Like yesterday, I wake up on the beach. Only this time the sky is much more conflicted. “Meh, it should pass,” I think to myself as I lay on my cot.
I only brought two shirts with me for the entire walk. The tank top I wore on the plane and one extra shirt packed in my backpack. I’m feeling good and I’ve been wearing my tank top for two days now so I decide to pull the spare shirt out of my bag.
Wearing my fresh shirt, I change into a fresh pair of briefs and walk down to the edge of the ocean. Just far enough so the salt water can lick my blistered feet for a few minutes before trapping them in polyester for another day.
I take in a final deep breath of ocean air. Time to get moving. As I turn to walk back towards the cot, a wave explodes into the ground at exactly the right point. Soaking the front of my new shirt and fresh briefs. WTF?
Something tells me this is going to be a long day…
Back at the cot I wait for my feet to dry so I can put my socks and shoes on. That’s when it starts. A light drizzle at first and then a full blown downpour. I quickly stuff my shoes into my dry bag so they don’t get wet. Not that there’s much point now, but I take my shirt off and stuff that in my bag as well.
I’m in the middle of the beach, sitting on the edge of the cot with my feet dangling in the air, wearing nothing but a pair of briefs as rain pours down. Meanwhile, there’s sunny blue skies less than 50 yards on either side of me. Unbelievable.
Finally it stops raining but I don’t have a towel and I have to wait for my feet to air dry again before I can put my socks and shoes on. Not exactly the early start I had in mind for a 36 mile day. I finish getting ready, fold up the cot, heave it onto my shoulder, leave my shitty morning behind, and start walking.
Less than ten miles into the day and I hit a roadblock on A1A. Due to major construction, the road is completely closed off. The ‘detour’ is just instructing all traffic to turn around and go in the opposite direction. Great.
Turning around and “finding another way” will tack an extra five miles onto the morning. Completely throwing off my goal of making it to West Palm Beach by the end of the day. Fuck this. I have to get through.
The first construction worker dismisses The Cot Walk and adamantly insists that I’m not allowed through, “No exceptions pal.” Ugh. It’s that guy. I need a white hard hat. On construction sites, guys with white hard hards make shit happen. So I find one.
This guy is more understanding and appreciates my conundrum. He explains that he can’t give me permission to walk through the roadwork, but that he also won’t stop me if I do. Enough said. We give each other the gentleman’s nod of approval, turn away from each other, and begin walking in opposite directions. That’s more like it. Thanks guy in white hat. Onward!
The roadwork is major and goes on for several miles. The entire road is missing. Not the most productive walking conditions but it’s better than a five mile detour. Eventually I make it through to the other side and back onto a sidewalk.
By mid afternoon the sun is back in full force to start kicking my ass again. I collapse under a small patch of shade next to the sidewalk where I remove my shoes and socks to let them dry before setting my alarm for 20 minutes. I wake up with five minutes left on my alarm, apply some fresh tape over my blisters, put on a new pair of socks, lace up, and get back to it.
My checkpoint is the BurgerFi in Delray Beach. It’s seven miles north and I really need to start making better time if I want to reach West Palm Beach by tonight. But fuck, this sun!
It’s after 5pm by the time I drag myself into Delray Beach. I’m only a couple of blocks away from BurgerFi now and things are starting to look familiar for some reason. When I stop in front of a particular tiki bar that’s when I remember.
After my meeting with Whole Foods last summer in Fort Lauderdale, I pulled over at this random beach joint and took a celebratory tequila shot. Ha! Wow. Talk about full circle. The coincidence kind of weirds me out so I continue on to BurgerFi. I need food. Not tequila.
My burger is good but it’s hard to enjoy because my shirt is completely drenched in sweat and the ice in my cup is making me shiver. I’m sitting on the patio and it’s still 80 degrees outside but I’m freezing my ass off. What the hell?
It’s after 6pm by now and I’ve only walked 17 miles for the day. Not even halfway to West Palm Beach. Shit. Where did this day go? I’m tempted to just cut my losses, walk across the street to the beach and go to sleep. But I can’t let myself do that. I need to keep going. At least a little further.
Still shivering, I stand up, take one last gulp of ice water, leave the last of my fries behind and continue walking North. No real strategy, I’m just going to walk and see what happens.
