Weekly Updates from 2008

As I made my way across America in 2008, I made contact with dozens of newspapers and radio and TV stations. In order to keep in touch with all these outlets after I passed through their towns and cities, I wrote and emailed biweekly updates. These updates, with photos, can be seen below.

WALK AMERICA WEEKLY UPDATES

START OF THE WALK

March 1, 2008

Molly, Ray, and Catherine see me off from the Golden Gate Bridge.

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 3 UPDATE (March 21?, 2008)

Under Nevada's Famous Shoe Tree

Under Nevada's Famous Shoe Tree

BJ Hill, the man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has made it to Carson City, Nevada.

He spent last week crossing California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains on Highway 88. “The climb was three days uphill from Jackson,” he says, “but to camp under 200 foot sugar pines and walk between the grand, snow-covered mountains of Kit Carson Pass (elev. 8500 feet) made it all worthwhile.” His next challenge is crossing the scrublands of Nevada on Highway 50, nicknamed “America’s Loneliest Highway.” “It’s going to be tough… but fortunately I’m staying with an airplane mechanic in Carson City, who’s helping to build an all-terrain food and water transport system out of an old handcart for golf bags.”

Hill has covered 275 miles since March 1. He has collected dozens of messages, including two in Chinese and one in Spanish, such as this one from Lodi, CA: “Dear President, here have been too many budget cuts against education. We need to stop spending trillions on a war that shouldn’t be happening. Get our troops out of Iraq and help build a better America. You have a lot to fix but we are all with you.”

More information can be seen at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 4 UPDATE (March 27, 2008)

An Old Clunker Near Middlegate, NV

BJ Hill, the man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached Fallon, Nevada.

Since leaving Carson City, he has walked through Dayton, Stagecoach, and Silver Springs, staying with a couple in Stagecoach. He is now pulling a luggage cart loaded with food and water to last him the multiple day stretches between towns on Highway 50. The distance between Fallon and Austin, for example, is110 miles, and from Austin to Ely is 146 miles. The biggest challenge thus far hasn’t been the heat but the wind, which has been described on the news as blowing with an almost hurricane-like force.  “On Easter Sunday, I was sitting by the side Highway50, talking on the cell phone with my family, bummed that I couldn’t be with them,” says Hill. “Suddenly a SUV pulled up, and two guys jumped out. ‘We saw you walking while we were driving the other way and thought you might like this,’ they said, and handed me a bag. Inside was a banana, a bag of chips and a Bud Light. It was an interesting Easter meal. When I told that story to my host later that night, he laughed and said a bottle of beer is the Nevada way.'”

Hill has covered 348 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected dozens of messages, such as this one from a firefighter in Stagecoach, NV: “In the fire service, they teach us that our safety is #1, then our partner’s safety, then the safety of the public. I think that the U.S. should take care of ourselves first, then our neighboring countries, then the rest afterwards… we need to watch and care for our own backyard!”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 5 UPDATE (April 2, 2008)

Walking Highway 50, "America's Loneliest Highway"

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached Austin, Nevada.

He is traveling on Highway 50, nicknamed America’s Loneliest Highway, with only three small towns (Austin, Eureka and Ely) on a four hundred mile stretch. The lack of services means camping out, carrying several days’ supply of water and food, and seeing little traffic. To pass the time, he is listening to audiobooks; he just finished Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope and is now into Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.  “The geography of the desert here is mountain and basin. I spend half a day climbing to a 6000 foot pass, then the road drops away into a basin ten or twenty miles across. In the distance, a day away, I see another range to climb over, and there will be a basin after that, and so on. These basins were once filled with water. Fifty foot ichyosaurus skeletons from the Triassic period have been found near here, as well as hunters’ petroglyphs from 3000 years ago. Now the land is dry and brown and covered with a sea of sagebrush, as far as the eye can see.”

Hill has covered 448 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected dozens of messages for the next president, such as this one from a political science teacher at a community college: “You have the power and opportunity to re-do the wrongs of the previous administration – do not miss this opportunity! The world will be watching. Please, please set this country on the right path again, when we stood for all that is good and just in the world, when we were admired by other countries. History will judge you, and so will all your constituents.”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

 

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 6 UPDATE (April 13, 2008)

Signing a message to the president on Highway 50

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached Ely, Nevada.

Hill is walking on Highway 50, nicknamed America’s Loneliest Highway, with only three small towns on a 400 mile stretch. “Most travelers choose fast-paced Interstate I-80, which runs parallel to and north of here,” Hill says. “But Highway 50 has lots of history I wasn’t expecting. I’m following the same route used by California-bound settlers, Pony Express riders, gold and silver miners, and the Overland Stagecoach (later bought by Wells Fargo) drivers. When gold and silver lodes were discovered in Nevada in the late 1800’s, this route was a bustling corridor through the high desert. Here and there you can still see foundations of transfer stations, schoolhouses, and ghost towns. Since the land is still undeveloped, hiking through and camping in the same raw mountains and wide open basins that these pioneers crossed 150 years ago gives me a new appreciation for the hardships they endured.”

