The Long Hike Log

Thursday February 7, 2008

This is a re-post. It was originally on my now-defunct personal web site at It was one of my favorite things there. I rescued it from an backup and now here it is again. I have decided not to edit it at all, so here it is, just as it was when I first put it up in 2003.


This is the record I kept as I hiked from my dorm room in Madison, Wisconsin, to my home in Menasha, Wisconsin. This disance of approximately 120 miles or so (by my path) I walked in the five days of 13-17 May 2003. I trekked solo and so decided to keep a journal in a notebook of how I got along. And here it is.

Entries varied in quality and style. Where I wrote at length, I have transcribed exactly my entries, making changes only for spelling and the like. Other times I wrote in fragments, making bullet-point lists to be expanded on. (This became more frequently the case as the days wore on.) I have written these notes into paragraph form to make them readable.

It might not be the travels of Lewis and Clark, but it's not so bad either.

9:50am Day 1 (Tuesday 13 May 2003)

I set out this morning from 426 Chadbourne Hall (420 North Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin) at 5:37am, which had said was supposed to be sunrise. Seemed like the sunrise had already happened to me.

First glitch of the trip (or second if you count missing dawn) was that my camera's battery turned out to be dead. At least now I don't need to buy more film. I've alreday missed some good photo oportunities though. The Red Gym behind the trees on Library Mall, all in full bloom in the early morning light, for example.

Then there was some crazy creature I saw before I even got to State Street. It was dark-colored, about cat-sized but huskier (like a miniature badger, I thought) with a lighter-colored bottle-brush tail. It was so cool. And there were these two giant rusty peacocks (without the extravagant tails) made from old car parts and such, standing guard outside some apartments. They were neat too.

So I'm maybe 2/3 of the way to Sun Prairie, on the "Soo Line" railroad tracks. Nobody's tried to kick me off yet, and I haven't seen any active trains except for at some scrap metal processing plant where machines were eating up crushed cars and old I-beams and excreting scrap metal stew into a few open railway cars on an adjacent section of track.

I passed a few things I believe to be mile-markers, and with them and my fancy new digital watch I estimate my pace to be almost three miles an hour, which is reasonable, especially on railroad tracks.

I ate (drank) a "Zenergy" bottled smoothy thing as I walked State Street this morning (about 5:50am). Now I'm having a few apple rings and one (of two per package) Nature Valley granola bars. This pack of mine is heavy, and doesn't ride as well as it might.

Must mention the graffiti. Every underpass is like a collaborative galleria.

My mat is a big pain to carry, but worth it for sitting on, not to mention sleeping on tonight, I imagine.

I started the day wearing long pants, my AAE t-shirt, and my blue long-sleeved math team t-shirt. It was brisk, but nice. I took off the math shirt, which is now proving useful for helping to hold my mat on top of my backpack. I've just taken off my removable pant legs, so I'm now wearing shorts and short-sleeved t-shirt. I applied lots of sunscreen, and I really hope I don't burn. That would not be fun. I switched my watch to my right arm, just to balance always wearing it on the left. I'm always wearing my nifty safari hat with the neck flaps. I think it's awesome.

There are plenty of rabbits about, especially on the outskirts of Madison. I could probably feed myself just by throwing rocks at them, let alone with a crossbow or something.

I'm about to finish my first half-Liter bottle of water, then I'll get going again.

1:59pm Day 1

Ah, hiking. Is anything more awesome?

I had to pee really bad for the fourth time on the trail, which is pretty weird. I haven't drunk that much, really. I feel like my body must be flushing out all my extra body water or something, which isn't really what I want to do with it. Now I'm sitting on my mat in a pleasant grove on someone's private property.

Eating on the "trail", I finished the other half of my first Nature Valley granola bar package, had a strawberry Harvest bar, and a half-Liter of orange juice. Now I'm eating these little spherical Snickers things. Mmm... high fat.

I'm trying to decide how far I should go today. I started ridiculously early, so I have a lot of hours of daylight. I don't want to burn myself out too much and be useless tomorrow, though. I think I'll take a nap here. I hope I don't sunburn too badly.

