We were looking forward to a lot of things before embarking on this journey across America. First and foremost, was spreading our message to get out and get moving. Our mission is to inspire and educate folks on ways to lead a more heart healthy lifestyle, and we are working on that everyday.
Secondly, we wanted to see the country up close. That means the beautiful landscape, the small towns, the tourist traps (including the largest ball of twine…just kidding of course), and especially the people. We were curious to learn more about the different cultures that are spread across this great country. All of this is a work in progress as we have only completed roughly 15% of our journey.
What stands out most to me, is the friendliness of the people that we have met. This includes the locals, as well as those travelling, whether on vacation or to escape the winter from the great white north. Everyone to a person, has been friendly and here are just a few examples of what we have witnessed:
While walking through Prescott, I came to a busy intersection and I witnessed something that I don’t believe I would have seen back home. A man’s truck (yes, most everyone drives pick-ups out here) broke down and he was pushing it slowly uphill towards the traffic light. From two separate cars stopped at the intersection, two people jumped out and helped this guy push his truck. Of course, I was on my way to assist when I saw they had it under control. Really, I was.
We have met a bunch of people, transients for a lack of a better term, here at our current campground in Camp Verde, AZ. They have a community fire pit and Kate has been longing for a fire since we left Michigan back in mid September. Camping and camp fires go hand in hand, i guess that’s why the word “camp” is in both, and Kate loves camp fires.
The first night here, upon finding the fire pit and the conveniently chopped stack of fire wood (courtesy of the campground, and complimentary I might add), Kate was on a mission to have that fire she had been longing for. Many of the places we have been thus far did not allow camp fires, as it has been so dry out west and the risk for those large out of control fires was extremely high. This was the case throughout California and the desert region.
Alas, Kate was in her glory and the fire soon drew a crowd, something else she had been longing for. Two months on the road with me is enough for anyone to seek out the company of others. We were amazed that within a few minutes of the sparks hitting the air, that we had a nice gathering of folks and a chance to interact with people other than ourselves.
It was interesting to find out that most of the people were from the Midwest. We had the northern Midwest virtually covered. Michigan of course, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were represented. We also met a new friend from Alaska. The cold weather states were well represented.
The stories and conversation never stopped and what was interesting to me is that everyone has one, a story that is. The young lady from Alaska for example, is a true inspiration. She had two strokes and a heart attack, and a real cool outlook on life. Another lady has a grandson that has had 7 heart surgeries before the age of 20. In all honesty, it made my issues seem small and insignificant, yet they showed compassion when hearing my story.
The stories continued with accounts of abuse, divorce, disorders, you name it. People opened up about their pasts, and we grew to have a great respect for one another. It was a very comfortable conversation, except for the brief moment when one man said, “I assume we are all liberals here”. Barb, a smart lady from Wisconsin, quickly changed the subject after I engaged. If you know me, I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut about politics. I’m working on it however, and quickly recognized and respected Barb’s ploy.
The friendliness was not confined to just the night around the fire, but rather on many other interactions we have had thus far. The waitress and manager at the local steakhouse who shook my hand and told me to keep up the good work, after we told them about our mission, and the fact that we walked 18 miles that day for a good steak. The homeless people we met in Blythe, CA. One man in particular stands out. Even with all the challenges he is facing, he engaged with us in conversation, and could not thank us enough for the meal we had brought him (which come to find out, he shared with a fellow person down on their luck).
We have walked through some pretty poor areas. Places where the temperatures are commonly over 100 degrees and the homes, trailers, and yes shacks make you wonder how people survive the heat. We have walked down residential streets where folks were out in their yards, or sitting on their porches. Virtually everyone offered a friendly wave or said hello. By the looks of things, these folks were living in abject poverty and most likely didn’t have two nickles to rub together, yet that didn’t seem to bother them.
It was also nice to see the animal friendly people we met in Blythe. These two folks, one cat lover and one dog lover, hung out in a truly depressed part of town and took care of the strays. It was heartwarming to see people caring for god’s creatures that didn’t have anyone else to provide them food and shelter.
All in all, anyone and everyone we have come in contact with has been friendly, and also supportive in the instances where we shared our story. This trip has been an eye opener in many ways and what I had hoped I would find, that this country is still filled with good people no matter what you read in the headlines, has truly been the case. Most Americans have big hearts, and are good people. That is one thing that makes this country great, and I hope that never changes.
I can’t wait to continue to learn more as we move into states like New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas and beyond. My guess is we will see different cultures, and the goodness in people, no matter where we go and what their situation, will still exist and shine a light on our journey.
Until then, keep moving friends. Remove the excuses and obstacles and get out and move. You never know who you might meet along the way that will inspire you, or simply make you smile, and perhaps, become someone that you can call “friend”. We never can have enough of those, at least that’s the way I see it.