Hill has covered 596 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected over one hundred messages for the next president, such as this missive from a Canadian married to a woman from Fallon, NV: “Mr. President, After spending thousands of dollars an three years of time, I was granted permission to live in the U.S. Make things fair if you are entering U.S. from the north or the south. Glad to be part of the U.S. We pray for wisdom for the many decisions you are required to make.”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 7 UPDATE (April 17, 2008)

Almost out of the desert!

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached the border of Nevada and Utah.

For the last three weeks, Hill has been walking on Highway 50, through small towns that trace their roots back to the silver and gold rush of the late 1800’s.”Most of these towns became ghost towns after the minerals dried up,” says Hill. “Places like Osceola and Pine Grove, which once were thriving communities of several thousand people, are now just a half-dozen empty shacks. But there are still a handful of towns with active mines. Austin (pop. 340), Eureka (pop.1414), and Ely (pop. 3989) are all re-examining their identities – small, shrinking communities hours from anywhere else, whose largest employers are mining companies that are just shells of their former workforce. Take Eureka, for example. A mining outfit wants to begin digging a recently found vein of Molybdenum, hiring local workers and importing an additional four hundred extra diggers. Half the town is in favor of the plan, but the other half knows mining is boom or bust – after the vein is cleaned out in a few years and the mine closes, there are going to be four hundred men and even families with no income. If they move on, that’s four hundred houses and apartments left empty.” In addition, with the price of precious metals skyrocketing in the face of a weak dollar, a new proposal brought forth in Washington would begin charging mining companies royalties for ore extracted from American soil. Many people in the area see this extra cost of doing business trickling down to hit the workers the hardest.”

Hill has covered 654 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected over one hundred messages for the next president, such as this missive from a gas station attendant in Ely, NV: “Let’s get our head out, it’s dark up there. Oil prices are ridiculous. Take care of our children.”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 8 UPDATE (April 27, 2008)

The Harrison Brothers with the VW van they restored

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached Orem, Utah.

“I had the worst 24 hours of the walk last week,” Hill says. “I was coming to the end of the desert, and I was trying to make it to town for the next night, so I gave my tent and my sleeping bag to a passerby to bring up the road. When I arrived at the mile marker where he was supposed to leave them, I couldn’t find them anywhere. I had to don all my clothes and huddle up in a ditch by the side of the road. The next day, I walked the remaining 26 miles into town, thinking at least I’d be able to stay in a motel I had seen advertised. When I arrived that evening, I couldn’t find the motel anywhere. I knocked on a neighbor’s door and learned that the motel had shut down years ago. He said sometimes the sheriff will escort stranded travelers to the next larger town, Delta, where there are places to stay. He called the police department for me, but when the deputy showed up, he was extremely belligerent. He frisked me and all but read me the riot act. Even after my Massachusetts ID came up clean, he still refused to help me out. I ended up marching an extra six miles – in the dark -to Delta. I finally arrived close to midnight. I was less than impressed with western Utah. But when I told my story to the newspaper the next day, a good Samaritan donated a new sleeping bag. And since then, Utah has been living up to its friendly reputation.”

Hill has covered 848.5 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected nearly two hundred messages for the next president, such as this missive from a resident in Garrison, Utah a small (pop. 205) rural community on the Utah-Nevada border which faces having its water diverted to the Las Vegas area. “Dear President, Stop destroying America’s heritage and farming to divert water to greedy and wasteful cities. The rural economy is being destroyed by selfish demands for scarce resources.”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA WEEK 10 UPDATE (May 9, 2008)

Amber Sawyer of the Uinta County Herald, Evanston, WY

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America collecting messages for the next president, has reached Evanston, Wyoming.

“The last two weeks have been amazing,” Hill says. I got really good publicity in Salt Lake City, and people were really enthused about meeting me and writing messages. Salt Lake has always been one of my favorite cities, but it’s hard to believe how much it has grown since I was here last in 2001. There is home construction going on up and down the valley, even into the side of the mountains. I got lost for two hours in a new subdivision in Lehi which wasn’t on my map.”  Hill now faces Wyoming, where spring weather, Rocky Mountains, and small towns spaced two to four days apart make this state what he considers his toughest challenge.

Hill has covered 990 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected hundreds messages for the next president, such as this missive from an elderly woman cleaning rooms in a hotel chain in Evanston, Wyoming: “We are headed to bankruptcy court in a few days. We are in our 60’s, worked hard all our lives. What happened?”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com.

