OAKDALE, MASS. - May 28 -- There are a few elements of this trip we didn't consider prior to our departure, like how difficult it would be to find a legal camping spot, and the fact that our bulky back packs would be such conversation starters.
After Nanci dropped us off a bit down the road so we could get off to a good start, Denny and I walked into Massachusetts, and into the town of Newburyport. The sun was shining, people were walking along the river, buying food and gifts from street vendors to celebrate the Memorial Day weekend. Denny and I took off our sweaty shoes and socks to relax and enjoy the festivities.
As we walked up and down the main street of the charming town, a family and their children stopped us to ask what was up with our big packs. Sometimes we choose to keep our mission low-key knowing it leads to a string of questions, but we were feeling chatty this day.
'We're walking across America,' Denny explained. Two minutes later, they forced us to order pizza, soft drinks, and potato chips on their tab.
'You really don't have to do this,' I exclaimed.
'Oh yes we do,' said Ann.
We joined their family, which included three children between the ages of five and ten, at a picnic table outside the cafe. The little ones and the adults asked questions about our journey as we continued to answer with our mouths full.
'I wish we could do something back for you,' I told them.
'You already have,' Ann said. 'Look at all the stories and knowledge you've given my children by just sitting here talking with them.'
That thought hadn't crossed my mind.
We waited outside a church in Newburyport for Amanda to pick us up. The teacher at Seacoast High - an alternative high school in Revere, Mass., had emailed earlier in the week to ask if we'd be interested in speaking to her students. We jumped at the opportunity, but were uncertain if navigating through Boston traffic on foot would be a wise idea. Amanda said she would meet us in Newburyport, give us a lift to her place in Somerville, and put us up for a couple nights.
A bed had never felt so comfortable, despite the fact I had to share it with another man. It was bigger than the tent by a few feet, and Denny and I have gotten used to keeping to our own sides, so I didn't even notice he was there. I slept 14 hours the first night. The next day we spent wandering around Harvard's campus in Cambridge. I got whooped in speed chess by an old-timer pro at Harvard square. It was an experience none-the-less.
The next day I was a bit nervous heading over to the high school. I wasn't sure how they'd react to us. We were told many of them rarely made it out of the Boston area and that Revere could be a bit of rough neighborhood, so I wasn't sure if our idea of travel and trusting everyone would go over so well.
We spent the entire day at Seacoast high, chatting with students, answering their questions that ranged from, 'Why are you doing this?' to 'Are you guys brothers?' We didn't hear the crickets chirp like we feared we might. The science teacher, Mr. Pappas, told tales of his days hitchhiking across the U.S. in 1969. He claimed he was the best hitchhiker in the world. After the stories he told, we believed him. When school was finished for the day, some students shook our hands and thanked us. One even asked if we'd be back tomorrow. I told him sorry, but we had to hit the road.