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Joshua's Odyssey
Headed West


It was late January when I finally left Perry. I decided to head west this time and I backtracked once again through all those towns I had just been in. In a week or two I was back in Panama City. I walked, I fasted, I prayed. I tried to stay focused on God and keep walking as I passed supermarkets, hotels, and restaurants, fighting the urge to stop and eat. It was a constant battle between starvation or dumpster diving. Hunger inevitably always got the better of me and I would go on these eating binges. Stopping at practically every business I passed by to see what they had thrown away. I continued west to Pensacola, nothing memorable there just a military base and a lot of military families. I walked right passed the base and on to Alabama. I stopped a lot to pray and once while I was walking through this area I saw a car run over a squirrel and it didnít kill the animal but it was hurt so bad that I could tell it was dying as I watched it writhing in pain. I was pretty upset by it and I remember sitting there praying for God to put it out of its misery. I guess at the time I didnít see clearly enough to do that myself or perhaps my desire not to kill got in the way. Anyway, I sat with the animal for a while and watched it die and I prayed. I felt a connection to all animals while I was on the road, perhaps because I felt like one myself and because they had no voice in the world and they relied on God for everything, something else I could relate to.

I canít remember much about Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana. I canít recall most of the specific towns I went through. I know I avoided big cities by looking at the map and my estimated route. I donít know how I managed to steer clear of Mobile. I do remember being in a city somewhere down there in the Bayou, but my memories of this period are very vague, still there are some.

I canít remember much about Mississippi, but there was this one time. I had come into this small town and I headed right for the grocery store dumpster. It was a gloomy, rainy day as I walked behind the building. A cop must have spotted me walking because he followed me in his cruiser into the alley. I knew I looked rough when he pulled up beside me and rolled down his window. He asked me what I was up to. I told him I was going to look through the dumpster for food. He peered at me with contemptuous angry eyes and proceeded to tell me to ďget your ass out of hereĒ. So I left, but I was so hungry that I went next door to the McDonaldís dumpster and another cop spotted me opening the doors that led to that dumpster. He was on the radio with the cop who had just warned me to leave and they were both pissed. They didnít offer me any help, not that I would have accepted it, but the point is they were cold. The cop told me to get in the cruiser and he drove me west about ten miles out of town. He told me how bad I smelled and made some other unkind remarks to me on the ride; then he dropped me off at a remote location where there were about 15-20 dumpsters.

It was getting dark and it was about to start raining real hard and there was nowhere around to take cover. I dug through the dumpsters and found a half eaten box of cookies. It started raining and there was nowhere to go, so I went into the woods. I had a large piece of black plastic that I had been using as a tarp to help shield me from the rain and I thought that I could wrap myself in it and lay on the ground and somehow stay dry. I tried to sleep and I did for a while, but then I was awakened by a bad thunderstorm. When I awoke, I was laying in about six inches of water, everything was soaked completely. It was one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life. Completely soaked and cold, I gathered up my things and started walking along the road in the downpour. I walked in the rain until I found a bridge where I could take refuge from the storm. I sat under that bridge. I took off all my clothes and sat there naked. I wrung them out and lay them out to dry. I wished I could start a fire but I had no matches or dry wood. I waited all day for my clothes to dry, but I was so hungry that at the end of the day when the rain had stopped, I put my wet clothes back on and walked. I was a long way from anything, but I kept walking and eventually my clothes dried out and I found a place to eat.

Another time, I was walking through a town in Mississippi and it started raining. I was in a bigger town and I was at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store looking for food. It was late and it was raining and there was nowhere close by to take shelter. So, in one of the most humiliating, sad, and painful experiences of my life, I crawled inside an empty dumpster and put a piece of cardboard on the bottom. I put a tarp over me and I ate my dinner in there as well. I had been eating and crawling in dumpsters for quite a while but up to that point I had never slept in one. Itís a very painful memory. The other strange thing is that a couple of guys had seen me crawl in there. They opened the door and looked in and said to one another ďI donít see anything but a tarpĒ. So they left me alone. That was the one and only time I slept in a dumpster while I was on the road, because it was more humiliating to me than just eating out of it and also because I knew it was dangerous. In high school I knew someone who had been beaten and thrown in a dumpster and was killed when a truck picked up the trash with him in it. This was something I remembered and took into consideration when I had to choose where to sleep at night.

So I walked all the way across Mississippi and I canít remember what towns I went through, but I do remember being stopped by a couple of cops in Natchez in the western part of the state on the Mississippi River. They were pretty adamant about helping me, which was quite different from the reception I had gotten from the police earlier in Mississippi; however, I didnít want any help and I sure as heck didnít want them contacting my family. In the end, they drove me through Natchez, stopped and bought me some food and then dropped me off in Louisiana on the other side of the bridge that crossed the Mississippi River. I had refused the food they had bought me, but they were so persistent that I relented and ate everything but the meat. It was the first hot meal I had had in Lord knows how long and it was sooo good. Southern home cooking, cornbread, beans, rice. Real good! So now Iím in Louisiana.

Unfortunately, Louisiana is also a blur. I only know I went all the way from Natchez to Natchitoches and then across the Sabine River into East Texas. It was late March when I entered Texas. I had left Florida in February, so it took less than two months to walk across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and then Louisiana. Texas on the other hand took seven months to walk across, from March 2003 until I went through El Paso in September 2003. The cool thing is that I could trace my entire route through Texas when I came home in June 2004. Perhaps some of the details of my travels are lost, but a lot of it Iíve written down already. IĎve counted the miles I walked through Texas and Iíve figured that it was roughly 1150 miles that I walked through the state because I didnít walk straight through; I meandered through it. As I said before I never really had a destination or a timetable, I was just basically heading west praying to God and trying to starve myself to death.


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