Archive for July, 2010

Day 86 – Justin Bieber + Receding Hairline = The Receiber

At moments, when I have taken a shower and conditioned my hair, I almost see glimpses of a New & Hip hairstyle. This is rare, because after 5-months without a haircut, I keep the straw-textured-birds-nest under cover of my trusty hat. But during those rare moments, and when I ignore my receding (balding) hair-line, I see similarities to the new pop-music sensation, Justin Bieber.

I guess a plethora of teenage boys today are running to their stylist to get ‘The Bieber’. My goal before arriving home, is to start a new middle-aged style trend similar to The Bieber, just with a thinning little birds-nest on the top. We shall call it…’The Receiber”!

Or…as my long time friend Steve Roach once said; ‘The Five-Head”!

It’s a 2-day trip to Billings from Hardin. A long, Hot, Snake-filled trip to Billings 50 miles away. It wasn’t possible to complete the trip in a day, so i would need to camp out in the middle of no-mans land. Or would I?

Nope, I was able to coordinate accommodations with my friends parents, who live in Billings. Coordination required that they pick me up 25 miles outside of town and drop me back off the next morning. This was not an issue and I was greeted by their family at the end of the first day. In the truck was Ken, Vonna, Jenn and Ken’s Mom who we shall refer to as Grandma!

<Jack: The sun is getting to you, you keep forgetting to take pictures at critical points like this. My apologies to the Hamann family…>

I had met the Hamann’s before during the wedding of their daughter Nancy Yost and son-in-law, Dave Yost. Nothing like this though, we had the opportunity to spend the evening together and learn more about each other. I can’t tell you how relaxing it was and enjoyable to do my laundry, eat a great dinner, go to bed early and even start my next day walking at sunrise. Good times!

We had lots of time to talk about the latest excitement in Billings from the Tornado that touched down. Driving by the Metra complex and surrounding area…the devastation was awesome! The stuff you didn’t see, was all the homes and vehicles in the area that were pelted by the golf-ball size hail. The insurance agencies were really happy in the area…not at all!

After dinner we took a nice drive around the city and viewed everything from the top of the Rimrocks. Sure wish I would have brought my camera… 😦 While playing tourist, Ken got a call from his work and their was a minor problem that needed his expertise. We cruised down to his plant, which is next to the large refinery and watched him in action. The room was a mini mission-control and Ken was like Gene Kranz, the hero from the Apollo 13 mission. Well…kind of.

There was lots of things we talked about during our brief evening together. What I took away from the night, was what a wonderful, solid, salt of the earth type of family they are!  I have known their daughter for many years. Hard-working, polite, good mother and wonderful wife! Spending time with her parents, I see that the Apple did NOT fall far from the tree!

Ken & Vonna Hamann (Not pictured: Grandma and their daughter Jenn)

Did I mention that Vonna made absolutely awesome Lasagna and provided me with a bottom-less glass of Ice Tea?

Thank you Hamann family and I look forward to spending time with you all again in the future!

Day 85 – I dont care where he stood…where did he last sit!?

Public Service Announcement

What you are reading occurred about a week ago. Every day in Montana has been filled with activities, people and long days on the road. Combined they have left me with little free time to write and/or complete exhaustion. This trend appears that it will continue for the next couple weeks. To catch-up and compensate for my tardiness, I may be writing shorter blog entries until we are back to real-time daily updates. My apologies and I will try to manage my walking, writing and socializing calendar moving forward! 🙂

Back to our regularly scheduled program…

Today’s big activity was visiting Custer’s Battlefield. If I remember correctly, I believe my family visited it as a kid when there was pretty much just a viewing area beside the road. Much has changed since the 70’s and you would think you were at the Grand Canyon, with as many tourists who are turkey-necking around the area.

Any visit to the Custer Battlefield wouldn’t be complete without the presence of Rocky & June, my new friends who I met the day before. They were both ready at the crack of dawn and prepared to see the battlefield for the 4th or 5th time. With that level of interest, I was hoping that we would be seeing actual re-enactments or perhaps some super cool computer-aided graphics. Nope, I was in-store for lots of prairie, tombstones, sun and…walking! 🙂

In my hope to maintain brevity in the next several days of blog writing, I will absolutely do ZERO justice to the Custer’s Battlefield experience. It’s a major part of our American history and should be studied/seen by all who get the chance. It’s amazing and you can almost feel the history in every step (ugh) you take at the monument.

Now back to the stuff I found funny…

Rocky and June and two of the most wonderful people you could ever want to meet! They are the ultimate RV people with their big 5th-wheel and state of the art Ford F-450 dually to pull it with. Decked out to the max with a laptop mounted in the center of the truck for navigation and web-surfing! Before retiring, both of their jobs related around technology, so it appears they have retained much of their geeky-ness.

