Day 117

New gear

July 21st, 2010

I've picked up a few things since I started my walk:

- New shoes. This is probably what people are most curious about. I started out with a new pair of boots and an older backup pair, as well as a pair of sandals. I had also purchased two other new pairs of boots, and I left them with my parents. My mom brought me one of them when she came to visit in Minneapolis. I put almost 1200 miles on my first pair before switching. My second pair wore out faster, probably because of all the gravel roads I walked in North Dakota. (Roughrider State? More like the Roughroad State!) They lasted about 1000 miles, and were considerably more worn out when I finally ditched them. (They're the pair you see in the picture above.) My mom mailed my final pair to the post office in Great Falls, and they should last me the remainder of the trip. I've probably only put a combined 100-150 miles on the backup pair and sandals, so they still have a fair amount of life left in them as well.

- New rain pants. The pair I started with turned out to be rather leaky, so I bought a new pair in Chicago.

- New inflatable sleeping pad. My first one sprung a leak I couldn't patch, so my parents sent me a new one (actually my dad's slightly used one) in Jamestown.

- Bear spray. It's basically a highly concentrated pepper spray. I picked up a canister in Minneapolis. Hopefully I won't need it, but I wanted to be prepared.

- Bear-proof food container. I ordered this and had it shipped to Jamestown. It's useful for keeping animals of all types out of my food.

- Oh, and one thing I forgot to photograph. Back in NJ, Raul at the hardware store in Boonton gave me a toilet plunger handle to fend off stray dogs. I've only had to use it to look threatening; that aggressive stance has proven effective at keeping all would-be biters at bay.


  1. young says:

    Looks like Matt is all set for the final push to Rockaway Beach. Please post a pic of you in the toilet plunger handle stance. I have a feeling it will become a classic and fetch a handsome price on eBay. Be aware and take care. We’re rooting for you all the way to Rockaway – I think they know and are expecting you there.

    • Laurenis says:

      What Young said!

    • Steve says:

      Hi all, I just got back from a visit to my folks house in Rockaway Beach, OR. I talked to a number of people about Matt’s plan to terminate his trip there and many folks are aware he is on his way. I talked to Rick, the owner of Rick’s Roadhouse right there on US 101 in the heart of Rockaway. He is connected to a lot of the business and Chamber of Commerce. He noted that a couple of years ago, a fellow on a Harley made the same trip from Rockaway to Rockaway and a number of folks met him outside of town and escorted him in and then had a nice barbecue right there on the main drag. I am sure they will find a way to do the same for Matt. Matt, you will have to decide if you are coming in from the Tillamook side or the Seaside side of town. Right outside of Beaverton the highway splits into Highway 6 and 26, which both go to the coast. Going through Seaside might be a tad longer, but it is a less winding and probably safer road. Best of Luck.

      Steve W.

      • That’s great news to hear. Keep checking in on Matt here and you’ll know which way he is coming or you can email him directly. The email link is at the top of the home page. Matt will answer you back. Glad to hear you asked around and that people are aware he’s coming. Matt plans on going into the pacific ocean there. Maybe a “going in the ocean with Matt’ party can be arranged?

  2. Very nice article, thanks! I’ve subscribed to your RSS feed. Please keep up posting.

  3. Paul in TX says:

    matt – i’m curious as to your route from here. are you going through the Bob? (
    or down through Lincoln? (my grandparents are from there)
    or from Helena to Butte?

    • Michelle says:

      Hi, I think Butte would be a little out of his way since it’s in the southwest corner of Montana (I used to live there). I guess it really depends on where in Oregon he wants to go. Peace, Michelle in Providence

  4. Paul in TX says:

    now that i think about it, the Bob is out. you’re kind of road-bound with your cart.

  5. Sarah from CA says:

    The plunger handle is hysterical! Your choice of gear is funny to me too. We have the exact same sleeping mat, bear canister and a few other items on your previous gear list.

  6. katzien in austin says:

    So you’ve encountered wild animals?? I wonder if bears would venture onto a traveled road. I guess when you pitch your tent in a field is a possible bear situation. Stay safe Matt, we’re all sending you blessings and good vibes.

  7. Brittney says:

    toilet plunger handle XD
    awesome choice

  8. Karen Too says:

    Clarity, at last.

    Jeff made a comment ages ago about Matt waving a plunger, and it made no sense to me at the time.

    Thanks for the update, Matt. I hope you had a great rest day.

    Here are some more ideas for protecting food from bears. Bear bagging is the most familiar to me, but it can be hard to do alone, and it takes extra gear for which Matt may not have room.