WALK AMERICA WEEK 11 UPDATE (May 17, 2008)

Giving me his lucky eagle feather to help me get home

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Rock Springs, Wyoming.

“I am starting to pick up patterns in many of the messages,” says Hill. “The three biggest issues I’ve seen so far are gas prices, illegal elimination, and the economy, in that order. But on a broader scale, those with whom I’ve talked who identify themselves as Republicans or conservatives generally want the same thing for America – to return to old-fashioned values of trust, hard work, and personal responsibility. Meanwhile, those who identify themselves as Democrat or liberal want the same thing for America – a strong, charismatic, Kennedy-like leader who will unify the country, get things done, and the engage the public in politics again. What the conservatives want and what the liberals want are by no means exclusive; the candidate who works at both has the best chance to become a great president.”

Hill has covered 1099 miles since beginning in San Francisco on March 1. He has collected hundreds of messages for the next president, such as this missive from Fort Bridger, Wyoming (pop. 150): “Mr. or Mrs. President, Let’s bring back the America that our grandparents lived in. What happened to hard work and family values?”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 13 UPDATE (June 1, 2008)

Nancy Moore of Casper writes her message to the president

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president has reached Casper, Wyoming.

“This is my last week in Wyoming, and I realize I’m going to miss the West,” says Hill. “I’ve learned so much in the past few months, from talking to ranchers, miners, and drillers. It’s a whole different culture out here, proud and self-reliant, and their number one complaint is when outsiders try to control their environment and economic development. It’s made mere-evaluate my stance on issues like domestic oildrilling, hunting and gun control, and the role of federal regulations on community affairs.

Hill has covered 1301.5 miles since leaving San Francisco on March 1st. He has collected hundreds of messages for the next president, such as this missive from a recent Stanford alumnus who moved back to Wyoming after graduation: “As a resident of the American West, I ask that you respect ALL of our constitutional rights. Just because an idea works in the East doesn’t mean it applies out here. HANDS OFF our Bill of Rights!”

More information can be found at BJ’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 14 UPDATE (June 8, 2008)

Douglas, WY has Jackalope Pride

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Node, Wyoming (pop: 1).

“The weather has been pretty wild in the last few weeks,” says Hill. “I’ve walked through snow, wind, rain and sleet, and even a tornado touched down over the border in northern Colorado. Wyoming has gotten about half of their annual precipitation in just the last month alone. I’ve already sent my winter clothes back home, so I’m trying to reach the more stable climate of Nebraska as soon as possible. But the farmers and ranchers here say the land hasn’t been this green in almost ten years, and I have to admit, the verdant rolling hills, dotted with cows and antelope, do look like something out of a painting.”

Hill has walked 1429.7 miles since leaving San Francisco on March 1st. He has collected hundreds of messages for the next president, such as this missive from northeastern Wyoming: “To the next president, Hi my name is … and I am from Lusk WY. I am nine years old and I hope when you’re President I hope there is no Iraq war.”

More information can be found at BJ Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 15 UPDATE (June 16, 2008)

At the Powwow in Ft. Robinson, NE

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for our next president, has reached Rushville, Nebraska (pop. 999).

”I’ve had a change of plans in the last couple of days,” says Hill. ”My original route was to walk to Rushville, turn north towards the Pine Ridge Reservation just over the border in South Dakota, and then continue on to Omaha. But I found there was going to be a popular intertribal dance competition at Fort Robinson, Nebraska, which I had already passed, over the weekend. I couldn’t be in both places at once, but a friend suggested I rent a car and spend a day a each. I got to visit Pine Ridge, where my team and I served while in AmeriCorps, and see how the reservation had changed in seven years.  And I got to see the powwow and talk to Natives representing five different nations. On Sunday I dropped off the car and began walking again from where I left off. It was a very quick two-day break!”

Since setting out from San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 1537.4 miles and collected hundreds of messages for the next president, such as this missive from a woman from the powwow: ”I am an Oglala Lakota elder from Oglala, SD. Please honor our treaties so our people can have a better life – better health – our children deserve more in life than what is happening on our reservations. May the Creator bless you and be with you on your difficult journey.”

In conjunction with qik.com, Hill will host his first live interactive chat later this week. Please see his web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com, for more information.

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 16 UPDATE (June 21, 2008)  

At the Senior Center in Chadron, NE

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Valentine, Nebraska (pop. 2820).

