La la la la la Bombas! I am very excited to say that Bombas, makers of the world’s most comfortable socks, has agreed to support my walk… And when I say support my walk I mean support me, from the ground up, with socks. As many as it takes. Their mission has always been supporting the homeless: they donate a pair of socks for every pair they sell (they’re up to over 8.5 million and counting last I checked), so they saw that my walk was literally a good fit to their mission. How many pairs of socks will that mean? It’s hard to say, so just say as many as it takes. Naturally I hope they add a little cushion to that, a little extra support for my particular cause (The Plymouth Task Force to End Homelessness). But regardless I am very grateful for their generosity. I thank them. My feet thank them. And you can thank them by… well, you’ll figure it out.
Those are some of the towns I will pass near on my first three days walking home, from California.
That will take me from the Pacific Ocean inland for about 30 miles (3 days of walking) moving toward the desert, Barstow and Route 66 (Now Route 40)
To look at the entire route (give or take) go to: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/547144?maptype=terrain&units=miles
Please, if you have friends or family or colleagues along the way let them know and let me know.
I can’t do this without you and you are key to helping me find friends along the way.
Here’s a good example of what I am hoping my 365 core supporters will provide (besides money, skills, social media postings, etc.) and that I will post on this site (modified once the walk begins to emphasize their contributions). Look this over and think about how you could get a few pictures and thoughts that explain what you love about your community on to a one-page document like this. Get going: only ten months before I leave… Frank
Click on the link below and you can get a sense of the route I will take WalkingHome. If I followed it step by step it would be 3,355 miles and I would travel along Route 66, through Oklahoma City then north by northwest (I think) through the Midwest… It’s an early draft but if you think you might walk with me for a day or so, or have family or friends along the way that might take me in, take a look.
Thanks to those of you who made it to the Wildlands Trust on New Year’s Eve Morning (Dec. 31, at 6:15 a.m.) for the last Last Sunrise before my big walk begins. It was cold, but beautiful, a reminder of that first ‘last sunrise’ 5 years ago at Plimoth Plantation which was the inspiration for my upcoming walk.
Though there were fewer people at this event, those that did not attend were representative of the best the town – and the country has to offer: people who regularly give their time and effort to causes that have as their goal the enrichment of the lives of others.
Looking around the ‘barn’ at Wildlands Trust there were at least 50 organizations represented: the Wildlands Trust, of course, Tidmarsh Farms, Mass Audubon, The Living Observatory, the Plymouth Antiquarian Society, the Friends of Myles Standish State Forest, the Southeastern Massachusetts Pine Barrens Alliance, The Herring Pond Watersheld Association, Explore Natural Plymouth, the Plymouth Task Force to End Homelessness (the chief beneficiary of the charitable element of my walk), The Plymouth Open Space Committee, The Plymouth 400, The Six Ponds Association, Plimoth Plantation, The Network of Open Space Friends, the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Forest and Park Friends Network… the list goes on, and on.
I am walking 3,300 miles (give or take), but these people have gone much further on behalf of important charities and non-profits and I was humbled to be among them…
And it was a lot of fun too. A lot of good things to eat. A great way to start the day, the year, and the days leading to my departure.
Special thanks to Karen Grey for opening up at 5:45 a.m., making the coffee and being such an amazing host. In a very short time Wildlands Trust has become one of the most important organizations in town and Karen’s hard work, attention to detail and dedication to the mission of WT has been key.
If you were there, again, thank you. If you were not able to make it, I share this with you so that you see that I am earnestly striving to make WalkingHome representative of the spirit of the community that inspired me.
Please take a moment to think of the challenges I will face and of any individual, organization or technology that help me overcome those obstacles.
Thanks again, Frank
About 75 miles, on foot, over seven days and six nights through 18 towns.
Charlton, Oxford and Sutton on the first. Northbridge, Uxbridge and Mendon the second. Bellingham, Franklin, sleeping in Wrentham on the third. The fourth took me to South Foxboro, Mansfield, Easton and West Bridgewater. The fifth East Bridgewater, Halifax and Plympton. And after all that walking all that was left was Kingston and Plymouth.
