Osage City to Canton

Through the night the sounds of thunder paraded the sky and rain poured over the landscape. Although the storm brought cooler temperatures and overcast skies, it lead to a humid morning. As I continued on the rail trail it began to become overgrown and unkept, a forgotten passageway. My shoes and socks became soaked from the beads of water clinging to the grass blades. The conditions gave way to an abundance of mosquitoes and flies. Their relentlessness wore me. I could not pause to rest without being swarmed and if my pace slowed they’d catch me. I pushed myself physically to get from town to town and only saw one person, a mountain biker. He’d rounded the corner right as I flopped to the ground forcing myself to take a breather and take care of my feet. Due to my soaked socks and shoes, I walked sockless for a few miles to allow my feet and shoes to dry out. Unfortunately, my shoes began to rub my ankles and the top of my feet raw. Luckily though, my shoes had dried out enough to allow me to put on my dry pair of socks. But, there was another problem. My lower back and butt were stinging as I walked and when I looked to see what was wrong all I saw were raw patches of skin. The humidity and sweat had caused chafing from my pack and shorts but there wasn’t much I could do so I kept going. I finally hobbled into town but instead of relief I found anxiety. “Where do I go now?” I saw a sign for a meat processing plant and figured I could get water. I went inside and talked to the owner, Phil, who was concerned with me being alone but offered to help. The options of camping at the park or on his property didn’t sit well with him so we settled on me staying in his storage barn. He didn’t want people to bother me and he thought about what it would be like if his daughters were in the same position. He gave me a one pound bag of raw beef for dinner. I was obliged but knew I’d have a few hurdles to overcome when cooking it. You see, when I make my camping meals there never tends to be much sanitation and now I would have cow blood and grease on everything. I didn’t want salmonella or e. coli so my greatest ploy was to avoid touching the raw meat as much as possible with as little as possible. I dumped the meat into my pot and poked at it until it began to brown. My pot was 3/4 full and I could barely stir the meat let alone see if it was completely cooking. I poked at it and then dug a hole to allow stirring and this continued until I was certain all the pink was gone. I sat there eating my unseasoned beef wrapped in tortillas and was overcome by loneliness. “What do I do now?” I cleaned up the grease as best as possible and figured I’d have to wait until I found a public bathroom to clean my pot. I stretched on my sleeping pad and stared at the spider webs surrounding me. I started to grow nauseous but I knew it wasn’t from the beef. I was stressed, anxious, and had been in the humidity all day. All I could do was wait until morning.

I parted with the rail trail and said goodbye to the shade. I had 18 miles of highway walking ahead of me before I could rest. Halfway through the distance, I decided to take a midol capsule but not for the reason you’re thinking. I had been told that it helps with pain relief in joints which I was having plenty of due to the concrete I was walking on for six plus hours day after day. To my surprise, each capsule also had 60mg of caffeine and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing while walking. I noticed my pace quickened and a spike in energy. Joyful noises erupted from me while I walked effortlessly but the heat never subsided. I made it into town and although my joints didn’t feel awful, I started to get a headache. It was time for me to find shade or air conditioning. Thanks to Dawn, a lovely trail angel, I had direction once I got into town, she bought me lunch at the local restaurant. I forced myself to keep walking until I arrived and then I became a discombobulated mess. I walked into a room where two waitresses were folding silverware and they looked at me confused. I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to know what questions I was suppose to ask but finally the words, “A woman called about a hiker arriving,” exited my mouth and I saw the light bulb turn on for the one waitress. She came back with a gift card and told me I needed to go through the other double doors to get into the dining area. I left and wandered into the dining room where I quickly became overwhelmed with all the decisions I needed to make. Where to sit? What to drink? What to eat? Where’s the bathroom? I was purely functioning off the first thing that popped into my head. Once my delicious food arrived I began asking around about possible camping spots and the consensus was the pool. I remembered then about the hosting website, warmshowers and promptly looked at the map. There was a host in the area! Hot dog, I could shower, sleep in a bed, and talk to people! I called the host, Paul, and bam, I had a place to stay. After I got to the house, I conversed with Paul and his wife on their back porch and learned about the other people they’d hosted and what it was like to be foster parents for ten years. I wanted to continue to talk to them but I began to feel exhausted. They were understanding when I went to lie down to nap but I couldn’t help feeling that I was being rude. Even so, my nap was not restful. I eventually gave up on getting rest and called my friend, Steve. I had a mini breakdown. I could feel my fears overwhelming me and the night before I couldn’t sleep because I could see how messed up Kansas was making me and how purposeless I’d feel after I finished walking. I saw how I wouldn’t fit into society. Now, it was almost time for dinner and I had nothing but a nauseous feeling in my stomach.

