So, tonight, Tom and I find ourselves in Ft. Morgan, Colorado. You may say, “Wow, you were just in the SW corner of Nebraska. How did you get there?”
When Tom and I originally planned Veterans Trek, we sat down at our places and mapped out a route that we thought was the safest route given our limited experience taking on anything of this magnitude. We stuck to that course, more or less, until we hit Grand Island, NE. Once we got to Grand Island, we took in to account the crazy weather happening in Northwest Nebraska and, while in a hotel room, quickly plotted a new course that we thought would give us the best chance to meet our goals.
Along the way, we ran into several people who shared concerns with our new route. Top among their concerns was the incredible stretches of miles where no food or water could be found. Also, they warned us that places to stay should the weather get bad would be few and very far between. To mitigate the risk, we took a ride to Ft. Morgan which is back on our original path. I have yet to calculate the difference in miles, but it is relatively minor…maybe 120 miles at most. Tom and I committed to 2,700 or so and we intend to honor that. While we walk, we plan to formulate a new plan to make those miles up and include the dozens of you who expressed a desire to walk with us. So, please understand our intention to honor our claim is still very much alive and well. Right now, we’re thinking of ways to finish them and make it inclusive for all. Please stay tuned on that.
So, we will be continuing from Colorado’s Northeast corner and making our way towards Denver here in the next few days. We sit about 100 miles away from there. Tomorrow, is Veterans Day and Tom and I won’t be walking. Instead, we have some cool things lined up. Our day begins at 5:15am Mountain Time with a Skype on WISN news in Milwaukee. A few hours later, a live Skype with The Morning Blend on WTMJ in Milwaukee and then two additional Skypes with two schools in Milwaukee. The schools are both making donations to our walk for Dryhootch which will continue to help us reach our goal for them. Right now, we’re still right around 60,000 dollars raised. We have a ways to go for the financial goal, but we also have a ways to go on the miles…and every one of you who has donated has helped influence the lives of Veterans and their families.
This point in the trip is also a great time to recount some of the moments of the trip. For Tom, he remembers, not so fondly, the heat and humidity of the send-off. Just the other day, we were going over what the worst stretches were. He didn’t like the stretch east of Madison that was wide open marsh land. It had no cover and was extremely hot. And Waterloo. He liked the little dog, Wiggles, who followed us from York, NE to Aurora, NE. We didn’t cook him on a spit– he was returned safe and sound. He also appreciates the overwhelming support of people who have let us stay by them, fed us, and worked to reestablish some trust in people, that there are good, caring people out there who want to see Veterans and their families taken care of.
For me, I enjoyed blowing my failed shoes up, meeting the Veterans who have walked with us and taken us out for dinner, the families and towns who have accepted us as their own. My favorite stretch, still, is the Heritage Trail in Iowa. My least favorite has been the ATV trail between Mineral Point and Darlington, WI. That was a real test at the beginning of the trip.
Neither of us enjoyed blisters on our feet, achey bodies, and tired minds. But, all of these things have added up to a very rewarding time for us as we make our way West. It wouldn’t be a journey without some obstacles and you never get a reward without overcoming what is obstructing your path. Not to be cliched, but if it were easy, everyone would do it. Somedays are easier than others, but all of them are worth it.
We will do our best to make the mountain stretch a safe and fun time while continuing our work to raise awareness and hope for Veterans and their families struggling with the challenges of coming home. What I can say for sure is this: I haven’t felt this good in a long time.
Thanks for all the support and continued well-wishes as we trek across Colorado and beyond.
See you on the trail,
Anthony and Tom