Miles to Go: The Second Journal of the Walk Series

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9781439191460: Miles to Go: The Second Journal of the Walk Series

Alan Christoffersen, a once-successful advertising executive, wakes one morning to find himself injured, alone, and confined to a hospital bed in Spokane, Washington. Sixteen days earlier, reeling from the sudden loss of his wife, his home, and his business, Alan left everything he knew behind and set off on an extraordinary cross-country journey. Carrying only a backpack, he planned to walk to Key West, the farthest destination on his map. But a vicious roadside stabbing has interrupted Alan's trek and robbed him of his one source of solace: the ability to walk. Homeless and facing months of difficult recovery, Alan has nowhere to turn 'until a mysterious woman enters his life and invites him into her home. Generous and kind, Angel seems almost too good to be true, but all is not as it appears. Alan soon realizes that before he can return to his own journey, he must first help Angel with hers. From one of America's most beloved and bestselling storytellers comes an astonishing tale of life and death, love and second chances, and why sometimes the best way to heal your own suffering is by helping to heal someone else's. Inspiring, moving, and full of wisdom, Miles to Go picks up where the bestseller The Walk left off, continuing the unforgettable series about one man's unrelenting search for hope.

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About the Author :

Richard Paul Evans is the #1 bestselling author of The Christmas Box. Each of his more than twenty novels has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list; there are more than seventeen million copies of his books in print. His books have been translated into more than twenty-four languages and several have been international bestsellers. He is the winner of the American Mothers Book Award, two first place Storytelling World Awards for his children’s books, and the Romantic Times Best Women's Novel of the Year Award. Evans received the Washington Times Humanitarian of the Century Award and the Volunteers of America National Empathy Award for his work helping abused children. Evans lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife, Keri, and their five children.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :

PROLOGUE

Note

The sun will rise again. The only uncertainty is whether or not we will rise to greet it.

Alan Christoffersen’s diary

Several months after I was mugged, stabbed, and left unconscious along the shoulder of Washington’s Highway 2, a friend asked me what being stabbed felt like. I told her it hurt.

Really, how do you describe pain? Sometimes doctors ask us to rate our pain on a scale from one to ten, as if that number had some reliable meaning. In my opinion there needs to be a more objective rating system, something comparative; like, would you trade what you’re feeling for a root canal or maybe half a childbirth?

And with what would we compare emotional pain—physical pain? Arguably, emotional pain is the greater of the two evils. Sometimes people will inflict physical pain on themselves to dull their emotional anguish. I understand. If I had the choice between being stabbed or losing my wife, McKale, again, the knife has the advantage—because if the knife kills me, I stop hurting. If it doesn’t kill me, the wound will heal. Either way the pain stops. But no matter what I do, my McKale is never coming back. And I can’t imagine that the pain in my heart will ever go away.

Still, there is hope—not to forget McKale, nor even to understand why I had to lose her—but to accept that I did and somehow go on. As a friend recently said to me, no matter what I do, McKale will always be a part of me. The question is, what part—a spring of gratitude, or a fountain of bitterness? Someday I’ll have to decide. Someday the sun will rise again. The only uncertainty is whether or not I will rise to greet it.

In the meantime, what I hope for most is hope. Walking helps. I wish I were walking again right now. I think I’d rather be anywhere right now than where I am.

© 2011 Richard Paul Evans

CHAPTER

One

Note

We plan our lives in long, unbroken stretches that intersect our dreams the way highways connect the city dots on a road map. But in the end we learn that life is lived in the side roads, alleys, and detours.

Alan Christoffersen’s diary

My name is Alan Christoffersen and this is the second journal of my walk. I’m writing from a hospital room in Spokane, Washington. I’m not sure how you came to be holding my book—truthfully, I don’t even know if you are—but if you’re reading my story, welcome to my journey.

You don’t know much about me. I’m a thirty-two-year-old former advertising executive, and sixteen days ago I walked away from my home in Bridle Trails, Seattle, leaving everything behind, which, frankly, wasn’t much by the time I started my trek. I’m walking to Key West, Florida—that’s about 3,500 miles, give or take a few steps.

Before my life imploded, I was, as one of my clients put it, “the poster child for the American dream”—a happily married, successful advertising executive with a gorgeous wife (McKale), a thriving advertising agency with a wall of awards and accolades, and a $2 million home with horse property and two luxury cars parked in the garage.

Then the universe switched the tracks beneath me, and in just five weeks I lost it all. My slide began when McKale broke her neck in a horse-riding accident. Four weeks later she died of complications. While I was caring for her in the hospital, my clients were stolen by my partner, Kyle Craig, and my financial world collapsed, leading to the foreclosure of my home and repossession of my cars.

With my wife, business, house, and cars gone, I packed up what I needed to survive and started my walk to Key West.

