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Travels With An Airhead

Coast-to-Coast Walk

— by Notch Miyake

Ever since I read Peter Jenkins' A Walk Across America, I have wanted to walk "From Sea to Shining Sea" in the great tradition of adventurers like Lewis and Clark. So when Margaret and I had a few weeks free last summer, I said, "What the hell, let's go for it!"

The only trouble was finding a country with two coasts on different seas that was small enough to walk across without committing the rest of our lives. You didn't think I would actually try to walk across this country? There is no glory in endlessly walking from McDonald's to McDonald's. Or from Starbucks to Starbucks, either. No, we need a smaller country.

Vatican City, with less than a quarter-mile of area, immediately came to mind. It's a country. We could start across after breakfast, stop in to say hello to the Pope (He needs some cheering up these days), and have a pizza for lunch in Italy. Maybe with a bottle of Chianti to celebrate. Cool. Unfortunately, Vatican City is landlocked.

Monaco also came to mind, but it has only one coast. And, a pretty small one at that. Some of the little island countries like Nauru and Tuvalu were reasonably sized, not much bigger than Monaco. But I eliminated them since an island really has only one coast running completely around it.

Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia met the sea-to-sea criteria. But being jungle, they are somewhat overgrown and difficult to walk through. And the drug people tend to be a bit sensitive about people walking through their coca patches.

Things were getting desperate. There didn't seem to be any countries bordering two seas, whose coasts were less than 200 miles apart. So I gave up and decided to do a pub-crawl in England instead. It's another one of my dreams.

That's when I found it: a walk across the narrow part of England, from St Bees on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. One hundred ninety-two miles from pub-to-pub. Two hundred eleven miles with elevation changes. Two hundred thirty-two miles including getting lost. More than I wanted to do, but with a hand-pulled pint of real ale at the end of every day, so what?

The route goes up the west coast of England near the Isle of Man, famous for its annual TT Motorcycle Race. On a clear day you can see the Isle of Man from where we walked. Clear days happen every ten years or so, and we were not lucky.

Then we turned inland, up and down through Wordsworth's Lake District, over the mighty Pennines and down Swaledale. Only the last leg, the Yorkshire Moors, was decently level. The English should really try to keep the elevation changes smaller. It tends to discourage tourism.

Coming up next month: Pint-by-pint across England. Discovery of a substitute for ibuprofen.

— Copyright © 2010 by Notch Miyake.

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