“I’m passing green, rolling ranch land and a chain of small towns that were once linked by the railroad for the cattle industry,” says Hill. “The towns have been shrinking since the track declined in use and was finally abandoned ten years ago. The town may be a grain elevator, a church, post office, a bar and gas station, a few dozen people, and a handful of abandoned buildings. In Nenzel, Nebraska (pop. 13), for example, the only downtown businesses are a pop machine and a pay phone. But strangely, no one minds. ‘If I want to have a bonfire on my property or blast Neil Young at 4 in the morning, no one complains,’ says a young man who recently moved here from Los Angeles. Another man from Montana echoes his sentiments. ‘I’ve hitchhiked all across America,’ he says, ‘and Nebraska is the best state. We have a guy running for president who’s talking ‘Change! Change! Change!’ That’s the problem – out here, we don’t want change.’”

Since starting in San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 1645.3 miles and has collected hundreds of messages, such as this note written by the owner of a small diner in Merriman, Nebraska (pop. 118): “I think before becoming president you should have to live in a small Midwestern town with our income and expenses to see what it’s like. Don’t do away with freedom to carry arms or only the criminals will have guns.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA WEEK 18 UPDATE (July 5, 2008)

Collecting messages in Norfolk, NE

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts Man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Scribner, Nebraska (pop 971).

“For the last few weeks, I’ve been following the 321 mile-long Cowboy Trail, the nation‘s longest rail-to-bike trail, which parallels Highway 20 across Nebraska,” Hill says. “It is a popular route for cross-country trekkers, and it seems all the residents here have a story of meeting someone who biked / unicycled / carried a cross / walked backwards across America. Who knows? I can picture an old-timer saying, years from now, ‘I once met a guy who was walking around collecting messages for the president. I can’t remember his name, but I signed his book!’

“Since starting his walk in San Francisco on March 1st, Hill has walked 1889.8 miles and has collected hundreds of messages, such as this note written by woman from Lincoln, Nebraska: “Mr President, Next time there is a Hurricane Katrina, put on your rubber boots or hip waders and wade through the floods, see and feel the pain of those less fortunate, those who don’t have vacation homes or home owner’s insurance. And where are those people now? Lord, give us a president who is a true Christian or a spiritual and compassionate person who knows what the Golden Rule really means, who isn’t a puppet president who was born with a silver dipstick up his [expletive], like the Bush Dynasty. Lord, give us a president who abhors “blood for oil,” who isn’t prostituted by special interests. Mr. President, bring our kids home!”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA WEEK 19 UPDATE (July 12?, 2008)

Message to the president from Omaha, NE

BJ Hill, the man who I walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Emerson, Iowa (pop. 480).

“There has been a dramatic rise in temperature as I walked through Omaha and into Iowa,” Hill says. “I thought this part of the walk would be easier since I discarded my winter jacket and heavy sleeping bag, but now the humidity is slowing me down. I’m being extra vigilant to stay hydrated, and knocking on farmhouse doors to keep my water bottle filled. It’s an interesting way to meet people, such as Rick Hackworth of Glenwood, IA, a farmer considering renting out his property for windmills (going rate is about $30000 a year for 20 turbines), or Ron Fickel, a retired mechanic from Malvern IA, who proudly showed off his restored 1927 and 1928 Fords.”

Since starting from San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 2019 miles. He was joined last week by Melody Seier of Pilger NE, who walked from Pilger to West Point, and Tyler Lemke of Omaha, who walked from Omaha to Bellevue.

Hill has gathered over one thousand messages, such as this missive from a vocational high school student from Omaha:

“Dear Mr President, I’m not quite 18, so I can’t vote. I feel sorry that I have to miss out on such an important election! I work a job, I’m old enough to drive a car, and I even pay taxes. I think it would be great if the voting age could be sixteen. So many teenagers care about who leads our nation, but we don’t have a say about who it gets to be! Most of us are taxpayers; can’t we be voters, too? PS. I’m a culinary student, so if you need a cook, let me know! (email address included).”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerca2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 20 UPDATE (July 19?, 2008)

My favorite time to walk: a quiet sunset in Iowa

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Saline, Missouri.

“I had a pretty unique personal experience last week,” says Hill. “The NBC affiliate in Boston ran a story about my walk, and a viewer emailed me, noting it was strange that I had the same name as his deceased biological father, who he hadn’t known very well. His description matched what little I knew of my own biological father, I wrote back, and we found we are half-brothers! And strangely, we lived on the same street, within a dozen blocks of eachother, in Boston. It looks like my family just got bigger, and I’m looking forward to meeting him when I get back home in November.”

Since starting out from San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 2145 miles and collected over one thousand messages, such as this missive written by a career airman camping with his two daughters at an Iowa state park: “Dear Commader-in-Chief, I am an Air Force Supply Sergeant and I have recently returned rom Iraq. This makes my fourth trip to the desert since 2001. Please do all you can to bring about world peace and to bring all of our troops home.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 22 UPDATE (August 2, 2008)

Hannibal, MO, boyhood home of Mark Twain

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Hannibal, Missouri, birthplace of Mark Twain.

