Sunday, March 16, 2008

Greetings, thanks, and farewell from Vienna!

I thought this would be my absolute last blogging post (and truth be told, I'm not sure how many people are checking at this point), but there will be one more once I finally figure out how to upload the video of my final day of hiking onto Youtube and then link it or import it to the blog. However, having come to Vienna this past week, I've been insanely busy in my old hometown (I was an exchange student here for six months in high school), so things have taken a little longer than I had hoped. But rest assured, the video will be online by the end of the month- and that's a guarantee.
In the meantime, as I bid a fond farewell, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who made my hike such a great adventure and such a successful fundraiser for the Fisher House Foundation. My first thanks go to the Fisher House Foundation itself for their support and cooperation. They were always eager to provide me with brochures, t-shirts, logistical aid, and moral support (but not van insurance). The work they do is so vital and terrific, as was their support of my efforts. Also, a big thank you as well goes out to the men and women of our armed forces for the work that they do protecting our freedom on a daily basis. And likewise, just as Fisher House, our troops, and I all helped each other out, so did everyone who donated to the Fisher House Foundation throughout the course of my hike. Thanks to you all for your generous support of a great cause.
While the number of people who helped me out personally is far too great to mention, a few also deserve special recognition here. These include all my couch surfing and hospitality club friends, the Ft. Kent, ME historical society, Don Whipple, Russ and Lisa Topmann, the staff of the Young House B & B in Millinocket, ME, Robert Burns, Cullen Blake, Adam Nebesar and Jason Kivett, John Tanski, the Youth Hostel in Dudley, MA, Greg Parker, Jackie Banks, Bruce and Lynda Limpert (and Lynda's sister), Anne and Jeff Bingaman, the Abrecht Family, Nick Spike, the gang from Jeopardy, Paris Goodnight, the Humphries Family, Kenny Kearse, Paul and Ellen Hickey, the Hoffmann and Matthews Families, Dan Sullivan, the Rotary Clubs of St. Augustine, Ormond Beach, and Daytona Beach, the VFW folks in Delray Beach- especially Linda Roman and Linda Makel, Alice and Craig McClelland, the Harter/Herndon Family, Richard Conkright, Jerry Hughes, and Roger Heise. Also, thanks to everyone who gave me free food (there were possibly hundreds of you!) and to all the reporters and media people who helped cover my trek. And finally, a huge thank you to my family for all their support and encouragement over the past seven months.
That's all for now- happy trails!
-David Madden, aka USAhiker
Vienna, Austria
March 16, 2008

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Now that I'm back in New Jersey (for about a week or so before moving to Vienna) I've had some time to think about the past seven months and what I will really remember about the hike. Of course, I'll have a lot more time to think in the coming months, as I put my recollections into book form, but for now a few things bear mentioning.
First, I lucked out unbelievably with the weather. There was a well-nigh unprecedented drought in the Southeast this fall and winter, which, while not kind to farmers certainly helped me out. Last summer was also rather dry up in New England, at least while I was up there. In fact, throughout the hike there weren't more than maybe twenty five days out of over 200 during which it rained at all, and of those twenty, there were maybe only about 5 washouts. And due to a rather flexible schedule, I only hiked through one of those. Also, as far as temperatures go, I never experienced temperatures colder than the upper twenties (in Virginia in November- though on my last day in Georgia, the wind chill was in the teens at most) or warmer than the upper eighties. Of course, given my route and timeframe which was designed to avoid temperature extremes, this wasn't as fortuitous as the lack of precip was.
Secondly, there were a number of questions I got in all spots I hiked through which I'll repeat here: "How many shoes have you been through?" (Ans. five, although I hiked 80% of the hike in just two pairs- my favorite being the New Balances I bought at the New Balance factory up in Maine) "How much weight have you lost?" (Ans. only about five pounds- remember, I wasn't hiking the Appalachian Trail for most of the way and had ready access to junk food, fast food, and sit down restaurants alike) "Have you had any bad experiences?" (Ans. There was one guy up in southern Maine who almost sicced his pit bull on me even though I wasn't even on his property, but one bad apple hardly spoiled the hike) and "How long did it take?" (Ans. 7 months and two days and about 2600 miles, though I lost track of the miles after Connecticut or so)
Finally, what impressed me the most was both the diversity of the places that I hiked through (the mountains of Maine, New York City, Amish Country, Washington DC, the rolling hills of Virginia, rural South Carolina, the beach in Florida) and the widespread generosity of people to both me and the Fisher House Foundation. While I'll save my formal thank yous for my final post this coming week, it suffices to say at this point that I experienced kindness in all corners, whether from Honduran immigrants in the Bronx, skateboarding teenagers in North Carolina, backwoodsmen in Maine and South Carolina, US Senators in Washington, old friends, new friends, the Fisher House Foundation itself, and of course my family. Not only would my hike not have been possible without you, but it wouldn't have been the grand adventure it was.