A Long Walk
March 18, 2013 7:26 AM   Subscribe

John Cline writes book reviews for The Los Angeles Review of Books, and has co-edited two anthologies on grindhouse cinema. Last May he was awarded his PhD in American Studies and like so many others in the humanities was unable to find a job in his field. So he decided to go for a walk. Inspired by his hometown poet and drawing on his longtime interest in American music and history, John decided to follow the path of The Great Migration up the Mississippi, recording and blogging his experience. This would not be a test of endurance, but an sociological/anthropological immersion, a document about the land, history and people of the Mississippi River valley. With some help from Kickstarter John arranged to walk from New Orleans to Memphis, to work river boats from Memphis to St Louis and finally to travel by train the last leg to Chicago. Having started on Ash Wednesday, he has already visited Angola Prison, encountered a down on his luck former Rodeo Star and discovered the joys of walking fifteen plus miles with a fifty pound pack on his back. Most importantly he is sharing what he has learned of our modern lifestyle and the nature of human kindness.
posted by bozeman's simplex (6 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
fifty pound pack on his back.

He might also discover the joys of ultralight backpacking. Hard to imagine why someone walking through civilized areas needs to haul 50 pounds, unless it's mostly audio/visual equipment for his project.
posted by stbalbach at 9:18 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Ultralight Backbacking suggestion kinda points out what makes the trip unique. The philosophy of the thing is rooted in "stepping off." The planning seems to have consisted of picking the start point, the end point and then considering every possibility. It seems to me that a "traditional" backpacking expedition that plans for the very real possibility of working on a river boat for a few weeks is a rare thing indeed. Furthermore, even though he's walking places that have historically supported this kind of venture (Highway 61), some for centuries (Natchez Trace), times have changed. No Tresspassing signs are ubiquitous, four lane highways enormously dangerous, and the agrarian landscape of 100 years ago has been whittled pretty thuroughly down, leaving him in circumstances that are a far cry from something like the Appalachian or Contental Divide trails.
I guess my interest stems from the fact that he's not operating at the extremes of anything, simply placing himself into circumstances that were once commonplace in this country, and yet have now become a foreign land.
posted by bozeman's simplex at 10:01 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

neat! It's crazy to see the work of someone I know up on the Blue. All the best to him, in any case.
posted by LMGM at 1:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just found out that my website got picked up here...that's pretty awesome! In response to stbalbach's question/comment, I'll try and post something on the site in the future describing the gear I'm carrying and why it was chosen for this particular trip. A lot of it is ultralight backpacking stuff, incidentally...
posted by Arterial America at 3:01 PM on March 18, 2013

Power to ya. That pic of the feet just made me shudder. Right now I have two blisters from wearing the wrong boots and hiking around. Two little blisters, and it's just misery. I can't imagine hobbling around on feet that beat up.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:29 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just spent an hour slogging through all the posts. Now I want those boots!
posted by zaelic at 7:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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