Jack Morris got up Thursday morning and went for a walk.
A common pastime for many Americans, sure enough, but Morris’ walk is special – and a little longer.
He started this particular walk in Jacksonville, Fla., several months ago, and arrived in Missoula on Thursday – just in time for a special event.
“It’s my birthday,” Morris said, throwing up his arms in celebration as he stood on the side of Highway 200 a few feet from the “Entering Missoula” sign. “I’m going to eat at Hoagieville.”
Morris – a Lolo native – will spend the weekend in Missoula visiting friends and family. Then on Monday, he will hit the road again. Destination: Seattle, his current home city.
Morris began his “long walk home” on May 1 as a fundraiser for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. His goal is to raise $100,000 for the hospital that saved his infant son’s life with an emergency surgery 15 years ago.
But why now?
On April Fool’s Day, Morris lost his job as the Pacific Northwest account manager for a project management consulting company based in Seattle.
“I usually have a backup plan or a Plan B,” Morris said. “This time I didn’t. So I figured this could either be an economic low point or a lifetime high point.”
Walk across the country – why not?
The initial idea was to stride for introspection, rather than charity. But a couple of weeks after hatching the plan, Morris decided if he were going to inspire people, he should inspire them toward philanthropy.
He set up a blog – mylongwalkhome.wordpress.com – where he could both explain the charity and how to donate, and also to chronicle his journey.
Thus far Morris’ efforts have raised $6,000 of his $100,000 goal. But he is not concerned. Most of the attention, he said, should come at the end of his walk when he gets to Seattle.
So Morris trudges across the country, all his worldly possessions stowed inside three small boxes strapped to a handcart, plotting his way using a Google Maps application on his cell phone.
And the journey has been fraught with hardship and pain, he said.
“I would not recommend this as a weight-loss plan,” Morris said. “It is so hard on the body.”
The first few weeks of Morris’ journey were defined by blisters – and heat.
Temperatures hit record highs as Morris made his way through Florida and Missouri: 105 degrees. And nights were sometimes graced with tornadoes and monster winds, he said.
Morris spent many exceptionally hot, stormy nights in motels, forgoing his camping gear.
As he made his way through the Southern states, Morris staved off loneliness with audiobooks – including the Bible, “A Patriot’s History of the United States,” the journals of Meriwether Lewis and “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
As for dangers, although he was mistaken for a transient several times before purchasing the yellow safety vest he currently wears, Morris said no one ever tried to rob or attack him.
What was dangerous: drivers talking on cell phones.
“Whenever someone was coming ... and passed by me too close, I would look up and they would be on their cell phones not paying attention,” Morris said.
Pit bulls presented another common danger, especially in the South, he said. Many people own the dogs and do not keep them properly restrained, he said.
“I’ve had several pit bulls (attack) me,” Morris said. “They would come up behind me and bite at my legs.”
Still, when Morris arrived in Missoula on Thursday, he was all smiles.
“I’ve been running on adrenaline since I hit the Montana border,” Morris said. “I’m in my home state.”
And standing on the side of Highway 200, Morris talked about the magical parts of his journey. The horse whisperer he passed and spent a day with, the man he met who lives in a swamp in the deep South, the Yankton Sioux powwow he stumbled into one night.
“This story isn’t about the miles I’ve walked. It’s about the people’s paths I’ve walked across,” Morris said.
Now that he has reached his childhood home, Morris hopes Missoula will support him by joining his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/
Morris plans to arrive in Seattle by Sept. 10.
Jessie Higgins is a fourth-year student at the University of Oregon who is interning this summer at the Missoulian. She can be reached at 523-5251 or at email@example.com.