Catching the Katy Through Missouri

It would take a mental patient to characterize walking 20 miles a day with a 50-pound backpack as fun, but the walk across Missouri was as close to fun as I have experienced on this trip across the U.S.

The trail across the eastern half of Missouri follows the abandoned roadbed of the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, or the MKT. Natives nicknamed the railroad the “Katy,” and the trail is now the Katy Trail. It snakes west from St. Charles along the Missouri River, framed by high limestone bluffs on the north and the river or its lush bottomland to the south. The trail is paved with crushed stone, and, thanks to railroads’ aversion to hills, is absolutely flat. A more inviting walking surface one could not imagine.

The railroad spawned the development of many communities along its route, so I walked through dozens of little towns along the way — towns with places to eat and sleep, unlike much of my journey. Read more


Friday, Sep. 07, 2007

Delaware to Illinois: Reflections on the First Leg

I started walking across the U.S. on April 30, heading west from the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, Del., and stopped July 29 when I was hauled off to the hospital in McLeansboro, Ill., about 100 miles east of St. Louis. Severe dehydration combined with rhabdomy-something-or-other knocked me out off the trail, at least until it cools down a bit.

The heat index exceeds 100 degrees today, so it’s a perfect time to sit in my air-conditioned office in Granville, Ohio, think about what I learned as I walked 1,100 miles across the country, and write an interim report.

My purpose –- besides proving that I was tough and determined enough to make the trek — was to see the country and talk with publishers of small newspapers along the way. I wanted to test my theory that the market forces that were bleeding readers and advertising dollars from the big dailies were not affecting small-market papers in the same way. Read more


Wednesday, Aug. 08, 2007

Evansville, Ind., Can Be Anywhere, USA

Greetings from Evansville, Indiana. I am banging away at a computer in the lobby of an Econolodge, located on a busy highway that could be anywhere. The shops, the traffic, the sprawl make the outskirts of Evansville look exactly like the outskirts of just about every city in the US. Local color may be lacking, but progress isn’t — I’ll be out of Indiana and into Illinois in two days.

This has been a very productive week. Walked fast on roads all week and covered lots of ground. My strategy has been to walk on roads that pass through towns that are likely to have places to feed me. Not only has this kept me reasonably well nourished, but my route has been direct and efficient. Have logged several 25-mile-plus days, far more than I could have by wandering through the woods and dirt roads specified by the American Discovery Trail. Read more


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Friendly Folks and Healthy Papers

Greetings from New Albany, Indiana, just north of Louisville, Ky. I’m about a third of the way through Indiana. Easy-walking terrain and some creative modification of the American Discovery Trail route has contributed to solid progress this week.

Went to a foot doctor the day before I got back on the trail to figure out why I keep getting blisters in the same spot on both feet, whether I’m wearing new or old walking shoes. He explained that the problem is the shape of my feet, but that strategic application of moleskin and frequent sock changes could prevent the blisters from coming back. Bless his podiatric heart, his advice was perfect and my feet were happy and productive again!

Indiana has been so far characterized by good eating and particularly nice people. My route has taken me through lots of little towns, so I have been able to find enough to eat without ever reverting to my own inadequate cooking. Read more


Friday, July 13, 2007

The fundamental goodwill of dogs

I’m writing from a hotel in Milford, Ohio, just outside Cincinnati.

Made excellent progress this week by staying on roads, and, as a bonus for avoiding the Buckeye Trail, passed through a bunch of sweet little Ohio towns. Bought a Dr. Pepper in Locust Grove, where the population of the pretty hilltop cemetary is certainly larger than that of its still-vertical citizens. Decatur has a nice little park with a gazebo, and claims to be “Home of Sam Cooper, World Arm Wrestling Champion.” Georgetown, birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant, has lots of Civil War era homes along its shady main street. Williamsburg was big enough to have a chirpractor and a tatoo parlor, and is home to two “cafes,” neither of which serves food. Walked into Williamsburg looking for dinner last night and drew the hostile stares of beer drinkers at the cafes in my hunt for someplace to eat. Eventually found Mama’s Grill on the other side of town, which served only Coca Cola products and sweet iced tea. Read more


Monday, July 09, 2007

Back on the trail (and not getting off anytime soon)!

