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 The illustrious Holly Rose reminded me not long ago that enough happens in a single day to contemplate for a lifetime.  The last week has been a great reminder of that.  We decided to stay an extra day in Charleston and really take in the events during the Piccolo Spoleto festival.  During breakfast at the hostel we met a fantastic older woman who was in town for a roller coaster convention.  One of the things that I have found most interesting on this trip is the various passions of everyone we meet.  Who knew there was even such a thing as a roller coaster convention?

Heading downtown we decided to spend the afternoon at an art festival in the park.  In the course of the afternoon we met far too many people to mention, a disadvantage both of only blogging occasionally and of having the worst memory on record.  At any rate, we did meet an immensely talented photographer who supports both herself and her daughter through her craft.  After talking with her for a while she connected us with a woman by the name of Gracie who was running a homemade jam stand.  Gracie was a gruff older woman, who didn’t even crack a smile as she handed us free lunch and homemade brownies.  I was thoroughly scared of her until we returned to thank her for lunch and she reveal the marshmallow beneath the stony exterior. 

One the way out of the park we past an Italian Ice stand.  There was a beautiful girl handing out free samples, and when she heard what we were doing, filled out Nalgene bottles with the frozen nectar of the gods.  Becca inquired about the hiring process for Italian Ice vendors, as she had noticed only young, beautiful girls were working the carts.  Apparently women are hired in an attempt to lure male customers.  This particular vendor had been hired at the tender age of 13.

We also met a wonderfully talented artist named Marty and her husband Chip.  Immediately we knew we had found kindred souls, and this was only reinforced when they invited us home for the evening.  At one point Marty remarked that we reminded her of Aboriginals in Australia who go on walk-abouts and trust that the universe with provide them with whatever they need to survive.  If the necessities do not come, then it is taken as a sign that they should not be there.  I really liked that comparison, and think there is really something to be said for that lifestyle. 

The next morning we said goodbye to Marty and Chip at the foot of the 3 mile bridge heading into Mt. Pleasant, SC [it was strange being back in Mt. Pleasant].  Immediately after crossing, we saw a sign for a church service a mile away.  Walking up to the church we noticed that everyone was dressed in beautiful summer dresses and suits, and that the kids were wearing seersucker smocks.  We fit right in with our sweaty t-shirts, hiking boots, and giant backpacks.  We were welcomed by a man named Carl who let us stow our backpacks in the entry way so we wouldn’t have to deal with them in the pews.  A congregation membed later mentioned that they were glad Carl took our bags because we might have had guns. 

After service we met a woman named Linda and a woman named Ingrid [or Ingy, as I like to call her].  They were very sweet and welcoming, and Ingrid invited us back to her house for the evening.  As soon as she mentioned that she had a pool, we were sold.  We ended up spending a wonderful two days there full of Scrabble, Star Wars, and S-mores.  Linda came over to spend some time with us [during which she graciously offered to be my graduate school mentor] and we got to meet Matthew, Ingrid’s adorable little boy. 

I find that it keeps getting more and more difficult to say goodbye to the people we meet along the way.  Each has been so special in our lives, and this trip would not be possible without the kindness and genorousity they have shown us.  That said, if we have met or stayed with you on this trip and you are reading this post, please send us a little comment so that we can stay in touch with you.

 

Public libraries love us,

theWALKERS.

 

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Dear Readers,

Something remarkable keeps happen on this trip: our restaurant bills disappear.  We will stop in a small mom and pop diner, the waitress will undoubtedly inquire what we are doing, and an eavesdropping patron will sneakily pay our tab as we devour whatever food is on the table.  It must be magic. 

We were invited to stay in a wonderful little church a couple nights ago, and given the opportunity to speak to the Wednesday night bible study.  The congregation members were incredibly receptive and encouraging, we were fed, had access to showers, and had a roof over our heads during the worst thunderstorm of the trip.  Even better, that church connected us with another church 20 miles down the road that hosted us the next night. 

