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The End of the Walk Contest

Sometime today (maybe by the time you read this post), I’ll walk up to milepost 444 on the Natchez Trace and end my 444-mile trek from Natchez, Mississippi. I don’t know how I’m going to feel, but I’m sure I’ll be crying.

Not because my feet hurt. Or my joints ache. Or I’ve walked for more than a month straight and managed to GAIN weight.

I’ll cry because I’ll miss it. The solitude. The time with my thoughts. The perfect peace that can only come from a trial by pain.

And I’ll miss my parents. This trip with me is Dad’s Last Grand Adventure. It may be Mom’s as well, but it is surely Dad’s. I may spend a lot more time with my parents, but I will never, ever have this time again.

In the midst of my tears, though, I’m going to stop at milepost 444, and I’m going to sign a book.

A prize for one of you.

To be eligible to win, please leave a comment on this post and share a time you almost quit but instead kept going, and what that meant to you. You can share this post to garner additional entries, but I really want to hear your stories, to read your words, as I close in on the finish line.

Thank you for going along on this journey with me.


Click here to see the best photos from Day 33 of my Natchez Trace 444-mile walk: Andra Watkins Tumblr

You KNOW you’re a WINNER! Tweet, Facebook, type and review your way to Charleston, South Carolina in the To Live Forever Journey to Charleston Contest. The more you enter, the better your chance to WIN. Click here to find out more: Support My Aching Feet.

Some people read my novel in a day. Beat me to the finish line. To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis is available in paperback and e-book formats at these outlets: Click to Purchase To Live Forever.

Here’s today’s Reader Question.

48 Comments Post a comment
  1. *hugs*

    April 3, 2014
  2. Brava! Brava! Brava! Author! Author! Author!

    A time I almost quit…but kept on and was glad I did? Hmmmm, I don’t have to many of those. The last one I can remember was a business event that I didn’t want to go to, but pushed myself to attend anyway and ended up having a good time.

    Perhaps I don’t challenge myself enough or have just blocked them out. Surely none of my life challenges have involved anything as physically challenging as walking 444 miles.

    April 3, 2014
  3. aboccucci #

    Andra, you’re awesome! I never could have/would have done a 444 mile walk. Last Friday, I seriously considered calling in to work sick after I had already driven there. Our elevator was broken and I was dreading going up to the top floor via stairs. I put my “big girl panties” on and trudged up the stairs, but I could barely breathe after that…my little guy is pressing up into my ribs and I can barely breathe normally now because of him and all the lovely, lovely pollen. I know this is a frivolous story, but I was happy I didn’t give up, because once I went up the stairs, I got to sit down 🙂

    Seriously though, you’re fantastic and I’m excited to see you once you’re back home!

    April 3, 2014
    • aboccucci #

      Plus I thought you could use the laugh at someone that was dreading walking some stairs after all the walking you’ve done since 3/1.

      And you’re going to like my little guy’ name….he’s also going to be a MT 🙂

      April 3, 2014
  4. I am so glad you had this adventure with your parents. It is one that will live forever in your memory. (Pun intended). I think I’m going to have to answer your question in a blog post.

    April 3, 2014
  5. Congrats on the finish. Well done.

    April 3, 2014
  6. Congratulations, Andra. I’m sure there were many days you didn’t know if you could finish this, but you’ve done it! AMAZING!

    April 3, 2014
  7. I can’t believe today is finally here! I wish I could be there today with you to walk your last miles together!
    As for a time I quit and pulled through-there are many in my life, but perhaps the hardest struggle for me personally was finding my path after high school. My dad had great dreams of me graduating from his alma mater and I never felt I had a choice about where I would go to school. I know-wah, wah, cry me a river. I was there for two years and miserable and quit. It broke my dad’s heart. I spent another 2 years trying to figure out what I wanted to do. My sweet love B asked me one day, “What did you want to be when you were a child”? I responded that I wanted to be a princess, of course. Later as I went over our conversation in my head, I felt silly. I had other dreams and the next day, I was sitting in a deans office discussing putting myself back in school. With a new major, I had 3 more years to go. I did it and I cried along with my parents on my graduation day. Tears of Joy.

    April 3, 2014
  8. Congratulations on making it. On making it without killing a parent. On making it without grinding your feet down to stumps. On making it without reenacting some horrible scene from Deliverance. And on making it and still being in love with your characters.