Both being avid readers about history while traveling, they knew absolutely every detail of what happened at the battle. Shoe-sizes, blood-types, soldiers middle-names, no detail from the event got passed June. At one point, both Rocky and June were arguing about which strategies the officers were using on the day. It was awesome! I would have even got involved with the whole thing, but, I could only focus on a single thing.

WHERE IN THE HECK DID CUSTER SIT?!  Sitting Bull had the right idea…

Walking or even twisting my body was an activity that I only reserved for getting closer to Seattle. Any other time, it’s just working against me!  Not being rude, we walked the paths and I day-dreamed of air-conditioning and a lounge-chair. I feel a little guilty for not being more involved. I’ll make up for it when I visit them in Florida in the future. We have a date to watch the last Space Shuttle launch

Hey Brandi Ritter & Ken Latham, if you are reading this, you should get a kick out of this!! 🙂 Miss you guys!

We arrived and left and just the perfect time today! Hundreds of RV’s and Motor-homes were encircling the area and attempting to find a place to park. One guy who was pulling a jeep on a trailer, must have circled 5 times and proceeded to drag his trailer each time. At least he was sitting down…

Today’s day ended in beautiful Hardin, Montana. Okay, maybe it’s not the most visually appealing town, but it is made-up of some exceptional people. To name one, Sal from Sal’s Diner. Before turning in for the day and eventually meeting with the Hardin Newspaper, I was able to have lunch with Rocky & June. Sal’s Diner appeared to be the only ‘locals’ type of place open, and not some fast food place. Rocky and I both like eating at these type of place. As I have written before, they are always a good place to meet people from the area.

We were the only customers at Sal’s, but that didn’t stop Sal from sitting down and entertaining us during out visit. After hearing about my trek, Sal insisted on us taking a picture, as well as providing me with a new t-shirt from her adjoining store. Sal and her generosity should be reason enough for any and all of you to visit her business when you pass through. But wait, there’s more!!

The food at Sal’s Diner is absolute off the charts good! Trust me…if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be saying it! She told us that business has been slow since she opened the restaurant. Well, with how she exceeded our expectations, I don’t seeing that continue. For all you Billings area residents, please take a leisurely drive out to Hardin and have dinner at Sal’s. Trust me, you won’t regret it! At the same time, please tell her you heard about it from the My Long Walk Home community. 🙂

Day 84 – Long walk to The Stand

I forgot a couple of things from yesterday:

(1) Between Sundance, WY and the Montana border, there is all kinds of things you could possibly see. What you won’t see is a Japanese model of pick-up. No sireee Bob!

Any salesperson that can sell the above pick-up in Wyoming, deserves to be paid lots of dollars for his/her talents! Fremont Toyota in Sheridan has their work cut-out for them…

(2) As many of you all know from my earlier blog entries, the most commonly discarded trash on the side of the roads is easily the ‘5-Hour Energy bottle’. In Wyoming and into the Montana border, the scales of trash balance have been swayed to some new form of energy drink I haven’t seen before.

This new drink comes in a larger can and seems to be dumped on the shoulder in easy access 12 to 24 pack containers. Hmmm?

Back to my friends at Wyola Baptist church.

Service began promptly at 7am this morning. In addition to me, we had a small group of about 12 people attending the service. Many of them I had met the evening before. The service consisted of an opening statement by Corky, several hymns, statements by a couple of ladies, a related message about a traveller, a prayer (for me) in their native tongue, and finally a love-offering. After the offering, Ronnie Yellow-Tail told me to use the money at the next McDonald’s down the road. 🙂

I won’t lie, it was tough to keep it together during the service. I was a stranger to these people just 12 hours before. Now, and as a community, they were thanking ME for coming into their lives and praying for my safe passage.

Corky mentioned to me that they liked me and would consider adopting me. I have no problem with that, as I was already internally planning on how I will adopt and continue to support them in the future.

Breakfast time! Downstairs we went and attacked the large amounts of eggs, sausage and pancakes. Awesome! Like last night, I talked with everybody for about an hour before finally saying good-bye and beginning my trek north.

(Left to Right) Vicky Stevens, Patricia Torneta, Barbara White, Connie Yellowtail Jackson, Regina Stewart, Elizabeth Lee Yellowtail, Amy Yellowtail, Carson Yellowtail, Ronnie Stewart, John Whiteman, Christine, Yellowtail, Mary Ann Whiteman, Kenneth Torneta. Not Pictured: Jim Ward

After leaving, it was a long straight-haul to my final destination of the 7th Ranch Campground. I had read many positive reviews about the place, and most of all, they had a tee-pee that I could camp in for the night. Woot Woot!