Needing several necessities, like food and water, we stopped in a store yesterday.  As Becca and Josh were off collecting goods, I sat in the store cafe trying to map our next move.  A man came over to talk to me and ask about our packs.  After a brief explanation, he requested that I stay there for five minutes saying he would be right back.  And he did come right back.  With a fistful of 20s.  All totaled, he press $300 in my hand and walked away without even telling us his name.  Another man gave us a ride through un-walkable construction and provided us with a tube of glow-stick necklaces, in case we needed to sell them for food.  Why he had a tube of 100 glow-stick necklaces in his trunk I’m not sure, but we appreciated it all the same.

Writing from the “not-so-hostel,”

theWALKERS

 

p.s.  Really, Indiana Jones.  That’s how you’re gonna go out?

It’s something us northerners often here but aren’t quite sure what it entails…until now.

We have been welcomed into so many homes and for that we cannot be more thankful.

One hot May day in Cocoa, FL we were finished walking for the night, we walked over to an unpromising, empty church parking lot and there we met the most selfless, knowledgeable man. After our usual spiel, Kate was about to continue to try to persuade the man until we realize that after one short attempt, he had already said “yes.” Stan baked us apple pie and we listened to some fascinating family history. He, literally, opened up his house to us. The night was full of sharing stories and mostly us listening to this man and his unmatched life experiences. In the morning, he took us back out to the road and he prayed for our safe travels. Thank you Stan, you were amazing and that apple pie was just as good as you promised it would be.

Days later, yet another church. Josh claimed that our salvation would be just behind the corner, and it was. We met Sharon as she anxiously awaited a job interview with the church that was settled just behind the corner. She took us in, her big heart couldn’t resist even more strays. We swam in her pool while she made us a pound of spaghetti each. She told us there was nothing for us to do to help her, she exclaimed “just let me be your mom tonight!” We gladly accepted. Sharon, I truly hope that you received the job offer, because no one deserves a job serving under the lord’s house more than you.

Jane Caputi, our professor extraordinaire, found us a place to stay in New Smryna Beach, FL. So for days we were dreaming about sleeping indoors and hot showers when we reached New Smyrna. 27 miles later, we finally had the privilege of meeting this eccentric, beautiful woman. At Holly’s house, though she claims not to be the nurturing type, we were pampered. We had wine and great food and Kate and I were blessed enough to enjoy massages at the hands of her husband, the massage therapist. We hit jackpot. Holly and her husband Tom, were so kind to us, thank you. And to her friends/our dinner dates, thank you for agreeing to be our entertainment, mission accomplished. When we departed from Holly in the morning, we wished we could stay another day, if not forever with her.

The more north we travel, the more farther apartthe towns start to space. So, when we stopped into the only gas station we had seen for miles, we decided we had to find a place to stay right away. As fate would have it, we only had to walk right across the street and knock on the front door of the big pristine yet intimidating house. As usual, we sent sweet and innocent-looking Kate. After what seemed like forever to my worrisome mind, she finally came back out and said that they agreed. Gil and Melody were so honest and genuine. They took us in and we were able to really discuss our cause with them and they expressed an interest in the things that we were walking for, which always motivates us. They added us to their website. Their organization, the Earth Child Foundation, helps children all over the world, and will shortly be continuing its work in Belize.

Walking over the bridge into St. Augustine we entered into a war protest.  We stopped to join in for a moment and had the opportunity to share our mission with the protesters, just as they had the opportunity to shar their mission with us.  It was one of those moments when you realize that despite the pessimistic news, there are people out there working for what they believe in.  It is an incredible thing when two groups of people working so hard for a cause come together.  Everyone can’t do everything, so when we all work towards one or two things that are important to us, and support others working towards what’s most important to them we can change the world.

