Why did I hike Scotland from the west coast to the east coast three years in a row? Why is a complicated question. Why is the character Samuel L. Jackson plays in Pulp Fiction. Why is the reason the Kepler spacecraft is looking for life on other planets. Why is the ultimate question. I think why trumps every other question. Let me illustrate:
Who: That guy over there.
What: He’s an asshole.
When: All the time.
Why: Well, that’s a good question, I think it’s because yadda, yadda, yadda.
Why does not always allow for a simple answer. And that is why (there it is again) I do not have a simple answer for my decision to walk across Scotland. I can fairly easily fill in the others.
Who: Well, me, duh. Thom Sandberg. I make things up for a living. If you really need more info, you can find it here at my company or at my new book or at mystery me or at my radical cooking site Like I said, I make things up for a living. If you really want to see a Compendium of stupid Ideas, visit this one.
What: I’ve participated in The Great Outdoor Challenge, celebrating its 40th year in 2019 three times. If you care to learn more about it, there is more information here at: The Great Outdoor Challenge In a nut shell (and I do know about nuts) it is a tramp across Scotland from the West coast to the East coast. Participants can leave from any of 13 villages on the west coast and plan their own route, finishing, between a specific section of the East coast. The TGOC accepts 300 hikers, I applied the first time in 2016 and somehow I got accepted. Perhaps I did stretch my credentials a tad by claiming to be a member of SEALs Team 6. I did see a movie about the SEALs so I figure that’s close enough.
When: The TGOC kick off on the second Friday every May and needs to be completed in 15 days. I plan on doing it in 12 days every year.
Where: On my first crossing, I left from a small village called Shiel Bridge and hiked to St. Cyrus.
How: Walking of course, 12 days, 12 – 20 miles a day, with a 20 – 25 pound rucksack (rucksack, blimey, just trying to ingratiate myself with the locals). That’s why I’ll be camping out, eating freeze-dried meals and hoping I don’t end up freezing at night. I spent most of November planning the route, which was vetted by TGOC and specifically Roger Smith, who offered great support. The rest of the time between then and now has been pulling together the right gear, getting into shape (sort of) and planning travel.
Why: Back again to the hard question. I am a guy who loves to travel and loves an adventure. I’ve worked on ships from Kuwait to Japan, Japan to New Zealand and from there through the Panama Canal to Europe. I’ve sold black market jeans in Tehran, packed fish in Italy, and sailed to the Antipodes Island, 400 miles off the coast of New Zealand, down in the roaring 40’s (all this with a Brit named Nick Boyd, who is tougher than granite). But Lord, most of that was back when I had hair.
Of late, adventure has been going to a new restaurant.
But in October 2015, I happen to see an article in the StarTribune (The only newspaper of Minneapolis) titled From sea to sea in Scotland, on foot in which a reporter, David Brown, near my age—whom I imagine to be equally handsome—wrote about his hike in TGOC.
It caught my eye and my imagination. And kicked in a rule I live by: Always say yes until you have to say no. So I signed up and worked like a fiend planning the trip. I’ve never met a fiend but I assume this is how they work.
Now you might think this Blog ought to be called Walking to St. Cyrus. And that would certainly be accurate.
But it wouldn’t be the full story.
As a close look at my hiking itinerary shows you I am really booking. While I consider myself a fast walker, it is more than that. Much more. I needed to be in Boston, Massachusetts by Friday, May 27, 2016, to watch my daughter graduate from Wellesley College.
Alta Lucia, 22, did graduate. From college. An adult. A grown up. Matriculated. Still my baby, but no longer my baby. Graduating and marching into a new phase of her life.
I’m marched to join her.
She is someone I never expected to have in my life. I grew up feral and the thought of having a child was anathema to me. I did not wish the burden of being a parent. It was not a responsibility I wanted to take on. I didn’t want to fail at something so important. When Martha and I married, she did so knowing I did not want to have children and I did so knowing she did. Well, obviously, she persevered, and thank God she did. Because easily, Alta Lucia, is the center of our life.
[As written in 2016:] So, all that said, I’m off to England on May 8 to stay a few says at Nick & Belinda Boyd’s estate in the west of England (on earlier visits, Nick has pointed out bits of his fence that are older then our country), gather strength and prepare to set out hiking on the 13th.
I’m as ready as I can be. Huh? You don’t believe me?