On the way, and about half-way, I passed through the town of Lodge Grass. My feet were killing me, so I went to the local grocery store and rested for about an hour in the shade. While there, I was met by several members of the Wyola Baptist church. 🙂 They had finished their morning meetings and were picking up supplies for lunch. Hugs and hand-shakes took place before saying goodbye to my friends again. I will miss them very much…

The last 5 miles to the campground seemed to take forever today. I had to stop almost every mile to just lift my feet and take my shoes off for a bit. There was no place on the side of the road to stop, so I had to rest on the railroad tracks each time. Attentiveness was needed each time, as it seemed that a train filled with Coal was passing every 30-minutes.

Walking up the last 100-yards to the campground, a truck pulled up next to me occupied with Rocky and June. They of course…wondered what I was doing? While walking next to them, we made friends quickly and soon made plans to visit Custer’s Battlefield together the next day. They drove off and we planned to meet up shortly after I checked-in.

At the front desk, I was greeted by Sandy, who told me to “put your money away”. While never expected, I am always shocked and humbled by the generosity of most people across America. Thank you Sandy, Candice, Donna and everybody who I met while staying at your wonderful campground.

My personal bias aside; I absolutely insist that if anybody every travels to, or through the Custer Battlefield area, that you stay the night at the 7th Ranch Campground. I have yet to experience a campground with their level of service, quality and cleanliness!

I rolled my cart into my tee-pee. Before doing anything else, i figured I would go down to make arrangements with Rocky and June. Well…next thing I know, they are laying out the picnic table with wine, cheese, crackers and ice-water. Ugh…I don’t mind if I do!!

<Stupid is as Stupid does…If Jack hadn’t gotten lazy, he would be able to insert a picture of Rocky and June here>

I proceeded to talk with Rocky and June until well past dark. Still not having unpacked my cart and prepared my camp, I needed to get to bed. We made our arrangements to meet early the next morning and see the Custer Battlefield together.

Seattle Children's Hospital: 49 days, 100 reasons to give

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

Constantly seeking to understand the the most complex organ in the human body, Seattle Children’s Hospital doctors use the most advanced imaging and surgical techniques to treat children with conditions affecting the brain and central nervous system. U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked our Neurosurgery program among the top 10 in the nation in 2009.

Seattle Children’s Hospital: 49 days, 100 reasons to give

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” – Lloyd Alexander

Constantly seeking to understand the the most complex organ in the human body, Seattle Children’s Hospital doctors use the most advanced imaging and surgical techniques to treat children with conditions affecting the brain and central nervous system. U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked our Neurosurgery program among the top 10 in the nation in 2009.

Day 82 & 83 – Wyola the Few…Wyola the Mighty!

Okay, we already know that the required rest days seem to be getting closer and closer together. Day 82 was no different. I began to walk on Day 82, but with bad weather looming, I easily convinced myself that I should spend the day getting some ZZZZZ’s in Sheridan.

Sheridan, for those of you that haven’t been there, is a beautiful little town. From my experience, I think its one of the coolest towns I have ever been to in Wyoming. All services you can imagine, beautiful backdrop with the Big Horn Mountains and a vibrant energy that is more than ranchers and oil workers. Not that there is anything wrong with that…I’m just saying.

On day 83, all I could think about was getting to, and past, the Montana border. It’s my home state and I was looking forward to seeing some familiar places. That of course is still another 130 miles away.

Before the Montana border, the most memorable part was a little store in the town of Parkway, approximately 15 miles before the border. The town consisted of a little store/bar…nothing more. At the store, they sold t-shirts with the following written on them:

” Custer should have stopped here”  Now that’s some funny stuff right there…

A common thread on this trek has been people voluntarily sharing information or providing warnings about what I’m soon to encounter. Whether it’s bad weather, steep hills, rough parts of town, rabid dogs or even Indian reservations. Immediately upon crossing the Montana border, I was entering one million acres of the Crow Indian reservation. I was warned to be careful about the lack of police enforcement and potential knuckle-heads. I understood what they were saying, but I couldn’t be strangled with their past experience or stereotyping. I marched forward and looked to create my own experience.

A proud nation with a long history of contributions to America! On this trip, probably most notable for their partnership with the Northern Cheyenne and Arikara nations to defeat Custer. Within just a few miles of entering Montana, my experience with the Crow nation began. Left-Hand and Corrine pulled-up beside me and asked me what I was doing. After a brief conversation, they both shook my hand and wished me well on my journey. Next came E.J. and Tina, who found me looking for a place to camp on the outskirts of Wyola, MT. Again, shaking my hand and recommending that I make camp at the local church in town.

