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Coming Up Short at the Finish Line

natchez trace nashville

It was a slog, Dear Reader. I wish I could tell you that I zipped through my last few miles of the Natchez Trace with ease. With grace. With the wind at my back and the sun on my face.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

Thunderstorms, of the Midwestern tornado-spawning variety, rolled through the Nashville area overnight. (Really, it was the weather. Not me screaming at Dad to turn the TV off and go to bed.)

We awoke to a smoldering sky that promised rain, if I was lucky.

I wasn’t.

Lucky.

I trotted away from milepost 435 into dank humidity. The wind pounded me along those last few miles of ridge line, along with a fine curtain of rain. I scarfed down a snack at milepost 441 and—mercifully, thankfully—descended a steep drop into a valley. The wind eased. The only moisture steamed from a very stinky me.

I strolled up to milepost 442.

And.

Well, watch the video to find out what happened.

Fitting. Just. Fitting.

But the Trace didn’t let me down in the end. Friends surprised me at the finish line. Reporters awaited interviews. My family and my husband were there. I galloped up to that knot of people. I took my final picture.

And I savored every bit of the moment.

A moment I found through reading.

I became interested in Meriwether Lewis again when I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose more than a decade ago. Reading gave me this grand adventure. If I didn’t read, I never would’ve written my novel. I wouldn’t have canoed the White Cliffs of the Missouri or crawled the Columbia Gorge. I certainly wouldn’t have known about the ancient Natchez Trace, and I never, ever would’ve walked its length in a little over a month.

Make time to read. Choose to live the adventures reading brings.

.

Click here to see the best photos from Day 34 of my Natchez Trace 444-mile walk: Andra Watkins Tumblr

You’ve still got plenty of time to win a TOTALLY FREE TRIP TO CHARLESTON!! 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.

You’ve followed the crazy walk. Why not read the book? 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.

Today’s Reader Question. Sort of.

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76 Comments Post a comment
  1. And now…. 34 days of sitting, my friend. You. Have. Earned. It. Proud of you!

    April 4, 2014
    • Thank you. For the hilarious post. For walking with me two days. For coming out last night. For putting me up at your house. For being an awesome, very funny friend. xo

      April 4, 2014
  2. Which reporters were there? Have they posted / aired stories? The 5 year old in me is screaming to see it all right now.

    April 4, 2014
    • A reporter came out from the NBC Nashville affiliate and interviewed me for a piece that aired on the 6 o’clock news last night. I have running that down on a very long list of things to do today. Also, The Tennessean came out. I gave them a lengthy interview that will run this weekend. The Post & Courier also interviewed me for a story that will run this weekend. We sent a requested packet and book to a very major outlet last night, and I have everything on my body crossed that they will take the book for review. Still have to invest in working the walk, but it’s off to a great start.

      April 4, 2014
      • Awesome!

        April 4, 2014
      • Have they posted the story online? I can’t find a link or mention and I want to share with everyone.

        April 4, 2014
      • The only one that’s run so far is the TV one. I’ve asked Rowe to get it from them.

        April 4, 2014
      • Super

        April 4, 2014
  3. Jill Clary Stevenson #

    Oh I was worried about that weather and am so sorry you were caught in the maelstrom. How was the reading at Parnassus? Hope you have a long, relaxing weekend booked somewhere fantastic (like the Inn at Blackberry Farm??). xxoo

    April 4, 2014
    • I survived worse weather during my 34 day walk, Jill. The end wasn’t too bad. The heavy rain happened last night.

      I’ll post about the Parnassus event tomorrow or Sunday. We’re staying in Nashville until Tuesday, partly in a hotel and partly with Tori. I had a great speaking opportunity early this morning, and we are working on a weekend appearance at a major outlet. (Again, everything on me crossed that it happens.) I also went and introduced myself to Landmark Booksellers, the other Nashville area independent bookstore that’s carrying TLF. They provided a pretty immediate opportunity to come back for some good exposure, and I’m evaluating that right now.

      No rest. I worked really hard to build this snowball and push it uphill, and I’m still pushing it uphill.

      April 4, 2014
      • Jill Clary Stevenson #

        You are truly an amazing woman! You WILL succeed at anything you attempt. I’ll cross arms, legs, fingers, toes, eyes and anything else I can if it will help you get your gig.

        April 4, 2014
  4. I expected you to do the Rocky style run up to the finish line – with fists in the air and “Gonna Fly Now” blaring over the speakers.

