Each photo has its own story. I will share stories of events and incidents, which happened that made me break down in tears; the kindness of strangers is NOT an urban myth. I will try and explain what was going through my head at any given time; the pain, the joy, the fear, the expectation, the exhaustion, the beauty of what I saw of small town America and, more importantly, the beauty and kindness of Americans as I walked 35 miles a day. I hope you enjoy sharing in the most amazing experience of my life and one that I hope to experience again before my old bones give up.
This was the 2015 route, from Provincetown, MA to Huntington Beach, CA and everything in between. Likely to be the same route for the next one.
The night before I left home to travel to the USA, my kids, who were 11 and 8 respectively, hid letters in my luggage, which I didn't find for a few days. As I'm sure you can imagine, I bawled my eyes out when I found them and read them and have kept them ever since.
I always wondered; no, worried, if my kids were proud of what I was doing? I used to think about that a lot. I suppose I wanted to do something amazing, so that they would be inspired and go onto to do amazing things themselves one day and then I realised that they didn't have to; they were amazing just as they were.
One of my training days in Scotland. 26 miles around the Loch and back at the start...7ish hours later. This is the eastern side of Loch Rannoch, looking along its length to the west. It really is a remarkable place.
Once back home in Scotland, I set about training with the stroller around my local area of Loch Rannoch; an absolutely stunning part of Scotland and with a 26-mile, single track road around the Loch, made it a perfect training venue, prior to heading out the the States. I loaded my stroller with approx. 50kg of kit and trained around Loch Rannoch as often as I could. The flagpoles were bamboo poles (that you might use to straighten a tall plant). When I got to America, I bought tent poles and used them instead as they were easier to disassemble and were a little more robust.
The stroller I used was a Dog Stroller; the ones that you can hitch onto a bike and tow your dog along in. I made the decision to not carry a bergan or a backpack as I didn't want to cause myself back problems and, because I was doing it solo and unsupported, I needed to be more self sufficient over a longer period of time. My handle bars and "cockpit" were set up by Escape Route Bike specialists in Pitlochry, Scotland, who also supplied the "puncture resistant" tyres and tubes.
The pannier bags were made by an Afghan tailor in Ghazni, made to the specifications of the stroller and with the usual craftsmanship that Afghan tailors are renowned for. They allowed me to carry additional kit and made it easier to access when I was walking. They took an absolute hammering and never let me down; unlike my stroller and "puncture resistant" tyres.
One of the t-shirts I got knocked up for the Walk
Another t-shirt that I wore during the Walk.
Walking downhill (for once) into Thomaston, CT with former US Marine, Shawn Kennedy and a local Police escort. Shawn had contacted me via my Walk's Facebook page and asked "where you stayin' when you get here?". When I told him that I wasn't planning to stop in Thomaston and only pass through, he told me that there were a "few" people waiting for me and that I could crash in his trailer in his drive - one of the best decisions I made on that Walk.
I was met at Boston Logan International Airport by my old mate, Jason, who had worked in the S2 (Intelligence) Shop on one of the FOB's, I was working from. He had left Afghanistan before me and was working in Boston and had invited me to stay in his apartment for a couple of nights before I made my way to Cape Cod to start my walk. This is the sign that he was holding up as I walked out of Arrivals... Jason's is a 2nd Amendment-loving Texan and, at the time, was living and working in Boston...disaster...he hated it.
And this photo was just after I had set sail to Provincetown, Cape Code. My stroller was strapped in the bike rack at the stern (you can just see my handle bars over my left shoulder). Even on the water, the heat was like an oven but I loved it and it was during this amazing sailing across Cape Cod Bay, that it all hit home; I was now on my own; no family, no Jason...no one...everything was down to me to organise now, to fix, to make happen and although that scared me a little...it felt exhilarating.
I arrived at Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA and I got checked into the campground to spend the night before my walk started. I was given a map to find my plot. It took me longer to find my plot than it did to walk from the Pier to the Campground. I walked around that fucking Campground looking for a Numbered Plot for over an hour; I found every other fucking number, other than the one I was looking for and I found myself becoming angry with myself that if I couldn't find a site plot, with a Map, how the fuck would I be able to find my way across America? I kid you not, at that very point, I started to seriously wonder what the fuck I was doing.
This is Dave Finch, the owner of Dunes Edge Campground. Dave refused to take payment from me and sent me on my way with food and Gatorade, when I left the next morning. Dave was one of the first people I got in touch with nearly a year before my walk started. His hospitality and generosity was truly humbling. A huge thanks to this genuinely nice man. This photo was taken as I walked into Provincetown, for a "couple" of beers, that evening.
The night before I started my Walk...after a "couple" of beers. It must have been about 11pm that night, when I walked past Mooncusser Tattoo Studio, Provincetown, MA and just like that, I walked inside and asked if they could do a tattoo for me? I had been wanting to get this particular tattoo done for a long time and for some crazy fucking reason, on the eve of the biggest challenge of my life, I chose that fucking night to get it done. Alcohol...the catalyst for so many ass-hat ideas. And that's when I met Bryce and Sumee from Mooncusser Tattoo. Bryce had just flown in from L.A. and agreed to do my tattoo for me that night. Sumee worked at Mooncusser. They were both extremely cool and didn't mention a thing about the fact that I was three sheets to the wind.
