Welcome to the diary for my 1998 transcontinental run from Delaware to California on the American Discovery Trail.
Belongings in the photo include: sleeping bag, bivy sack, water bottle, camera and tripod, journal, harmonica, warm shirt, tights, gloves and mittens, bandanna, rain jacket, maps, compass, and half of a tooth brush. I sent home the warm clothes and bivy sack I was carrying with me at the beginning of the trip; however, I have picked up a 5×8 ft piece of Tyvek house wrap to use as a ground cloth and an extra water bottle. Of course, I usually have some snacks with me too. Snickers, cheese crackers, and stale Power Bars are pretty typical items on the road menu.
During the trip, I received a great deal of mail from friends, family, and even anonymous well-wishers! At one stop in Illinois, I got 5 boxes of food and 13 letters. I had to have the hotel send someone to pick me up because I couldn’t carry it all!
I’d like to start with a brief overview of my trip so far. As I’m not carrying more than a 10 pound hip pack, all of the modern day conveniences such as a lap top computer, cell phone, modem, and etc. is out of the question — so this page has been updated whenever I had access to a computer. I’m ran between 20 to 30 miles per day. My only survival tool was to try to get to food by the end of each day which sometimes didn’t work out. Lodging was everything from fancy hotels to trailer motels, to barn lofts, churches, abandoned schools, relatives’ homes, friends’ homes, strangers’ homes, fire stations, outhouses, and just lying on the ground.
In addition to bringing awareness about the American Discovery Trail to local communities, I’m also promoting the National Trails Endowment through the American Hiking Society. Visit their web site.
On March 8, 1998 I started from Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Delaware. My brother Eric drove me from my hometown in Nashville, Indiana to the East Coast where we were met by my Aunt and Uncle from Poolsville, MD, the Delaware ADT Coordinator, Jim Ippolito, and Channel 47 “Delmarva.” The temperature was in the teens with blowing rain and a very dramatic coast. Eight-foot tall waves made for a wonderful backdrop in our pictures. Ten minutes later everyone got cold so they rolled up their windows, started their engines and said, “Well, have fun!” and drove off leaving me a very long way from home in the cold wet rain.
March 8, 1998
All was not horrible however as I met Sally and Lloyd at the end of my first day who were gracious enough to put me up my first night and feed me dinner and let me watch myself on the evening news!
Delaware, 45 miles, was short, flat, and sandy but nice people helped me out in my three-day visit across the state.
March 11-23, 1998
Maryland was very memorable. I stayed with a cousin in Annapolis and met up with the staff at The American Hiking Society. I’m promoting their National Trails Endowment which is a grant that gives all of the money it raises to local trail clubs across the country to build and maintain trails all across the country. Since the ADT is merely a hook up of hundreds of local trails all across the county it is appropriate that I promote their cause. I am also bringing awareness to the newly formed and minimally funded American Discovery Trail Society.
March 16, 1998
After a photo shoot at the Washington Monument with the AHS staff, I headed off down the C & O Canal Towpath for 170 miles from Georgetown to near Cumberland, MD. Running the towpath has been one of the biggest highlights of my trip so far. Definitely check out the store in Little Orleans. Hundreds of hand signed dollar bills tacked to the ceiling placed there by patrons who “will always have a buck if they ever go broke.”
March 23, 1998
West Virginia was very beautiful although confusing as I was on back roads across most of the state. Many times road signs were not present and the only directions I had were the county route numbers. Locals only go by the common name, such as Waxler Ridge Road, which is also County Route 9.
March 30, 1998
Crossing the Dolly Sods Wilderness I had the entire forest to myself as the main road was closed due to snow on top of the mountain. Once on top at Bear Rocks, I realized that it was the exact place I had parked a van 9 years earlier while leading a group of kids on a hiking trip. Reminiscing on top of the mountain that day, I also remembered when we were ready to end our hiking trip we were at the total other side of the park. Not wanting the group to have to hike all the way back to the van, I borrowed a hip pack and ran the 17-mile park road back to the vehicle. When I was there on this trip I also recalled for the first time thinking then, that wouldn’t it be neat to run across the country wearing nothing but a hip pack, and here I was doing just that, 9 years later, at the inception point!