Well eventually, what happens, is the sidewalk just kind of spontaneously disappears. It’s replaced with dense vegetation and forestry, forcing me to walk on a two lane road whose shoulder is about four inches wide on either side. It’s pitch dark by now and I have to step off the road, into the bushes and thickets, for each set of passing headlights. Where the fuck did the sidewalk go?
It’s getting late and I know at this hour the upcoming section of A1A won’t have many options for drinking water. So once I finally make my way off the suicide road I decide to cut inland where I’ll have better access to drinking water. I’m done with this scenic bullshit anyway. Just give me a regular sidewalk.
It’s Friday night and I don’t have to walk through Boynton Beach for very long before that sentiment changes. If ever there was a sore thumb, I was it.
Head down and eyes forward. Just keep walking. Is this really how The Cot Walk ends? Me getting robbed? What’s my plan if I get robbed? Hopefully they won’t take my shoes.
At 10pm I take a seat at a bus stop. I haven’t been robbed yet and I’ve managed to walk another seven miles since BurgerFi. I’m at 24 miles for the day. Physically and mentally I’m completely exhausted. I’ve been awake since 7 o’clock this morning, my whole body is throbbing and I don’t even want to look at my feet.
I should probably just call it a night and find somewhere to go to sleep, but I’m not on A1A anymore. The beach is a couple of miles out of the way. I really don’t feel like setting up my cot in these sketchy woods either but West Palm Beach is still another 12 miles North. Faack.
Hmm, maybe I should just take the bus this last 12 miles. What’s the big deal? I’m already at the bus stop. It’d be so easy. When the bus shows up, I just have to step aboard. Within 30 minutes I could be taking a hot shower!
Hmm, but if I do that, then where do I draw the line? It’s The Cot Walk. Not The Cot Walk, Bus, Train, Uber. I can’t do it. When the bus shows up and doesn’t even open the door for me, that’s the last indicator. I either have to sleep here, or walk.
Fuck it. Fuck the bus. Fuck sleeping in this sketchy forest. Fuck my blisters. Fuck my shoulders. I’m getting that shower. Let’s go.
So I stand up from the bus stop, throw that awkward heavy bastard of a cot over my shoulder, turn north and start walking. And I just keep walking. Full speed.
4 miles. “Ahhh, fuck this is awful!”
6 miles. “Ahh!” My feet are throbbing and my shoes feel like they’re going to explode.
8 miles. I know if I stop and take a break for even a second I won’t be able to start again. So I don’t stop for anything. When I do stop, it’s not going to be good. But I just don’t care. I’m committed. I’m going all the way.
10 miles. I’m so exhausted. I’ve got complete tunnel vision and I can’t see more than 10 feet of the sidewalk in front of me. When I lift my head up everything is just blurry streaks of light. I can hear Friday night sounds from the street – people shouting, cars honking, music playing – but I can’t tell what direction anything is coming from. Just random noises. I feel like Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
11 miles. “One more mile,” has never felt so far. And by now I’m walking through downtown West Palm Beach on Friday night so people on their way home from the bars are looking at this crazy bearded guy with a cot on his shoulder like, “What the fuck! Look at this guy go!”
12 miles. I’ve arrived. From that bus stop I walked full speed for another four hours straight and barged through the door of my buddy’s apartment at 2 am.
Day 3. = Complete @ 37.9 miles
You can watch it unfold in the three videos above. One when I was sitting at the bus stop at 10pm, another one when I was about 8 miles into the walk, and the third and final video at 2:10 am right after I made that push and got through the door of my friend’s apartment.
Then I sat down, took off my shoes and socks, and it was just bad. I’ve never experienced that kind of pain or sensation of pressure before. The full 36 miles of the day, compounded by the last 12, just flooded into my feet all at once. It was incredible.
It was completely ridiculous and I got my hot shower, but I couldn’t stand on my feet the next day. It was over. I didn’t see the point in waiting around in West Palm for a full day or two just to recover. I booked a Greyhound bus back to Orlando and that was it. The Cot Walk was over.
I actually fell asleep at my friend’s apartment while I was waiting for the bus. When I woke up, I only had 15 minutes to get to the bus stop. That was the worst. I could barely stand but I had to put those shoes back on and hobble like The Hunchback of Notre Dame down the street as fast as possible so I wouldn’t miss the bus. I made it.
The bus ride back to Orlando couldn’t have been more suitable. I was sound asleep until we stopped in Fort Pierce where we picked up three babies who cried the entire way back. How could I even be annoyed.