I started this trip at Puget Sound. I dipped my toe in the water. Or I slapped at it with the bottom of my shoe. I did not want to get my socks wet. They've been plenty wet since. Such are the hazards of Walking Across America.
I should have begun at Neah Bay. I was not on an ocean beach. But I was determined to start moving east. It was close enough for me. And should be for you. Coastline is coastline. It is the very same sea.
Find me now camped on a sliver of land between Long Sound and Manatee Bay. I've got saltwater on all four sides. I could declare victory. I've reached the Atlantic. Loosely defined, that has always been my destination.
But the journey continues. I will keep walking until I run out of road. Which means Key West, a proper island. Here I am still attached. Just barely, like a hangnail, a half-dozen miles from Key Largo.
I woke up early after three hours sleep. I did not wait til check-out time. Which has been my custom but the place was disgusting. I needed to breathe some fresh air. As it was I was still slow getting out of town. I was there until one or so. After a breakfast in Florida City. Subway. Beggars do not choose.
Florida City, Florida and Homestead are one and the same. Homestead is the old town with a Main Street. Florida City has Burger King. And Walmart and clutter. Less character, though. There was a carnival in town. I was tempted to stop and ask for a job. I was worried they might give me one.
I can of course see myself as a carney. I like the travelling life. But I've got this project to finish first. That's always been a weakness of mine. Starting grand schemes and taking them to within a hairsbreadth of completion. But stopping just short, half afraid, the other half satisfied.
I almost got married once.
Florida City dragged on a bit. There was more to it than I'd guessed. But it ended abruptly at The Last Chance Saloon. I stop at every one of those I see.
There are dozens of Last Chance Saloons. This one was no disappointment. Everyone was kind to me. I was treated to three icy Cokes. By the tattooed lady behind the bar. She spoke fondly of banjos. And so won my heart. The soda pop just made me like her more.
Indeed it was my very last chance for the next fifteen miles. I'm on Highway 1. There's a high fence on both sides and a concrete wall down the middle. Painted a soothing seafoam color. It was still like being in prison. Once you're on 1, you're committed.
But the shoulder was good and the weather was fine. There is not a great deal out there. A few bridges over nothing in particular and miles of Everglades. Fenced in, I guess, for their own protection. The birds in their looked happy. Long-legged shorebirds like I've been seeing for weeks, and a goodly number of hawks.
I wish I could tell you just what kind. Birds are not my specialty. The buzzards have stopped following me. Pelicans are my favorite. But I haven't seen any of them lately. I hope there are some further south. They're so endearingly goofy. I wish I were a pelican.
Some miles in I crossed a river. Or may have, I was not paying attention. And the landscape changed. It had been just damp. Here there was one or two feet of water. With shrubbery, not grass, perhaps stout enough to stop your smaller airboats. They look to me like rhododendrons, but I'm pretty sure I'm wrong.
I didn't really notice when I hit the sea. There is that wet dog smell. But no surf. I watched the sun as it disappeared into Long Bay.
Which I was ready to call a lake. I've done some studying since. I'm camped among the rhododendrons by some kind of marina. Where I hope to get coffee come the dawn. I don't know how much is there. I can hear people drinking more than they should. They're going to need coffee tomorrow.
I HAD THE option of taking a scenic route, known as Card Bay Road. But it looked kind of lonesome and is famous for saltwater crocodiles.
SUBWAY'S breakfast sandwiches aren't too too bad. Their coffee is drinkable.
A HOBO I met yesterday had his teeth kicked in. They stole his money and beer. This would be a more interesting narrative if things like that happened to me.
GIVEN WHAT I've got to work with, there really is no excuse for you not to Walk Across America.