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Step 4: Preparation: Route

Route:

The route you choose can make or break your entire trip, depending on how well you plan ahead of time for surprises along the way.  My friend David and I made the mistake of choosing the Ortega Highway (California State Highway 74) as the first highway we'd walk on before making it out of Orange County.  For those who are out-of-state, the Ortega Highway is well known for its spectacular car crashes owing to its ruthlessly narrow two-lane ways and bridges.  At one point in time, we had to sleep during the day until midnight came to wait for the traffic to die down, so that we could pass a bridge with no shoulder.  That night also happened to be the coldest we'd ever experienced.  So we trudged our cart uphill for nearly ten miles in the dark, letting cars pass when they'd pass.  Every hour, we switched so that one of us was always looking backwards for cars.

Then, a few miles up, we got pulled over by the police.  David, being the open-dialogue superstar, calmed the situation, and the cops just told us to pull up to a candy store up ahead to sleep for the night.

Needless to say, research your route ahead of time.  Be familiar with the following key elements, and your journey should be less rough than ours, at least in the beginning:

 - Terrain

If you have a better idea of what kind of general terrain you're dealing with (sandy, rocky, rivers, forests, etc.), you can make good assumptions about what kinds of challenges you'll face in the upcoming months or years.  Trekking through hundreds of miles of desert requires different gear from climbing through the Appalachian mountains.

 - Weather and Seasons

I chose to walk the Southern Tier route through the Southwest into the American South.  I have two best friends on the road: sunblock and shade.  Even in the winter, the sun is ruthless and I've been sunburned numerous times without mercy.  On the other hand, I don't have to deal with rain or wind so much on this route (so far), so there is a balance of upsides and downsides.

Your basic weather layout will be: sunny, windy, raining, snowing, and cloudy.  Each has their own benefits and challenges.  With sun, you have to be aware of sunburns and dehydration.  With wind, you will want a wind-breaker.  When raining, you'll have to waterproof all of your gear and wear a rain-jacket.  In cloudy weather, temperatures can drop quickly without sun, depending on elevation and terrain.  Also, the sun can still burn your skin even in cloudy conditions.  I haven't yet dealt with snow, but I've heard from other travelers that it is a pain to deal with and can slow you down significantly.  These are just general ideas to take into consideration; there is far more to understand when you experience it yourself.

Be familiar with the weather along your chosen route, and how it changes based on the season.  Remember that your first initial months are your acclimation period; you do not want to face poor weather simultaneous while adapting to living on the road.  Be kind to yourself.

 - Road Conditions

The condition of the road, by far, can make a day miserable or blessed.  There are "roads" out there that are just soft sand banked by rocks, which makes pushing a cart a Herculean challenge.  Others lack shoulders, so the distance between you and an oncoming car driving 70+ mph can be nothing more than a few inches.  I've had the pleasure of walking on roads that were completely eroded by rain and sun, which led to a bumpy ride down hill.  But I'm grateful for the roads nonetheless; walking across straight desert has had its memorable difficulties.

You can never avoid the worst, but its always useful to have an idea of what you're up against while you're on the road.  Prepare yourself mentally and energetically on what you'll have to experience during each month of the trip.

 - Food and Water

Sources for food and water are critical.  If you've been conditioned through fasting rituals, this section may be less crucial.  However, many of us probably quickly fatigue after a day or two without food, especially during strenuous exercise.  Know the distances between cities and towns, so that you can estimate how much food and water to carry between them.  Be prepared to have the skills to hunt if emergency necessitates it.

When I was walking through the Mojave Desert, I had planned for a 70 miles stretch between two small towns, Twentynine Palms and Rice, CA.  I was only able to carry 3 days worth of water because I had a 5 gallon jug with me.  I stopped by a Vietnamese restaurant just before I left (I don't know how on Earth there can be a Vietnamese restaurant in a desert town), and luckily, I met up with a guy who was biking from Florida to California.  He'd just come in from that desert stretch.