Where am I now? A couple miles (well, maybe one) beyond Sun Prairie. Those Sun Prairie people sure put "Sun Prairie" on everything in their town though, wow. "Sun Prairie" this, "Sun Prairie" that.

I should call home (or try anyway) and tell them I'll be late for dinner. Wouldn't that be clever of me. After my nap, perhaps.

Or perhaps not. I must be the most nervous outdoor sleeper ever. Every little noise was making me jump while I was trying to nap. Probably just little birds flitting about, but I kept thinking it was a person, come to kick me in the face and off his land or something. Oh well. I'll just have a poop on this land and head off then.

5:46pm Day 1

It is really beautiful here. Not wanting to overdue it (and being adequately tired anyway) I chose the Deansville wildlife Area to bed down in tonight. You aren't really supposed to camp overnight, but what do you do.

I expected it to be a forest, but the part I got to is a grassland sort of thing. Not wanting to be excessively visible from the roads, I walked in a ways toward some trees that grow along a tiny creak that flows through the area. After initially checking out some more mature trees, I found the ideal spot next to a small thicket of young birch. A thin ring of dead six-to-eight-foot trees surrounds an ample clearing floored with lush green grass. The creak runs through it, and many birds flitter and sing in the surrounding trees. Looking up through small fresh spring leaves on multiple levels of hopeful birch branches there is a fine view of the pale blue afternoon sky, sprinkled with lacadaisical whispy cumulous clouds that give the distinct impression they could look like anything, but don't happen to at the moment purely because they haven't gotten around to it just yet.

So I've laid down my tarp and put my mat on it, and with the soft grass underneath on the relatively level ground, I can scarcely imagine a more ideal setup for sleeping directly under the stars.

Here's a list of more things I've eaten:

I'm well off my Madison map now... If I ever find an opportunity, I'd like to mail that map and my camera home. Possibly other things too, if I think of them.

So in studying my map, I've come up with the following plan.

Day 1: Madison to Deansville Wildlife Area (not really part of the plan, but I've already done it now haven't I?)
Day 2: get to Shaw Marsh (near Beaver Dam)
Day 3: visit DNR headquarters, hopefully get most of the way throught the Horicon Wildlife Refuge
Day 4: get to Eldorado Marsh
Day 5: vicinity of Oshkosh
Day 6: get home

This seems like a fine plan to me. Day 2 (tomorrow) is probably the hardest (longest, anyway) day. I hope the weather continues to be phenomenally great, and that I sleep well tonight and am not too sore tomorrow.

I almost wish I had an excuse to try my skill at hunting these rabbits that hop around all over the place. Can't justify an attempt because there's a slim chance I'd succeed.

A very cute little chipmunk just bounded remarkably high out of the grass. It was funny.

My main soreness right now is behind my knees. I think it's from over-striding, or hyper-extending, or something. It doesn't bother me much as long as I use primarily my upper leg muscles (quadriceps in particular, if that's the right name for it) to accomplish walking.

11:01am Day 2 (Wednesday 14 May 2003)

I hesitate to write, but only because it will take so long to catch up. So I'll start where I left off then... Don't hope to see that I'm following my grand plan from yesterday.

The Deansville Wildlife Area was an idyllic natural wonderland before dark. After dark, it was one thing and one thing only: cold. As the sun set from the clear sky and twilight descended I began to get an inkling of this and ate a Nature Valley bar hoping to use the carbs for warmth. I had laid down sevenish, hoping to get a good full night's sleep. I ate at 8:15 or so, and the sun was completely gone by nine or shortly thereafter I suppose.

The moon seemed almost as bright as the sun, nearly full and making it impossible to see many stars despite the absence of the urban glow. I was sitll able to find one of the dippers, but my knowledge of the night sky is so week I couldn't ascertain much. I tried to sleep.

