Walk across the country.
That thought has been in my mind for many years. It all started when I, Keith, was a kid and learned that my Uncle Rick once crossed the country alone on his motorcycle. The thought of all the adventures and experiences drew me to the idea. After completing eight years in the Coast Guard and living on the island of Oahu for nine, I had the itch to go on a big road trip. You can only drive around the island a few times before you want to get out and see more.
Years earlier I had driven across the U.S, but it still didn't quite scratch my itch for the ultimate adventure I was seeking. While driving across the country, I stopped at all of the major cities and attractions but knew that one day I would like to take my time exploring the small towns and truly experience what this great country is made of.
I’ve heard of cyclists riding their bikes across the country, but walking didn't cross my mind until I read about a small community of travelers who had accomplished it. I knew instantly that experiencing the country at 3mph was something that I aspired to do. A trip like this would be life changing, and was going to take an extreme amount of planning and preparation. One of the first steps that I took to make this happen was to purchase my trustworthy cart for traveling (which we named Larry). I purchased it way in advance purposely, as a reminder to not let this goal drift away.
A few years later, I met Reina through a mutual friend in Hawaii. Not too long later, we ended up discussing my dream of walking across the country. Reina expressed that she shared the same feeling of wanderlust and had been longing to go on a life changing adventure as well. Since she was in the process of transitioning between apartments, she thought that it would be the perfect (and perhaps only) time to go on this trip. At that moment, we decided to fully take on this challenge of crossing the country on foot and planned on beginning our journey in three weeks. We spent the remainder of the time we had in Hawaii preparing for the trip. This included putting everything we owned in storage, putting our jobs on hold and explaining to our families that we weren't crazy.
On March 9th 2015, we said our last goodbyes to our close friends and flew to Jacksonville, Florida. Our objective was to start from the Atlantic Ocean and end in the Pacific so we began our journey with our toes (and Larry’s tires) in the water. After weeks of preparation and anticipation, it was as exciting as it was nerve racking to know that we were actually embarking on this adventure.
As exciting as it was to begin walking across the country for our own adventure, we also wanted to take this opportunity to raise awareness about ocean pollution. Keeping the beaches and ocean clean was a big concern of ours so we decided to raise donations for local Hawaii based environmental non-profit organizations. During the first month of our trip, we walked across several beaches along the Gulf Coast, and made an effort to do as many beach clean-ups as we could along the way.
Out of all of the coastlines that we walked along, the Gulf Islands National Seashore was by far our favorite. This protected and beautiful undeveloped beach stretches eight miles west from the town of Navarre. It is home to many nesting sea turtles, migratory birds and has towering sea dunes which makes it quite a unique Gulf Of Mexico habitat. That night, we took a dip in the ocean. While splashing around, we noticed bioluminescent plankton reacting to our movements and were reflecting a neon green light. It was absolutely mesmerizing.
So far, we have walked almost half way across the country. There have been so many amazing people, places, and experiences that we've encountered since beginning our trip in Jacksonville.
That isn't to say that transitioning into this new life style hasn't had its challenges, of course. Since leaving Florida, we have come across many different extreme weather conditions. One moment it will be over 90 degrees with clear skies and before we know it, we find ourselves in the eye of a storm running down the road seeking shelter. After walking over a thousand miles, our gear is really starting to feel the effects. Our cart, Larry, has been through four front tires, two back tires and we have already burned through our first pair of shoes.
We spend most of our time walking on the side of the road, but every once in a while we find a trail conveniently on our route. We discovered the Tammany Trace Bike Trail in Slidell, Louisiana. This trail stretches over 27 miles from Slidell all the way to downtown Covington. While walking down this path through the piney woods and moss-draped oaks, we reached the town of Abita Springs, Louisiana. Soon after, we stumbled upon what looked to be an old gas station. The first thing we saw was a large sign that said “cold drinks." After hours of walking, we were tired and thirsty so we decided to stop in. As we walked in we realized that this place was much more than just a gas station. We spoke with Tori, the gift shop attendant, who was extremely friendly and helpful. She explained that through the door behind the gift shop was the Abita Mystery House. Finding hidden gems like this roadside mystery house is exactly what we were looking for on a trip like this. For a mere three dollars, it gained us access into a wacky and extremely entertaining museum. As soon as we walked through the door, we had sensory overload from the amount of objects that covered every wall from floor to ceiling. Everything from interactive New Orleans-inspired contraptions, to alligator taxidermy with human skulls. We could go on for days about this place, but it is the mystery house and it’s something you would truly have to see for yourself.
One of the more dangerous experiences we have encountered was in a small town in Louisiana. While camping in the middle of a field, Reina woke me up in the middle of the night after she was awoken by something that had hit her head. She was sleeping in the corner of the tent with her head pushed up against the side. At first, she thought that I had elbowed her in my sleep, but soon realized that it wasn’t me since I was a couple of feet away from her. Now alarmed, I looked out of the window of our tent to see a black bear running back into the woods. Needless to say, we didn’t get much sleep that night after realizing that Reina was stomped on by a bear.
At this point, we have just crossed into Texas, the largest and most challenging state yet. We are preparing to walk through the dry and desolate areas of west Texas and beyond. It is going to bring harsh environments that we have yet to encounter. If you would like to follow our journey, you can check out our photos and videos posted daily on our Facebook page here. We also have merchandise commemorating our mission with our custom logo available on our website. Lastly, we are walking to raise donations for Hawaii based environmental non-profit organizations. To contribute to our cause, please visit our GoFundMe site.
We hope that you decide to take on a adventure of your own, no matter the size or distance. Sometimes the hidden gems are brightest ones, so remember to slow down and explore what this beautiful country has to offer!