    This is a system for one person, and is easier on trees, for those of you who are interested:

  9. Matt in WY says:

    Good luck Matt! The rest of your trip is basically all my favorite parts of the country. Enjoy those hills… “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”

  10. Candice In Alabama says:

    Matt – I see you do have some bear (pepper) spray. I surely hope you won’t need it.

    The plunger handle might come in handy as well with a bear encounter – in case the pepper spray doesn’t.

    Best wishes, be safe, be aware – I’ll be thinking about you!

  11. Peggy in NC says:

    Bears, thankfully no tigers, oh my!! Never thought about bear issues for your travels and the plunger handle is crazy funny. Now all of us following you on this trip will have to get this accessory for fending off unwanted dogs on our walks through the neighborhood. Always wondered how you replaced stuff…glad to know you’re taking care of the feet.

  12. deanna valenti meyer says:

    OMG! I’m still giggling from the plunger handle! Who’d thunk something like that to work…and yet, it does! Awesome!

    Looks like you are rarin’ to go for the final push…I can’t believe how close you are to Washington now! It will be a bit yet before you get to the Vancouver/Portland area (if you are indeed coming this way) but it’s so exciting!

  13. TR in MIAMI says:

    Matt, if you’re still in Great Falls, it would make for an interesting encounter for your trip to visit Walter Bruening, the oldest man in the world, 4th oldest living person alive, at the Rainbow Retirement community at 20 3rd St. North…Born September 12, 1896, Mr. Bruening could add an interesting perspective to your once-in-a-lifetime journey. Good Luck!

      • Chris says:

        Great post, Barb. I really liked one of his quotes:
        “Remember that life’s length is not measured by its hours and days, but by that which we have done therein. A useless life is short if it lasts a century. There are greater and better things in us all, if we would find them out. There will always be in this world – wrongs. No wrong is really successful. The day will come when light and truth and the just and the good shall be victorious and wrong as evil will be no more forever.”

  14. Megan in Great Falls MT says:

    If you’re still downtown and want to backtrack about 10 blocks up Central Ave., you’re welcome in my home. Warm bed, shower, food, a dog to cuddle with, and a fire pit in the back yard if you want to stick with the camping out thing :)

  15. George says:

    I had been thinking about wild animals as you approach this part of the trip. Like you said I hope you don’t need to use the bear spray. What have you had to hit with the plunger? Thats awesome.

  16. Andrew in VT says:

    I have another theory about why the toilet plunger handle works. It’s basic dog logic: i.e., human plus stick equals play time!

    I don’t think “bear spray” is likely to be effective. Something with a bit more range (like a rifle) would be preferable.

  17. charlie says:

    um, why the plunger if you have pepper spray tough enough to handle a bear. i would think it would be exponentialliy effective on a canine. and you should parlay those worn out shoes with the manufacturer to be a spokesperson for their product!

    • Now that to me would be just down right cruel to a dog to use pepper spray on it. Why? He’s using something humane as a means to an end. If he was being viciously attacked by any animal then I could see him using it but not just to scare the dog off.

      • marcus says:

        guess you’ve never had an encounter with a ferocious pit bull, dorinda. or any crazy large vicious dog. sometimes ya gotta use what ya gotta use. we’re not talkin’ tea cup poodles here.

  18. Jeff says:

    ok…the plunger was first discovered by Matt’s aunt hanging out of the front of Matt’s cart. if you go back far enought you can read the exchange between him and her. I am a subscriber to the plunger handle protection program..although cops and scheriff’s always want to talk about it as a weapon of other sorts and they will stop to ask about it. Biologicaly speaking …anything that can make you look Bigger then you are can help deter a animal attack. Not in all cases. But with dogs and bears it is quite useful.

    Matt…thanks for the look and update. I still think you should save your boots (in a smell proof container) and send them to Timberline. Think about it 1200 miles on a pair of shoes/boots. W>O>W.

    I ditto the safe travels and blessings and good weather. Walk on, one foot ahead of the other. Peace.

    • Kevin from NC says:

      I have a dog stick that I’ll carry at night. I’ve thought about getting a cane and claiming a bad back, it’s actually better than a plunger since it’s longer. Or just swallow your pride and carry that plunger right along with you, ready for dogs or blockages, the police can’t say a thing unless they ask you for your plumbing license. Also, your plunger/stick can be concealed up a sleeve in cooler weather. If they ask about the rubber part, just say it’s a mute for a trombone. I’ve never been stopped for carrying a stick, but I’d rather be stopped then attacked by a dog and be empty handed.

