Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I walked from coast to coast

You're probably going to think I'm a selfish jerk after you read what I say here, but I'm going to say it anyway because I'm an honest person who believes critical thinking is infinitely more valuable and respectable than just saying what you know people want to hear. Besides, with what I've done, my voice matters now, even if no one listens to it.

There are at least a couple other people in the middle of coast-to-coast walks right now. These guys are receiving tons of attention that I didn't receive, mostly because they have causes, which they promote to a ridiculous extent.

I want to let you in on something: The idea to do a long walk comes long before the idea to have a cause, except in a few rare instances. People don't walk because they have a cause. Rather, they start planning a walk because they've become sick of life's bullshit and they don't know what else to do. After having a while to think about it, they come up with a cause because they realize a cause is an easy way to get attention, which might be the cheap ticket to a bullshit-free life. Then they come up with a heroic-sounding name for their walk because they realize people buy into that kind of propaganda. Although I think the guys doing this are decent people, I have no respect for the way they use phony causes to trick people for attention.

I knew way before I began my walk that I could attract a lot of media attention by having a cause. But unlike most other ultra-long-distance-walkers, I chose not to have a cause because I have integrity.

So if I didn't do this for attention, why does it piss me off that other walkers are getting attention?

Because I'm human, I guess, and because only I know what an amazing feat I've just accomplished.

What I did was infinitely more difficult than what these other guys are doing. Unlike the others, I carried all my gear at all times. No carts on wheels for my stuff, and nobody bringing me water or supplies. Unlike the others, I had to sleep outside almost every night, whether it was 10 degrees or 90 degrees (which was the norm for three months). With these temperatures, I didn't get much quality rest.

I had almost no money and no comfort. Since I didn't write "HERO" all over myself for everyone to see, I regularly had to deal with dirty cops (and I even spent three nights in jail). For over two months, in the desert and Rocky Mountains, I had a backpack with a broken frame, which put almost all of the weight on my left shoulder. (Back then I was carrying 60-65 lbs, sometimes more.) Yet with all this stuff making it difficult for me, I still averaged 16.5 miles a day (or 18.5 miles a day if you don't count off-days). That may not seem like a lot of daily miles to you, but you have no idea. Believe me, 16.5 miles a day over 211 days with an average of 55 lbs on your back is absolutely nuts.

I have beaten up my body in ways almost no one else can comprehend (including the cause-walkers). I hurt like hell constantly, and the pain is not going to end for a long time, if ever.

No, I didn't do this for media attention, but I feel like I've earned some attention and recognition, and I'm a little disappointed that I haven't received any. And honestly, it really bugs me that these other guys have been treated like heroes by the masses for doing something that really doesn't compare to what I've done.

So do you want to know why I did this coast-to-coast walk?

I did it because I said I could do it. I did it because I can do anything I tell you I can do. If I can't do something, I won't tell you I can do it.

Taking it a step farther: If I tell you I am THE BEST at something, it's because I really am the best. If I'm not the best, I won't tell you I'm the best.

Having said that, I want you to know that I am the best when it comes to making and selling pizza. I can do it better than anyone. That's not arrogance; it's confidence in knowledge. I admit I have a lot left to learn about owning a business, but that's the easy part. The hard part is learning how to create a marketable product, then selling that product to people, and I figured out how to do that a long time ago. So if there's any smart money out there reading this, you really ought to consider sending some of it this way because I'll turn it into more money.

You've all heard the term "Put your money where your mouth is." Yeah, well, I don't have any money, so I put my body where my mouth is, for seven months, 24 hours a day. (There probably aren't many people who could have done it in less than 9 months.)

I'm not a talker; I'm a doer. Now that I've done the hardest, most painful thing anyone can do, I'm very proud of the accomplishment and I want it to mean something. I want to be able to create some good jobs for a few handfuls of people who currently have no avenues available. I want to lead by example by paying my workers a higher hourly wage than I pay myself. And if I can somehow find my own avenue to that reality, then maybe I will eventually have the power to create even more good jobs in other ways.

