I was on foot for 2,594 miles in 2013, pushing a jogging stroller. Why a jogging stroller. I had Googled about ways to go great distances. Paul Staso had used a jogging stroller, so I went to REI, looked, and took one home with me.
Several weeks before the start of my journey, I spoke with a member of the Georgia State Patrol about both my safety and that of the drivers. He had several thoughts.
- Face traffic at every opportunity. He said my stroller would be an attention grabber and that would enhance my safety.
- Wave at drivers and smile. Do that when they are a good distance from you. When they wave back or blow a horn, you know you have their attention.
- If I missed the opportunity to wave in advance just look at them. When you know they see you, then wave. In other words, don’t surprise a driver.
- Watch their faces. If vehicles come in bunches, pull off and wait until they pass.
- Anything, not a surprise, different on the road helps make a driver take notice of all of his surroundings.
In 2015 the milage was similar to 2013, but most of those were without Wilson (stroller). Hundreds of these miles were on the same highway I had pushed Wilson on. This time I had a car and would park it, go out a few miles and come back. No need for the stroller. Not much attention grabbed. Most cars did not even change lanes to improve the safety. With the stroller, the colors, the waving, almost all cars would move over.
Cars bunched together were treated much different. I could feel the possible danger in those situations.
The difference was stark, between 2013 and 2015. The stroller, the flag on it and the constant waving brought attention. The attention was what I was aiming for, after all, I was raising awareness. The brightly colored signs on three sides of the stroller had the Alzheimer’s Association name and my website. I never noticed anyone slowing down to read them. I assume that if they were going to fast and alone in the car, the signs didn’t get read. If someone was with them, I’m betting they read them and looked at the website and awareness (at least of what I was doing) was raised.
I don’t know why but with the stroller I waved at everyone and it felt right. Without the stroller, and again I don’t know why, I wanted to wave but found myself not doing it as much. Maybe subconsciously I didn’t feel like I had much to notice.
Anyone who saw me in my brightly colored shirt, pushing that colorful stroller, with an American flag on it, and waving most likely knew I was on a mission. (safer) Anyone who saw me in 2015 jogging or walking down the road probably didn’t even notice much.
I found that while going around curves that went to the left that I felt better going with traffic so the surprise factor would be mostly eliminated for oncoming cars. When you are in a car and you are curving to your right and can’t see but a few feet, a man with a jogging stroller popping up could end up causing an accident.
No support vehicles, except for one day in 2015. I faced traffic, used the stroller and ask the driver to go a few miles ahead of me, park and wait. I had helped a man in New Mexico for a few hours. I drove behind him slowly for a bit. Even though the traffic was low, I realized the danger of being on the edge of the road at 5 miles an hour in a 60 mph area. I read later about cars coming up on a vehicle that was following someone and not seeing the runner or biker (hidden by the chase car) until the last minute.
I never had any close calls. I watched everything like a hawk. I had times that I knew I needed to move onto the shoulder more and I did. So they were not close calls. They would have been close calls if I had not moved, but I did move because I knew I needed to.
I was on extremely busy roads on purpose. After all, it was an awareness campaign.
Something else the Highway Patrol said. “If you face traffic, you have some time to respond to danger that seems imminent. If you don’t see it because it is behind you, well, their is seemingly nothing to respond to.”