A Walk Across America

A Walk Across America

by Peter Jenkins

Paperback(1ST PERENN)

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A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins

Twenty-five years ago, a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey -- a classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country.

"I started out searching for myself and my country," Peter Jenkins writes, "and found both." In this timeless classic, Jenkins describes how disillusionment with society in the 1970s drove him out onto the road on a walk across America. His experiences remain as sharp and telling today as they were twenty-five years ago -- from the timeless secrets of life, learned from a mountain-dwelling hermit, to the stir he caused by staying with a black family in North Carolina, to his hours of intense labor in Southern mills. Many, many miles later, he learned lessons about his country and himself that resonate to this day -- and will inspire a new generation to get out, hit the road and explore.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060959555
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/18/2001
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: 1ST PERENN
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 99,903
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Peter Jenkins is the author of The Walk West, Along the Edge of America, Across Chinaand Looking for Alaska.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Talkin' by a Wood Stove

“Stop right there, son. You ain't goin' nowhere in this blizzard. Now sit down!” The huge man blocked the narrow door of the snow-covered country store. I had just thawed out from the heat of the wood stove and was ready to move on, but this outraged stranger was as round as the stove and as stout as an old oak, and the meanness in his face would have stopped a charging rhino. I didn't want to argue or create more of a scene than was already taking place, so I took off my backpack again, hoping he would calm down.

I leaned my pack up against a bag of hog feed and sat down next to a farmer in faded overalls. On my right sat a man who, along with me, looked a bit out of place in this collection of country folk. This white-haired scholarly-looking gentleman wore overalls, but they were a very new blue. His expensive golf-rimmed glasses were unbent and his hands were big and soft.

Next to the white-haired man was a man in his early twenties, about my age. He had on an insulated army jacket, and his hair, long for this part of the country, was growing out from underneath his yellow-and-green John Deere baseball cap. The worn black boots with the army canvas on the side told me that he had recently returned from Vietnam. In the seat next to the Vietnam veteran was his young son, staring at my golden backpack.

The shouting man came over to our circle by the potbellied stove.“What in the world do ya think yer a-doin' hikin' in this blizzard? Cain't ya see there's two feet o' snow on tha ground and no stoppin' in sight? What are ya, crazy?”

“Now calmdown, Tommy. Maybe this boy's got a good reason for bein' out in this god-awful weather,” soothed the white-haired gentleman.

“Doc,” yelled Tommy, “I could hardly feed ma cows this morning, it was so bad! Why the devil ya think I'm stranded here? This boy's got ta be crazy!”The doctor said, “Tommy, why don't you hush up and I'll ask the boy himself.”Here it goes again, I said to myself. For the hundredth time I am going to answer someone's questions about why I'm walking across America. It wasn't that I minded talking about it or answering questions, it was just that I really didn't know why myself.

“Well, sir, my name's Peter Jenkins.” I took a deep breath. “I'm walking across America. I started in upper New York state in October and I'm heading down through the Deep South and then on over to the West Coast.”The doc looked as if he had just delivered quintuplets when he expected twins. He blurted out, “Why in the name of God would you want to do a thing like that?”

“To get to know the country.”

Doc stared at me. “So how does everything look?” he asked.“You know, doc, it's looking better and better all the time.”Tommy, the stranded farmer, had been pacing the floor. For once he was quiet, obviously thinking hard. He broke off a wad of tobacco and began to chew. “Listen, Pete, why don't ya come over to my house fer the night? My wife will cook ya up a big batch of biscuits with some homegrown steak.”

He was still trying to keep me out of the storm, and he had just offered me a temptation I almost couldn't resist. I hated to turn down those hot biscuits, but I declined his kind invitation. This time Tommy didn't stand in my way when I walked over to my pack, which I had just crammed with a day's food supply. He reached over and with a groan lifted the sixty pounds onto my back.“Shoot, boy, I can hardly lift it! Ya know, carry'n' this thang all day must be worse than throwin' bales of hay on a hot summer day.” He aimed a spit of tobacco in a nearby can. “Pete, yer all right!”

I opened the ice-caked door and whistled for Cooper, my half-Alaskan Malamute dog. For the first time he didn't instantly appear. This puzzled me because Cooper always waited for me no matter how long I was gone.

But now he was nowhere in sight. I whistled as loud as I could and yelled, “Cooper! Come on, let's go!” Over to my left I saw an exploding mound of snow. Inside that explosion was smiling Cooper. He came crashing over and jumped up on me with so much power and excitement that he knocked me back five feet. I would have fallen if big ol' Tommy hadn't been standing behind me; instead I just bounced off him.

What happened next was one beautiful moment in our long walk. When Cooper jumped up on me and I bounced off Tommy, I was spun around and there were all the country store people standing in this freezing, blowing snow ready to say good-bye. First the little boy walked up to me and handed me a Hershey's chocolate bar his dad had bought him. Then the doc came over to size up Cooper and said, “Yes, sirre-e-e, I guess with him taking care of you I don't have to worry so much about you.” He paused. “Listen, son, what we were saying back there in the store, well, we were just concerned, that's all.” Another pause as he started to shiver.

Then out from the weathered little store came the thin farmer with the antique overalls. He hadn't said a word, but now he walked over to me, grabbed my hand hard as a bear...