Now that's a noble cause.

The sorry shape of our economy is not an accident. "The way we've always done it" is the problem. People like me are the solution.

Become a fan of Aimless on Facebook.

Aimless Video Evidence


ER said...

Take the following for what it is - A point of view from someone who followed you through your entire journey. The other cross-country walkers are not getting attention becuase they "have a cause," (although it doesn't hurt) they're getting it because they communicate with their followers. You could have had this kind of following if you had blogged every day. People want to hear the stories. They want to be a part of it. They want to feel like they are at your side. When you disappear for months because a blogging website has changed something technical, people will bail. It's that simple. If you had been there for your audience, they would have been there for you. Take this as the truth, coming from one of the few people who stuck by the entire walk, even while you were silent. I kept checking in every morning because I understand how amazing and unique your walk was, with regard to specifics like no wheeled carts. I understand that you did this for the physical goal and the personal adventure, as most people do, and not for some BS cause. If you wanted people to follow along and get excited about it, you should have given them the sense of joining you in the journey.

That said, as one of the few people who actually DID follow along, I have an incredible amount of respect for you. You've done something I can only dream of doing. I am proud that I am one of the few who recognized your feat for what it was, and continued to follow it even if your updates were often sparse. I can only imagine how proud of yourself you are, and you deserve that. Way to go, Ryan!

BTW, the other reason I followed along is because I've read about your pizza knowledge, and having grown up in the NY area, I'll always have a deep respect for someone who knows how to construct a good pie. Hope I get the opportunity to try yours someday. They just don't exist down here in FL!

Ryan M. Powell said...

I appreciate your participation, ER, even when you are critical of things I say.

I'll tell ya, it sure is tough when it's all over. When it ends, it's like someone really close to you died. On top of that, everything below my waist hurts like hell whenever I get up and walk. It gets better once I move around a bit, but I worry that I'm never going to be how I used to be.

Anonymous said...

I wondered when the whining would begin. Didn't take long.

ER said...

Holy crap Anonymous, give the guy a freaking break. I mean, really. He just walked across the freaking continent. A short bit into the walk, I realized Ryan had made a mistake in the way he was publicizing the whole thing. Online, it seemed like a non-event. There was no buzz about it. With the social networks being what they are today, it would have been fairly easy to spend an hour a day online and get thousands of people pumped up, but Ryan failed to do that. Unfortunately, that opportunity has gone by the wayside, but it doesn't make what Ryan has done any less spectacular, and he's certainly entitled to gripe about it the fact that no one paid any attention. I know I would.

Besides, what kind of a pussy makes a comment like that anonymously?

Ryan, I'm honestly not criticizing you. I actually feel terrible about the fact that I'm one of the few who followed this whole journey. While it was happening, I actually felt frustrated at times because I didn't know what was happening. You should have been twittering every few hours, posting videos, daily blogs, etc. You really can't blame people for not getting excited about something they couldn't experience. Look at all the other people who are getting the attention. They're way into promoting themselves. I know it might seem cheap and fake that they are so into self-promotion and labeling themselves a hero, but it's the only way to get people to pay attention. Everybody wants to look up to a Hero. If it takes a fake "cause" to do it, then you should have created a fake cause. Besides, if that fake cause actually brings in a few bucks to help people, then what's the harm? It's actually doing good. Perhaps you should have been doing the "Coast to Coast Pizza Walk for Cancer" or something. You could have stopped at pizza joints across the country and held fund raisers. You could have made pizza for people, who would have experienced what you can do with flour, tomatoes and cheese. It would have created media attention. The social networks would be abuzz. It would have been awesome! I'm sure someone would have stepped up and offered you some start-up cash. But you just hit the road, disappeared, and that was that. Didn't you see a short way into it that nobody was paying attention?

Did you at least document the whole walk on video? Keep a journal? If you did, maybe you could put some of that online and create a bit of buzz. Dunno...