My tarp was moved around and wrapped about me in many ways as I tried to find the warmest arangement. My upper body, with tight-fitting winter hat, one short and one long-sleeved t-shirt and my well-worn hooded sweatshirt, was doing comparatively well. My nylon convertible pants, on the other hand, were just not designed for the kind of warmth my legs needed.

I eventually settled somewhat with the tarp thrown haphazardly over my whole person, in the hopes of creating a warmable airspace around my body. Fetal position on my four-foot mat, I got perhaps two hours of fitful sleep.

My airspace was slightly warmable, but it was mainly humidifiable. This would have been all right if there had been anything to keep the tarp from touching me, but there was not.

So I essentially generated a massive remotely condensed cold sweat. Not just "cool," but as cold as 12 degrees above freezing. I don't know what triggered it, but at about 11:30pm I snapped awake and found myself submerged in a polar sea. It felt as though each wet square inch of nylon tarp were clinging desparately to my clammy body.

There was nothing for it. After a frozen moment's addled consideration I jumped to my feet, wrapped my tarp and spare t-shirt (which had earlier tried its luck as both a blanket and a pillow) in my mat, which I now carried under my arm, and set off.

Walking would have to warm me up, and it did. Three times I laid down to rest again on the side of the road for 30-45 minutes. The driver of one passing pickup truck stopped and asked if I was all right. "Just taking a nap, thanks." What else do you do in a ditch along a lonely county highway at three in the morning. As drunk as I assume that guy must have been, he must have thought I was way drunker.

I was glad to have bought and brought my tiny blue single-AAA Mag-Lite flashlight. When I started out around midnight the moon was still shining bright from the cloudless heavens, but around two in the morning foggy clouds began to thicken and darken the sky. It was as if dusk continued until just before dawn. Reading what street signs I could find and consulting my trusty map, I decided that the best plan was to head for Columbus. I thought of seeking out a sleeping bag, but knew it would be day (and warmer) before stores opened, and why buy it in Columbus just to carry it to Beaver Dam?

At quarter after four I decided I had better eat. So I had a breakfast of a peanut butter and chocolate Harvest bar and a half-Liter of orange juice, finishing off my juice supply.

Somehow I made it into Columbus by 5:40, thinking it would be my longest distance covered in 24 hours. I climbed a fence and a concrete barrier to switch highways as I came into the city. Just passing the last farms, I found what I had thought would be the ideal shelter: a grade school's playground. I considered a merry-go-round but settled on the roomier space beneath a platform in a climbing-sliding complex. I threw down my roll, covered myself with my tarp, and tried to get some sleep.

I had suspected I might encounter law enforcement on this trek, and I was right. I was awakened (if that's what you are when you're forced to stop trying to sleep) by a female voice. A pair of Columbus polic officers, a younger healthy-looking woman and a well-fed middle-aged man, were looking for a drunk but would deal with me as they had found me.

The woman seemed to be a technical sort of cop, as if she were new and wanted to make sure she could do each task. She attended the radio, used police codes when talking on it, and drove the car. In a movie she definitely would have been the "green" officer learning the ropes. She took my ID and radioed it in to be checked. Of course it came back clean, so they were happy to send me on my way.

The male officer was a different brand of playing cards altogether. I explained to him why I had been dosing in a children's jungle gym, and he offered some info on the Wild Goose Wisconsin State Trail that I am now heading for at his suggestion. He helped me find it and plot a course to it on my map. Explaining about the coldness that I was dealing with, he offered me a bright yellow disposable blanket. He said he was glad to give one to someone who was still alive, although I kind of wonder how many dead bodies he really deals with in small town Columbus. I didn't notice at the time (I was a little frazzled) but this jovial officer was a little strange. He awkwardly worked "happier than a pig in mud" and "sweating like a pig" into his chit-chat, as if he wanted me to provoke him with some inflamatory pork comments of my own. Also he phrased my journey as hitch-hiking; I was sure to specify that I was just hiking, not hitching, as I believe that hitch-hiking is illegal. Kind of a strange cookie, this cop; perhaps he was more clever than he seemed, but then again perhaps even less.