I originally wanted it on my inner forearm - Bryce persuaded me it would look better on my lower leg and he was absolutely bang on. So, I've got my new tattoo, I'm drunk, it's about 1am in the morning and I've still got to walk back to the Campground for a 6am start in the morning, that would see me step off on a 3,600 mile walk, that I had been planning for a year. This was NOT the type of "last-night-before-I-start", night I had planned...but hey...go big or go home, right?
My first rest/cigarette/pick up provisions stop was here at Days Market, a few miles south of Provincetown, MA. This was after about 3 hours of walking, so about 9am. I was aiming to walk at about 3 mph (just under 5 kmh) and loosely figured, I'd hit Brewster, MA in about 10 hours.
Before I had left the UK, The Poppy Appeal had kindly donated about 50 of these Crosses of Remembrance. My intention was to place a cross at every and any War Cemetery or War Memorial that I would walk past. I knew, through research, that most small towns in America had some sort of War Memorial but I did NOT know just how many there would be and I was staggered at the sheer amount of War Cemeteries and Memorials that I did walk past. By the time I ended up going home, I didn't have any left. This was the very first of the Remembrance Crosses I placed on my Walk. I was walking over an over-pass on Route 6, on the Cape, and I came across this memorial to Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos, USMC. I didn't know Nicholas but it didn't matter that I didn't know him; he deserved a Cross and he deserved my attention, my thanks and my respect. I used a small plastic-tie to secure it to the fence, just to the right of his surname. It was also the first time I had come across a Gold Star Family, which I would get to understand extremely well as my Walk continued.
This is Mike and his son Chris, from Andover, MA, who walked towards me on Rte 6 and asked "...are you Neil Davis?..." I was gobsmacked. They found my FB page and donated to the Wounded Warrior Project. They then walked me down to the Cape Cod Trail and bought me two bottles of beautifully cold Gatorade.
Pleasant Lake General Store, was one of the many little stores and cafe's that service the Cape Cod Trail and without them that day, I think I would have struggled more than I did. Stopped for coffee and provisions and then a woman, Jean, from Stoke-on-Trent, who'd been living there for 30 years stuffed a few dollars into my sweaty hand, to help me along. People are goooooood...
I eventually made it to Shady Knoll Campground in Brewster that evening. On my first day, I had walked 34 miles. I was so tired but not sore, no blisters, no hotspots on my feet; in fact, I felt fucking great. The next morning, I was approached by these very cool kids from Outland, who were biking and camping around the Cape and when I explained what I was doing, they demanded a selfie. Just so happened to be my 49th Birthday to...
This was after 18 miles of walking and I was hanging out...the heat and the humidity were relentless and this was the only shade I could find. At about 9am that morning and every morning after that, the temperature was up in the high 20C; by lunchtime it was plus 30C and with no shade on Route 6, the heat and the humidity were kicking my balls constantly. After walking 3 hours, I was already getting people honking their horns and waving at me, although it was probably more to do with how fucking ridiculous I looked than it was with what I was doing...
As I walked through Sandwich, MA, just over half-way to my destination for that day, I parked my stroller under a tree, to get some shade, and lay on the grass, cigarette protruding from my mouth, when two Sandwich PD cops came over (Glen and Greg) to see if I was okay. They were really nice guys who used their local knowledge to give me some better direction on where I was going.
With Tom, the owner of the Lamb & Lion Inn, just after we had breakfast and I was about to start walking on Route 6A again for Day 3. Route 6A is just over my left shoulder. Tom turned up again, later that day, to hand me water, Gatorade and more muffins.
Just before I got back onto Route 6A; I think I was just entering Yarmouth. I was walking along a beautiful tree lined country road that gave me some much needed respite from the sun. As I was looking along the road, in the near distance, I could see something on the sidewalk. As I got closer to it and eventually reached it; the photo below is what I found. A very kind lady called Jeri Housely, had stopped in her car to speak to me earlier that day and as she drove off and I just assumed that was the end of it. Jeri hadn't told me she was going to do it nor had she asked me if I needed water; she just took it upon herself to do it. Once again, I was learning more and more about the kindness of strangers.
The Canal Service Road was long and straight and I could see along it for miles; that fucking Bridge never got closer but once I got on it and started to cross it, I stopped and waited as this monster glided through the Canal towards me (the Cape Cod Railway Bridge is in the far distance). It was a simple yet perfect moment and one of many "perfectly simple" moments that I was lucky to experience during this Walk.
I arrived at Bourne Scenic Park around 5pm and was met by Kristin and her boyfriend, Ryan. They guided me to one of the parks's rustic log cabins (no camping for me) and then went out and got me pizza, fries and a bbq chicken sub...carbs carbs carbs. They refused to take any payment from me and, once I got settled in, I sat outside the cabin that night, into the wee small hours, contemplating the day's events and wondering what compels people to help strangers. I sat in the dark until about midnight that night, with nothing but a little campfire for light and had a couple of drams of the Dalmore Whiskey, letting my mind wander again. Kristin and Ryan gave me my space, not bothering me, knowing that perhaps I just wanted to be on my own; I really appreciated that from them.
