The Last Great Walk: The True Story of a 1909 Walk from New York to San Francisco, and Why it Matters Today by Wayne Curtis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This 2014 book gets 4 out of 5 stars.
It really held my interest. I found out about a popular cultural phenomenon of the late 19th century-American pedestrianism. During the 1870s and 1880s, America’s most popular spectator sport wasn’t baseball, or football—it was competitive walking. Inside sold-out arenas, competitors walked around dirt tracks almost nonstop for six straight days, risking their health and sanity to see who could walk the farthest—500 miles was standard.
This book is about the “final” mega-stroll of Edward Payson Weston, who, in 1909, walked across the USA on a bet that he could ambulate from coast to coast in 100 days or less, demanding an average of 40 miles a day. Weston was 70 years old when me took on the challenge. He was the best known of the competitive walkers. We join the taciturn Weston as he is mostly angered, but rarely dismayed about the unexpected pitfalls that he encountered through the Great Plains-over the Rockies, across some deserts, and often struggling through deep mud. The upside of his western journey were the massive crowds that greeted him as his highly publicized venture was big National news.
At the time, there were far fewer roads into the West. The automobile was just gaining momentum at the time, and tarred roads were unheard of outside the more populated Eastern seaboard. Weston often walked the newly established railroad system, and was challenged by navigational issues, deep sections of sticky mud, and downright nasty weather ( He left new your on a chilly March day).
The book’s back story is about the loss of walking as a viable means to getting about one’s local communities, as well as a highly interesting discussion about the medical, physical, and spiritual benefits that are gained from spending hours moving about the countryside, on our own two feet.
The book is very well written, and authored by Wayne Curtis, the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year in 2002.
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