What If You Had To Walk Home

I stumbled across the novel Lights Out (PDF Download) today and I’m three pages in and already had an interesting thought.

The book is about the US after an EMP blast, and starts with two characters at work. They realize quickly that their cars don’t work because of the pulse (I wonder if my no frills F-150 would stop working?).

What if that were me? No car and no means of communication. That means I need to walk home. How far is home? Takes me about 30 minutes to drive to work. Quick trip to yahoo maps and I find I work 20 miles from home. At least by highway.

I might be able to cut some of that off if I went cross country, but I’m not sure that would be wise. You could get yourself in to situations where you couldn’t continue, or where people don’t want you walking.

When I walk near home it takes about 45 minutes to go 2 miles. So the trip home would take 7 and a half hours to get home. Wow, something to think about.

That distance is almost a marathon.

How long would it take you to walk home from work? What about water on that trip?


  1. countertop says:

    i live about 10 miles from my office. havent walked it, but have walked most of it at times. id say it would take me slightly over 3, On 9/11 i drove home, but it took folks walking less time.

    fwiw, in nice weather i dide my bike in – its only about 50 minutes there (hour and 15 heading back – uphill into the wind)

  2. countertop says:

    oh yeah, i have to cross the potomac river. Not a big deal in the summer – or when the weather is nice (assuming brdges are out) since i can easily walk to Chainbridge, swim the 20 feet across the river there, and walk the 2 miles home.

    however, in winter i’d be generally sol (if the bridges were out) as that 20 feet becomes 20 or 30 yards of class 5 rapids during the spring melt.

  3. Linoge says:

    Coincidentally, I measured the distance, door to door, from work to home on the way back today…. 7.5 miles, exactly. Takes me 30 minutes to drive in the morning, 15 in the evening. Would probably take me about 3 hours to walk. Of course, there is about half a mile of water between me and there… mostly marsh, but a good-sized river in the middle. The bridge across it is rather sturdyish, and would probably survive an airburst nuke (after all, it was designed to withstand hurricanes, I believe), but that is all speculation.

    That said, my wife is 800 miles away, continuously. Now, *that* is a hike.

  4. AlanDP says:

    I live a lot farther than that. It w0uldn’t be very pleasant. However, I have a job that essentially requires me to walk quickly for at least 6 hours per day. I’m in better walking condition than the average person, I think.

    For water I would have to just ask. I do have a makeshift canteen in my truck that I could carry.

    I might try going to other people’s houses who I know instead of taking a direct route home.

  5. Ron says:

    Countertop: Hadn’t thought about how weather would effect the walk. Probably cuz I’m in Houston and rain would be the only problem. An EMP, at least like in the book, wouldn’t do any physical damage, so bridges should be OK.

  6. Ron says:


    my wife is 800 miles away, continuously. Now, *that* is a hike.

    I think about this everytime I go on a trip. I know people who were out of town on 9/11. The planes are grounded for days. How do you get home? In a nationwide EMP situation, you couldn’t rent a car and just drive either.

  7. Ron says:

    Alan: One of the things that struck me was how we so casually do distances in a day that we couldn’t walk home in more than a day. If my wife was at her parents house, somewhere she goes often, she’d be 40 miles from home. So walking would be an issue.

    I think stopping at people along the way could be an effective strategy. Or at least at places you know to be more secure.

    Having water and a way to carry it – maybe a small daypack with a liter bottle of water in it – would be a simple thing to have in your truck. I need to do that for my truck. There are lots of situations where it would be handy to have. I mean just being broken down an isolated highway till someone gets there.

  8. AlanDP says:

    I was thinking about this more today, and weather could be a big problem. I mean seasonal weather. If it happened right now, you wouldn’t need nearly as much water as if it happened in July or August. During the heat of the summer, try walking as fast as you can for about 30 minutes and see how much you sweat. Then multiply that by how long you think your full trip would take. Water would be a huge issue at the wrong time of year.

  9. Brass says:

    In the winter I could just snowboard down to my condo. In the summer it’s only a 3.5 mile hike that is all down hill. I keep a full camelback H.A.W.G. in my jeep at all times and change the water once a week. Living in the mountains makes getting home easy, the hard part would be when the food distribution system failed to get food to our grocery stores up here.

  10. Ron says:


    Hadn’t heard of the H.A.W.G, but it looks perfect for a car bag. Has water built into it and provided carrying space in a backpack.

  11. Linoge says:

    Trust me, our distance is constantly on my mind, even moreso when things look like they could be making a turn for the worse. I really have no idea how I would get up there from here, short of packing what I can in my backpack, and start walking. Definitely a fan of finding people to stay with on the way, but the trick is finding the right people.

    Unfortunately, my car is sorely underquipped at the moment… Definitely need to do some work on that.

  12. global village idiot says:

    My ma taught had something to say about this. She said, “Never drive anywhere you can’t walk home from.”

    Easier said than done, Ma.

    I’ve got about a 20-mile drive home from work too. Rural roads, mostly. Walking it would take time, that’s all. I’m a G.I. and walking is just putting one foot in front of the other.

    You might want to visit http://www.alpharubicon.com and see what it has to say about EMP and disaster preparedness in general.

  13. Ron says:

    The world’s probably changed a little since your Ma was young. πŸ™‚

    Yesterday I drove to lunch and realized I just put myself 10 more miles from home, just to get some chicken wings.

    But as in all things you have to weight risks vs benefits. And they are really good wings. πŸ™‚

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