Archive for February, 2008

How To Train For a Walk Across the Country - Part 3: The Equipment

Friday, February 29th, 2008

This is the third in a three part series about my Walk For Liberty training. To read part one, click here. For part two, click here.

I have a confession to make – I’m a geek at heart. One of the fun things about training for my walk across America is getting to use all my walking-related gadgets.


GPS watch and heart monitor

Garmin Forerunner 305 Wrist-Mounted GPS Fitness Computer with Heart Rate Monitor

This is the crown jewel of my collection. The watch itself includes built-in GPS for speed/location. It also comes with a heart monitor that straps around your chest. The heart rate portion is nice, but for my purposes it’s really more for statistical reasons and for noting how my heart rate changes as I improve with training. If you’re walking aerobically for exercise though, it would be very helpful.

My main use for the Garmin watch is to know how far I go on each walk. This is important to keep track of so I can chart my progress over time. Knowing the total time and average pace I’ve walked each day are also good statistical data.

Another extremely useful feature that I’ve started using more recently is the mapping capability. Unfortunately, the watch doesn’t have actual maps on it to show where you are. However, it does record a “bread crumb” trail of where you’ve gone on a particular walk. This is of course especially important if someday I happen to get lost in a banana field. :P

One last feature of the watch which will be crucial for me on the Walk For Liberty is the “mark location” feature. There will be times when I need to leave my walking route (particularly for a few days when I need to travel back to a family reunion). I’ll be able to note the exact spot where I left off walking, and then have the watch guide me back there to start up again.

Pocket PC and bluetooth headphones

Motorola S9 Bluetooth Wireless Stereo Headphones

These are a pleasure to use. I don’t like using wired earbuds with my phone since they always get tangled up, and simply aren’t very convenient. Using these wireless headphones, I can listen to my Free Talk Live podcast unfettered.

Sprint PPC-6700 Pocket PC phone

You can’t tell from the picture, but my phone is a little beaten up (that’s because I’ve dropped it a lot). This phone/PDA still works great though. It’s useful for listening to podcasts (such as Free Talk Live), taking notes, making phone calls, accessing the internet, and many other things. I wouldn’t go without it on my walks.

Plastic quart bag

It might sound silly, but this is very useful for protecting your phone or iPod if you get caught in the rain. Don’t laugh! It might come in handy for you some day.

Sneakers and hydration backpack

CamelBak MaXimum Gear ThermoBak 2L hydration backpack

I started using this hydration backpack a couple weeks ago to get used to walking with it. Since there will be times on the Walk itself where the support RV will be nowhere around, I’ll definitely need to walk with one of these. I figured I might as well get used to walking with it now.

Mizuno Wave Creation 8 sneakers

I just got these yesterday, and am already glad I did. Previously I was switching between 2 older pairs of sneakers. I could tell that their time was up and that I needed new ones since they would often hurt my shins and feet. Unfortunately it took me a while to find a good pair of shoes that were comfortable. Because this model is being discontinued, I got them at a nice discount. So far they feel great.

Mace / Pepper spray?

A few days ago I came across a barking dog during one of my walks. Fortunately, he was all bark and no bite, and retreated as I came closer. That got me thinking though, that mace or pepper spray might be useful during the Walk for defensive purposes against dogs. If you have any specific suggestions or recommendations, please leave a comment or contact me.

Fun Stuff

Walk For Liberty t-shirt, Free State Project hat, Ron Paul hat

Walk For Liberty T-shirt

My wife Brooke and I made up 4 of these for my trip to the Liberty Forum in January. Why pass up further opportunities to publicize the Walk though? I almost always wear one of the t-shirts during my training.

Ron Paul / Free State Project hats

Since promoting those causes is the primary reason I’m walking across the country, why miss out on promoting them either? ;)

I hope this series has served as a useful guide. If you’re planning your own walk across the country, let me know and I’ll try to be of assistance.

How To Train For a Walk Across the Country - Part 2: The Walks

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

This is the second in a three part series about my Walk For Liberty training. To read part one, click here.

Have you ever noticed that you never seem to go sightseeing in your local area until someone comes to visit? If you’re like most people, you’re probably that way. There might be many interesting things to see or do, yet somehow you don’t make the time to go do them.