    So many times I have wanted to give up, and so many times I actually have. The times I haven’t have usually been because I have been given a friend to lean on. Or as often as not, a friend who will reach down and pull me up when I am looking at the sides of a pit and can’t see out. It is at those times when a friend like you reaches in, reminds me to look up, offers a hand, and pulls me on my way.

    So thank you.

    April 3, 2014
  9. Congratulations, Andra – you are an absolute inspiration!

    April 3, 2014
  10. I am going to miss your daily updates from the Natchez Trace. I knew you could finish this from the beginning and I’m so proud of you – even prouder to call you a friend. I hope you have sold tons of books (really, why wouldn’t everyone buy one?). And, yes, the time with your parents and friends has been priceless. I wish I was at Mile 444 to cheer for you when you get there today – but I will be there in spirit!

    April 3, 2014
  11. Cindy Duryea #

    And I think I might be crying, too. What an adventure you have taken your readers on for the past month! I have been with you in spirit every step of the way, and I will miss terribly your posts from the Trace. Thank you for having the courage and will to do this and for not giving up when it would have been so easy to do so. You are my hero, and I am proud to call you “friend.”

    April 3, 2014
  12. Reblogged this on Year 'Round Thanksgiving Project and commented:
    Her journey is about to completed – hurry and download her book – you won’t be sorry!

    April 3, 2014
  13. I almost quit writing the other day. I don’t mean quit forever, but just quit for the day because nothing was happening. I thought: why keep bashing my head against this? I’ll just go have a sandwich and take a walk. Anything but this. I cursed myself silently, but just sat there, like a student on a bus where only the driver knows something about where it’s going. I sat some more. I squirmed. I sighed. All of a sudden, a gift fell into me and I knew where a completely different story was going. I hadn’t thought about it in a couple months, yet there is was. If I’d stopped that day, who knows? But I didn’t and now the bus is moving and the driver is smiling at me in the mirror.

    April 3, 2014
  14. deweydecimalsbutler #

    Congrats to you, Andrea! I remember how you struggled so much at the beginning.

    A time I almost quit was in an author quest for a YA novel. I saw how I was going up against experienced authors and how I’d gotten a late start, and I wanted to throw my hands up and go make a quilt instead. But everyone assured me I’d be glad I finished. No, I didn’t make one of the 5 finalist spots. No, I didn’t even make the 25 honorable mention spots. But yes, I did have fun writing again. And yes, I am glad I submitted even though I didn’t make the cut. If I hadn’t submitted, I’d still be wondering if I would have. So there we go.

    April 3, 2014
  15. Kristin #

    Andra, I’m so excited that today is the final day! I can’t believe it’s here. I have tears streaming down my face right now just reading all of this. What an incredible journey!! I’m just so proud of you and have so enjoyed that we, as readers, could go along with you! You are an inspiration and I’m thankful to know you. XOXO

    April 3, 2014
  16. Congrats, Andra!

    April 3, 2014
  17. Every day I type words into a manuscript is a day I didn’t give up, but I think maybe there was a specific date last July when the world came crashing down around me and for one very bleak moment, I honestly didn’t think I’d ever make it out of a very deep, very dark hole, and if that was the case, who the hell did I think I was to believe I had any right to dreams? That I picked myself up and kept going reminds me every day that persistence is more than half the equation.

    Congratulations, Andra, on this wonderful journey, and thanks for sharing such a treasure with us.

    April 3, 2014
  18. You have so much to be proud of, so much to be grateful for. I’m so excited for you because even though I know you’re coming to the end of the walk, I also know it’s just the beginning of your next adventure. You’ve been an inspiration and I know you’ll be a successful author (whatever success means to you – I suspect you know you’re already there.) Best wishes and congratulations!

