Writer Walks From DC to NYC After Cancer Diagnosis

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A journalist chronicled his walk along backroads and foot trails from D.C. to New York City’s Central Park following a cancer diagnosis in a new book.

Former Wall Street Journal writer Neil King Jr. walked out the front door of his Capitol Hill home with his backpack March 29, 2021, and kept walking for 26 days, covering more than 300 miles.

“It was a fantastic time,” he said. “I really would recommend others do something similar even if it’s just a couple of days,” he said. “Walk out your own front door; find your own ramble.”

King had toyed with the idea of getting to know America by walking, but it was a cancer diagnosis that prompted him to take that first step.

“I thought years before that of doing this funny walk to New York,” he said. “Put it off, put it off like we do. The cancer told me, Hey, everyone’s time is limited. I should jump on this. And it also just opened my perspective on things and made the walk a lot more enchanted, a lot more beautiful, I think, than if I had just gone about it as a fully healthy man who hadn’t had that scare.”

Along the way, King stopped to get to know people and the country. In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, King rambled upon a group of kids in a playground.

“I meet these kids playing this incredibly aggressive game of softball on the playground and they were so friendly,” he said.

The kids turned out to be students at a Mennonite school where they invited King to visit.

“We go into the school, they go down to the choir room, I stand there, they sing these two incredible hymns for me,” he said. “It was just an amazing moment.”

Later, King’s ramble took him to the largest landfill in New Jersey.

“From there that I saw my first tiny, very distant glimpse of Manhattan, which of course was my destination,” he said. “It was quite a fantastic experience and a great sight from up there and a little depressing otherwise.”

King didn’t walk the entire route. He paddled parts of it, including crossing the Delaware River where George Washington crossed and under the New Jersey turnpike.

King wrote a book about his journey, “American Ramble,” coming out next month.

“The whole thing really left me, at least for a while, just sort of aglow, because it was so much fun,” he said. “You walk over a multitude of days, and it just sort of wedges open a part of your spirit, and you become so aware of what’s happening, so attentive, so receptive to other people.”

King’s doctors say he is now cancer-free.

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