Ryan M. Powell said...

ER, here's what I had time to do during my walk: Walk, occasionally take a short break, occasionally eat, occasionally sleep.

Texting is neither restful nor productive. Using the internet is neither restful nor productive. Talking to people is neither restful nor productive. Using a camcorder is neither restful nor productive. When you hurt like I did after 2,000 miles, you just want to finish ASAP. And the only way you can finish ASAP is by either being productive or resting at every moment. Still, people stop you and take your time every day (which is tough because I love meeting people but didn't have time for it). And when that happens, the 3-4 miles you just walked without a break (so you could buy yourself a longer break) was all for nothing. Time is precious, but you're always losing it.

I busted my ass, dude. Constantly. That's all I did for seven months. I wasn't trying to promote myself and I'm glad I didn't. If I did it again, I wouldn't do it any different.

There is so much you cannot possibly understand about what I've done. (I think you know I don't mean that as an insult. I'm just saying it's not possible to understand unless you've done it.) As someone who had already walked thousands of miles before I even began this walk, I still had no idea what I was getting into. The real pain doesn't start until after 2,000 miles, and then it never stops. That's after you've already finished the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, but you still have another 1,500 miles ahead of you. That's a lot of pain, man.

Anonymous: Obviously you've never done anything bigger than sitting on your ass in front of a computer. You can bet you'd never be hired at "Ryan's Pizzeria" or anywhere worth working because you're too much of a pussy to stand up and say what you know is right. You just hide behind your monitor and belittle others who have successfully accomplished things you can only dream about.

You have no balls. You don't have the balls to punish your body like I did. You don't have the balls to think an original thought. You don't have the balls to stand up and say, "That shit's wrong and I want to start doing things right." You don't even have the balls to show your face.

Anonymous, you are part of the problem; I am part of the solution. You wanna know one way I make myself part of the solution? By being more critical of myself than you could ever be. And that's how I became good at the things I do well. Would you like me to make a list of my accomplishments?

Ryan M. Powell said...
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Ryan M. Powell said...
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Ryan M. Powell said...

The deleted comments are duplicates of my previous comment. I don't know why it keeps doing that.

ER said...

Ryan, I do understand that texting, tweeting, blogging and video recording are not productive in terms of reaching the end point, but you have to wonder if reaching that end point is itself productive at all without those things. I mean, without a reason, purpose or result, what is it, really? It's certainly an achievement, that's for sure, but it seems a bit of a wasted opportunity if that achievement isn't used as a springboard for something greater, even if that greater thing is something as simple as start-up cash for Ryan's Authentic Pizzeria. The walk is over. It's a shame it's legacy can't live on in the form of a result. Know what I mean?

It would have been a pain to promote, text, blog, etc., but I think it would have been more than worthwhile. A perfect example is how I learned about you. It was from your YouTube video where the Naples police were harassing you. I live in Naples, and was browsing YouTube videos with the word "Naples" in them. If you hadn't recorded or posted that video online, I wouldn't be typing this right now. How many people aren't doing something Ryan-related right this moment because you didn't take the time to record or share your walk in some way?

Please Re-read that last sentence, and think about it for a minute. I know it sucks to think that you blew it, but I'm afraid you did, in a way.

ER said...

By the way, I've been saying something similar to Victor Mooney (, who is going to row solo and unsupported across the Atlantic Ocean from Senegal, Africa, to Brooklyn, NY starting in December. He's not using social networking to promote himself, and it's a big mistake. He's going to row under the Brooklyn Bridge and be sorely disappointed that there's no big welcoming party, like there always is for Roz Savage ( when she rows across an ocean. She rowed the Atlantic in 2008, the Pacific in 2009/2010, and will soon leave for her row across the Indian. With every journey she has blogged, tweeted, posted videos, even done LIVE podcasts(!), all from the middle of nowhere by sat phone. She promotes herself, and it's thrilling to follow along. When she almost got fatally separated from her boat in the middle of the Pacific, I felt like I was right there watching. When BOTH of her desalinating water makers broke, I felt like I was also literally dying of thirst (she barely made it by drinking the water ballast in her hull). It's awesome to experience the journey as it's happening. On the other hand, Victor just has a poorly constructed website that he updates once in a while, and he wonders why he doesn't get the donations that Roz does. His whole journey is going to be a wasted opportunity.