E.J. and Tina directed me to the church and then quickly had to go. They said if the church didn’t work out, that a place on their couch was available as a back-up plan. This generosity was just the beginning of my experience in Crow country.

I was now in front of the Wyola Baptist church. Established in 1934 and on a good day, a congregation of about 30 people. Today was the beginning of their annual revival and spiritual meetings. As part of the celebration, a large circus-like tent is erected outside for outside worship. In front of the tent, I walked up to, and met, Corky Yellow-Tail. I asked Corky if he would mind if I pitched my tent on their property for the evening. His response was simply; “Are you hungry”? I said “yes” and he directed me to the basement where they were just wrapping up their potluck. He told me to get some food in me first, then we will worry about the tent later.

Downstairs I was immediately introduced to no-less  than 20+ people. After about the first 10, my retention of names was quickly maxed out! Most of the food had been eaten, but they did have hot dogs and rice-crispy treats left. They apologized for not having more. Are you kidding me?! They obviously didn’t realize that rice-krispy treats have been my dietary staple for the last 30+ years.  Yeah Baby!!

The group fed and entertained me for the next hour. I learned about them individually, as Christians, and some of their history in the area. I must admit, very few times in my life have I felt so immediately accepted by a group of people. Towards the end of eating, Corky told me that the deacons had spoken, and that they would like me to stay inside their church tonight. This was fantastic! Mainly because outside was skeeters the size of  a Chevy Geo.

In order to stay, they asked if I would attend their 7am service in the morning. After the service, they would feed me breakfast and send me on my way. My response was a non-delayed “YES OF COURSE”!

Everybody left the church rather quickly. Their homes located anywhere from a couple of miles to 50-miles from the church. Locked inside, I made myself comfortable on an 8-ft long couch and relaxed for the night. Looking forward to spending time with them in the morning, I also felt a sting of guilt for having some fear of what I might encounter in Crow country. Those fears experienced by others…I couldn’t relate.

I hope I get a chance to provide guidance/advice to future travelers across the state of Montana.

Seattle Children's Hospital: 50 days, 100 reasons to give

“Individually we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean”. – R. Satoro

Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, emergency and outreach services.

Seattle Children’s Hospital: 50 days, 100 reasons to give

“Individually we are one drop.  Together, we are an ocean”. – R. Satoro

Through the collaboration of physicians in nearly 60 pediatric subspecialties, Seattle Children’s Hospital provides inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, rehabilitative, behavioral, emergency and outreach services.

Day 81 – When Mother Nature calls…don’t answer.

Brrrrrrr! Holy Schnikees it got cold last night! So far, for the entire trip, I have barely needed by sleeping bag for more than a pillow. Last night I woke up with my teeth chattering and shaking. While fighting my deflated mattress, I quickly got myself into the sleeping bag and got warm.

15-minutes later…my alarm went off! Damn!

I was packed and off like a turd of hurtles shortly after 5am this morning. Again, another beautiful (albeit cold) morning to be walking. The first 10 miles were nothing but winding gently through the valley and directly next to the Big Horn river. Absolutely beautiful farmland!

Early on I met Bob, an owner of some of the beautiful farmland I am referring to. Bob (and his dogs) greeted me kindly and we talked a bit about his land. Bob has owned this land since 91, and lived south of here, in Big Horn, before that. His family originally homesteaded this land back in 1877, the year after General George Custer died in battle just up the road.

Before leaving Bob wished me God’s blessings and drove off into the Sunrise on his 4-wheeler. Thank you and it was a pleasure meeting you Bob!

Today marked the second time that I have been busted for…well…you know, doing my business. I know, I know…this is something we aren’t supposed to talk about. So I won’t…in detail! 🙂 There is just no-no way to maintain your dignity when you are hanging off of a fence post on the side of the road. In the middle of nowhere I might add! The same nowhere where you couldn’t see a car coming in 5 miles either direction!! Oh no, the moment the trousers are dropped…a truck will drive by.

You get the idea...

 I’m sure it is equally disruptive for the passenger of the truck though. Driving in the middle of nowhere at 75 mph, you and the kids spot a cart on the side of the road. Examining a bit closer…WHAMO… the kids are forever blinded with what they just saw! Walking across the country isn’t pretty folks… 🙂

I’m quite surprised that I haven’t been bitten by a snake yet. Walking down the road, and often in the gravel/grass, a person can begin to daydream. Walking today, I came across two LIVE rattlesnakes! One was a baby just leaving the road and the other, a big’un slithering/rattling into the grass! I’m surprised I didn’t freak out too much about that…but I did keep walking however. In addition to the live snakes, I did see several dead deer, skunks, turtles, and a couple flat rattlers.