      And for those of you thinking of doing some more walking yourselves, you might consider one of these dogstoppers:
      (I love dogs, but I like to be prepared too)

      I’m old enough now that I’m thinking of getting one of these and dumping (wrong word?) my toilet plunger. : )

      I’d hate to even think of a bear being close enough to me that I had to aim pepper spray in its face. That’s entirely too close. Your best bet if you have to sleep out in the open in is to hang any food up out of reach and sleep far away from that spot.

      Be careful Matt–since you are sticking to the road bear sightings should be rare.

      • Jeff says:

        i do the up the sleeve thing. That cane looks more of a weapon then the plunger handle.

      • young says:

        Kevin from NC – I can’t decide which one cracks me up more-your humorous (intentional I hope) post or the canemasters website. Guess it’s a toss up! “Cane-Fu” LOL Those poor dogs better not get any ideas! :-P

      • Something I just thought of about the spray is what if the wind blows it back in your own eyes?? Then you’ve blinded yourself and won’t be able to see. Not good. But I guess if your careful maybe not. And if it’s a real attack you wouldn’t care you’d just use it and worry later. Be Safe Matt.

  19. Chaser1 says:

    He has tons of places to stay in Great Falls, as far as I know.

  20. Don in Tennessee says:

    Lets see … Did I get my weeks supply of prune juice and ex lax. UH-I guess I just need one or the other.

    AND – when I look at those WORN BOOTS in the photo above all I can think of is …..

    I believe the mountain part of your trip will be your most interesting and challenging in my humble opinion. Bears by and large will leave you alone unless they feel threatened or have cubs they feel are in danger. In our neck of the woods we have black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have encountered them before hiking but never been bothered. They do not like whistle noise so a whistle is could to have, but as Jeff said in an earlier post, if you make yourself larger than a bear they usually will leave you alone. Extending your hands over your head to make yourself seem larger and a loud yell will nornally keep them at bay. Grizzlies may be a different story as I am not familar with them.

    But please do not use your PLUNGER HANDLE TO (FLUSH) bears out to wrestle with them!

    Stay safe and well hydrated and rest when you think you need to so that you are alert for snakes, bears etc.

  21. Don in Tennessee says:

    After viewing the video – may I suggest you purchase a wig that looks like Nancy’s hairdo. Surely that would scare a bear off!!!

  22. MN Kirsten says:

    Safe travels – so excited to be part of the adventure.

  23. Michelle says:

    Bears and Montana go together. Please be safe. If you smell a very heavy and strong odor be careful and make a lot of noise so you don’t spook them.
    Peace. Michelle in Providence

    • young says:

      “If you smell a very heavy and strong odor” I would advise to stay off the chocolate covered prunes/dried plums, bud/clamato combos for a while…lol

  24. tim says:

    You are not too far from the end and will soon be able to bronze a pair of these puppies.

  25. Gigi says:

    Great preparation Matt, keeping you in my prayers. Walk on and safe travels!

  26. Craig ( NC!) says:

    My first email to you said “If you need bear or cougar or horny bull dear repellent contact me I’d send it ahead to a PO via gen delivery.
    glad all is well.
    (‘lo jeff)

  27. Craig ( NC!) says:

    oh PS sept 8th is my birthday.. please arrive then so I can win the “matt will arrive at rockaway beach” pool.
    My dad has oct 15th, my mom has oct 18th
    my brother sept 14th and my sister sept 28th
    YES.. it’s all their birthdays!!!
    I sent a email to jeff tellin this to him and I had contacted my family.. they got a huge kick outta this!
    As long as your trip is safe and I get to see more beautiful pictures.. I win anyways!!

  28. Jesse says:

    Don’t forget that your garbage (in any form) will attract bears and other wildlife as well, if you are camping and you have garbage, put it at least 150 meters away from your campsite as not to attract wildlife. You probably already know this, but I thought it wouldn’t harm to say it ;) Good luck, great blog, keep it up!

  29. tna says:

    You might want to learn to recognize berry bushes in the area you will be walking through as summer is berry season and bears love berries. Wouldn’t want to camp near berries. Right now blackberries are ripe in the midwest and blueberries/huckleberries will be getting ripe soon.

  30. Dan says:

    Hey Matt,

    If you ever find yourself without the plunger handle (or get separated from it by a dog), bear in mind that dogs around the world, although generally rather stupid, are smart enough to know that humans can throw rocks that hurt an awful lot. More than once, I’ve raised a rockless fist, cocking my arm for a throw, that kept a territorial dog at bay. In the same way that excited pets will get ready for you to toss a tennis ball that’s not in your hand (a cruel tease), bad dogs will cringe when you raise an empty fist.

  31. Janine says:

    Personally, I would appreciate a picture of the plunger handle and the story of it’s use as a tool of intimidation.

Leave a Reply