"It sure is pretty up here," Bruce Maynard said Tuesday afternoon as he hiked up a hill on the Kathryn Road with the cart he calls Sam. It wasn't the first time the Bellingham, Wash.-native has strolled up that same hill on the scenic byway. He was here about a year ago, during one of his many walks across the country.
During an interview Tuesday Maynard matter-of-factly said, "I'm just taking a stroll across America."
The 79-year-old began walking across America in March 2010. He's crossed the Rocky Mountains four times and has met many people and seen many landmarks along the way. His current walk began in April in Bloomington, North Carolina. He flew from Washington to North Carolina to pick up Sam from storage and began walking back to Washington.
"I took Sam out of storage and I said, 'Come on, kiddo. We're going home,'" Maynard said.
The cart has all the necessities including a tent, chair, food, water and a computer for his blog.
Although he doesn't always take the same path, he came back this year "to see what kind of reaction I would get by coming on the same roads and meeting some of the same people, but new people too."
"I have been absolutely astounded, because I have been treated like a prince," he said. "People have been unimaginably responsive to my every little need."
He said he hopes to complete his trip by Aug. 20 at the Peace Arch in Blaine, Washington, 26 miles north of his home on the Canadian border. The arch is to commemorate the longest undefended international border in the world. After this walk, he plans to leave the country and walk from Lisbon, Portugal to Beijing, China.
Part of his path for this stroll includes the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway. Maynard spent a couple nights this week in Fort Ransom at the Cranberry Cottage.
On Tuesday, Maynard walked along the byway, stopping in Kathryn, where he had a beer with the Sheyenne Saloon owner's father. He was headed for Valley City Tuesday afternoon, where he plans to stay at the Wagon Wheel Inn before heading to Bismarck.
"The whole purpose of this trip is to talk to people, it's not to walk," he said. "Walking is my primary function, but it's turned out to be a mission to inform people of the value and the necessity to activate and nurture their lymphatic system."
Maynard said the lymphatic system controls water levels and is an important part of the immune system. Hard exercise is the only thing that makes the lymphatic system work, he said.
When his wife was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few weeks to live in 1991, Maynard educated himself on the lymphatic system, and worked with his wife to keep her alive for 10 more years.
His other message is to keep elderly people from "being incarcerated and being told that society doesn't need us anymore."
"I decided to walk across the country to see how much an 80-year-old body could do," he said, adding that he thinks it's important for retirees like himself to stay active not only for health benefits but also so they feel a sense of worth — a will to live.
Before retiring, Maynard worked as a court reporter, contracts manager and had his own packaging company for over 30 years.
Maynard writes a blog regularly on his journey at seniorswalkingacrossamerica.blogspot.com. He also has a Facebook page called Sam & Me.
Maynard walks by himself, without sponsorship funded only by his Social Security benefits and generous donations by others.
"If I get to stay in a motel or something, it's because somebody arranged it for me that met me on my walk," he said. "I'm treated to dinners, I'm treated to people's homes."
Look for this story in Wednesday's Times-Record.