Ryan M. Powell said...

ER, I haven't changed my mind and I'm not going to. I'm glad I didn't go around pimping myself, and I have very good reasons for having not done it. First good reason: I have a lot of interesting events/people to write about, specifically because I was just some guy with a backpack to everyone I met, unless they asked me what I was doing or offered me a ride.

If I had been wearing a sign like George Throop does, I'd have very few interesting stories to tell because everyone I met would have been the same as everyone else. They all would have been suckers who fell for my scam and worshiped me for pretending to be a hero. Nothing interesting about that.

Instead I met all kinds of different people who just saw me walking and decided to talk to me. I met people who found me sleeping in their yards, told me to scram, then eventually befriended me and invited me in for breakfast. I got harassed and roughed up by cops. I got thrown in jail for walking. I met all kinds of real people spontaneously, and I have tons of interesting shit to write about, if I choose to write about it. And believe me, that jail chapter will be awesome if I choose to write about it.

George Throop won't have these kinds of things to write about because he chooses not to associate with anyone who doesn't worship him. (That's so hilarious because I smoked his ass.) George's main objective is to pimp himself, yet he excludes cool and interesting people from his life because he's more concerned with image than substance. He may get his 15 minutes, but that's all he'll have because his walk has been all about tooting his own horn. Conversely, my walk was an adventure. I met real people (like you). They didn't kiss my ass, and I wouldn't want them to.

The post we're discussing may have sounded a little bitchy, but I have no regrets about anything. This walk is the best thing that ever happened to me. It has made me a stronger person in more ways than I even realize, and it went precisely how it was supposed to go.

Ryan M. Powell said...
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Ryan M. Powell said...
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Ryan M. Powell said...

Again, deleted comments are duplicates.

ER said...

Ryan, I don't expect you to change your position. If there's one thing I've learned about you, it's that you stick to your opinions, to the point of stubbornness. That's actually a respectable trait, but please see this situation for what it is.

You are right about on thing. You have the experiences and stories to tell. If that's enough for you, then that's great. Perhaps you'll put them to paper someday, and that's when other people will get to share the experiences and get excited about them. But, you can't blame anyone for not getting excited about what you've done when you haven't shared any of the adventure yet.

In other words, if the walk was for you and your personal growth, then that's wonderful, and you'll always have those memories. Other people who are walking are looking for something else out of their journey, and that's okay too.

You now feel a bit disappointed that you haven't received much attention, but let me tell you something. I was a bit disappointed that you weren't giving us, the people who read your blog, any attention while you were walking. I wanted to hear the stories. Before you left, I was excited about the prospect of reading them each day, or perhaps watching the occasional video. You chose not to share much of it, and that's certainly your right, but you really shouldn't be surprised at this point that nobody is paying attention to you when you didn't pay attention to us when it counted. It's a give-and-take kind of thing.

It seems like sometimes you have a tendency to fight the flow of life, and all it accomplishes is to make things harder for yourself.

Stay positive, and just roll with life a little. It will make things much easier.

Hey, now that it's over, what are your future plans?

Ryan M. Powell said...

I just checked out That's a pretty bad-ass task ahead of him. I hope it works out a little better for him this time.

ER said...

