welcome from the Rotarians, who asked me to say a few words about what I was doing and spent much of the rest of the time exchanging extremely upmarket badinage. In my favourite example, the chairman picked on a hapless colleague and said: 'Hey, Tom, is that a seersucker suit I see you're wearing?' Tom shifted in his seat and admitted that it was. 'Do you know why they call them seersucker?' No. 'Because Sears sell 'em, and suckers buy 'em.'

Afterwards, Frank took me home and introduced me to his wife Suzanne, his granddaughter Emily, and the most extraordinary model railway layout I've ever seen, occupying the entire basement of his house and complete with realistic sound effects.

By way of contrast, I spent the night in a village which shall remain nameless. It was the worst example of rural poverty I've ever seen in the US: half the houses were abandoned and had long since given up any attempt at verticality, while the main street was lined with skeletal, shattered hulks that had once been cars and were now rapidly becoming smothered in vegetation. I passed a long-defunct showroom of some kind, its roof caved in and its floor littered with broken glass and yellowing papers - and just as I walked by the open door, the phone started ringing, like something out of a David Lynch film.

I continued to the end of the street, briefly considered pitching my tent in the cemetery before deciding against the idea of sharing a night with lots of dead people, and ended up in a field. I got hardly any sleep because I was suffering from really bad itching all over the top half of my body, possibly some kind of allergic reaction. The whole area cast a pall of gloom over me.

My sister Jacqui often researches the places I visit, and today she told me what she'd found out about the village. According to local legend, the cemetery is haunted. A severed hand reputedly stalks it at night, and if you walk round it six times you'll disappear, never to be seen again. So it looks like I had a narrow escape.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Wheeling, West Virginia. 429 miles.

Found objects, part 1
Americans hate to be untidy, so if they have any rubbish in their cars they immediately throw it out of the window. I like this, because stepping over it every five yards is good exercise for my knees.

Apart from the obvious stuff - beercans, half-empty bottles of Gatorade, stained copies of Playboy - I occasionally come across more unexpected items that get my imagination going. How did these once-loved objects end their lives abandoned and forgotten beside the road? If they could speak, what terrible human tragedies would they recount? Sometimes, I occupy my underused mind by dreaming up stories for them.


This cheeky little professorial chappie was doing the same thing as me, crossing America, but on a tricycle. Sadly, he'd only got as far as New Jersey when one of his back wheels fell off. He shouted for help, but no one heard him until I came along. I don't know why he' s holding a magnifying glass.

The owner of this smart, nearly new pair of women's shoes was out for a Sunday afternoon stroll when she was abducted by aliens.


I like the fact that I am almost certainly the first person in human history to have photographed an Oberto Snackers Hot Pickled Sausage lying in the road.

Elsewhere, I found what appeared to be the entire contents of a butcher's shop: steaks, sausages, chops, all in their original packaging and with several days to go until their sell-by date. I was tempted to tuck in, but the temperature was in the high 90s Fahrenheit so I thought better of it.


This camera-shy tortoise was going nowhere fast and carrying its house on its back. It reminded me of me.


And these two items speak volumes: a framed photograph of a woman, and a wedding card in a sealed envelope, which I opened. I found them half a mile apart.

To my fevered imagination, they can only mean one thing: all the dreams they dreamt that day weren't theirs to have and hold, and their joys will not grow deeper as the coming years unfold. Alicia jilted Brian at the altar, and he is trying to erase all memories of her. Or something.


Barbed compliment of the week

"Wow! I love your accent. It makes you sound so good-looking".
-Chambermaid in my hotel yesterday morning.

Still in St Clairsville

I've had another few days off and plan to start walking again tomorrow.

I actually retraced my steps by hitching back to Uniontown to see friends - a journey which had taken me six days on foot took only a few hours by car. It was like being in a movie that was speeded up and played in reverse, reminding me of what a distorted sense of time and distance walking gives you. But then, who's to say it's my perceptions that are distorted rather than those of the drivers flashing by at 55 mph?

Everyone says hitching isn't what it used to be, but I disagree. I've done it a few times on this trip: there have been two bridges that pedestrians aren't allowed to cross, a five-mile detour from my main route to visit Fallingwater, and now this. It still seems exactly the same as my first time in the US twenty-seven years ago, with the same infuriating but delightful unpredictability. All these drivers have in common is their willingness to help a stranger - one guy was a lawyer, the next a coal miner.

