Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Rhythm of the Road (Red Hook, NY)

I haven't written as much about walking as I have about my evenings with people. So let me give you a snapshot of the rythym of my days on the road. I leave at 8am and walk for two hours straight. The first hour of that I walk in silence. I love the mornings - the crispness of the air, the sounds of the birds, my little corner of the world awakening - and I always find it invigorating to start the day just appreciating it all.

At 9am I put on my headphones and fire up a podcast. Usually, its the Sports Guy Bill Simmons. There is something about his podcasts that I love. They are about sports, but they touch on so many of my other interests - entertainment, pop culture, comedy. He has a easy, natural way of interviewing people and when I listen to his "BS Report" that second hour seems to fly by.

After two hours, I always break. I find a bench or a stoop or a spot in the shade and I rest for 20-30 minutes. I take off my shoes and socks and wipe off the perspiration. I powder my feet, eat an energy bar and take long swigs from my canteen. I look around and I count my blessings. There are so many that I have to stop long before I even get to the Cs. Time to hit the road again.

I walk from 10:30 - 12:30 and then stop for lunch. That second two-hour block of walking is a little more challenging than the first. But if the weather is nice my body usually still feels strong and sprite. I tend to start that second walking block off in silence just like the first, but only for about 30 minutes. Then I pick some music to listen to. Here's the great thing about country roads - I can sing along as loud as I want. So whether it be Rent or Jersey Boys or A Chorus Line or Les Miserables or Chicago, I make the road my Broadway stage. Anyone who knows me well knows how much I love musicals, and anyone who doesn't know me well but drives past me on a country road between 11-12:30 probably thinks I'm a lunatic. But I have fun. And if any community theaters out there are looking for someone to play Roger in their next staging of Rent, call me.

In an ideal world, I eat lunch in a local diner or restaurant. Some days there simply aren't restaurants to be found. When that happens, energy bars and trail mix is my lunch or a sandwich packed by my host the night before. I prefer eating at a restaurant for two reasons. It gets me out of the sun and it allows me to fuel my body better for the grueling last two hours of the afternoon.

When I hit the road again at 2pm, I usually have about 6 more miles to cover. That 6 miles feels harder than the first 12 combined. A mix of factors contributes to the gauntlet that is an afternoon walk - my tired body, the afternoon sun, the fact that I have already performed the equivalent of a full Broadway play for the assembled birds and crickets. I enjoy the morning. I endure the afternoon. That makes it all the more rewarding to reach my destination, strip off my sweaty clothes and take a shower. Then, once again, I feel renewed and can spend the evening being Present with those I am staying with.

My walk to Red Hook followed this rythym almost exactly. The added bonus was that The Red Hook Inn, managed so beautifully by my host Pat Holden, had a hot tub. For the first time I was able to soak in the warm water and let the hot water jets pound out all the muscle knots the road had given me. I slept like a baby that night in a room Pat created for me out of a common space since the inn was full. I had a private door, a roll out bed, a long couch, a flat screen TV and beautiful wood columns in the center of the room.

It is because of the overwelming hospitality of each of my hosts that I can wake up the next day and feel renewed enough to do it all over again. Knowing that another smiling face and warm shower awaits me down the road makes it a whole lot easier to face down those 18 miles.


  1. Garth,
    The Wicked would be a great musical to add to your musical morning ritual! I feel for you as at this moment you're on the more tiring part of the day in the afternoon. The morning walks in silence sound incredibly healing and powerful. I study mindfulness, including mindful walking. And Luke & I often do that during part of a hike. But, to experience it everyday, you are truly mindfully living right now! I hope I have the opportunity to do that one day as well(maybe just not for so long) ;)
    May the walk become easier on your body with time. You are in our thoughts.
    Julie Lane