Yes, I certainly hope so. There are other ocean rowers who think Victor is an idiot. The first time he left in a boat he made in his garage, and it wasn't seaworthy or well tested. Sank almost immediately. Second time he was under funded, under tested, and only had one water maker. His row lasted over a week if I recall, then his water maker failed and he had to be rescued by a fishing boat. They were towing his boat behind the fishing trawler when the rope broke during the night. He lost his boat. These ocean row boats cost over $40,000, and Victor isn't a rich man, so he announced he would never make another attempt at rowing the Atlantic. Then a week later, a French rower who was trying to row from Nova Scotia to France realized after only a few days that ocean rowing wasn't for him. He called it quits after only a few days, and was rescued by helicopter off the coast of Cape Cod. His boat was set adrift, but still transmitting an emergency beacon signals. The French guy told Victor that he could have the boat if Victor could recover it. Victor put out a call for help that was answered by some fishermen and the Coast Guard in Maine. They went out and got the boat. There are only a handful of ocean rowing boats in the world (maybe two dozen), but just a week after losing his boat, another $40k handmade fiberglass ocean row boat fell into Victor's hands, at no cost. He calls says God is responsible. Not being a religious person, I call it lucky. Whether he's successful this third time will depend on more than luck. He better be prepared, funded, well trained, and that boat better be well tested. He might not survive another mistake like the first two. We'll see. I'll be following along as best I can. I really hope he blogs daily.

Ryan M. Powell said...

I'm not stubborn. I just seem stubborn because I usually only share opinions regarding topics I've already given tons and tons of thought. If I haven't thought something through as thoroughly as possible, I simply don't talk about it.

ER said...

Okay, but to an open-minded person, even something well thought out can often be seen in a different light when reconsidered after hearing the insight of another person/people.

Only an arrogant fool would believe that he's 100% without-a-doubt correct and certain about anything in which other people hold other opinions.

A wise man once told me that we learn a lot more from criticisms than we do from compliments. That's how we improve ourselves, and refine our knowledge. Even in science, the collective body of knowledge is constantly expanding and getting refined based on the ideas and hypotheses of others. Just think about how many times a scientists has been almost certain of something, and is later proven to be incorrect.

I always try to keep an open mind, and never rule out the possibility that I may be wrong about something. When I was a kid, I knew everything (or so I thought), but the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know sh*t. Do you know what I mean?

Brad Perkins said...

ER- i did the promoting for Ryan, not because he asked me but because he is an old friend and thats the kind of things i do for friends. I really have no connections what so ever but monthly i posted links on my facebook page-hoping maybe somebody was in the biz and found his journeys interesting, e-mailed t.v. stations and radio stations, newspaper columnists and other blogs that were similar. I wish that someone would have taken an interest in what Ryan does but i will not quit.

docrivs said...

Actually, Brad & ER, there were probably quite a few people who were promoting Ryan and his walk through social media. I know that many of the friends and acquaintances who I introduced to Ryan and his walk were interested and also promoted him. That's really the neat thing about social media is the buzz that can be created by spreading the word.

Ryan, you are totally stubborn, man. I've known that for many years. You can call it what you want, but I call it, 'stubborness'.

I've been thinking a lot about a quote that I recently came across that was attributed to Bob Marley, whether or not he actually said it. The quote is something like, "The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for." A friend of mine told me that I had the quote wrong, that the actual word was 'disappoint', not 'hurt'. I don't think it makes much difference, because when someone disappoints it can hurt.

People set their sights on other people, and they see them in a certain way, accomplishing certain things, and so forth. When those people they see, disappointingly, don't live up to the standards, then what happens then? Disappointment maybe. Hurt maybe.

That's as much as I'd like to say here in this forum, but, as someone who has disappointed people, let people down, and has not lived up to the standards, I'd like to say that Ryan gave me hope there for awhile. And that was a good thing.

ER said...

Brad & docrivs - Iv'e said it before, and it totally sucks that it's too late, but if Ryan had tweeted a few times a day, and did a Facebook or blog update with a few paragraphs and some pics every few days, the following he would have had would have been tremendous. A video now and then would have been epic. All of these things can be done with any cheap smartphone. Ryan is a good writer, and I know he had a lot of experiences worth writing about. It's very rare that someone good with words does something monumental that is worth writing about. When that happens, and it's captured in the moment, it makes for a rare and interesting event that people pay attention to in droves. When I heard about his walk before he set off, I just assumed he would be blogging. In the beginning of the walk, he did post some updates, and even pictures. But then weeks and even months went by without a word from Ryan, and I was personally very disappointed by that. I thought it had become a personal journey for him that he no longer wanted to share with anyone, and I figured that was his prerogative.

