'He must of stopped off for quite a while after meeting his new bird as ten months to walk 3000 miles is quite slow. Well done to him anyway!'JK2007, a visitor to the Sun newspaper's website
Well, yes, JK2007, I couldn't agree more. It's not just quite slow, it's painfully, tortuously, paint-dryingly slow: only 9.3 miles a day.
Apologies to those of you who've heard this story before, but when I went for my visa interview at the heavily guarded fortress that is the US embassy in London, I pleaded with the woman behind the counter to let me have more than the standard six months.
I could just about manage the walk in that time, I told her, but it would be a route march: twenty miles a day, six days a week. I needed longer if I was really to savour the delights of this country and its people.
She listened impassively as I argued my case, and then was silent for a moment.
I vividly remember her exact words. 'Well, we can't have you rushing something like that, can we?' she said, and stamped my passport November 2007.
If it hadn't been for the bulletproof glass screen between myself and this anonymous functionary, I'd have leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek.
Eighteen months in the United States is a privilege that many people would give their right arm for, and all along the way I've been determined not to squander it.
I've kept steadfastly to my rule of never declining an invitation, and spent time with countless people - not just my bird. When beautiful places beckon, I've succumbed to their enticements rather than just snapping a couple of pictures, looking at my watch and hurrying on. If there's one thing I've learned from this journey, it's that slow is good.
I finally emptied my backpack over the living-room floor yesterday, and it made me very sad. Most of the contents already belong to the past. My four Coast to Coast t-shirts are too worn and faded to keep. I'm unlikely ever to use my Terra Nova ultra-lightweight one-person tent or my Rand McNally map of California again. And my boots are in such a toxic state that I need to drop them down a very deep mineshaft, fill it with heavily reinforced concrete and affix it with skull-and-crossbone signs reading 'Do not open for 10,000 years'.
But the sense of anticlimax is partly offset by pleasurable anticipation. I'm planning to spend my remaining time here doing more volunteer work, translating, and exploring this extraordinary city.
New Orleans has a quite different feel to my last visit a couple of months ago: summer is here now, and the air drips with heat and the heady scent of sweet olive and southern magnolia. Every waking moment is spent doing battle with swarming termites, scuttling cockroaches and whining mosquitoes - and I exaggerate only slightly. But I think I'm going to enjoy my stay.Walking by numbers
Smallest number of miles walked in one day, rest days excluded: 3
Magazine articles about me: 3
Unpleasant people encountered: 3 (One was a woman in Pennsylvania whom I asked for directions. She looked down her nose at me from the wheel of her SUV, wound up the window and drove away. Another was the woman who stole my phone in New Orleans and yelled abuse at me when I asked for it back. And the third was the anonymous driver of a white pickup in Kentucky who sped off without stopping after hitting me. This is not a bad record considering that I met thousands of nice people.)
Radio interviews: 6
TV interviews: 11
States walked through: 13 (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California)
Average daily mileage, rest days excluded: 17
Largest daily mileage: 32
Nights in tent: 33
Nights in the homes of people I met, nearly all of them in the eastern half of the country: 35
Consumption of Subway footlong Veggie Delites on wheat bread with pepperjack cheese, all the veggies and lite mayonnaise (Do you care any more? No, I'm not sure I do either. I emailed Subway's PR department to see if they wanted to use my story, but they didn't reply): 40
Newspaper articles: 40
Nights in hotels: 224
Miles walked: 3,091
PS: I'll let you know in the next couple of days who won a life-changing sum of money in the Picking Up Pennies competition.