“Everyone across the Midwest has noted this has been an unusually wet year,” Hill says, “but the last two weeks have been some of the rainiest weather of the walk. Last Thursday I got stuck hiking in a down pour near Kirksville, Missouri. By the time it was over, it had dumped 12 inches of rain. Roads and bridges were closed and the basketball court at Truman University was under three feet of water. When I noted a scenic lake to a local passerby, he shook his head. ‘That’s not a lake,’ he said, ‘yesterday that was a corn field.’ The rain and the flooding this year has really been wreaking havoc on the crops, and this late in the summer, farmers are running out of time to get in another planting.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 2305.8 miles. On Friday, he was joined by Lori Damhorst, of Quincy, Illinois, who walked 18 miles from Taylor, Missouri to Hannibal, Missouri.

Hill has collected over one thousand messages for the next president, such as this missive from the wife of a ranch owner near Princeton, Missouri: “Dear Next President, Start listening to us people out here in the country, please, and start drilling in my backyard if you like! PS. And build that fence!”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 24 UPDATE (August 17, 2008)   

Meeting a fellow traveler in southern Illinois

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Chester, Illinois (the home of Popeye).

“Crossing the Mississippi, from the West into the East at the St Louis Arch represents a milestone to this walk,” says Hill. “I’m more than halfway through my 4200 mile trek, and I just mailed home my first book, which was full with letters from California to Missouri. I’ve even noticed people with whom I talk react a little differently when they realize I’ve walked this far. And coincidently, under the Arch, I met another cross-country trekker, Nick Moffatt of England, who is walking from New York City to Los Angeles to raise money for the British and American Legions.”  Hill has walked 2495 miles since leaving San Francisco on March 1. Last week, he was joined by Elizabeth Zerjav, of O’Fallon, Missouri, who walked 10 miles from St. Peters, Missouri to Maryland Heights, Missouri.

Hill has collected over one thousand messages for the next president, such as this missive from a convenience store clerk from Ellis Grove, IL: “I would want the next president to remember love. The kind of love that unites all Americans. The kind of love that gives us purpose in our everyday lives. The kind of love that helps his fellow Americans no matter what. The kind of love that makes us think more of others than ourselves. The kind of love we have to give to make others’ lives a little better. The rare kind of love. The kind of love we all need.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA WEEK 25 UPDATE (August 25, 2008)

Downtown Paducah, KY

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next President of the United States, has reached Paducah, Kentucky (home of the National Quilt Museum).

“One of the challenges of this project is ensuring I’m gathering messages from as wide a variety of people as possible,” says Hill. “Sure, it would be easy for me to talk only with folks of my own background – white, left-leaning, middle class families. But the concerns on posh Lindell Street in St. Louis are far different from the hardships on gritty Main Street in East St. Louis. So I find myself compelled to seek out places I normally wouldn’t go, just to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to share their thoughts. From high schools to senior centers, trendy cafes to smokey diners, bookshops to rodeos, I’m trying not to leave anyone out, and in turn, I’m getting to see a whole new side of America.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 2605 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from an artist living on a small family farm in Anna, Illinois: “Perhaps we should have a voluntary-mandatory tax system. Supply us with a list of places where our tax dollars are needed, and let us choose where to send our money to. We would soon know what the people wanted!”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA WEEK 27 UPDATE (September 8, 2008)

Signing the book in the Jackson, TN Public Library

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next President of the United States, has reached Jackson, Tennessee (home of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame).

“The walk almost took a disastrous turn last week,” says Hill. “I forgot my ATM card in a bank in Venice, IL, and per policy it was destroyed at the end of the day. I had only the cash I had with me- about $27- to get me the next few days until I could get the mail in Jackson TN, where my family had sent me some money. I don’t need to buy a lot of stuff while I’m walking, but I do go through a lot of food. So suddenly I’m trying to decide whether I should eat lunch or dinner. As I’m walking down the road in western Kentucky, a family in a driveway saw me walk by. “Hey,” the dad called, “Didja eat yet?” I hadn’t, so they took me in for a ham sandwich. About an hour later, as I was walking down the road again, and I hear another “Hey, didja eat yet?” I’m not about to pass up a good meal, so I said, No! And this family fed me hot dogs. About an hour after that, I was walking down the road, and began talking to another family, who once again offered me a sandwich. By this time I was pretty full, so they made up a bag lunch for me. I made Jackson later the next day, you could say fueled by the kindness of strangers.

