Friday, September 05, 2008

Dash in Dodge City

Our good friend Dash Alsup was recently in the Dodge Globe in Dodge City, KS:

Earlier this year, Dashiel Alsup decided to step away from everyday life for a while.

The 19-year-old man from Coaldale, Colo., decided he was getting bogged down in his daily routine and needed a change. He later decided that the best way to do that was to embark on a cross-country tour of the United States — on foot.

"It's the kind of thing where you can think about it for years and not do it," he said. "I just was at a point where I just had to say, 'Yes, I'm going to do it, that's all it's going to take,' and get myself out the door."

Alsup has been on the road since early May, and his journey brought him to Dodge City on Thursday. He planned to spend the night in this area, then take off again today.

Alsup's journey began in late April, when he took an Amtrak train from Colorado to Tacoma, Wash., where he has relatives. His journey officially began May 2 in Ocean Shores, Wash., about 100 miles from Tacoma, and he hopes to reach Florida by late November or early December.

He spent the first two weeks of his trip walking across Washington state before crossing into Oregon, and he has since passed through Idaho, corners of Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. He took a three-week break when he reached Coaldale — partly to relax before hitting the road again, and partly because his best friend was getting married.

He said it was a relief to get back to his hometown for a short time.

"I was to the point where I was feeling pretty drained, both physically and emotionally," he said. "Just to get home and be able to rest up — right away, I felt like everything was back to normal."

Alsup has been on foot for nearly the entire time, except for the rare occasions when bad weather forces him to accept a ride from someone. When that happens, he retraces that portion of his route on foot the next day if possible.

He said he is traveling barefoot as much as possible — partly to make the trip more interesting, and partly to avoid wearing out several pairs of shoes. He estimated that he walked barefoot about 60 percent of the time.

He pitches his small tent at night wherever he decides to sleep, and he carries Ramen noodles and granola bars for snacks in his backpack. He supplements those items with muffins, other easy-to-eat foods and occasional restaurant meals.

About once a week, he visits a library or an Internet cafe to update his blog,, which mixes a journal of his travels with philosophical reflections.

But Alsup is doing more than just breaking away from his everyday life. He's also promoting Soles4Souls, a charity that donates shoes to needy people around the world.

Alsup said he chose Soles4Soules as his charity because it was based entirely on helping people who need shoes.

"It's such a simple thing, shoes, but it's a great help," he said.

He said he originally considered raising money for the charity but decided to promote it instead.

Alsup has traveled about 1,900 miles so far, and he expects to cover between 3,500 and 3,600 miles by the time he arrives in Florida. He chose Florida in part because he wanted to cross the United States diagonally, and partly because he wanted to avoid harsh winter weather.

"Part of it is because I started late spring-ish, so it's going to be winter by the time I end it," he said. "If I stayed north, I would have been going through Chicago and stuff, and that didn't sound very good."

He had not yet decided where he will end his travels in Florida.

Alsup said he was enjoying his trek across the United States, but he acknowledged that sometimes he feels discouraged and lonely. But that's when the romance of the road comes to his rescue.

"That definitely keeps me going," he said. "When I feel really down and lonely, I say, 'Wait a minute. I'm going to walk across America. I'm going to meet people, and I'm doing that. And this is the start of the rest of my life.'"

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