When I eventually arrived at Bourne Scenic Park, this is what greeted me inside the Park's Information Board. The last sentence of this message hammered home just how much faith people had in me to complete this mammoth Walk and the guilt of not being successful has never left me. I didn't know that at the time but it did really bring home to me, how many people were actually behind me.
Final few miles before rolling into Thomaston, CT with my ever present guardian angels, watching my six.
This photo was taken by a lovely lady called Maria Firmo Driscoll, who stopped and assured me I had only one more hill to climb before I reached Thomaston, CT.
Still with Shawn Kennedy, walking into Thomaston, CT. Shawn is an Iraq War veteran (USMC) and fought during the Battle of Fallujah, which still haunts him to this day. Shawn has battled with PTSD for a long time and we talked about stuff for a while. I had never met this man before in my life and within 5 minutes, it was as if we had known each other for years. This former Marine was humble, gracious, hospitable, kind and his sole purpose in life was the protection of his young family, who I had the honor of meeting and having dinner with that night.
So I get to the top of this hill (from the left) and Shawn steps out of the patrol car and joins me for that last mile or so, into Thomaston. "There are a few people waiting for you" he said... When I got to the town Green, there were hundreds of people waiting...hundreds. I was being applauded, cheered, patted on the back and I was completely blown away...it took a monumental effort to not break down, right then and there. I ended up staying, with Shawn and his family, for 2 days and he gave me a tour of this beautiful little town and introduced me to as many of the town residents as possible. Thomaston, CT and the people there, will always have a special place in my heart...as will Shawn Kennedy (USMC).
As I walked into Thomaston, CT with Shawn, I was approached by Scott Lyndon, who spoke to me and asked me to carry this photo of his son (Mitch)...and whenever I felt like giving up, to look at his son and read the back...and remember why I was doing what I was doing...it brought me to tears. The Lyndon's have a story...
Just some of the amazing people of Thomaston, CT who came up to speak to me...the kids were so cool. A young boy told me a story of his relative who was a bomber pilot in WW2 and was KIA...it almost broke me...
With Bethany Brague's beautiful daughter, Abigayle at the Village Green, Thomaston, CT.
With Jenn Stykowski's amazing kids at the Village Green, Thomaston, CT.
With the Thomaston Police Explorers and The Boy Scouts of America, on the Village Green, Thomaston, CT. The Police Explorers Programme is for boys and girls between 14 to 20 years of age and helps to strengthen ties between the community and the Police. The positive interaction between Explorers and Law Enforcement Officers helps young adults see LEO's as fellow human beings and allows greater opportunities to build positive relationships between Law Enforcement and the local community; it's a great programme and these kids were outstanding.
The Thomaston Fire Department sign that was waiting for me outside the Fire House.
The volunteers and townsfolk who make up the Thomaston Fire Department. With Shawn Kennedy (USMC)
The Thomaston Fire Department sign that was waiting for me outside the Fire House.
At the American Legion in Thomaston, CT. They wouldn't let me buy a drink all day/night...I love these people.
At the American Legion, Thomaston, CT
At the American Legion, Thomaston, CT. These two guys were nuts...
A news article in a local newspaper...
The Veterans Memorial, Thomaston, CT. I always tried to pay my respects to the fallen, at every village, town or city I walked through. For a small American town, Thomaston, CT has paid a heavy price over the decades, which exemplifies the very heart and soul of the town. Such sacrifice is hard to comprehend.
Setting off from Thomaston, CT after my day/night at the American Legion. It was a beautiful, warm, still morning, and I had a raging hangover...but it was worth it and I knew that in about 10 miles...the hangover would be gone and the other pains would kick in.
I was seen off by John-Paul Oldham, who got up ridiculously early, just to say goodbye...that was Thomaston people through and through.
Another Thomaston, CT resident who braved the fog to get up early and say goodbye. What a town...
As I walked out of Thomaston, CT, I realised that I had made friends for life in that Town. It was the kinda town that if you needed something, someone would help...nothing was too big or too much trouble...no one judged anyone else...this was community at it's finest...at it's most beautiful. I love this town to this day...it will forever be etched into my heart...along with this guy...USMC Veteran, Shawn Kennedy...one of the bravest and most humble guys I have ever met in my life... Semper Fidelis my brother....
This porch had caught my eye as I was rolling past it. The couple called me over and that's how I met Sharon and Bob. Bob was USMC and a Vietnam Veteran and I sat on that porch for over an hour, drinking ice tea and listening to Bob recount stories. Bob struck me as the kinda guy who'd give you his last dollar if you needed it but would also kick your ass...if you needed it. I love guys like that. The legend that is Bob (USMC).
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Glanovsky, walking through Farmington, CT on route to Thomaston, CT...one of the very few flat parts of that days route. 6A continued to mesmerise me, as I walked along it; the "Old Man's" Route 6 was filled with simple yet amazing sights; stupid things like a white picket fence or an old wooden porch on a house, adorned with patriotic and military flags, the shockingly high number of Gold or Black Stars above a house entrance, small, family run General Stores, where everyone knew each other. That road epitomised exactly what I was looking for, what I was subconsciously seeking out; small town America, somewhere where I could just "be"...no worries, no problems...it was the closest thing to absolute freedom that I think I have ever found.
