If you are an early riser, I am already walking as you read this. At 6 a.m. today, I took the first step of a journey that will take me from Florence to Fountain Hills.
More precisely, I’m walking from the state prison to the fountain. Someone suggested it would be more consistent with my character to do it the other way around, but I’m not going to pay attention to that sort of talk. Each day, I’ll write a column about the people and/or things I encounter along the way. Since I am in no particular hurry, I figure it will take a couple of weeks to cover the distance of about 110 miles (as the columnist walks, which is to say it will be a meandering path).
Now when I first told friends about the idea, the most frequent reaction involved that person patiently waiting for the punch line, then finally breaking the silence by saying, “Now why are you doing that?’’
Maybe you are asking the same question.
Perhaps it is of value to mention first the reasons that don’t have anything to do with this walk.
I am not walking to rally support for any organized cause. I am not raising money for charity. I am not walking to protest anything. If I discover any great philosophical truths, they will be stumbled over rather than sought out.
I’ll be more Forrest Gump than Jack Kerouac. I have no idea who I will run into, what they will say or how many beer bottles I’ll have to dodge while walking down Hunt Highway.
So why am I walking from Florence to Fountain Hills?
The idea came from Tribune Executive Editor Jim Ripley. He thought it would be very interesting for me to get to know some of you on the street level, to hear your stories, to see what life is like as you go about your regular routines.
You could say he thought it would be “very interesting’’ in much the same way that Marlin Perkins thought it would be “very interesting’’ for Jim Fowler to jump into the river and wrestle the crocodile on those old episodes of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.”
Personally, I’ll shoot for ‘’moderately interesting.’’
My walk will take me from Florence to Queen Creek, Apache Junction, Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Tempe and Scottsdale before my journey ends in Fountain Hills. I intend to take the most populous route I can find. After, all, if you’ve seen one traffic jam on the 101, you’ve seen ‘em all.
Because I will be writing daily columns, you will be able to chart my progress in the Tribune daily. We’ll publish a map that shows the ground I’ve covered that day, too. And you can follow the complete journey on our Web site. I also will be writing diary entries each day, which will be published on my blog.
I intend to walk about 10 miles each day, but if something catches my eye that compels me to linger, I won’t sweat it. I am single, I have direct deposit and no pets or plants. So what’s time to me, right?
I will not accept any rides — I’ll walk the whole way. But I will accept an encouraging word or a bottled water should you see me walking down your road. And if you have a sofa that sleeps well, like Blanche DuBois in “A Street Car Named Desire’’ I am not above relying upon the “kindness of strangers.”
Who knows? Maybe I’ll wind up telling your story along the way.
So I’ll see you tomorrow.