    April 3, 2014
  19. April 3, 2014
  20. April 3, 2014
  21. I wish I could be with you at Mile Marker 444. Hell, I wish I could have taken this whole trip with you, but I guess in a way I did since your daily posts so well captured your many moments of pain and of joy.
    I’ve commented before on times when I wanted to quit, but didn’t and was glad I didn’t. In one case my reward was the man I loved falling in love with me. In another, a beautiful campsite to share with my man. But I’ve only just realized a couple of things because of your post: I have quit plenty of times without any regret whatsoever (as in quitting a job that was crushing my soul), but when challenged with something physical, like a hard steep climb, I can’t bare the thought of quitting, no matter the pain. It’s ironic because my perseverance (or stubbornness) really only manifested after 1981, after I suffered a trauma to my lower right leg that has left it severely scarred and somewhat disabled. When I had two good legs, I was loathe to do more than bake them in the sun. I liked to show them off, but not really exercise them. Now that I have one good leg and one God-awful-ugly leg, I’m loathe to “show them off” but I’m determined to exercise both of them, push them to their limits and beyond if necessary. Maybe I’ve just learned to appreciate what I have, or have left. That my right leg wasn’t amputated was a gift, and it’s a gift that’s been giving to me ever since.
    Andra, thank you for taking on the incredible challenge of a 444-mile walk, for honoring the memory of Meriwether Lewis, for inspiring so many people, and for helping me, through your posts, to realize that the only thing that can stop me is me,

    April 3, 2014
  22. Congratulations, Andra! I knew you would do it.
    The day I climbed to the Boiling Lake on Dominca. 4 hours up and back (give or take). Within the first 1/4 mile I slipped and twisted my knee. That SOB hurt. The guide asked if I wanted to go on and I said yes. About 25 minutes later I landed badly on a small rock and twisted it again. I didn’t say anything. 5 hours later I made it to the Lake. An amazing site although the landscape all the way up the mountains was even better in some ways. After 2 hours on the way down, I told the guide and his girlfriend to stop waiting for me and go ahead. I would catch up. I actually needed them out of the way because I had a small case of food poisoning (whee!). Two hours later when I met them at the bottom of the trail it was quite clear they had filled the time in a most happy manner. As you know, I couldn’t run or climb for over a year after that while I rehabbed the knee. I would do it again, the same way, in a heartbeat.

    You go, girl! A brilliant journey you have had, indeed.

    April 3, 2014
  23. Reblogged this on The Quotidian Hudson and commented:
    Today’s the day! She did it! 444 miles by foot Natchez Trace (Mississippi) to Nashville.

    April 3, 2014
  24. Today is the day! Please tell me someone will be all set up at Mile Marker 444 with a camera (and video) to mark the exact moment you arrive? Make it so!

    My gosh…so many times I’ve nearly given up on something. The most hilarious/traumatic had to be during labour with my daughter 24 years ago. I refused pain meds and had become delirious. At one point, in my full on crazy mode, I looked at hubby and said, “I’m so sorry. I just can’t. I tried my hardest, but I just can’t do this.” <– and fully meant, hey, let's call it a day; I tried, I failed. Let's go home now.

    Hubby looked at me, nonplussed, and said, "Well it's too late for that now, babe."

    If I had a knife I would have stabbed him repeatedly.

    Instead I channeled my crazy into birthing that giant baby so I could free myself up to plot my revenge against him. 🙂

    Go Andra! With you there in spirit — cheering you on from afar! xoxo

    April 3, 2014
  25. Well done Andra the finish of your stroll was never in doubt in my mind; you are and always will be a true inspiration to all who know you and will meet you in the future.

    My darkest hour was as a teenager when my mother left the family home. I vowed then that I would not ever do that and that I would make my way in the world and be as successful as I could possibly be under my own steam. I think that despite my start in life I have achieved well above my steam rating and have lived and will continue to live a happy life with my family and further try to help others through my vocation and my faith.

    My final request on your trace experience is to request that in true dramatic style your final video is spoken in Queens English.

    April 3, 2014
  26. Redneck Garage #


    Congratulations on completing your journey!!! I enjoyed your book as well as following your journey. A time I wanted to quit but kept going? Over the past six years, walking the journey of breast cancer every step of the way with my wife (who is now divorcing me) there were many times I wanted to quit but I kept going. During the recovery from two spine surgeries for myself, there were many times that I wanted to quit because it hurt but I kept walking. Some time in the past six years I put a yellow sticky note on my computer at work reminding me that “it’s a new day”. I also made a choice to find happiness in each situation no matter how dark the valley. I kept my eye on Jesus knowing he would guide me no matter what and would not give me anything I could not handle. Six years ago I was a wimp when it came to blood, vomit, hospitals, and emergency rooms. Six years later I will stop to help an injured person on the side of the road while everyone else stands around waiting for the fire department to arrive. Yep, the last six years have sucked but I have grown a lot. Just typing this “when did you almost quit” brings back a flood of memories both good and bad (and eyes welling up with tears).

