It was 2017, and Rand Bishop's heart was breaking. With post-election America turning mean, the Grammy-nominated songwriter and author couldn't sit idly by. Inspired by the woman called Peace Pilgrim, ignoring his bad knees, arthritic feet, scant camping experience and lack of knowledge about long-distance hiking, and with his friends and family questioning his sanity, he set out on a 900-mile trek from Southern California to the central Oregon coast in hopes of rediscovering the heart and soul of America.
Amid the dissonance of tribal rancor and blame, Rand needed to know there were still nice people out there. Convinced that traveling by foot offered his best opportunity to meet folks one-on-one, listen to their concerns, engage in civil, constructive dialogue, and locate patches of common ground, he went searching for a kinder America. In Trek: My Peace Pilgrimage in Search of a Kinder America, he invites the reader along as he pushes a jury-rigged cart christened “the Pilgrimmobile” over urban sidewalks into the hinterlands, along dedicated bike paths, aside interstate highways, through neighborhoods and massive industrial parks, on narrow, decaying blacktop and remote, rutted, mountain trails. He travels past windswept corporate farms, then inhales fresh, salty breezes, dwarfed by the awesome, dramatic beauty of the Pacific coastline.
Facing constant alienation from the common presumption that a grey-bearded, cart-pushing pilgrim must be homeless, he confronts seemingly insurmountable grades, spans precarious bridges, encounters wild animals, endures relentless wind, moisture, hunger, blisters, exhaustion, and loneliness. Spat upon, spattered with gravel, nearly knocked down a cliff by an RV and at one point literally swallowed whole by the earth, he manages to hang with the homeless, convene with fellow seasoned adventurers, lend an empathetic ear to the forlorn, the dispossessed, and the self-possessed, perform impromptu campground concerts, and withstand evangelical attempts to save his immortal soul.
After meeting a thousand fellow humans over the course of one life-changing spring and summer, he returns home nourished with the knowledge that the vast majority of us are not only nice, but kind, caring, and often generous. And, despite our obvious differences, we have far more in common as individuals than we might have assumed.