You know how you just meet the most amazing people in the most unusual ways? Well, that seems to be our pattern. At a pub outside of St. Augustine, we met Aurora and Trevor. The most generous and fun people. They took us under their wing for a day, making sure that we took time to enjoy ourselves. We then got to hang out with the coolest kid named JP, who showed us a thing or to about backyard football.  We had an absolute blast with them. We could not believe our good fortune that we found when we met them. I don’t know if we said it enough or loud enough, but thank you so much for your generosity and young, fun, spirits.

Before we left for this trip, EVERYONE advised us to be careful and after each home we leave, they  advise us to be less trust and “not to talk to strangers.” It’s crazy but that’s all we have been meeting, a whole lot of strangers.

Two gracious and loving strangers took us into their quaint and lovely little bed and breakfast last night. We were walking in blazing heat, me trailing a hundred feet behind when a man, Jack, stopped and took pity on us. He invited us to a town hall meeting, which we gladly accepted to get out of the rain. We not only got out of the rain but nestled ourselves in the most comfortable king size bed ever imaginable. It was so big that I couldn’t even hit Kate when I slept in my usual boomerang style position. We loved those two gracious strangers, Libby and Mike, so much that we decided to stay another day with them. They exhibit what I have always envisionedsouthern hospitality to mean. Beautiful, kind people. It’s like the whole town came out to welcome us. If ever you are looking for a small, gorgeous, Georgia town with phenomenal government teachers to move to, you should give Woodbine a careful consideration.

This short (but maybe pretty size-able to the reader) blog can never do this walk justice. We have met so many big-hearted, loving, generous good people. The people we have met and had the opportunity to speak with make the miles more than worth it. Before I left, a good friend told me I have too much faith in people, now I know that my faith was rightfully placed.

We cannot say thank you enough but I will try: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your actions have never and will never go unappreciated by the East Coast Walkers.

Walk on,

theWALKERS

Dear Florida,

You are too long and much too hot.  And sometimes you catch on fire and it’s super scary.  Please cut it out.

Sincerely,

theWALKERS

Hokay,

The past few days have been absolutely amazing in every way. Last Wednesday we were feeling a little downtrodden after spending all day walking past the most elaborate decadence any of us had ever experienced. My favorite Robin Williams quote came to mind [cocaine is god’s way of telling you that you have too much money] and I can’t help thinking he wasn’t entirely accurate. Hey, South Florida!When you have to import two hand-carved ebony lions to guard your 17-bedroom palace, three Ferraris, three million dollar yacht, and private beach, guess what? You have too much money.

After a day of endless displays of wealth and no friendly faces, we stop for dinner at the first restaurant we see, collapse inside the beautiful air-conditioning, and experience the first glad tidings of the day. The waitress—so sweetly understanding that we can’t really afford this restaurant [or really any restaurant] in the first place—treated us dessert. There’s nothing quite like New York style cheesecake to turn the day around. And just because our spirits were beginning to lift, the universe decided it was time for Becca’s backpack break. With one strap dangling completely unattached from the bottom of the pack, we hobbled outside wondering if the day could get any worse… and then we remembered that we had nowhere to sleep. Enter Jane Caputi.

It just so happens that a women’s studies professor from Florida Atlantic University was dining at the same swanky restaurant that had just enabled our dessert habit, noticed our shirts and offered to take us in for the night [cue inspirational music]. And what’s better than New York style cheesecake? New York style cheesecake and key lime pie in the same night [I walked 20 miles today. I get to eat as much dessert as I want]. After an incredible night of conversation, because talking political theory is about as recreational as it gets for us, we were rewarded with showers, clean clothes and beds. You know, those little things we used to take for granted. What is more, her partner is an engineer who was able to successfully mend Becca’s broken pack.

