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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | CAMARILLO

Duo to Complete Walk Across U.S.

July 09, 1999|BRYNN MANDEL

Last October, Ryan Firestone, 22, of Camarillo and Gidon Felsen, 22, of Tennafly, N.J., decided to go for a walk.

On Saturday, the duo will complete their nine-month trek that has taken them across the United States, from Jacksonville, Fla., to Santa Barbara.

As roommates at Brown University, the men toyed with the idea of walking across the country after being inspired by the book "A Walk Across America," by Peter Jenkins, in which the lead character walks from Upstate New York to New Orleans.

"It started as a crazy idea, but after awhile, it kind of made sense," Firestone said.

The two chose to walk rather than drive or bike because they didn't think the trip would have the same effect if they used a faster mode of transportation. They wanted to be forced to see and digest everything they came across during their trip.

On Oct. 4, the men departed from the Florida shore, with everything they needed--a first aid kit, two shirts, one pair of pants and shorts each, two warmer layers of clothes, rain gear, a tent, sleeping bags and money--on their backs.

The two followed Interstate 90 for the first segment, pounding the pavement through Tallahassee, Alabama, the Mississippi coast and New Orleans.

Throughout the voyage the duo frequently wrote in journals and called home to assure worried parents they were all right.

Firestone said the last month of the trip has been less adventuresome in that they were staying with people they knew and entering a familiar environment.

Beyond learning, both men agree the trip allowed them to discover things within themselves, as the long days of walking included a lot of self-reflection.

"I'll probably feel a lot more passionate about the end when I step in the [Pacific Ocean] water Saturday," Felsen said.

Pictures and reflections of their journey across the country can be seen on the World Wide Web at www.amer-i-can.com.

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