I have been slogging through southern Ohio for a while now. If it seems like I’ve been stuck here for an unreasonably long time, it’s because I have found every possible excuse to come home and avoid walking. Not surprisingly, I have discovered I enjoy the company of my wife, air conditioning, proximity to a full refrigerator and the rest of the luxuries of home far more than I enjoy walking in summer heat and sleeping on the ground at night. And wimp that I am, I have seized upon every opportunity to get out of the woods and return to my nice life at home.

But now it’s time to make tracks. I have spent hours studying the route through Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, and I’m ready to walk purposefully to this year’s finish line with no more malingering.

Got a new pair of boots over the weekend. The last pair was starting to give me blisters. Read more


Friday, July 06, 2007

Reflections: Buckeye Trail=bad, Logan Daily News=good

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim sent this post several days ago, but due to some technical difficulties, we’re putting it up a little late. Do not fear, though, he’s still out on the trail. Stay tuned for more.

Made it to Logan, Ohio, where I had a nice talk with the publisher of the Logan paper, who has a pretty good story to tell.

Here’s the update:

I resumed walking where I had stopped, in Murray City, Oh. It’s such a rundown, tired-looking burg that if I were the Murray family, I’d have my name taken off the place.

My troubles with the Buckeye Trail started up again soon after I left the road out of Murray City and entered the woods north of town. The terrain was actually manageable, and the hills and ravines I
encountered were not particularly steep, so I marched along at a pretty good pace through the woods. Read more


Saturday, June 23, 2007


Back on the trail tomorrow, to resume the Buckeye Trail through Ohio, with high hopes and lots of energy.

I am rested, fattened up (ice cream for breakfast is a wonderful thing!), and ready to lug my pack up and down more hills.

Thanks to those who wrote or called expressing concern about how much weight I’d lost. I’m feeling fine and have gained back ten pounds and a hint of my old pot belly. Several of you recommended that I try a high carbohydrate gel as a supplement to my diet. I plan to buy some today. One of my pals who urged me to buy some said, “It tastes like shit, but the stuff really works.” Yum! Can’t wait to try it!

Didn’t waste my entire week off by eating and loafing around. Interviewed two publishers of different size operations. I’m trying to figure out why some small papers are thriving and others may be
struggling. Read more


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Home for a quick break.

I’m writing from my home office in Granville, Ohio. Off the trail for a few days to attend to family business and get some food and rest. While I’m here I’ll have a  chance to do some phone interviews with publishers I’ve missed along the way, and add some Ohio publishers
I’ll miss because the fiendish Buckeye Trail keeps me in the boondocks.

I crossed the Ohio River from Parkersburg, W.Va., into Ohio, on a sunny, cool Saturday morning. The omens were all good. I had a belly full of eggs and sausage, I started the day with a shower so I smelled better than average, and best of all, the Ohio terrain was much friedlier than West Virginia’s. Sure, there were hills, but they were relatively gentle and manageable.  The meadows and neat farms I passed were just beautiful, and I got cold water and a warm welcome from the Ohioans I met along the way. Read more


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Across the Ohio River Tomorrow!

I finally found the most lovable part of West Virginia — because it’s level and there are no hills!  Trains can’t go up and down hills easily, so the former railroad beds I walked on were flat.  

On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Hopson dropped me at the start of the North Bend Rail Trail, a flat trail that winds through river valleys from Wolf Summit to Parkersburg, and took me the last 70+ miles to the Ohio River.

Seat and body are fine, but I am having trouble eating enough. I’m burning more than twice as many calories as I am eating. Gives me a nice flat belly but I get tired easily. Tonight, in Parkersburg, I ate a bowl of chili, two platters of all you-can-eat shrimp, a big plate of french fires and a chocolate milk shake and that feast did not replace the calories I burned today. Once I get off the trail, I’m really going to have to eat less or I’ll gain 50 pounds overnight! Read more