10,000 Steps

“You’re doing the Camino?” he asked.  “Did you start practicing yet?”

“No,” I replied sheepishly.  “But it’s not until May, so I’ve got time.”

He looked at me with wide eyes.  “You should be out there – at least an hour every day.”

It was August, 2011.  I was not planning on starting my preparations until January, 2012, but this guy scared me a little.  Gerald Murphy had hiked most of the Appalachian trail.  He’d biked coast to coast. He was here at the Folk School leading paying students on ten mile hikes every day that week.  He knew what he was talking about.  But I knew that people can only do so much at one time, and my focus for the next four months was on two things: my job at the Folk School and my classes at the Folk School.

I listened to his advice, thanked him, and stuck to my plan.

On January 10th, it was time to take action.  I finally bought a new battery for my pedometer.  I put it in only to discover that my pedometer didn’t need a new battery – it just didn’t work at all.  I lamented to Glenda, my hostess, and she said, “Oh – I have one that you could use.”  It will never cease to amaze me how things turn up when I need them to.

Since that day, I’ve had my Step Into Health pedometer on my hip every waking moment.

The first week I just wanted to get a baseline reading.  I was disappointed to learn that my morning walk around Chatuge Lane only garnered me 2100 steps, so I started exploring new roads to increase my numbers.  Out onto Highway 64, left onto Ledford Chapel Road, right onto…is this a road?  Hmm…I don’t think so.  Turn around.

My inability to sit still for too long (thanks, Dad) earned me about 4000 steps each day just “puttering” around the house, cooking, and running errands.  I jotted down each days count: 6471, 8972,8935, 13172.  That last one is what happens when you spend two and a half hours at a Saturday night Contra Dance at the Folk School🙂

So what does any of this mean?  How many steps in a mile?  My pedometer only records steps, so I had no idea how far I was really walking.  A Google search tells me 2000 steps is about one mile.  Some time ago the popular view was that 10,000 steps per day was ideal.  Most people can’t get to 10,000 steps without adding in a half-hour walk, so it makes sense that this recommendation might get people out exercising.

Ten thousand steps is about five miles.  I must admit, I was pretty proud of myself.  I wasn’t too far from that number.  And if I could do five miles per day, it wouldn’t be long before I could feel confident that I could do twelve miles per day for forty days on the Camino.

On Monday I decided to set my sights for 10,000 steps.  I realized this would require not just a morning walk, but an evening walk as well.  (Or a longer morning walk, but I get bored easily, so didn’t know if that would work.)  Thankfully, I was in Florida on Monday.  And it was 70 degrees.  I met my friend Sarah for a walk around Sawgrass Lake Park in the morning, had gelato at Mazarro’s Italian Market with Stephanie, sat out by the pool in the afternoon, and then called a friend as I started on my evening walk.  I like the quiet of my morning walks, but the evening one might require a phone call for distraction.  It worked: 10,928 steps.

Tuesday we left St. Petersburg.  Six trips between the condo and the car (with three flights of stairs in between) helped rack up some steps in the morning.  After lunch, I walked a few times around the restaurant before we got back on the road.   A couple rounds around Dairy Queen while eating a chocolate cone with rainbow sprinkles helped, too.  That night, I headed to the treadmill at the hotel.  (Jessica, my marathon-runner sister would be proud, and stunned.)  But treadmills are boring.  And the TV in the gym wasn’t offering any good viewing options.  So I left with a couple thousand steps left to take, only to go back after dinner and have Jon Stewart on the TV to help me get through those last steps: 10,525 read my pedometer.

Today we drove back to North Carolina.  I walked a few laps around the Olive Garden in Canton, Georgia where we stopped for lunch.  The sign on the back door said they didn’t take deliveries between 11 and 2.  Their dumpsters are hidden behind some very nice looking gates.  After two laps, I joined my travel partners and we got back on the road.