Paul walked with me to the edge of town and I began another day of monotonous walking. I’d look at my feet as I walked and have to remind myself to look up at the surrounding landscape. All I could do was make observations and then assumptions. What I gathered was that trees led to shade which meant people and people resulted in water. The clusters of trees that I’d see in the distance would mean a few things: a house/farm building, a river, or they were windbreaks which often appeared to be property lines. I could see the beauty of Kansas in the golden wheat fields, the slow moving life that is missed when driving on the highways, and the hills (yes, hills and in fact Kansas is one giant inclined plane increasing in elevation all the way to Colorado). My highlight of the day had to have been seeing a turtle finish crossing the highway. It was my inspiration for the day. I began my way through a cluster of homes that was meant to be a town and I saw a man walking his dog. I yelled out to him, “Do you live here? Can I refill my water?” He was more than happy to help me out and rushed to put his dog inside so that he could help me. I had stumbled upon Rex and Peggy’s home and they were wonderful people. They gave me water to drink, a bathroom to use, and a bench to sit on while I waited out the heat of the day. They were great listeners and so lovely to converse with! I wanted to ask if I could just stay there and camp on their lawn but I had six more miles until my destination. I continued but despite the humidity and insistent gnats that kept flying up my nose, I felt rejuvenated.

After walking for a couple hours I went through a small town and saw a man and a woman doing yard work. I saw a water spigot and yelled to them, “Do you mind if I get some water?” The woman looked around confused. I yelled, “Behind you.” She had no idea where my voice was coming from but she finally spotted me. She told me I could try it but didn’t know if it was turned on. It wasn’t, so she took me to the front of the house to use that one. She ended up letting me use the bathroom, get cold water from inside, and rest on her porch until I was ready to keep going. She was so wonderful and her kindness was the highlight of my day! I wondered why I kept meeting all these incredible people during the day and never found them when I made it to my destination. I began to see the stereotypical Kansas as I headed south and then west: flat, shadeless, and ever expanding. Gnats bombarded me and flew up my nose. If I couldn’t immediately blow them out then I could feel them struggling, regretting their decision. Well, I tried getting one out while walking and I scratched the inside of my nose. Blood started dripping out of my nostril and found its way onto my sleeve. “Great, this is what I need,” I thought. I used my buff to help clot it and it stopped after a couple of minutes. I eventually arrived at another town and part of me wanted to keep pushing forward another nine miles but the temperature was peaking. I knew that if I kept going I’d get heat stroke, so I refrained. Never before had twenty miles felt so unsatisfying. I found myself under a pavilion near a baseball field at the edge of town. I wanted to cry. I wanted people and I wanted interaction. Well, turned out a baseball game was scheduled for the evening and people started showing up to set up. Now, I had people but I was still alone. It almost felt worse. The evening grew on and more people showed up but no one cared that I was there. They ignored me. I wanted to walk over to them and ask about the event to display my humanity but I felt like they viewed me as a creepy person at the park. Even if they didn’t view me that way, my level of social awkwardness had skyrocketed. I would wait in silence until they all left at 10pm and then I’d wake up at 4am to start it all over again.

