BEND, OR — Somewhere on a lonely highway in Central Oregon Gary Cantrell is walking to the coast. As of Sept. 6, he’d covered 3,130 miles since setting out to walk across the entire contiguous United States on May 10 — an expected 3,400-mile journey. For a guy in his mid-60s, that’s not too shabby. Heck, that’s not too shabby for anyone.
Cantrell traversed about 24 miles, by his estimation, the first day as he set off from Newport, Rhode Island, with a goal to reach Newport, Oregon, in 119 days — all on foot. As of Sept. 7, the 121st day of his journey, Cantrell is on pace to reach the Oregon Coast by next Thursday. Still, not too shabby.
“With the end drawing closer, and hardly an inch to spare on my deadline, I am growing increasingly paranoid that something will happen to spoil all my hard work,” Cantrell wrote Thursday on the blog tracking his progress. “Physically I am feeling fatigue on a scale I never imagined possible. I am a walking collection of controlled injuries. I obsess over one of my chronic problems becoming unmanageable or a new issue coming out of left field (currently I am watching a painful red spot on one of my toes like a hawk, for fear it is an infection of some sort… or cellulitis).”
Another issue he’s been dealing with throughout his trip is the inaccuracy of Google Maps versus what he says he actually sees mile marker-wise along the various highways he’s moseyed for the past three months. Coming into Bend, he said, he saw a variance in his mileage.
“Along the way Google Maps lost a couple of miles. The Google measure only changed by 27, while I knocked off 29 mile markers in the real world,” Cantrell explained, adding, “I hate Google Maps.”
“It is the only way I have to measure the remaining distance,” he wrote, “but it is totally unreliable.”
(Sign up for our free daily newsletters and Breaking News Alerts for the Oregon Patch)
A former endurance runner and the creator of the annual Barkley Marathons at Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, Cantrell — also known as Lazarus Lake — is no stranger to pushing his own limits to reach his goal. But according to his own words, Oregon has provided the toughest challenge of his journey so far.
“Eastern Oregon is kicking my butt. Of all the great empty spaces I was passing thru on this journey, I knew Eastern Oregon was the emptiest. Beautiful and empty,” Cantrell wrote on Sept. 2, Day 116 of his trek. “When you have time to look, the variety of rock sculptures in the desert are endless; but the hills of Oregon are among the cruelest I have faced.
‘There was an 8-mile monster leaving the great big basin after lunch that almost broke me,” he continued. “The sun is relentless. The sky is just a big blue bowl overhead with never the slightest hint of a cloud … still, I will take that over rain every day!”
Based on the forecast for this weekend and early next week, Cantrell just may get to experience Oregon’s infamous rain anyway.
Periodically, he said, random people have joined him along his journey for miles at a time, but few have stayed on for long. A photo gallery on his blog shows the variety of scenery and people he’s encountered from state to state, including a few run-ins with local law enforcement.
“Making new friends across America,” Cantrell called it. And it’s all building up to his arrival at the Pacific Ocean.
Speaking to KGW News recently, Cantrell described what he envisions for the ceremonial end to his incredible adventure:
“Dip my toe in the Pacific Ocean and dump my vial of Atlantic water into the Pacific and dip me a little vial of Pacific water.”
And he’s almost there.
Visit Cantrell’s blog, VacationWithoutaCar.com, to read and see his journey across the nation.
(Editor’s note: Cantrell’s blog entries used in this story have been lightly edited for punctuation and grammar.)
Image via Shutterstock