tonya and luke strode
Flagler, CO - MEdian household income $26,125 - population 596
We never met, but in hearing about my arrival in Flagler, CO they opened up a tab for me at the local convenience store, bought me a motel room, and made a generous donation to the youth of Chicago. Many people want a book about my walk... it's many shortcomings and sleepless nights. But this has been much more about people like this, that I miss almost everyday. I've had to become a completely different person; a bit cold and short because I cannot afford to feel for what may hold me back.
The langer family
huntingburg, In - median household income $42,656 - population 6,130
Following a 21mi walk, Pastor Larry Langer and his wife Martha called me over to their table at Taylor's Steakhouse in Oakland City IN. They saw me walking 8 times that day on the highway between their home and church and wanted to know why. After chatting for about 30 minutes, the Langer family bought me a steak dinner that night. The next morning, Martha dedicated an entire sermon to the efforts of 7 Million Strides, and the following week I received a more than generous donation on behalf of the family and the Indiana Presbyterian Church.
georgetown, co - median household income $42,969 - population 1,060
It was quarter to 8 p.m. as the sun tucked away behind the Silver Plume in a one horse Colorado mountain town. As I searched for shelter, the tunneled playground slide, a vacant canopied porch, I got a call from Terri Stapleton, a previous host.. She'd reached out to a friend in Georgetown, a business owner who rented a one bedroom unit above her jewelry store to Richard Lake. Shortly thereafter, an old red pickup, canoe strapped to the bed, crept into an empty gravel lot. Richard introduced himself and let me know that he would volunteer his apartment for the night. I later found out a bit more...On an extremely modest budget, Rick drove 40mi to the nearest supermarket to buy brand new bed sheets, soap, and towels for my stay. He felt bad about me sleeping on his couch, so he decided to sleep in his truck down the road so I could sleep in his bed. In his early twenties, after a traumatic childhood, and consequential battles with addiction, Richard fled his hometown of Memphis, TN for Rocky Mountain National Park. With no literary education and only $20 in his pocket he lived out of a tent in the wilderness. One day he bet that money in a duck race an won a digital camera, discovering a talent and passion for photography. Today, Richard earns an income working odd construction jobs, and selling his photography and paintings at local art shows. His girlfriend is teaching him how to read by reciting chapters of The Catcher and the Rye while canoeing together on weekends.
Royce Roesch & Pastor Keith
Quinter, KS - Median Household Income $32,098 - Population 954
As the sun began a relentless stretch of triple digit temperatures in mid-July, I purchased a wagon to help carry extra water weight. When I blew a tire 6 mi from the small town of Quinter, KS I thought it'd be another long night. However, I reached out the the Church of the Brethren, that's when Pastor Keith left a funeral to pick me up and bring me to the community center to eat, the local mechanic for tire insulation, the bank for a donation withdrawal from the ministry, and then the home of Royce and Mary Roesch who'd volunteered to host me for the night. Royce immediately embraced me as kin. With his arm around my shoulder, and a ginger stride he paraded me around town... to the town newly constructed airfield, the homes of all the neighbors, and the local ice cream shop where he wasn't supposed to be three days removed from a heart stint. Royce lived a life I could only dream of. A life of gift. He made it easier for others to breathe. As a self appointed missionary he helped Greek earthquake victims rebuild their homes and grow sorghum crops. He developed a curriculum and mentor-ship program for Austrian students effected by the Holocaust. We stayed up until 1 am talking about life until Mary called him to bed. The next morning he made sure I had a place to sleep that night. Two months later Royce still demands daily updates to make sure I'm okay.
Frostburg, MD - Median household income $27,044 - population 8,676
Just 600 miles into my journey, I’d been tried, and hard pressed to continue. That week, the isolated conclusion of the C&O canal trail had me hungry and foraging for the 12 pounds I lost. At the food pantry in Frostburg, MD a wayward Navy vet referred me to a 3-flat down the road a man named Wesley for at least some good counsel. Immediately we connected. That first night we put a plan together for my campaign in order to ease some of my mental and physical challenges. I wanted nothing to do with a conversation that night. I tried every way possible to avoid it in fact. But Wes saw the burden on my shoulder and wouldn’t let me leave with it. For the next four days, Wesley shuttled me to and from the bookends of my walk. The first day he drove 28 mi round-trip from his home to Grantsville, MD where I ended my walk, just to provide me some short term and much needed stability. The next day 52 miles round-trip to Addison, PA, and the last day 80 miles to Farmington, PA. I later learned, Wesley has made a life of helping business professionals move on from their personal ills. To implement his vision, he purchased a farm in southern Pennsylvania where he plans to cultivate an intentional community of soul searchers from across the globe. Wesley and I still keep in touch quite frequently. Our connection is special, and stronger than its time would imply.
delci & denny windell
kanorado, ks - median household income $24,265 - population 153
Delci Windell and her husband Denny make a life as ranchers in Kanarando, KS, a farming community on the Eastern Colorado state line. They hosted me initially with reluctance, persuaded by their good friend Kerry who’d hosted me the night prior to help continue this amazing ‘pay it forward’ mentality. Imagine getting a text message from a good friend asking you to let a homeless stranger sleep over for a night. Delci explained that her husband was concerned about her safety. Damn right he should be. I know I wouldn’t have it. The safety of my family would certainly take precedent over anything or anyone else. Nonetheless, Delci set me up with a room and gave me the grand tour of the 2 mile long pasture. We counted the cattle, learned how to bundle hay, and prepared a pot roast with some true farm to table grass fed beef. Again, I was not only invited into the home of others, but into their lives as well. Twenty-four hours later, Denny was sending me off to their chiropractor’s home in the next town, ironically with a brand-new knife.