Walking across America
By Curt Swarm
I kinda-sorta thought I was hot stuff when I relay jogged across Iowa. However, my relay jog pales in comparison to this fella’s venture.
While driving to Burlington on US Highway 34, I encountered a bearded man pushing a cart on the right-hand side of the road. A sign on the cart read, “New York to California.”
The next day, between Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant, I saw the man again. Curiosity got the best of me. I pulled over, snapped a few pictures, then ask if I could interview him in the air-conditioned comfort of my car. After all, we were experiencing record heat. He readily accepted.
I pulled a cold soda from my cooler, which he appreciated, and immediately started guzzling. He was surprisingly young—24. With his dark glasses, scruffy beard and neck cover, from a distance, he looked much older. His name is James DiGiovanni.
Yep, he is walking (I didn’t stutter) from New York to California. He had started knee deep in the Atlantic Ocean, on May 12. He was 72 days into his 3,500 mile trek across the country.
Is he some kind of nut? Or is he doing this for a cause? Nope. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy and was out to see America, to smell it, taste it, to feel its wind-blown grit against his cheek. According to James, everywhere he’s been, big cities, small towns, urban, or rural, people are great. They’re very friendly, helpful and, most importantly, trusting. Just the day before, a man from Danville had stopped to talk to him, then came back and picked him up that evening and took him to his home in Danville for a home-cooked meal, shower, laundry and a bed to sleep in. (Typically, James will knock on someone’s door and ask if he can camp in their yard.) The next morning, the guy drove James back to the spot where he had picked him up. James’ only rule is that he walk an unbroken path from the Atlantic to the Pacific. After being dropped off, James walked a little ways, and there, along side the road, was a box. In the box were bottled water, food, and a note, “New York to California, Good Luck!”
James pushes a modified jogging stroller, the kind parents use to jog with their kids. He carries very little—a pup tent, sleeping bag, food and water. According to James, it’s surprising how little you need.
Because of the sun and heat, James keeps most of his skin covered. He wears long pants, long sleeves and even fingerless gloves to protect his hands from the sun. In fact, all his clothing and head gear are UPF rated for sun protection. He is on his second pair of running shoes and hopes to complete the trek in three pair of shoes.
Has he lost weight? Nope. In fact, he has gained a pound. He is 164 lbs, at six foot tall. You can visit his website at www.jamesiswalking.com. He is also on Facebook.
James has “nothing to prove, and everything to learn. Everything is philosophical. Philosophy is about curiosity.”
He likes the stretch of US Highway 34 he’s currently on. He can stay on it for 800 miles, across several states, without consulting a map. He doesn’t know exactly what route he will take to San Diego, where he will go knee deep into the Pacific. He plans ahead only one leg at a time. The heat is definitely a factor. If it should drop into the 80s, it will feel like a cold snap.
His journey will take him six months, then six hours to fly home to Brooklyn, N.Y. He plans to get a job, probably in teaching.
I’d say he’ll have plenty to teach. On his back, as he casually strolled away — in his easy, mile-immersing gait, pushing his cart — were the taped-on letters, “NY to CA.”
Good luck, James. I’m a little envious.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com.