April 6, 1998
Crossing into Ohio from Parkersburg, WV to Belpre, OH, I got on the Buckeye Trail, a very well marked 1200-mile long trail around the entire state of Ohio. I followed the BT for 300 miles across the south half of the state passing through Hocking Hills, Athens, and lots of historic river towns. Ohio was surprisingly hillier than most of West Virginia, and very muddy thanks to El Nino. Speaking at Ohio University and two classes in Cincinnati’s 7 Hills Lotspeich School let me share some of my adventures with students as I’ve been able to do on occasion.
May 3, 1998
It feels great to be back in Indiana, my stomping grounds and today, to arrive at Hanover College, my alma mater. My girlfriend has visited me by surprise by flying from Arizona for a long weekend. Quite a treat!
When I met this guy, he was pulling this “coffin” on wheels from Oregon to Washington D.C. Several months ago he was struck by a Lincoln Continental and thrown 50 yards, destroying his coffin. He’s back on the road protesting nuclear war. When asked if he served in the war, he said, “no man, we’re ALL victims of the war.”
May 22, 1998
OK!! With the help Jacob, a librarian’s high school son, I’m finally able to update my web-site from Waterloo, IL! This trip is getting more awesome by the mile. 1600 miles down and 3000 to go at this point. I’ve had several more TV interviews across IL. As usual though, the wonderful people continue to be the best part of this experience. For instance, running through the quaint village of Cobden, IL I was entering just as the opening ceremonies were beginning for the new bridge in the middle of town. I decided to see what would happen. Not many people even know when a bridge is going to open but they sure do in Cobden. 300 people turned out, there was a podium, fancy chairs, blue Astroturf, a big red ribbon, and the high school band! They spend $1,400,000 on this bridge and two years detouring around the construction and I just happened to be there for the grand opening. There were two women debating in front of me whether the inlaid apple on the side of the bridge should be painted red or not.
After finishing the 160-mile long River to River Trail in southern Illinois, I was running along the levee system nearing the Mississippi River. I had been in the woods all morning where it was cool and shady. I was quickly introduced to the extreme conditions in the blazing sun atop the levee system. There are dirt roads that seem to intensify the sun’s heat as it bounces up at you. There is no shade for the weary traveler. And lastly, the wind on the levee is a hot blast of warm air coming off the river. Also, there are few homes along the levee from which to get water. It was in the middle of a very long stretch of this levee, out of water, withering, and weak, that I met Jim, an ammeter Railroad Photographer who just happened to be waiting in the middle of nowhere to snap some train photos. He also just happened to have a cooler full of iced sodas and I had consumed 4 before pressing on in the air dryer conditions. Then at the end of the day I arrived at Grand Tower, the end of the trail. The fine folks at the local park let me sleep on some picnic tables. All was well until 11 PM when the mosquitoes came out for feeding time. Being 50 yards off the River nothing can deter the pests short of solid walls. I decided that if I was going to sleep I’d need to get inside. I found a man walking across a field late that night and asked if he knew of a place I could sleep for the night. He said he had an extra bunk in his camper and I could stay with him. I had thought I’d met him earlier but that was soon evidently not the case as he turned towards me just before entering his small camper asking, “you don’t have any guns or knives do you?” Some background check.
June 3, 1998
Well, the story doesn’t end there… A week later, I called a contact for information on the trail along the levees into St. Louis. The man was so excited that I was coming through, that he offered to run to the arch with me. Only a few miles into the run we discovered that HE was the conductor on the train that went by as I was drinking all those soft drinks a week earlier! The ADT has a neat entrance into St. Louis. For miles you are on levees along the Mississippi River in remote farming communities. Then, all of a sudden, you’re getting into an elevator that takes you up to a metro that crosses the river and drops you off at the Arch. Quite a quick transition. As another coincidence, I rode up and down the Arch elevator with different people from Indiana!