I’m not trying to set any records or wind up in any newspapers. I’m certainly not the first to cross the continent by foot; I’m at least a century too late for that. In fact, the first attempt was made more than two hundred years ago by a man named John Ledyard, who planned to walk across Siberia, ride a Russian fur-trade vessel across the ocean to (what is now) Alaska, and then walk the rest of the way to Washington, D.C., where Thomas Jefferson would warmly greet him. Such are the plans of men. Ledyard only made it as far as Siberia, where Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, had him arrested and sent to Poland.

Since then, no less than a few thousand pioneers, prospectors, and mountainmen have crossed the continent without air-cushioned walking shoes, paved roads, or, unbelievably, a single McDonald’s.

Even in our day there is a sizable list of countrycrossers, including an eighty-nine-year-old woman who walked from California to Washington, D.C., and a New Jersey man who ran from New Brunswick to San Francisco in exactly sixty days.

Nearly all of these travelers carried causes with them, from political reform to childhood obesity. Not me. The only torch I’m carrying is the one for my wife.

You might guess that my destination was chosen for its balmy weather, blinding white beaches, and topaz blue waters, but you’d be wrong: Key West was simply the furthest point on the map from where I started.

I should add the disclaimer that Key West is my intended destination. It is my experience that journeys rarely take us where we think we’re going. As Steinbeck wrote, “we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” There’s a difference between reading a map and traveling the road—as distinct as the disparity between reading a menu and eating a meal. So it is with life. As the saying goes, “Life is what happens to us while we’re planning something else.” That is true. Even my detours had detours.

My most recent detour has left me in the emergency room of Sacred Heart Medical Center with a concussion and three knife wounds to my belly after being jumped by a gang three miles outside Spokane. That’s where you’re joining me.

For those of you who have been following my walk since my first step (or before), I warned you that my story wouldn’t be easy. I suppose that’s no surprise; no one’s story is easy. No one goes through life without pain—of this I’m certain. The price for joy is sadness. The price for having is loss. You can moan and whine about this and play the victim—many do—but it’s just the way it is. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. That’s one of the benefits of walking.

I also warned you in my first journal that you might not believe or be ready for all I have to share with you. This book is no different. No matter—accept or dismiss what you want to believe.

Since I began my walk, I’ve traveled only 318 miles, less than ten percent of the distance to Key West. But already there have been profound experiences; I’ve met people along the way I believe I was meant to meet and I’m certain there are more to come.

This is a story of contrasts—about living and dying, hope and despair, pain and healing, and the tenuous, thin places between both extremes where most of us reside.

I’m not sure whether I’m walking away from my past or toward a future—time and miles will tell and I have plenty of both. As the poet Robert Frost said, I have “miles to go before I sleep.”

I’m happy to share with you what I learn. Welcome to my walk.

© 2011 Richard Paul Evans

CHAPTER

Two

Note

I’ve gone from a schedule of hours and minutes to not being able to tell you what day of the month it is.

Alan Christoffersen’s diary

My second night in the hospital was rough. I was wet and hot with fever and somewhere in the night I started coughing. Each expulsion felt like another blade plunging into my stomach. The nurse checked my bandages, then told me not to cough, which wasn’t at all helpful. In spite of the medications they gave me to help me sleep, for most of the night I just lay there, lonely and aching. I wanted McKale more than life. Definitely more than life. Of course, if she were with me, I wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. Exhaustion finally overcame me and I fell asleep around 4 or 5 A.M.

The next day I woke to a young nurse walking around my bed looking at monitors and writing on a clipboard. Since I’d been admitted to the hospital, a bevy of nurses and doctors had been swarming around me in my delirium, flashing in and out of my consciousness like dancers in a music video. But I didn’t remember any of them. This was the first nurse I was cognizant of. She was small, petite, and barely the height of a floor lamp. I watched her for a few minutes then said, “Morning.”

She looked up from her clipboard. “Good afternoon.”

“What time is it?” I asked. It was kind of a funny question since I didn’t even know what day, or week, it was. The last two weeks had run together like eggs in a blender.

“It’s almost twelve-thirty,” she said, then added, “Friday.”

Friday. I had left Seattle on a Friday. I’d been gone for just fourteen days. Fourteen days and a lifetime.

“What’s your name?”

“I’m Norma,” she said. “Are you hungry?”

“How about an Egg McMuffin?” I said.

She grinned. “Not unless you can find one made of Jell-O. How about some pudding? The butterscotch is edible.”

“Butterscotch pudding for breakfast?”

“Lunch,” she corrected. “Also, in a couple hours we’re sending you in for a CT scan.”

“When can I take the catheter out?”

“When you can walk to the bathroom on your own—which we’ll attempt after we get the results back from your scan. Are you claus...

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Evans, Richard Paul
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