I will never be able to say that I walked all the way from Madison to Menasha, because the Columbus poice drove me to the opposite outskirts of town. I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to turn down their offer. They really seemed like they wanted to do it.

So now I'm walking toward the southern end of the Wild Goose trail, or more accurately taking a rather long break at a wayside along the route there. It's raining, and has been for several hours. I hung the tarp up to make a shelter. It's supported at three corners by trees, and the fourth is tied down to my Leatherman. I should have known that big file tool thing would come in handy, it makes the Leatherman a sturdy stainless steel tent stake.

This yellow blanket is just the thing I needed, I think. One side is waterproof plastic, the other is sort of foamy. It doesn't slip against clothing at all though, making it hard to move around under. It's really a lot like a high-quality disposable table cloth. I wouldn't mind if it were a bit wider so that I could wrap it completely and securely around myself and still have room to wiggle. I could imagine myself sweating like a pig in this thing if it weren't quite so cold outside.

I watched a robin from my little shelter as it successfully hunted for worms in the grass. That was kind of cool.

Eaten while here:

Maybe its serious about not raining now...

1:03pm Day 2

Well, I'm heading out again. It's still all cloudy, but it seems to have stopped raining anyway. I just filled four of my water bottles at the wayside outdoor drinking water fountain thing. Some motorist who had stopped came and talked to me for a bit and offered me a ride, which I declined. He seemed like a friendly old guy, perhaps lonely or something. I kind of felt bad for him. I transfered the remainder of my package of York bites into my pants pocket, dropping two.

More than anything else, I'm now walking like a robot from the Star Wars universe. My legs take very small steps, and my knees don't bend a whole lot, but it isn't very painful, so it's the method I'm sticking with. I definitely feel like one of those battle droid things, or maybe even C-3PO.

It got me to thinking about Star Wars. All the walking robots shuffle along sort of like I do now, even the ones that are supposed to be highly mobile for combat. This is no doubt a part of the reason for the battle drones being replaced by clones. So are we supposed to believe that in this universe where a droid can be fluent in six million or so forms of communication, nobody can figure out how to make them walk properly? The cars can fly, for goodness sake, why can't the robots walk? Oh well.

8:36am Day 3 (Thursday 15 May 2003)

Seven miles already today. I meant to write last night but didn't. So what did I do after leaving the wayside yesterday?

I hiked what I hope will be the most boring leg of this trip. Officer Friendly had pointed me down East Highway 16/60. It's blue on my map, which translates I guess to being busier than my comfortable little black county highways.

I've decided that having a semi trailer fly by me at highway speed creates a buffeting similar to that experienced on a roller coaster, but considerably less fun. It probably helped to dry off my tarp, which I has wearing in poncho mode, but I am definitely not missing it on the infinitely nicer Wild Goose trail.

This was definitely a very, very long straight road, which seems worse than a very, very long path with variation and turns and such. I did get several ride offers, all of which I turned down. Some guy in a grey pickup truck, some chick in a red car, and some country housewife all yelled ride offers to me. That was kind of fun. I almost thought about taking one of them up on the offer, but didn't. I talked to a county sherriff of some kind, who did the standard ID check and asked me if I was all right and all that. He seemed kind of bumbling. He gave me directions to the start of the Wild Goose Trail, which I already knew, when I was already within three miles of it.

Approaching the start of the Wild Goose Trail, I saw some construction work as a crew was laying fiber optic cable along the side of the highway. I've seen markers for the stuff all over the place, warning not to dig and wreck it. They seem to do it in a pretty cool way, with a big boring machine so that they don't have to dig a channel and all that. I ate the last of my York bites and a bunch of trail mix, putting it into my front pants pockets and snacking on it.

And then, after thinking I'd never make it, I was finally greeted by the trail sign: "Fond du Lac, 34.8 miles." It was great. I stopped and sat at a combination map sign and park bench to eat a peanut butter and chocolate chip Harvest bar and drink as much water as I could before setting up camp.