The light from the street lamps gave way to a fog layering the horizon. Although beautiful I knew that would mean an extremely humid morning. I maneuvered in the darkness to pack up my tent and gathered the less than ideal cloudy water from the spigot. By 8am I’d walked ten miles and by 10am I forced myself to stop walking. There was 87% humidity and I was drenched by my sweat. There was no way my body could cool itself as the temperature kept rising. This left me with one choice. I had to find a house or business along the highway that had enough trees that could sustain shade for the entire day. The first house would only be shady in the morning so I continued to the next patch of trees a mile away. This one was perfect! There was a ditch in between the highway and the line of trees in front of the house/business where the shade was covering. I plopped down, laid out my sleeping pad, took off my shoes, and sprawled  out so I could nap. Gnats, flies, and mosquitoes were abundant so I covered my face with my hat and buff. The gnats would crawl under the brim of my hat and I’d see them crawling in front of my eyes. I laid there and tried to relax but I knew someone would eventually discover me. It took two hours but the postwoman finally spotted me and alerted the neighbors that there was a girl in the ditch. As I laid there, I tried to lie in a peaceful, restful position so no one would be alarmed AND I waved to the postwoman as she drove by but about 20 minutes later I had an audience. I heard a voice and lifted my hat off my face and saw a man and a woman standing at the top of the ditch with a truck of three other people to their right. I got up and said, “Hello! I’m okay, I’m just resting in the shade.” The man walked toward me and I extended my hand and introduced myself. He told me they were debating on whether or not to call the police to make sure I was okay. I understood they were wary of me but I didn’t understand why they didn’t at least yell at me to see if I responded. Anyways, the police weren’t involved and everyone went about their business. A worker eventually came and gave me cold water and then the owner of the property stopped to talk to me after he got his mail. It felt good to have a stimulating conversation and to be able to share my story. His black lab came over and plopped on top of me trying to play. The dog was so happy and so loving! Next, an older woman came out of the house and gave me a bag of apples and granola bars. The gesture was so incredibly sweet! She told me I could keep moving between the trees to get comfortable and stay in the shade but I knew I’d have to get moving soon. I pulled up the hourly temperature forecast and saw that it wasn’t going to get better so I started walking. The humidity had decreased but the temperature was 93ºF and I had twelve miles left to walk. Where ever there was a hint of shade I was there and I acutely listened to my body. At this point, I was fighting my way to get into town before nightfall and without succumbing to heat exhaustion. I found a shrub, surrounded by thigh high grass, that produced sufficient shade as long as I hugged the base of it. I plopped my pack down and embraced the tiny bit of shade when I start to hear a motor. I didn’t think much of it because it was just a passing vehicle. I refrained from looking into the road to spot the source of the noise and just then a massive sprayer machine, the farm vehicle that looks like a monster truck, went zooming past me. My life literally flashed before my eyes. The person driving had no idea I was in the bush and if any part of that machine would’ve been off centered from the road I could’ve easily been obliterated. My rest of the walk into town was no longer focused on heat exhaustion but rather being obliterated. My mind simply wasn’t in a good space and as I got into town all I wanted was to quickly find a spot for my tent. I knocked on the door at one of the first homes I saw and the woman said I could set up at the church but the sheriff will probably talk to me. I wandered further into town and found a girl walking her dog and she told me there was a park at the edge of town that I might be able to set up at. I was so exhausted that I just wandered around trying to scope out a place for my tent. I found an abandoned elementary school and thought about that but I happened across a church and investigated the area. Between the inclined ramp to the entrance and the actual church building I found a nook where I could set up. It was perfect but excitement didn’t fill me. I entered the nook and sat there. I had fought my way to get into the town before dark even though there was nothing waiting for me. For the first time in my life I felt homeless. I was an invisible person and I felt like no one cared about me. I had no where to go and no one wanted me around. I quietly sobbed to myself until I no longer had the energy to do so. It would be a short night because I needed to start walking at 4am, there was no place for me in this town.

