Since teaming up with Ralph and Alice things have changed quite a bit. Which is to be expected. You have two teams who have independently walked across the country, that’s 5+ months of being alone and doing things our own way. So of course things are going to change when you form a group. While that’s been a difficult adjustment, it’s gone pretty smoothly. Really, for me, there’s only been two major differences.
First, timing. When I was on my own I was usually up, packed, and on the road by 7am at the latest. I didn’t eat breakfast. I didn’t laze about at all. I just woke up, packed, and moved on.
Partly this was because I had to, as it would get too hot to walk by about 10am and if I wanted to get the miles in that day I’d have to do it before the sun came up. And partly because I know myself, and I know that around 2pm each day I reach a point where I just don’t want to walk anymore. It doesn’t matter when I start, around 2pm I just do not want to go any farther. I get grumpy and start wanting to take more breaks, and my speed slows way down. So I try to get up and cash in on my early morning stamina. Since walking with Ralph the average time we get on the road is 10am. That, to me, is a ginormous difference.
Part of that later start date is due to weather. It got cold in the Rockies and the mountains of Utah, and it’s really hard to get out of your warm sleeping bag when it’s freezing outside.
I’m not saying that I’m up and packed and ready to go at 6am when Ralph and Mabel are still sleeping. No, we’re both kind of lollygagging around. I’m not sure why, but there’s just something about being in a group that slows me down. I’m working on it, though. And as we enter the desert we’re going to have to get up early, as we’ll have to start taking the mid-day desert breaks (12-3-ish, due to the sun wanting to bake us alive).
The other big change is where we stay each night. From Pennsylvania to Colorado I was basically depending on the kindness of strangers for my home each night. I’d wander into town and just start asking around, seeing if anyone knew of somewhere I could set up a tent for the night. Sometimes this led to people inviting me into their yard or home, and sometimes it led to people pointing out a nice out of the way place that I could sleep.
A lot of times, in the Midwest, I’d walk into the townhall or police station and ask if I could tent in one of their parks. Or when I thought it was stopping time I’d just knock on friendly looking doors and ask to use their yard for the night. Then mix in the odd CouchSurfer now and then. Everywhere I went, once I told them my story people were more than happy to help out. I ended up averaging about one motel stay per state (I say average because the farther west I went the less I stayed in motels, but I’ll admit to staying in quite a few in the east – probably unnecessarily).
This has drastically changed since joining Ralph. This, more so than any other change, has been the hardest for me to adjust to. I quite liked talking to strangers and meeting people along the way, but that’s all changed now. First, there aren’t really places in the Rockies to yard camp. There’s just not a lot of yards. Second, Ralph isn’t comfortable with this style of camping, and I’d rather not break up the party. I have split up once, when I stayed with a CouchSurfer in Green River and Ralph chose to stay in a motel. Generally though, we stay together.
Related to this is how we plan our day. When it was just Anna and myself I didn’t really plan that much. I’d look at the map and have a town I’d want to get to that day, but it was never concrete. It was more “I’ll see when I get to this town and go from there” type of planning. And, not counting CouchSurfers, I never actually planned where I was going to stay. I’d just wander and eventually find a place to set up my tent, leaving the destination up to Fate. I don’t like planning. For me, it sucks a lot of the enjoyment out of the walk.
But there are ways of doing things alone that just don’t work when you’re in a group. And now with Jon joining us with car support and a third tent, things really change. Finding an out of the way stealth place to set up a single tent is fine. Finding an out of the way stealth place for three tents and a car is a lot more difficult. And while there are the occasional town or house out here, it’s a little different asking to set up on a yard with one tent versus three tents.
So things have changed. They’ve changed a lot, actually. But it’s not all bad, not at all. Having someone to talk to is cool. Having someone to point out cool or weird stuff you see along the road is a fun change. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and help make decisions is a little less stressful. Having a larger group as you walk through predator territory is incredibly helpful.
And having a car that your pitiful dog can ride in for half the day is an adventure saver.
So things have changed, and I’ve had to adapt my adventure, but it’s still fun and we’re surviving and still walking west. And really, change and adapting is all part of being on an adventure!