December 08, 2020

We made it, sticks and all.

 

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

-Steven Wright

 

The forecast is for clouds and a light breeze, with temps in the low 60’s, for the last leg of our journey to the far end of Cape Cod.  There’s a parking lot at the beach at Race Point where we leave Christine’s pickup.  This is the last part of our journey and I wanted everyone to have a souvenir to remember it by, so I bought each of us a wooden walking stick.  In the parking lot, I perform a corny ceremony before giving each their pole.  Asking Christine and Phyllis to take a knee, I recite:

 

“By trial of miles and blisters, and by effort of stubbornness of purpose, you have gained great merit.

“In the name of ibn Battuta, one of the greatest travelers of all time, and through the power vested in me by Waldo, the Branch Manager, I hereby proclaim you to be an honored member of Waldo’s Wandering Walkers. 

“Rise and take up your staff of honor.

“May the Earth roll softly beneath your feet.”

 

I hand each their staff, give Waldo a stick and the four of us pile into my car to return to Pilgrim Monument and start our walk.

Once afoot, each with staff in hand (Waldo, with stick in mouth), we walk along Conwell Street, cross over Rte 6, then, shortly thereafter, find a nice serpiginous, paved, bike path that winds its way through the coastal sand dunes.   There’s loose, dry sand everywhere.  There are no oak trees here, they were left back aways, before we hit the dunes.  Here, there is just short scrub pine growing in the sand.

In four miles, we come to the truck and take off our shoes and socks.  We walk barefoot the short distance to the beach.  There’s a chill breeze blowing in off the Atlantic, but it’s not too cold.  We roll up our pant legs and wade into the three-inch surf that’s rolling ashore over a shallow bottom.  The water is cold, but not freezing.  I hoped Waldo learned his lesson about drinking seawater, but he didn’t, so I can’t stay in the water long.

We made it.  Some seven months ago, we started out on a lark.  In total, we walked about three hundred miles and saw a healthy cross-section of Massachusetts.  From the hills of the western part of the state, across the Connecticut River, through farmland, past the Quabbin Reservoir, down rural roads and paths, along highways, backstreets, trails and old railroad beds, over bridges and, finally, onto the sandy beaches at the eastern extreme of the state, we trod along the same ground as many of our ancestors.  Our national history runs deep here; we followed many of the same paths and learned some of the history of our early countrymen. And we did it in the middle of a pandemic.  We met many people in passing, at a distance, and all of whom were friendly and supportive.

When we started this trip, I was asked why?  Why do it?  What’s the purpose?  I had no good answer then; it just seemed like an interesting thing to do.  But now?  Now, I can say what it did.  It rooted me, you know?  It bound me to history, to the soil, to our shared human struggle.  It bound me to my fellow Americans, past and present, and gave me a better feeling for who’s out there in all of their diversity.  It’s one thing to see the country over TV and film, to see it from the air or from inside the metal cocoon of a car.  It’s quite another to wear blisters and strain tired muscles, expose your skin to sun and wind, hot and cold, to meet random people along your path with openness and friendliness, and actually be in the places you move through.  And in so doing, travel through some of our collective past.  To visit places where George Washington slept, to walk the same ground as Daniel Shays, to pass through the town named after Daniel Webster.

As for Waldo?  At the very least, he broadened the range of his olfactory knowledge of his environment, learned more of what’s possible.  He’s at a time in his life where he’s still exploring what’s out there, what there is to experience.  I’m more in a place where I’m working on perspective, trying to tie life’s experiences up in a neat bundle.  I know, good luck with that.  It’s like a friend of mine once told me, “It’s not that I don’t have my shit together, I just can’t hold it all at once.”

After the photo ops, and champagne (we celebrated with a nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut) on the beach, after some local seafood (Waldo got some fish too), we get back home and settle in to the big question.

So, what’s next?

 

Our requisite wade into the Atlantic.

1 comment

Hi Byron, loved your journey each week and can’t believe that it’s finally over. You went through very historical sites. Nicely done, and I loved your ending!

I am hoping to do some walking on the trails they have here in Billings starting in the spring. Your energy is much bigger than mine, but I have a couple of friends and we will use your idea of putting a car at the end of where we will go and ride back to the starting point! Great idea!

Thanks for including me in your adventure!
Love, Beth

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