“This,” the reassuring voice on television says, “was a test.”
A test not of the emergency broadcast network but of boots and socks and tent and bag, and of strategy and philosophy.
I felt the need to test my theories and myself before I began WalkingHome, my 3,650 mile cross-country walk next year.
I learned a lot.
My boots are too stiff, I concluded after 20 miles or so of pavement pounding.
My tent is just fine, it springs up in a minute, breaks down in the darkness.
My bag, though mummy-shaped and down-filled, was not warm enough to keep me from shivering in 20 degree weather.
My plan for the big walk has always been to walk 10-12 miles a day and to depend on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep.
I assumed the distance would be easy and that, if I made the right connections perhaps as many as half of my nights would be spent under a roof.
The hilly towns of Charlton, Oxford and Sutton took more effort that I had anticipated but, as I moved southeast a dozen miles or more were easily traversed in the available daylight.
The only roof I saw though was the star-filled sky.
On the first night it couldn’t be helped. I saw no one as I walked, spoke with no one, and ended up in the middle of nowhere.
I slept in Sutton State Forest, far enough off the road to be hidden from view, close enough to be concerned with discovery.
I slept fitfully that first night – aware of every slap of leaf and snap of branch, woke at first light and ate a cold breakfast of trail mix and was walking again by 7 a.m.
At its most basic my philosophy is that if you reach out someone will always be there. If you fall someone will catch you. And if all else fails, what the hell, you tried.
My most valuable lesson was probably that I need to find new ways to reach out as I walk.
Near noon on the second day, in West Sutton, I heard music and saw that it came from a plain, white church off what they call the Central Turnpike.
I sat on an elevated deck that encircled the church and got out my trail mix but was interrupted by the greeting of a young man who turned out to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutton.
After a short rest I walked on and in the early afternoon I came up a mild rise through the woods on Hartford Avenue West and found myself staring at an immense expanse of trucks and cars.
I had reached Mendon, and Imperial Cars.
It was getting late so I scoured the map for a safe, forested spot and found a campsite in a dollop of woods between the massive auto mall and a youth baseball field.
The season was against me.
Before it was dark – not much later than 4 – I had to have my tent up and, often asleep soon after the sun set, would often awaken after several hours of sleep to discover it was only 9 p.m.
Those were long, long nights.
The kindness of strangers? There were few to meet on the street. Over the entire week – apart from pedestrians in urban areas – I came across no walkers, just a few bicyclists, and no place where I saw people congregating, save for churches and coffee shops.
It seemed a kind of engineered conspiracy.
Our byways are by design empty of walkers. I walked miles and miles of tar and concrete with oftentimes only a foot-wide space between the traffic and the guardrail.
The metaphor of roads as veins and arteries, pumping the blood of civilization doesn’t hold true. Seen on foot most roads are hard and inflexible like scar tissue, interrupting other, natural flows – cutting off groves of trees, strangling streams, isolating neighborhoods.
I was in search of community and, though I tried to shield my eyes with my heart I saw instead how commerce and development are so often indifferent to the needs of people.
It is often safer to travel a hundred miles by car than to walk across the street to visit a neighbor.
You’re willing to allow your children to get on a bus that stops in front of your house, but would you let them cross the street on their own?
It seemed almost an embarrassment to be on foot in this world. .
Many of the roads I walked had been recently improved, with new pavement, concrete abutments, guard rails and the like.
If those improvements included a major intersection it was required that sidewalks and other pedestrian friendly amenities be included.
I call them landing spots: concrete and steel intersections with talking crosswalks and black tar sidewalks that reach out in all directions for a hundred yards or so and then just stop, stranding any humanoids that might have been teleported there directly.
In this environment pedestrians are obstacles to be avoided, like potholes or porcupines.
Only once during the week did someone actually stop and inquire about the old man trudging along, and who could blame them.
On the third day just east of Mendon a van pulled over and a voice asked me if I was alright.