A Walk Across America. Copyright © by Peter Jenkins. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

1Talkin' by a Wood Stove1
2Mount California8
3Walking into the Country25
4A New Nikon37
5Thanksgiving and Five Red Apples45
6Homer's Mountain59
7The Code75
8Fifteen Big-man Burgers79
9Real High85
10The Dark Black Shadow96
12Hanging Hill104
13Smokey Hollow113
14Lemm and Preacher134
15Sweet Milk, Booze and Lightning141
16The Pigpen150
17Locomotive's Coming!154
18Pau Pau162
19The Blue-eyed Dane175
20The Farm185
21Down a Deer Trail199
22The Water Truck204
24Shelby County219
25"The Guv-na"226
26Miss Margaret and M.C.234
28The Revival250
29The Gulf of Mexico263
30Holding Hands267

Customer Reviews

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Walk Across America 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Maroonbell More than 1 year ago
I discovered and read this book many years after its publication. I really could not put it down, reading it at home each spare moment I had, on my bus ride to work, even at work during down time! It was completely enthralling -- the adventure of it all, the places he saw, the people he met and how it changed his life. You will laugh, cry, be inspired and in awe of Peter Jenkins' exciting experience. Truly one of my favorite books!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is more of a 'tale' across America, rather than a road trip. There is so much more depth to this book than just viewing the countryside. For those that need their faith in the human and American spirit reawakened, you will find it here. This book rings as true today as it did 25 years ago. When I read Peter Jenkins book at the age of 16 my fascination with America and our heritage grew. Now 26 years later my daughter has just finished it (she's 14, yes they do grow up faster these days). Her impression, 'wow mom why didn't you do that'. Enough said. Great book Thanks Peter
Guest More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for an English class I took at NCSU a few years back. I am not much of an avid reader, but I could not put this book down. I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys learning about life and a journey across America.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I passed by this book hundreds of times in the library before finally giving it a shot. I was so glad i did! Jenkins is a good writer and purveyor of adventures! It is essentially the quest of a man to find belief and meaning in his country and his life. He finds unexpected kindness in his long walk across America and one can only admire the wife he meets along the way... a special person in her own right! All young people should explore this book,as it crosses generations and social boundaries. Here was a dispirited,directionless young man who gained an appreciation of his country and a career as well. The journey itself seemed to bring the wholeness to his life he was seeking.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a tradition in humankind that when all else fails, when your heart and soiul seem empty and flat, when nothing really makes sense, then one should get up and start walking amongst your fellows and thereby find yourself. This is a solid and enjoyable account of a sincere pilgrimage. My favoorite in the genre is IN THE GHOST COUNTRY where a man goes to the end of the earth on a haunted journey with many dead friends. Strange and beautiful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i dont really like to read. ask my friends, im the outdoorsy type of person, so if you see me holding a book and actually reading it, its not something you will see too often. i love this book, if nowadays people wouldnt get shot just for walking through the wrong part of town, i would do the same as peter did and walk cross country. he was very coragous to do that, and he found a soul mate along the way! i recomend that u pick up this book, A Walk Across America, and read it, you will love it, i did!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Walk Aross America is one of the finest books I have ever read. Although it is a page turner (a book you can't put down) I wanted to read it slow so the journey wouldn't end. Jenkins had the courage to challenge his uncertainties about America and discovered it's greatness in doing so. He is a remarkable person who grew in this experience and touched many lives while doing so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time about 15 years ago and have read it several times since. Peter Jenkins has this amazing way of pulling you into his journey that you have to pinch yourself to make sure that you are not walking down a hot dusty road with him or sitting with him enjoying a conversation with a person he has met on the road. I highly reccommend this book for any one who is convelescing (sp) at home.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book about 5 years ago at a rummage sale. It has been sitting on a shelf in my house and every once in awhile I would come across it and say 'I need to read this sometime'. (Always too busy you know). I saw Peter Jenkins on CSpan talking about his new book 'Looking for Alaska'. I remembered my book on the shelf so I pulled it out and started reading it (finally). It's great. I think especially during this time in our country, it's a book that all Americans should read. It summarizes why we are a great, adventurous (sp?) group of people and that we are willing to help our fellow man. It really helped me focus on what is important in life. I'm planning on reading Peter Jenkins other books. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book kept my complete attention from the beginning to the end.I found myself wanting to read it all the tlme.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book sucks you in and creates in you a desire to find out for yourself what exactly America is made of and what makes it the best place to live in the world. As he walks he not only discovers things about the people he meets, but he also discovers things about himself that he never knew were there. The story comes to its culmination in his revelation of why he started the walk and what he was looking for. He does a great job of showing how he came to the conclusion that God IS the Way, the Truth and The Life. This book shows us what we are lacking in our own lives. It shows us the warmth and depth that a country founded on the Word of God has to offer to everyone who is willinig to receive. But most of all it reveals the love that abounds across this great nation; A love that only God can create; A love that makes us who we are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was given this book as a gift for my last day at work. The lady gave it to me understood that leaving the store I worked at and going to another one was an adventure waiting to happen. After reading the book I realized then why she gave it to me. I could not put the book down. I was always anxious to see what was going to happen to Peter in the next town. I felt that I was along side of him walking every step he took. I cannot wait to read the second book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After having personally met Peter Jenkins in the small town of Orrville shortly after he began his walk through Alabama, it didn't take me long to realize that Peter's genuine search for 'himself' would result in what could be called 'The Second Discovery of America.' This is a powerfully revealing book not only about the real Peter Jenkins but about the real America. With his words, Peter holds the heart of America as delicately as he held his beloved Cooper...and he makes us like who we are once again!!
BoundTogetherForGood on LibraryThing 6 days ago
This is a great book! I found out my husband and MIL had read it years ago. I really enjoyed "meeting" the people he met along his adventure across America. Makes you want to see America!
Amabel300 on LibraryThing 7 days ago
This book really makes you look at your life in a new light - it's heart breaking at times and absolutely inspiring at other points. I loved this as some light reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed "getting lost" in this book. An incredible journey!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Peter Jenkins does an outstanding job of describing the people, places and the emotions as he travels across America. I highly recommend this book to anyone. This is a very inspiring story!
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