Marshall Hardee, 22, walks along Highway 82 between Starkville and Columbus Friday on his journey across the United States on foot. He started in San Diego in February and is making his way to his home state of South Carolina, raising money for charity along the way.
Photo by: Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff
May 22, 2017 10:19:03 AM
Marshall Hardee is on the last leg of a 2,000-plus-mile journey across the country. On foot.
The 22-year-old from Conway, South Carolina, made for an odd sight on Highway 82 between Starkville and Columbus Friday in his neon orange safety vest as he pushed a large green buggy east toward the state line with a steady stream of 75 mph traffic flying past him in the opposite direction.
He's got about 600 miles to go before he reaches his destination in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Relative to San Diego, where he started walking 2 1/2 months ago, that's not that too far.
"I started in the ocean and I'm going to finish in the ocean," he said.
Last week on his journey, he passed through Starkville and Columbus, setting up camp about two miles from the Alabama border Friday night. He likes to take pictures of himself by state signs, so he waited until the morning when the light was good to cross into Alabama. He unpacked his buggy, which carries his food, 2 1/2 gallons of water at a time, an isopropyl alcohol stove, tent and other necessities. Strapped to the buggy is a 15-watt solar panel so he can keep his phone charged.
The buggy also looks enough like a baby stroller that cops have stopped him on the highway after getting calls about a man walking down the road with a baby.
But that just makes Hardee laugh.
He's wanted to do a trip like this his whole life. Now that he's recently graduated from Clemson University, he's decided this is the time to do it. He's gone through southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, across the south to Texas and, about a week ago and Mississippi. Crossing the Mississippi River was a big moment for him, he said -- it was a landmark he'd been waiting for and a reminder that he's almost done.
"I've always been interested in long-distance running," Hardee said. "...It's always just been in the back of my mind to do a full cross country run."
For a cause
Though he's always wanted to make the trip, Hardee thought he should do it for a cause. He's set up a GoFundMe page about his trip and is sending all money he raises to Save the Manatee Club, Inc., a manatee conservation organization.
"This seemed like too big a trip to not do it for a charity," he said. "That was my favorite one, so that was the one I picked."
Hardee approximates 90 percent of his nights he spends camping, though he's also crashed with friends and family or couch-surfed. Walking on interstates is illegal, so he sticks to state highways and backroads.
His morning begins when he wakes up and cooks breakfast. Then he's on the road by 7, alternating between running for about five miles, then walking for about three. He's had highway patrol officers, and even just average drivers on the road, pull over and ask him if he wants a ride, but he always turns them down. He makes sure he's "never cheating a mile."
He usually stops about 3 p.m. -- though sometimes he keeps going until later. If he's near a town where he's always wanted to go, he stops, visiting bars or restaurants and meeting locals.
"I try to get the vibe of the town," he said.
His favorite so far has been White Sands in New Mexico.
"It's like 20 square miles of pure white gypsum sand," he said. "It was really beautiful. That was probably one of the coolest places that I've been."
He's never had a problem with anyone threatening him or harassing him on the road, he said. If anything, he's made friends. He's talked with people in bars and shared beers with people he met on the road in New Mexico and rode dune buggies in the desert with Californians.
"It's just blown my mind how nice everybody's been on the road," Hardee said.
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