It was a young Mennonite woman, Noemi, transporting a basket of eggs, heading to her church in Bellingham.
Noemi praised my ambition and prayed for my soul and let me take her picture.
I trudged on.
After two days of walking and sleeping where opportunity – or exhaustion – presented itself I realized I could be calling ahead, calling to Town Halls, churches, the Rotary and Lions Clubs.
I was also anticipating that dusk would fall with me well within the more urban section of Franklin so I called their town hall and was referred to the zoning department (was there a zone where transients could sleep?)
Franklin’s Building Inspector Gus Brown, a former Lions Club member made a heroic effort but in the end could not find a patch of lawn that I could sleep on in the city limits.
But Brown went beyond city government and contacted the President of the local Lions Club and she sent out an email to all her members alerting them to my need.
Night was coming fast by then and I couldn’t wait so I walked on.
I walked until seven that night, took refuge for an hour in a Dunkin Donuts and around eight found myself shivering outside the grand, white spire of the Original Congregational Church in Wrentham.
The pastor let me sit in the warm church while bell ringers practiced for an upcoming holiday concert.
When the small hand bells went silent though I was told I couldn’t stay within the warm church overnight though I could use their back lawn.
I was thankful for a legal place to sleep but just as I zipped myself into my mummy bag and closed my eyes the Original Congregational Churches’ massive bell began to toll the hour: gong, gong, gong… ten times it rang.
It was a very cold, very loud night.
The next morning I roused myself from a frosty stupor and walked on and, hours later, crossing under Route 495 saw a sign for the Rotary Club of Mansfield which met “every Tuesday at 12:15 at Jimmy’s Pub.”
A warm room, an open face steak sandwich and a chance to tell the story of WalkingHome but when that interlude was over I walked on without a legal place to sleep.
I found instead a grassy knoll, just a few feet from Route 106 where a few strategically placed pine trees made me invisible to the passing traffic.
The last of Mansfield was walked in the dark, I had Easton for breakfast as the sun rose, then moved over Route 24 and into West Bridgewater where there was again just enough hospitality to sustain me.
Sitting in a cemetery on the town’s western edge I called the Town Hall where Town Administrator David Gagne took it upon himself to find a legal place where I could sleep without fear of being ousted or arrested or eaten by wolves.
Hoping for the best I walked on, into West Bridgewater, and stopped at a HoneyDew Donuts to see if they had an open outlet where I could recharge my phone, then down to 5 percent.
I walked in and slowly scanned the walls for an outlet and seeing none went right back to the road then heard, I thought, someone calling out to me.
A woman who had seen me surveying the room, thinking that I was looking for uneaten donuts, came down to the street and offered me a box of the same.
“You think I’m homeless, don’t you” I asked her, smiling.
“We’re nursing students,” she answered, not wanting to embarrass me and thrusting the donuts my way.
I walked on, encouraged, and as I reached the center of town got a call from Gagne: they had a spot for me, a conservation site, where there was a fire ring and wood and perhaps a chance to relax for the first time in four days, if just for an hour or so.
I had my first and only hot meal of the week in the woods of West Bridgewater: chicken noodle soup with chunks of sausage.
The next morning I began to feel I was getting the hang of this.
A short distance from the East Bridgewater line I found myself literally on the corner of Route 106 and “God’s Way.”
I would be on Route 106 the rest of the way, the terrain was flattening out, becoming easier to walk and more familiar at the same time.
Halifax, which I once covered for the local paper I, had an extensive network of sidewalks and benches all about town. I warmed and charged up inside their historic town hall.
I only passed through a corner of Plympton which I also once covered (they have a single polling place and an old wooden ballot counter that chimes when a vote is cast) and noted that they are now a “Green Community.”
I had covered Kingston for the Patriot Ledger long ago, later becoming the associate editor of the town’s famous ‘fish wrapper,’ The Independent Voice, so I noted the many new developments and changes in this charming village.
