19c79's Walk Across the USA

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    Jul 09, 2011 5:29 AM GMT
    **Scroll to the last post to read the latest from my blog.**

    Hey, guys.

    Thanks to ErikTaurean, who has posted links to my blog, and everyone who has written to me on FB.

    I thought I'd start a new thread, where I (when I get the chance) and others can just cross-post my blog posts and twitter or FB updates.

    So far, so good. I've been lucky to meet a lot of really nice people. No RJers yet, though.

    Here's the most recent ones:

    Life in the ‘Burbs
    Hips Hurting, a Stop in Clifton

    Ever heard of your hip flexors? Well, I heard from them during my first two days of walking, and they were mad. When you carry a heavy backpack for a long stretch of time, you’re supposed to rest it on your hip, rather than your shoulders. Your lower body is stronger, you see, and you don’t want to overburden your back.

    It turns out I was a little too cocky about my relationship with my hip flexors. I thought that I had talked them into letting me rest my 50-plus-pound backpack on them. They disagreed. Why is it that it is always the small muscles you never think of that hurt the most when they decide to act up? Here I was worrying about my feet (which have been doing great, thank you), when I should have spent a lot more time training my hips!

    Luckily, Tuesday night I found a video teaching some hip flexor stretches. I’m doing these two or three times a day, and that has made all the difference. The pain is all but gone. So if you’re keeping score, it’s hip flexors 1, Constantino 2.

    I spent Tuesday night with my friends Vishal and Vasanth in Clifton. Vishal was born and raised in the U.S. and has lived in the New York area his whole life. Vasanth, who grew up in India, came here for grad school. Before that he lived in Europe for several years. He has lived in Austin, where he went to school, New York City, and now suburban New Jersey.

    Vasanth calls Vishal an “ABCD,” or an “American-Born Confused Desi.” But Vishal shrugs it off. This topic came up the first time I met them, a few months ago at a mutual friend’s party. “I’m not confused about anything,” Vishal said then. “Growing up we had turkey vindaloo for Thanksgiving. It was great!”

    Vasanth says he hates “the idea of American suburbs,” and when Vishal was trying to get him to move out to Clifton, he told him that “the only thing Jersey has going for it is the view.” Vishal, who lived in Queens until he was in middle school, disagrees. He likes having a spacious house and thinks the suburbs provide a healthier environment for children. It’s a debate many young couples – whether American-born or immigrants – are familiar with. I’d be interested to hear thoughts from others. Is city life really that bad for kids?


    A City Slicker Pitches a Tent
    Winding Through North Jersey’s Wealthy Enclaves

    On Wednesday, I walked from Vishal and Vasanth’s home in Clifton to a friend’s godparents’ place in West Caldwell. The walk wasn’t long, but it was very hot – about 93 degrees. I was also surprised by just how hilly Northern New Jersey is.

    There was a particular street that I’ll likely never forget, Highland Avenue in Montclair, which I walked from Bradford to Claremont Avenues. It was only 1.6 miles, but it felt like four. Aside being steep, the street is very pretty. It is also home to several mansions, many of which have views of the Manhattan skyline. According to online records, a 7 bedroom, 4-bathroom house built in 1927 sold in 2003 for $965,000, and was assessed in 2010 at $1,277,700.

    About three quarters of the way up the hill, a guy in an SUV drove by, hit reverse, and backed up to say hi. He rolled down the window as he took a puff from his joint. “Walking far?” he asked. “California,” I said. That shocked him, but he also thought it was “so awesome.” I told him why I’m doing it, and he said, “You want know what it means to be an American? Well, it’s awesome, but I don’t know, man, I’m just a pot-smoking rich kid from the suburbs.” He had all sorts of advice for me on how I should sneak into parks and camp, even if it’s illegal, but I should “like, [not] light a fire, and stuff, ‘cause then they’ll see [me].” A police car drove by while we were talking, and he didn’t even bother to hide the joint, which made me a little nervous. Then it started to rain, and he drove off.

