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The 46 MILE DAY
Day 100 Ozark to Buffalo
today:46 cumulative: 2,017

The alarm clock goes off at 4:30. Face down on a couch. I hit the snooze bar, and hit it again. But at 4:50 I get up with a little help from Janet. "I know how you feel, believe me, I know," she says. Five hours of sleep. I needed 10. I’ll sleep this afternoon somewhere North of Springfield, then I will walk again late into the night, I am going to try to make 46 miles today. It will really be like 2 days if I take a nap in the middle, but I know it will hurt. Janet and John are both up to say goodbye, they give me some pizza and cookies, you got a jacket? Its cold outside. I can see my breath. I could have stayed on that couch all day and another night without getting up, I am tired, but it is good walking weather. I will make up for taking yesterday off, walk more miles when it is cold. Pulling the cart up a grassy hill to get onto the highway I have to laugh. This is ridiculous. 5 am struggle with the comet.

Bridges with no shoulders and the morning traffic is building, getting heavy. Toni stops to talk to me on her way to work. Parked up ahead and walking down the road to me. She wants to buy me breakfast, we hug, a good way to start the day for both of us, I’ve already had 2 hugs today. Rounding a corner in town too fast the cart tips and slides in an intersection. All the cars stop. Nothing to see here folks. The girl at the drive up window of McDonalds saw us crash, she points out the window. Others inside are watching. A stop for coffee, sitting here I am falling asleep. I think I can just lay my head back and rest my eyes, but that is called sleeping, and I don’t want to be sleeping in this place with my head back and my mouth open. I am fading. Get the hell out of here man. I can sleep in 15 miles. Watching consumers consume. Shovel that food. Construction workers with short hair on top and long hair in the back chew with their mouths open. Hard hats, retired couples, high school kids. Still sitting here, still almost falling asleep. Norm buys me breakfast. I will shovel food too. I will consume, consume, consume. I am the perfect consumer, I owe more on credit cards than school loans, the economy loves me. It’s going to be a bright sun shiny day, playing over the speakers in the ceiling. Looking out the window I see dark clouds and wind, I see Cosmo’s breath. I would stay here longer but the music sucks.

Semis go by on their way to the Interstate. The shoulders are good. The miles go by quickly. For a moment I forget those semi screaming Interstate days that I have done. I look down I-44 and think, "Hey, I could save a couple days on that." Then I wake up and remember the deafening jake breaks and sonic boom of a semi at 100 miles an hour. Cold uneventful miles, but easy walking, a stop in Fair Grove. If I sleep here for 4 or 5 hours I will be able to do the 46 miles. At the local gas station someone tells me that there is a high school baseball game going on. I go where the people go. Maybe I won’t get as much sleep as I thought. Tim, the coach of the Fair Grove Eagles gives me Cart Blanche to shoot anywhere I need to, so I pull out my Leica to photograph the home team shutout the Miller Cardinals 10 to 0, for the conference championship. Harris on the mound, Witherspoon on first, Downing on second, Johnsen at shortstop, Tucker has third. Munchy is catching. Then in the outfield you’ve got Dieke in right, Mallard in center, and Baker in left. These guys are killing the Cardinals. The ten run rule is enacted, the game is over earlt and the Eagles are undefeated in conference play. High fives and a huddle and team meeting and hamburgers. Hey walking man, grab yourself a burger. I never turn down food. "We swung the bats well.

There’s really nothing you can say, because it was such a blowout." - #15, Phil Dieke Everyone is laughing. Nice quote Dieke. The coach’s speech for the seniors that will not be back next year reminds me of speeches that I heard from my old coaches, this town make me think of my home town. The people here are so friendly they could change the name to Pleasantville. #20’s mom invites me to eat pizza up the road. But I have convinced myself I am going to get some sleep and walk tonight. But before I can leave I notice another game going on, a girls’ softball game, and I want more photos and more conversations, every one of these conversations makes a difference. Butterflies’ wings make tornadoes. The Lady Eagles JV team is playing on the back field.

Sitting with the girls in their dugout. They wear helmets with holes in the back for ponytails. They wear makeup. I am not watching the game, I am watching them talk to their moms, watching them give each other piggyback rides, and talking about boys that are too old to be dating their friends. They are not doing as well as the boys, but that does not change anything for me, I am here to watch people. The sun is down and I was going to be sleeping, but I am addicted to people watching, to the conversations I have with people like Shelley, who interviews me for the "Eagle Eye," the school newspaper. She wants to know if I am finding what I am looking for. I am. I found it tonight in this ballpark. I found it in the huddle of conference champions and in line for hamburgers an din the coach’s speech and on the girls’ bench, and in this interview. Yes, I am finding what I am looking for.

The players and their moms all wave as Cosmo and I walk away. We walk to the gas station and set up camp in the grass. It is 8 pm, I will start to walk again at 10pm. Mickie is working the register inside, she says she’ll wake me up before she closes the shop. Nap in the grass. Not enough of a nap. At 10 two boys are trying to wake me up. The catcher’s brothers, the Muncy boys. They interview me as I lay there in the grass, they want to buy me some food, the older brother brings me coffee because I am still not awake. Jesus, am really going to walk 19 more miles on 2 hours of sleep? I could have stayed in this town for awhile, it is the kind of place that I look for, it is the kind of town that makes me love this country. But I am already out of town, walking as fast as I can with some new kind of energy that says I am invincible. But I am not.

5 miles out of town I hit the wall and realize that it will be a long night indeed. 13 more to go and I am feeling it. At the end of the night, at 4am, the shoulders disappear, so we walk down the middle of the highway on the yellow line and move to one side or the other depending on which direction a car is coming from. Last miles are slow miles. Especially at 4am. There is a gas station open in Buffalo. The woman at the register I will call Maria Rodriguez, I can’t remember her real name, she is not Mexican. "Your eyes are red,"she says. I am sure I look like shit. I ask if she will wake me up in the morning so I can get breakfast and get out of town early. "What?" (confusion) I’m going to go sleep in the grass over there. "Well sleep by my car then so no one sees you." Rock and roll. Laying on my back I can still feel my body still moving. Hope my soul doesn’t crawl out while I am sleeping. Cosmo still has some energy, she runs laps around the cart and rolls in the grass before lying down next to me. She wants to play, but I am delirious and I have new blisters.

Pass out on a blue tarp in the wet grass. 46 miles.