I stopped in and spoke with the Director of the Kingston Public Library about the role of libraries in maintaining a sense of community and then, a quarter mile later, dawdled at the marvelous little homes and landscapes at the corner of 3A and Landing Road.
I had a few hours of walking left by then but I already felt that I was home so my step was light, my eyes free to wander.
Charlton, Oxford, Sutton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Mendon, Bellingham, Franklin, Wrentham, Foxboro, Mansfield, Easton, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, Halifax, Plympton, Kingston… seven days, seventy-five miles, 500 photographs, 50 tweets.
The official destination was Plymouth Town Square which I reached just after noon on that Friday but before leaving that area I enjoyed a green tea chai soy latter – and a muffin – at the Kiskadee coffee house.
Leaving Kiskadee I noticed activity in front of the nearby Post Office building and, out of curiosity, I crossed the street and realized they were just about to cut the ribbon marking the completion of several years of extensive renovations to that beautiful building.
State Rep. Matt Muratore and Selectman Ken Tavares were there on the steps and Muratore called out to me, “just get back?”
Yes, I just got back. I could have driven the entire route I two hours but, walking, it took seven days.
That night was the Kiwanis’ annual lighting of the CommuniTree, decorated with more than a hundred hand-made ornaments representing some of the community organizations and non-profits that inspired me to walk the walk.
This was not that walk. This was just a test. I learned a lot.
I will need different boots, and a warmer sleeping bag, and to remember to lift my head up off the pavement and look at the sky from time to time.
I have no one on the ground in Southern California – where the walk will start – so just looking at the map (and talking to a Dana Point librarian) I’ve decided it would be better to have a more southerly departure point. In late November I shouldn’t go west on 40 (Rte 66) because that will take me through the mountains and into a bit of snow (I’m told) so I’ll head toward Blythe and perhaps make a beeline for Phoenix. The fun part is talking with local librarians. getting their insights (hopefully their support). As it turns out Sharl Heller’s mother lives in Dana Point: but that wasn’t part of the decision. That kind of coincidence though, that kind of connection will be critical. I want, and need, to have people watching out for me: alerting others to my presence. Librarian Paula Becker, at Dana Point, was very helpful.
It’s less than two years away. I have been talking about this – first to a few people, of late to anyone I meet – for over three years. Maybe I’ve been trying to convince myself, but I’m not turning back now.
In the last two or three months the reality of what I am attempting has caught up with my rhetoric. I have begun to ask for money (not as often as many people are telling me I should, but I am asking), I have formed a committtee (me and you, right?), I have set up a crowdrise fundraising site (www.crowdrise.com/walkinghome/fundraiser/frankmand) that will raise money for the homeless and I have come to realize that the idea has evolved from a kind of walk of appreciation for the community, to one that I hope will celebrate the full breadth of what transforms a town into a hometown.
In the time since the idea first came to me in the afterglow (or was that frostbite) of that last sunrise of 2013 when 500 of you came out at 6:15 in the morning (17 degrees) I have come to realize that its not just caring people, its not just dedicated community groups, its not just natural beauty, its not just a shared history, and its not just our unique and fragile environment that comprise community: its all of those things together.
I was going to have celebrate one person from Plymouth – and my life – on every day of the walk, all 365 days: but now I realize I want to tall every day of the walk about so much more.
I could probably talk about a different species of flora or fauna that can be found in my hometown, Plymouth, every day of the walk.
I could probably recount a different, fascinating bit of Plymouth history (if Donna Curtin helps me) on every day of the walk.
I could… but I am hearing my experienced friends telling me, ‘Frank, you’re rambling again: get to the point.”
They’re right of course. And the point right now, is that my goals for the walk have expanded so that even I realize I need a little help.
So from this day forward, every 4th Sunday of the month (next month is Feb., so it will be the third Sunda, the 25th) and I will host (at SEMPBA headquarters at 204 Long Pond Road) a WalkingHome committee meeting.
Starting at 3 p.m., I am inviting anyone interested in helping me make this walk a success to show up at that address and do a little work: write letters, make phone calls, contact businesses – anything you can do to help.
