TourismI'm the guy walking from Los Angeles to Boston. Yesterday I hit the 50% mark. Nearly 1,600 miles down, 1,500 left to go. I'm going to try to answer every question asked. AMA
May 10th 2016 by delvis401 • 56 Questions • 4626 Points
I left on February 27th in the Pacific Ocean (here's me on day 1). I had quite a few requests for an AMA yesterday and today I have some downtime so I figured I'd put one up.
(Instagram is where I update every day).
Here's the rough planned route. I'm hitting Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Each time I get to a city, I'm doing small meetups. The times and dates for those meetups are announced when I'm close enough to each city to know when and where they'll be. Announcements on Instagram.
Today is day 74 and I'm thinking I'll finish Saturday, July 23rd.
I'll be answering questions on and off all day.
Edit: I might not answer EVERY question asked. I underestimated how much it hurts my wrists. But I'm going strong.
Edit 2: I've gotta call it quits for the night, but I'm on all the time, so I'l be answering questions over the next couple weeks. Follow on Instagram, if you're into that sort of thing, for regular daily updates and meetup spots in major cities.
Edit 3: I'm too old for Snapchat but sometimes I use it: bendavis401
What is your budget?
Where do you stay at night?
How do you stay safe?
Do you walk in day time only?
- The goal is $1 per mile, but I overspent in the first few weeks. I estimate it will cost ~$5,000 total but it can be done for much cheaper if you're willing to truly rough it. I'm a sucker for a hotel and hot shower every few nights.
- My tent/sleeping bag, a hotel if I feel indulgent, lately strangers and Instagram followers have been opening their spare bedrooms for me, which is really cool. I've been blogging/writing for about eight years, so I know people all over.
- I've never felt threatened really. I have a big knife, but have never felt the need to reach for it. No guns.
- Daytime only. I walked once a few hours past dark, but it was when my brother had joined me for a few days and we felt safe together.
Are you using any kind of GPS-tracking of your route? I love looking at the maps after my walks, and your maps would be on a whole new level.
It chews up my battery like crazy. I did it in the desert for my mom's peace of mind, but not anymore.
1.) Were there any moments when you wanted to give up? How do you keep yourself motivated?
2.) Was this adventure planned or was it pretty spontaneous?
3.) Which food/restaurant was the best you tried so far?
- Never wanted to give up. It's too much fun.
- I started planning at 381 pounds on my 29th birthday last May.
- Town and Country in Florence, Kansas. BACON SO THICK
How many times have people made Forrest Gump references?
Too many, bro. Too many.
What have you been doing to pass the time? do days pass where you were incredibly bored all day?
I rarely get bored. I listen to music occasionally. Red Sox games. Hypothetical arguments in my head. I write a lot in my journal.
How difficult is it to maintain your existing relationships being out on the road for the length of time you have been already and will be before you finish?
It's hard. We met and started dating about 3 months before I left so it was really tough still being in that puppy love stage. We talk/text/facetime/skype every day which makes it a lot easier. And she's coming to KC to spend a few nights with me for my 30th birthday this week, so that's going to be awesome. I had this walk planned for about 6 months before we met and I had envisioned it as me being alone and unattached, so it was a game-changer in that regard, but having her be so supportive back home, and having someone to talk to every day, it's made a huge difference mentally.
Do you have a set goal of how far you intend to go for the day? Or do you just sleep when you get sleepy?
The goal is always at least 25 miles per day. I'll go up to 30 if theres a town ahead.
The adventure. I was in a place in life where I had the freedom to do it and once I had the idea, I realized I didn't want to end up at 80 years old wishing I had done it. The prospect of regret spurred me to research and start planning. I'm so glad I did. It's been the time of my life, truly.
Favorite place you've been so far? Place you're most looking forward to?
Wolf Creek Pass in the Rockies was amazing. Here's my camp at the top. I'm just happy to be east of Wichita. It was so desolate once I hit Mojave Desert in California and it really is only starting to get civilized. Flagstaff was cool. Durango, CO was cool. Northern Arizona was not cool.
Why did you choose a cross-country hike with a stroller as opposed to an 'in the woods' hike with a backpack like the Appalachian Trail?
I liked the concrete goal of ocean to ocean.
how many times have you listened to I'm gonna be (500 miles) by the proclaimers?
Zero. Never have liked that song.
Edit: If you count people singing it to me, then I've listened to it roughly one million times.
Hey I watched your weight loss video yesterday when somebody posted it in the comments. Approximately how much time had passed from the day you began your weight loss journey to the day you ran the marathon?
