Now that our Puppy Up events have winded down for the season, I’m up in CT helping out a friend with her food truck and it’s been quite an experience so far.
I’ve cooked for farmer’s markets, festivals, and for hundreds of families and friends I’ve stayed with throughout our journey but the food truck thing is a whole nother level. 
I’ll be sharing my culinary adventures, how and why YBD became CBD, and what’s next in 2016 at www.chefbigdog.com   

Today is Murphy’s birthday.  
This photo was taken on our walk from Austin to Boston in McEwen  TN.  We pitched a tent the night before on the grounds of a local church and upon remarking to the pastor about the Bradford pear trees full in fall colors, he recommended stopping at a local farm completely encircled by them just east on Hwy 70.  
It was a magical moment that day perfectly captured in time.  
For whatever cruel twist of fate the Gods graced us with we made it the 2,300 miles to Boston but within only a few weeks of walking the final mile from the Rose Garden at Back Bay Fens to Boston Common, Murphy was diagnosed with nasal adenocarcinoma.
The tumor inside his head must have been growing for many months as evidenced by the CT scan nearby.  
Murphy went down hard and what he did for this cause will never be forgotten. #RememberMurphy #MurphySmiles

I can’t recall
a love without fear

Nor a journey
without tears

So don’t embark
unless you’re clear

On all the costs
across the years

Because love etern
bears a price that burns

A flame forever
astem. astern

I often joke that after Malcolm died I sold my truck and put my stuff into storage but it wasn’t just a soundbyte.  Nothing I do or say ever is.

But after almost a decade, tucked away on the I-35 corridor in a 10×10 closet, it was time for a reckoning. That’s an interesting word.  Reckoning.

Its origin can be found in old English which gave rise to such concepts of calculation and conclusion.

2014 is the 10 year anniversary since Malcolm was first diagnosed.  How many miles, how many years have I walked since then?  How many people have we touched and inspired?  How many lifelong friendships have we forged?

It’s incalculable.  Just like love.

Another true joke is that in short order, in 2004 my dog got cancer, my girlfriend left me and she took the truck.  The pathetic irony is well, I’m from Texas.  But that year I was all alone I watched a movie Love Actually.

You see, I’m the last person to watch romantic comedies or really anything to do with Hugh Grant but it spoke to me about the messiness of life and love and how little I knew about it all.  But I’ve watched it every year since and today is no different.

Happy XMAS.  Love actually.

——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  There was a reckoning tho – I cleaned out my storage locker most of which ended up in a landfill, the rest I’ve given away to friends and family.  I am unencumbered.  Except by love. 

Three weeks away from Vancouver launch, the final countdown begins and I can’t help but think of our first Easter on our first walk which was spent at Granger Lake outside of Taylor TX with a haunted bridge and two 12 year old psychic detectives. 
——–
Easter 2008.  Granger Park
The following excerpt is from a blog a wrote recounting that day…

“There is truth to the saying that a fire warms the soul of a traveler and Easter night, we were fortunate enough to find a site at Taylor Park and have our first campfire. It’s a small but pleasant place where we met some endearing characters including a pair of twelve year old paranormal detectives, Alice and Bella.

Hudson and Murphy took to them instantly and we joined them for some sightseeing. One of the most curious sights was Hoxie Bridge, cranky, completely out of place, and yet reputedly haunted by the headless ghost of a murdered convict who helped build it. 
Hudson peed on it.”
——–
I’ve Seen This Movie Before
Later that Easter Day after our spooky adventures, I made preparations for the following morning then sank into a long, lazy mid afternoon slumber.  My repose was abruptly interrupted however by a flurry of activity: vehicles slowly driving around the campground, searching eyes, whisperings, and accusatory glares. 
It was all a bit unnerving so I sought out the mother of Alice and Bella and asked about all the hubbub.  “Oh”, she remarked, “One of the families can’t find their eight…..” I could already hear the alarm bells clanging around in Yer Big Dog’s head, “…. year old son”.  
“Damn”, I shook my head, “I’ve seen this movie before and the drifter is always the first guy to get blamed.”
——–
The Journey Continues
With three weeks til launch I find myself filled with excitement with a small side of nerves for the upcoming walk.  But it feels good to take a few and reflect on the stories from the first that made our adventures warm and rich.  
Happy Easter…
——–
Yer Big Dog’s Notes 1:  They found the boy asleep under a tree not long after the search ensued and boy, was I relieved.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  Never found out what became of Alice and Bella but they should be 18 now and hopefully on their path to becoming psychic detectives…