    The rain didn’t last long, luckily, and it did make things a bit cooler! When I made it to West Caldwell, Renée and Joel had burgers, hot dogs and wine ready. It was delightful. My friend Justin, their godson, came from Manhattan to join us for dinner. They offered me the couch to sleep on, but Justin and I wanted to practice setting up my tent in their backyard. I didn’t have time to take it out of the pouch before I left, and was feeling a little nervous about it.

    This, by the way, is where I come out of the closet as a total city slicker. Before that night, I had never pitched a tent in my life. The one I got is pretty easy to set up, though, so I am feeling much more confident.

    Renée and Joel’s granddaughters were visiting from Chicago, and they were all getting ready for a road trip to New England early Thursday morning. The girls, ages 10 and 11, have made it their goal to see all 50 states. After this trip, they will have visited more than 20. Their favorite is Hawaii, they said – so now I’m thinking that when I finish walking, hopping on a plane to Waikiki will be just what I need!
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    Jul 09, 2011 1:10 PM GMT
    Also, in case anyone's wondering how I'm looking after five days on the road, here's some pictures. This underwear I'm wearing is great, because it's easy to wash, and it doesn't smell, but it is about the unsexiest thing ever.

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/6f5810c4d0313d0a878b1bdbcd8fed88

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/c1753e8f5018cc5fdc19855ec69882e3

    http://www.realjock.com/fullphoto/d2b1036bda88a6f4594c72651152095a
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    Jul 09, 2011 1:11 PM GMT
    Heheheh cool and i love the undies buddy icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 09, 2011 1:13 PM GMT
    holy hot legs
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    Jul 09, 2011 1:33 PM GMT
    Hey Constantino and glad your hips are feeling better. I can imagine all the aches and pains you may face. It looks like you're doing it though. How many hours a day are you walking? What's your diet like? Are you sleeping okay? Great pics, by the way!icon_biggrin.gif
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Jul 09, 2011 1:35 PM GMT
    We are watching closely and only wish the best!

    Be safe Constantino!

    icon_biggrin.gif
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    Jul 09, 2011 2:36 PM GMT
    vincent7 saidHey Constantino and glad your hips are feeling better. I can imagine all the aches and pains you may face. It looks like you're doing it though. How many hours a day are you walking? What's your diet like? Are you sleeping okay? Great pics, by the way!icon_biggrin.gif
    Thanks! :-) I've been going a lot slower than I wanted to, but I will pick up the pace next week. I've been walking about six or seven hours a day. I'm still in the suburbs, so my diet has been relatively normal. I do have ramen noodles, a cooking stove, protein bars, and packets of tuna for when I get to a more rural area next week.
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    Jul 09, 2011 2:42 PM GMT
    I like the underwear. icon_wink.gif
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    Jul 09, 2011 2:57 PM GMT

    Con, I was kinda shocked when I read in your opening post that you were in an area where you could still see the Manhattan skyline.... WOW!! This is going to be one helluva walk, huh!!

    Wishing you the very best and a very safe journey ahead. I'll be watching for you!!
    David
  • conquer

    Posts: 305

    Jul 09, 2011 3:01 PM GMT
    good luck bud. wishing you the best of luck in your journey, you'll be a changed man when you finish icon_smile.gif
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    Jul 09, 2011 5:18 PM GMT
    Thanks for the shout out Tino! Guess I should have started the new tracking thread since I suggested it on the other thread LOL. Glad you are feeling better physically and are safe!!!!!
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    Jul 10, 2011 11:41 AM GMT
    theantijock said

    Love the curried quip. But you left readers wondering why someone would back up their car just to say hi. An element of danger? Was he hoping to pick you up for anonymous sex? Also, when you quote the conversation with your friends, your writing is relaxed, but with this guy it was stilted. Even if he really did say "I'm just a pot smoking rich kid from the suburbs.", sorry, but I don't believe it. It doesn't sound like a kid in a jeep. He would at least have said "the burbs".