The Wild Goose Trail follows an old abandoned railroad coridor. The tracks are long gone and the trail is well surfaced with crushed limestone for walking on, with grassy side-trails for horses, but the path is still raised, with minor valleys on either side that rise eventually to privately owned land, farm or otherwise. So the space I had to bed down in was rather swampy, especially since it had been raining all day.

It reminded me of nothing so much as Dagobah, the swamp planet from Star Wars. (Why is everything Star Wars lately?) Luckily nothing tried to swallow me, there were really no nasty bugs to speak of, and I was able to find a satisfactory space, adequately hidden from the trail. Not that it mattered; I have seen no one else on the trail whatsoever.

So this last was my first night with my nice new police-issue blanket. Also, I used my rope to tie my tarp into a fairly nice lean-to configuration. Then I layed out my tarp, folded once to make a sort of open sleeping bag. With my neat green tarp lean-to and crisp rectangular blanket in bright yellow, it looked very geometrical.

I decided I might have better luck staying right with my blanket if I took my shoes off, so I did. Once I got myself wrapped up, all thoughts of writing that night were gone, but it was only eight o'clock or so. I tried to sleep.

There were noises. Birds keep on chirping until darkness has fallen completely. The namesakes of the Wild Goose trail were duly represented, and quite doing their part to contribute to the atmosphere, it seemed. Also there were bangs. These were loud bangs that seemed to come from the distance. I would have thought they were gun shots if I hadn't known they couldn't possibly be.

I didn't know if it would rain any more in the night, but I hoped it wouldn't. It did. I half-woke and noticed it, pulling my backpack under the lean-to somehow and managing to get my shoes back on my cold feet before trying to get some more sleep. It is very hard to move under my blanket without exposing some part of my body to cold air. It was not incredibly comfortable, but it was survivable.

I got up at 5:15, grateful to have been able to stay down that long but unable to stay down any longer. It was already light enough to see well, and the sky was still a blanket of grey cloud. I packed my things very quickly, I thought, and set off.

I noticed several things in the first few miles. First, there are mile markers, which I love. I'm now using my fancy new digital wristwatch's "chronometer" feature to record the time I spend on each mile. It seems to typically take 20 minutes or so for me to complete a mile, when I take no substantial stoppings. There are occaisional twigs and leaves and such on the path, and also worms. The worms are often indistinguishable from the twigs except at very short range, as they, like the twigs, become covered in tiny bits of limestone. The worms were no doubt drawn out by the rain, and unable to get back into the earth. Some still move, but not most. A few of my toes are not doing as well as they might be. I sat down and pulled off my shoes, and applied self-adhesive bandages (aka Band-Aids) to several of them. One had started to bleed a little bit, but not seriously. Finally, I discovered what the source of last night's banging noises was. There is a rifle range about a mile and a half along, and apparently its users like to shoot through dusk.

I've walked through Waupun already (not much to walk through, really) and will be entering Horicon sooner or later. Now I intend to record, as I've been meaning to, a list of things that I should do when I get home.

Todo When I Get Home List

(addition, below)

Man, do I smell bad! Still cold and cloudy. Heading out at 9:20.

11:33am Day 3

Not even noon, and I've done nearly 12 miles. Not even noon, and it's already getting sunny. Er... It's getting sunny anyway, so I'm down to shorts and t-shirt for the first time since Tuesday. I stopped here at a pleasant little park in Burnett and applied judicious amounts of sun screen. Harcore sunburn is not what I need. I just hope my Walgreen's brand SPF-15 is up to the job. I was okay from Tuesday, anyway.

There was something else I thought of for my todo list, and this sentence was going to end "but I forgot what it was," except I just remembered it. Obvious.

Speaking of which...

[Editing note: My hike journal is interspersed with notes, drawings, and ideas for this comic strip thing that I'm kind of working on. I don't know if it's going anywhere, but if it is my web site will definitely reflect it.]

I'm really hungry for the first time on this trip. Kind of weird. Gotta keep eating!

