So Eva has arrived. She came in on a greyhound on Sunday August 29th at 10:55 p.m. The bus actually arrived right on time. That might be a first for Greyhound. Before we went to meet Eva at the bus station, we spent the evening with a nice man named Phil. Phil is a very interesting character who was so helpful and wanted to make sure he met our every need. Phil is a veteran and has always wanted to walk the trail but has not yet had the time. So he hosts hikers that are walking the trail at his home. I personally was in heaven because Phil is the male version of the Cat Lady. He has over 10 cats in or outside of his house!!! I wish I could get a picture of all of them together! Oh and one of the cats had baby kittens the very day Jeff and I arrived. He has this one cat that I am still working on befriending. His name is Tigger and he is a huge, fluffy, orange cat. He must weigh at least 20 pounds, in fur alone!
While getting to know Phil I could not stop singing because I was so exited to meet Eva. I had been counting down the hours and minutes since I found out when she would be arriving. I think I sang probably every song I know while at Phil's Sunday evening. He said he enjoyed it, so I didn't see any reason to stop! I thought that is would be nice for Eva to have a welcome poster when she got off the bus and so I looked around for something to make it out of and I found a nice white pizza box. It was perfect!! Phil had some markers and Jeff and I decorated it nicely with her name really big. It was fun and it helped to occupy my mind while we were waiting.
So when we decided it was time to get on the road to pick up Eva, Kristin's bubble meter went through the roof! I think she asked 300 questions and ran over at least that many possible answers to those questions before we reached the station 20 minutes away. She was bouncin'....she was bobbin'....she was dancin'....she was singin'....and most of all, she was grinnin' from ear to ear! I don't know how Phil got us to the station alive with all that going on behind him! Must be those nerves of steel that uncle sam gave him. I was just hoping that we still had a ride back from the station! :) So we arrived a little early and Kristin was the first one out of the van. All I see is the last of Kristin's hair flowing around the building with that crazy sign in tow, and my feet haven't even hit the ground yet! Phil had a look upon his face like he had just let his best friends puppy out the front door and watched it run down the street! I'm sure he was thinking, "I hope she knows to come back." Ha! Well Phil and I catch up to Kristin just around the corner there and she is standing with both hands gripping that pizza box sign and she is jumping up and down grinning and giggling. Keep in mind that this is the major bus station hub in Parkersburg, WV. There were all of 3 people there besides us and one of them looked like a permanant fixture. The building wasn't even open they were just sitting outside on the curb. I can't even imagine what they were thinking when they saw my wife come around that corner. So we are all there waiting for Eva's bus, and Kristin is running up the sidewalk asking if she should stand here, or should she stand there, or would it be better to stand here, or where is the bus going to stop? I felt like we were in either an episode of an Alfred Hitchcock or Veggie Tales! I guess what I'm trying to say is that she was a little excited. So the bus arrives on schedule and as it's pulling in we see Eva making her way to the front, and would you believe it, Kristin gets nervous and hides behind that crazy pizza box sign! Of course, that didn't last long and after a round of hugs and introductions, we were back in the van and headed back to Phil's!
Before Eva got there Phil showed us his camper which had 2 beds in it perfect for Jeff and I, and Eva. I told Phil that we would like to sleep in the camper so he does not have to give up his bed. So when Eva got there we decided we would name the camper Hiker Haven. Before heading to the camper we said goodnight and thank you to Phil. Jeff, Eva and I stayed up a couple more hours and got to know each other a little bit. I think it was around 1:30 in the morning before we got to sleep. The next morning when we all were awake we hung out with Phil a little and then decided to go for a short walk down the rail trail to let Eva break in her pack. Her pack was pretty heavy but I think she sent just enough home to make it bearable. When we got back to Phil's he had returned from his engagement and wanted to make sure we had everything we needed. He was soooo.... helpful. Eva decided to make some granola with the oatmeal she had brought with her and Jeff and I packed up our bags. We were waiting on Mr. Benson to arrive so we could go with him to get his wife and take his '63 Impala back to Cairo for a day of getting to know Eva. We had to get back to Cairo by 4 p.m. because Sharon and Paul, the amazing trail angels from West Union, were going to pick us up for dinner so they could meet Eva. As soon as we got to Cairo and put our bags away in the house we walked over to the town square and Sharon and Paul were already waiting on us. We drove to Harrisville to eat Chinese food and Eva got to ask about the other hikers that had come through and stayed with Sharon and Paul. On the way back I told Eva it was ironic how the first day of her being with us we were driving in a car so much...She is walking to increase awareness about other options for transportation than cars. I will let her explain that to you though because I feel I might butcher the presentation.
