Sometimes I wonder how I survived.

There are times when I look back at some of my experiences and decisions on my Walk and think to myself, how the heck did I actually survive that?  Like this one from day 2 in Hancock, Maryland where I was hiding from a massive storm:

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The funny thing about this video is it wasn’t until I was watching it last night that I realized that what I called a fire station alarm was most likely a TORNADO SIREN OMG.  And it had gone off three times already.  And there I was sitting in a wire and aluminum shelter.  Seriously, how did I survive this trip?

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To be fair, I had been listening to my little weather radio and was aware of tornado spottings in the area. It’s just…I’m from Maine, people. We don’t have tornado sirens here. If you hear a siren it’s a pretty sure bet that it’s just the fire station downtown. Logically I knew about tornado and storm sirens, I just didn’t think about it at the time. Thankfully I was lucky and no tornadoes actually touched down where I was. I remember hearing about one or two little ones in the nearby areas, but only golf ball sized hail, strong winds, thunder and rain where I was.

Honestly, I had the best luck along this trip. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but looking back I’m just constantly amazed at the dangers I narrowly avoided.

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How awesome is this? The real ending:

I’ve been sitting on this info since November, but I can finally tell you all about the amazing ending to my adventure.  Sure, sure, technically it ended at 11am on 11/11/11, but for me the real amazing ending happened about a week later – when I walked into the doors of ArenaNet to meet the people who created a world that helped inspired my adventure in the first place.

We were invited in, given a tour of the (really really beautiful) studio by the Community Team (sans Martin, who sadly wasn’t in that day) and generally treated to a wonderful afternoon.  I got to meet people I had been following online in person for the first time.  And it was so cool to meet the people who inspired me and to find out they had been following my adventure and that I in turn had inspired some of them!

It was the absolute perfect ending to an amazing adventure.  A year earlier I was sitting in my apartment playing Guild Wars and lamenting about the lack of adventure in my life, and then there I was after having an epic journey actually meeting the people who created Guild Wars. My life was certainly not lacking anything in that moment.

And to add to the super coolness of it all, I am now in Guild Wars 2. My mind is still blown by that.  ArenaNet has a blog entry all about my NPC (Non Player Character, for those not in the know) and our adventure.  You should definitely go check it out: Meet Ameranth

My norn character talking with Ameranth and her trusty hound Anna, during the Beta Weekend Event in Guild Wars 2.

Equipment List: Walk Across America

Making an equipment list for my walk across the US was a lot harder than making the one for walking the Erie Canal.  For one, I used a lot more gear (400+ miles vs 3000+ miles). And then what gear I had was always changing and adapting.  I’d enter different climates with different demands (winter gear for mountains) or I’d mail home gear I ended up not needing (extra clothes) or stuff that didn’t work out.

Here I’ve put together a basic list of all my gear. I’ve tried to put notes with gear that didn’t work out or stuff that I didn’t need until later. Hopefully this helps some people out while planning their own adventures. If you have any questions about gear, feel free to email or comment here.

Stroller (I had an older version of this stroller.)
Backpack
Clothes
– 1 pair of jeans (later thrown away)
– 1 pair of conversion pants
– 2 pair shorts (one for sleepwear, mailed other home in PA)
– 1 pair long cotton pants (sleepwear)
– 1 long sleeve shirt
– 2 t-shirts (1 cotton, 1 hiking)
– 2 tank tops
– 5 pairs of underwear
– 5 pairs of socks
– 2 bras (by Ohio I had only 1 for the rest of the trip)
Cold Weather Gear (gathered as I hit the Rockies)
Winter Jacket
Fleece Jacket
– Winter hat
– Winter gloves
– long underwear
– heavier winter socks (mostly to sleep in)
Shoes (New Balance trail runners)
Sun hat
Rain jacket + rain pants
Sleeping pad
Sleeping bag
Tent
Odor-proof bags
Bear Vault (added in Colorado)
Cooler (given away in Colorado)
2 Nalgene bottles
Knife
Flashlight/emergency radio
Rope
Clothes pins
Journal + pens
First Aid Kit
Stove & Cookware (both added later, and only used a handful of times)
Toiletries
– quick-dry adventure towel
– toothbrush
– toothpaste
Noxzema wipe thingies (once the first pack was gone I didn’t buy more)
– face cloth
– contacts + solution
– glasses
soap
Electronics
cell phone
netbook
– mp3 player
– digital camera
– Kindle
Solar Charger

Anna’s Gear
Anna’s Pack
-dog food
-treats
-travel dog bowl
-poop bags
-vet papers
shoes (added in Utah)
-spare collar
sleeping pad (cut in half)
-blanket to sleep on

And that’s it. I think. I had other bits and bobs – hair ties, spare batteries, lip balm, sunscreen, etc – that I didn’t include, but that’s all the major stuff. Unless I’ve forgotten something, which is completely possible.

Oh, and I also had a small ziplock bag always within reach, which carried a small notebook, pen, a bunch of my business cards, and (as time went by) business cards and notes that people I met would give me along the way.

