A few words of homage to the eccentric dreamers among us — ordinary people who do extraordinary things because a small voice in the head tells them, as in the case of Jeff Rudisill: “I need to do this, or forget about it.”
Rudisill is walking across America, not “to honor the troops or save the whales or raise money to find a cure for plantar fascitis,” as David Casstevens of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote Saturday of the 69-year-old retiree’s six-month, 2,800-mile perambulation across deserts, mountains, rivers and swamps.
Rudisill, of Daleville, Va., left Dana Point, Calif., on the Pacific Coast, on Aug. 31 and started walking east toward Emerald Isle, N.C., on the Atlantic Coast, which he expects to reach in mid-February. He averages 20 to 25 miles per day and carries all of his needs — tent, sleeping bag, toiletries, food and drink, a pocket New Testament and a laptop computer for blogging about his journey on a three-wheeled pushcart.
Rudisill walked into Fort Worth, his halfway point, on Nov. 11 and said some nice things about my hometown in his blog, Walkingman 2011: “How can you not like a place with the nickname of ‘Cowtown,’ a major street paved with red brick, cows herded by cowboys down the street at mid-day each day, and a Will Rogers Auditorium with a Paint horse show?”
So why are you doing this? Casstevens asked Rudisill. For the environment? The homeless? Women’s rights? World peace?
Rudisill’s answer: “I like walkin’.”
That’s good enough for me.
Rudisill, like me, is retired and has the time to indulge his passions. I, too, heard a small voice in my head, about a bicycle ride across America. It said something like: “Well, you’ve been talking about it for years. You damned well better do it before you’re too old, lazy or decrepit, or you’ll forever regret not doing it.”
So, like Rudisill, I heeded the voice. During my first full year of retirement, I rode my bicycle across the United States — 65 days and 3,130 miles from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla.
Mission accomplished. The small voice stilled.
Rudisill’s 9-year-old granddaughter, Abby, according to the Star-Telegram story, asked him before his trip: “Pawpaw, why don’t you just drive?”
I’m not sure how he answered, but I believe I understand Mr. Rudisill’s reasons pretty well.
As Mark Twain, one of my heroes and literary idols, once said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”