We arrived home at 4:30.  As soon as I unpacked the car, I took off for a walk before the sun went down.  It was a balmy 60 degrees and I wanted to take advantage.  I opened my pedometer.  I was at 2400 steps.  Chatuge Lane, across Highway 64 to the lake shore, left on Ledford Chapel, up the hill, Willow Pond Lane – let’s see where that goes.  Some of these houses are obviously only used seasonally.  No one’s home – shades drawn, boats and jet skis covered.  There was no sign indicating this was a dead end, but it was.  I’m at 5000 steps when I turn around.  8700 by the time I get home.

“Were you walking all this time?” Glenda asks when I arrive home.  “Yup – three miles,” I say.  Only 1300 steps to go to reach 10,000 today.  I’m on my way.  A little later than Gerald would have recommended, but according to my timeline, I’m right on time:)

Why Wait?

“Do you always come down here with someone else?” I asked Lois last night at dinner.

“Oh, no.  No need to wait that long,” she said.  My sentiments exactly.  If we wait for the ideal travel partner (or any travel partner, for that matter), we may never go.  So when people say, “You’re doing all this alone?”  I give a matter-of-face “Yes” with a look that says, “of course.”   Because life’s too short to wait:)

And here’s another thing about traveling alone: you meet a whole bunch more people that way.  Well, if you’re the type that strikes up conversations easily you sure do.  The other day, while trading stories with someone about the best places we’ve been, a gentleman said this to me about Montana: I didn’t believe in God til I went out there.  Only God could create something that beautiful.  Now doesn’t that make you want to drive out there and see what he’s talking about?  What’s stopping you?

Speaking of beautiful places, on Wednesday I drove what might be one of the most scenic roads in the country.  I haven’t driven every road in the country, so I can’t say for sure.  But the Blue Ridge Parkway ranks right up there with the drive through Glenwood Canyon on I-70 in Colorado. Yes, Italy holds a special place in my heart.  But the US of A has some absolutely stunning countryside.  Pictures won’t do it justice, but I’ll try.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Adelaide - my (usually) trusty travel companion - overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains

Not to say I couldn’t have seen all this with a human travel companion.  But why wait?

Talking to Strangers: In Small Towns

“Meet my future wife,” he said as he introduced me.  This was the first I’d heard we were engaged.  I’d only met him two hours earlier, but apparently I’d made an impression.

I’d left Virginia Beach around eight that morning, plugged “Raleigh, NC” into my GPS, then hit the button to avoid highways.  Why?  Well, it’s one of many ways I know of to find great stories.  Just last week, driving a back road in New Jersey, I saw a billboard that said – in big huge letters – “YOUR WIFE IS HOT!”  In much smaller letters it continued, “Get your A/C fixed – Call us.”  You wouldn’t see that driving down I-95.

The other thing about avoiding highways is that you find a lot of towns that have not been infiltrated by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.  I know some of you can’t imagine living more than a few miles from either of these, but work with me here – open your mind a little.  And step with me into Boykins Beans and Ice Cream.  It’s on a two lane road, just past the railroad tracks, in a town of 500 people.  There’s only one other car parked on the street outside, but there’s a guy sitting out front, and any place that advertises ice cream and “Fresh Baked Goods” can’t be that bad.

The guy sitting outside says hello.  I smile and return the greeting, remembering I’m in the South – where people actually say hello to strangers.  I know it’s a far stretch, but inside I ask if they have chai.  No luck.  So I get a cup of tea from the enthusiastic woman behind the counter.  Looking around I think that I could probably spend a couple hours in here.  They have plenty of books to peruse, comfy seating, and friendly staff.  But for some reason, I decide to take my tea and go.

On my way back out, the guy out front says something along the lines of, “It’s too bad you’re going.  We don’t see the likes of you around here too often.”  I laugh and say I’m on my way to North Carolina.

“What do they have there that we don’t here?” he asks.

“Mountains,” I said.

