If you drive on Etzler Road from 8-10 a.m. most any day of the week, you’ll likely see Jeff Rudisill of Daleville out for his daily walk.
Or, as Rudisill prefers to refer to it, “Taking my blood pressure and stress medicine.”
Rudisill walks 8-plus miles each day, and figures he covers about 2,800 miles annually—all within 5 miles of his home.
But that’s about to change.
Inspired by an article in a 1976 “National Geographic” magazine, Rudisill decided to put these 2,800 miles in a straight line and walk across the United States.
“I’ve had this idea buried in my mind for many years, but lots of things had to fall in place to make it happen. It certainly would not be possible without the support of my family,” he said as he prepares to set off on what has to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
If all goes as planned, Rudisill will fly to the west coast late next week August and begin walking back.
He will start at Dana Point, Calif. (on the coast, 6 miles west of San Juan Capistrano) and end at Emerald Isle, N.C.—2,777 miles.
“I chose to walk during the winter because there’s too much to do around the house during warmer weather,” the retired IT professional said. “My planned route stays along the southern part of the U.S. to avoid extremely cold weather.”
He will walk 15 miles per day, and take a day of rest every 10 days or so. He will use a “walking cart” to help carry the load, and to carry extra water and food for several long stretches through the desert.
Rudisill plans to walk 400 miles per month, on roads, not trails, and complete the walk in March, 2011.
Rudisill claims to be neither a camper nor hiker, so he has relied heavily on the staff at Outdoor Trails to outfit him for the trip. The outdoor specialty store is located in the Botetourt Commons in Daleville.
“Manager Doug Stanfill and Assistant Manager Sarah Whitney have been very helpful in finding the right gear for the trip. I’m thankful they only charge me for the supplies I buy, and not the hundreds of questions I’ve asked,” Rudisill confided.
This is not a charity walk, and he’s not hiking for any organizations. “I’m doing it because I love being outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air, meeting new people and seeing new places,” he said. “I don’t expect it to be a life changing event, but it will create some memories for my family, especially the grandchildren. There will be lots to talk about for years to come.”
In mid-July, Rudisill learned that his “Limey” friend, Alan Bouquet of Ilford, East London, would be able to join him for the journey. Bouquet is a 24-year-old graduate student in environmental science with a master’s in climate change.
The two met through a posting Bouquet placed on the Internet expressing his desire to walk across America.
In his blog posting, Rudisill said his new English friend had only limited knowledge of the USA and was hesitant to make the hike alone, and was having problems finding someone to walk with him.
“I sent him an email several months back telling him of my plans, we’ve been talking since, and things have just worked out,” Rudisill noted in his posting. “In June, my daughter Susan and her family, who currently live in London, had an opportunity to meet Alan, learn more about him, and answer any questions he had about me and the states.”
The 69-year-old Rudisill is a Gastonia, N.C. native who moved to Daleville in 1975 where he has lived in the Orchard Lake subdivision since then.
He spent most of his professional career in IT, and moved to this area to take a job with First National Exchange Bank, which became Wachovia (now Wells Fargo). Due to the mergers, he was transferred first to Raleigh, N.C., then to Charlotte, N.C. He retired in 2006 after 34 years with the bank. During his time in North Carolina, his family kept their home here and he commuted on weekends and holidays.
He and his wife Rita have three children—Jeff Jr., Susan and Julie, all graduates from Lord Botetourt High School. The Rudisills have eight grandchildren, ages 5-20.
Rita retired in 2007 after 25+ years as a Deputy Clerk at the General District Court in Fincastle.
When posed the question about how she viewed his journey, she said, “I worry about you and will miss you, but understand this is what you do at times. I trust you to make good, safe decisions.”
“She helps with the organization, and thinks of things I will need along the way,” Rudisill said. She will also provide assistance if necessary. “And, I hope she will pick me up at Emerald Isle when the trip is completed, so I won’t have to walk home.”
Daughter Julie will keep his blog updated and son Jeff will help with yard chores. Daughter Susan will help with communicating progress.
“I hope as people hear about the walk, they will know someone who lives along the route that can provide assistance as needed,” Rudisill said.
As an example, a neighbor’s daughter lives in Phoenix, Ariz., which is along the route, and Rudisill has a niece who lives in Charleston, S.C., etc.
Of course, he needs something along the way, the family can mail it.
Rudisill calls his regular walking routine his “stress medicine.”
“I had a stressful job, so I had to do something, or die young. I ran for a while, but that can be harmful over a period of time,” Rudisill explained. “Walking is easy, inexpensive, relaxing, and is something any human can do. It’s helpful both mentally and physically. And unless a car hits me, it does no harm. I’ve done it so long now, it’s as much a part of my life as going to bed at night.”
A friend put together a “business card” he will hand out along the way, and folks who want to keep up with Rudisill’s hike can do so on the blog he’s created: www.walkingman2011.blogspot.com.
He also invites anyone interested to come along for all or part of the trip. “It’s a big country, always room for one more,” he said.