So we sit down together for some dinner, and tells me that the small town on the other side of stretch, well, it's an abandoned gas station.  The desert stretch between towns is actually 110 miles Every map that I had told me that Rice existed, but it seemed to have disappeared into oblivion over the years.  Serendipity saved me, and I was able to get an additional 5 gallons of water before I got on my way to cross the Mojave safely.

 - Wildlife

Coyotes.  Bears. Snakes. Scorpions. Mountain lions.  Get to know the bestiary of the areas you'll be walking through.  Be prepared to take a gun, pepper spray, anti-venom, whatever you need to deal with the potential hazards along the road.  I made the mistake of walking empty handed.  A fellow traveler handed me a can of bear spray and told me that I'd need more than he would.  Now I sleep a bit better at night.

 - Distance

Obviously, where you decide for your final destination will change the distance you'll have to travel through the country.  If you're on a strict timeline, like myself, you'll want to have an estimation of how long it will take for you to cross the country.  Granted, each journey is different, and each day is different, so contingencies, breaks, and emergencies can't be easily calculated into your walk.  However, you can have some relative idea based on your walking mileage.

I'm about to walk an average of 15 - 20 miles per day.  I was able to cross California and parts of Arizona in about a month, giving me approximately 450 miles per month.  The route I've taken is a 2,800 mile span, so a quick estimate tells me that it should take 6 - 8 months to walk the entire country.  By no means is this definitive; I may stay at in a city for a few days, or even a week, if I like.  For some time, I was taking care of a newborn mouse, so my walking mileage dropped to 10 miles per day.  Life sends surprises in droves.

 - Elevation

Unless you're dying to cross mountains, they're best to avoid.  Climbing up elevations poses significant challenges.  Pushing a heavy weight up a hill is hard stuff, and mountain roads tend to be narrow and pedestrian-unfriendly.  Also, the increased elevation changes weather conditions drastically.  Nights can drop below freezing, snow and rain are more abundant, and winds can chill to the bone.  Plus, you can lose reception in the mountains, which could pose some difficulties in the event of an emergency.

I've chosen a route that's few in mountainous regions, although I can't avoid them all.  I've been lucky in that I've avoided snow along the way, with only minor rains in the mountains.

 - Sights

Always wanted to visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco?  How about the Grand Canyon in Arizona?  Maybe you'd like to see that Zen monastery in New York sometime in your life.  This is your journey.  It might take you off your path and increase your distance, but it might just be worth it to say, "I walked to Mt. Rushmore.  From Florida."

 - Amenities

Depending on your needs and desires, you'll want to look into the type of lodging that your route has.  Hostels, motels, and hotels dot the United States and can be found in most large cities or towns.  However, smaller places will require more creativity.  I recommend CouchSurfing.org and WarmShowers.org, and can personally attest to CouchSurfing.org as an excellent way to meet people and get a nice place to sleep, although I haven't had the chance to use it for my current walk.