I stopped whenever I felt like it; dispensing with any plan of regularly planned stops. I just stopped if something made me stop. I was starting to appreciate just how beautiful America was and I wanted to soak it up...absorb it in my memory. I could have taken thousands of photographs, and perhaps I should have but there was just something that told me not to; to just enjoy the moment for no other reason than to enjoy the moment...for me. I was starting to let myself go a little...I was starting to throw myself at America and scream: "...Gimmee all you got..."
Carmel, NY on Rte 6 with Eel Pond in the background.
The guys at Fat Boys Pizza in Johnstone, RI. They gave me free Pizza and more to-go AND they sent a message to other Fat Boy Pizza chains, on my route and THEY gave me free Pizza...carbs baby...carbs. I was burning over 6000 calories a day and the weight I lost, in the right places, was phenomenal as was the muscle I put on, again, in the right places. The kindness of strangers folks...the kindness of strangers.
Another US Marine...just jumped out his car and ran over to say thank you...things like this, blew me away.
The Fundraiser Flyer...put together by the amazing Annette Atkinson
Another TV interview...
Davis for President????
Two amazing ladies....who helped me out in ways that, to this day, I still cannot get my head around. If it wasn't for them and what they did for me, my Walk would not have been even half as successful as it was.
This is Grandfather and Grandson...both came to help out with the catering for the fundraiser...but the bond between these two generations was something special...what an absolute gentleman the grandson was...and after speaking to his grandfather, it was clear where he got it from. Just good people.
Unfortunately, I forget this gentleman's names but he came and picked me up the next day and took me to another fundraiser in East Stroudsburg for fallen emergency responders. Such a nice man...told me many things about PTSD that I didn't know...told me so many stories....
I had been interviewed by this very cool guy a few days previously but he turned up because he wanted to be there.. Introduced by the wonderful Annette Atkinson.
...not sure what I was talking about here...doesn't look good though.
Hector "The Protector" Cintron...
Because I was inverted...
It may not look like it but this was one of those very emotional conversations. About 2 minutes before this was taken, there had been many hugs, thank you's and tears. This couple had a story...
The couple on the left were English and had been living in the Poconos for years...it was strange to hear English voices....
These next three photos all epitomise the love I received during my Walk...This wonderful women just walked up to me crying and, apart from my children, gave me one of the most heartfelt, genuine and much needed hugs, I've ever had. She had a story...I choose not to tell it...but it was very emotional for the both of us.
...and there it is...
I had so many personal and emotional conversations with so many people. I met them as strangers and left them as friends...
Giving thanks to God, was something (as a Brit) that I had never really done formally or publicly...I had experienced such shows of faith during my 6 years in Afghanistan with US soldiers, before going out on Ops and I had always felt like an outsider because I didn't believe my faith was legit enough to make it public...I had lived an ungodly life and had dished out violence like M&M's...and yet...in this moment...in this photograph...it felt normal...I felt normal...it was the strangest feeling.
Immediately after this conversation, I was handed a hand written "short story" from the lady on the left (Claudette Williams), which described her constant battle with PTSD. It was very powerful, dark and honest and I was completely lost for words that she would share something like that with me...after knowing me for about 15 minutes. The shared experiences of veterans is surely a powerful thing.
...Annette Atkinson...the amazing lady who made it all happen...what a woman.
At the fundraiser in the Poconos, PA. This gentleman owned a catering company in the Poconos and he donated all the food for the event. I had quite a heartfelt and emotional conversation with this gentleman afterwards...such a nice man...wore his heart on his sleeve...I really respected that about him...
Speaking in front of a fundraiser full of strangers seemed daunting...but I've gotta say...they didn't stay strangers for long and I found it surprisingly easy to open up to all of them.
...and this amazing lady (Meghan Rice) was the lady who took it upon herself to organise all my accommodation, for just about for the entire duration of my walk...her determination, powers of persuasion and network of people that she knew, was the difference between me sleeping in a tent or in a 4-star hotel. She was also responsible for the many Police escorts that I received...she sent two police officers to come and "ambush" me when I was in a laundromat in Port Jervis, NY...and, later, as I lay on a gurney in the ER of an East Stroudsburg hospital; two cops crashed into my cubicle, and with ear-to-ear smiles, announced "...Meghan sent us...what d'you need?" The perks of coming from a large NYPD family....it was very cool.
Trying my best to NOT speak Glaswegian...
Very cool kids, responsible for some of the signs coming up next...
These next few photos are of some pictures that these kids made for me and had put up on some telegraph poles between Newtown and Danbury, CT. I could see these flyers from a distance, but didn't know they were for my benefit. As I walked past each of them and read them, I couldn't quite believe that people would take the time to do this - it was a very emotional moment for me and I don't mind admitting that it all got a bit smokey in the room. The kids were out waiting for me as I trundled past and I just had to stop and thank them. When Newtown PD handed me over to Danbury PD, I asked Felicia and Matt (Newton PD) if they could go back up to the house and ask the family if I could have them? The next morning, when I came down to the lobby of the Hotel I was staying in, they were waiting for me 🙂 Thank you Felicia and Matt and thank you to those wonderful families. I still have the flyers to this day. Newtown PD even paid for them to be posted back to Scotland for me, so that they wouldn't get damaged in my stroller.