YBD’s Notes 3:  As part of our final preparations, we’re tightening up phraseology and branding henceforth I’m doing away with ‘Walk 2’ and ‘West Coast Walk’ as we feel it just doesn’t convey the importance of this undertaking.  We’re going with ‘The Journey Continues’…. And so it does.  

Is a curious thing.
It forgives and forgets

It punishes and at times,
Demands pay

Whether footsteps towards
Or footsteps away

No certainty
Not on any day

Those that step
Must accept

There are no manmade laws
Just the awe

Of living on The Road

——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.  This poem was inspired by the Irish saying, ‘May the road rise to meet you.”.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  Bollocks.  

YBD’s Notes 3: The Road represents the path in life you take.  May YOU rise to meet The Road.    


Malvern AR.  July 2008

Walking through so many southern states, it wasn’t always easy keeping hyperfocused on a singular mission of cancer especially since conditions in some places for animal welfare were deplorable and others, down and outright medieval.  

I tried as best I could but there were a few encounters intolerable and I had to stand up even though it put my mission at risk.  

The first was in Jacksonville TX a few months earlier than Malvern.  We were scheduled to stay at the home of a kind elderly couple as we walked through the area and after the first day, I noticed a beautiful brindle pitbull in the backyard of a neighbors house chained to a fence and that her water bowl was upturned.   

I made note of it and the following day, it remained still and unfilled.  There’s no mathematical basis for measuring the generosity of a host family against a clear and present injustice.  It wasn’t my neighbor, it wasn’t my town, and it wasn’t my cause.  

——–

And Yet…

I assuaged our host family that my intention was to just inform the neighbors that their dog needed water since they shot down my original idea of just filling the bowl with water myself.  Texans take trespassing seriously so I understood their objection.  

After knocking on the neighbor’s door a few times, a big burly man at least 1.5 times my size in height and girth answered with a mean ass, menacing look.  

“YEAH?”  

“Excuse me, sir.  I’m staying with some friends next door and I couldn’t help notice that your dog in the backyard hasn’t had water in the past 24 hours and it’s pretty hot outside…”.  

“IT’S MY SON’S DOG”, he continued in a gruff, ‘seen-too-many-steven seagal movies-voice’.  

“And yet, the dog still needs water.”

“LOOK HERE, THIS IS MY PROPERTY AND OUR DOG AND IT’S NO DAMN BUSINESS OF YOURS.”

At this point, his chest was bowed out and he was spoiling for a fight and I tried my best to keep circumspect, though my great growl was growing.  “Look man, I no more want to be on your porch than you want me here.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Just give your dog water and I’ll be gone.  But I won’t until you do.”

Like a Warner Bros cartoon I could see steam venting from his ears (and hear the sound a train whistle). I thought I was gonna get cold cocked but instead he slammed the door in my face and I watched as he filled the water bowl.  

——–

The Evil that People Do

Maybe that set the stage for Malvern.  By the time we were just west of Little Rock, temperatures were running as high as solar flares it seemed and I walked most of the Delta to Memphis by myself.  

I remember the day perfectly.  As I was walking on east Hwy 67, I heard crying and yelping on my left.  There was a overgrown, condemned looking house, yellow in color I think, about 100 yards off the highway and I fought back the pokeweed, briar brush and Mimosa tree branches to get to it.  And what I found still breaks my heart.  