Today was the biggest pass yet to climb. I honestly don’t think the passes in Montana will be any harder than what I climbed today. We’ll see. At the top of the pass, you could see the length of the Big Horn range and towards the Tetons. At the top, the last 17 miles of the walk was really quite pleasant. An almost gentle decline the entire way! 

Between Gillette and Sheridan I set my new walking record of 40 miles. Yeah…but ouch! I hope to not do that again unless it’s somehow tied to getting donations towards the end. I was thinking about doing a 24-hour or 50 mile walk to accelerate fans/donations towards the end. We’ll see…

Sheridan is a beautiful, happening little town! I know this because I had to walk to the absolute other side of town to make camp. Very surprised to see the variety of businesses, architecture, art and entertainment. Very nice!

Day 80 – Howing Coyotes and Antelopes who want to fight

I bet when Ben Stiller or Tom Cruise walk across the country, their air-mattresses don’t leak air. For this trip, I would prefer to be of smaller stature instead of240  lbs (after losing 35 lbs). I just think it would be easier…

Although I had given up and stopped worrying about the mattress, I continued waking up thinking I could hear the mattress leaking air. It wasn’t until about 3:45 am that I stayed wake to listen and think about it. At 3:47 am, I realized it wasn’t the mattress. It was a frigging pack of Coyotes that were howling constantly nearby. Sleep was no longer on the agenda at this point. My alarm did go off at 4am while I was packing my stuff though.

My tent, tarp and Runabout were caked in mud from last night. With the ground still wet outside, there wasn’t much I could do. In the dark, I packed everything back up and began walking before 5am. As I have said many times during the early days of my trip, I love walking at dawn. Cool temperatures, beautiful sky, peering eyes from the nocturnal animals seeking an early breakfast (me).  Lucky for me, today’s animals were more scared of me…kind of.

It appears that today’s 30+ mile stretch of road is filled with migrating Antelope. Not just a few, but easily observed over 1000 of the buggers throughout the day. The last thing they expect to see at 5am is some dude pushing a baby stroller along the highway. I can’t count how many packs of 5-10 that I scared the crap out of all morning. Want to know how high they can jump? I’ll tell you…it’s frigging HIGH! 🙂

At one point walking along the road, I heard a Crow going “caw, caw, caw” (sp?). I couldn’t see the nasty bird though. Turns out the noise, was coming from a huge Antelope about 50-yards away. This time, I wasn’t scaring this dude though. He kept lowering his head and scraping his hoof to the ground. Oh oh… I have seen the TV Shows where animals fight back, and this appeared to be ripe for prime-time coverage! All I could think of was that his prong-horned, white-butted creature was about to charge! In my head, I visualized several scenarios on how I use my Runabout to fend the scoundrel off!  Wasn’t necessary though, he eventually (slowly) walked the other direction, and we both got away with our dignity. Whew!

Today was my first glimpse of the Big Horn mountain range. Awesome! This was my first sight of real mountains on my journey. I’m sure the excitement will soon go away as I’m cursing their ascent and descent!

While not on my map, I passed through the little town of Leiter. And when I say Little, I mean, a single building that housed the post-office, general store and cafe. Cafe?! Yeah, a little slice of civilization would be nice! I stopped in and i arrived just after a couple of farmers sat down. Long story short; the food was great and the service lousy. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way! 🙂  The owner doesn’t get many customers in there and she had to work by default. The place used to belong to her Mom and Sister, who both had recently passed away. So now, in addition to running a farm 35 miles away, she runs the restaurant daily.

One of many Methane stations seen during the day.


She mentioned that the placed has a little bar in back, but that isn’t busy anymore. I guess the place was booming over the last few years when the Methane mines were being built. The guys would work all day and proceed to drink all night. This of course lead to LOTS of DUI’s in company vehicles. The company now has GPS installed in all the trucks and monitor whether or not…they spend their evenings in Leiter. Ugh…now they don’t.

The last nine miles of today’s walk was straight, overcast and filled with some beautiful farm/ranch land. Many of the farms had markers indicating that they had been around since the 1800’s.

Final destination was the little town of Clearmont, which had the only services between Gillette and Sheridan. I was able to throw my tent directly next to the town’s convenience store/park. The weather was perfect, the store owners were friendly, and ultimately it was a good end to a long day…