You don't always meet a husband and wife who have given up so many attachments to follow their truth. Jeff and Kristin are a real inspiration. We've talked about theology and some of our deeper values. Then there's the silly side. Jeff showed me a video of Kristin bouncing around the Greyhound. Me: "That reminds me of myself". Jeff: "Uh-oh." It's now Monday, September 6th. We still have continueing-to-get-to-know-each other to do. This past week has gone by fast: hiking in hot weather, cooler weather, to planned and spontaneous destinations. We've read parts of Genisis by the camp fire. I am not Christian, although I come from a Christian family and believe in a higher power. I see truth in all the world religions. Kristin found a nice link between our reasons for being on the American Discovery Trail. She and Jeff are doing this to fellowship with believers about the preservation of God's Kingdom. My purpose is to work, volunteer, and walk for the environment, or the preservation of Creation.
The American Discovery Trail has already provided structure for folks who wanted to walk across the United States. However, it's not yet well-known. I hope to volunteer for the American Discovery Trail Society, or like-minded organizations to promote walking and biking as alternatives to the car culture. There are too many ideas/philosophies for me to write here. This is a summary. Some people hike this trail to raise money for charity organizations. Meanwhile, they get to know the small towns, big cities, desert, and snow-capped mountains. It's a more enriching way to get funds to non-profits than sitting at a desk. I see potential in this also becoming a "political dialogue path".
When you think about it, some organizations are linked to political ideologies. What do you want to support with your money? Ideas that affect how citizens live. Wouldn't it be exciting to send out a group of 20 cyclists, hikers, and equestrians who fill a spectrum of belief systems.= who disagree with each other. They could use the trail to raise funds for competing causes, while camping together and holding debates. They could draw a "map of ideologies" by interviewing people along the trail and color-coding geographical belief systems. When you're in a car, there's a wall between you and the neighbor car. You drive to pick up the newspaper that supports your framework of reality. Education for all ages could be expanded through walking. Slowing down, and needing to humble yourself by asking for water and a spot to camp means you have to connect to whoever is there.
"Fringe" thinkers like myself can get pretty idealistic. If I didn't have an idealist streak, I'd have let skeptic friends stop me from walking. The problem is maybe nothing grand will happen. Maybe I won't succeed in my mileage or activist goals. In day-to-day life, I try not to think too much about the "preservation of Creation". It will be hard to believe this walk has begun until more time passes. And yet, I need to keep sight of the broad goals. The oil industry is detrimental to nature. Example: the recent oil spill tragedy. It's detrimental to respectful diplomacy: the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Solar and wind power, vegetable-oil powered cars, "green" trends, all great. In addition to all that, there's a step most healthy citizens can take now. Go out and do something basic, something old, like walking. It's not really that cars are the problem, or that walking is the solution. The car vs walk is a symbol. Symbols are nifty. They get us to reflect on things.
So far, my thoughts have just been thoughts. I hope to walk all the way from here--Chesterhill, Ohio--to California. My idealist language will only mean something if it's backed up by experience. Who knows what will happen. Thanks for reading this! You're welcome to get in touch with me through Kristin and Jeff.
Even though my original reasons to walk might seem different from Jeff and Kristins', we've been having a great time so far! I respect their views. It's fascinating to talk to them about spirituality. I have a lot to learn and experience as their hiking companion, and hope we continue on as long as the weather permits.
If it weren't for Pastor Charlie's barbeque next door, I'd keep typing!
Ok, it's Kristin again. So that was an introduction of Eva, and I am sure she will be back on later to type some more.I really feel that God put the three of us together for more reasons than one and as we continue to walk together and learn from each other, I believe our purposes will gel together more and more. I appreciate Eva's young, free spirited way of thinking. I wish you could all get to know her. She is truly a beautiful creation of God!
So on with the story. After spending a night with the Benson's and getting to know Eva a little more we got dropped off at the Ohio river bridge which is the gateway from West Virginia to Ohio. We walked across and got all the way to a park across from Blennerhassett Island and found out that there was going to be a bluegrass show that night and so of course we stayed for it. We called Phil and invited him to join us. I am really glad we did because it turns out that he is a great dancer and Eva and I needed a dancing partner so we all three got up and did a little shimmying while Jeff watched and took pictures. After the concert was over we hopped in Phil's van and he took us to Hardees for some late night snacks and then we went to spend another night in Hiker Haven!! The next day Phil took us by the Parkersburg newspaper to be interviewed and then we walked across the bridge for a second time. We walked further that day though. We made it all the way to the Belpre library which I believe was around 4-5 miles. Phil picked us up again for one last night in the hiker haven. The next morning we all sat together and had a devotional and prayer. Phil took us back to the library and we walked to Veto Lake and when we were walking passed a house a nice gentleman yelled from his yard, "Are you guys walking the trail?" We all looked at each other and said, "yes we are". The man's name was Marvin and we were shocked that someone actually knew about the trail because not a lot of people do. Marvin knew about the trail because his son helped on the team of coordinators for the state of Ohio and he also helped to promote it by making all kinds of "American Discovery Trail" souvenirs. They invited us in for some cold drinks and we talked with them for quite a while. Eva got to talk to their son on the phone and she asked if he would like to come over in the morning so she could interview him. He agreed to come over and talk to us. Eva is also wanting to make a little documentary if possible when she is finished with the trail so we may have a youtube channel soon where people can look at some of the video's. I am really exited about that, I think it will turn out nice and will be good for our family back home so they can see us.
