Meet Pete

Note: A few people have asked what we’ve been up to since our walk ended.  For those that are interested, we’re humbly continuing our blog.  We hope you enjoy it.

Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

After our walk ended, we spent a few weeks moping around our hometown and sitting on the couch watching episodes of Scrubs to cheer us up, while resting and soaking our Judas-like feet.  We also received many wonderfully kind and supportive comments, emails, facebook messages, texts, and phone calls.  We were touched by them all and they were paramount in lifting our spirits.  Thanks again to all of you for being such fantastic friends!

On Monday, June 3rd, we loaded our car up with almost everything we had been pushing on our carts, plus a few extra clothes, and set off to drive the remaining route we would have walked.  Before leaving town, we made our requisite stop at Square Donuts, bought one last carton of chocolate milk (we no longer have an excuse to drink copious amounts of it), and then hit the road.

We’ve quickly learned that some roads that are merely challenging on foot are nearly impassable in a mid-sized sedan.  So, anytime we come to a road that we would have walked that is not paved, we open up a map and find the nearest paved road, while also avoiding the interstates as much as possible. Additionally, we’re allowing ourselves to be easily distracted by things as we travel along the streets of America (several photos and snarky comments coming soon).  If there’s something we think will be interesting that is off our route, we’ll go and explore it, but we’ll always make ourselves return to the spot where we veered from our walking route to continue our westward drive.  Needless to say, it’s blissfully slow-going.

Several days into our trip, on a hot and cloudless late afternoon we found ourselves squinting at something off the side of the road a few miles east of Ogallala, Nebraska; a small and dusty town that serves as the gateway to the Nebraska panhandle.  What we saw was an instantly recognizable figure in the distance.   A familiar neon-orange flag was flying just above his head, and he was wearing a bright yellow reflective vest.  Our disbelief and the day’s ever-present heat mirage were causing us to doubt ourselves until we got close enough to see the unmistakable confirmation that revealed itself in the form of a cart.  This was a cross-country walker.  We immediately pulled off onto the shoulder of the road.  John-Michael hopped out of the car and asked, “Where did you start?”

“Delaware,” the man answered.

“Where are you headed?”

“San Francisco.”

As John-Michael reached out to shake his hand and introduce himself, Pete apologized for the greasiness caused by sun-block and sweat that coated his arms and hands.  John-Michael beamed as he told Pete, “You’re not going to believe this…wait, yes, if anyone will it’s you, but I totally understand.”  We then proceeded to tell him our story and learn about his.

Meet Pete

Stuart “Pete” Tansill is 79 years young.  A retired veteran and engineer, he started walking across the United States a few years ago.  He spends a month or two each year walking west (hmmm, an approach we are now considering), with the hope of getting to the Pacific coast before his 81stbirthday.  We shared a few road stories and then asked Pete if he’d like something to drink or eat.  He said someone had driven by and given him a taco a short while earlier, so he wasn’t hungry yet.  Pete then asked if we had a soda, which regrettably we did not, but we fully understood the request.  Neither of us drink much soda (or pop, coke, or fountain drinks, depending on where you’re from), but we both had an undeniable thirst for it when we were walking.  We asked Pete what his favorite soda was, told him we’d be right back, and then hurried off to the first convenience store we found, just a few minutes (by car) down the road.  We returned with an ice-cold soda and gave Pete some money for dinner.  We let him know that the next town was probably less than two hours away (by foot), then drove off while contentedly and understandingly watching Pete in the rearview mirror as he guzzled his cold drink and receded into the eastern sky.