Wednesday, Dec. 15 I am now staying at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City. Friday morning a good friend will arrive and take me to New York City for a day's visit and then to his home for the evening. Saturday, I will fly from Newark to my Oregon home which I have not seen for six months. It will be good to be "home for Christmas" and to reacquaint myself with my wife, my family, and my friends.
Hopefully, over the holiday season I will have time to reflect on my journey. When I began this walk, many were concerned for my welfare and safety yet this has never been an issue. I have met many Americans along the way and all have been kind, helpful, and supportive. It truly has opened my heart to others as others have opened their hearts to me.
I also wish that my secondary purpose be not be lost in the wash of affairs. I have this entire journey tried to raise an interest in the study of American history and of the importance of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It has been encouraging that all - and I really mean all - have expressed concern for our civil liberties - our freedoms as Americans. Republicans or Democrats, Left or Right, Red State or Blue - everyone is in agreement that the ideals and principles upon which this country was founded are still important to us today. They are liberties we wish not to lose and most people see them slowly slipping away.
I am also particularly grateful to the schools that opened their doors to me. Of all the people, it is the young people I enjoy working with the most.
In addition, I wish to thank those of you who commented regularly. It was lonely "out there" and your comments let me know that people were following my journey and supporting me in spirit.
In closing, as I have always been a person who challenges authority - I will fly back to Oregon dressed in my colonial outfit, choose for an opt out, and as I have but a one-way ticket I will automatically be a "red flag" to the TSA. In addition, I am carrying copies of the Bill of Rights and plan to hand these out at the airports through which I pass. This should make for an interesting situation.
Once, listening to a businessman speak, I remember him saying that all employees are representatives of the company - from the custodian all the way to the top CEO. Each employee's public interaction leaves an impression - good or bad - and that it is important we remember this - both for the company's image and for its success. Tim McShea has been a personal ambassador for Philadelphia - "The City of Brotherly Love."
Tim is a Philadelphia fireman and a vice-president for their union. As such, as you might guess - he is a "people person" who seems to know not a stranger. And pulling into town as I did - they probably didn't come any stranger than I.
Based on a single phone call from Marty Kelly - a friend of Tim's whom I had met and shared some conversation - Tim:
1. Arranged for me to stay the night at "Ladder Two" on 4th and Arch Streets.
2. Arranged for me to speak at Constitution High School in Philadelphia two blocks from Independence Hall.
3. Took a day off from work to take me around Philadelphia as if I were a long lost friend - not permitting me to pay for anything.
4. Made sure I was well fed.
5. Several days later, drove from Philadelphia to Atlantic City with his friend Dave so I would not be alone at the end of my trip.
6. Took me to an Irish Pub for lunch and toasts after ending my trip.
6. Transported my cart to a warm Atlantic City fire station and helped take it apart so that I could send my things back to Oregon.
7. Drove me to Egg Harbor City, NJ to a UPS center to ship my stuff.
8. Arranged through his friend, Dave, a free stay for me at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City.
Please remember, that until several days ago - Tim and I had never met. Even when thanking him for all of his help, Tim merely shrugged it off saying that I had been an inspiration to him and I owed him nothing.
With mixed emotions I approached Atlantic City and the end of a very long journey. At one moment I would be emotionally overwhelmed thinking back to that beautiful beginning in Oregon surrounded by students and well wishers. The next moment, with temperatures in the 20’s - all sentimentality would be swept away by the biting wind causing me only to hunker down and quicken my pace.
Nearing the city, I received a call from Tim McShea, my new friend from Philadelphia. Tim had not wanted me to end my journey alone and was on his way with another fireman, Dave, to show their support. In short time I was gratefully warming myself inside Tim’s car for today was truly the coldest day of the entire trip. Then, for me, it was back to the road one last time as they drove ahead to wait at the Boardwalk.
Not long after, I was met by a television newsman who interviewed me briefly and filmed my cart from various angles and then filmed me walking down the road. It was so cold that I felt sorry for him having to get out of his warm car but I was glad for the publicity nevertheless.
As I entered Atlantic City, Tim called and gave some last minute directions and a few minutes later I was pushing my cart onto the Boardwalk. There waiting were Tim and Dave - along with a couple of policemen who, braced against the cold wind, found it unbelievable that I had walked here from Oregon. It made me feel good that they were there.
As planned, I proceeded to the beach’s edge and collected some Atlantic Ocean water and New Jersey sand. Wow - you can only imagine my feelings. I stood there a moment savoring a wash of emotional warmth and then began making phone calls - beginning with my wife, Cynthia. Without her love and support - this trip would not have been possible.
I am retiring after 36 years in public education. I have been primarily a history teacher at the middle school level and throughout those years I have always tried to guide young people in a positive direction while sharing my love for American history. It has been a very rewarding career. As part of my retirement I am going to walk alone across the United States. I will begin at the Pacific Ocean June 12, 2010 near Florence, Oregon, and hope to conclude my trip at the Atlantic Ocean in January. My purpose is two-fold: one - to fulfill a personal dream of walking across the country, and two - to raise public awareness of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and to promote the study of American history. During my trip I wish to visit schools, distribute copies of the Bill of Rights, and to inquire of fellow citizens for a definition of freedom in America today.