June 6, 1998
From St. Charles, MO I got onto the excellent KATY Trail, a 200+ mile long rail road bed that’s been converted into a recreation trail like so many others. My father, Jim, and older brother, Eric, were celebrating Eric’s completion of his pilot’s license. They flew in a single engine plane with bikes in the back seat to Defiance and they rode with me for the weekend along the KATY. No traffic, can’t get lost, bars, restaurants, and lodging in regular intervals, these are all things the distance traveler seeks. In Boonville, MO I sadly got off the KATY and joined the remnants of the Santa Fe Trail. My last night in Missouri proved to be my most adventuresome. Buckner, MO: no lodging. I tried the fire station, no luck. I tried the local Church, no luck. Police station? Closed. So with dark clouds threatening rain I swallowed and went into the local tavern at 10 PM. Sitting on a bar stool in my running shorts and dingy sports shirt I struck up a conversation with the man next to me. Pretty soon a collection of locals were standing around trying to think of a place I could spend the night. Finally, one of them said, “why don’t I just take him in the car up the street and drop him off at Mohawk’s house?” A murmur of “Oh?”s and “ya think?”s went through the circle. Within minutes I was lying on the floor of a man’s house whom I still hadn’t met. His wife came in the room an hour later and with startling concern asked, “what in the world are you doing in here?” Well, we cleared that up and I did get some sleep.
June 18, 1998
Next stop: Kansas City where my girlfriend, Lydia, flew out to meet me for the weekend. We had a good time going to movies, an amusement park, and acting like a normal couple for two days. All of our business with America West finally paid off as her flight was overbooked on the way home and by volunteering her seat, she got first class return the next morning, a $300 travel voucher, and free hotel accommodations for the night. Hello Kansas! My tour of the state with the slogan, “ad aspera per astra” to the stars through difficulty. How fitting. My first night in Kansas was spent with the sister of Bill and Laurie Foot, the couple who just finished a complete 6300-mile through trip of the ADT using a combination of biking and hiking. It’s along this stretch that I’ve had my introduction to the chain of Fire House Hotels. Spring Hill Fire Dept. bought me a half-gallon of cookie dough ice cream. Others have let me watch videos with them or play Sega games while waiting for the bells to go off which usually happens around 2 am.
I had a clip for Real TV alas I forgot my video camera. Going down the road one day two deer wandered out in front of me. Deer never quite seem to know what to make of me. These deer just looked at me and slowly proceeded down the road ahead of me. Then a truck came over the hill from one direction, then another came from the other, a cement bridge high over a stream lay between the two vehicles. The deer got onto the bridge and panicking, jumped OFF the bridge over a 30-foot drop to the stream below. I ran over to the side expecting to see two carcasses but the underbrush was too heavy to tell if they were injured. While discussing animal stories, I came across a raccoon several weeks ago that’d been hit by a vehicle but wasn’t quite dead. Tongue was sticking out, eyes were glued open, at least 3 legs were broken, but he was still breathing. I suppose I should’ve stomped on him or something but didn’t have the heart. In movies whenever a hero has been shot they always say just before they die that they are so thirsty. Well, I assumed this was what the raccoon was thinking and so I stood over him giving him some shade and dribbled capfuls of my precious water onto his tongue. At first there was no response, but then, I could hear that with each inhale of breathe, he was slurping up the water off the pavement. I stood there for 20 minutes giving him shade from the heat, then found two wildflower stalks and used them as a stretcher to get him off the road and at least give him a fighting chance.
Then, two days later, I heard a, “Meow, meaoooow.” A kitten, only a few weeks old, came running out of a field towards me. A car stopped when I was giving it some of my water but they were more interested in my trip than in saving a kitten which kind of disgusted me so I didn’t carry the conversation. I did, however, carry the cat, for two miles. I got to a farmhouse and a woman came out saying that it “probably was ours.” They’d had a litter born a little while back and he looked like one of ’em. “Just set him down, he’ll be ok.” Hmmmm. Ok. So I’ve become a traveling animal hospital.
Kansas hasn’t lived up the boring reputation I’ve been built up to expect. In fact, the only difference I’ve seen between my experience in W.Va. and KS is that here I don’t have to run up any mountains! As long as there’s a house or store every 5 miles or so for water, I am a happy roadrunner. The main towns are getting further apart, however. I was treated to an excellent fireworks display in Great Bend on the 4th. Onward to Jetmore, Dodge City, Garden City, then Denver, CO.
So many things happen each day that it’s impossible to document all of them. But for an example of a typical day, let’s look at what happened on this day.