    Anyway, your hiking adventure sounds really wonderful, but did someone fail to mention that the Appalachian trail doesn't head to California?
    Hah. I don't think the guy was gay. I think he was just high and wondering why there was some strange man wearing a floppy hat and bearing walking sticks going up the street. And, yeah, that is literally what he said, with a smile on his face, of course.
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    Jul 10, 2011 1:13 PM GMT
    I love reading your blog! icon_biggrin.gif Keeping having a safe journey!!
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    Jul 10, 2011 4:08 PM GMT
    Thanks!
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    Jul 11, 2011 4:36 AM GMT
    'Tino spent the weekend in Morristown, NJ. Says he is a bit behind schedule, but is meeting fantastic people so the delay thus far is worth it!!!
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    Jul 11, 2011 10:30 PM GMT
    Hey, everyone. I'm in Bernardsville, New Jersey, tonight. Spent a wonderful weekend in Morristown, at the home of a very nice gay couple whom I met through a local Episcopal church. More on what they and their church taught me about hospitality later. In the meantime, here's my latest blog post.

    Tortillas And Tough Tasks
    A Taste of Guatemala and the Hard Work of Coming to the U.S.

    I can’t remember the last time I got nostalgic about Guatemala. But a home-cooked meal is always welcome, no matter where the recipe’s origin. And there is one thing about Guatemalan food I love: tortillas. Guatemalan tortillas are different from the Mexican tortillas we are used to in the U.S. They are smaller, thicker, and way tastier. I was thrilled, Thursday night, to have some for the first time in years.

    I had my Guatemalan tortillas at the home of Nery and Laura, whose daughter, Rosa, found out about my walk through Facebook. She read that I would be in the area, and that I didn’t have a place to stay, so she offered to let me stay with them. It was the first night I have spent with strangers, but as a friend of mine reminded me, no one is a stranger after you’ve dined together. I should say, then, that I spent the night in the company of new friends.

    Chatting with them about the “old country” was interesting. Rosa still yearns for it. The family came to the U.S. ten years ago, when she was 14. She finished high school here and has a green card, a job, and a plan to go to med school. Yet she misses Guatemala dearly, and would love to go back. Her sister, Priscilla, who is only one year younger, is the opposite. She has no intention of ever going back.

    Priscilla doesn’t see the U.S. through pink-colored glasses. “Being American means you work, and work, and work, until you’re old, and then you die,” she said. She works at a bank, and told me about one of her co-workers, a 94-year-old woman who needs the job in order to support herself. In spite of all of this, she believes that this country affords opportunities that she would never find in Guatemala. She appreciates the fact that even though you have to work very hard to get ahead in America, it is still possible here to improve your life and that of your family. And when her dad and I started talking about Guatemalan corruption and politics (the two go hand-in-hand), she kept shaking her head and asking things like “but don’t they have people who do audits?” Priscilla, I concluded, is thoroughly Americanized. Good for her.

    Rosa herself is much more American than she would care to admit. She spent all of last year in Guatemala, an experience that both renewed her desire to move back, and highlighted the differences between her and her childhood friends. “I’ve worked since I was 15,” she told me. “I’ve helped my parents out with household expenses for as long as I’ve been able to, and my things, I buy myself, with my own money.” Her friends in Guatemala by and large depend on their parents even though they are in their 20s. She told me about a friend of hers, a 28-year-old whose parents won’t let out of the house after 5:00 PM, because it gets dark. “I couldn’t even begin to get it,” said Rosa. “She is older than me, and she has to ask permission to go out? I’ve always been respectful and have told my parents where I am, and where I’m going, but I am very independent. I couldn’t believe that at her age her parents treated her like a baby.” It seems, then, that the importance we give to hard work in America has its reward: independence.

    Nery, Laura, and their three daughters (the youngest one is 16) are a tight knit family. Nery’s love for his family keeps him going in spite of hardships and setbacks. He is a CPA, and worked in upper management for a large company in Guatemala. “I had 120 employees in five different countries under my supervision,” he said. “I traveled all over Central America, and people knew that I called the shots. I was the boss.” In 2001, he got laid off, and realized that the only way he’d be able to give his daughters a good education would be by emigrating. His first job in the US was with a flooring company. “It was hard work,” he says, “on you knees all day, installing the floor.”

