Prineville man's story goes viral after walking 33 miles to work from Prineville to Bend
There is a song, "I would walk 500 miles," which describes in the lyrics the willingness to go the extra miles to be with someone.
For Eric Akers of Prineville, he was willing to go 33 extra miles to ensure that he would be to work for his night shift. On foot. Yes, 33 miles from Prineville to Bend, to reach his job on Empire Avenue.
The story was first picked up by feature reporter, Eric Lindstrom of Central Oregon Daily News. Akers shared that the story was originally leaked by his mother and some of her friends (from Bend) when she found out that he had walked all the way from Prineville to Bend when his car had mechanical problems.
Akers describes his how his journey began approximately one month ago. He is a Prineville resident, and commutes to Bend for his current job.
"Tuesday, about one month ago, my car broke down halfway in between Bend and Prineville. I had to get it towed with $300 to my name at that point to last me until my next paycheck, and it cost about $300 for the tow. I was pretty broke," explained Akers of how the incident unfolded.
Akers had parts ordered for his car, but like many folks who currently need maintenance for their car, he was waiting on parts that were backordered. He began reaching out to some friends on Facebook to get a ride from Prineville to Bend for his evening shift, which is at ABM at Lonza sites in Bend.
"I was unable to find a ride Wednesday and Thursday, so I told myself I needed to make it to work, no matter what—even if I had to walk. I prepared for that, and I was unable to find a ride by 10 a.m. on Friday, so I started walking." He made it to his job just before 5 p.m. He did not have any offers for a ride, so Akers walked the entire stretch of highway between Prineville and Bend, including the grade leading out of Prineville. He indicated that it was a relatively moderate day, so the temperatures that day were kind.
He was able to stay at some friends' homes in Bend for the following week, and his sister gifted him some Uber gift cards to get from his friend's home to his place of employment.
"My car was still here, and the repair shop was booked out until the end of July or August and wanted to charge me $2,200 to replace a radiator and a thermostat," he explained of the events at the repair shop.
Akers decided to try to repair the car himself, but then his story took another turn. When the feature was aired by Central Oregon Daily News on July 6, a Bend viewer picked up on the incident and contacted Central Oregon Daily News that he might have a car to help out Akers. Chris Arsenault and his wife had a 1997 Honda that they decided to gift to Akers. The next day, Akers went out to meet Arsenault, totally unaware that he would drive away with the car and the title gifted by the couple.
And it didn't end there. On July 8, ABC World News with David Muir picked up the story from Central Oregon Daily News and aired it that evening. Also on Friday, July 8, Akers had a Zoom meeting with Good Morning America, and the show was aired on Saturday morning. Before he knew it, he had another offer for a jeep from a good Samaritan.
Akers gave some insight into his determination and motivation to walk 33 miles to work.
"After pre-COVID and after COVID and right now, people don't seem to want to work, and I guess got complacent with the government paying you to not work — to some extent. I love working, I love my job, I love the people I work with, so I took it upon myself to make sure that I can keep my job and show that I can do the work necessary and go the extra 33 miles if I have to."
He works for a custodial service for commercial buildings in Bend. He indicated that he uses floor scrubbers, extractors and steam cleaners. Recently, before his story hit the air waves, and after spending time in Bend to get to work while waiting for his mechanical issues to resolve, Akers made the trek back to Prineville after one of his night shifts in the early hours of the morning. He made the trip between Prineville and Bend twice.
"It took me a little longer the second time," he said of his night trek. "I was a little tired after an eight-hour shift."
Akers shared that he has been active most of his life and has run some marathons in the past. He attended school in Bend and was involved in ROTC.
"I was so surprised already that someone was willing to give me a car, let alone two people, and if I was put in a position where they were both OK with giving me a car, then I would definitely gift one of them to my teenage son. It would be a great first-time car for him, and it would be a huge blessing, especially being in a position where I would be able to provide that for him because of something I did. It feels really, really good," said Akers.
He added that he tries to be a good role model for his children, and he is really glad that this incident turned out to be a teachable moment.
"When it comes down to work ethic, they hired me for a job and I would let myself down more than anybody else if I didn't do it," he concluded of his decision to make the trek to Bend on a warm July morning.
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