    Grocho Marx said, “I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it”.

    I choose to be happy when life slams you against a wall…but it is not always easy.

    About gaining weight on your journey, muscle is denser than fat. Your weight gain is all muscle.


    April 3, 2014
    • Redneck Garage #

      April 3, 2014
  27. Mahermania #

    Andra –

    Cheers Again!

    Thanks for the invitation, but this day, of all days, is for your story.

    April 3, 2014
  28. Congratulations Andra.
    When did I neaerly quit?
    I had just started at the gym, back in the days of high impact aerobics. I was overweight after have my second baby, in pain and could barely move. I was one month into my 12 month membership. I wondered if it could be worth it. I wondered if it would ever get any better.
    The instructor said it took six weeks before it stopped “killing you” and the other participants agreed. So I gave it two monre weeks before I was going to say “That’s it!”
    Two weeks later, or rather in the last week a strange thing happened. Suddenly my muscles stopped screaming at me and my joints seemed to loosen up. I could move. I could get through the class without feeling as though I was going to die, as if I wanted to die.
    I suddenly found myself eager to get to c;ass. Thoughts of quitting anished. My instructor did come to ask me how I was feeling since I had told her I was thinking of quitting. No Way I told her. From that point on I was hooked and it was the best thing I ever did.
    Never quit….. it always works out in the end.
    Susan x

    April 3, 2014
  29. 444 miles by foot seemed impossible at first, and yet here you are at the finish line! Congratulations, Andra! You did it! And you inspired all of us along the way. XO

    April 3, 2014
  30. The answer to today’s reader question is wonderful. There is now going to be a certain knowledge of your own strength, physical, mental and spiritual, that is going to always be in place, and that’s a “knowing” that you’ll draw from many times, I’m sure. I am sensitive to what you’re saying about “missing your parents” and think that for them, too, this has to have been a magical experience.

    I have many things that come to mind about not giving up, but some wouldn’t translate well. . I think what I can share is that I went back to school in my late 40’s to get a Master’s Degree. I didn’t have any particular reason to do it, I just wanted an advanced degree, or maybe it was simply my love of education. Something was driving me forward.

    We had a lot of family “chaos” at the time and several emergencies that could have easily dissuaded me from continuing, but I kept it up. The amount of focus it required was the challenge. I was working, my kids were in high school, my extended family had more drama than I could almost block out, and I at times I felt selfish because my program was costly in time and money. But I made up my mind to follow something I really wanted to do. It didn’t need to make sense to anyone else.

    And I learned a lot about perseverancein that process. So there you go! I’m so proud of you, Andra. And by the time I post this, you are probably almost there…or THERE!! I can’t wait to “hear” you cross the finish line. D

    April 3, 2014
  31. Congratulations, Andra! Thanks so much for sharing this adventure with us. It’s been a treat from the first mile!

    The “time” I wanted to quit . . . singular? I cannot describe how I felt about not quitting some one thing or another, but I will say that any regrets I may have about something in my past can generally be connected to something I walked away from, skirted around, or refused to try for fear of failure. This used to hang on my office wall, and when I heeded it, things usually worked out just fine:

    April 3, 2014
  32. I’m going to cry right with you! What a journey that you will cherish forever, Andra.
    A time that comes to mind when I felt like giving up and honestly considered ending the misery, was after my most recent surgery. I had been ordered to get off all of my RA medications a month prior to surgery to minimize the possibility of infection and to speed up the healing. Then, for reasons beyond my control, the surgery date was postponed to the following month. My well renowned surgeon was the best at what he did but had negative bedside manner.

    The surgery went well and he informed me that I needed to wait an additional month to resume my medication routine. OMG. To say that I was miserable does not come close to describing the agony I went through. All he cared about was his “work of art” and NOT me, the actual patient. He did not return my calls and when he finally did, was very defensive and pompous. On top of this, I ended contracting a nasty infection at the site of the surgery anyway, that took 9 months to cure.