    April 4, 2014
  5. You made it!!!!!! I’m so excited for you. Can’t wait to hear how the reading went.

    April 4, 2014
    • Look for the story and pictures this weekend. I wish you could’ve been there.

      April 4, 2014
  6. Yay you 🙂 First time listening to your voice! Loved it ..hehe.

    April 4, 2014
    • Shree, I got more comfortable doing those videos as I went. I can’t stand to watch myself or listen to myself talk.

      April 4, 2014
  7. Congratulations to your success!

    April 4, 2014
  8. Great job, totally awesome. Can’t wait to see you guys back in Charleston and celebrate with a special bottle.

    April 4, 2014
  9. Yep. It was a pleasure to be a tiny part of your big adventure.

    April 4, 2014
    • Thanks so much for your encouragement and email correspondence, Jim. I’m looking forward to PBR and can’t wait to announce its appearance.

      April 4, 2014
  10. AWESOME!!!!!!! I knew you could do this – and what a grand adventure it has been for you. Congratulations! Now get some rest

    April 4, 2014
    • Not much time for rest, but I do have a long massage scheduled for Monday. 🙂

      April 4, 2014
  11. tarakianwarrior #

    I. AM. SO. PROUD. TO. HAVE. YOU. AS. A. FRIEND! I’m so proud of who you are. I’m so proud of YOU! Go Andra! You are an absolute INSPIRATION!

    April 4, 2014
  12. I am very proud of you, Andra, and I am very proud to know you. Thank you for sharing your journey, the good, the bad, and the ugly (your feet). Now, get thee to a spa, woman!

    April 4, 2014
    • Monday. I kept forgetting to make the appointment, and Monday was the earliest one I could get.

      April 4, 2014
      • Dang. Well, better Monday than never 🙂

        April 4, 2014
  13. Congratulations! You have accomplished something memorable and exciting and historical, and you deserve at least a week of pampering in a spa.

    April 4, 2014
    • I wish I could take a month at a spa, a day for every day of walking. Sadly, I have to settle for a couple of hours.

      April 4, 2014
  14. Lance #

    YOU MADE IT!

    I’m so proud of you. I hope MTM and your family appreciate your need to rest. Congratulations

    April 4, 2014
  15. Like the Little Engine that Could, you thought you could, you thought you could, you DID!
    Congratulations, Andra. You are a remarkable woman and and inspiration to all, but, most especially, to me.
    Can’t wait to hear more, maybe see or read what those reporters said, and, well, mostly to know that you are treating your well worn feet to some much needed rest.

    April 4, 2014
    • I’ll share everything here as it rolls in, Penny. Thank you for being such an awesome person. I am determined to get to Chicago this year and give you a big hug.

      April 4, 2014
  16. Well done! Congratulations on finishing. 🙂

    I’ll also add to those sentiments by quoting Mr. T. “Don’t be a fool. Stay in school!”

    April 4, 2014
  17. okay 3 things:

    1. Please tell me that the Chariots of Fire music was playing as you slow-motion ran to the end.
    2. Did you get your roots done pre-reading?
    3. You. Are. A. Warrior. 🙂

    April 4, 2014
    • You’ve actually given me a question I can answer by video, Nancy. I think I’ll do that, since people are bemoaning the end of the video questions. As long as people ask questions, I’ll answer them that way.

      April 4, 2014
  18. Sweaty, tired, emotional and then you have to talk to reporters!? You truly are a phenomenal woman! congratulations. (Those extra 2 miles were for all the times you wandered off the road into the bushes. 🙂 )

    April 4, 2014
    • I walked WAAAAAAAYYYYYY more than 2 miles doing that, Lisa. Ha.

      April 4, 2014
  19. Congrats!

    April 4, 2014
  20. Sharon #

    Congrats! What a wonderful experience. While you walked, I read your book, thanks to my friend Penny at “lifeonthecutoff”, only took me two days, couldn’t put it down. It made your walk so much more meaningful. You are a trouper, and the time spent with your Mom and Dad, you touched my heart. You should be very proud.

    April 4, 2014
    • If you found it fit for your reading group, I’d love to virtually attend the discussion. 🙂 Questions for reading groups will be up on the site by the end of next week. Thanks so much for taking the time to read, Sharon.