July 18, 1998
I ran from Rocky Ford to Fowler, CO using a combination of country roads and Hwy 50. 8 am: was spotted by a crop-duster spraying a field. He put on a show for me as he flew UNDER power lines not 200 yards from me. That should be a good slide. 9 am: Man pulled over on side of road. Was same man from Dodge City two weeks ago who drove 15 miles to get me a quart of cold water. This time he was on his way back from Las Vegas and gave me another quart. 10 am: got first good view of Rockies. 11 am: lunch in Manzanola. 12 noon: Had audience of thousands as I ran past yet another feed lot sending the entire herd to the fence to see what I was. 1 PM: Pulled into Fowler, CO for the 25th anniversary celebration of something big. Won bingo game. Net winnings: $8.50. 9 PM: sleeping on office floor in local health clinic on main street, fully equipped with free internet, an all-you-can-drink Slushie Machine, and weight lifting machines. There you have it, just another one of 133 days on the road! Bring on the Rockies.
July 28, 1998
And the Rockies have been brought to me! One of my toughest and most beautiful days was from Canon City to Cripple Creek: 5000 ft elevation gain to 10,000 ft. in 24 miles. At the top of the long climb the staff of the local Parks & Rec. Dept were cheering me on from Main Street waiting with a new hat, T-shirt, donuts and Sunny Delight. The city treated me to a free night in the Hotel St. Nickalous: a very nice hotel overlooking the city and horizon. The mayor of Green Mountain Falls, and new Colorado Coordinator for the ADT, Dick Bratton, went bananas over my arrival to his area. He supported me with his vehicle for the better part of 10 days. At one point, making up some miles late at night to get me to a press conference on time the next day, he was driving behind me at 8 miles per hour in the driving rain at 9 PM on hwy 24. A state trooper pulled us over. I congratulated him in the pouring rain on being the 4th cop in the country to pull me over, that I was running across the country, and “this here’s the Mayor hoping I enjoy my visit through his town.”
This TV frame is when I was interviewed by the CBS Saturday Morning Show live over the phone while in Defiance, MO. It was National Trails Day, June 6th. The woman’s hand in the picture is that of a mannequin at the bed and breakfast where I was staying.
August 1, 1998
I was met by staff from Runners Roost, a running store chain on the West Coast. They outfitted me with a new flashy running outfit, vest, warm shirts, power foods, and THREE pairs of trail running shoes. YIKES! Denver has a great recreational trail system and I enjoyed seeing so many people out and about. From here, I head towards Leadville, then get on the Colorado Trail to Buena Vista and the route gets extremely remote, at times going 3 days without food. Any ideas how to pack 9 meals into an already full 10 pound pack? Going up. 2870 miles down.
August 10, 1998
Running towards Leadville yesterday I was supposed to stay with a couple from Aspen my dad met while sailing in the Virgin Islands. I was trying to hitch in to Leadville when the ride I got turned out to also be a shower, dinner, and place to sleep. This morning I was witness to one of the Boom Days Celebrations: The International Burro Pack Race. It’s an 18-mile road race where each participant has to run with their own burro tied to a rope along side them. There were competitors from all over the country. Today I went fishing with this couple from Aspen and had a great dinner and hot tub overlooking the city lights under the towering mountains beyond.
August 22, 1998
Quite a lot has happened. All good, of course but I don’t know where to begin if I don’t want this document to become the book itself…so how about just a listing of the latest?
Shared a cabin with a motorcycle gang, Stayed with a Doctor and his family overlooking Crested Butte, Witnessed a heart attack which made me thankful for my health, Stayed with two college guys in Marble (Home of the stone from the Tomb of the Unknown and Lincoln Memorial), Got lost after Redstone and bushwhacked for 8 hours over 3 summits until arriving back where I’d started 12 hours earlier, Met by Sheriff’s Deputy in middle of wilderness. He brought me a pup tent, warm sleeping bag, and chicken dinner, Got bike shop to agree to leave me several jugs of water along trail for first few days,
Within 18 miles ran down 5000 feet off the Rocky Mtns and straight into the desert, boy it’s hot!!! Heading down the Kokopelli Bike Trail now for 140 miles with no food, shelter, water, or trees till Moab. Utah, comin’ up. 3375 miles down, 1303 to go.
