'A Slow Stroll Through A Fast Corridor': D.C. Man Sets Off On Meandering Walk To NYC Former reporter Neil King is walking along country roads and through small towns all the way to New York City, talking to whomever he finds along the way.
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'A Slow Stroll Through A Fast Corridor': D.C. Man Sets Off On Meandering Walk To NYC

Neil King left Washington on foot at the end of March, and is now working his way through central Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Neil King/ hide caption

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Courtesy of Neil King/

Getting from D.C. to New York has always been a matter of speed and efficiency: whether it's by plane, train or automobile, most people heading north are just trying to get there as fast as possible, not meander along the Northeast Corridor.

But not Neil King.

"The more I looked at it, the more fascinated I became by the importance of the country in between those two cities," King told me as he walked along a country road in central Pennsylvania's Amish country, some 10 days (and 130 miles) into what he expects will be a month-long hike from the nation's capital to the Big Apple. The 61-year-old former Wall Street Journal reporter set off on his voyage on March 29, planning on averaging between 12 and 24 miles a day. He packed light, and is staying in bed and breakfasts, hotels, and inns along the way.

"I really just wanted to get out, see folks, talk to them about where we've come as a country, where we're going as a country, and just make up a bit of my own mind about what we look like now as a country," he says. "And it couldn't be more fun."

King has been documenting his stops and interactions along the way on Twitter: a chat with a man namedTed in northern Maryland, who "delivered an amazing eight-minute sermon about what he called the holy walk and resetting the nation's frequency"; a boat trip along the Susquehanna River to see "the only examples of Native American petroglyphs in the entire northeastern United States"; a bologna-and-cheese sandwich (the bologna serving as the bread) at a butcher's shop in Farmersville, Pennsylvania; Mennonite softball outside of Ephrata, Pennsylvania; a farrier's candid admission: "I'm not sure what to make of you Neil King, but I am going to give you some cookies."

"The general rule is if you see people and they're out and about and you engage them, for the most part they're very interested in being engaged," he says.

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But when he's not engaging with people he meets along the way, King says that he's trying to keep himself entertained with little more than his surroundings. Other than the occasional phone conversation with a curious reporter, King says the only soundtrack for his trip is the sound of his footsteps, the periodic car that passes and the daily rhythms of the small towns and communities he traverses.

"The vast majority at the time, as long as the weather is good and I'm not being badgered by too many cars on the road with little clearance, I'm as happy as can be," he says. "I haven't listened to one moment of music. I haven't listened to any audiobooks, podcasts, any of that stuff. There's really too much to think about and too much to look at. So I have been profoundly entertained."

And King says being aware of your surroundings is easier when you're only moving three miles an hour.

"To walk through and just marvel at, you know, the Amish have all done their laundry. It is laundry day. I think yesterday was the day they laundered it, and today is the drying day," he says. "The amazing splendor. I've just seen so much laundry flapping on all of these huge long clothing lines."

As he moves east away from central Pennsylvania, King says he'll head due south into Valley Forge and then Philadelphia. After that, he'll hike through Delaware towards Princeton, New Jersey, heading towards Jersey City later this month before crossing the ferry into his final destination, New York City. Once there, he wants to end at The Ramble in Central Park, if only for the poetry of it: "a ramble to the ramble," he says.

Eventually, King concedes, he'll have to return to day job in D.C. as a writer and consultant for the Rockefeller Foundation. But he pictures himself setting off on another hike someday.

"I'm a little concerned about how it's going to lead me looking at normal life, because this has been just a wild and amazing stretch," he says. "There's no doubt that I'm going to want to do more of this. I just don't know in what fashion."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.

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