Thursday, December 11, 2008

Phones Calls, Emails, and General Preparation

Since my first entry, I have made several advances into this project, though none yet measured in footsteps.

I have contacted or attempted to contact every major newspaper in Texas, every newspaper along or near the perimeter, and all the Texas newspapers that start with letters A through G (and some of H). I have also contacted several outdoor companies and one GPS company asking for sponsorship. The final tally goes something like this: a few letters, a few mass-emails to over 500 recipients, dozens of personal emails, and over 150 phone calls to editors. There is still much more to do, and in the inevitable haze of fatigue, I often wish for a secretary and staff.

I have reaped some rewards. I have had the pleasure of talking to many of Texas's overworked, understaffed, under-budgeted editors. Many have been enthusiastic, and a few have given valuable feedback and ideas. After plowing through several dozen rejections, I have happily secured the verbal or written commitment of the following twelve newspapers: the Beaumont Enterprise, the Burnet Bulletin, the Calvert Tribune, the Eden Echo, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Franklin Advocate, the Hearne Democrat, the Llano County Journal, the Port Arthur News, The Highlander, the Victoria Advocate, and the White Oak Independent. I owe much of my ability to persevere through the administrative part of this trek to the editors who are supporting me. A million thanks to them.

Besides the business side of things, I have been reading a variety of stories, on-line articles, and books. The internet offers an endless stream of information for the seasoned searcher, but what I've found recently I have stumbled upon inadvertently. I have been reading NPR's series on the USA-Mexico border, an Outside magazine post on finding water in the desert, and a National Parks article on Mexican nature conservation across from Big Bend National Park. They are all very different stories but all very helpful, especially to a city person like myself. I've been reading a few books as well, mainly Goodbye to a River, John Graves's historical exploration of the central Texas region and personal account of traveling several hundred miles along the Brazos River before it got dammed up, but also a kids' book called Watching Desert Wildlife by Jim Arnosky. Both have got me excited and nervous, building up the challenge in my mind but also drawing a realistic portrait.

I consider all of it preparation, as information will be scant in the middle of the desert. Mild doubts plague me the more I learn, though nothing has deterred me from my current path. I can think of a few solutions for every concern, and I can only hope that they work. My brother Charlie has suggested I hike various sections around the perimeter before starting, and it's a good idea. But a part of me believes I'll learn whatever I need to on the way, if I haven't learned it already.

It's a project that surprises people, and through their reactions, I'm able to gauge just how nutty people think it is. I can't say I blame them. There are days when I'm in their camp. I wonder what the first few steps will feel like, the Texas horizon introducing itself. I wonder about getting attacked by animals during the day, at night, when I'm not looking, and so on. I wonder about the quicksand along the Red River, if it's still out there, and I wonder what I'll do if I see a bear in Big Bend. I imagine that similar thoughts are occuring to my bewildered audience, and it serves me well to investigate their thoughts and fears. I appreciate their honesty because, the way I see it, it improves my chances.

Until next time...