A little learning’ll do ya good.

Dateline: 05/31/24

2195 miles to date. My quest is at end. I HAVE ARRIVED!

A statistical pre-note: The 2195 miles were walked over 322 days, averaging 6.81 miles per walk, which was spread out over the course of 18 months. A pretty cushy quest by any measure.

btw I was never able to get a sponsor with access to Moody AFB to grant me the same. I appealed to the contingency of enlisted personnel that attended the Batan commemorative walk, Moody personnel from the fitness club & walkers klatch, the Moody community liaison, the Valdosta City Manager, Mayor, and Communications director, The Commission chair, various civilian workers & retirees with access, and even our congressman and Senator… without success.  Signing me onto base is a cinch, but the heavy lift is that whomever that may be has to stay with me and actually walk the entire base. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t to be. Maybe some day.

And what have I learned? Quoting  Jerry Garcia is tempting, “What a long strange trip it’s been” , or Jimmy Buffet, “Its been a lovely cruise”. But “strange”, “lovely”?…”I don’t think so” (LL Cool J). Billy Holiday reminds me  “God bless the child that’s got his own” quote. And so, I’ll try to conjure my own.

Things I’ve learned: 1) Objects in the mirror really are closer than they appear and really don’t take that long to walk to. 2) Everyone you encounter “out there” isn’t going to rape, rob, or murder you – 99.99% of’em are no more dangerous than you. 3) The hardest part of any task is standing up and stepping toward it. 4) Our weight has nothing to do with exercise (I know fat lazy people and the skinny lazy too). 5) Always carry an ordinary bottle of water with you when walking in unfamiliar territory – It settles the suspicions of the suspicious (burglars & buggers don’t carry water in hand). 6) While a wooden coaster is exhilarating, I don’t want to live on one – there is excitement to be found even at 3 miles per hour.

…and what else.  A quest is a journey; one of discovery. But not like a life journey. Everybody who stays alive is awarded the personal growth trophy for that. Nor is it a 90s rock band. It’s a physical journey that entails travel. And not VaCa travel either. The pilgrims aboard a FunShip, cruising to the promise port, along with 3000 other faithful, don’t get credit. The only thing spiritual they encounter comes with an umbrella & fruit, finishing with a slight headache.            Quest-travel leads to learning by experience. The knowledge gained is distilled in drops of pure satisfaction, simply from having done the thing. That elixir enters the bloodstream and places a long distance call to the spirit world for a higher consult. Only then is the traveler rewarded with an endorfin release, the kind of which conventional spirits can’t.

Although I’m certainly not the arbiter of what constitutes a genu-wine quest, I do think it might be bounded by some structure. A quest should be guided by goal. It should expose the explorer to the new, which often comes with some measure of discomfort. And, its breadth should be broad enough to span several seasons.  That afternoon that you rode every single ride at Wild Adventures?…wont do. As to what the activity actually is, is anything. Recently, I saw on TV a report about the completed quest of a man who made the grade by pushing a peanut up a mountain, all the way, with his nose. (Actually, he had Mcguyvered  a classy plastic spoon rhino-rig that was very effective for just that task). But he completed the thing!  Granted, that sort of quest is kinda “out there” when compared to those judged more noble in the pantheon of human accomplishment. Think of Tensing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, or Neil Armstrong. I wonder if the peanut pusher uttered anything quotable when he summited: “Thats one small hill for a nut, One giant peak for the kind of nut it took to push it.”

So, the quest itself can range from replicating well known rights of passage, to the most obscure. A look into the Eye of Sauron (“Eye” for [I]nternet)  offers some comparative numbers surrounding such passages: Approximately 20,000 people have hiked all 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail. 9500 have walked the entire 2,650 mile long Pacific Crest Trail. 6,664 mountaineers have successfully summited Everest, and even 12 astronauts have loped about the lunar surface. Now, of course I’m not comparing my stroll with the incredible acts of these intrepid souls. But I feel I can safely climb out on that springy end of the risky branch and hazard a guess that the number of people who’ve walked every foot of nearly every road in Lowndes County Ga.,  might be smaller. I think it’s more than a possibility. It’s damned likely.