“Well, you’re right,” he says, sounded dejected.  “But this is Mayberry!” he retorts, referring to the idyllic fictional town portrayed in some TV show that came and went before my time.  I’ve heard of Mayberry, but can’t for the life of me remember the show.  (I just googled it – The Andy Griffith Show – which went off the air in 1968.)

He continued to try to entice me to live in this tiny town, so I asked, “What do people even DO around here?”

“Nothing,” he laughed.

“What would I do around here?”

“Nothing!” he says, smiling wide, arms opening as if he were Vanna White showing us the next puzzle to solve.  He wasn’t so convincing, but continued to question me about my trip, so I had a seat and told my tale.  His was even better.

There was the time after 9/11 when he heard some guy going to a mountaintop in Canada in case the US got hit again.  He thought that incredibly cowardly.  He told his friends he should just get on his white horse (he actually owned one) and ride to the White House to tell people not to back down.  The friends said he should.  So he did.  He lived in Wisconsin at the time.  He got a flag pole with the Wisconsin flag and the US flag, took his US Marines saber (he’s a former Marine), and in December, 2001, he rode his horse from Wisconsin to the White House.  You can see a video of some of the coverage here.  That song playing?  That’s him.  He wrote it.  He’s singing it.

Then there was a time a friend wanted to go elk hunting out west, but had to have two surgeries to fix a brain tumor first.  He didn’t make it.  When he died, this guy figures out where in the country he can go elk hunting and takes off, as a tribute to his friend.  He goes every year now.  And just by being his friendly self in a small Idaho town, he got some land practically given to him where one day he’ll build a little cabin out there.

Two hours later, I left that little coffee shop.  In that time, this guy had introduced me to all sorts of local folks, told me about life in Boykins, and apparently also decided I’d be the ideal wife.  I accepted his number.  Because elk hunting with a bow in Idaho sounds like a pretty cool prospect.

(To see my other posts about talking to strangers, click here and here.)

A Day of Freebies

“You don’t happen to have any more change, do you?” I asked the guy filling his parking meter behind mine.  I had decided to lighten my load of change into a tip jar at a local coffee shop earlier, which didn’t bode well for my current situation: parking at a meter in DC to meet a friend for lunch.

“Actually…I think I might,” he said.  He opened his passengers side door, dug around and said, “I’ve got a dollar fifty.”

“Great,” I said as I tried to hand him two dollars.

“No – don’t worry about it,” he said.

“At least take one dollar,” I persisted.

He laughed and explained, “I work around here all the time – and work pays for my parking.  Don’t worry about it.”

I thanked him and we went our separate ways – him to work, and me to feed my meter, thanking God for (sm)all favors.


While browsing in a consignment shop in Alexandria, a young man entered the store behind me and asked the owner if she’d like some free cases of Vitamin Water.  Seeing the puzzled look on her face, he went on to explain that the company sponsors a lot of fashion events in the city and they have neglected Virginia.  So they’re giving out free cases of Vitamin Water to the local businesses.  She asked what the catch was; he said none, so she accepted.  She then proceeded to offer me three bottles of it.  I graciously accepted one.


Later that same day, in a mission to escape the ninety-two degree heat, I slipped into a hotel lobby.  I sat on a comfy couch in a corner, plopped my bags down beside me, and basked in the coolness of the air conditioning washing over me.  My 6:30 waking time caught up with me, and I just wanted to curl up on the couch and fall asleep.

I noticed some people with wine glasses and figured out that I had come in for the daily happy hour the hotel offers its guests.  The doorman came over to me, said he wanted to cheer me up a little (apparently “tired” is not a good look for me), and so offered me a glass of sangria.  I explained that in my current state, a glass of sangria would put me to sleep.  “A glass of wine, then?” he offered.  I politely declined again, but said I’d love some water.  So he left and came back with an icy cold bottle:)

Some of you may recall the 29 Gifts adventure I did a few months back.  One of the lessons it professes is that by consciously giving we become more open to receiving.  It was a good lesson for me to learn – and I am thankful for all the gifts I was offered yesterday.