Ryan M. Powell said...

One of my major objectives with the walk was to ride the Coney Island Cyclone just before finishing the walk. To have any chance of making it in time to do that, I basically had to walk whenever I wasn't sleeping. And walking with a 55-pound backpack (on average) is not even kinda close to the same thing as walking without one.

You guys have no idea what it took to accomplish that walk. It was the hardest physical labor you can imagine, almost nonstop for 211 days. Double shift every day with one day off every ten days. As a result, my body is fucking destroyed, inside and out.

(George Throop left Santa Monica the same day I did. He's still in west Texas, five months after I finished in NYC. And there are many different reasons for that, just as there are many different reasons for why he can still walk like a regular person and I can't.)

I had no interest in pretending to be a hero to people who are stupid enough to buy into that kind of shit, nor did I even have the resources to blog or tweet. If anyone had been interested in capturing my amazing journey on film or in real-time through words, they would have been there doing the job I couldn't do in addition to my three full-time jobs. (Wouldn't you just love to see an uncut, hidden video of the Indiana cop incident I just finished writing about?) I had more than enough work to do without worrying about trying to relay a story to people who had never taken an interest in my story over the three previous years.

Aside from all that, I lived outside, OK. From mid-March to mid-May, I had to deal with two months of nasty winter weather. For the next three months, once I came out of the mountains, I had to deal with the hottest summer on record. Every day was like walking in a fire. And it almost never cooled down at night.

When you do what I did, rest time is not for typing in a computer or a phone; rest time is not even for thinking. Rest time is for turning your brain completely off and taking 20 minutes to prepare for the next 2 or 3 mile stretch. And that's on the rare occasion that you're lucky enough to find a remotely comfortable place to sit or lay down. And if you do find a comfortable spot close to the road, you have to worry about people freaking out and calling 911 out of "concern" for your safety. If they were really concerned, they would have taken 30 seconds to stop and say, "Hey man, are you all right?" No matter what you do, there's almost never any good opportunities to rest.

I was able to complete that walk in 211 days for two reasons: 1) I busted ass in a way that very few people can comprehend; and 2) I was efficient and I did not waste energy.

You can call me stubborn all you want, but that will never make it true. All you're really saying when you call me stubborn is that you don't understand my motives, and you don't want to try. I had my objectives, which I thought through a lot harder than you seem to realize, and I met my objectives by busting my ass nonstop for 211 days. What I wanted from this walk is not the same thing you wanted me to want from this walk.

I got almost everything I hoped to get from my walk, and probably a lot of things I didn't really hope for. Yet sometimes I think it was all for nothing, but not because I didn't get attention. A little media attention would have been cool, but not if I had to do what you say I should have done to get that media attention.

ER said...

Ryan, besides the roller coaster (and come one, you didn't really do all this to ride a roller coaster), was there any reason you had to complete the walk so fast?

The only reason I mention you should have put the extra time into building and maintaining a following is because of the remorse and disappointment you felt when the walk was over. You seemed truly disappointed that very few people cared or even knew. With the ease of social networking and a little preparation before hand, typing in a tweet or snapping a picture now and then could have been done while you walked. The system is designed to be used without causing a disruption in your activity, no matter what you're doing. Millions of people Tweet while they go about their daily activities of all sorts. There are even systems by which you can leave a voice mail, and the system will automatically transcribe your words and post them to a blog with amazing accuracy. Online social networking does not have to be time intensive anymore. People (Roz Savage, Olly Hicks, etc.) have blogged and tweeted while they rowed solo and unsupported across the Atlantic and Pacific ocean.