July 5th

Got in 20 miles today and I’m tented about five miles past Vandalia, Illinois.

This morning, walking in a particularly remote stretch of highway, I look up and there is a pretty young lady walking toward me, Hannah Russell from Bloomington, Illinois. She said she had parked her car on a side road just ahead of us and wanted to walk with me some. She is in her early twenties and just recently graduated from school where she studied photography. Around her neck was a pretty ancient 120 mm film type camera. Hannah said it was her favorite camera though. What a personality this young lady has, she was just so excited about life! She said she was going to visit friends in southern Illinois and that she was trying to make some decisions as to what path to take in her life right now. I said to her, “I have the perfect solution for you… hike the Appalachian Trail!” She said she had never thought about it, that she was going to check it out. Personally, I think every young person should do the “AT”. I know it certainly changed my life. I loved Hannah’s spirit, so adventurous. She started my day out brighter. We talked quite a while. We talked of one of my favorite subjects, individuality

In the Vandalia Mickey D’s tonight, the older lady waiting on me had seen me pull up with my cart and asked if I was famous. I said no but that one could look me up on the internet and I handed her a card. She asked several questions including, had I ever been featured in a major newspaper. I told her that I had been in USA Today before. She asked for two more cards for her friends. As I was receiving my order, she handed a card to a friend and said pretty loud, “Hey, this guy’s been on The Today Show!” I quickly said, “No, I have never been on The Today Show, you misunderstood me, I said USA Today newspaper.” The lady said okay but the one she told was now somewhere else in the restaurant. While I was eating I heard twice, “Yeah, he was on The Today Show!” One young lady came up and asked me how long ago I was on The Today Show and did I get to meet Al Roker. I explained to her I had never been on that program. As I was getting up to leave, two men about my age came up and asked for a card and one of them said, “Wow, you were on The Today Show huh?” Geez.

Walking past a house on Lake Vidalia where a huge party was going on, a man with a huge beer belly and a huge smile on his friendly face, walked across the road toward me with a can of Pepsi in one hand and a monstrous turkey leg in the other. “Here,” he said, “I seen ya coming down the road and figured you could use something to eat man. My names “Rat” Gates.” I thanked Mr. “Rat” Gates and went on down the road just a lovin’ life! I highly recommend y’all LOVE LIFE as well.