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Seems I was meant to be walking

There have been times, during the two years and hundreds of miles walked far from home as part of this project, that I have wondered: What am I doing? Why am I shouldering a 45-pound pack, picking up my walking stick, and wandering off into the unknown? Plenty of answers to that, of course, but a big one came courtesy of a 20-ton farm machine just before I was to begin walking in Texas wind country.

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It was a quiet Monday in Groom, Texas, population 563, and I was only a quarter mile or so from the grain elevator where I planned to leave the rental car and begin walking across the prairie. The streets were empty, except for the big machine rolling down Business Route 40. A Terragator, I later learned it is called. Who knew? But there it was, steaming west on the real Old Route 66, so I idled at the stop sign to let it pass by. A contraption that weighs 13 tons, even when empty of its load of fertilizer for the fields, as the Terragator does, is an odd thing to see on a town street. Its dimensions make it seem out of place anywhere but above a big expanse of brown pasture, and even there. // It took me a moment to realize, then, what was happening, as that big front wheel began to swivel in my direction and the Terragator swung into a wide turn, the arc of its journey accelerating into my lane. You can swipe the photo above to see what that wheel – which measures nearly six feet tall – does when it hits the front of a Hyundai Accent. In the moment before impact, I'd had an internal conversation that ran something like: "Weird, looks like that big thing's turning this … whoa … whoa… coming right this … what the fuck!" I recall my hand grabbing the gear stick and throwing the car into reverse. I don't know if it got there, or if I slammed my foot on the gas, because just like that the Terragator was over the hood and only because of the angle of its impact am I able to sit here, hours later, and type this, uninjured. The weight of that big wheel popped the little Hyundai back a few feet, and soon the young farmer and I were standing on the side of the road, waiting for a state trooper to write the farmer's words on his report: "I just didn't see him." // Will, from A-1 Wrecker Service – "We don't want your arms and legs, just your tows!" – gave me a lift to the only motel in Groom. I told the woman behind the counter that tomorrow I would continue on to White Deer and Panhandle, a journey of nearly 50 miles. How will you get there without a car, she asked. "I'll just walk," I said. She tilted her head: "Oh?" #travel #writing #unh808

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