It was midnight and the band was still playing two blocks away.  In my tent, I longed for my college days when I could stay out til 3 and still make my 8 AM class.  But five years later, here I was thinking, “When are they going to stop?  Don’t they know we’re all getting up before sunrise to bike sixty miles?!”

As I laid there trying to think of something else to get my mind off the band, tears slipped from my eyes.  I’d have a hard time making it through tomorrow with a good night’s sleep – how on earth was I going to do it if I didn’t get any sleep at all?

I looked over at my boyfriend, soundly sleeping beside me, and my tears poured out.  How could he sleep through this?  I had to do something.  So I nudged him until he woke up. He turned over and as soon as he saw my tears asked what was wrong.  Like most men, his immediate reaction to a woman’s tears is, “I must make this stop.”

“I can hear the band,” I cried.  “When do you think they’ll stop?” I asked wondering if there was some schedule he had read that had the answer to my question.  He didn’t know, but wanted to help.  My mother had warned him, like all men I’ve brought home before and since, that his primary goals were to keep me fed and well rested.  Like a gremlin, she told him to fear what I was like if I was tired or hungry.

He looked at me and said, “Did you try the earplugs?”  Each member of our six person group was tasked with bringing different supplies for the rest of us: Tylenol, band-aids, earlplugs, etc.

“Yeah, but they didn’t work,” I said.

“Didn’t work?” he asked.

“They hardly did anything,” I said.

“Are you sure you put them in right?” he asked.

“You just stuff them in your ears, right?” I asked as I took the bright pink foam plug I had been given earlier and stuffed it in.  It stuck out of my ear like the bolt out of Frankenstein’s neck.

T. laughed gently.  “Here, let me show you,” he said.  As he rolled the foam between his fingers he warned me, “It’s gonna feel weird when I put it in, then you’ll hear a crackling sound, but it will go away.”  He pushed the narrow end into my ear canal and I felt like a bug had crawled in and made himself at home.

“Oh my God!  You stick them in that far?!”  I said.

“Yeah,” he laughed.  “Otherwise, they don’t work.”  His words started to fade as the crackling started.  Once the foam stopped expanding, the crackling ended and the band miraculously got quieter.

“Wow – it works!” I said.  I rolled the other one between my fingers, then quickly pushed it far into my left ear.  I couldn’t believe it.  The band stopped playing.  Or so I thought.  I pulled it out.  They were still playing – I just couldn’t hear them when I had both in.  Once again, T. came off as the best boyfriend a girl could ask for.

The relationship didn’t last, but his lesson about proper insertion of earplugs did.  To this day, they are a required item in my travel bag.  And, thanks to him, many people have been spared seeing the gremlin I become if sleep-deprived.

Tomorrow night I’m staying with a family friend I’ve known since childhood.  I met his girlfriend for the first time last year.  She was quiet at first, but came through for me when I realized I was out of earplugs.  She had a whole box.  I immediately liked her.  She was the first person I’d met in the six years since the aforementioned incident that carried earplugs.  My outpouring of thanks might have scared her at first, but eventually she warmed up.  And I’m looking forward to seeing both her and her boyfriend again tomorrow.

A Stop Along the Way

As we fiddled with the buckle across the toes on a pair of sandals, I said to the saleswoman “Well, once we get it right, I hope I never have to change them again.”

“If you do, you could just come back,” she responded.

“Well, I’m actually moving to North Carolina,” I said.

“Oh really?  Where?” she asked.

“Brasstown, to a place called the John Campbell Folk School,” I said.

Her eyes grew big.  “My daughter has dreamed about going there!  And she wants to take her grandfather, too.”

“Oh – she must get there.  She’ll love it, I’m sure.  And he will, too.”  I said this without knowing anything about her daughter…because anyone who has “dreamed” of going to JCCFS will surely love it.

