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The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step …

… or in my case, a shuttle. Living in Cedar City, Utah, the closest big airport is Las Vegas, so New Years Eve I was on a shuttle bound for Vegas. Not to party my way into 2017, but to catch a red eye flight to Houston to begin my trek. Ultimately, I do plan to trek across the entire country, but in pieces. It’s winter now so it just makes sense to start in the south where it is significantly warmer.

Only check-in baggage was a cardboard box containing my already loaded backpack. During the planning stages I was confident I could keep the weight under 30 pounds, but it registered 39 on United’s scale. That didn’t include the water I will need. Blame the extra weight on what may prove to be too much food and a few “nice to haves” that I packed at the last minute. Taking “nice to haves” above and beyond necessities is breaking my own rule, but worst case scenario, I will find a post office to ship home anything that goes unused.

On an inside flap of the box I wrote in heavy black marker – “Richards, Texas” – anticipating the need to hitchhike a portion of the distance from Houston airport to the start of the Lone Star Hiking Trail just east of Richards. I haven’t hitchhiked in a very long time, but perhaps holding a piece of cardboard proclaiming my destination will prove more effective than soliciting a ride with just my thumb.

Red eye flights include the advantage of short lines at check-in and security. Entire process took less than 20 minutes and I was at the Starbucks near my gate. There I bumped into a student from Costa Rica named Keyner Calvo. It really is a small world. Not sure why, but meeting a friend at the start of this journey felt reassuring. It gave me the feeling that I would be meeting or making more friends along the way.