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill haswalked 2723 miles and has collected thousands ofmessages, such as this missive from a young man inMayfield, Kentucky: “Dear Mr President, I know it’snot in your nature, but be honest. For whatever godyou believe in’s sake, just be straight up. PS. LetRon Paul step in. Really.” ”Hill is offering free maps of his cross-country routeto  teachers and classrooms. For more information,please see Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA WEEK 28 UPDATE (September 16, 2008)

You look familiar! My story in the Florence Times Daily

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next President ofthe United States, has reached Florence, Alabama, the birthplace of Helen Keller.

“One of the most common questions I’m asked is who I think will win in November. Up until just a few weeks ago, I would have said Barack Obama, hands down. Even in states I thought would be die-hard Republican, like Wyoming and Missouri, I found a lot of support for the Democratic candidate. In fact, I didn’t see my first John McCain lawn sign until I entered Iowa. But in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a lot more support for the Arizona senator. It could be because of his popular pick for vice-president, or because I’m descending deeper into the Bible Belt, but it’s probably both.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 2830.5 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from two church volunteers in Burnsville, Mississippi: “Mr. President, We want to get our country back to moral standards. Any nation without God as its cornerstone will crumble. ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.’ 2Chron 7:14.”

Hill is offering free maps of his cross-country routeto teachers and classrooms. For more information, please see Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 30 UPDATE (September 28, 2008)

Nothin' beats Alabama Pork Brains!

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached the Alabama-Georgia state line.

“This past week in Alabama I’ve met some of the friendliest, most hospitable people” says Hill. “When they learned I was coming through their town, the Gadsden Public Library hosted a book-signing for residents who wanted to meet me and write their message to the next president. The local newspaper printed a big front-page photo of my walk, and for the next few days dozens of folks passing by on Highway 278 pulled over to talk about the election, donate snacks, and to sign the book. One of the women I met was a teacher in Hokes Bluff, who told me a lot of the students had used that article for their weekly current events assignment. I was a little ahead of schedule, so I offered to come into school the next morning and speak to the elementary and the middle schools. I visited the third grade classes, who got to vote on which issue they thought was the most important for America (the prices of hotels, prescriptions and gas topped their list), and write their message for the president. The eighth graders were just finishing Peter Jenkins’ “A Walk across America,” so I spoke to them about what it is like to do a four thousand mile hike. It was neat because I was their age when I first read Robert Sweetgall’s “The Walker’s Journal,” the book which inspired me. I don’t know I inspired anyone to walk across the country, but hopefully I helped to renew an interest in politics and geography.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1st, Hill has walked 2991.6 miles, and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a fourth grader from Piedmont, Alabama:  “Dear Mr. President, I think you should change gas prices. Because my Mom and Dad always gripe about it. And we were going to Lake Wennie, and I love that place. And beat Iraq in the war!!!”

For more information, please see Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 31 UPDATE (October 5, 2008)

Alison Andrus of Atlanta writes her message to the president

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president of the United States, has reached Decatur, Georgia.

“I had a close call in Alabama last week’” says Hill. “It was getting late, and I needed a place to pitch my tent for the night. In the fading light, I found an old house sheltered from the road. The lights were out, the paint was peeling, and there were no shades or curtains, so I took it to be abandoned. I pitched my tent alongside the tiny house and quickly fell asleep. The next morning, however, I awoke to the sound of singing – the house wasn’t abandoned after all! Someone was living there, preparing breakfast at the sink, and I was directly underneath the kitchen window. Very quietly I slipped out of my tent, grabbed it with both hands, and, still keeping low, quickly dragged it a ways off and packed up. That was close –I would have had a lot of explaining to do.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3069.7 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a man in Midtown Atlanta: “Mr. P, My name is W– R–. I’m homeless. And I feel this country has thrown the homeless away. There are very little to no resources and with contributing factors (mental illness, drug abuse) some people are situated through life’s unpredictability in the streets. As the president, will you have compassion for the homeless? This is my plea.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 33 UPDATE (October 20, 2008)

Sunset over the Savannah River, walking into Anderson, SC

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president, has reached Spartanburg, South Carolina, home of Wofford College.

“As I’ve traveled across the South, I’ve noticed a gradual change in the messages from the people with whom I’ve met,” says Hill. “Here in the Bible Belt, the number one concern is keeping Christian ideals in America. Probably the next biggest issue I’ve found recently is the economy – the exportation of jobs, the rising cost of living, and corporate responsibility (no one I’ve spoken with has thought the $850 billion bailout plan was a good idea). The price of gasoline, which was a priority in the West and Midwest, has taken a backseat. Even though the southeast is the same region which faced forty-minute lines and dry pumps after Hurricane Ike, supply has normalized, prices have dropped to about $2.80 a gallon, and now I’m finding slightly fewer notes about the cost of gas, the need for alternative energy, and support for domestic drilling. Healthcare reform, No Child Left Behind, the environment, and the war in Iraq are receiving moderate attention. Meanwhile, there are other issues, such as road and bridge improvements, stem cell research, and third world development, about which virtually no one is writing.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3263 miles and is approximately 900 miles from his destination in Boston. He has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a man in Spartanburg, SC: “John McCain, We need to get the country back on track. Our Christian background is lagging. Alternative energy and the economy are the areas that need to be addressed.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 34 UPDATE (October 27, 2008)

Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain, and me at the Republican campaign HQs in Lexington, NC. I found them to be a little... two-dimensional.

