Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Steps from our goal at the Yorktown Victory Monument-June 5, 1987
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of finishing a 3,062 mile walk across the U.S. with my family. As Cathleen and I were driving down the Colonial Parkway that connects Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown together, we could see the gray sky above us against a backdrop of lush green trees. A light rain fell intermittently, and it was considerably cooler than it had been so many years ago.

We arose early on that final day 25 years ago. Through the eyes of a 13 year old, I was in disbelief that we were actually going to achieve our goal that seemed insurmountable just nine months before. Grandpa drove the four of us out one final time to Jones Mill Pond on the Colonial Parkway where we had left off the day before. Aaron and I could hardly contain our excitement! We laughed and tussled as brothers often do. The occasional sting of the tenacious May fly hardly bothered us because nothing was going to hinder us today. A couple of miles into our final day of walking, the trees to our left gave way to sandy shores of the Chesapeake Bay. I remember thinking, 'Why couldn't we just finish here!' But no, it had to be in Yorktown. 

My parents had chosen this location to finish our walk across America because of its historical significance. British General Charles Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown to General George Washington ending the American Revolutionary War in 1781. They could not have chosen a more beautiful and perfect location.

After a couple of miles, we were hiking away from the beach and back into the woods. The preview we had just experienced along the beach made us want to sprint the remaining distance. My heart pounded through my chest and anticipation mounted. As we walked past the Yorktown Battlefield and into historic Yorktown, the four of us stopped in front of a giant monument dedicated to the victory that ended the Revolutionary War. On that final walk day, the monument was symbolic of accomplishment and served to beckon us the last few hundred feet to our own victory.

As we approached the beach, my grandparents were waiting along with reporters and photographers. They were there to document this historic moment. Little did we know that the stories being written about the completion of our walk would soon catch the attention of the White House.

Yesterday morning, Cathleen, dropped me off a couple of miles shy of Yorktown Beach. This time, I had an umbrella in hand. The rain had stopped for good though. I used it as a walking stick. I paused on a bridge to look into the creek below. My eyes fell upon an ancient turtle that was easily two feet long and undoubtedly close to 100 years old. I smiled and took a couple of photos. I felt like a kid, exploring a world that is missed by the cars racing by as I slowed life down to a walk once again. I continued the remaining distance to the beach filming the road ahead and sharing my thoughts about taking the walk. I missed my family today and wish they could have been here with me. 

This time, Cathleen was waiting at the beach. She smiled while taking pictures and video as I sat on a bench, removing my shoes and socks like so many years ago. I slowly walked into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic, creating solo footprints on a freshly raked beach. I felt gratitude to God and my parents. I felt gratitude for the countless people that helped us along the way. After thanking God, Cathleen and I walked across the street for a savory lunch at the Yorktown Pub like we had done so many years before...
The Colonial Parkway
Along the the Parkway
A few more miles!
Starting place of the final day of walking. June 5, 1987

View of a giant turtle from the bridge above.

Yorktown Beach, Chesapeake Bay

Looking down the beach to the north.
Yorktown fishing pier.

Lunch time!

In a few days, Cathleen and I will drive to Tennessee and back into Virginia exploring the rest of the original walk route. More posts to come in the upcoming days when the rediscovery continues.

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