      April 4, 2014
  21. Well done. It is a huge achievement you can be proud of. It’s been great following your journey.
    Susan x

    April 4, 2014
  22. Bravo Andra!!! I hope your reading was great fun. What a way to crown the month you just had 🙂

    April 4, 2014
    • It was the perfect end to the walk. Thanks for being such a stalwart texter. It really meant a lot to me.

      April 4, 2014
      • It was an absolute pleasure…I had so much fun texting you, I may just keep doing it 😉

        April 4, 2014
  23. Congrats on your big trek, we are all so proud of you.You’re amazing.

    April 4, 2014
  24. Did MTM pick you up and throw you up in the air??? Or were you too stinky? 🙂 F*E*L*I*C*I*D*A*D*E*S!!!

    April 4, 2014
    • I was pretty ripe, Maria. He gave me a big kiss anyway.

      April 4, 2014
      • Awww. I am sure he is going to be one content man to have you back home.

        April 4, 2014
  25. Woo hoo!!! I can’t wait to hear about your reading and am sending you virtual hugs from across the country!

    April 4, 2014
    • Thanks, Lisa. I’m glad this experience gave you and your family another thing to follow together. I love that you did that.

      April 4, 2014
  26. Well done, you! Can’t wait to hear all about the triumphant celebrations!

    April 4, 2014
  27. What a feat – but those poor feet!
    Surprises right up to the end, it seems.

    April 4, 2014
  28. Hooray! What an accomplishment! Congratulations. I am very much looking forward to reading your book when I arrive back in the US this summer. Brava!

    April 4, 2014
  29. Way to goooooo!!! So … I’m confused. It sounds like what happened at mil 442 was that you had to guess walk for two miles, yes? I’m so excited either way, and I’m glad you were feted (even if you were a little fetid) at the other end.

    April 4, 2014
  30. Very inspirational. 🙂

    April 4, 2014
  31. YOU MADE IT! Yay. Althooooooough, a nickel (and you know which kind) says a certain ghost MOVED the damn mile markers so you need to walk two MORE miles now before you’re actually finished. I’ll wait… you go on ahead, as I got tired writing that… winded, even!

    Or something like that…

    April 4, 2014
  32. You are beautiful. Inspiring. And I can’t wait to get your book and read. I admire your determination and seethroughitiveness to reach this goal. COngratulations!

    April 4, 2014
  33. Work it, Andra! I would say that I am proud of you for finishing your journey, but I think it has only begun. The snowball should roll your book into stores everywhere, it is that good. Congrats on completing the walk, I am anxious to see the good things that come next for you.

    April 4, 2014
  34. what a hilarious and perfect ending to this amazing journey. you could not have written or planned it any better! congratulations andra ))))))))))))))))) merry would be proud of you –

    April 4, 2014
  35. Woodley hoot – you did it 🙂 well done my friend on an epically awesome trip and a spectacular book. Your dedication and drive will be rewarded many times over, of that I’m quite convinced x

    April 5, 2014
  36. Enjoy that spa date! Tremendously deserved. You are such an inspiration to really follow the dreams we all have and sometimes don’t share. Thank you for that. And read? Yes, indeed. While you were “away” I trotted off to the library to re-read “The Devil’s Backbone” and I’m also planning to re-read “Undaunted Courage.” You lit a match under me! Now rest! ox

    April 5, 2014
  37. It is not how you finish but the month’s journey, Andra! I saw this as being a most extraordinary experience, enjoyed the times I was able to get here and read the adventure! Congratulations! I do enjoy explorers’ stories, will have to check out the book you mentioned. I am excited about your personal book, too. Smiles, Robin

    April 5, 2014
  38. I know that i am SO late to the party however better late than never!

    I loved reading every single post of your 444 mile walk of the Natchez Trace. I loved watching each video you posted and when i read the words “444 mile walk of the Natchez Trace” instead of hearing my own voice in my head, i hear yours, and that makes me laugh. To be honest, i had never heard of Meriwether Lewis or William Clark or the Natchez Trace before you released your novel (as an Australian i hope i am forgiven, after all we learn about Aboriginals in our history!) and i am really curious about it all now. I bought your book and read it in an afternoon and i couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I really enjoyed reading it. You are really truly, an inspiring person!

    May 21, 2014
    • Laura, I’m sending you an email now. I wanted to let you know, in case it ends up in your spam folder.

      May 21, 2014
      • Thanks! It didn’t and i have replied 🙂

        June 1, 2014

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