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president ofthe United States, has reached the “Queen City,” Charlotte, North Carolina.

“This past week, the Carolinas have been a perfect storm of long-distance hikers,” says Hill. “Besides myself, there has been Manny Onhonme, who is walking barefoot from North Carolina to Georgia to raise money shoes for third world countries (www.samaritansfeet.org), and Rory Fanning, who is walking across America in memory of fallen soldier Pat Tillman (www.walkforpat.org). Though I just barely missed Rory, I did meet up with Skip Potts while in Charlotte. Skip is walking from Boston to Los Angeles to raise funds and promote awareness for under-resourced public schools. It was fun to swap stories of share advice from our trips. It may seem a coincidence to meet another cross-country walker, but this is the second time this has happened. I met Nick Moffit, a Brit who is walking to raise money for the American and British Legions (nickwalksamerica.org), under the Arch in St Louis. And on Highway 50 in Nevada I found the water caches of Jodi Harrington and Josh Howell, who both left Maryland on March 1, the same day I left San Francisco, and who are walking for Neurofibromitosis and Alzheimer’s disease. And Bobby Genese and Robert Williams, two men from Worcester, the city next to my hometown of Leicester, are just about to finish their walk for autism (www.walkforelias.com). In all, I would estimate there are about a dozen men and women every year who set out to walk across the country to promote a cause. It is heartening to see others who feel so strongly about their beliefs.

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3242.1 miles, and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a small business owner in downtown Charlotte: “We have a lot of faith in you. Please use it well.”

More information can be found on Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 35 UPDATE (November 8, 2008)  

I was in Greensboro, NC the day of the presidential election

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president ofthe United States, has reached Greensboro, North Carolina, site of the Civil Rights era’s Woolworths lunch counter sit-ins.

“North Carolina was a big battleground state,” says Hill “and in Lexington I met two women who drove from Alabama to help campaign for John McCain. It was an extremely tight race here. I got to watch the election coverage with a Russian-born couple living in High Point, and since they had just recently become citizens, this was the first election in which they could vote. When the state ballots were finally tallied, they went to Barack Obama, by less than one percentage point. And since Wednesday morning, I’ve noticed a dramatic shift in what people are writing to the president-elect. The messages I have been receiving now are more heartfelt, optimistic, and hopeful. This could be helped by the fact that I was walking through some traditionally black neighborhoods of Greensboro,  but even people who didn’t vote for the senator from Illinois seem to be willing to give him a fair chance.”

Since beginning his trek from San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3419.4 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a student attending Greensboro Technical Community College: “Dear Mr. Obama, I will admit I didn’t vote for you, mainly because of your moral beliefs. But, just because I didn’t vote for you doesn’t mean I will not support you. Thanks for taking on the challenge of president.”

More information can be found on Hill’s website, http://www.walkamerica2008.com.

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 37 UPDATE (November 22, 2008)

Virginia has some of the prettiest scenery on the East Coast

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president of the United States, has reached Spotsylvania, Virginia, site of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse.

“When I first set out to hike the back roads across America, this is exactly what I had imagined,” said Hill. “The tree-lined byways of Central Virginia curve around rolling farms and ramble through cozy communities. However, the temperature has been unseasonably cold. The 40 degree days force me to set a brisk marching pace, which is good. But the 20 degree nights can get a bit nippy. In the last few nights, I’ve camped out twice, was once offered a spot in a family’s guestroom, and once spent a night in an unheated prayer room of a Methodist church.”

Since beginning in San Francisco on March 1st, Hill has walked 3,635.1 miles and has collected two books of messages, including this missive from a woman in Cumberland, VA: “Bring our armed forces home. While I realize they are keeping our country safe, I also feel we’ve asked them to do enough in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you! Best wishes. May God be with you!”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com.

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 39 UPDATE (December 8, 2008)

Volunteering with a mobile soup kitchen: The homeless eat a hot meal and sign their message to the president

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president of the United States, has reached Havre de Grace, Maryland, the duck decoy capital of the world.

