Pedestrian 27: Sun Song – 10 Cities, 30 Days
Announcing a 300+ mile continued walk by means of rail.
It’s time for another long, long walk!
On May 15th I’m starting a 30 day, 300+ mile walk that traverses 10 mid to large size cities across the eastern coast of the United States. Starting in Boston, I’ll head south and end in Miami on June 15th. Like always, I’m sending a daily newsletter. You can sign up here.
This walk is unlike any I’ve done before (not to mention much longer). I’m not walking all the way from Boston to Miami (that would take much longer than 30 days!) Instead, I’m spending three nights in each city, walking about 30 miles during my stay, and traveling by Amtrak to reach the next destination
Welcome to Pedestrian, a newsletter for people who like to walk. I’m Alex Wolfe. Thank you Greg for your generous contribution and allowing this newsletter to remain free. If you’d like to support this work, please consider becoming a member.
An extended stay gives more time to hang out and slowly watch a city unfold — something I’ve longed for since hopping around Des Moines, St. Louis, and Chicago last summer. While three days isn’t nearly enough time to get a comprehensive understanding of a city, it does allow extra space to dig in, have extended conversations with strangers, visit local businesses, and develop some semblance of place; all things that are limited when you must walk 20 miles before sundown in order to reach the next Airbnb.
I’m sharing this walk through a daily newsletter titled SUN SONG, which contains dispatches (or better yet, vignettes) and photos from the day’s travels. Each morning you will receive at least 300 words and a few photos in your inbox (although I tend to write longer and longer newsletters as the walk progresses). This newsletter runs from May 15th and ends around June 20th. I’ll delete the whole thing after that. You can sign up below:
Amtrak was ultimately the organizing principle of this journey and what gave me permission to book this entire trip (it helped when they started offering the USA Pass, which I swear was made for this walk). Yet, the existing infrastructure leaves much to be desired, especially when compared to the extensive passenger rail systems of Europe or Asia, for example, making it difficult to string together just any collection of cities.
Nonetheless, I did my very best to design a walk that would capture my attention and allow for transit times of five hours or less. Inevitably, that meant I was limited to booking stops in one direction. The Amtrak system makes it extremely difficult to get between certain cities, even if they are close, as there are a limited number of transfer stations. For example, a ride between Richmond and Raleigh – roughly 150 miles apart – takes anywhere between 10 to 14 hours by train (given that it’s running on time) opposed to 2.5 hours by car. Yes, that is frustrating, but I enjoyed the constraint even though I still managed to book a couple seven hour commutes.
Selected cities include:
1. Boston, MA
2. Providence, RI
3. Philadelphia, PA
4. Baltimore, MD
5. Washington, D.C.
6. Richmond, VA
7. Charleston, SC
8. Savannah, GA
9. Orlando, FL
10. Miami, FL
I couldn't think of any overarching theme which would define this handful of cities. I do know that I’ll be moving slowly southbound and towards the sun on the cusp of summer (hence sun song). I wont forget my sunglasses.
Geographically located on the East Coast, these cities are some of the oldest (relatively speaking) and most pedestrian friendly the United States has to offer. While I’ve visited half of them, I haven’t spent substantial time in any (I’m talking more than a day or two). Such unfamiliarity almost always invites good walking.
I`ve heard walks often described as performances and I enjoy thinking of this journey in the context of a tour – especially those of traveling musicians (instead of 30 walks, I’m completing 30 songs). It’s impossible to grasp the essence of a city while on the road. Especially in the context of a tour where you’re only staying for a night or two at most. Instead, a tour serves as a string of vignettes and the road (or rail in this case) is the thread which sews them all together. The scenery will change, but my process will remain the same.
I’ll miss the rigor of walking long distances and lugging 20lbs of belongings on my back just to sleep in a new bed for the evening (as I did during my Philadelphia and Long Island walks) and do it all again the next day. However, a walk of this nature asks me to slow down…which is its own kind of rigor. I’m filled with apprehension, but when I dig into these feelings, I recognize it’s an apprehension fueled by an uncertainty of the unknown. While I’ve done my best to provide structure and develop a general walking route for the days ahead, a walk is about relinquishing control and surrendering to the sites, sounds, thoughts, and infrastructure surrounding you.
Each time I embark on these journeys, I am reminded that such is the nature of this work: accepting that which you cannot control. I have 30 days and 30 walks waiting for me. There are just as many bumps ahead (although I try my very, very best to avoid them) as there are surprises. Not all walks of this trip will be enjoyable. A handful of days will be filled with boredom and frustrating train delays, yet without boredom and frustration, there isn’t space for those unexpected, inspiring walks which keep me doing this work.
So please, come join me as I ramble towards the sun. Let's see what the road has to offer.
See you out there,
SUPPORT THIS NEWSLETTER
Do you enjoy reading this newsletter? Feel excited about upcoming projects? Please consider supporting this work by signing up for the Pedestrian Patreon. For $5/month you’ll get access to my long, long walk newsletter archive, digital copies of Pedestrian Magazine 1–5, and occasional supporters only updates.
If recurring subscriptions aren’t your thing, you can still send a few bucks to my Venmo (@wolfealexandert).
Don't have the funds, but still want to support? I get it. Why not share this sign up link with all your friends? Thanks :) Your support means the world.
As always, this is Pedestrian, a newsletter telling stories about the people, routines, and connections we make as a result of moving throughout one’s everyday surroundings.