That’s happened to me a lot in the places I’ve lived previously. For example, I resided in New York City for 5 years, but much of what I saw around the city happened only when I had a visitor.

My Walk For Liberty training has thus served as “someone coming to visit”. I often spend upwards of 2 hours a day walking, so that gives me plenty of time to explore my area.

Where I Go

At first glance, there isn’t much to see or do in Laie, Hawaii. It’s a small town of about 4600 population, and it doesn’t consist of very many streets. Check it out for yourself. You can imagine that it didn’t take me long to explore every inch of those roads several times over.

I was itching to find something new, and noticed that there were several dirt roads and small paths heading outside of town in different directions. Some of them weren’t entirely obvious, and I had to scout the edge of Laie pretty thoroughly to find them.

Dirt road surrounded by trees

But once I did, it was like discovering a gold mine. I couldn’t believe how much I had found to search and explore, literally minutes away from where I live: dense banana fields, forest paths, and trails with gorgeous vistas of mountains. Each time I would think, “I must have explored everything in this area now,” and then find another path which I hadn’t noticed before. This place is a hiking-explorer’s dream.

Much of the interior of the island where I live is still farmland. But, it’s not at all like farms you might think of in the Midwest, where it’s completely flat and most of the original trees have been decimated. Here, there often aren’t huge acres of land dedicated to farms. Many are simply small plots interspersed between dense trees, creating a maze of pathways going from one field to another, with old cane trails connecting them. It’s a good thing I have my GPS watch or I might get lost. :)


Banana field

One thing that’s surprised me is some of the feelings I’ve had when I’ve been exploring. It’s hard to describe, but often I’ve felt sort of a strange combination of relaxation and excitement. The relaxation is a Zen-like feeling I get, as if I’m one with nature. But yet I also have a joyful feeling of being ecstatic to be alive. There is just so much amazing scenery I’ve seen that I most likely would have never witnessed otherwise.

View of a lush mountain

What I Do

I’m a big fan of Free Talk Live. It’s a liberty-oriented talk radio/internet show where you can call in about whatever you want. The hosts have excellent interplay with each other, they bring up interesting issues, and they address them from a unique perspective. It’s really very addictive. You can check out the latest episode here.

I used to be in the habit of listening to Free Talk Live every day. I had a routine where I could pretty much finish one show each day and keep up with it. That is, until recently. Since I’ve started working on the Walk For Liberty, I haven’t been able to keep up with my Free Talk Live listening.

I originally thought that I would have more time to listen to FTL. I imagined that with my Walk training, I would have at least an hour or two a day where I would be just walking, and that I could easily keep up with it. It hasn’t turned out that way in practice, though.

On my walks, I’m often just thinking about various things to prepare for the Walk. Sometimes I take notes on my Pocket PC. Or when I’m walking out in the wilderness, I’m just enjoying nature. Especially when I’m coming across a new area, I can spend the entire time just looking. I always do take my FTL with me and have it available in case I want to listen to it, but sometimes I never end up using it.

My training has given me an opportunity to explore places just outside town that I mostly likely never would have seen otherwise. It’s amazing how much world there is out there, even right around you. Most people simply never see it though because they never go looking for it.

Come back tomorrow for the final part in my series — the equipment I use.

This is the second in a three part series about my Walk for Liberty training. To read part three about the equipment I use, click here.

Archives

Monday, February 25th, 2008

How To Train For a Walk Across the Country

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

1. Get yourself a good pair of walking shoes.

2. Go out almost every day and walk.

End of lesson. :)

Well, of course there’s more to it than that, but those are pretty much the basics. So far, I’ve found it’s just a combination of getting the miles in, and listening to my body for when it’s time to stop. An injury, even a small one, is definitely something I want to avoid — getting a stress fracture in one of my feet could set me back weeks.

Let me first take a step back to give some background. I’m going to walk across America this summer with my immediate family, from Oregon to New Hampshire. The reason why I’m doing it is to spread the ideas of freedom and liberty, namely about the Free State Project and Ron Paul’s presidential campaign. To learn more about this Walk For Liberty, click here.

There are 3 main aspects to my training for the Walk For Liberty — my training program, the walks themselves, and my equipment.