A momma pitbull chained outside and a litter of pittie puppies on the inside begging to be with each other.  You can see the momma’s paws on the window sill in the picture top left so I’ll spare you the visual descriptive.  No one should be haunted by an image such as that.  

I couldn’t do anything at the time for them.  It was just me and my backpack so I bade them goodbye with a promise that I would return and rescue them.  And I did the very next day.  As soon as I was picked up by Melissa, our transport to our next host family, I said to her, “We have a stop to make first.” 

——–

The Evil That Good Undo

I was such a naif back then, unworldly caught up unintentionally and unexpectedly in the deep and dark underworld of dogfighting.  I’d never heard of terms like ‘bait dogs’ until that day when Melissa and I pulled them out of that nightmare just as a group of men came out of a nearby trailer to stop us.  

We tore outta there with all of the pitpups in a cardboard box and momma in my lap and I think my middle finger found its way out the window though I may be glorifying it a bit.  

Miles later, Melissa explained to me that we weren’t rescuing dogs in distress – we were stealing them.  Dogs bought and sold like slave trade for the sole purpose of fighting for entertainment.  I had a lot of questions but they weren’t going to be answered that day. Maybe they still haven’t been.  

How can one steal a life trying to protect it?  How can one even claim ownership to a life?  

In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, ‘To do a great right, do a little wrong.’

I’m nothing of a Shakespearean quote but I could not let a great wrong go unrighted.  


——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  Part 2 of A Tale of Two Towns Coming up – Malvern PA.  Spending time at Hope Veterinary Specialists this weekend.  Or Sweaty Tom’s pits.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  All of the pitbull puppies we rescued that day found homes.  

YBD’s Notes 3:  Thanks Melissa
As I spoke about in a previous vignette about how if we weren’t tested that first two weeks on walk 1, it’s doubtful we would’ve made it.  That may seem counter-intuitive to some.  

You see most people will look for any reason to fail at things and they have a whole litany of excuses to justify it.  

A few, however, search for that one way, any way, to succeed.  It may take months.  Or years to find it but they do.  

——–

We were trekking the Rails-Trails to DC in 2009 and I met a man who stopped us for a conversation for the ‘who, when, why, and what about the walk’.  I answered as honestly as I could about our mission and our cause and his hapless almost helpless response was, ‘You know, I’d love to do something like that.  But I have a family and a job and responsibilities.’

I suppressed the great growl within and merely responded, ‘What makes you think that I don’t?’  

——–

I’ve met many people on our travels that would’ve, should’ve, and could’ve embarked on a grand adventure, traversed the AT, or climbed K2, and though I’m no scholar on the matter, my best guess is that why they didn’t or why they did and failed can be reduced down to one simple phrase.  

——–

Colin Fletcher, the Godfather of modern backpacking wrote that within two weeks of an adventure, you’d know if you were going to succeed or fail.  I read his books before the launch of Walk 1 and they were only academic to me at the time.  

But in our lonely tent along the TX highways, I learned what he meant.  There was one night I asked myself what the hell was I doing there and why.  I was beat down and in a bad way because I began to see for the first time not the finish line but the thousands of miles til then. 

A few sponsors had bailed, we’d been battered by unrelenting storms, setbacks, and other challenges, too.  

——–

There’s a moment at which faith crosses the threshold of self doubt and uncertainty and the only thing you need to decide is whether you have the will to continue.  There is no Glory without the Grind.  

——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  No longer will I chapterize Book 2, The Ripple.  As I plan and prepare for WALK 2, the past and present story will unfold as it’s meant to, unscripted and non-linear.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  One should never give up on the aspiring to inspire in all walks of life. 

From Dictionary.com

ab·la·tion  [a-bley-shuhn]  noun

1. the removal, especially of organs, abnormal growths, or harmful substances, from the body by mechanical means, as by surgery.