“I had a special afternoon on the walk last week,” wrote Hill in a recent email. “As I was coming through Washington, D.C., the staff of Senator John Kerry’s office had arranged for me to take a tour of the Capitol Building. It was a serendipitous experience, to be able to include in my walk across America, a walk from our Senate Chambers, through the Capitol Rotunda, to our House of Representatives.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3770 miles and has collected two books of messages, such as this missive from a man from Baltimore, Maryland displaying a NRA license plate on his pick-up: “Dear President Obama, I was a McCain-Palin supporter, but I wish you nothing but the best, because I want this country to get back on its feet. I have baby boy who’s 18 months, and I want his future of the country to be better than today.”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com.

WALK AMERICA WEEK 41 UPDATE (December 23, 2008)

One of my favorite messages: This new father pasted a copy of his daughter's ultrasound

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president of the United States, has reached Spring Valley, New York (pop 25,464).

“The temperature here in New Jersey has dropped into the twenties some days,” said Hill in a recent email,  “but fortunately I have had places arranged to stay at night. One problem, however, is snowfall. The last week’s weather was pretty woolly all across the country, and I walked into Newark in a raging snowstorm. Now that it’s freezing, the snow and ice are clogging up the sidewalks and the shoulders. It’s slowing down the walking, but on the other hand, once I got out of the cities, it is neat to see the landscape covered in fresh-fallen powder.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 3940.9 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from a young father in Edison, New Jersey, who had taped into the book a photograph of his first child’s ultrasound:  “Dear Mr. President, Please make sure the decisions you make are prudent for the future of the American people. Please protect the future of my unborn child!”

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com.

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 43 UPDATE (January 4, 2008)

A sight which kept me going, I'd seen countless times on the walk: a family (this time, the Nabels of West Hartford, CT) sit at the kitchen table and write their message for the president

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking across America to collect messages for the next president of the United States, has reached New Milford, Connecticut, home of legendary sportscaster Bob Costas.

“It is good to be back in New England,” wrote Hill in a recent email. “Being less than 200 miles away from Boston makes me realize just how close I am to the finish line at Copley Square. However, I know that my walk will not be over until I actually meet with president-elect Obama to hand over these three books of messages I have accumulated from across the nation. The challenge now isn’t the walking, but finding a way to present our messages to him.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1st, Hill has walked 4007 miles and has collected thousands of messages, such as this missive from an African-American father in front of the public library in Peekskill, New York: “Mr. President, Thank you from all the mothers who told their sons, ‘If you’re smart and do your homework you can become president.’ My mother told me that in 1972. I looked at her and said, ‘Sure, Mom’ knowing damn well that wouldn’t happen. Thank you for making me a liar.”

You can hear Hill discuss his journey, and more messages, on National Public Radio’s Weekend America on Saturday, January 10th. For more information, please see Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com .

WALK AMERICA 2008 WEEK 44 UPDATE (January 13, 2008)

Getting a sandwich and some good luck at the Subway in Stafford Springs, CT

BJ Hill, the Massachusetts man who is walking America to collect messages for the next President of the United States, has reached Enfield, Connecticut, home of the largest LEGO manufacturing plant in America.

“I’m facing a mix of emotions knowing that my journey will finish in a few days,” wrote Hill in a recent email. “I am happy to know that soon I will not have to walk every day, but also sad that to know that this chapter of my life will soon be over. From California to Massachusetts, I’ve met both interesting and generous people with whom I’ve become good friends, and I have some great memories of cities and towns across the country. I am proud of what I have done for the president. But first, with 90 miles left to walk, two upcoming snowstorms, and one day in the single digits on the horizon, it seems that Mother Nature is saving her biggest challenge for the end.”

Since leaving San Francisco on March 1, Hill has walked 4068.9 miles and has collected three books of messages, including this missive from a young woman at a Starbucks in Enfield: “Dear Mr President, First and foremost, congrats on the presidency. I hope that you never lose sight of who you are and what you believe in. Make sure to listen to your country and your people. Good luck and make the most of the next four years- and have fun.”

Hill will end his walk at Copley Square, finish line of the Boston Marathon, on January 17th. Everyone in the area on Saturday afternoon is invited to come walk the final mile and to watch the finish, which will also be broadcast on his web site. He will be attending, and blogging, the Inauguration in Washington D.C. on January 20th.

More information can be found on Hill’s web site, http://www.walkamerica2008.com

THE END OF THE WALK 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Me at Copley Square, Boston, MA. Ten and half months, three books of messages, 24 states, 4250 miles. Countless new friends.


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One Comment on “Weekly Updates from 2008”

  1. […] is my fourth such walk, the others being the first Walk across Massachusetts in October 2006; a Walk across America in 2008; and a Walk from Boston to the White House at the invitation of President Barack Obama in […]