September 1, 1998
Well, I’ve survived the first stint of the desert. The Kokopelli Bike Trail is 120 miles long with minimal access to the Colorado River. (That’s also your drinking water.) I reached Moab ready for a cold drink, ice cream, shower, and return to reality from the consumer’s perspective. Looking at an atlas I realized I was only a five-hour drive from my girlfriend in Flagstaff, AZ. Being ok on time I decided to hitch there for a few days off and the enjoyment of the ultimate surprise. As I was leaving town I called the local radio station telling them of my mission to get to Flagstaff in one day and that I was running across the country. All day long, apparently, they were giving me radio plugs telling motorists on their way south to pull over for the guy wielding a cardboard sign that says, “FLAGSTAFF”. Well, it worked, two twenty mile rides, an eighty mile ride from a Navajo family, and lastly a 3 hour ride from a college guy trying to quit smoking and slapping his patch every 15 seconds got me all the way to Flag. As I was walking up the driveway the realization that I’d just come here on foot from the East Coast caught up with me as I’ve visited this town before via plane. As a cautionary word to those contemplating surprising their loved ones with an unexpected visit: sneaking into the house and standing 3 feet away from the subject could have adverse effects given the specific relationship. My subject had been getting ready for bed and was taking out her contacts when I subtly cleared my throat. Luckily, in my case, it went over well, but even still, her reaction left her standing IN the bathtub before her overwhelming shock started to taper. Enjoying a brief siesta in Flagstaff and getting a ride back to Moab this weekend to resume what I’ve dubbed, “The Craziness.”
All’s well, though a little warm. 3501 miles down, 1177 to go.
Oct 2, 1998
I’m still Alive! Sorry for the long lapse in updates. There are few towns out here and even fewer computers to work with. Currently in Austin, NV, dead center of the state and really starting to crank out the miles. High 30’s and 40-mile days really start to add up in a hurry! From Moab, UT Lydia dropped me off and on her way home she left me liter water bottles every 5 miles at the mile markers for 150 miles! That got me just past Hite, UT, access to Lake Powell. Half way to Hanksville, and 10 miles past my last stash of water, I was feeling the heat and distance when all of a sudden a black Honda Accord pulled over in front of me with Frisbees and Hacky Sacks flying out the windows. Uri and Kevin, two friends from Camp Palawopec, where I usually work summers had decided to see what I was up to so they got in their car in Indiana and drove for two days until finding me stranded on hwy 95. They stayed with me for a week supporting me with water, PB&J’s, and the usual assortment of male humor. With their help I blasted across the rest of Utah to Beaver, where they turned back and Lydia joined me again for a week of vehicle support. The official route of the ADT from Moab, UT to Lake Tahoe, NV is over 500 miles along abandoned Pony Express tracks, single and double track trails and at times, bushwhacking. There are very few services along this official route. If one was backpacking, they could go for a week or so being self-sufficient but couldn’t make as many miles as a runner. Running the trail, I can make the miles but can’t be gone for the number of days as a backpacker could, so it is a double-edged sword. So for most of Utah and Nevada I’m on an alternate route using lightly traveled highways: 95, 191, and the dreaded Highway 50, the loneliest road in America. In fact, last week, while passing several hundred bicyclists riding across Nevada one of them said, “there goes the loneliest runner on the loneliest road in America.” I don’t know if I’d go that far…
With Lydia’s help I made it to Ely, NV. What would I do without her? My super supportive mom helped me out this week. In order to get to Fallon, NV, with my mom’s support, I ran 238 miles in one week. It was my biggest week of the trip and my tendons were a bit sore from the 40 mile days, but with a day of rest, they were ready for the normal 175 miles per week I was used to. I’ll be on my own again for a few days. At the CA border I’m being met by Robert, my college roommate who will join me for a pleasant 331 mile run across my final state. I’ve picked a finishing date: Saturday Noon, October 31, Limantour Beach, Point Reyes Nat’l Seashore, California (about 50 miles north of San Francisco). No stopping now!
While running in the Mountains of Nevada, a sudden hail storm overtook me. I jumped into a culvert and waited out the storm. After it was over, I emerged to find a car had slid off the road above me. People in their parked cars stared at me as I crawled out from under the road.