2:17pm Day 3

Just over 17 miles of Wild Goose Trail (I love those mile markers) I encountered my first non-me human on the trail. A friendly old man and his friendly young dog passed me going the opposite direction on the trail as I sat on a bench tending to my feet.

He stopped to chat (the dog couldn't be bothered) and told me of a couple bikers he had been passed by twice, but said the trail is typically quite uncrowded. He asked if I had any blisters, and I realized with great relief that I did not. It hadn't entered my mind that I might get blisters. Thank you, Capoeira training, for making my feet particularly resistant to blisters!

I moved from the bench to a shadier spot on the trail nearby after laying out my clothes to dry in the sun. Here comes the dog again... jumping all over me.

The man stopped again passing me on his return leg and recommended a possible camping spot up ahead the way I'm going. He says it's on Highway 49, a couple hundred yards to the right from the trail. I don't know how likely a spot it sounds, really.

People are really quite friendly, it seems. Also dogs, who cover my legs with marsh goo in their jubilance.

Note: A while ago I saw some kind of crazy creature at the base of a tree. I'm not even going to try to describe it aside from that it was furry, it was maybe cat-sized, and I didn't know what it was. It was different from the crazy animal I saw on Library Mall.

Now the real reason for this stop, which is to write down comic ideas that I've been going over in my head.

Why is it called "Hogwart's" school of Witchcraft and Wizardry? Weird that there's no stated reason.

Heading out again - shortly after 3pm.

8:50am Day 4 (Friday 16 May 2003)

Well I wasn't going to write, but I've been reported dead in Fond du Lac and thought I absolutely had to mention it. "I'm not dead yet!" I suppose I had better start where I left off in getting back up to the present...

Well, I did a lot of walking. Mile after mile, you know how it goes. I didn't want to stop too early last night, knowing I probably wouldn't get to sleep until nine-ish anyway, when it gets totally dark and the birds quiet down. I also figured that the more I did yesterday, the more tired I'd be and the better I'd be able to sleep. Some of that was almost right.

[Editing note: My notes here are pretty hard to piece into a cohesive account. They're very brief thought segments, and their ordering is so non-chronological it's amazing to me that I wrote it down the way I did.]

I eventually decided that it'd be better to bed down after Oakfield than before, so I endeavored to push through. Oakfield was a strange little town, or so it seemed to me. There were in several places signs that warned against trespassing on the trail, which is makes exactly as much sense as it seems to. Residents must have put up signs to keep people like me off of the public trail. Official-looking signs, even. I was glad to not have to confront any Oakfieldians on this matter. Maybe they were only addressing the snowmobilers or something.

I needed to replenish my liquid supplies, and the only place I could find was a cruddy little non-chain gas station that didn't seem to have bathrooms. So I bought some bottled water and some orange juice. I also broke down and bought a sandwich to munch. Even as hungry as I was, gas station sandwiches are really really bad. I probably shoulnd't have gotten the darn sandwich. It isn't sitting so well in the ol' belly. Oh well. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So I continued on the path out of town, and stumbled across a pack of young boys who had turned some of the area around the trail just past the last of the buildings into a sort of off-road biking play area. I watched as one kid tried to take a jump, discovering halfway down his hill that he had no functioning brakes. It was a bad time to discover this, as another kid had just jumped in front of him. They managed to avoid an accident.

These kids meant that I would have to walk farther along than I had thought, so that I wouldn't have to worry about their somehow coming across me. I didn't want to get far enough along that I was very close to the highway crossings that I saw coming up on my map either. The first spot I tried was next to an old stone bridge that the trail followed over a nice babbling brook. After fighting down the steep deteriorating stone stairs to the bank, I was unable to find any place suitable for lying out. So I pulled my way back up the trail.

Most of my sitings of other trail users occured just past Oakfield. The biking kids, some teenage guy running, and a group of four middle-aged people walking. After these last two couples (I presume) had passed out of sight, I scrambled up what was now a sharp incline on the left of the trail, getting up to the level of farms surrounding. I found a decent spot and tried to set up camp as I had the night before. It was darker, I was more tired, my camp was not as good.