As I walked past this flyer, I had police escorts (forward and rear) and the front patrol car threw on it's sirens and sped forward to stop the traffic (just to the left) to allow me to cross the road. It was a very surreal moment for me(one of many that I had) and as I crossed the road, I looked at all the drivers faces behind their windshields, silently mouthing "sorry"...they waved, smiled, gave me thumbs up, blew kisses and honked their horns in support...in that 30 seconds from reading that flyer, to the police having my back and the reaction of folks going to work, it was one of the most emotional 30 seconds of my Walk.
The first of many signs like this along my route...it definitely got a bit misty under my Oakleys...must've been the dust....
On my way to the Connecticut/New York State Line, with my guardian angel (John) from Danbury PD, who stayed with me, watching my back, all the way from Danbury, CT to the State Line. I'd just pulled over for a drink and a cigarette and we stood talking for a while before I got on my way again.
John from Danbury PD in Connecticut, literally stayed with me through western Connecticut...driving as slow as I walked and watching my back...always.
Another water break on my way to the Connecticut/New York State Line. I really enjoyed speaking to John. He was the easiest guy in the world to speak to.
The Police escorts I had would radio the next town or the next District or the next State, that I was on my way and they would literally hand me over to the next set of patrol cars; someone always had my back and I've never quite been able to show all these men and women, just what that meant to me. This is me being handed over by John to New York State.
Just about to cross over into New York State from Connecticut. In every State I walked through, New York State drivers were THE worst by far. There were so many occasions where I was almost wiped out by some dick in a Prius.
Rolling into Danbury, CT with John (Danbury PD) looking after me.
As I was waiting outside George's Galley Diner, in Danielson, CT a girl called Ally came out and bought me a sandwich. Ally was/is also a disabled Veteran and has her own demons and yet, it didn't stop her from focusing on my problems and helping me out.
At Sorels Garage, in Brooklyn, CT, after a my front wheel frame snapped in two. This is James Sorel, who came in, on his day off, and he took my rig into the garage and welded it together...with no charge! He got me on my way again, within an hour of it snapping.
As I was waiting for my stroller to be welded. Someone called a guy from the Connecticut Chapter of The Patriot Guard Riders of America and they sent down an amazing guy, Kevin Whately, who just comes down to thank me for what I'm doing and hands me some PGR coins and badges. Kevin gave me his mobile number with explicit instructions to call him if I needed anything as I walked through Connecticut and he would either come himself or send down some bikers from the Chapter. The guys from the Patriot Guard Riders of America, are the real deal. I met more of them as I continued my walk; real badass guys with hearts of gold and a Patriotism, the likes of which I had never seen before or since.
Once my stroller was fixed, Floyd drove me back to where I broke down in Danielson (always had to start from where I stopped) and I got on my way back to Brooklyn and on towards Manchester, CT. As I was walking through Brooklyn, Floyd and his Dad, John, were walking towards me and they both walked with me a little way. It was during this short walk that I learned so much about Floyd's life. What this guy had been through; his fight with PTSD...what it had cost him...what he had lost because of it...what he had been through...really made me feel like a fraud. This was a guy that talked to me about suicide in THE most open and pragmatic way, as if he was talking about buying shoes and it made me open up to him; something I hadn't really done up to that point. Floyd recited stories of his frustrations with the Veterans Association (VA) and the ineptitude of some of the "help" he was offered. Floyd chose his own path...he chose his own way to deal with his stuff and as I write this, over 6 years later, he's still banging away...he's still fighting his own fight...his way. I fucking love Floyd.
This is Maddie Costas who came to pick me up after a horrendous day of punctures, and her partner, Ron Volts (retired Master Sgt, 82nd Airborne). Their hospitality and friendship was sealed over a bottle of Dalmore Whiskey. Ron Volts was and is, a legend of a man and it was an honour to have a drink with him.
Shared with Ron Volts (retired Master Sgt, 82nd Airborne). It didn't stay full for long...
Try sorting your admin out after downing a bottle of Whiskey with a battle hardened 82nd Airborne Master Sergeant... ...this is the result...
Ali pulled over just after the CT/NY State Line...and came running over for a photo...I loved it when people did things like this...it made my day.
Masons Market, New Hampton, NY. Stopped here for lunch. It's beautiful...great food, rustic, great staff. I wanted to sit outside all day.
The view from Bear Mountain Bridge, NY over the famous Hudson River. Just stunning...
Came across this plaque as I was tip-toeing across the military training area at West Point, NY. Not quite sure if I should have been doing that...but it was Sunday and no-one was training and the road I was walking on just kinda went in that direction.
The guy with me is author Joe Hurley who walked across America and wrote a book called "10 Million Steps" which was one of the books I used to research my own attempt...really nice, quiet man...only speaks when he has something worthwhile to say...I like that in a walking companion.
The amazing people of Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT... They all had a story...
At the top of the hill...with these very special and amazing people of Newtown-Sandy Hook, CT
Was an absolute honor to shake those peoples hands...they had been through so much a few years before.
Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT. The Law Enforcement Officers are Matt and Felicia from Newton, CT, Police Department. Matt is an Iraq War Veteran and Felicia is a K-9 Dog Handler and the photo is of the moment that she presented me with her dog's Dog Tags (a great honour) and it really blew me away. The dog was called St Michael (the Patron Saint of Police Officers and Military Personnel)...nice touch huh?
With Felicia, Matt and Joe Hurley in Sandy Hook/Newtown, CT.
Felicia introducing me to K9 Officer, St Michael...
Meeting Newtown PD Officer, Matt, himself an Iraq War veteran...
These people were just amazing...
Matt and Felicia from the Newtown, CT Police Department. They escorted me all the way through and out of town, in their Patrol Car, Blues and Twos on, all the way to my Hotel (another one that I didn't pay for).
I know it doesn't look like much, but that hill behind me had gone on for miles. By this point my stroller was in excess of 60kg; most of it water or gatorade that people kept on giving me...I literally couldn't drink it fast enough.
Hills and trucks...not a good combination...
The human mind works in all sorts of inexplicable ways. It chooses what you wanna think about and I found myself thinking about things in an entirely different perspective than I had before. I allowed my mind to wander from subject to subject, as it saw fit. I would ponder my own questions and answer them in my head and, as my Walk continued, it wasn't uncommon for me to be walking and talking, as if I was having a conversation with an invisible "special friend".
I questioned my own morality; the things I had done, the physical and emotional hurt I had caused people, the lives I had taken both personally and as a direct result of decisions I had made, that, consequently set off a series of events somewhere, far away, that would end with someone - a stranger, ceasing to exist. I constantly self-assessed; was I good person? Was I a good Husband? Was I good Father? It was an experience as cathartic as it was brutal.
I was deliberately NOT looking up as I walked up this monster...but as I did, I seen some folks outside a restaurant over the other side of the road. Little did I know that two of these people who walked over and took these photographs, would still be friends of mine as I currently write this, five years later.
Almost at the top...
At the top...and trying to smile
Karen and Brooks, who ambushed me and gave me a rest as I walked up this hill. I'm extremely happy to say that we remain friends to this day.
Explaining to Karen and Brooks, just how happy I was that they stopped me halfway up this monster hill.
Still gobbing off with Karen and Brooks...I was delaying the inevitable.
Now they're telling me; "...it's only a little ways up there..."
With Karen and the rest of the hill behind me.
I'm only holding my stroller so it wouldn't start rolling back down the hill.
I thought about God, which surprised me. I spoke to Him but not in a Religious way; more in a "...right you fucker...time to talk and don't give me any of your shite..." way. I would ask Him if he thought I was a good person? And I would fabricate His answer for my own salvation. I like to think He heard me but I'm sure He was shaking his head in disappointment.
Out of shot, are two police black and whites...stopping traffic for me...I loved when they done that.
Carmel, NY on Rte 6. Taken by a passing motorist with Eel Pond in the background.
Another TV interview in The Poconos, PA.
Some of the patches and coins I received from Military and Law Enforcement, who gave me patches, coins and incredible support: * Newtown, Connecticut Police Department * Connecticut State Police * East Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department * Thomaston, Connecticut, Fire Department * Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders of America * Thomaston, Connecticut, Police Department * 508th Parachute Infantry Bn (Task Force FURY) * 2-3 Brigade Special Troops Bn (The TITANS) * US Air Force Academy * 1st Bn, 25th Marines, USMC * Connecticut Air National Guard * Stroud Lodge 75, Fraternal Order of Police, Monroe County, PA * Connecticut Fallen Firefighters * Terryville Fire Department, CT * The American Legion
The truth is, so many other people had walked across America before me, so it wasn't something that no one had EVER done before and that's what calmed me down. As the days continued, this feeling of stupidity, self-consciousness and surreality, didn't last and was replaced by a feeling of determination, acceptance, anger (at the PTSD situation), pride, motivation and after a few days, I grew to fucking love walking along these roads, with my flags fluttering in the breeze...I cannot accurately explain how much I loved the solitude, the aloneness and the sheer weight of what I was doing that settled itself on my shoulders; that weight acted as a constant reminder of the suffering and tragedy that PTSD brings, which made me stronger, more determined and, more importantly, after about 3 days of walking, I knew...I just KNEW that what I was doing was right...it just felt right and every day that passed, my Walk became my calling...my quest. I know that sounds a little bit altruistic and conceited but that's how it felt; that's how I felt.
These Port Jervis PD officers ambushed me in the laundromat this evening. As I was putting my laundry in the dryer, I heard this very stern command from behind me - "...Mr Davis...step away from the dryer and show me your hands...do it now..." I turned around to see two laughing police officers. Got a police escort out of town in the morning over into Pennsylvania. Thanks guys...this was very cool. This was something else that Meghan Rice (from the Fundraiser) arranged for me.
Punctures and stroller frame issues, were a constant challenge for me from start to finish. I don't think I had one day where I either didn't have a puncture or my frame didn't buckle, bend or snap and without the kindness of strangers, friends and local businesses along the way, I would have been screwed six ways till Sunday.