Overland Park to Osage City

After walking six miles down the trail with me, Dee said goodbye. It had been a wonderful experience to meet and walk with another strong-willed female in the hiking world and even better to have someone that could relate to the various adverse statements surrounding gender, age, and appearance. I was now off to meet my next host, Chris and his family. I abandoned the bike trail and moved to the streets to use the signs to navigate. My GPS was acting finicky and I had to rely on my own navigational skills to find my way through the city. I finished walking across a crosswalk and then heard, “Amanda!” I looked around trying to determine the origin of the voice. Up ahead on my right, I saw arms flailing out a car window and then, “It’s Chris and Shannon!” They veered into a parking lot and I threw my pack in the trunk and jumped in the car. They told me they were running late for their daughter’s 23rd birthday dinner and that I was welcome to join. After an entire day of eating granola bars, an actual meal sounded delightful so I went with the flow and met the family and friends. I’ve found the moments when I get to partake in family endeavors are the most rewarding. In those moments, I get to be a part of something bigger than myself. I get to see the love that radiates from the people around me.

After two days of rest, a season of Game of Thrones watched, and a new appreciation for mulberries, I continued on my journey. I knew I was going to have hurdles to overcome in Kansas but today I took my time as I walked. I encountered a mulberry tree and started plucking them away and popping them into my mouth. I scoured through the leaves finding the ripest ones while trying to avoid knocking others onto the ground. I felt a childlike bliss and in those moments I had no worries in the world. When I got into town I felt strangely drained. Although there was still plenty of shade, my body was in a bit of shock from the humid heat. Keke and her baby, Rex, would be hosting me for the night but they had a wedding to attend. In the mean time, I hung out at the Busker Festival in the downtown area. It still had a few acts going on and I got to witness the last show, Pogo Fred who does extreme pogo sticking and holds multiple world records. I enjoyed the performance but as I continued to wander around I began to feel overwhelmed. The noises, the people, and the unfamiliarity all over-loaded my senses. I needed to get away from it. I found my way to the park and laid in the shady grass and there I waited for Keke to come and get me.

I was dropped off at the edge of town after breakfast and began walking on the gridded black top and gravel roads. The shade was minimal and I traveled up and down the many hills of eastern Kansas. I’d pass puddles of water and it finally occurred to me that I should utilize them. Not to drink but to dampen my hat and buff, a versatile piece of cloth that you wear on your neck or head. The puddle was brown and filled with bacteria and fungus but I wasn’t focused on that. I saw it as an opportunity. I had been doing my best to keep up with my hydration but that was irrelevant in the humidity. I needed a way to cool my body down and this was the best solution I could think of without expending my drinkable water. As the sun continued to race across the sky, I finally decided that I needed to fuel my body with peanut butter and jelly wraps. I found shade under a tree next to the road and began to munch away when a truck pulled up next to me. I briefly told the guy about my walk but he didn’t seem to care. He was verbose and not much of a listener. I was automatically wary of him and it didn’t help that he was caught up on the fact that I was out there alone. He told me about the murder rates in Kansas City and how dangerous everything was but eventually he decided it was time for him to continue on his way. Before he left though, he tried to give me a miniature baseball bat and a knife but I made sure to tell him I already had what I needed.

I reviewed the ADT route and was quite disappointed with it. It was entirely highway walking and the only decent thing about that would be that people were constantly near me. But, that in itself was a double edged sword. I’d have to be aware of the cars zooming by and I wouldn’t be able to peacefully pee anywhere. In addition to that, there tend to be less shade along the highways and the continuous concrete walking quickly wears on my joints. With all of this in mind, I walked out of town. I happened to check my email after a few miles and I saw that the Kansas coordinator had responded to the email I’d sent him. He informed me that there was a rail trail, Flint Hills Nature Trail,  that I could jump on in Ottawa. “What?!” I thought to myself, “I walked right past it on my way out of town and didn’t even realize it.” There was no turning back for me so I decided I’d catch it in the next town. The problem was that it didn’t exist on Google Maps yet and the information surrounding it was sparse. I would have to blindly follow it until I got to the more established sections. A few hundred feet in front of me I found a gravel path that was encompassed by trees and bushes. It reminded me of the Katy Trail in Missouri so I assumed it was the Flint Hills Nature Trail. There was no signage but I decided to follow it anyways. I could keep tabs on where I was via Google Maps and hoped that eventually I’d find a sign telling me what I was following. The shade was heavenly and I found more mulberry trees. The crushed gravel beneath me softened the impact on my knees and hips as I walked. Tired, hungry, and almost out of water I finally made it to the Vassar State Park Campground. The clouds above me looked like cotton candy but to the left it was a dark abyss. Rain sprinkled down while the sun shined bright in the sky. I hid in my tent waiting for the angry sky to bear a tornado. The winds blew at my tent with no mercy and I realized that my tent was only a curtain of comfort. It would do nothing to protect me from a storm. There was a bathroom shelter I could go to if I needed but that wasn’t much comfort to me. “What is this weather?” I thought. Thunder rumbled around me and I waited for the lightning. But I never saw it. At this point, I whole heartedly believed everything in Kansas was trying to kill me and this wasn’t even an actual storm.