Thursday turned out to be the flip side of Wednesday’s coin, as our most interesting conversations were with homeless folks. The first, Charlie, helped us polish off our bucket of extra crispy KFC, and served as a tour guide, entertainer, and companion. The second, Maggie, is what I would like to be if I were a homeless prostitute addicted to crack-cocaine. We had wound up in an unsavory part of town just as the sun was setting, and just in case we hadn’t noticed, Maggie clued us in with her opening line.

Maggie: Do you know where you are right now?

Us: Riviera Beach?

Maggie: No. You’re in Rob-a-bitch.

She gave us every literally every resource that she had; directions, knowledge of the area, the poetry she had spent her life composing, and even shoulder rubs because our bags were heavy. Perhaps my early statement about Maggie was unfair. We have met some fantastic people on this walk, but none have stood out in their utter selflessness like Maggie. I could only hope to have half of her spirit, regardless of where I go in life.

Two nights ago we found ourselves making excellent process, and we were ahead of schedule when we stopped in a small diner for dinner. As is becoming the norm, our waitress was curious as to why we (a) were carrying such large backpacks, and (b) smelled so bad. After sharing our story and our cause, the waitress thanked us for our efforts and returned to the kitchen. When she returned she was holding a fist full of ones and offered them to us with barely contained tears. “The other waitresses and I want to buy you dinner. You are walking for us.” Everyday I cannot help but feel overwhelmingly grateful that I have the privilege of meeting these people and hearing these stories. Each one reminds us why we are walking, and, although our hearts our heavy, our steps are light.

Yesterday, we decided to splurge and get a hotel because we were in desperate need a of a shower. About a mile away from the Holiday Inn, a woman named Joanne stopped to see if we needed a ride. She bought us smoothies and drove us the remaining distance to the hotel. In that time we had such an amazing conversation, with her sharing personal stories from her past and us sharing similar ones. It was a great connection, and we are truly sorry not to have gotten a last name- especially when she snuck into the hotel after we had checked in and paid for our room. Joanne, if you are reading this, you were an absolute blessing in our lives and we thank you.

These are the cliff notes to some amazing life experiences. In no way have I done them justice, and there are many that I haven’t even had time to mentioned, but the moral of the story is that there are amazing people in this world, and they seem to crop up just when you need them the most.

Enjoy the air-conditioning,

theWALKERS.

Day Two

‘ello Dear Reader,

Here we are in beautiful Pompano Beach, FL, staying with the most wonderful couple from Michigan.  Becca knew they were winners as soon as she spied the Tiger’s shirt.  So far the walk has been going wonderfully.  We got off the plane yesterday and started walking immediately, putting us a full day ahead of schedule.  Earlier today we strolled along Fort Lauderdale Beach.  We have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of amazing individuals, most of whom have been very supportive of our cause and walk.  One woman told us about her son who once walked across the country lengthwise by himself.  She told us that he always told her how kind people were, and how they never let him pay for anything.  Then she handed us $15. Amazing. The count of people who say “you must be crazy” when hearing about our journey, 22 people.  The count of people who have no grasp on the actual length of a mile, everyone.  Keep reading, and we’ll keep writing.

Walk On,

theWALKERS

Welcome to the home of the East Coast Walkers.

We are a group of students from Central Michigan University that exists to educate and enlighten all people on the frequency and dynamics of sexual violence in order to create an educated society and reduce the occurrence of acts of sexual violence; this goal is to be achieved through a three month walk in the summer of 2008 through the states of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusettes. Furthermore, the organization aims to provide funding to staff the Isabella County Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and provide rape evidence exams to survivors of sexual assault at no cost to the survivor.

In order for the walk to take place, $8000 must be raised by April 30th. As of March 19, the walkers are still $3500 away from that goal. If you would like to contribute to our cause, please see the “Donate” page for information. If you would like more information on who we are and what we do, check out the “About” and “The Walkers” pages. If you are interested in information not available on this site, please email us at east.coast.walkers@gmail.com.

Thanks So Much,

The Walkers

Header Photograph by Steven Jessup, The Myrtle Beach Sun News