Auburn’s “Pacin’ Parson,” 72-year-old Don Stevenson, is feeling great as he treads across America to fulfill a 13,000-mile walk for Huntington’s disease, a progressively degenerative brain disorder.
The Christian author, former pastor, Marine, teacher and truck driver left the Space Needle on April 26 to finish the final 3,000-mile leg to New York City. His wife, Loretta, is driving a support van.
So far, Stevenson has raised $12,000 for the cause. He has maintained his trim 165-pound body and is on his third pair of well-cushioned shoes as he covers the distance at an average of 30 miles a day, excluding Sundays for rest.
“It seems to be a little easier than what I anticipated. The roads are better, much improved from that last time I walked it (for Multiple Sclerosis in 2001) ,” said Stevenson, while pausing to talk on his cell phone from Cedarburg, Wis., just north of Milwaukee, on Tuesday afternoon. “The people have been great. The (Wisconsin) countryside is green and beautiful. They only lack a good mountain range.”
For Stevenson, the ultra walk has gone extremely well. In fact, he is two weeks ahead of schedule as he begins his final 1,000 miles. He might take some time off, visit relatives in the Midwest as he continues his push for the Empire State Building and the Huntington’s Disease Society of America headquarters by Sept. 15.
Along the way, people have opened their hearts and homes to the Stevensons.
“People have taken pretty good care of us,” he said.
Stevenson endured some trying days. Perhaps his toughest day was a 30-mile stretch along Chester, Mont., where he was greeted by hard rain, freezing temperatures and 35-mph winds.
Stevenson also met one woman who was going the other way. The lady, an amputee with a high-tech prosthetic leg, was circumnavigating the U.S. and planned to end her spiritual trek at Stevenson’s starting point, Seattle.
Bruce Wandler, a semi-retired Auburn surgeon, and his niece, Kathy, a clinical laboratory assistant at Auburn Regional Medical Center, are well under way on their BIG ride across America for the American Lung Association of Washington.
The ride began June 23 in Seattle and ends in Washington D.C. on Aug. 9.
The Wandlers are covering 3,300 miles in 48 days of bicycling through the heart of America.
Earlier this month, they passed the 1,000-mark between Billings and Hardin, Mont., and since have reached the Dakotas.
The Wandlers are riding in memory of Bud, Bruce’s brother and Kathy’s father, who more than five years ago died suddenly at age 67. Bud had talked about making such a trip himself.