How to Remember the World is Big while Riding the Small World Ride
It’s not all too often that you find out someone you know is doing something truly, mind-blowingly admirable in his or her life.
And I’m not talking about having all the Christmas shopping done by Halloween or filing taxes by the end of February.
I’m talking about something remarkable. Something challenging. Something that would push you to the brink of your limits so quickly that you would never even toy with the notion of doing it yourself.
In fact, it makes you uncomfortable just reading about it.
I have a friend, and his name is David. Actually, I’m not positive I can call him a “friend” as opposed to just an acquaintance since we don’t talk very often, but he keeps popping into my life at random, unexpected times, and the sheer happenstance of one such occurrence makes me want to refer to him as “friend.”
He lived in my tight-knit dorm during my freshman year at college in Ohio. In fact, he was probably one of the evacuees during the Great Metal-in-the-Microwave Debacle. After I quit school to take my western America road trip, we pretty much lost touch.
Fast forward a couple of years to the time I was living in a small off-the-interstate town in south Georgia, of all places. I mean, it literally was the place where people stopped to get something to eat on their way to Florida. I know this because I brought them their steak and their peanuts and sang, Fried chicken, country hog, it’s your birthday – yeehaw! to them on their birthdays and swept up their peanut shells long after they left for the mystical land of Orlando to don Mickey Mouse ears and ride the Small World ride (undoubtedly getting the song stuck in their heads for days) and have far more interesting characters sing them far more traditional birthday songs than the one I got paid $2.13 an hour to sing.
But, if you’re lucky and I really like you, I’ll sing it to you on your birthday for free.
So anyway, I was at the “mall” in this south Georgia town with a friend one day when she dragged me into the Hallmark store (Rachel is a Hallmark addict and I love her for it) so she could pick up some new cards. And there, perusing the shelves as though he had some business being at the Hallmark store in Middle-of-Nowhere Georgia, was David!
“David?! What the hell are you doing in Georgia??” I have a really warm way of welcoming people back into my life.
It turns out he was there to teach, and it’s a crazy small world, and blah blah blah, and yes, we should definitely get together for coffee and here’s my number so we can catch up and let’s be sure to not speak to each other again until I move to North Carolina and you move to Texas and we find each other via mutual friendships on Facebook. Okay?
And it’s via Facebook that I recently learned David is doing this truly incredible, inspiring thing in his life.
Are you ready for it?
Okay, here it is:
He’s walking the Appalachian Trail. All ~2,200 miles of it.
Now, if you don’t know what that is or how big that is or what that means as far as sheer impressive distance, it’s this:
From the state of Georgia to the state of Maine.
That’s 14 states.
And he’s walking.
Across ridgelines and over mountains and through rivers and facing snow and rain and heat and mosquitos and bears and carrying everything he needs on his back like a turtle except he’s not a turtle – he’s a person – and he’s really doing this. Alone.
For 5 months.
Nearly half a year of his life will be devoted to this thing.
You can read about David’s journey here on his blog, and I highly encourage you to do so because people just don’t do this every day, you know. Sure, some people hop on the trail here and there and call themselves accomplished, but the thru-hikers are a special crowd. You could read A Walk in the Woods by renowned travel writer Bill Bryson for a comical glimpse of what this entails, but even ol’ Billy didn’t do the whole thing. Not even close.
Seriously? How blown is your mind right now? Because mine’s pretty blown.
And I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m writing this because he didn’t know I was going to do it. But that’s what he gets for friending me on Facebook.
And I don’t care how small we sometimes think the world might be with our cars and trains and planes and phones and internet and everyone staying connected all the time because, when you’re walking across it, experiencing the grime on your face and the blisters on your feet, you just might finally come to realize that it’s not really as small as you’d thought. It’s really not small at all.
Ahhh . . . but how can you be sure he’s not in Argentina having an affair with his married, Latin lover?
Haha, because he’s blogging about it! With pictures. Kinda hard to fake that… Plus, David’s not married. So he’d have no reason to lie about an Argentinian lover. In fact, he’d probably want to flaunt it. ;)
One of my old students actually did this last summer, as well.
That’s awesome! I guess more people do it than you’d think, but still… the arrangements and determination it would take to pull it off… it’s just mind boggling!
(P.S. I love that you still read my blog. :)
It sounds like David and I could be friends. Congrats to him if/when he finishes it. I’m interested in doing the last 100 miles, the “Hundred-Mile Wilderness”, which is the most remote and wild section of the trail, sometime soon. But that’s not nearly as great an accomplishment as the whole 2,200 miles.
You know Nate, I do believe you could. :) You should contact him via his blog! I know he only gets to check it sporadically, but he had an open invitation out there for people who were interested in hiking parts of the trail with him. Although his adopted trail name is “Solo,” I’m thinking he’s doing it himself more out of necessity than desire.
And you just made me realize that my “call themselves accomplished” comment is pretty snarky. I think doing even 100 miles of a trail really is an amazing accomplishment – definitely more than I’ve ever considered doing! But when you compare that distance to doing the whole thing… wow. It’s just almost incomprehensible to me.
Way cool! And I grew up in Seminole County in Georgia…talk about small towns.
Hmm… what can I say about Georgia…? You know, I actually did like it there. The weather was fantastic (I love mild winters and hot summers), the location was perfect for traveling to Florida and the coast, and most of the people I met were pretty fantastic. I honestly can’t complain – except for having to sing some crazy “southern” version of a birthday song. ;)
1) since the world is ending in 2012, good idea to do this now.
2). Have always wanted to have the liberty of pulling this off…takes about 2 grand, once I had 2 grand I was too busy working to do this.
3). Slightly a hater on this since he has the liberty to take the time to hike this far.
1) That was bleak! But if that’s true, then yes, now would be a good time.
2) If #1 is true, then what does work matter? Quit that shit and hike the AT. :)
3) See #2.
Don’t hate me for it, but our taxes are always filed Jan. 31st, except this year the stupid federal government wouldn’t accept ours until mid-February, because we file the long version.
Your friend is incredible! Walking the entire trail is a real accomplishment, and taking the time to blog about it is really neat. I’ve always wanted to hit the trail for an entire summer with my older son. I think it’d either be a great bonding experience, or only one of us would leave the trail on our own feet. It’d be a coin toss.
Thanks for sharing his blog.
I definitely don’t hate you for it – I envy your lack of procrastination. There’s a difference. :)
And I know! I can’t believe on top of everything else he has to carry, he’s willing to make the sacrifice to bringing the equipment necessary (equipment he can rarely use) to keep us posted. And wow, that seems like it would be a fantastic bonding experience with your son. True, I’m sure it’d be tough at times (as would pending that much quality time with anyone, but what a cool thing for a mother and son to do together!
You can totally call us friends, despite our poor abilities at reconnecting. I’m in Damascus now and was really thrilled to see this post. Thanks for the kind words and inspiration. 460 miles down, 1,715 to go!
ps: so it was you that set off that fire alarm?! I’d always wondered…
David, you’re the one who’s inspiring. Thanks for sharing your trip with us!
And wait… people didn’t know it was me?? :)
It is pretty amazing! It’s also amazing to see how old friends connect in strange ways. Loved reading some of the great stories about your life.
Aileen!! Thank you! How the hell are ya?!