That’s not an exaggeration. It’s not hyperbole, the fifty-cent word for exaggeration. A thousand miles were walked in three months and I wished someone had offered my team of adventurers the advice I am about to offer you in this article, before we packed our bags to begin the journey. I promise you, this will save your feet from pains far beyond minor discomfort.
The Rule of Three
I am a traveler. Any and all excuses to travel, no matter how flimsy will suffice. So, when my business partner and I decided last year to test the waters of National Government Contracting, leaving the comfort zone of our home state of North Carolina for 49 other possibilities, I was ecstatic. We promised that we would bid on jobs based solely on location, working out the details of the ACTUAL work as merely a formality. Granted, this is not the sanest way to plan a Government Contract but the travel was the central character here. I didn’t want to go to New Jersey just because there was a job there in our wheelhouse. I’ve been to Jersey. My business partner and I remained true to our decree, picked a job in Montana for the National Parks service and began to look up barbed-wire fence installation videos on YouTube since we had apparently agreed to put in 22 miles of the stuff in the wild wilderness, just east of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. I had convinced my girlfriend that this was the perfect trip for her to accompany us. She asked what she should pack. My only reply was, “No more than three pair of shoes.” It’s not just that as a seasoned traveler I had always heard this rule, but the girl has a real problem. I could leave for a year and carry a messenger bag and a sleeping bag. She would carry an overloaded truck.
Three is Not a Crowd. Six Is.
Yes, she packed six pairs of shoes. My co-owner and I packed three apiece. When we left North Carolina driving we were all wearing shorts and Rainbow’s. When we arrived in Montana three days and one blizzard later, flip flops had been traded for big Wolverine work boots, all around.
Within two days of foot blistering, back breaking work across miles and miles and more miles of open prairie, we took the first day of snow to arrive as a sign and made our way to the nearest semblance of civilization 2.5 hours away in Billings, Montana.
I had two things on my mind as I drove through: first the Northern Cheyenne reservation and then the Crow Nation – six pairs of shoes is too much but three is not enough if ALL three were the wrong shoe for the setting. Wolverine, Red Wing and Timberland boots are great for framing a house or a Rap Video shoot, but they were not made for walking back forth on the same 3-4 miles of fence line 8-10 times a day. Rainbows were not warm enough in the National Park’s cabin at night, even with the wood burning stove packed to capacity.
Even now as we walked through the freshly snow-plowed parking lot of a mall in Billings all I kept thinking about, over and over in my head, was the many times I have heard performers from a myriad of disciplines hark the wisdom of “Know your audience.” I just kept hearing it over and over again. “Know your audience.”
Our first stop was at the everything-outdoors store Cabela’s. “Know your audience.” At the moment the audience my feet saw most was the rolling, rocky, uneven, unforgiving terrain of our daily work. To that I gave my feet the best pair of sleek hiking boots the store had, waterproof but yet, still breathable and lightweight - and my fellow traveler’s followed suit.
From there we entered the belly of the beast, right into the mall close by and we all paid too much for the best running shoes we could find, with plenty of support. Lastly, we all got a simple pair of Skechers, in the hopes that we might all have enough energy one night after work to go out to dinner somewhere. On the way back, before we left Billings that day, we stopped at a UPS store and mailed 12 pairs of shoes back to North Carolina. Our North Carolina lives were the perfect audience for all of those shoes. Montana, not so much.
It was NO vacation…
So, according to the all-knowing Google and our pedometers each of us, individually, walked just over 1,000 miles during our nearly three months in the wilderness. While I am sure such self-torture is not what you have on the agenda for your next family vacation, the lesson still applies. How many shoes you carry is not nearly as important as carrying the RIGHT shoes. “Know your audience.”
PS: For those who love hiking, I recommend the Gorilla USA Moc Hiker Men's Boots. Get them from any Finish Line store in your location, or visit Finishline.com. For their deals check online.