The woman went on to explain that her daughter went to college in western North Carolina and wanted to get to JCCFS before she left, but for whatever reason was unable to get there.  The more we talked, the more I was convinced that it was destiny that I spotted this consignment shop in a small town in New Jersey on my drive from Galloway to Lancaster, PA.

In just a few minutes, we were agreeing that God (or the universe or whatever you want to call it) sends us what we need when we need it.  For her daughter, it was the perfect job – one that gives her two months off and an apartment.  This is a young woman who did mission work in Cambodia and went to DC to represent her local high school’s Save Darfur campaign.  So that two month break will be well-used I’m sure.

“Just a little – that’s all they need,” the woman said.  A little what?  A little belief that whatever they want to do can be done – even if they have no idea how.  Because once you put it out there, the universe has a habit of sending you what you need, we agreed.

I gave the woman my blog address to pass on to her daughter.  “I can’t wait to tell her!” she said as she rang up my purchases.  She gave me her card.  “Let me put my name on it,” she said as she crossed out the name of the current owner and wrote her own.  She explained that she was in the process of buying the store.  She had worked there for a year, and was given first offer when the owner decided to sell.  She talked it over with her husband, and in just a few days time they decided to do it.

“Have you ever been a business owner before?” I asked.

“Never!” she said.

“Oh, how exciting!” I responded.

And this is what I love about traveling.  I didn’t see any sites today.  Didn’t drive any multi-lane highways.  I stopped in a little town at a consignment shop and had a conversation.  That one conversation reassured me that I’m on the right path – and maybe I assured someone else that she, too, is on the right pathJ

And She’s Off!

“How long does it take to get down there?” he asked as I piled boxes and bags into my car.

“Well, I think it’s 12 hours or so, but I’m taking two and a half weeks,” I told him.

“Two and a half weeks?” he asked, his eyes wide with amazement.

“Yeah – I’m stopping to visit friends along the way,” I explained.

And so here it is that I write this post from my first stop: Galloway Township, New Jersey.  I’m at the home of a dear friend from college whom I haven’t seen in two years.  (For the full run-down of my year of living without a permanent home, click here.)  Everything I’ll need for the next four months is in my car (or so I hope).  But you wouldn’t know it by looking at it.  I don’t have an SUV stuffed to the ceiling.  I’ve got it all in a Beetle convertible – and most of it on the backseat and floor, under the windscreen.

It's all in here...

Though from this view you wouldn't know it....

Of course, I don’t need any furniture.  Or cooking supplies.  During my tenure at the John C. Campbell Folk School, I’m given a furnished room and full board as compensation for my work.  So my car is mostly filled with clothes, books, and crafting supplies (yarn and beads).

Figuring out what to take was one thing.  Figuring out what to do with everything else?  A little more daunting.  But that’s a story for another day.

The Furniture

“You can take the end tables,” I said to my parents. I started clearing them of their lamps, taking the coasters out of their drawers.

“But what about the lamps?  You’ll need light in the next week,” my mother said.

“Honestly, mom, the only light I ever turn on in this room is that one,” I said, pointing to the lamp next to my recliner.

“We’ll save these for you,” my father said, referring to the end table he just picked up.

“No!  Don’t save anything for me!  They’re your tables – I was just borrowing them.” I said.

Where some people stop at tourist sites and pick up souvenirs during their travels, my parents stop at antique shops and pick up furniture.  They have a completely furnished house, mind you.  Some pieces do manage to get into it.  Others they used to say were for the lake house they would one day buy.  In the meantime, they doled the pieces out to their children as needed.  They bought the aforementioned lake house six months ago – and it came completely furnished with antiques.  So those end tables will go up into the barn for storage.

“If you come back, you can–”

“Oh my gosh – dad – you don’t get it.”  I went on to, once again, explain that I don’t want anything “held onto” for me.

“Ok, ok,” he sighed as he left the apartment, table in hands.

