Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

From the USA Hiker, now safe at home in New Jersey. It only took 20 hours on Amtrak from Savannah to get to Newark- the engine broke down in Virginia, and we were stopped without power for three hours before they sent a new engine down from DC to rescue us. At times I was tempted to get out and start hiking...
When last I blogged I was on the cusp of South Carolina, and little did I know, on the cusp of yet more crazy adventures. Two experiences stand out in particular. First, a retired military intelligence officer named Paul Hickey, who helps out with the Fisher House in Augusta, GA went out of his way (literally, and more than once) to show me the best in southern hospitality. Paul had heard of my hike a few months ago, and wanted to meet me when I passed near to his neck of the woods. Little did I know then that Paul would plan a wonderful visit for me to Ft. Gordon in Augusta, GA, its Fisher House, and an adjacent hospital. Paul also had the guts to go table to table at a local restaurant one night, and (with the permission of the restaurant's owner) tell customers about the Fisher House Foundation, my hike on its behalf, and politely ask for donations. In practice, it was like my efforts trying to reach out to the opposite sex during my freshman year of college: the technique was unconventional, took a lot of guts, resulted in far more negative responses than positive ones- but still nonetheless worked. At the end of the night, we had raised $40 more for Fisher House than we would have had we politely kept to ourselves. Paul and his wife Ellen were also gracious enough to host me in their home for two nights, cook great meals, and shuttle me back and forth to where I had left off hiking. They deserve a round of applause and my utmost thanks. Also worthy of such honors were the soldiers I had a chance to meet at Ft. Gordon. It is impossible to meet members of the military today and not come away floored with their commitment and selfless sense of mission. Those whom I was fortunate enough to meet were not only full of enthusiasm for serving our country, but were also kind enough to pass around a hat with over $100 more in contributions for Fisher House. One soldier, meanwhile, who had himself suffered a brain injury in Iraq, gave $20 on the spot as well- completely unprompted. What can one say in response other than a polite thank you to such a magnanimous gesture?
My other South Carolina story of special interest was a stop at the Goodland Barbecue, a classic southern barbecue joint in the small town of Springfield, SC. Before I left after eating a delicious lunch there, the patrons had donated $105 to Fisher House. I also had the pleasure to meet two friendly locals, Boyce Akers and Kenny Kearse, who helped spread the word about what I was doing to the other patrons. Kenny also bailed me out later that afternoon by picking me up after a teeming rain cut short my hike, and then provided me with a place to stay that night. The next morning Kenny brought me back to where I had left off the previous night, and shortly thereafter, I paused that Sunday morning to attend the Christmas musical at the First Baptist Church in Blackville, SC. And wouldn't you know- the couple I sat next to in the pew had just returned from their home in Key West, where they spend most of their time, and encouraged me to contact them when I reached the final stop on my way. Coincidence- or perhaps Divine Providence...


Allen Danielsen said...

David, when you were hiking through SC I met you one evening before you reached Leesville, SC to stay at the Leesville Lodge. The next morning you were interviewed by Doug Bruner of the local Twin City News Newspaper. I have a copy of the article if you would send me you home address I would be glad to mail it to you for your archieves. Just let me know via email.

Allen Danielsen


Good luck in Florida, which is where you should be by now.

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