Old run-down houses are always nice places to sleep too.
I live in the midwest and I need to figure out how I can get to East Coast and start somewhere so I can get to the west coast that's why I was scared to and how much money you need but otherwise that's it all planned out then
We an do it together
I'm in when are you planning to leave? I have a trip planned for next year if you want to join I also live in the midwest
Me and my friend are planning on walking from DC to San Fransisco if anyone wants to join us that is 18 and older we would love some company we are doing this for charity on March 26 2017 and the charity is autism speaks please pm me if you want to come along
Im a 42 yr old guy wanting to walk from arkansas to washington state...anybody wanna go just me and my dog...
I am 39 female and not in the best shape. I have depression and am becoming anti-social. I have always wanted to do this to see the world a different way/ slowly.my family all but my husband are for it. I'm a little scared but am buying small items, ie...stroller back pack, food for camping when it's on sale. I've been planning this for about 2 yrs. I plan to get closer to God by finishing the bible. And getting to know my limitations. I know I have rescue if needed. But I hope to make it when I start out. Signed scared but determined
Hi, where are you at regarding your plan for this journey?
I'm 40 and planning to do the same. Maybe our paths will cross.
<p>So, did you leave yet? I am also planning a cross country trip and I am leaving Oct. 7th, two days from now. Please check my site......Hawk's Walk across the USA..........it's on Facebook. Which route will you be taking? Take Care, Jim</p>
<p>So, did you leave yet? I'm not planning a cross country trip, but I am curious to know how it went for you. I didn't find anything about Hawk's Walk...</p>
I'm 3, live in Philadelphia and would love to walk across the country to San Francisco California. I lost my marriage and would do the walk in the memory of the love that I carry for this girl. Would any one join for this amazing journey?
I'm a 37 years old guy and looking for a walking companion.
Currently living in NJ amd i can't seem to find the most logical route to California been wanting to take this trip for a long time now I need help this article really put alot in perspective
I live in california and im planning to walk accross the us all the way to Charlotte north carolina would anyone like to join me? If you're in email me at vanessalupian798@gmail.com
<p>I am interested!! Something I have always wanted to do. I would like to do it for a cause, are you interested?</p>
I'm super scared I'm already but what should i do should I go for it
I'm 49, will turn 50 this year, and my life is utterly blah. I'm going to walk across the country to try to raise a few dollars for breast cancer research. My cousin, who is more like a little sister to me, was diagnosed when she was about 33, had all the chemo and radiation, and went into remission. A few years ago, the cancer returned. This time she did a double mastectomy - I think her comment was &quot;I'm not going to let my boobs kill me.&quot; I've got nothing going on in my life, so I thought I'd try to raise some money, even if it's just a few bucks, for breast cancer research. I figured that this stunt would be odd enough to get my acquaintances to donate something.
I'm a weekend walker. Today I decided I'd like to take a year to walk from Brooklyn to LA. I'm looking for a female partner. For religious reasons I must rest Friday night to Saturday night. Anyone interested
i actually attempted to walk around America last year. however, i wasn't conditioned enough and only got 55 miles in before my leg quit. <br>this walk was actually a precursor to my teshuva. <br>i wish you all the best and if you want to chat, my email is waterpenguin2@hotmail.com
<p>Hey I am entertaining the idea of walking across the country from east coast to west coast.... Only difference beside direction of travel will be that I am paralyzed. I have recently come across an alternate wheelchair that will give me the mobility needs to make the journey physically possible, but I was wondering if you could help me plan a route based on your experiences and a little input from my specific needs.</p>
<p>Lightning storms are not a bit rare in the East. Here in Ohio, they are a semi-regular thing from at least April through October. In Florida, it's a year-round thing.</p>
<p>How much money did it take you to do this? Did you get sponsorships? I want to do walk a cross America with my . How much money will we need?</p>
<p>how did you live unconnected (without internet) for months?</p>
<p>dear bryan</p><p>i'm in the beginning stages of planning my first coast to coast walk and would like some of your imput on the following questions. i'll continue reading your guide - perhaps the answers are there but in the meantime:</p><p>what type of cart did you use? </p><p>what were the pros and cons of it?</p><p>do you have other cart recommendations</p>
<p>My friend,</p><p>I am planning a long backpacking trip through our country, the United States. I have been studying, budgeting and learning for half a year, and am now beginning the process of mapping my way and getting a somewhat good idea of the parts I will walk through. The first issue I will have to tackle is walking out of the desert. I see you got both in, and out, of Arizona alive. The first thing I need to learn is how to walk out of the Arizona desert, where I reside. Could you give me detailed accounts and useful tips for walking through the desert? I would greatly appreciate it. Congratulations on your endeavor, I can't wait for my walk.</p>