On the other hand, it didn't rain, which was nice. But then, I didn't get as much sleep either. It was very cold, and 2:30am was as long as I could hold out. So I was up and away, clamboring down onto the trail at three in the morning.

I got to one of the highway crossings that I knew were coming up at around 3:30. Waiting for two cars to pass, the second one abruptly turned in to me, drawing to a stop. I already had a familiar resigned feeling when the red and blue lights started spinning on the roof.

It was a fairly strange encounter, as it turned out neither of us knew the other was there until the last second. The cop hadn't seen me before stopping; I just happened to be waiting to cross the street at a place that he referred to as one of his "honey holes" for catching speeders with radar. After the obligatory ID check and struggle to explain what I was doing in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, I was on my way once more.

So 5:30ish this morning I reached the end of the Wild Goose Trail in Fond du Lac. That was gratifying, let me tell you! And technically, I hiked the whole of the trail in one day. That's pretty awesome.

I had some navigation difficulties entering Fond du Lac, so I stopped at a nice new-seeming Citgo station with a big food selection and enjoyed a proper breakfast of sausage-egg-and-cheese biscuit sandwich, donut, and grapefruit juice. It was pretty nice. I used the bathroom, and I must say, I am one grubby guy. I also got a couple of maps and figured out what was going on.

On through Fond du Lac then, eh? That's what I did exactly. A bit over half way through, at 7:30 or so, I came across this nice park. Adelaide Park is its name, and I've laid down near its big sign, with some of my things strewn about to dry in the sun. I wasn't minding the warmth myself, although it didn't clear my nasal passages, when several interruptions came along.

Some guy from the body shop across the street stopped by to make sure I was all right. Some kids on their way to Parkside grade school (adjacent to the park) stopped in a gang and seemed to think that they'd mess with me or something. They were trying to tell my that their school owned the public city park and that I shouldn't be sleeping in it or something. I really dislike little kids who act like they have some sort of authority, especially over me. I'm not sure I dislike it more when they actually have that authority or when they don't, but these precocious little hellions had nothing on me. So eventually they drifted off and I tried to nap a bit more.

I was roused by a siren. There's always kind of a little voice that wonders if the siren is coming for you, or maybe someone you know or something, but this time I had a stronger than normal feeling. I was a little amused when a big red ambulance parked virtually at my feet and paramedics jumped out with little black bags. They explained that I had been called in dead, and I was very amused. I didn't even know that you could call a person in dead. Some old lady driving along had seen me napping in a public park, and decided that the only logical explanation was that someone had dumped a corpse. The poor woman would die of fright in Madison, where parks are often covered with various people laid out in the grass.

Well, I don't think I'm going to get any more sleep around here. It's 9:10, and I'm heading out. Hopefully I'll find a bathroom before leaving Fondy.

1:01pm Day 4

Nowhere has got to be pretty darn big, to have a middle that I can keep walking through for days and never get out of it. I'm on yet another grid of county highways, making my way toward Oshkosh. I was playing with the idea of trying to go straight on to home, but now I'm hoping I'll be able to find Dan Berken in Oshkosh and get some proper sleep at his house there.

I'm sort of passing the time as I walk along by calling around on my sister's mobile phone. I was able to borrow the phone for my trip since my parents pay for it anyway and they wanted me to be able to call if I get in trouble or anything. So I've been calling roughly daily to say that I'm not dead yet and that everything is going well. I turn the phone on, call, and then turn the phone off. But yesterday I left the phone on long enough that it got notified that there were voicemail messages.

Luckily the voicemail wasn't password protected or anything, at least in its speed dial entry. The first message was from someone trying to reach Joanna, which didn't work since I have the phone. The second one was from a reporter from the Post-Crescent. She must have called my house and been given the cell number. She wanted to know about the Capoeira classes that I'm doing at the Neenah-Menasha YMCA this summer, which was pretty cool I thought.

