Many walk for exercise or simply to get somewhere. But few who walk find it to truly be an experience or transformation. That, however, is the story of Rob Reynolds’ walk around America.
Reynolds, 86, told the story of his walking mission recently at Enumclaw’s High Point Village, where he is living.
His walk began Jan. 8, 1995, and ended in 1999, spanning four years, seven months and 26 days. He was 68 when he began his walk around America.
The story originated in Idaho where Rob was born and raised. He heard about a group known as Mission Aviation Fellowship, a Christian organization that traces its history to 1943 when World War II pilots met for prayer. According to its website, the organization was launched after the war, using planes to provide services and spread Christianity to remote areas of the world.
Rob heard the group was training pilots in Idaho near where he was raised.
He was inspired by their mission and came up with the idea to help the fellowship by raising both money and awareness by a walk around America.
Rob met with Max Meyers, executive director of the fellowship, and was told, “If you are crazy enough to do it, we are crazy enough to back you.”
Living in Washington, Rob began his journey on state Route 101. He and his wife, Marge, who drove a pickup and pulled a trailer, planned on covering about 20 miles a day.
Planning to begin with a trip down the West Coast, Rob discovered 20 miles was too far and cut back to an average of 16 miles a day.
“That winter was a particular trial,” Reynolds said, because of storms. The couple finally arrived in San Diego at the end of May 1995.
He was advised against crossing the Southwest states during the summer months because of the extreme heat. Reynolds decided to drive to Maine and walk down the East Coast.
The daily routine had Marge driving ahead of her husband, then walking back to meet Rob and walk for a mile or more. She would then drive ahead once more, but keep close tabs on Rob in case a problem arose.
They kept this routine Tuesday through Saturday. The couple would find a local church on Sunday to attend, then move their fifth-wheel trailer to the next location Monday.
“I had a one-person support team – my wife,” Rob said.”She wanted to do it for the Lord and help my dream come true.”
Rob said they met many challenges along the way. One was in The Bronx, one of New York City’s five boroughs.
“She (Marge) followed me as I walked through Bronx and across the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey,” Rob said. “I walked into Fort Lee (New Jersey) and I lost her. The only way to contact her was to find a place to call the cell phone she had in the car.”
They finally found each other several hours later.
“She was very mad and ready to quit,” Rob said. “But we managed to keep going.”
Rob said the big eastern cities were the toughest, but the majority of the experience was, “wonderful… people were very helpful and thoughtful.”
The most difficult time came at Waveland State Park in Mississippi when Marge tripped on a curb and badly skinned her knee. Rob said she tried to treat it at the trailer, but had an allergic reaction to the medication. She was unconscious and not breathing and Rob preformed CPR until emergency medical help arrived. Later, Marge was diagnosed with pneumonia. They stayed put for a month while she recovered and gained back the strength needed to carry on the mission.
The final stretch of the trip was a span from eastern Montana to the Washington post town of Aberdeen, but Rob was slowed due to osteoarthritis in his knee. During the summer of 1998 it took seven steroid injections to get him across Montana.
“It was too painful to walk every day,” Rob said. “One day after one mile I sat on the guard rail and hoped Marge would come back for me.”
After Montana Rob got his knee replaced and a heart valve repair.
By May of 1999 he hit the road again to complete the mission, finally ending up in the Marine View Church in Tacoma where he and Marge began the journey Jan. 8, 1995.
Rob walked through 10 pairs of shoes, wearing each pair for about 11,000 miles until the soles wore through.