Risa and I were up and out early making our way back to the Wal-Mart she picked me up the day before. Once again we had a nice ride and it made me sad we would be soon parting ways but it is the way of the road. Once in the parking lot we found a good spot to unload Buddy, assemble him, and after I snapped a picture of my new friend, I was on my way.
I was on my way to Utica today, about 22 miles, where I would be staying with a girl named Jona and her 4 housemates. It was a beautiful day to be walking, shorts, t-shirt, and new shoes, perfect. For the most part of the day I was walking bouncing from town to town, each getting progressively more populated and commercialized. It has been interesting that although I am walking from city to city there have always been farms lining the road the entire way across the country. It is amazing the amount of farmers this country posses and the wide variety of sizes and what is grown. I was expecting to see most of the farms out west but to my surprise they have continued to be present even in the east. As soon as they appear they are replaced with seven elevens and 3 lane highways.
Making my way into Utica I find myself walking on a more busy highway than I am used to. Higher speeds, less room, and raised roads makes for a more interesting walk that heightens the senses and keeps you on your toes. I wish I had knew the area a little better because I am sure there would have been a better way than staying on this highway. Unfortunately I did not and had to continue down this road that gave me little to work with. I finally made it back to ground level but the shoulder had disappeared completely and I had to bring the cart up over the side of the road and walk in the rocky pathway that ran parallel to the railroad tracks and road. I was not a happy walker at this point, I just wanted to be where I needed to be. I could see the intersection a mile ahead where I was going to be taking a right. The pathway in which I was walking was terrible for me and my cart and I that turn could not come soon enough.
I finally was able to cross the street and make my way into the neighborhood in which I was going to be staying. I have to be honest, this neighborhood was not the greatest I had ever seen. I made a left at the first intersection because I was unsure which way the numbers were going. The more I walked into this neighborhood, the less I felt better about the situation. My mind began racing and I began thinking bad thoughts that I may be being set up to be robbed. I usually do not think this way because couch surfing has been such a wonderful experience for me. I soon noticed I was heading the wrong direction and turned around and was making my way in the right direction. The neighborhood was not as bad on this end but I was still cautious. I then received a text from the girls I was staying with that I should meet them around back, this did not sit well with me and I made the decision that if I get to their house and I see it is not something I am comfortable with I will call them and ask them to meet me out front. As I came up to the house, the nicest house in the neighborhood, I saw a “Welcome Fran” hanging from the banister. This sign put ease back into my heart. I could see time and effort put into this sign and it made me feel more comfortable with meeting my new hosts. I made my way around back and knocked on the door. My new hosts answered and welcomed me into their home. I was now fully relaxed meeting Jona, Sami, Liza, and Priscilla. They were cooking dinner and sitting around just talking so I jumped right into the mix. We hit it off right away and the nervous meeting became a laughter filled discussion. It felt right. They were telling me about their lives here at school and their college careers as the Utica College Girls Hockey team and I was telling them about my trip.
We enjoyed a wonderful spaghetti dinner and had a couple drinks before heading off to their whiffle ball league, which they invited me to play. I was wicked excited to be a part of this, I LOVE WHIFFLE BALL! They were happy to that I was willing to jump right in. I began explaining to them what couch surfing was to me and being a part of what your hosts do it part of it, and the part I love the most. It was such a good bonding experience to share something with someone that they are a part of. I had a blast playing, laughing, and meeting their friends. All their friends were telling me that they were a little nervous that the girls were bringing a stranger, a walker stranger at that, into their home. As we got to talking, me explaining couch surfing, their friends became more comfortable with me and understood why people would be part of such an idea.
Although we lost the whiffle ball game against the girls softball team, we all had a really fun time. We made our way back to their house and decided we would all clean up and go out to one of their favorite bars where their friends were playing live. We got in the car and made our way down the street to the Celtic Harp Pub, a nice bar with live music blaring and an outside patio to enjoy the weather. We were mingling around saying hello to everyone when I heard their friend singing whom they refer to as “Big Sexy” said, “Hey Sami, is that the walker?” and Sami replied “This is him!”. Needless to say I was called over to the stage area and Big Sexy made the announcement that I was walking across the country. I got a nice applause and a free drink which is always nice. I made my way back to my new friends and we mingled a little more before sitting down and enjoyed the music being played. Not too long after they decided to invite me up again and they started playing “The Proclaimers” and their famous song, “I’m on my way”. I had to join them and sang at the top of my lungs! After the set was done Big Sexy introduced me to the owner of the bar who gave me a really nice that I still wear today. What a fun night with my new group of friends! They really know how to show a visitor a good time, food, whiffleball, live music, and new friends, what a night.
Day 139 (Miles 2908 - 2930) Oneida to Utica