Of course if you’d like, you don’t have to wait until next month. In any case if you’d like to help either show up Feb. 25 or contact me through my private email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Melissa Arrighi, who just coincidentally is Plymouth’s town manager, responded to my request to be one of the “365” in a way that I hope others take note of.
The 365, in case you haven’t been following along or paying close attention, are the friends, family members, supporters and others that I will talk about on each day of my year-long walk.
These people represent, for me, community. These people are the reason that, after 60 years, I feel I am finally at home (both in Plymouth and philosophically). Because I feel I am part of a community (ironically known as ‘America’s Hometown’) I have the confidence to take this walk, to leave my home for a year, to talk about the importance of community, to reflect on values that are above politics and – to raise funds to help take care of people at the other end of the world – wherever they live – the homeless.
I have asked many people to be one of these 365 people and, while no one has turned me down, few have responded with the kind of personal detail and honesty that Melissa has.
There is no formula. I am not looking for anything specific. But I want the 365 people from Plymouth (and my life) that I take with me, and talk about as I traverse the country, to offer up an honest reflection about what homes mean to them. There are probably 350 million variations of that story in America today, but most of us are not given to expressing these kinds of thoughts out loud, to strangers.
Please, share those feelings with me – in whatever form, using whatever words or media that you are most comfortable with. Here’s Melissa’s contribution:
Your email got me thinking and it’s been fun. I had my sister (also my best friend) send me this great picture of the home we grew up in (West Bridgewater). My father built this house for us and we moved in when I was three years old. My mother really wanted an A-frame and my father didn’t want that and knew it wouldn’t fit in in West B’water. So my mother kept looking and found a picture in a magazine that had some houses from down south and she loved one and asked if he could build it. He said “Yup”. He made his own plans from the picture and built it all himself – it took him about a year to build it (part time because he was a full time contractor). My mother would drive us over when we were little, every weekend, and we got to run around and see the progress.
About 3 months after we moved in, my mother was walking downtown in West B’water center and she saw a picture of our new house in front of a realtor’s display window. She went in to ask about it, because certainly our new house wasn’t for sale. Low and behold, she was very flattered cuz the realtor said they wanted to show pictures of unusual but beautiful houses in Town.
It was an awesome house to grow up in.
After we’d been there only six months, my mother got a phone call from The Enterprise newspaper from “The Cousin Mary Page”. That used to be a women’s page that had recipes and things (as my mother describes it). Once a month they liked to write up and show pictures of a home and they wanted to do 240 South Street (our house). It was such a cool article and I’m featured in it also (maybe I’ll show you those pictures someday – my mother has the newspaper page framed on her wall).
We owned that house from when I was three years old until three years ago. All our holidays were there – it was a wonderful and special place. My sister and I had matching bedrooms across the grand 2nd floor hallway from each other. Mine was pink and purple and hers was orange and yellow. But other than the colors, everything was identical – right down to the curtains, linens, rug. Adorable. And stayed that way from when we moved in until when it was sold. ‘Lynni’ and I would put string across the hallway railings and use a clothes pin and then pull notes back and forth to each other – like a clothes line. At Christmas, my father would tiptoe in our bedrooms at 2 a.m. and put our stockings at the end of each of our beds. I would always wake up first and run around the hallway and across to Lynni’s room to wake her up so I could compare our stocking contents. I’d line everything us to make sure we had equal amounts of gifts!!
I couldn’t sleep last night and I got up and thought of your email. I remembered that I have these 2 old recipe books that I’ve always saved that came from my mother. And I don’t even cook so the fact that I saved them makes me laugh. Look how old they are. And she referred to them ALL the time. We always had dinner together at 5:30 pm sharp. No matter what my father was doing, or what job he was on, we always sat down as a family for supper.
And finally, there’s a picture of my Ighi Walter Arrighi who I had in my life for almost 19 years and no matter where he was, my Plymouth residence, my Fairhaven house, or in my office at Town Hall, would make that place home for me.
What a beautiful and honest expression of, at least one sense of, home. Frank