The great thing about the stroller, was that I could strip it all down to get it over fences and gates - like the Training Area gates at Westpoint...!!!
This photo is of Don and Nancy Doucette; they were one of the many families that used to travel over State Lines and simply do a drive-by of me, to see if I needed anything. Don is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Branch of the US Route 6 Tourist Association. The photo was taken at The Ramada Hotel, Seekonk, MA, when they came to have dinner with me. Don was like a guardian angel for me...driving up and down Rte 6...in his sky blue, vintage Impala...checking I was okay...just appearing out of some random side street...with a wave and some helpful advice about what lay ahead of me; hills, traffic, a Dunkin' Donuts...those kinda things.
This photo is of Don Doucette, Nancy Marroco, the Sales Manager of The Ramada Hotel and Laura McNamara, the Executive Director of the East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce, who came down to meet me at the Hotel and who linked up with other organisations in the area, including the Press, to promote what I was doing. As a result, I was given a night's free accommodation and all meals...free...just amazing kindness and generosity.
Don Doucette, Laura McNamara and Nancy Marocco (Hotel Manager)at the Ramada Inn
I "think" this is outside the Ramada Hotel, just before I set off. But it might be the Marriott Hotel, Danbury, CT. I can't find any written description of it. Nor can I remember who this beautiful lady is, which annoys me. I set off early that morning as I wanted to get through Providence before rush hour hit. I felt great; energised, confident, happy even and it seemed as if I had been walking for my entire life; everything felt normal, natural, as if this was what I was meant to be doing.
I was starting to get tired as I approached Killingly, CT and still had nowhere booked to stay for that night. As I pulled into an old abandoned motel on Route 6A, there was a guy sitting on the trunk of his car playing the guitar...but I'm on the phone to a buddy of mine, way back in Boston, MA, who's telling me that he's on route to meet up with me to bring me some spare tubes and tyres for my stroller. I come off the phone and go to move off and suddenly, this guitar playing guy, slides off his trunk, walks up to me and says "...Hey Neil...I'm Floyd Holt..." The photo is of Floyd (right), Jim (centre) and Jason (left) Floyd is an Iraq veteran, lives in CT and had been talking to me a lot over Facebook. Floyd suffers with PTSD and has had a rough time of it since leaving the Army. I won't go into any more detail than that, except to say that when a person says they have reached rock-bottom, they generally haven't reached it...Floyd had reached it and was still in it when we met that day and yet had still taken the time to jump in his car and wait for me to walk by...that is the true sign of a Veteran supporting other Veterans, regardless of his own torment. So I get chatting to Floyd. Meanwhile, unbeknown to me, Don and Nancy Douchette, are further down the road at the local Police Station looking for a place for me to stay and literally harassing the Police to "do something" to help me 😂 THEN.... My mate Jason turns up....all the way from Boston, MA (although he's Texan) with a trunk full of spare tyres and inner tubes. THEN....the caretaker (Jim) of the abandoned motel turns up, wanting to know what we're all doing on his property? It was crazy! I tell him what I'm doing and he becomes another cool guy.
So, I have Jason, Floyd and Jim at the abandoned Motel, outside Killingly, CT. Then, two patrol cars turn up to give me a lift to the place that Don and Nancy have found me. I dismantle my rig and pile into the back of Officer Bill McGuires patrol car (right), who's also a Veteran and who's son was serving in Iraq at the time. So there's me, Jason, Floyd, Jim the Caretaker guy, Don, Nancy and Bill...I mean motorists were slowing down as they drove by to see what was going on...it was crazy. Bill asks me if I wanna strip down my stroller and put into the trunk of the patrol car and as I'm stripping it down, he notices the sheathed knife on my hip. He changes his stance, puts one hand, very subtly, on his side arm and asks me in the most politest of ways; Bill: "...hey Neil...that a knife there on your hip..?" Me: "...Yessir..." Bill: "...ok...well before you get in my vehicle...you're gonna have to give me that off your hip...just lay it on the ground...right there...ok..?" I knew what was happening and I was totally cool with it. He had a job to do...he didn't know me and he was very, very cool in the way he gave me instructions. I placed it on the ground, where he pointed to and I say to him: Me: "...hey Bill..." Bill: "...yeah Neil..." Me (smiling): "...you want ALL my knives or what...?"
Bill shakes his head in disbelief as I started pulling out knives from my stroller and cockpit bag and one I had in my pocket. I was like Officer Tackleberry from Police Academy. I laid them on the ground and took a step back. Bill stepped forward, picked them up and put them in his cruiser, then told me to get my ass in the back. We all convoyed down to the Budget Inn Motel, in Killingly and meet Don and Nancy, who also paid for my night there....they're amazing people.
Let me introduce you to the wonderful Sandy Hoffman. Sandy had been a regular and constant source of encouragement to me on my Walk's Facebook page and even now, we are still friends on Social Media. That particular day, Sandy sent me a message, with her number, to call her so that she and her son, Tim, could come find me and buy me lunch and that's exactly what happened. Sandy, Tim and I then walked down to the Andover Veterans Memorial and had lunch. Sandy and Tim had suffered their own personal tragedies in life but their love, kindness and heartfelt humility made me look at them in wonder and I knew, right there, right then, that this is what a "good person" looks like. These are what "good people" look like.