Will's Walk For Liberty training

Training Program

During the Walk for Liberty itself, I plan to walk around 20-25 miles per day. I will be splitting up my daily miles between the morning and evening in order to avoid the hot midday sun (and the accompanying UV radiation). Since I’ll only be walking about half of that in any one interval, I’ll need to build up at most to walking about 12 miles at any one time.

In my training, most days I walk one, sometimes two times per day. Since during the Walk itself I will be splitting up each day into 2 smaller walks, as my training progresses it makes sense to focus on walking more during 2 different periods each day, than to accumulate a lot of miles in just one single daily walk.

Specifics

Currently, my longest single walk has been 5.8 miles. The most I’ve walked in any day so far has been 8.74 miles (divided between 5.53 and 3.21 miles). So I’ve been able to walk about half of what I need to do when the Walk is in full swing.

Originally, I had expected I would get up to training the full amount each day before the Walk For Liberty actually began. I realized that to do that though, I would need to be doing at least 6 hours of training each day. That’s a lot of time to spend walking each day, especially when there are so many other things I need to get done before the Walk starts. I’ve decided that I don’t need to get up to doing the full 20 miles consistently every day during training. I can always start out walking fewer miles each day at the beginning of the Walk and ramp up from there. I already know I can do almost 10 miles in one day. I will at least probably try to get a couple 10 mile single walks in before the Walk starts though.

Getting Faster

One thing that surprised me was how quickly I was able to walk faster. When I first started, I wasn’t walking very fast, and I wasn’t trying to. During the course of my training, I’ve never tried to walk at any particular speed. I’ve simply walked at whatever rate felt comfortable. I ramped up to higher speeds quicker than I would have imagined though. I was in relatively good shape before I started my training, so that might have been a factor.

(Non-) Training Schedule

Before I started training, I had imagined having a strict training schedule in order to get trained up to full capacity by the time the Walk began. Once I started though, I realized that it’s hard to predict how many miles it’s best to train each day. For example, my feet might start feeling sore, especially during an evening walk. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t want to risk getting injured, so it’s best to quit for the day at that point. After all, this is not a sprint; it’s an ultra-marathon. :) I’ve pretty much played it by ear based on how my body feels each day, and that’s been working out so far. I have been able to do more miles each day as I’ve gone along, so I feel the training is going well. Although I probably won’t be up to a full 20-25 miles by the time the Walk for Liberty starts, I should at least have a good foundation. I’m guessing I’ll be able to do around 75% of that by the time it starts.

If anyone has experience at training for walking long distances, please either contact me here or leave a comment.

This is the first in a three part series about my Walk for Liberty training. To read part two about what I see and do during my walks, click here. To read part three about the equipment I use, click here.

Walk For Liberty Route Mapping

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

How do you walk from the west coast to New Hampshire? One step at a time.

How do you plan a walk from the west coast to New Hampshire? One segment at a time. It may seem cliché, but in planning the route for this Walk For Liberty, that’s really what we’re having to do — tweak every little segment along the way. But more on that later.

The first visitors to this site have probably noticed that our map now reflects a different route than what was up originally. We had planned to start from the southwest (either San Diego or Los Angeles) on our journey up to New Hampshire. One of the main reasons was because that’s the shortest path to go from coast to coast.

Walk For Liberty route map

But we ultimately decided against that for several reasons. When I attended the New Hampshire Liberty Forum in January, several people noted our route and dissuaded me from that path due to the heat and the desert. But there were other reasons too. My wife Brooke’s brother and sister live in Washington. We’re planning on buying an RV to use as a support vehicle, so if we start from near there, we’ll have a place to stay while we buy it and get it ready. There’s also the additional factor that the northwest is likely more scenic. At this point then, we’re planning on starting on the Oregon coast, west of Portland.

Stops Along the Way

There are several places along the way we’re planning on passing through.