    After the flooring company, he got a job as a busboy at a cafeteria, and a second job in the stocking department of a pharmaceutical company. He has held at least two jobs at a time since then, often three. His day starts at 5:00 AM, and he says he has sometimes worked up to 15- or 16-hour days. And yet his spirits don’t falter. He is a man of faith, and he trusts that God will help them get ahead. So far, things seem to be going well. The family is looking to buy a house, for which they would all help pay.

    I took the day off Friday, and stayed at a hotel just a few miles away from my Guatemalan friends’ home. The assistant manager, a fellow immigrant, was excited about my project, and gave me a highly discounted rate, which included breakfast Saturday morning. I am bound to meet more than one unpleasant person, I am sure, but so far, I have met extremely kind people. I’m beginning to wonder if being kind, and helpful to strangers, is part of what it means to be an American.
  • JP85257

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    Jul 11, 2011 10:43 PM GMT
    The further west you get the longer the distances are going to be.
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    Jul 11, 2011 10:49 PM GMT
    JP85257 saidThe further west you get the longer the distances are going to be.
    Yup. Want to know what's a good measure? Right now I'm at the last Starbucks I'll see for 40 miles. That's a three days' walk. To the next Starbucks. Not kidding. :-)
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    Jul 12, 2011 11:33 PM GMT
    From the Walk Like An American blog:

    By CHARLIE ZAVALICK | 0 comments

    BERNARDSVILLE –What does it mean to be an American?

    A native of Guatemala who is seeking answers to that question visited Bernardsville Monday as part of his walk across the nation.

    Constantino Diaz-Duran, 31, arrived in town around noon after walking from Morristown. He stopped by the offices of this newspaper for a chat before continuing on to St. Bernard’s Episcopal Church, where he spent the evening before departing Tuesday for Oldwick, Clinton and eventually Allentown, Pa. His journey began on July 4 in Manhattan, N.Y., where he has lived for about five years. Diaz-Duran came to America 10 years ago for political asylum after facing death threats while serving as the editorial writer for a major daily newspaper in Guatemala City.

    “I wrote articles that rubbed people the wrong way,’’ he said.

    He came to America for the freedom to work as a journalist without persecution. After spending several years with a “think tank’’ in Washington, D.C., he has been working as a freelance writer in New York City where he also earned a bachelor’s degree in American studies.

    “The whole point of this walk is a celebration of becoming an American citizen, the realization of a dream,’’ he said. “The bigger goal is to write a book about what it means to be an American.’’

    His “research’’ includes informal conversations with regular citizens across the nation.

    “I want to see what people across the country think about being an American,’’ he explained.

    He plans to take a southern route through West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee toward Louisiana before heading north to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, back south to New Mexico and finally west to Arizona and California. The total journey is estimated at 4,300 miles.

    Financed partially through a fellowship from Arizona State University, he carries a tent and sleeping back but also wants to stay at homes and hotels to shave and clean up so people aren’t afraid to talk to him. He hopes to complete the trip in eight months but has some extra time available.

    In Bernardsville he was greeted at North Finley Avenue by borough resident Dave Gayle, 18, who walked alongside the traveler. Gayle began following Diaz-Duran through his daily Facebook and Twitter entries after learning of his adventure during mass here on Sunday.

    ‘Amazing Challenge’

    An Epsicopalian, Diaz-Duran was invited to spend the night by St. Bernard’s Church Rector the Rev. Bill Feus.

    “It’s remarkable what he’s doing,’’ Feus said. “It’s an amazing challenge of his endurance and as a Christian his faith in God to get him through the difficult times. But what a great way to get to know his country.’’

    Diaz-Duran spoke about the difficulties he has already endured. Carrying a backpack that weighs 51 pounds plus water puts stress on the body, especially the hips, he noted.