Wow that's a long journey!
Harder not either, and help not hell xD
I read your entire article maybe a dozen times. I don't know why, but it speaks to me. I'm leaving mid December to start back packing across the country for love and to find some inner piece I've been wanting. I have questions, and I can't find answers, but I'm glad you posted this. My trip will be either than yours, but maybe I can find Hell on the way. Get back with me sometime! maniac5123@yahoo.com
<p>I have wanted to walk across the country for some time now. You have given me some ideas on how I would go about doing it, but I have one thing that is stopping me from accomplishing my goal, and that is my dog. If I make the trip with her, I have to plan for her as well, which makes the trip at least twice as difficult.</p>
sorry about rockwell
Thanks for sharing.I read every bit your instructional. Im leaving from ocean city maryland in march expecting to reach san francisco by october. I may have some more questions for you over the next few months but i thought id reach out now. Thanks
I live in Warsaw, Poland and currently I'm trying to translate your instructable. One day I want to walk across U.S. too. :) <br>Best wishes <br>-J.
Well thanks Bud for sharing all this with us. I have been trying to find out about walking from East to West of the USA. I am from England. I guess originally I wanted to walk around the globe. The idea came to me after I had done the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Something triggered inside of me as if it's the first time in my life I have found what I really want to do. I more I walked the more I was in touch with my real feelings. So walking across the USA would be the experience of my life and then we will see what the future holds. Your story is touching.
I had a friend who walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela - it was an inspiration for my walk to some extent. My hope is that you get a chance to come across the pond and continue on. Best of luck to you, friend.
You rock! Thanks for sharing the wonderful story and all the great info--I'll be using a lot of it.
good job! i wouldn't even drive across country let alone walk or bike.
Go denmarrk
*denmark
Curious about the cart. Do they actual sell carts like this? I'm not very crafty would I be able to find one at a camping store or somewhere else?
What we used was a run-about brand stroller, and took away all the seats and miscellaneous extras that we didn't need. <br> <br>You can find the one we used here: <br> <br>http://bergdesign.net/triple.htm <br> <br>They're a bit pricey, and we bought ours used on eBay for about $100. Try to shop around to see if you can get a good price - you may even get one donated if you let them know you'll be journeying with it.
I enjoyed reading this story, and was so sad to learn that Rockwall had died... Thank you for sharing your story, and for reminding us of the gift of feeling love and gratitude.
A good meal for training is rice and eggs.<br> <strong>2 1/2 cups steamed rice<br> 2 eggs<br> some butter<br> a splash of soysauce<br> a wooden spoon</strong><br> fry the rice with the butter<br> mix the eggs with the soysauce<br> put the rice in a bowl<br> fry the eggs<br> then when the eggs are almost done throw in the rice<br> mix and put the rice and eggs in the bowl and enjoy.<br> perfect it as you cook it each day.<br> I like to put in a small amount of rice viniger in the rice while it cooks.
Given their weight, cost and power consumption, I'd think twice before bringing laptops and smartphones to this kind of journey. A cheaper, older phone (think along the lines of Nokia 3310 or a bit more advanced) can go for a week without charging, survives nearly everything that could happen, and still can be used to make emergency calls or get vital information from the net.
Hey, This is something I've been contemplating doing for a while, and just have a few questions. 1) How do you find a place to sleep every night? Do you run into any legal problems sleeping on the side of the road or other places? 2) How much water do you bring at one time, and how do you keep up a steady supply of it? And lastly, a weird question, but for travelling across the country it seems kind of important - on long stretches where there really arent' any towns, or it's night time and nothing's open - what about restrooms? haha. if you can answer any of these it'd be a huge help.... :) Thanks for the instructable, awesome information, and inspiring!
After me and my best friend graduate High school and before we enlist we plan on making our walking into a charity for war veterans.<br>
I'm 60 and at a cross roads in my life. Your description was very enlightening and gave me the encouragement to continue moving forward with a new career. Thanks for the instructable.<br>
Thank you all for your generous comments, advice, and emails. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the amount of viewership going on (considering that this is my second Instructable ever), but I'm learning to adapt with intermittent internet access.<br> <br> <p> Made it to New Mexico; hanging out at university in Silver City. Since I've got some proper communication equipment, I'd like to share a few more photos from the road with ya'll.</p>

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Bio: I recently graduated with a BS in Chemistry and am currently pursuing a masters in Chemistry at University of California, Irvine. After returning from an ... More »
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