  1. Yellowstone — This will add just over 100 miles to our trip, but it’s certainly a noteworthy location. It’s not a huge deal to me (although maybe I’ll think otherwise once I’m there) but my walking companions really want to go through it. Personally, I really want to go through Montana, so we’ve compromised on doing that as well. With going through Montana as well as Yellowstone it will add another 25 miles.
  2. Mt. Rushmore — I don’t particularly care for what this represents, but it would be interesting to see nonetheless.
  3. Indiana — My brother John and I grew up in central Indiana, so we’d like to go through there. I’m sure at least our hometown paper will give us good press. :)
  4. Washington, DC — This also adds a bit to our trip, but it’s a major market and we could get good coverage there.
  5. New York City — I met someone at the Liberty Forum who said he could get us media coverage there. Between that and the fact that it’s the largest market in the country, passing through it seems like a no-brainer. In addition, Brooke and I have each lived there at points in our past, and it would be fun to walk through Manhattan.
  6. Boston — Brooke and I first lived together there, so we definitely want to walk through it. We could also walk on the Freedom Trail on our way through the city.
  7. New Hampshire — of course this is the destination of our trip. I have a dream though, of having dozens of people join us for the last leg of the walk in New Hampshire.

If we will be passing near where you live, drop me a line. A man from Omaha has already contacted me, noting that we might be passing near there, and offered to help us with media contacts.

Using Mapping Software to Find the Best Route

There seem to be 4 main online mapping programs: MapQuest, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google. Each has some good things about it, although some are clearly better than others.

My ideal mapping software (for walking, at least) would have the ability to 1) find the shortest route, 2) avoid highways, 3) easily add stops along the route, and 4) have a draggable map.

  • MapQuest — The granddaddy of them all. The good thing is it does have a choice for “shortest route”. It also claims to have the ability to avoid highways. However, when you choose that option for a long journey, it says it won’t avoid highways for routes over 250 miles, and that it was “necessary” to use highways to compete the route. Funny, Google Maps has no problem allowing you to avoid highways for routes of any length… With Mapquest’s “Add a Stop” feature, it does have the ability to add stops, albeit clunkily. When using that feature, however, you lose the ability to be able to drag the map! One interesting thing about the Add a Stop feature — although you are not allowed to avoid highways, you are given the option to avoid any particular leg of the journey. So with patience, you could essentially avoid highways by choosing not to use each interstate or other large highway you want to avoid. A problem comes about if you happen to make a mistake and accidentally click to avoid a route you didn’t want to. You can then restore the avoided routes, but you have to restore all of them and just the one you made a mistake on. Nevertheless, this is potentially a feature worth looking into as a way of getting the shortest route without highways.
  • Microsoft (maps.live.com) — This seems to be tied with Yahoo for being the worst. It has the ability to do shortest route, but that’s about it. It will not allow you to avoid highways or to add stops along the route.
  • Yahoo — With Yahoo, you can add stops on the journey by dragging the route itself (something it added in response to Google — isn’t competition great!?). Its implementation of it isn’t as nice as Google’s, however. It doesn’t have the ability to do shortest route or to avoid highways.
  • Google — This one is my favorite to work with. It does have an “avoid highways” feature. It also has a nifty way to tweak your route by dragging anywhere in the middle of it, which will then interactively show you what the new route will look like, as well as what the updated distance will be. Google also has a cool zooming feature. If you use a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can use the wheel to intelligently zoom in or out. Google will zoom in or out on the specific area where your mouse pointer is located. This is an amazingly handy feature. It prevents you from having to use the on-screen zoom button as well as continually dragging the map to center it on where you’re zooming in to. I used a notebook the other day without a scroll wheel mouse, and was annoyed that I had to both zoom and drag the map. It’s interesting how technology can spoil you. The only thing that Google is lacking is the ability to have it calculate the shortest route directly.

Although all of them (except Microsoft) allow you to type in a new destination, they all just add it to the end of your route. If you wanted to type the address of a new stop for the middle of your route, you must first add it as the new destination, and then move it up to the place in your route where it should go. This is definitely an area in which they need improvement.

Analysis

As I mentioned, Google is my favorite to work with. However, it’s almost too fun. The enjoyment of being able to drag the route to add additional stops blinded me to other ways that might be better to use. With the dragging feature, I was running into a frustrating bug which seemed to come about when I had too many dragged stops. When I tried to add another one, it wouldn’t commit the change. It was only when I started writing this post that I discovered there might be a better way.

(as a side note: that’s one interesting thing about blogging (at least for me) — because I’m writing for an audience, and not just for me, it causes me to want to get all the facts straight. When it’s just me I apparently sometimes miss some of the possibilities.)

