2010.08.18 Coast to coast on U.S. 20

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

There was a really good story that I didn’t write this week. An interesting person doing something interesting—that’s what I like to write about.

But this guy didn’t want a story and he’s been turning down reporters all across the country. He said he might regret it later, but for now he isn’t interested in the publicity.

Not a bad choice, I suppose. He would just leave behind a trail of writers asking the same questions over and over, taking the same photo over and over.

I received a call Thursday afternoon from someone in Fayette. She said there’s a young man in town who is walking across the country and he has a lot of interesting experiences to tell.

We’ve done stories on cross-country bicyclists. We had one on somebody carrying a cross across the nation. I think there was a long-distance horse traveler once, plus the guys with the Segway.

But the reason I drove to meet him is because he’s walking U.S. 20. That road always has a special attraction to me.

[By the way, my daughter, Rosanna, is pregnant.]

I bicycled a few hundred miles from Albany to the Hy-Flash station south of town. I’ve driven it to Chicago. I drove the final stretch to the coast in Oregon. I suppose I need to get a good look at the thing where it empties out into the Atlantic in Boston.

When you’re driving west on 20 and pass the Chesterfield School, there’s soon a place where the road drops down and offers a long view. That’s when I think about U.S. 20 as a cross-country road stretching on toward the Pacific Ocean.

Francis, the walker, said it goes through some great territory. For example, it’s the road that goes by Old Faithful. Not a bad place at all to be walking.

But why is he walking across the country, anyway?

Fran’s website opens with a photo of him pushing his little three-wheeled cart that anyone else would use as a baby stroller. There’s appropriate music, with the Proclaimers singing:

“But I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more, just to be the man who walks a 1,000 miles to fall down at your door.”

Fran has had some fall-down-at-your-door days. He was destined to have one Friday. After taking a short walk Thursday—only 15 miles to Fayette—he was going for a 35-mile day today to find a couch in Ottawa Hills.

His daily schedule is often determined by lodging opportunities to prevent camping alongside the road in the middle of nowhere. He’s finding couches all across the country via couchsurfing.com.

I mentioned that website a few years ago. It’s a list of people around the world who are willing to loan a couch to a stranger for a night. Fran has met some wonderful people that way.

But why is he walking? I’m not sure if he gave me a good answer. I wasn’t taking notes since I wasn’t writing a story. Here’s what his website says:

Why walk across the country?  Why not…We are so complacent with the idea of travel being the most comfortable, most efficient, cheapest and fastest way to get from point A to point B. I have come to the conclusion that walking is the most important way to travel. I do not always enjoy walking, especially for long distances, but I truly feel the need and importance for a pilgrimage of such magnitude as walking across the country.

He also talks about understanding what’s between point A and point B, and he’s getting his fill of experiences.

He must be up around 115 days of travel now with 700 miles to go. He said he met with weakness and pain while crossing Nebraska and Iowa. He wondered if would survive a severe storm on the Plains. He was jarred out of his solitary life when he entered Chicago.

And he was surprised when a journalist shook hands with him in Fayette, heard his “no story, please” rejection, but still sat down to talk for a while. None of the others really cared anymore once they knew there was no story.

I probably would have considered it a wasted trip to Fayette, too, except that it was U.S. 20 we were talking about.

Now, when I drive up to that spot where the road drops away to the west, I’ll remember that I don’t need a car or even a bicycle. Some people use that long road as a sidewalk.

  • Play Practice
    DRAMA—Fayette schools, in conjunction with the Opera House Theater program, will present two plays Friday night at the Fayette Opera House. From the left is Autumn Black, Wyatt Mitchell, Elizabeth Myers, Jonah Perdue, Sam Myers (in the back) and Lauren Dale. Other cast members are Brynn Balmer, Mason Maginn, Ashtyn Dominique, Stephanie Munguia and Sierra Munguia. Jason Stuckey serves as the technician and Trinity Leady is the backstage manager. The plays will be performed during the day Friday for students and for the public at 7 p.m. Friday.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.rover
    CLEARING THE WAY—Road crossings in the area on the construction route of the Rover natural gas pipeline are marked with poles and flags as preliminary work nears. Ditches and field entry points are covered with thick planks in many areas to support equipment for tree clearing operations. Actual pipeline construction is progressing across Ohio toward a collecting station near Defiance. That segment of the project is expected to wrap up in July. The 42-inch line through Michigan and into Ontario is scheduled for completion in November. The line is projected to transport 3.25 billion cubic feet of natural gas every day.
  • Front.geese
    ON THE MOVE—Six goslings head out on manuevers with their parents in an area lake. Baby waterfowl are showing up in lakes and ponds throughout the area.
  • Accident
    FAYETTE resident Patricia Stambaugh, 64, was declared dead on the scene of a single-vehicle accident Friday morning south of Morenci. Rescue units were called around 9 a.m., but as of Tuesday, law enforcement officers had not yet determined the time of the accident. According to Ohio State Highway Patrol, Stambaugh was driving west on U.S. 20 when her Chevrolet Malibu traveled off the north side of the road and down a steep embankment, coming to rest in Bean Creek (Tiffin River).
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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