    “The first couple days were quite brutal as far as physical pain,’’ he said. “The heat and the hills in New Jersey I wasn’t expecting.’’

    Nonetheless, he said he is now more confident that he can make the full journey as his body has started to adapt and the pain subsided. So far he has averaged about eight miles a day, but is striving to walk 20. He is already behind schedule after unexpectedly spending two days in Morristown at the homes of members of the Church of the Redeemer. Contributing to the delay has been the hospitality and interest of people. But, he said, that’s what he wanted.

    “What’s slowing me down is the wonderful people I’ve met.’’

    Meanwhile back in Guatemala, his mother, he said, has been praying ever since he left. His father warned him to be careful, noting that “he’s no Jack Kerouac,’’ author of the famous post war travel book “On The Road.’’

    Regarding the potential dangers, he said he may actually be safer now than he would have been in the 1950s since he has a cell phone and Global Positioning System (GPS) to keep in touch.

    To follow his adventures online residents can visit www.walklikeanamerican.org or twitter.com/cY.ddN

    A CNN television interview with Diaz-Duran can also be viewed at http://is.gd/TgIEt.
  • JP85257

    Posts: 3284

    Jul 12, 2011 11:53 PM GMT
    19c79 said
    JP85257 saidThe further west you get the longer the distances are going to be.
    Yup. Want to know what's a good measure? Right now I'm at the last Starbucks I'll see for 40 miles. That's a three days' walk. To the next Starbucks. Not kidding. :-)

    Denver to El Paso is going to be a very long walk. However you will be kind of in the part of the country where I grew up. icon_smile.gif
  • Karnage

    Posts: 704

    Jul 12, 2011 11:54 PM GMT
    Constantino, this is absolutely amazing! If you are passing through the DC area in a few weeks (in particular Falls Church, VA), definitely hit me up for a meal or a house to sleep in. Best of luck!
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    Jul 13, 2011 2:06 AM GMT
    Karnage saidConstantino, this is absolutely amazing! If you are passing through the DC area in a few weeks (in particular Falls Church, VA), definitely hit me up for a meal or a house to sleep in. Best of luck!
    Thank you so much, man. That's very kind. I lived in Falls Church for a summer. I might hit you up.
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    Jul 13, 2011 2:53 AM GMT
    19c79 saidThere was a particular street that I’ll likely never forget, Highland Avenue in Montclair, which I walked from Bradford to Claremont Avenues. It was only 1.6 miles, but it felt like four. Aside being steep, the street is very pretty. It is also home to several mansions, many of which have views of the Manhattan skyline.

    These streets are music to my ears, where I grew up. Did you run across Upper Mountain Avenue? My direct ancestors founded Montclair in the 1650s (though originally named after my great, great great... as Speer Town, a Dutch settlement). His farm house still exists as a museum, though now renamed after a later owner.

    You were on the Watchung Mountains (hills really) that do have a wonderful view of Manhattan, some 20+ miles away. It pains me that I couldn't have been there, where I used to live, and host you. I'm happy you're continuing to keep us updated on your walk.
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    Jul 13, 2011 9:08 PM GMT
    Blog Update:

    http://zocalopublicsquare.org/thepublicsquare/2011/07/13/radical-hospitality/read/walk-like-an-american/

    Radical Hospitality
    A Welcoming Stay in the Garden State

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    Jul 14, 2011 3:22 AM GMT
    Changed his route from Clinton, NJ to DC:
    Starting From: Clinton, NJ then onto:
    Frenchtown, NJ
    New Hope, PA
    Doylestown, PA
    Norristown, PA
    Downingtown, PA
    Quarryville, PA
    Prettyboy Reservoir, MD
    Eldersburg, MD
    Wheaton, MD
    Washington, D.C.

    Message him if you are on or no anyone on this router. The google map is on his facebook page.

    Here is Tino's facebook post: Hey, everyone. I've re-routed my walk to DC to make up for my slow start. If you know anyone along this route, please let me know.