I tried to call her back last night but it was late so I just left a message. I got her today though, and tried to give an interview of sorts. It doesn't sound like she's doing anything terribly in-depth though. Capoeira is just going to be one item in a list of "strange ways to exercise" or something.

It would have been hard for me to give a worse interview. Stumbling over words was the order of the day, and forgetting words altogether was the second course. Trying to describe Capoeira's history, I couldn't remember the name of the other major type. (I do Regionale, the other kind is called: something.) Then, talking about Capoeira as a workout, I wanted to describe it as: something. Argh. I still can't remember the darn word. Either of them.

7:48pm Day 4

Pretty sure I'm so exhausted I'm stupid. Most noticably can't remember names/words/etc. On phone with Shaun, the Post-Crescent reporter: Angola is the Capoeira word I was trying to remember. I still can't remember that other word. All I get is bad crossword puzzle hints: it's used in the name "'blank' medicine", it's like "unitarian" sort of, or "wholeness" or something.

[Editing note: The word I was looking for was "wholistic," as in "Capoeira provides a very wholistic workout, training aerobic endurance, muscular strength, flexibility, balance, and involving the whole body."]

Just now, trying to compare myself to it, I can't remember the name of that short story in which a retarded man and a mouse are given injections that dramatically increase their intelligence for a while, but eventually cause them to regress and die. That was a pretty cool story.

[Editing note: Maybe I wasn't doing so bad after all. I still can't remember what that story was called. I know it was a guy's name though. Now just for fun, here's the last paragraph exactly as I wrote it.]

Found Dan finally. House not actually habitable. Apartment though. Also food. Maybe shower. Warm sleep. Home tomorrow.

[Editing note: Now, what did I mean by that?]

I came into Oshkosh later than I had hoped to. I got Dan's address and phone number from 411, but I never got an answer at the provided phone number. It seemed to take forever, but I eventually got to the address with the help of my Oshkosh map. Dan had told me that he bought a house in Oshkosh. The building I arrived at was a big apartment complex. I was sure I was doomed, and sat down to try to call around and possibly get another phone number where I might reach a Berken.

Just then Ben Ziemba drove up with his girlfriend. Ben was (and still is, more or less) Dan's roommate. I was saved! With Ben's help I got Dan's cell number and his real house address. It was a little frustrating to have to backtrack a mile or more to an address I had literally passed by on my way to the apartment address.

When I got to Dan's house, I discovered to my dismay that it was stripped down to the bare skeleton of a house. No real roof, no siding or insulation, no interior walls, no flooring, etc. Definitely no furniture. Dan had told me that he had to do some work on his house, but I had imagined it was on the order of painting some walls, not leveling the foundation and working up.

The whole Berken clan was working on the house. I made small talk as coherently as I was able, and now I'm just sitting around. I would help out or something, but my legs are all but useless and I'm dead tired. I guess Dan still lives at the apartment that he and Ben share, so I'm going back there to crash for tonight. That's going to be awesome. Then tomorrow I can walk a comparably easy distance home.


I didn't write any more entries in my notebook, but I did make it home the next day (Saturday 17 May 2003). I had planned to get home in the afternoon and be able to clean myself up and then go to Bethany's play. But I learned via cell phone that Bethany was doing her bigger role at the two o'clock show, so I tried to hustle a little more and made it to Seton Catholic Middle School just in time to see The Music Man.

My parents brought my request, which was a large meal from Subway. Mmm... Fruizle! My old principal even let me eat in the gym during the show. It was pretty cool. I was pretty smelly, but there were enough open seats that I didn't have to inflict myself on anyone.

After the show, I walked home from school.

Appendix A: On Red-Winged Blackbirds

I meant on several occaisions to write in my journal about the birds I saw as I walked along, specifically Red-Winged Blackbirds. The males are territorial and easily identifiable by their striking red and black plumage, and would sometimes follow me along my path, apparently trying to scare me off or guard against me with little caws. I thought they were pretty neat.

Somehow I always forgot to mention these birds in my entries, which is why I'm making this an appendix; an afterthought. So there you go.

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