On Saturday, August 21st, 2010, Raisin and I arrived in Corpus Christi, completing my circuit around the perimeter of Texas. With my sidetrips, I estimate I've walked around 3200 miles. Raisin must have made some records too breaking 1000 miles traveled, herself walking about 700 miles of the distance.
Several people accompanied us in the home stretch: my cousin Ted walked over 5 miles from Ennis Joslin in flip-flops, his dad Tony joined us about 3 miles out, and three neighbors, Tony, Alicia, and Nora, jumped on about 2 miles from home. Several other neighbors came out to the corner including a busload of children (or so it seemed), and my mother forced a big American flag into one of their hands (a flag of Texas may have been more appropriate, I don't know). Pictures were taken, smiles and handshakes flew, and then we retired to home.
Some surprising details: Mrs. Perez (Alicia) who had had some kind of internal surgery last year was the fastest walker (faster than me!) and was practically skipping. My uncle Tony, an athlete in his youth, overheated in the sun and had to cool off with ice water and a wet towel on his head. Ted got blisters from the flips. And Raisin, who had walked 100 miles in 4 days, had gone lame, so I had to carry her home.
At my parent's house, there were even more relatives and another neighbor, and we all sat down to eat some tamales my mother had made especially for the homecoming. (Actually, I slipped away and took a quick shower. I weighed just under 140!) An hour later, everyone was full and tired and went home to clean up and relax.
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It's been two weeks now. I got sick some time around Laredo and was hoping that the Airborne I took from Becky Garcia would help me out. Nope. If anything, the whole thing lasted even longer. I walked with this chest infection for the better part of a month, and only today finished off a five-day antibiotic treatment. Ironically, my friend and doctor believes I've had walking pneumonia!
Perhaps as a result, I've found myself sleeping and goofing off. It's easy to fall head first into the ocean of the internet. I was late with my last syndicated column and still have one more Caller-Times column to write. Maybe I don't want this thing to end.
Raisin, on the other hand, has wiped her paws of the whole hike. Since finishing, I've taken her on two short walks, but she's acted suspicious and uncooperative the whole time, like we could hit the road any minute. She's a 14 lb dog, in general a little thing, and that last 125 miles really took it out of her. Raisin's doing great now, her disdain for walking replaced with a disdain for the bathroom and baths.
Have I learned anything from all of this? Am I a changed person? The answers to these questions will always be yes because there's no way to undo the past. Yes, I've learned a thing or two, tons of things actually, and yes, I've grown in the last year. But it doesn't end there. I expect my experiences to have a profound influence on the rest of my life. However, I could have said the same thing about elementary school, the Peace Corps, or my first girlfriend, whom I affectionately refer to as G-1.
Life builds on top of life. Any given experience exerts its influence both up and down in time, illuminating past events and making it easier for a person to navigate future ones (in theory, at any rate). My project, while unusual, is no different in this respect than any other ways in which people choose to spend their time.
On the other hand, perhaps the questions demand a little less philosophy and a little more straight talking. Though it goes against my general principle of avoiding the dissection of a life event, I will nonetheless list ten things that I've learned in the last year:
1) I shouldn't fear a homeless person any more or less than I do another person on the street.
2) There are more good people in this world than bad.
3) Walking on sand for more than an hour is a brutal way to treat feet.
4) There's a lot more in the Texas Panhandle than open space.
5) Visiting my dad's childhood friend was the best way to learn about my dad.
6) The value of a handwritten letter in the middle of nowhere is inestimable.
7) God is out there and right here.
8) 115 degrees is really hot.
9) A kindness to a stranger can be as simple as a conversation.
10) Texas is really big.
Take from that what you will.
As per me, I have several writing projects left which will keep me busy for a few weeks, and then... who knows. There's a bicycle in my future which - given my history with my legs and feet - is my parents' worst nightmare. I want to learn to speak and write Spanish, swim better, make a business teaching boardgames to families, and solidify a career in writing.
One at a time, though. First, the bike.
Until next time, travelers...