After surviving the night, I made it to my next town in a hurry. There was going to be a care package waiting for me from a lovely trail angel, Dawn, that I was excited about but what really had me moving was a black wall in the sky. As I got to the outskirts of town, people told me there was golf ball sized hail coming and that I should find shelter. I pushed myself to get to the library before the storm hit. There I could rest, rehydrate, and pick up my care package. I sat in a chair in the corner, away from everyone, to spare them of my wild stench. I tried to make a logistical plan for my next move but quickly was becoming overwhelmed. I convinced myself I couldn’t stay in the town and opted to do nine more miles to the next town (the storm had passed). I walked up to the librarian to ask her a question before I left and she asked what I was doing. I was confused. I thought the librarian I’d spoken with earlier had told her. Through our conversation I ended up asking if there was anywhere I could set up my tent for the night and she began making phone calls to the various churches in the area. Turns out her mother, Donna, was able to get me set up in the apartment her church has for missionaries. Before I made my way there, Donna took me to eat at the local cafe and then to church with her. She had the happiest smile I’d ever seen. As the evening wore on I settled in the apartment and I had some over hanging thoughts: 1) There is no mold that fits every situation perfectly. This includes relationships, lifestyle, appearance, etc. The world is incredibly diverse and that staying open minded is key. 2) Don’t do things out of fear 3) Everything in Kansas was trying to kill me- tornadoes, lightning, hail, dehydration, heat stroke, bugs, etc.

Waverly to Kansas City

All I saw was a flat, colorless landscape with trees and hills off in the distance. “This is what the entire state of Kansas is going to be like,” I thought to myself. Strangely enough, I was okay with that. The gravel roads that I traversed were easy on my joints and I could walk in the middle of the road without fear of trucks zooming by. If they were coming, a large dust cloud would alert me of their presence. I found contentment in the isolation and wandering thoughts that circled my head. A house was up on my left and I knocked on the door to ask for water. There was no answer but I helped myself to the spigot on the side of the house. A puppy barked and ran under a shed, watching me from a distance. “Hello?” I called out. No one replied so I quickly refilled my water containers and continued on my way. The ADT route brought me to a green lawn with a man mowing on a riding lawn mower and a giant hill climb. As I approached the man I waved and although he waved back I couldn’t tell if he was continuing to mow in my direction or intentionally mowing towards me. What’s the difference? If he wanted to talk to me he was mowing towards me and if he was mowing in my direction then I knew he would awkwardly avoid my eye contact. Thankfully he was curious and walked to talk to me. I explained my journey and the American Discovery Trail and he told me he was surprised he’d never heard about it because he’s a paddler. A paddler?? He explained to me that there are river angels, like trail angels, and he helps people traveling on the Source to Sea, Montana to the Gulf of Mexico- the 4th longest waterway system in the world. My mind was blown! It made sense that there would be a huge community surrounding the water systems but I’d never been introduced to such a concept! He asked me if I needed anything (food, water, etc.) but I didn’t. After all, I was heading into town to resupply. I was about to be on my way when I thought a WiFi break sounded nice. What started out as sitting in the shade on the porch turned into a tour of the nearby town, the Missouri River, and the farmland Robin’s family owned. I didn’t plan on staying there the entire evening but as the hours passed I found myself enjoying the company of Robin and his wife. As the sun entered the western part of the sky, we all knew that I was going stay the night. After all, I was now family.