10 months. 365 pounds on Jan 1, 2009. down to 220 on October 18th, 2009 for the Denver Marathon (4:45)
I was in the Mojave Desert, middle of nowhere, and my phone was getting no signal for miles and miles. When the sun starts to set you want to camp somewhere with at least voice calling service. A drunk dude with three girls in the backseat pulled up and asked if I was okay. "YOU ALLRIGHT?!" he yelled. "Yeah, I'm good! Hey, do you happen to know when I'll get cell phone service?" He laughed as he drove away, "OH FUCK MAN, WHEN PIGS FREEZE OVER!" He laughed as he sped away. I chuckled at that.
What an awesome adventure! Thanks for sharing! Do you wear a Fitbit or a step tracker of any kind? If so, can you share some stats?
65,000 steps per day on average!
So good! I've been really lucky. Only one rainy day. (and a windy snow day in Kayenta, AZ)
Are you stopping for BBQ in KC? If you do, let us know where you went!
New Balance, 450V3 running shoes. I come from a running background, so it's what I feel best in. Since I'm on the highways/pavement all day and night I don't really need proper hiking boots. Just standard walking/running shoes.
Do people ask you why you are pushing a baby in the middle of nowhere with that stroller like contraption?
Yes, a couple times a week, lol.
The path you have set to go, do you have hotel reservations or just going by when you feel comfortable to stop?
The nights you spend in a tent, did you ever feel like you were in danger?
Thanks for doing this!! Good luck with the rest of your journey!
Hotels happen spur of the moment.
I'm always scared in my tent after dark. It's a mind game thing. I always hide out pretty well and far off the road, so logically nothing is going to happen (I'm scared of Criminal Minds type murderers, not animals) but it's just ... eerie. I don't like being out in the wilderness alone.
Lately I've been putting headphones in and listening to classical music all night so not hearing the wind and random tree noises helps.
How mad would you be if you realized now that you forgot your keys?
I have no keys! My triple pocket tap has become a double tap. I sold my car and my apartment lease was up. No keys for me.
If you decided to turn around and walk back to where you started, would you consider it a failure?
I would never do that. The desert followed by the Rockies, followed by the prairies. The three hardest parts. So desolate. If someone put a gun to my head and told me to turn around, I'd ask them to just end me there. It's too daunting to do again.
How much water do you drink a day? If you're coming through Cincinnati drop in for some Skyline Chili!
A gallon or two.
What we're you doing, career wise, before you decided to walk?
Plans after you finish the walk?
Writing. My first book was published in 2013 (Do Life) by Penguin. Then some technical writing and marketing for firms in Little Rock.
Insignia portable power charger. When it's fully charged it charges my phone up to 8 times. Also, shoutout to when we used to farm together in Diablo (2012-2013).
Just one roll. No reason to have more since I go through towns all the time.
How many changes of clothes did you bring? I saw you're wearing New Balance shoes, but how many pairs did you bring and how often are you switching them out, if at all?
I only have one pair with me at a time.
A few shirts, two pairs of shorts, 5 underwear, 6 pairs of socks, rain jacket and ponchos to keep my stuff dry.
Thanks for doing this, Ben! I started following your story yesterday and think it's great inspiration to take chances and live in the moment.
What has the hardest part been so far, outside of missing friends and family? Has anything surprised you about the trek?
I've been surprised by how easy it is. When you look at the map it seems so big. But when you look at it in the micro, it's really just manual labor 7-9 hours a day.
Hardest part is being scared at night, the paranoia. The isolation.
Computer, tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, computer, a couple cameras, portable USB charger, food, clothes, some first aid, a big knife.
Ever have a bad day, and just want to get a ride to an airport, and go home? Another way to phrase it could be - Is it hard to stay motivated?
Very rarely do I get discouraged. I had a bad day from Dodge City to Cimarron, Kansas, just hated every step, but then, as usually happens, I get picked up by the kindness of strangers. The woman who worked at the hotel in Cimarron walked Delaware to San Francisco and gave me a free night in the hotel out of the rain. It was magical.
What kind of shoes do you use?
What's some of the things you have learned doing your time walking?
What advice do you have for someone interested in walking a long distance? Not across the US perhaps, but doing something on a smaller scale for a holiday?
Lastly you must have experienced some weird stuff, got any stories?
Anyways keep it up and thanks for doing this!
- New Balance running shoes
- I've learned to appreciate the small things and live minimally. When all you have is not a lot, not a lot becomes plenty.
- Take plenty of breaks and plan out water. Sometimes people overpack water because they think it's super important (and it is) but if you're going to be passing a gas station after 20 miles, you're not going to need 4 gallons of water to get you there. Water is heavy and you can refill basically anywhere. This is highway walking mentality though. If you're going to do the Appalachian Trail or PCT, plan accordingly. I take rest breaks every couple hours and make sure to get my legs elevated.
- The coolest thing that has happened is I walked into a McDonalds in Garden City, KS at the exact same time another cross-country walker was walking in. We had the exact same stroller model. He was going Tallahassee to Seattle and we just happened to cross paths at a random McDonalds.
When all you have is not a lot, not a lot becomes plenty.
