Quirky treasures chronicled in new book

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Tue., Nov. 20, 2012
Joe Hurley talks about his book, 'Ten Million Steps on Route 6,' at the Willimantic Public Library. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Joe Hurley talks about his book, 'Ten Million Steps on Route 6,' at the Willimantic Public Library. Photo by Melanie Savage.

The frogs of Willimantic hold court on page 28 of "Ten Million Steps on Route 6," a book discussed by its author, Joe Hurley, at the Willimantic Public Library on Nov. 15. Hurley is a retired Connecticut journalist who, in 2005, embarked upon a journey across America with a young freelance photographer he found via the Internet. Hurley and photographer Travis Lindhorst hiked Route 6 from the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Cod to the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. It was a journey that took nine months, according to Hurley, and wore through seven pairs of New Balance sneakers.

Along the way there were challenges, some of which the author touched upon as he talked. There was the morning in Pennsylvania when Hurley stepped out of the bathtub onto the prong of his belt buckle. Though the point pierced his foot to the bone, Hurley dealt with the injury by bandaging himself in the lobby of a local drug store. “I’m not sure whether they appreciated me removing my bloody sock in their lobby,” said Hurley with a grin.

There was a brake problem with their rental car near the end of the trip. There was the time when Hurley turned to see a huge herd of cows heading his way. “If you don’t think cows are scary, wait until you see them running straight at you and you know they’re not going to stop,” he said.

And there was the time in Indiana, which Hurley referred to as “the time I probably came the closest to dying,” when the author was nearly taken out by a double-wide trailer. Disregarding mom’s advice to always walk facing traffic, Hurley turned just in time to see the trailer and dive to safety on the side of the road. “After that I listened to my mom,” he said.

Obstacles notwithstanding, Hurley and Lindhorst made it across the country, along the way chronicling individuals and places through images and stories. Hurley said he has many favorites from the trip, among them Death Valley. “The only thing I can say about it is that it haunts you,” he said. “You leave, and it’s still with you.”

Pioneer Village, another favorite, is in Minden, Ne. Harold Warp has assembled more than 30 buildings full of “trinkets, tools and treasures,” according to Hurley, in an attempt to preserve the history of industrial America. Of Glenwood Canyon, in Glenwood Springs, Colo., Hurley said: “I’ve traveled across the U.S and nothing has beguiled me more than Glenwood Canyon.” Another standout was Penny, from Oakland, Iowa, who has assembled a collection of buildings on her property, including a one-room schoolhouse, a church, and the first public restroom in Oakland. "I've known people to collect a lot of things," said Hurley, "but not many who collected buildings."

Such are the quirks and treasures chronicled in “Ten Million Steps on Route 6," a book that Lindhorst and Hurley finally completed, seven years after their trip, in June of 2012. A website dedicated to the trip calls the book “a sketch of the U.S. through the eyes of coal miners, farmers, banjo players, parents, country folk and city folk.” The book is “about ducks that walk on fish, scary cows, women in hard hats, a bike that floats, and the bravest little car in the world,” reads the site, “And it’s about places you can’t savor in the fast lane.”

For more information, including future appearances, or to purchase the book, go to www.route6walk.com.

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