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Coast to Coast trek reaches milestone

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news Brainerd, 56401

Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

One coast has been reached and another looms ahead.

Gary, Jackson and Jessica Walters of Baxter reached the nation’s capital after biking 1,421 miles to Washington, D.C. The trio reached Washington Saturday and spent the past two days gearing up for the flight to Seattle. 

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The bikes Jackson and Jessica have been riding are boxed and ready for the flight to the West Coast. Gary Walters’ signature recumbent bike is being shipped back here and he’s reserved a bike with a shop in Seattle for the second half of the trip — over the Rocky Mountains. Getting through the logistics of shipping the bikes and preparing for the flight was a load off his mind, Walters said. 

“I feel a lot less stress right now,” he said. “This whole transportation of bikes was just weighing on me.”

The Walters are flying out of Washington on Southwest Airlines about 6 p.m. Tuesday and expect to arrive in Seattle about midnight or 1 a.m. They’ll spend the next couple of days getting their gear ready. The next leg of the journey begins Friday from Puget Sound. 

The trip to Seattle is reuniting Walters with his former Kinship Partner of nearly two years — 10-year-old Kennar Bell — who moved to Washington state in June. 

“I get to see him on Thursday,” Walters said, when reached at his hotel room late Monday afternoon. He’d spend the day on the metro train line in Washingto, D.C., taking his bike to a place that will ship it home. His bike received more than a few glances. 

Walters said the train probably carried the population of a lakes area city during the rush hour trip. No one spoke to each other and they avoided eye contact, he said. Walters talked to a woman from Manhattan. 

“It’s wall-to-wall traffic,” Walters said. “Here there are a gazillion people and no one is talking to anybody. It kills me the lack of connection.”

The gold-colored shirts and Coast to Coast for Kids logo served as an ice-breaker — if one was needed — on the different atmosphere of the trails. Leading into the nation’s capital, the trio took Canal Trail, mostly crushed gravel that Walters said was like riding on a township road. Unfortunately, Walters said the trail doesn’t have markers to let riders know what’s off the trail so they missed a turn Saturday afternoon. People they’ve met along the way have been interested in their cause, raising funds and mentors particularly for Kinship Partners and mentoring in general and helpful along the route. 

Walters said one man walked with them a half mile to a mile so they wouldn’t miss a corner turn. Another man, who was riding with his 14-year-old daughter, guided them three miles to their hotel and posted about meeting them on Facebook. 

“We’ve met some really nice people who have talked to us and been really friendly,” Walters said. 

Memorable adventures thus far included spending Friday night at a hostel in Harper’s Ferry, W. Va., where 10 people shared two-bedrooms with bunk beds and two baths. They met two brothers who were hiking the 600-mile Appalachian Trail. The brothers started their adventure in May. 

Now Walters has to adjust to the upright position on the new bike. But he said there was no way he could pedal hard enough to pull himself over the mountains from a reclining position. He said he has lost weight but no one would mistake him for Lance Armstrong. 

A few days ago Walters said, as he has before, this would be his last Kinship Challenge. After a couple of days to rest, he’s more optimistic. 

“I’ve been so tired this whole trip,” he said. “It’s been so hot, so humid. ...If I had any idea it was this hard I would have just written a check.”

And there are still those mountains ahead. 

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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