The last mountain range of my journey is behind me – the rest is all down hill to the ocean. The Sierra Nevadas were incredibly beautiful, but cold. Robert and I slept outside two nights in a row while in the Sierras. We piled pine needles over us at night to keep warm and ate a full loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Since coming out of the mountains, it has been warm and there have been plenty of accommodations. Less than 95 miles left to go. We expect to be in San Francisco on Saturday (October 24). On Sunday my friend Ricky from Indiana is going to join Robert and me as we take a quick detour to Los Angeles where we will attempt to fulfill another life goal of getting on the Price is Right. Wish us luck! We will be returning to the trail on Wednesday and continue toward the finish — Point Reyes National Seashore on October 31.
Ricky, Bert and I made the eight hour drive to Los Angeles to attend a taping of The Price Is Right. Rick had made special shirts for us. His and Bert’s said, “Friend of Runner” with a large arrow pointing towards me in the middle. My shirt said, “Hey Bob, I ran 4800 miles to hear Rod Roddy say, ‘Brian Stark, Come On Down!'” On the back had been printed, “And I had my cat neutered.” We waited in line from 6:30 AM until 1:30 PM show time. The producers interviewed each audience member briefly before we entered the studio. When he was speaking to me I noticed a woman was writing something on a red clipboard. I took that to be either a good sign or a bad sign, but at least it was a sign. I was called down as the first contestant during the second half of the show. I eventually got on stage as the last contestant by bidding $1 on a collection of eight stuffed teddy bears worth $521. I then went on to win the game, “One Right Price.” I won two trips for two people, to Hawaii and Canada for six nights and airfare each. Not bad for 15 minutes of stage work. At the big wheel I did not do so well and the game was over for me at that point. The show aired on December 24, 1998.
Bert and I returned to San Francisco where we rejoined the ADT at the Golden Gate Bridge for the final 45 miles of the run. Crossing the Bridge was truly a great feeling. I had looked forward to this for many months. Once on the other side, we turned off the road and got on a network of trails through Point Reyes. Bert’s wife Gwynn met us for a night of camping and the next night Lydia joined us as well at a beautiful campground. Saturday morning, Bert and I only had 12 miles to run to the finish. All morning we were running on top of tall cliffs along the Pacific Ocean, looking down at the finish I had thought about so many times. The final mile of trail is along the shore to Limantour Beach, where friends and family had gathered with a banner, champagne, balloons, and food. At Noon I ran under the banner, and dove straight into the ocean. What a remarkable trip.
I’ve been home for a few days now. There were no media at the finish, but friends and family were there to make a group of about 10 people. As soon as I got home I headed to the Chicago area for the board meeting of the ADT Society which manages the trail. During the meeting I was honored to become a board member so my experiences will now become input at future meetings. It has only been a week since I jumped in the ocean and I’m still trying to figure out what I just did, how I did it, and even why. I’m tremendously glad I did the whole thing, but there certainly is a “coming down” effect after such a journey. The big question, “what’s next?” Well, I’ve committed to several speeches in Indiana this month and then in early December I plan to pack my things (in my truck, not my hip pack) and move to Flagstaff, AZ to pursue a personal career with my girlfriend. I’ll possibly continue teaching and attempt a book on this whole crazy endeavor. I can’t thank everyone enough for your tremendous support throughout my trip. I hope my web site will continue to run until I have concrete news on a book or my new residence but my e-mail should continue regardless.
Many of you sent me wonderful Christmas Cards. Thank-you. Those made my season! I also received two packages from makers of products I had used. Hyde Atletics, the company that makes Saucony shoes and Coca-Cola sent me packages of complimentary products.
In February, Lydia and I took our first of two trips from The Price is Right. Hawaii was wonderful and everything the ads make it out to be.
The book is coming along very nicely. Still seeking a publisher, however. Also giving speeches regularly on both my run and my 2100 mile hike of the Appalachian Trail in ’95.
When I’m not trekking across a continent, I still spend my summers at Camp Palawopec in Nashville, Indiana, helping change kids lives and spend warm days swimming, caving, and doing all the other great things an all-inclusive summer camp can offer. It’s also where I learned to run!
Camp Palawopec, 3497 N. Clay Lick Rd., Nashville, Indiana, 47448 (812) 988-8970
As always, Brian