The Practice Run “Schedule” for August 18, 2013
With gas prices hovering at $3.37 per gallon, the Megabus is affordable ground transportation. It comes with a cost, though. First, no covered stations. Everything is outdoors. Two, the cabins are freezing. Cold to the point where my daughter and I covered our heads with a blanket and interacted with each other under the covers.
Nor were we the only ones.
I woke her up as the bus emptied and we waited outside for 45 minutes while her Mother found the Central Lynx Bus Station in Orlando, Florida. We survived four buses to get from Minneapolis to Orlando. By the time I got off, I was tired of sleeping and sitting.
What I had planned would cure any stiffness generated by two solid days of a North/South road-trip.
One of my Brothers lives in Miramar, Florida. He’s not far from Ft. Lauderdale and since I am planning a 1000 mile walk, I decided to launch a practice run.
Now, to be fair, I also tried to get out of it. I mean, 30 miles is intimidating. Very intimidating. Especially if you cannot train to do 30 miles of walking a day because you are caring for a seven-year-old little girl. Children under age ten in the First World seem to categorically detest walking long distances.
My requests for shelter were denied. And I tried. Like put serious effort into it. When my efforts failed to bear fruit, I had to accept the message from the Universe: Kokayi you are going to walk.
I’ll go into the Celestine Prophecy and how nothing is a coincidence later. Suffice it to say that I believe everything happens for a reason. It’s up to us to decipher the reason.
After 20 years of my parents drilling this into my head, I tend to obey synchronicity when it shows up.
I reduced my belongings down to what I could carry. I left my suitcase against a Pepsi machine and hoped that it was found by an old male drunk. I think old drunk men appreciate my wardrobe selections the best.
Armed with Google Maps and a wi-fi connection, I began my practice run at 1:43 a.m. The early Sunday morning was a sticky 76 degrees.
I wasn’t alone. While a lot of my actions look impulsive and unplanned, they are not. Back in Minneapolis, three doors down from where I lived, a sister named Javann was my back up plan. When the Internet failed me, she came through with directions and moral support.
I believe in the power of average Americans. It is not going to be policy makers who resolve child hunger. While they have a role, ultimately, “We the People” must empower ourselves to feed ourselves and that requires direct experience. No paper decrees can change ordinary lives.
Because of the plethora of wi-fi hot spots in Orlando, it was easy to “follow the yellow brick road” inside the city. I passed a few stallions jamming to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and quickly made it to the outskirts. I almost took a picture of two homeless people sleeping on park benches, then changed my mind. I thought it was rude: borderline exploitative.
I reached Edgewater at a respectable 2:44 a.m.
I wasn’t counting miles. Just dutifully walking, my support person keeping in contact via text. As soon as I left the city I was dependent upon her and McDonald’s wi-fi.
The plan worked because of McDonald’s immense popularity inside Florida and twenty-four hour drive-thrus and walk-in lobbies. (Yes!) Locations are roughly every 3 – 4 miles.
Or so I thought. When I reached Taft and my support teammate told me I had only traveled 6.9 miles, I was partially devastated. My recovery was quick with a 16 ounce RedBull, but still – only 6.9 miles? Three and a half hours had passed. My goal was 3 miles an hour. In my head, I wanted her to say 10 miles, not 6.9 miles.
Regardless of the disappointment, I sipped water and chugged the coffee substitute.
The route took me by a series of truck stops. I did not know that trucking was such big business. A tremendous amount of land is set aside for gas pumps to maintain the fleet of trucks, which stock the shelves of America’s stores with their cargo.
I noticed that not one of the truckers stopped to ask me if I needed a ride. Since I had nothing except my own thoughts to contend with, the question arose: How many 260-pound Black Men travel by foot in these parts? I mean, didn’t George Zimmerman greatly impact the perception that this isn’t the most desirable mode of transportation for men of color?
Come to think of it, I don’t remember passing anyone on the sidewalk until around 6:30 am. And, interestingly enough, once I finally did they were old Black people mumbling prayers to themselves.
The prayers, incidentally, we’re not racial in tone. Not from what I heard. My Elders were looking out for the same thing that I was: snakes.
A black snake at night is more intimidating than Batman. It is equally intimidating when it goes without perception until the last minute during the day. I experienced both.
At approximately the fifteen mile mark, I was forced to visit a Publix to recharge my phone and body. I sucked down orange juice and posted the pics of town signs that I had passed.
This far into the morning, Javann and I were a finely-tuned operation. I received street names and distances via text. This was reinforced by visuals when I entered a wi-fi hotspot.
When she signed off at 7 a.m., I was fine. The sun was up and people were out. If I got lost, all I had to do was ask.
At 11:24 a.m., after almost ten hours of walking I strode into the St. Cloud Publix at 4401 13th Street pretty much done. It looked like rain and I had traveled 25.1 miles.
Belying my cultivated sense of impulsiveness, I called a friend to pick me up and sipped more orange juice. I learned a lot. Mainly, that a mile walked in the mind does not necessarily equal a mile walked on the street.