It's been a happy and relaxing time, and I'm learning to stop being obsessed with racking up fifteen miles a day, seven days a week. I'm also learning to overcome my traditional British reserve and starting conversations with strangers at every possible opportunity. Being American, they always respond positively and I've met some really interesting people as a result.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

St Clairsville, Ohio. 436 miles.

Over the past couple of days, I've had a small flood of emails and phone calls from complete strangers, mostly in Kansas City, offering donations, encouragement and, most importantly, beer. They are employees of the telecoms company Sprint, which has just published a story about me on its intranet.

Sprint has a scheme that involves lending phones to people like me free of charge. Mine has been an absolute boon, and I'm extremely grateful.

Here's the article.
Brit walking across America with Sprint phone and a backpack

(Aug. 1, 2006) Phil Goddard wouldn't describe himself as outdoorsy, but that hasn't stopped him from attempting to walk 4,000 miles across America with just a backpack and a Sprint phone.

Goddard always dreamed of seeing America by foot, but this walk means so much more to him than fulfilling a dream. It's a matter of healing and giving.

For years, Goddard's wife, Jayne, suffered from stomach pains. She was continually diagnosed with different illnesses, but nothing got rid of the pain. She again visited her doctor last June, and to her surprise, she was immediately rushed to the hospital. That's when they received the tragic news: She had colon cancer. Within seven months, she died.

Goddard decided to leave his home in London for the highways and byways of rural America to raise money for the Association for International Cancer Research, which funds cancer research projects around the world. When he finishes in California, Goddard expects to raise more than $18,000 for the group.

"The walk seemed to be a good thing to do -- take my mind off thinking about Jayne and think about what I want to do next," Goddard said.

On June 25, Goddard began his "Journey for Jayne" in New York's Times Square. Sprint donated a Samsung MM-A920 phone and also is providing free phone service, which includes MapQuest Find Me, Picture Mail and the phone-as-modem option.

"I was impressed and touched by Phil's desire to turn a tragic experience into a positive one," said Laura Porter, manager-Corporate Communications. "Sprint's donation has allowed Phil to use the many features of his phone to help him on his journey."

Goddard says his Sprint phone has been invaluable to the success of his walk. He says he mainly uses it for "good old-fashioned phone calls," so he can keep in touch with friends and family.

"I'm basically on my own, a solitary existence," Goddard said. "To be able to get the phone out of my pocket and chat with my parents, it's like I'm not doing this thing on my own."

Goddard also keeps in touch with reporters from local media to promote his walk and tell more people how to donate. He says without the access to reporters, he would not be nearly as successful in his fundraising.

"Basically, I don't think I would be able to raise very much money without my phone," he said.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The road not taken




Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I?
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

California at last!



After more than a week of dallying, I've put on a burst of speed and made it all the way to California.

No, not Arnie Schwarzenegger's land of perpetual sunshine, but the Pennsylvania town of the same name - but I did think one day, with luck, I'll walk past a similar sign and it really will be the Golden State.

I'm actually in another town with a more famous namesake: Washington, Pennsylvania. My daily mileage has dwindled pitifully, for three reasons: feet, heat, and the people I meet.

My shins seem to be improving, and I've had two pain-free days. The temperatures are fearsome: today large parts of the eastern US are into the triple digits Fahrenheit. And the people: well, I don't know if it's something they put in the water here in western PA, but I've been basking in some truly extraordinary hospitality.

Most recently, it was from Robert, Adrienne, Aaron, Aidan and Patrick, who despite going through a period of huge upheaval in their own lives provided me with many hours of wonderful company and conversation. We spent a magical evening yesterday in a cemetery, hunting deer (with a telephoto lens, that is) as the sun went down, and then sharing jokes and a couple of six-packs.

I've almost reached the end of Pennsylvania now: next comes a little twenty-mile sliver of West Virginia, followed by Ohio. I still feel I've made only a tiny inroad into the map of the US, but then I see signs to places I passed through eighty or a hundred miles ago and realise I am making some progress.


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Jayne Comins
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Jayne Comins, 17 June 1956 - 25 Jan 2006
17 June 1956 - 25 Jan 2006
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