So after waking up from a very foggy and dew-filled night, we went inside the house to find Marvin's Wife making us bacon and eggs with toast! What a great bunch of people! We ate and talked until a few more people showed up. Marvin's son, Tim, being one of them. We all sat around and talked, and Eva got to interview Tim about his involvement in the ADT, until around noon I think. When we all realised that it was time to get moving.
It's easy to be comfortable when generous people feed and house you. Tim even offered us a ride as he drove by. If we'd have said yes, we would have missed the giant lilly pads on the lake. We walked slow to take in their beauty. That evening, we camped by the Layman church. I mentioned that my associations with the word "layman" are of non-religious people. That a monk might refer to some one who isn't ordained as a "lay-person". Kristin pointed out that "laymen" could be preachers who attained their calling by God , not by going to years of school. Which would make them very spiritual. The next day, we walked to Wagner's fruit farm. Alice shared stories-- and peaches and apples that wouldn't get sold. She said another Discovery Trail traveler had come through when there was a birthday going on! So not only did he enjoy fruit, he had a whole meal and birthday cake. We made a nice cooking fire farther down the road. The spot was so pretty and seemed okay for camping. But we still wanted to walk. Soon after our packs were on I got to thinking "what if we don't find another spot like this". Well we did. The property seemed neglected. It had an excellent view of the sunset where we read and discussed scripture. That night, a bird I didn't recognize sang its own sort of hymn. We found out today from Pastor Charlie the land we'd camped on used to belong to Basil Boggs. We met Pastor Charlie Sunday morning after packing up camp and walking up the road. It was around 10:30 am when we saw the church.
As soon as I walked up on the porch I felt the spirit like thick fog on a river. As I walked up to the door, Jeff told me not to interupt if they were in the middle of the service. It looked like they had started so I turned around and walked away from the door and just as we had all walked the opposite way of the door a man came out and said, "Come on in!" So we said, "okay!" We walked in and the pews were completely full and they were doing prayer requests. They sang a couple hymns accapella because the piano player was sick. They then asked if anyone had a song to share and I of course raised my hand and said " I DO". So I ran to the front and sang my anthem, "I Want Jesus to Walk with Me." After I sang another woman got up and sang a special with a recording and then another got up and sang about what heaven meant to her. They were both very touching and I got a little teary eyed. Then Charlie got up and shouted a sermon about comforting each other and how God comforts us. He was great, I could tell he was speaking from his heart and not from a sheet of paper he prepared all week. After the service was over many people came to talk to us about what we were doing. We got some information on the town we were headed to and someone offered us the community building to sleep in for the night. Another family asked what we were doing for lunch and we told them we were probably going to eat something while on the side of the road. So they immediately said we could just come to their house for lunch and we took them up on the offer. I am so glad we did because we got a delicious home cooked meal and we got to meet a beautiful family, and Eva got to do an interview with one of them about the trail. They took us back to the church after we were all full. We walked a few miles and Eva and I were singing when we realized Jeff was not right behind us. He was standing in front of a house without power lines going to it. I was exited because I heard that we were going to be going through Amish country and I couldn't wait to finally meet an Amish family. We all went up to the yard and Eva knocked on the door. We were greeted by 4 young boys all dressed in their conservative Amish dress and no shoes. They asked if we wanted to see their ice house. Basically it is a giant icebox with ice that they cut out of a frozen pond the previous winter. It was surprisingly very cold. We waited for their parents to come home in their horse and buggy so we could meet them as well. When they got there we introduced ourselves and Eva took an initiative to invite them to walk with us. Much to our surprise, they said yes. So we headed towards Chesterhill with 4 Amishmen. We talked about walking and their way of living and I asked them some questions about their beliefs. Then they pointed to the direction of the community building and we bid farewell. When we got to the community building nobody was there and the doors were all locked. Just a few minutes later a nice woman named Lisa came to unlock the door for us. We went in and made ourselves at home. Beverly, a family member from the nice folks who fed us lunch came over and brought with her two nice blow up matresses and some fresh sheets and pillows. That was so thoughtful of her and we were so appreciative.
So we are still in Chesterhill because we have a package to get into at the post office and it's Labor Day so they were not open today. We will hopefully be getting on the road tomorrow morning. We are so thankful for the people we have met the last few days. This journey would not be as amazing without them. Pastor Charlie and his wife fed us a wonderful dinner tonight and Marvin, the man who lived by Veto lake has been keeping in touch and checking in on us, and Beverly even said her nephew was very taken with us and was exited to meet us and hear about our journey. It is so amazing how we are inspiring and encouraging others as they are helping to make our journey feel like we are always at home wherever we go. I am so thankful for the people God is placing in our lives. I pray that the Lord will bless you all.