Why I walk: The reason as a whole of “why” I’m walking is personal growth, adventure, and human connection, just to name a few. However, I’ve concluded that the daily reasons I walk are different and distinguishable. At this point, over four months in, it is the only reliable thing I can count on. I wake up and I walk. I walk because I have no where to go. I walk because the unknown of stopping is much greater than that of continuing on. In a lot of ways, walking has become an identity and when I’m not doing it I have no purpose. I walk in hope of better weather. I walk because I know I’m not always welcome where I’m at. So, I continue to walk and hope that I will end up where I need to be.

I walked along a highway most of the day and the concrete made my body ache. Thunderstorms were all around me but I was able to walk in my own oasis of sunshine. I’d look up at the sky and see pockets of grey masses of clouds and rain underneath them. Was the wind blowing them in my direction? A red truck pulled up beside me and the man asked me a few questions about my journey before asking if I took rides. I was happy to converse with him but it wasn’t ideal to be doing it in the middle of the road so the truck drove further down and pulled into a driveway and waited for me. Susie and Steve jumped out of their vehicle to talk to me and I replied to their ,”Do I take rides?” question with, “Sometimes, but I have no where to go.” I knew I was headed into town but other than that I didn’t know where I was going to spend the night. They told me they had a nice camping spot and could bring me back to where I left off the following morning. A city utility worker happened to be parked in the same vicinity as all of us and Steve told him everyone’s name and what county they lived in. The utility worker didn’t realize it but he was going to be the witness if anything happened to me or Steve and Susie. It was evident to me here how Steve and Susie were taking precautionary measures for themselves as well as for me. It was a good reminder that when people help me it is an act of trust in both directions. They don’t know me and I don’t know them. I agreed to go with them and then I saw there were two more people in the back of the truck, their sons. I chuckled a little to myself because I couldn’t see their faces. They each had hydrangeas on their lap and their faces were buried in the plants. Whenever they asked me a question it was a voice coming out of the leaves. We drove to the other side of the Missouri River and into the storm. Rain began to pound on the truck and the windshield wipers struggled to keep up with the amount of rain. We got to an empty property filled with shipping containers and work in progress landscaping projects. There was one large shelter, a giant metal garage, and we all hurried inside to escape the downpour. Inside, several vehicles were torn apart, unfinished projects, and then there was a plastic table. I was confused. Where did they live? There was no electricity or plumbing here. Were they planning on leaving me here? I quickly was becoming overwhelmed by the massive amount of noise from the storm and the uncertainty of where I was. They explained to me that their sons lived in one of the neighboring towns and they lived a few towns over. Due to the weather, they were determining where would be best for me to stay. They told me their home was a mess but I assured them I didn’t mind. On the way to their home, Steve told me that if I felt uncomfortable they would get me a hotel room and they wanted this to be a positive experience. When we pulled into the driveway there were more unfinished projects surrounding the yard. I still didn’t know what to expect when I entered the home. Why did they keep insisting that their home was such a mess? Everyone tells me that. As they unlocked the door I saw exactly what they had been telling me. There was a single walkway throughout the house and clothes, magazines, and other knick knacks were in piles everywhere. I followed the path to the empty couch and tried to process the mess before me. I was overwhelmed and began to have a sick feeling in my stomach. While Steve and Susie went on a binge cleaning spree I thought about their hotel offer. I did my best to think about the situation logically. I knew that I was hungry and that was part of the reason I felt unwell and then I remembered that part of my journey is learning about people and their lives. It would be unfair to remove myself from this situation because it wasn’t what I expected. I could tell Steve and Susie were nice people and they were incredibly excited to help me. I decided I needed to stay and I changed my mindset about the situation. After my initial shock wore off, Steve and Susie took me out to eat at a Mexican restaurant and with a full belly life began to fill me again. There they told me one of the reasons they had stopped to talk to me was because when they passed me the first time I smiled and waved at them (I try to wave to most of the cars to pass me). I’m glad I was able to work through my initial shock towards Steve and Susie’s living situation because I ended up having a wonderful time getting to know them!

