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Notes on Remembering Distances Traveled

by David Miller Apr 5, 2010
David Miller recounts some of the different distances he’s traveled.

[Author’s note: all distances are approximate.]

From Mt. Katahdin, Maine to Front Royal, Virginia via the Appalachian Trail: 1,300 miles

I saw what happens to a hundred year-old bar when a television is plugged in for the first time. I learned how to think like a mouse. I got lost and ended up at a farm where they were harvesting cilantro. I went for 5 days without talking to anyone. I woke up one morning with my tarp crushed down to an inch above my face and a foot of snow on the other side of the plastic. I got a ride to town with a middle-aged rabbi who lived out of his car. I hiked with a bro whose mom had cancer.

I saw his face one night after he talked to her on the phone.

From Overflow Creek and the Chattooga and Tallulah Rivers to Athens, Georgia: 70 miles

I listened to a skinny raft guide describe his technique for guiding fat people down 7ft Falls as “hog-leg left.” I paddled by a 5,000 year-old fish-trap and saw a deer drinking from the river. I camped out with a girl by a shoals where we swam at night and then lay down by the fire. I eddied out above Singley’s Falls and told the first-timers “you just follow the water.” I cleaned an 80 foot drop and then pulled up to the bank and got out the safety-kit. I paddled Jawbone 100 times but was somewhere else on a day when someone finally went down.

I met up with all the kayakers before the funeral and heard someone call “safety?” and we all looked around for a second before one of us said “I think Tim would’ve wanted this to be safe, don’t you?”

From Cotopoxi to Montañita to Esmereldas, Ecuador: 1,500 km

I camped at 15,000 feet in a summer-weight bag and puked from altitude sickness. I sat on the shoulder at la punta and waited for scraps. I spent one night with nowhere to sleep because of an Argentine girl whose nickname was smurf. I took a bus across the country with no money left in my wallet. I saw what happens when a large city has a total economic collapse.

I got a ride in a 4 x 4 that made it around burning barricades.

From San Jose, Costa Rica to Punta ______, El Salvador: 700 km

I paddled out in a 20-foot swell and learned how long I could hold my breath. I met a Canadian girl who seemed totally “free with her body” and wasn’t afraid of anything. I asked a fisherman if it was OK to camp out on the beach nearby and he took me to a storage room full of drying corn and told me to stay there if I wanted.

I got a ride in a US Army Humvee driven by a soldier who wasn’t allowed to swim in the ocean.

From Marietta, Georgia to Huntington Beach, California, (via San Francisco and Gardnerville, Nevada): 2,800 miles

I wore goggles at 6:00 a.m. while setting up cones at a ski resort parking lot. I saw a meth-head drive his 4 x 4 over a Ford Fiesta in his back yard. I kissed a Costa Rican girl on the dance floor of a $5-all-you-can-drink “beach party” at Harrah’s Casino. I saw Kevin Nealon in the back of a ski shuttle wearing the kind of snowsuit that ppl. used to call a “fag bag.” I spent a few days homeless in San Francisco and shaved in a Safeway bathroom. I carried sheets of plywood with a crew of Mexicans in Los Angeles who called the jobsite “Chinga City.”

I went to the beach after a three day rain killed all the smog, and saw Santa Catalina Island for the first time.

From Baja California Sur to Michoacan, Mexico to Boulder, Colorado (via Marietta, Georgia): 4,200 miles

I hiked up into the Cerritos and smoked Pitaya flowers. I cooked beans and rice over a fire for an Argentine girl (who later became my wife). I helped an old woman carry firewood and when we got back to her house she gave me a papaya. I sang songs at a summer camp I’d been to since I was 4 years old, and knew that it was the last time. I crawled out of a concrete bowl in a skatepark after breaking my femur.

I sat in bed watching icicles form outside the window and started writing about it.

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