Hey man! I applaud your effort to complete your journey. Mad props.
Do you get to camp out where it's super dark? How's seeing so many stars at night? I'm a photographer and have tried to get away from Florida's light pollution but it's tough.
What's the closest you've come to quitting?
The stars are so amazing in the Mojave Desert and in the Rockies (I went through wolf creek pass). God it's cool. Never come close to even thinking about quitting. I've only had one or two bad days and even those were nothing compared to how fun it is.
What silly side show attraction would you recommend out west to see?
I liked Joshua Tree national park. Pagosa Springs, CO is a nice spa town with natural hot springs. That was fun. Tsegi, AZ is a weird place that's worth staying in for the night just to see what it's like to live without wifi or cell phone service. Stay at the only Inn in town, Anasazi Inn.
What unexpected physical, mental or just plain bizarre situation have you encountered so far? What has been the most surreal moment so far?
The first night I camped out in a city was Riverside California and around 4 a.m. I got so sick of bad sleep from being scared that I just got up and started walking. I walked by an adult book store in east riverside and a strange dude standing outside it started calling after me. "HEY, COME HERE" I told him, "I'm good" and kept walking, trying to play it cool. Dude started following me with his grocery cart, and yelling for me to come over to him, that he had to show me some stuff. I'm pretty good with regular crazy people but this guy just seemed, threatening, so I started running. He half-heartedly jogged after me but gave up. Adrenaline was going pretty good.
I know you said that you want to write about your journey, but I was wondering what happens when you finish. Are you going to hang out in Boston for a while? Have a big party? Are you going to fly home and start working again?
Party happening in the ocean around noon and then a proper bash at a nearby locale. Everyone is invited. Tons of people follow along in New York and Boston and the Northeast in general and have said they're coming in for the party.
Hey Ben! Started following you yesterday and this whole thing has been super inspiring. Question: did you map your route with the shortest horizontal distance in mind (not worrying about mountain passes, hills/valleys, etc) or are you circumventing any extra vertical terrain like that? If someone were to plan their own route (however long the distance) what tips do you have for starting out and following that correct path?
For the most part, the shortest distance. Mountains don't scare me too much. I did want to hit a few big cities, so I made sure to put those into the route. Google's Walking Directions work pretty well but they sometimes put you on "restricted" roads. Never go down a restricted road. I've had some very bad experiences trying.
Have you thought about doing any other giant excursions like this one? What advice would you give to a sophmore in college if they are wanting to do similar trips?
Also thanks for keeping us updated on this, its super cool and inspiring! Good luck on the end of your trip!
I can't look past this trip since I'm still so far from the goal, but I love doing triathlons so I'll definitely get back into that. Just plan a trip and do it when your apartment lease runs out. Go over summer break. You'd be amazed how far you can walk in three months (90 days x 25-30 miles per day by foot or 100+ by bike).
Jump in the ocean and eat a lot.
How are you walking for five months straight but complaining about exhaustion from answering an AMA?
Have blisters or chafing been a thing?
Total envy of your journey, btw; I've wanted to do something like this for years now. Keep it up and stay safe.
Chafing is my #1 source of pain. No blisters, but I need to lose some fat around my ass/thighs because holy shit...
What kind of foods do you carry? I want to do the AT one day. I recently moved just outside of Boston. Great weather today, I hear it's even better in the summer. Enjoy the rest of your trek, and stay safe!
Trail mix, M&Ms, dried fruit, beef jerky, occasional poptarts. I don't have a stove but I get hot meals at restaurants regularly.
Where do you sleep at night when you aren't near a campground/state land? Do you just pitch the tent in a random field? Surely there must be some large gaps in your trip where you just aren't near any public land.
I go a few hundred yards off the road. Lately in Kansas and Colorado everything is barb wired off so you can't. In those cases I camp in culverts under the highway.
Could you tell us about the experiences on the restricted roads?
One was leading into a Native American reservation and it wasn't clearly marked. The guy in the booth wasn't pleased at all that I was walking into the reservation. I tried to ask for alternate routes and he just simply told me to back up and turn away. He wasn't very nice.
Sometimes I do. I talk to cows a lot.
Have you had any unpleasant experiences with other people during the trip?
Did you work out in preperation of this trip?
How does your legs feel?
Yeah, a lot of weight loss and running. I was up to about 35 miles per week running. About a month before I left for the walk I started doing 10-12 mile walks a few times per week around Little Rock (home) but I'd say the first couple of weeks of the official walk was the main training. Now I can do 25-30 miles each day.
What's your average day looking like? Do you spend the entire day walking, or do you stop in certain cities to experience their culture? What are you eating along the way?
I walk 25-30 miles with a few hours of rest so most of the daylight is taken up by that. I stop in every town I go to and talk to the locals. I'm writing a book about the journey so I love meeting new people and seeing how they live life in their respective towns.