Exploring the country on foot
Lindsay Monroe began her journey on Nov. 13 on the beaches of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Setting out on foot that day, she has since met countless people and experienced many communities in multiple states.
Her walk across America will conclude at some undetermined point in the near future in Lincoln City, Oregon, but for a few days last week, Lindsay Monroe discovered Prineville.
As good fortune would have it, she arrived in town on Wednesday, just in time for ladies night at the Crooked River Roundup Horse Races. "It was very fun," Monroe said of the experience, one she never knew existed prior to her travels. "It is definitely pretty," she continued as she summed up the Prineville and Crook County community. "The Ochoco National Forest is beautiful."
On Friday, Monroe once again moved on, leaving Prineville with yet another batch of memories on a journey she took in hopes of experiencing the country in intimate detail.
"I wanted to see this country," 35-year-old Monroe says of her decision to literally leave it all behind and walk across the U.S. "I think everybody is always in such hurry, and we miss the beautiful things."
She made clear she was no exception. A Massachusetts resident, she was working 60 hours a week when she had an epiphany.
"I kind of felt like I wasn't living my life," she said. "So I said, 'You know what, I think I am going to walk across the country.'"
Monroe began researching the terrain and climate of various states throughout the nation and purchased equipment for her cross-country trek. From that research came the decision to start her journey in South Carolina and keep to the southern states, rather than leave from her home state and traverse the northern U.S. where winters can be less forgiving.
"Next thing I knew, I was standing on a beach on Nov. 13," she said.
Alone, with only a cart to pack her belongings and necessities, Monroe had left behind her boyfriend, who had agreed to see her in eight to 10 months and care for their three dogs.
But she didn't travel alone for long.
While passing through the mountains of Arkansas, she ran into a stray dog. And the small dog, a mutt with no discernable breed, became her shadow. However far Monroe traveled on a given day, the homeless canine followed behind.
"So I got her spayed and got her all of her shots," she said, and from that time forward, she had a companion no matter how lonely her travels became.
"That dog was a game-changer," Monroe says. "She makes me feel safer."
During the past eight months of her walk across the country, Monroe has visited the states of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee (barely), Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Idaho and finally Oregon. Having walked somewhere between 2,800 and 2,900 miles — her Fitbit is not very accurate — she has worn out six pairs of shoes and is on her second cart.
A journey that epic might not have been possible if not for the kindness and hospitality of many strangers.
"It has been pretty outstanding," Monroe remarked. "I stayed out of the cold and people took me in at night. I didn't have to sleep in my tent in zero-degree weather…Sometimes you are sitting in a café and the server takes you in or you are sitting in a bar having dinner and someone overhears your story and says, 'I live in the next town.'"
One of those chance encounters was Prineville resident Becky Smith — although they first met in Twin Falls, Idaho, at a KOA campground. While the two got acquainted and Monroe told Smith about her travels, it came up that she was passing through Oregon and decided to cross the state on U.S. Highway 26. Monroe remembers Smith perking up.
"Wait, you are taking 26 through Oregon? We live in Prineville! You are going to go right through there!"
So when she finally made it to the Beaver state, she reconnected with Smith.
"She has set me up since John Day," Monroe said.
The horse races has become the latest in a string of small adventures that Monroe has enjoyed during her eight months on the road. She once took a kayak down Shoshone Falls in Idaho and since she prefers not to take money from people — she saved up money before the trip — she prefers to work in exchange for room and board. She has worked on a farm, at a vineyard and a restaurant and more.
But more appealing than the adventures are the relationships Monroe has forged along the way. She recalls staying with a family in Oklahoma whose five kids never wanted to see her leave. She plans to return and visit them in September.
Smith joins that list as well, and she is heartened to learn there are other people like herself who will give shelter and care to someone they just met.
"Honestly, it has renewed my faith in humanity," Smith said. "I almost forgot people can be open-minded and kind. As I watch her journey (which Monroe is chronicling on Facebook) it's cool to me to see that people are still willing to reach out and help a stranger open-heartedly. For me, that's a big deal."
Monroe is planning to stay in touch with all of the people she has met and stayed with along the way, cherishing those relationships as ones she would have never experienced crossing the country by car.
"We are all the same," she has come to realize. "We all need love, food, water and shelter. We can all take care of each other. It's a beautiful world."