    I lay in my bed day after day in excruciating pain ready to end it all. Seriously wanting to die than to live one more day of this hell. I asked my mother to ask our priest to visit me at home because I could not go on. I asked him to allow me to just end it all. I asked him how and where I could find any possible strength, to continue living. I am not a ‘good practicing Catholic’ but I hung on to every single word he said to me. We prayed together (even though I had forgotten the Hail Mary prayer and mumbled all the way through it). He didn’t give me any magical answers or solutions but the peace I felt after his visit was palpable and the reason I did not give up!

    Oh boy, I didn’t realize how long this answer was! Oops.

    Congratulations once again, Andra. 🙂

    April 3, 2014
  33. And she will dream of walking for days afterward, even while wide awake. Her body will complain when she’s not up and about when it wants to move and those creaking joints (when not in motion) will remind her that there are miles to go as she merely strolls the supermarket aisles. One day, she will start walking and unconsciously fall into the rhythm from that longer trek, ending up miles from where she started before she realizes that she only meant to go a few blocks.

    April 3, 2014
  34. Huzzah! 444 miles done with style. A hearty congratulations to you, Andra!

    There have been a couple of times where not folding has brought a modicum of reward, however, I dare say I’m going through a trial of my own right now. You know of what I speak, and I can’t just call it quits. I can’t pick up a phone and call for help. There’s no free help for me, but if I don’t keep going I’ll be lost for the rest of the time I’m alive. It would be life Life-in-Death.

    April 3, 2014
  35. Hurrah! You are properly awesome Andra! Many many congratulations x

    April 3, 2014
  36. Emily Guess #

    Congratulations! You did it. I am so proud of you. You accomplished writing the book and walking the Trace.

    April 3, 2014
  37. When your heart is broken but you have to carry on living. That’s all you can do. Loved the walking posts as much as the book (nearly!)

    April 3, 2014
  38. Congratulations on your huge accomplishment. Savour the moment and the few days following when you will still be on a celebratory high. You will carry the pride of this achievement with you forever!!
    When did I want to give up on a major goal? I was climbing Kilimanjaro 5 years ago. On the night of the climb for the summit, I was suffering from altitude sickness, weak, and I simply wanted to lay down in the snow and go to sleep forever. I had no idea where I was going to get the energy to keep going – but I did. I just kept shuffling one foot in front of the other in a mental fog. It took 45 minutes to go the final kilometer. We are capable of soooo much more than we think we can. Whenever I’m feeling discouraged and despondent, I remember the summit climb on Kilimanjaro.
    You faced your fears and did it anyway. Kudos!

    April 3, 2014
  39. Way to go Andra. I’d say relish in the moment, but it looks like you don’t need me to say it.

    April 3, 2014
  40. The best thing I refused to quit on is my marriage. We have traveled past the peaks and valleys of bipolar disorder, fallen into the devastating pit of destruction in infidelity, and now live apart, but still hold onto the hope of peace and perhaps even reconciliation.

    April 3, 2014
  41. congratulations to you, this is so wonderful and you deserve a good cry )

    April 3, 2014
  42. Andra, you finished! You walked the 444 miles of the Natchez Trace. Awesomeness times a million.

    Andra, I almost quit being happy during the darkest times of married life. It’s only been in the journey of the past four years – having good friends, reconnecting with family, finding a church family, and starting a blog page – that I realize I almost gave up a happy life due to complacency and fear. The marriage was sucking the life and smiles out of me. I know, that sounds so depressing, but I cannot tell you how fortunate I am that I did not quit. I am so happy now, even when work and life stresses me, because life and happiness are both at my own hands…especially now, when I can sit undisturbed and smile at your huge accomplishment.

    April 3, 2014
  43. Debbie #

    I am so happy and proud for you Andra. I can’t wait to give you a great big hug!

    April 3, 2014
  44. Congrats, Andra! I never doubted for you have a lively, determined spirit that comes out in your blog. What a wonderful thing – to cross that finish line and to look back at every mile.

    (shhhh…don’t tell, but I’m a quitter by nature. As a child, I learned early that I could quit in order to not have to face my fears. I did it a lot because my parents never pressed me to stay with it. Today, if I really fear it, I almost have to do it because the quitter guilt eats at me. I wish I had a grand adventure to tell… but mine pale in comparison to 444 miles!)

    April 3, 2014
  45. That was a lot of miles to have undertaken and accomplishing it in just over a month is outstanding!

    April 5, 2014

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  1. Reflecting on the Journey: Self Discoveries on the Natchez Trace | Lisa A. Kramer: Woman Wielding Words

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