Long, Nighttime Walk Into Flint, MI: October 3, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
41 Miles in One Day to Stay on Schedule
To stay on schedule I had to walk 41 miles from just beyond Capac and into Flint. That was going to be a tall order.
I took pictures of Mary Rudowski by her totem pole and we set off to get back to Capac. My shoes were still damp from the rain the day before. Mary dropped me by Kettle Nut Road and waved me goodbye. It was just after 8 am.
I listened to the CD that Deb Manzella had put together for me back in Buffalo. I kept up a good pace and was in Imlay City by 10.30. There was little in the way of towns between Imlay City and Lapeer so Imlay City meant early lunch.
There is Such Thing as a Free Lunch
At the Silver Grille family restaurant I ordered liver and onions, with mash potatoes. It was good to have something different from eggs. As I sat eating my food a lady called Tina gave me money for hospice after seeing my sign. A family sitting next to me also gave me a donation. Unbeknown to me someone also paid for my lunch. By around 11 am I had eaten my food.
My Wife Okays Keeping On with the Walk
I then phoned home to Monica. The line was bad so she phoned me back. We talked for a long time. I was worried that she wanted me to come back home before December. The long and the short of it was that Monica told me to carry on walking for now. I talked to my son James, too.
At around mid-day I bought more batteries for my torch and set off for Lapeer. The day was overcast but there was no rain. By 5 pm I reached Lapeer and stopped at a McDonalds for a quick dinner. As I was leaving Tina--whom I had met this morning at breakfast--was outside in her car with her mother and children. They wished me luck and I headed off.
Hospice Folks Suggest A Shorter Walk and a Safe Night at a Hotel
A rottweiler was barking outside a house on the outskirts of Lapeer. I was skirting close to the road to avoid the dog when a van pulled in front of me. Two ladies climbed out and introduced themselves as Melanie Radabaugh and Sue from Avalon Hospice.
It was now almost 7 pm and I had around 20 miles to go to reach Flint.
Melanie suggested changing my reservation to the Davison Comfort Inn, as that was only about 10 miles away. I told her that I would try to reach Flint, but that it would be early in the morning when I arrived.
Melanie and Sue also told me that they wouldn't walk through Flint at night. They had me worried. I said to them: “It can't be as bad as downtown Detroit, can it?”
They looked doubtful.
Still I told them I would carry on to try to keep to the schedule. They wished me luck and drove off. As they drove off some rain began and I wondered if I had made the right decision.
A Long, Dark Walk
I pulled up my hood and made for Hayes Road. Hayes Road became Genesee Road and I hoped I was going the right way. I had maps that Mary Rudowski had cut from her phone book, but didn't want to get them wet in the rain. Fortunately, though, the rain stopped. By around 8 pm it began to get dark.
The edge of the road was nonexistent, so I walked through long wet grass and on rough gravel.
As cars came down the road I did my best to move as far away from them as I could. I had new batteries in my flashlight, but then the bulb blew. I could tell it was going to be one of those nights.
Luckily for me a full moon rose and I could just make out road signs in the moonlight. Between the glare of passing cars the night was peaceful. In the moonlight it felt good.
My Night’s Journey Would Have Ended Here, but No….
The night passed, as 9 pm became 10 pm. At around 10:15 I'd reached Davison and there was the Comfort Inn. If I had taken up Melanie's offer of changing the reservation my night would have been over. In a way I wished I had. After 30 miles of walking I was tired. Through the lights of Davison I walked on.
The journey from Davison on into Flint seemed to take forever. It was dark and I had slowed down. I checked the different maps that Mary had given me, using the lights from the few streetlamps that were at intersections.
Entering Flint, MI at 2AM
It was around 2 am as I made my way on to the streets covered by the last of the maps.
Passing through a residential area a dog began barking in a garden, the dog in the next garden began barking and so on for about 6 houses. I was glad when the houses gave way to industrial buildings and warehouses.
As I walked on a man began following me and I switched to the other side of the road. I was glad that he didn't cross over to follow me.
Lapeer Road went over an overpass and I had to make a turn on 5th Avenue. It was good. I was into Flint itself.
3Am and a Man Shuffles Toward Me, Speaking Unintelligibly
Now all I had to do was find Court Road and then Miller Road. I passed parked police cars by the police station and found Court Road.
A man shuffled towards me holding a white plastic bag. It was now 3 am. I nodded to the man and he nodded back. He had walked by perhaps 100 yards when he started shouting. I turned around, not knowing what would happen next.
I don't know if he was speaking a language other than English, or if he was drunk, or had a speech problem. I couldn't understand what he was shouting but knew he wanted me to come towards him.
So, there at 3 am in Flint, in the dark, what should I do? I walked towards him, wondering what would happen next. As I approached him he rummaged through the plastic bag and I wondered what he bring out from inside it.
What he brought out was a handful of quarters. He counted out $3 in quarters and handed them to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and thanked him. He didn't say anything, but raised his fist in a salute. I think he did have a problem with his speech. I nodded to him and we parted company.
A Night I Just Want to be Over
The turnoff for Miller Road appeared. I was glad to see it. Half way down Miller Road I spotted two dogs in one of the gardens.
From the look of them they may have been strays. In any case I decided to give them a wide berth. It was just as well. I'd crossed the road, but the two dogs came running at me. I stood my ground and they skittered to a stop, snarling. I kept my calm and kept walking. This was one night that I just wanted to be over.
At 3:45 am I saw the sign for Austins Parkway and the Comfort Inn. I breathed a sigh of relief. The outside doors of the motel were open, but the inside doors were locked.
Exhausted, I rattled the doors. Inside a woman appeared. I tried to get my head together to talk and muttered something about a reservation and hospice. The woman opened the door. It was good. They had cancelled the reservation, but she still had the details and booked me in to room 118. I thanked her and staggered off to the room.
It took me several minutes to find the right way to insert the card to open the door. I went inside and took off my pack. My shoulders, feet and legs ached. My shoulders felt like two knives had been stuck into them, as I took the pack off.
I lay down on the bed for about 10 minutes, not asleep, but not really awake, just trying to find the energy to get to the bathroom.
Eventually I managed to get up and cleaned my teeth. I crawled back to the bed and was asleep instantly.