I was dropped off at the civil war battle ground in Lexington in the drizzling weather. It was such a strange feeling to be walking on a lush, green field where I knew hundreds of people had died. Despite this, I couldn’t help but think how cool of a camping spot it would’ve been if Susie and Steve hadn’t of picked me up the night before. One of the things that I have started to realize through all the historical places I’ve travelled through is that the reasons in each state  and town for fighting in the civil war were different. It was not a cut and dry slavery or no slavery issue. From what I learned at Lexington, it sounded like Missouri was tired of government control and that was the main reason the Missouri militia fought against the Union soldiers. Yes, it is all tied together but the way I learned about it in school made the reasons for fighting sound simple. I walked through the dreary weather and endured the rain. However, I wasn’t miserable. The rain brought a liveliness to me and I started to sing or rather make loud noises along the side of the road. At the last minute I decided to cut out the extra 20 mile loop the ADT took me on and settled on walking the highway the rest of the way to Kansas City. With this, I ended up at the Fort Osage Fire Department and rung the door bell. I had called the police and they unfortunately weren’t much help but the fire department was directly in front of me. They didn’t know where I could go but there was a piece of property next to them they said I could camp on. I was delighted to have a field to set up on but when I went inside to get water it was decided that I could stay in one of their extra bunks! I was introduced to the staff on shift and told that I could eat dinner with them too. Chicken pot pie was on the menu. Yummy! There was only one female staff on shift and it seemed she was given the responsibility to show me the ropes of the station. Everyone was incredibly nice but it appeared that I was at a loss for words. My shyness shined bright and I mostly only spoke when spoken to. However, everyone was engaging and I was delighted to tell them about my walk when they had specific questions. It was amazing to see how much of a family they all were. They end up spending more time at the fire station than they do at home. Cheyenne, the only female on shift, did an amazing job of checking up on me and making sure I had everything I needed. I was told that 6:30am was wake up for the shift change and that it was a possibility that the fire alarm could go off in the middle of the night. The night ended up being restful and alarmless but at 6:30am the lights flicked on and it was time to start another day.

I was on my way into Independence, one of the suburbs of Kansas City, and was told I was pushing it going that far into the city. I didn’t know exactly what I was heading into but I was sticking to the highway and had a host lined up to get me and drive me through the sketchier areas. As I walked out of town a group of older men called out to me. It was a group of veterans that were drinking their morning coffee outside a barber shop and they wanted to know what this crazy lady was doing. They heard my story and were acting like teenage boys joking and poking fun at one another. It sounded like they’d all grown up together and still helped get each other into small town mischief. They were a hoot to talk to and instantly my morning was wonderful! As I drew nearer my destination, my excitement level increased! My feet were soggy from the rain and wet grass but my spirit was not dampened. Right outside of Independence a guy called out to me as I exited a QuikTrip. He was excited to see an adventurer in the middle of the city. He told me he’d hitchhiked all over the country and followed the Grateful Dead on tour. He gave me insight on the Dead Kids, people that follow the Grateful Dead, in San Fransisco and Boulder and how to get help from them if I needed it. As I continued I simply laughed with joy. The Grateful Dead community has continuously been mentioned to me throughout my journey and the idea of reaching San Fransisco and finding them was amazing. It appeared I’d been following the bread crumbs of the legacy of the Grateful Dead. I reached the Truman Museum and explored the history of him, his family, and his presidency and then my host for the night, Dee, came to get me. Dee found out about me in two unexpected ways. First, she met Steve, friend biking across country, at a park and she had to find out what his adventure was and once he heard that she had hiked the Appalachian Trail he told her about mine. Dee then messaged me on my website and saw a post made by her friend Robin, the paddler that hosted me a few days before, about me. What an incredibly small world! Dee and her husband gave me a tour of Kansas City and showed me the amazing overlooks and World War I museum. What amazing people they are!