When people here I’m giving up my apartment they often ask what I’ll do with all my furniture.  Well, there’s an easy answer to that.  Most of it belongs to my parents, so I will return it to them.  Coffee table, end tables, kitchen table and chairs, rocking chair, dresser, shelving unit – all are going back to the place they came from: Mom and Dad’s barn.  And no, I don’t want them saved for me.

What’s left? My piano.  Which will stay in the apartment.  My bed.  Which my sister is going to put in her guest room.  My couch.  Which I’m trying to sell on craigslist.  My recliner chair.  Will be stored in my parents barn.  The secretary that used to  belong to my grandmother.  None of my siblings has room for it, but none want it to be sold, so to the barn it will go.

Now I’m off to figure out what to do with all the other stuff I have left!

A Home for My Piano

“I’ve been thinking of moving to someplace cheaper,” my friend said.

“Well, my apartment will be available on July 15,” I told her.  She pondered this for a second, then asked the details.  Where was it?  How long would it take to get to the college from there?  How much was the rent?  The answers satisfied her and we decided she’d come see it that afternoon.

It wasn’t my job to find a new tenant for my apartment.  I’d decided to give it up completely and had told my landlord so.  But hey – if I could help him out by referring a reliable person to him, why not?

She liked the place.  Sitting on my couch she asked, “How’s the management company?”

“Management company!” I laughed.  “The guy who owns the deli downstairs is your landlord.  He’s a very good friend of the family.  You can just turn in your rent check at the deli.”  That sealed it.  Not having to deal with a management company?  She was in.  I gave her the landlord’s number so she could work out the details.

The next day she texted me to say the deal was sealed.  Half-jokingly I asked, “Are you interested in house-sitting a piano for a year?”

“Seriously?  That would be awesome!” she responded.  Turns out she used to play and would love to get back into it. And just like that my worries over what to do with my piano are gone.  It’s staying right where it is.  And it will probably get more use in the coming year than it did in the last five.

Letting Go

“What’s the sob sorry you keep telling over and over – to yourself, to your friends.  You know, the one about why your life isn’t working out the way you want it….”  I don’t remember his exact words, but everyone in the room knew what he meant.  We all had that story – running on repeat in our heads.  Mine was about a failed relationship.  Except I had this idea that maybe it could be redeemed. And that’s the story I told again and again.  I was in my early 20’s.  All my friends knew the story.

“Write down that story – pour it all out.  Like you were telling it to a friend,” he said.  We wrote.  Silently.  For pages and pages.  We were given all the time we needed to get the whole thing down.  When you finished, you took your story and left the room.  Eventually everyone was out of the room.  Then we were invited back in.

And this was where the magic happened.  We were given the opportunity to read what we wrote to someone who’s only response was to listen actively, maybe with a nod of the head.  We read our story over and over and over again.  The listeners rotated, and I kept reading my story.  Until eventually I started skipping parts.  Because they didn’t matter anymore.  Then, I skipped larger parts.  Other people left the room – I was unsure why at first.  I kept reading.  Then, I realized.  I was done.  I didn’t feel I had to read the story anymore.  I couldn’t quite explain why, but I got up and left.  And just like that, I got over my story.

That was more than ten years ago.  I don’t recall the details of that story, but what sticks with me is how well it worked.  Last week, I sat in my bed and wrote another one of those stories.  Yes, about another relationship.  Then I read it out loud to myself over and over and over.  But I didn’t feel the same effect.  I thought it was because there was no one there to listen.

But this morning, I realized it DID work.  I hadn’t thought about him since I wrote it.  People had asked about him, and there wasn’t anything left to say.  I went back this morning and I read what I wrote, and it had no hold on me anymore.

This morning I wrote and read another one.  I have two more in my head that will go through the process in the coming weeks.  I spent the last six months getting rid of my physical “stuff” in order to live on the road for a year.  Now I’m working on all the other “stuff.”  And it’s working:)