Like I said above, if you have any questions or want a more in depth review of something, feel free to comment here or email me at Ameranth (at) gmail .com

Home

Look how much fun we're having!

The road trip back east was a lot of fun – as evidenced in the above photo.  I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but if you want a more thorough report, with photos, head on over to my Mom’s blog.

It was a lot of fun, though. Got to see a lot more of the country – and places I had skipped by on the walk out.  We ended up going back through Utah and through Zion, then up towards Montana to see family, over to Minnesota to see my niece, and then zipping on up to Maine.

If you ever walk across America, I highly suggest getting back home with a road trip. Softens the blow, since you go from walking every day to driving-but-still-traveling everyday. I imagine it would have been a much more difficult transition to fly back and just BAM you’re done.

Plus, who doesn’t like a roadtrip?!

And now I’m back home.  At the moment, Home means back in Maine and staying with my parents.  Ultimately, my home is always changing.  I know that some part of me will always think of Maine – and New England in general – as home.  It’s where my parents are, where I spent most of my childhood, where a lot of friends still are.

But home to me, in all honesty, is not a building or a concrete place.   Home is a concept, a feeling, an idea.  Home is comfort and love. Home is wherever I am; wherever I end up laying my head at night.  Home is being with Anna and doing what I love, and that’s travel, having grand adventures, and connecting with people along the way.

Home is wherever I'm with you

The Final Day

The day started with sleeping in, which is always awesome.  After lounging around I packed up my gear for the last time and head out the door.

Anna’s so excited it’s her last day walking!

It was an easy 6 miles to the ocean, and most of the way was on a beautiful bike path along the water.  There was an iffy part of the road as I passed Sea World, but mostly it was great walking.  The only weird part was the lack of eye contact or smiles from all the people in the park along the way. In retrospect, I’m pretty sure they all thought I was some homeless lady wandering through.  Which, if true, is kind of an insulting way to treat homeless people.

I walked onto Dog Beach to my Mom, Aunt Sally and a group of strangers cheering me on and congratulating me.  It was totally unexpected and amazing.  After shaking people’s hands and accepting congratulations, I parked my gear and Anna and I ran the final steps into the Pacific.

It was an amazing end to an amazing adventure.  There were strangers cheering me on and calling my name, a run into the water, Anna running around excitedly, an interview with a local news station, and even a pod of dolphins welcoming me to the ocean.

Anna and I, the end of an adventure

News: 11/11/11 at 11am. Dog Beach, San Diego. Be there.

From Maryland to California, it's a long way to walk.

News!  I have decided to end a day early.  For two reasons,

1. The weather forecast for Saturday is calling for thunderstorms and cold, whereas the forecast for Friday is warm and sunny.

2. It gives us an extra day for the long drive back East.

So mark the changes on your calendars, people. The new official date of my final steps into the Pacific is now Friday, 11/11/11 at 11am. 

Spread the word, and be there for the end of an awesome adventure across America.  It will be epic. (Remember, I am counting on you all for my row of high fives as I slow-mo run into the water.)

 

I repeat: Friday (11/11/11) on Dog Beach, San Diego at 11am.

 

 

The plan, such as it is.

Good News Everyone!

After six months and 3000 miles, I now know how I’m getting back east!

This entire trip I’ve been trying to convince anyone I know to come out for the end and road trip it back east. It sounded like the perfect plan. I’d get someone I know and care about to be there to celebrate the end of this adventure with, and then we’d have a rockin’ road trip! I thought surely everyone would see the genius of this plan. But only one person was wise enough to listen, and that person is my mother. 🙂

My mother left Maine yesterday and is on her way west. She’s picking up an aunt on the way over, and they should be here to celebrate my final steps into the ocean. Huzzah!

Then, we are road tripping it back east. I am super excited, you guys. Road trips = Win! My mom = Win! It’s a double win!

So Mom and Aunt Sally should be here around the 9th or 10th, and then I walk onto that beach and take the final steps into the Pacific on Saturday the 12th. (Be there!)

Unfortunately, I’m a little ahead of schedule here. So the plan for the moment is to find a place to chill for a few days until Mom and Aunt Sally show up, then enjoy their company while walking the last couple days – probably staying with them and doing the ol’ shuttle back and forth and section walk the last bit.

I have a few people I’m trying to connect with, but if you happen to know someone who would love to host an adventurer and her dog for a day or two in the San Diego area, send ’em on my way!

 

Fabulous Las Vegas!

Las Vegas wasn’t on my original route. It was actually on my “cities to avoid” mental list.  However, things change.  A big part of this Adventure has been learning to adapt to change and go with the flow.

As the seasons changed and I wasn’t as far as I had hoped, I realized walking north to Seattle or even straight towards San Francisco wasn’t an option any longer.  The winter was coming, and I’d be damned if I was going to walk this far just to die in the snow up in the mountains! So routes changed to adjust for the seasons and the end destination became San Diego….which would take us straight through Vegas.