I placed a Memorial Cross at the Andover Veterans Memorial, as I had tried to do at every Veterans War Memorial in every town I walked through and THAT's when I felt blessed...I don't know why...still can't get my head around it...but at that time, as I knelt there with Sandy and Tim standing off at a respectful distance...I just felt blessed to be THERE...it was and still is, the craziest thing.
Tim and Sandy, walked with me a little ways and I can remember talking to them both as if I had known them all my life. I could have talked to them for hours. Total strangers one minute and in the space of 30 minutes, it was like I had known them forever...that was the measure of Sandy and Tim Hoffman.
As I left, they handed me an envelope. I didn't open the envelope until later that day. When I did, this is what Sandy had written. They had also placed some money in the card. So, to the wonderful Sandy Hoffman and her son Tim..... Thank you...thank you...thank you...xxx
Providence, RI at about 7am. I had been walking for just an hour and got a massive puncture...Step in, Bobby and Heather (left); two construction workers who happened to be starting work that morning. They came over, had a look at the puncture and brought back a massive adhesive rubber patch from their tool bag, which would at least get me to a Bike Shop somewhere. As I was fixing my tyre, Heather walked across to Starbucks and bought me coffee. Once again, I was seeing and meeting people, who had nothing to gain, helping me and this constant show of human kindness was really making me see everything in a different light.
As I was walking towards Dash Bike Shop, in Providence, RI about 5 minutes after saying goodbye to Bobby and Heather, I got a Facebook message from Johnny DiGioia. Johnny was a guy I had never met before. He asked me where I was and about 2 mins later he pulled up in front of me on Broadway, climbed out his car (literally abandoning it in the middle of the street), walked over and shook my hand...just like that. These little and random acts of kindness and support were simply awe inspiring to me...he was a very cool guy who did a very cool thing.
With Don Doucette and his 1961 Impala, in Providence, RI. Don had driven out to see if I was okay after my puncture earlier that day.
Dave Mercer drove over an hour and a half, just to meet up with me on my route. He brought me Gatorade and other refreshments but the biggest thing he gave me was his smile...his enthusiasm for what I was doing. He walked with me a little ways, pushing his motorbike. Dave is the kinda guy I admire.
I questioned everything...I questioned my judgement, behaviour and decisions that I had taken, going back years. I apologised to people, I spoke to my Dad (he died in 1976), I imagined what kind of adults my children would be, what they would do for a living, would they marry, would they smoke, would they have kids of their own? The freedom of the road, allowed my mind to wander wherever it wanted to
The morning before I set off through Hartford City, with the super amazing Captain Ed Gould of the Connecticut State Police and his wonderful girlfriend (I think ex-girlfriend now) Michelle, who took me in last night, fed me, done my laundry and made me part of their family that night. Ed was funny...he made it perfectly clear to them that I was tired and that it shouldn't take too long...I mean who's gonna argue with Ed? When I arrived at Ed's and Michelle's home...the BBQ was on...the beers were chilled. I showered, changed and became part of Ed's and Michelle's beautiful home that night. It wasn't long before the media got wind of where I was and a Channel 3 News Crew asked if they could come to Ed's house to interview me?
The Interview was cool, as were the guys in the News Crew. We had a laugh and, now and again, I'd have to repeat myself because I think my strong Glaswegian brogue was causing them recording issues...
Ed told me that there was a Fox News crew outside and that they wanted to interview me. Ed made it perfectly clear that he would "run them out of town" if I didn't want the intrusion. This is where it got emotional for me...here's a guy...I've known him for all of 12 hours and he's looking out for me...he's protecting me...but he's doing it in a "I'm not fucking around here Neil, you're my brother" kinda way. I told him that I was happy to do it but ONLY if he was happy that they come onto his property? We did the interview in Ed's back garden, with the extremely charming and hot, Chrystal, from Fox News....not that I noticed...I don't think she noticed the dribble...
This was one of the hardest days I had, throughout my entire journey. The heat and the hills just ragged me all day...38 miles...I could barely stand when we eventually got to Peekskill, NY.
Photo doesn't do this hill justice...it went on for about 3 miles...false crests, hairpin turns...it never ended and pushing a 70kg+ stroller...Nick was behind me calling out encouragement and I just wanted to punch him in the dick.
With Dave Fitzgerald and Nick Saint Onge at the end of one of the hardest and longest walked days of the entire walk...38 miles in over 36C heat...I was in clip.
My walking buddy for that horrendous day...SFC Nick Saint Onge...drove all the way down from Fort Drumm, NY
Bob Bee (left) and Cliff Fitzgerald (Bob is a Vietnam Veteran) and both Bob and Cliff are members of the Patriot Guard Riders of America, who travelled across several States, just to come see me; even now, it brings tears to my eyes, to think back to the day when they just turned, completely out the blue, to see if I was ok.
Spray painted on an underpass wall, somewhere in CT. It actually stopped me in my tracks and I stood and stared at it for a long time...it kinda summed up how I had lived my life at that point in time. Little did I know, that years later, this phrase would epitomise Go Noisy. We have since had it copyright protected - it's kinda our entire company philosophy to training and life..
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