Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hello Again!

First off, I apologize for having been incommunicado for the last few weeks. Suffice it to say that they have been some of the craziest in my life. I won't go through all the details here, but two events should be shared with all and sundry. First off, I've been on hike hiatus for most of this time, taking care of a number of important things. One of which was running the Miami Marathon this past Sunday. I had never run a marathon before, and back in 2002, when I did run about 25 miles one night in Berlin just for fun, it took me about 5 hours and I was in agony at the end.
Granted, I have been very physically active over the last six months, but I know of no one who has ever trained for a marathon by six months of hiking. So I had no clue what to expect in terms of my ability to finish, let alone my timing. So I was in a bit of shock when mile after mile went by, I felt great with my Ipod urging me along, and I never hit the proverbial "wall" around mile 20. Final time for my first marathon: 3:51,33. I'm hooked. One of the best experiences of my life. I'm already set to run two more marathons in Europe in the spring, and I've even registered for an Ironman triathlon in England in September! Impossible is nothing.
Then yesterday night in Delray Beach, FL, Linda Roman and Linda Makel of the local VFW Post put together a great dinner and fundraiser for the Fisher House Foundation on behalf of my hike. All told, we raised $1360, by far the greatest amount I've raised at any club or post so far! I highly doubt that I will reach my goal of $50,000 by the end of my hike, but rest assured that I will keep speaking to Rotary Clubs, VFW posts, American Legions, and other groups until I reach the $50,000 mark. Plus, with the hike over, I'll be able to put together a great audio-visual presentation with photos set to my favorite hiking songs. Let me know if you know a group that might be interested in hearing the tale of my epic adventure!
And now, providing I get over this pesky cough, it will be back to the road tomorrow, with an ETA in Key West now of Feb 14.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Life's a beach

To hike on, that is. Florida has been treating me very well so far, with lots of press coverage (see below), healthy contributions from passersby and Rotary Clubs, great weather, easy hiking on or in full view of the beach, and fun new cities to explore (Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and tomorrow, Daytona Beach). Also, there's been great birding around here, with pelicans, hawks, terns, gannets, and shorebirds galore. All that is good news for Fisher House too, since a friend of mine, Jeff Hoppes, has made his pledge contingent upon the number of species I see along the way. Currently my tally is at 66 since starting off in Canada (other notable species include Bald Eagle, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Osprey, and numerous songbirds) but it should get close to 100 by the time I hit Key West. Also, there's a subspecies of (you guessed it) bunny named after Hugh Hefner that lives in the Florida Keys that I hope to see in a few weeks. In addition to lots of other cute bunnies on the beach, ha ha.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Beginning of the End

And so this week it came to pass that your correspondent entered the last new state of his hike: Florida. Still, almost six weeks remain before the final plunge into the Gulf of Mexico in Key West, so there will be plenty of blog entries before then. My pace in Florida will be a good deal more relaxed than in many states farther north, which will allow me to speak to more groups (especially Rotary Clubs and VFW posts), do some more sightseeing, and give my legs a break. Of course, I also just registered for the Miami Marathon later on this month, so I'm not being too easy on myself.
The weather was unseasonably cool this past week, with snow flurries being seen (though not by me) as far south as Daytona. Still, you will know for sure how bad the wind chill made it feel a few days ago, when I apprise you that I even forwent a trip to a Waffle House because I did not feel like hiking into a stiff 30 mile per hour wind with temps of about 30 degrees. Actually, pancakes have been more a part of my diet lately than waffles. Two nights ago I stayed with Heather Barnett (a couch surfee) and her housemates. They all worked at the Jacksonville Zoo, where Heather gave me a backstage tour after having whipped up a great helping of apple pancakes the night before. Then last night, I stayed with the Matthews family of Orange Park, who made me pancakes this morning and donated $400 worth of change (thankfully they didn't make me carry it all!) to the Fisher House Foundation. The Matthewses are friends of Lauren Hoffman, who lives across the street, and to whom I once gave a bike tour along with her friend Risa, when I was living in Berlin. Lauren's husband Karl saw an article (see link below) in the Florida Times Union about me this past week, and subsequently got in touch with me. Hence my spending dinner with them last night and my overnight stay at their friends across the street. Thanks to all and watch for a new post in about four days or so.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year

Well, suffice to say that I hope your New Year's Eve was better than mine- watching Law and Order reruns at a Days Inn off of I 95 while dealing with the cranky owners of the joint who refused to apologize for the moldy bathroom, broken door lock, or the fuzzy TV reception. At least the weather down here has been beautiful of late, albeit much colder than it had been previously. Yesterday night, my Mapquest directions also led me astray by three miles to the point that I needed to call a cab to get to my motel for the night. I'll take a cab back to where I left off once I get out of here- so no worries, I'm not cheating. In the next few days, I'll be in Jacksonville and then hit the beach for the first time since Massachusetts!