I was apprehensive, since I am a country girl at heart and get very nervous in big cities.  But it’s turned into an awesome stop.  I ended up staying with some family friends I hadn’t seen in forever (Karen and Tom), and a follower gifted us with fancy rooms at Mandalay Bay along with a few perks (I got a foot massage and am going to see The Lion King tonight!).  We ended up here earlier than planned and staying an extra day, for a total of 5 days. Madness!

So what have I done with my time in “sin city”?  Well, nothing very sinful that’s for sure.

The first day Tom took me all around the strip, seeing the sights.  I ventured into the atrium in the Bellagio, which was all decked out with a Autumn theme.

Then we went over to France and checked out the Eiffel Tower.

We rode up to the top and got to watch the fountains at the Bellagio from way up there. That was pretty cool.

We spent quite a bit of time sightseeing and just generally having a good time.  That night I got to see the world’s largest television screen, which is here on Freemont Street.

Wednesday was spent relaxing at Tom and Karen’s house. A very welcome rest.  Then Thursday it was off to check out my room at Mandalay Bay!

Mandalay Bay (or specifically, THEHotel) is pet friendly, however you can’t leave your dog alone in the room. That was kind of a crimp in my plans.  It worked out okay, because I’m not a super night-life partying type of person, so I just spent both nights in the room.  The second night I went all out, with some wine and the biggest bathtub I have ever seen, with bonus wall-mounted TV right across from it!  It was luxurious.

After partying too hard, the boys decided they wanted to stay an extra night.  I was hesitant at first, because we’ve been here for awhile and I’m eager to get these last 300 miles walked and see that Ocean.  But it’s all worked out. I’m back at Karen and Tom’s place, and I’ve arranged to see The Lion King tonight.  I even went and bought a dress for the occasion! (I wouldn’t normally buy extra clothes on this walk, but I felt odd going to a show in my one somewhat-stinky outfit. So I splurged and bought a cute dress.)

So while I never planned to visit Las Vegas, and certainly not for this long, it’s been a lot of fun.  I’ve seen museums, fountains, touristy stuff, stayed in a room I never would have been able to see on my own, and tonight I’m going to a show.  Definitely a good stop. Thank you anonymous generous dude, you’ve given me quite a memorable (and relaxing and rejuvenating) stop on this adventure.

And tomorrow, we walk.

The world is not as scary as They tell you

I like adventure stories, whether it’s told through comic books, novels, television, or movies.  I like stories about people heading out into the big wide world, stumbling into an adventure, meeting strangers who help them on their way and forming teams to complete epic quests.

I like video games because it’s one step closer to actually going on an adventure.  You are an active participant within the story, teaming up with strangers and forming allies to complete your quests.

The real world, sadly, is not so full of helpful strangers, potential teammates, or epic quests and adventures.  Or so people would have you believe.

I decided to challenge that and make my own adventure. I decided to throw myself into the world and see what happens.  I decided to walk across America.

When people find out what I’m doing, and that I’m by myself, they tend to say I’m either crazy or brave, and never quite sure which. People all across this country have tried to warn me about the dangers of going out alone. I have, rather ironically, been told by a complete stranger to be careful and not talk to any strangers.  Nearly every person I’ve met has said or insinuated that I, as a single female walking across America, am going to be raped or attacked in some way. People have this idea that everyone is out to get you and the country is full of rapists, murderers, and thieves.

But you know what? People are wrong.  I have not met a single bad person on this trip.  I have never felt truly in any danger.  All along the way people have volunteered to help me, be it stopping and giving me a bag of dog treats and some water, offering me a ride out of nasty weather, inviting me into their home for a warm meal and a place to sleep, or just helping when asked.  In my experience the Good far outnumber the Bad.

We may lack the sense that there are people waiting to help in real life, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.  You just have to go out and find them.  And if your life is lacking an appropriate adventure, well then you’ve got to go out and find one yourself.  That’s what I’ve done, and it’s been a pretty awesome adventure so far.

Adventure awaits, you just have to go after it.

The road awaits

Final Destination: Dog Beach, San Diego CA. 11/11/11. 11am.

Come Nov 11 there will be a companion to this picture. Atlantic to Pacific!

And we have a date.

Friday

November 11, 2011

Dog Beach,  San Diego

11am

Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, Kelly and Anna are coming to San Diego!  Be there.

Some people want solitude when they reach the end of a long journey. Time to sit and reflect on the journey past, the lessons learned, and the possible future. They want peace and quite and a time of meditation and reflection. Not me.

I want as many people there as possible. I want a row of high fives waiting as I take those final steps to the Pacific.  I want someone holding a stereo John Cusack style, playing some epic tune as I slow-mo run to the ocean.  I want a celebration!

I will have just walked from Maryland to California with my dog, I think I deserve a little celebrating!

So tell everyone you can think of to get to the beach on November 11, 11am.  Dogs, children, and strangers allowed and welcomed in!

And if someone wants to organize a rockin’ party for that night, to celebrate my walk across this amazing country, then I will be all for that.  If that someone wants to throw in some Rock Band and maybe some gaming, I’d be super all over that.

Spread the word, people.