I strongly urge any who’ve followed my journey to take up a quest of your own. Where or what exactly matters not. Just whatever it is that stirs your blood will do. However, I would caution that if a chosen adventure serves a narcissistic need to  “influence” by collecting clicks, I know a good psychologist. It’s peculiar that many of us will drive or fly great distances to take in breath taking vistas but may be reluctant to expend less energy to find whats geo cashed in our own jungle.  “Over there” is always more exotic than right here. Part of the problem is that molten iron core at the center of Earth that pulls us to it. It takes energy to overcome gravity just to stand and walk to the fridge. But oh the gratification that lies within that luminescent chilly alter of sin makes the the caloric cost a bargain! And small micro rewards too are all over for the price of expending a little energy. It reminds me of a quote, a few posts ago, by Annabel Streets (52 Ways to Walk) “As Homo sapiens, we evolved to walk – all day, every day. And yet, as Homo sapiens we also evolved to conserve energy – to do nothing. Never has it been more difficult to resist the alluring convenience of our electrified, pixelated age. But resist, we must!”

So, resist the laws of physics and evolutionary predilections. Even Mick Jagger knows “Ya gotta move.” When you do, (should you choose to walk) I have a few recommendations: First get to  know your own neighborhood at 3 mph…all of it.  After that, drive to places you may’ve heard of, driven past, or better yet, know nothing at all about. I know thats completely counter intuitive or even dangerous sounding, it was to me. But your back yard domain is public and feels like visiting kin.  Drive there and go for a walk. Eschewing comfort for the new is where joy lives. The experience of being in territory thats completely unknown can give the exhilaration of discovery, of something exotic. It feels as if you’ve traveled far and touched down in the kingdom of Dahomey. Anyone inclined to expand on my exploration I would welcome (don’t everyone raise their hand at once), but a truncated walking tour thats worthy would be to seek just our far flung dirt roads. The appeal lies in those vestigial remnants of what Lowndes must’ve looked and felt like in 1900. At the earliest beginnings our entire economy was harnessed to a mule that scratched out our survival into the sandy loam soil. It’s out there that one gets a sense of ancestry. Seeing any and every manner of land feature, remanent agri-object, homesteads, wildlife, etc.,  you’ll find it impossible not to pause in wonder. Not only seeing, but feeling the temperature & humidity, smelling the soil, and hearing calls of the wild, is the sort of immersion that can’t reach the inside of a car. I used to believe that the only way to access our wilderness (without trespassing) was to paddle its rivers. But those narrow roads,  the ones that range from pomegranite to push-up on the color wheel, like the rivers, are public and offer the same view to the primal parts of the county. Those roads are precious relics and I truly hope our commissioners can resist “The relentless march of tin pan towns, paved roads, and all the shabby efficient progress toward an unknown goal” (Thomas Caldecot Chubb – Turkey Gobbler Land) and will leave our dirt roads pristine for the next generation, for the remainder of this 21st century.

Above, I mentioned collecting viewer clicks, so a word about that; The attitude I have about documenting my own quest is that writing about it has been part of my own personal exploration. Thanks for your indulgence. If a few followers enjoyed the posts, thats great but, more importantly, if no one had read them at all, that’d be AOK too. Do it, not for approval but for joy, that is yours alone. I have a pretty good hunch my own father would’ve regarded my endeavor as so much peanut pushing. And maybe it was, but my gratification can’t be denied and needs no approval. I’d compare it to graduating from higher education in cum-laude territory; Its something truly appreciated only by the student, having passed a test of their intellectual mettle.

I’ve become intimately familiar with Lady Lowndes and am smitten. Although I’d seen her many times at the picture show that flashes past my car windows, until we had this slow date I never really noticed her beauty.  It seems she too wants a lover with a slow foot, and has set her own treble hook in my hide. And It feels pretty good.  The spool of unexplored dirt roads is one big enough to make a transatlantic crossing and, like the athlete who returns to the game from retirement, I expect I’ll return too to see those unseen lanes. I can’t quit her. I’d recommend to my voyeur kin to leave your comfort, open you aperture, slow your shutter speed (you know what speed), and discover.  2024: A rural space odyssey. Gaze into and realize as I did, “My God, it’s full of stars”.

Billy was right, This local world is our mussel. Pry yours open. Peer inside like Howard Carter did upon discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen, and behold… “wonderful things”.

To everybody that offered encouragement, and support along my way, I’m only an apprentice word smith and only know how to hammer out a simple thank you. Steven Stills once sang, “Everybody I Love You”.

Me too.

Lets go for a walk.

[my] Quote of the week:

Like flying is to a bird, swimming to a fish, crawling to an insect, slithering to a snake, or “sneeping” to a snail, WALKING,  Its what we do. Its as second nature as blinking & breathing and it’s fundamental to engaging our world. It’s a mighty big world, so start steppin’. You’ll feel better, function better, look better and to you, so will your whole world.