2.the reduction in volume of glacial ice, snow, or névé by the combined processes of melting, evaporation, and calving. Compare alimentation

3. Aerospace. erosion of the protective outer surface (ablator)  of a spacecraft or missile due to the aerodynamic heating caused by travel at hypersonic speed during reentry through the atmosphere.

——–

Years ago, my ex HJ – Murphy’s Mum, and I were playing water volleyball in Lake Travis when I cut the hell outta the bottom of my foot – slashed open by a sliver of glass.  

Like some bad sci-fi feature, planter’s warts infested and infiltrated that wound, and grew weirdly into a cauliflower type colony that became crippling to the point that I could barely wear sandals.

I went to see a podiatrist in San Antonio and the news was not good.

Two treatments were available.  I chose the harsher but surer. Chemical ablation.  It took weeks and weeks to burn it down during which was a pain so severe. 

——–

Surprisingly, I only had two foot problems on the first walk: A corn that blistered up occasionally.  And a left phalange that when quashed down by the weight of my pack lost a toenail times two.   

——–

YBD’s Notes 1:  Still don’t know what the hell a corn is but it’ll travel with me on Walk 2.

YBD’s Notes 2:  It was an amateur’s mistake.  I carried so much weight on the first walk that my toes grew by a half inch.  My 11.5 became a 12.  

YBD’s Notes 3: There’s no shelter for love.  There are some things that just don’t burn down and love is one of them.  




In the first week of launching the Austin to Boston walk in 2008, the whole weight of universal forces bore down on us like the wrath; a swift and unforgiving maelstrom that tested our mettle absolutely.  
——–
First there was the crippling weight of my pack because I didn’t want to be caught on the road without some essential tool, doo-dad, device or sundry to assuage the uncertain world I had just thrown myself into.  
Though I made a pact with God to get me and my boys to Boston safely didn’t mean I didn’t have a backup plan. Or two.  
Hudson and Murphy’s safety was of paramount concern to me and I packed for it. Shit, I carried enough medical supplies to run triage in a war zone.  I had a secondary leash that could counter as a tourniquet, micro flasks of iodine and isopropyl alcohol, and gauze pads of all sizes and shapes.   
A NOAA radio, batteries of all flavors, my clunky Dell laptop, and a seven iron to ground against lightening strikes and guard us from gophers, golfers, or god knows what.  
I barely made it five miles the first two days and even though I was in supreme physical condition, the weight of my pack almost became walk ending.  My lower back was already badly damaged from a work injury and later a car wreck and the sheer act of lifting my overloaded 5500 cc Osprey tweaked it even further. 
——–
And then the skies unleashed their fury.
Scientists say that of all of the senses, smell has the longest memory.  For example, you’ll never forget the acrid, stinging stench of a skunk.  That’s true, but I’ll never forget two sounds.  
One of which is the shrilling of my NOAA radio warning followed by the voice of the Atari Man, the nom de plume I assigned to that analog version of a linesman casting weather forecasts like a Pong match.  
Tornado warning. Wind speeds up to 50 mph.  Freezing hail.  Flash flooding.   Seek shelter.  
And indeed, Atari Man called it right.  Lightening storms and unrelenting rain opened up all around us and it got so bad that we abandoned our $20 Walmart tent off the northbound side of 973 for the underbelly of a nearby bridge.  
Clearly, this wasn’t the way I planned it.  
And that was just for starters.  
Fire ants, crazy sponsors, a lost bag, forgotten antibiotics, bad burritos, and a mad cow man followed in that first week. 
——–
YBD’s Notes 1:  I have a good friend going through a tough patch and in her words, she’s in ‘Protection Mode’.  

There are some things in life for which there is no shelter and if it wasn’t for the proverbial kitchen sink being thrown at us the first week of our walk, we would have never made it.  

I remember with perfect clarity in the tent with my boys what made the difference.  

YBD’s Notes 2: Early on, I had to understand which weight to shoulder and which to shrug.  That wisdom carries forth to our second walk.  

YBD’s Notes 3:  Very few things are worse than being in a bad bad storm when your dogs gotta poop.