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March 20, 2005

American Walkabout...

MSG Keith Sends:

Thought the denizens might like this story (actually stories...). This was one of my guys in Bosnia. Pretty good journalist. Damn good kid. Rather than try to explain, I'll let the intro do that. I have about 6 updates from him. I won't send all of them unless you think it's something you're interested in running.

You will, I was, he has, and I'm going to run them as a Sunday Serial, so to speak. I'm beginning to get the hang of how the big bloggers do it - have a growing stable of people who provide pre-written comment! Takes the pressure off on a Sunday morning, lemme tell ya!

Now to let Guy tell his story.

Sgt. Choate, Chris de Klerk of Take A Hike, and Rory Hutson

I'm tired of explaining this already, so I'm going to cut and paste the press release the Army sent out on Me, Rory, and our trip...
Arkansas Army Reserve Soldier prepares to walk across America

Curiosity about American culture is propelling an Army Reserve Soldier from Beebe, Ark., to walk a coast-to-coast path across the United States beginning this month.

"Sometimes I wonder what people's lives are like in random places like Dundee, Kansas or Gibsonia, Pennsylvania," said Sgt. Guy D. Choate of the 343rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, North Little Rock, Ark., in providing one reason for his seemingly daunting trip. He also plans to promote the Army Reserve during the trip and will work with various Reserve units along his route to fulfill training requirements. [ed. note - gotta like that - dedication to service!]

Choate and childhood friend Rory Hutson will spend an estimated six months walking across the United States for what he calls an "American Walkabout."

Choate and Hutson, who met when their parents enrolled the 4-year-olds in the same daycare facility in Beebe, Ark., are planning to fly to Los Angeles on Feb. 5 and stay with a family member of Choate's for a few days while they make last-minute preparations for the walk.

The two 23-year-olds are taking two backpacks, two down sleeping bags, a tent, a small first-aid kit, two or three changes of clothes, a small cook stove, two cameras, two journals, two iPods, food and water.

Choate said they have a vague idea of their route.

"We know point A is Los Angeles and point B is New York City," Choate said, "and then we know there's about 3,500 miles or so in the middle."

Choate is a creative nonfiction writing major and journalism minor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, while Hutson is a film student at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Although they are looking forward to the trip, they also said they are looking forward to returning to school and being able to apply their road experiences to their academics. [ed. note: not to snark here, but isn't "creative nonfiction writing" what got Dan Rather in trouble? Just sayin'...]

The two will document their journey with video and digital cameras, but have no specific plans yet to produce a finished product.

Choate joined the Army Reserve in 1999 as a print/photojournalist and was deployed as a NATO peacekeeper to Bosnia in 2003 as a member of the 343rd.

Take a Hike, an outdoor outfitter in Little Rock; the Army Reserve and the Beebe News are sponsoring their trip.

My iPod says I've got 5.5 days worth of music loaded into it, but I've still got lots to go before I'm done. I've got a 12-page book review to write, left over from last semester when I begged for an extension. Now I'm wishing I would have just whipped something mediocre up and turned it in. It would be nice to relax in these last few days before I extract myself from ordinary life again. Instead, I've got a list of things I've got to get done before I can relax ("relax" rhymes with "tax," something else to do on my list). I'll be stressed right up until I get on that plane and the wheels come off the ground. I feel like my life is a plane about to take off. I'm running as fast as I can go down the runway right now, and then on Saturday, I'll pull my wheels off the ground and glide into this (give or take) six month journey I've arranged for myself.

It's an odd feeling when you walk away from someone, knowing you aren't going to see them again in a relatively long time. Places and things trigger the same reaction. As I was enjoying my government-contracted meal at Golden Corral yesterday, I was thinking, "This will be the last time I sit here, being not involved in my party's conversation and eating imitation crab meat for at least six months." Sadness washed over so much I think the lights in the dining room may have dimmed a bit. And then last night, I ate frog legs with my cousin Lee and his girlfriend Krystal at the Flying Fish. They drove all the way from Jonesboro just because they're going to miss my party. (Hands down, they win the cousin/cousin's girlfriend award of the week, unless of course Arant shows up with Wilbur from Dallas and maybe 20 bucks.) I'm not going to see them again for at least six months. Not that I'm too sure I see them that often now, but if I wanted to, I could. I know I won't see you all before I leave, but know that I wanted to. When I get back, we'll catch up. The world should do more catching up. Why do I only realize this when I'm saying goodbye, rather than sitting around playing XBOX? The mind boggles.

I'm going to try and send out sporadic updates via e-mail. Somehow your e-mail address has gotten added to my list. If you don't want to be on this list, just let me know and I'll take your name off. Until then, enjoy.

In case some of you didn't get the invitation, I'm having a small send-off party at my grandparents' place in Beebe at 7.00pm tomorrow. It's Hawaiian themed (since that's the only state we can't walk to), so dress accordingly. You don't have to come, but don't think you aren't invited. RSVP the party coordinator at lcnick@hotmail.com. (If you need directions, ask the PC when you RSVP.)

I look forward to your questions and comments. Peace.

Guy.

P.S. No buses or boats, no planes, no trains, no automobiles, no razor scooters or Vespas, no roller-skates, no skateboards, no hoverboards, no surf boards, no kayaks, canoes, no dune buggies, no go-carts, no golf carts, no bicycles, motorcycles, no thumbs sticking out like flags, no subway systems, no hot-air balloons or hang gliders, and great scott! no time machines. No big wheels, no power wheels, skis or snowboards. Just feet. Just walking. Just one foot in front of the other. Yeah, just a lot of that.

I admit it - I eny him his freedom to make this choice. I might not make the same choice at this point in my life, but I don't truly have the freedom to, either... as a result of earlier choics I made! Come back next week for part II!