Wednesday, November 7th at 7:31am. From Orlando, I’ve just landed at Miami International Airport. It was a short flight, only about an hour. The type where flight crew is notified over the intercom to prepare for landing before the fasten seatbelt signs are ever turned off.
With everyone standing half crouched beneath the overhead compartments, waiting to flood the aisle, I look around and think to myself, “I wonder if I’m the only one here who’s walking back to Orlando? Probably.”
I ask a stewardess if I can take one of the fleece airplane blankets as I’m getting off the plane. It’s lightweight and I figure it might come in handy. She doesn’t seem to mind.
Before leaving the airport I remind myself to stop at baggage claim. Can’t forget my only piece of checked luggage. By the time I arrive, I can already see it making its way around the winding carousel. I grab it, sling it over my shoulder and head for the nearest exit.
Once outside I stop to gather my thoughts and look at Google Maps to get myself situated.
From preparation, to actually happening, my brain still hasn’t fully switched gears yet. The reality that I’m about to walk for twelve hours and that I have no clue where I’ll be sleeping tonight, hasn’t quite registered. “Is this it?” I think to myself. “I think this is it. I think I’m just supposed to start walking now. Okay. How do I get out of here?”
My first half mile of the day is spent walking in a circle. Getting out of the airport isn’t as straightforward as I’d hoped.
Still outside, I see a small old Spanish woman pushing baggage carts so I wave her down and ask for directions. She wouldn’t have been my first choice for help but there’s nobody else around.
With the cot balancing on my shoulder, a bright orange fanny pack suspended from my waist, a colorful bird taped to the front of my hat, and white socks pulled up tightly to the middle of my shins, I try to explain my situation but it’s no use. She takes a moment to form a scowl, then replies by making a swift hand gesture and shouting one word at me. “NO!”
The old woman doesn’t speak English but her disapproval for The Cot Walk is universal. She’s not impressed.
About 100 feet away I notice a cop car sitting idly. I approach slowly with my one free hand in the air to ensure I don’t become the next “Florida man” news story.
Having just returned from a hiking expedition in Mexico herself, officer Melissa is more receptive to my situation than the old Spanish woman and offers to drop me off outside of the airport.
I’m reluctant to start The Cot Walk with a car ride, but the alternative is to walk down the shoulder of the expressway. While not opposed to the idea, I prefer the guarantee of not being hit by a car and killed within the first hour of day one.
I throw the cot in the back of Melissa’s cruiser and hop in. As we’re driving I realize this is my first time being in the front seat. Yippy!
Melissa pulls over about one mile East of the airport, wishes me luck, and recommends that I not stop walking until I get out of downtown Miami. We take a quick picture and I get out.
The day is warming up and after walking for about five miles through the eclectic port neighborhoods scattered along Miami River I decide to take my first water break. Against the voice of officer Melissa on my free shoulder, I walk through the barely hanging door of an “authentic” downtown Miami convenience store. ABC FOODMARKET.
As I enter the windowless concrete bunker, the first thing I notice are the floors. They must’ve been washed out by a hurricane. Or they just never bothered. Whatever the case, I’m walking on dirt and there’s an old Indian man at the counter, standing behind a glass window. His face is completely expressionless and he shows no sign of acknowledgment. If it weren’t 100 degrees in the store, I’d swear he was a wax sculpture.
From the corner of my left eye, a random person pops their head out from a back room. It doesn’t look like an employee but I don’t know. They disappeared too quickly. Weird.
The stale air is getting pushed around by an oscillating fan mounted in the far corner of the store. As the fan ticks back and forth, It feels like something is always “about to happen” in here. I just need to get my water and get the fuck out.
I walk past the Indian man towards the cooler where I find the bottled water. I grab two and walk back to the counter. The Indian man is not wax. I knew it. He asks me for $2.00.
I hand over my debit card but stop the man before he can swipe, “Wait!” A sudden flash of Deja Vu reminds me of a similar scenario a couple years back when another questionable convenience store payment happened to coincide with a $500 Best Buy purchase on my bank statement the following week. Fuck that, fool me once.
I stuff my cash back into the secret pocket of my fluorescent orange fanny pack and quickly exit the store. Holding the door for the junky who’s following behind me a bit close.
Phew. I think I’ll hold off on more water for a while.
(Upon writing this, it turns out the owners of ABC FOODMARKET were charged in 2016 as part of a $13m food stamp fraud case.)
I proceed East, walk over the Venetian Causeway and reach South Beach by 1pm. It’s much hotter than I expected so I find a Walgreens where I’m blinded by their polished white floors before buying two more bottles of water from a sassy Spanish chick. I wonder what’s going on back at the convenience store…
Back outside I chug one bottle of water and pack the other into my Earth Pak dry bag.
Walking through the densely populated streets and sidewalks of Miami, the reality of what I’m doing still hasn’t really sunk in yet. I sit down around 2pm and eat my first Coconut Husk protein bar of the day. I can’t remember the last time I had one that was completely melted. Delicious.
About 15 miles into the day, my traps are throbbing from the metal frame of the cot bouncing around. I revert to carrying the cot across the front of my body with both arms. Like a bundle of firewood. Fuck.
As I approach Hollywood, I set my goal for a Starbucks located about one mile inland. As I close the last mile, the awkward weight of the cot is getting heavier and heavier. With my knuckles nearly dragging across the ground, I manage to arrive.
The patio is full of people and the majority of them are looking at me as I make my way inside. I drop my shit on the floor, plug my phone into an outlet, pull all of the protein bars out of my bag and dump them on the table where I finally take a seat.
Phew. Made it.
It’s a relief to sit down, but not for long. I was trying to ignore the fact that I still don’t know where I’m sleeping. But it’s 9 o’clock now and it’s looking like the beach is going to end up being my best option. I just walked 30 miles and I’ve been sitting down for an hour. Now I have to stand up and walk another three miles to the beach. Alrighty, well, no use dwelling. Better get going.
An hour and a half later and I’ve made it. I find a good spot in the sand, between the ocean and a condominium building that’s still being developed and setup my cot. I’m excited to test out my 8.5 ounce emergency sleeping bag.
I make a quick YouTube video to recap the day, take off my socks and shoes, crawl into my bivvy, and pull the drawstring shut on the hood.
I happen to catch a single shooting star streak across the sky before closing my eyes and falling asleep to the sound of waves breaking on the shoreline about 100 feet away.
Day 1. = Complete @ 33.64 miles