Anyway, I found there was a better way than just dragging the route to create all the stops on my route. The better way, I found, was to click the “Add destination” link and type in all my planned stops. Once I have all my expected stops, only then start dragging the route to tweak it and try to make it shorter.

Another thing I (re)discovered in the course of writing this post was MapQuest’s “avoid this path” feature (as I spoke of earlier). Although it might be tedious, it’s something to look into as a possibility of building the shortest route, given all the points we want to hit.

An additional possibility I’ve discovered today after doing a Google search is Ask.com’s maps. They claim to have a “Walking directions” feature, but I couldn’t get it to work. I’m only speculating, but the reason might be that my route is too long for it to handle.

Another option is a GPS system. We had been planning to get one to use along the way anyway. I was thinking today that it might be good to get it earlier rather than later, and start playing with it to see what kinds of features it has to find the shortest route.

Conclusion

I’ve realized while preparing this post, that the task of finding the best route is a lot more enormous than I thought it was. If we want the shortest possible route given our stops along the way, we might end up having to hand-customize it. I don’t see how people walking across the country before the days of the internet did it; they must not have come close to an optimal route. I suppose this task doesn’t have to be done now though; we could always tailor it along the way.

If anyone has any suggestions on a better program to use to easily get the shortest route given our parameters, please either leave a comment, or contact me directly.

The Birth of the Walk For Liberty

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

One Saturday morning, as my wife Brooke and I were lingering in bed, she turned abruptly to me and asked, “Do you like walking?”.

Thinking it was a bit of a non sequitur question, and being somewhat suspicious because of that, I tepidly replied “yes…..”.

She then asked, “Do you reeeeeeealy like walking?”

Now I had a mix of intrigue and concern. Where was she going with this?

“Sure…..”

She then responded with “How would you like to walk across the country?”

Wow. It was so simple, and yet so perfect. That moment would change our lives for the next year.

In my previous life (i.e. before last year) I was a programmer at a company which writes software for advertising agencies. I had been working at the same company for a number of years. It was a pretty cushy job. During the last few years at the company, I was even working from home telecommuting. It offered a great salary, had great benefits, and it only required 35 hours per week.

But I was slowly dying inside. Especially near the end, I knew I wasn’t doing work aligned with my life purpose. I had recently figured out my mission in life is to achieve liberty in society, by shrinking government to be as small as possible. I didn’t want to waste any more of my time working toward something I didn’t really care about. I would rather be poor and doing something that could make a difference than well off and doing something that doesn’t matter, especially when my job was taking up half my waking hours (and most of my energy) from doing what I would love.

At the time when Brooke came up with the idea for the walk, I had quit my job a few months prior. She knew that I was looking for some way to contribute to the freedom movement. We had already been planning on moving to New Hampshire sometime this year as part of the Free State Project. So she came up with the idea of walking from the west coast to get there, as a way of generating publicity for it. We both support Ron Paul for president and thought that would also be a great cause for the walk. We even found the perfect name for it — the Walk For Liberty.

I was instantly ecstatic about the idea. Since quitting my job I haven’t figured out what is the best way for me to contribute to the cause of liberty. This walk is a great first step though.

We then asked my brother John if he would be interested in joining us, and he was immediately on board. He recently quit his job in Japan after the company defaulted on paying him thousands of dollars. He also loves traveling and creating great experiences, and is excited about the trip. He has a girlfriend, Yuka, who he met in Osaka, Japan while he was working there. Right now she’s still in Japan finishing up school, but will join us about a month after we start.

Brooke, John, and I are currently living in Hawaii. In April, we will fly to Washington state, where we’ll start the trip. Once there, we plan on purchasing an RV to use as a support vehicle, which Brooke and John will trade off in driving. Yuka, who has studied cooking in Japan and France, has graciously offered to be the official cook on our walk. And I personally am looking forward to walking each and every step of the way to New Hampshire.

I don’t think the complete reality of this has hit me yet. I’m sure it probably won’t until after walking several days straight of 20+ miles per day. :) But I am really excited about the walk. I look forward to all the many experiences, getting exposure for the Free State Project and Ron Paul, talking to people we meet along the way, and possibly planting seeds of liberty. I can’t help but be enthusiastic about the coming months.