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Sunday, May 1, 2016

One more step in his long journey

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ray Goodman is attempting to travel 11,000 miles to 20 national landmarks across the country. He's already traveled 2,000 miles to Mammoth Spring from Philadelphia, Penn., for his first stop at a national landmark. His next stop is Mount Rushmore. Photo by Emily McIntosh
Walking across America might not seem like the best way to spend the Fourth of July for some people. But, to others, it's the best way to see the natural beauty of the United States on the day it celebrates it's independence. One man, Ray Goodman, is on just such a mission to see the beauty the country has to offer while spreading awareness of the human impact on the environment.

Goodman started his journey in April about 2,000 miles away in Philadelphia, Penn. He said he came down through the Appalachian Mountains through Tennessee. Mammoth Spring, Ark., he said, was his first stop at a national park. He arrived there July 1.

"I love hiking," Goodman said. "I've been a long distance hiker my whole life -- well, since the Boy Scouts at 12 years old."

Goodman said he decided it was time for a change in his life and his career. "I had been having, for lack of a better term, struggling with a mid-life crisis," Goodman said. "I felt like my lifestyle needed a good change.

Goodman was a judgement enforcement officer for an attorney for about 11 years back in Philadelphia and said he was ashamed of the things he would have to do for a living. "You know what they (judgement enforcement officers) do, and it's bad," Goodman said.

His job entailed seizing people's assets if they had been sued. He said he kept having to take things away from people such as cars, homes, stocks, bank accounts and anything worth value. "Everything that I made and everything that I had was a result of taking things from other people, and I guess I got to an age that it just didn't sit with me anymore and it just got so bad I took a leave from my work. That's when I walked the Appalachian Trail and somewhere in those 2,200 miles I came to a conclusion that my lifestyle was awful."

He said for years he had been a lip service environmentalist. "You could come to me and ask me why the environment was important to me and I'd spew you a thousand reasons why it was, but I'd never actually do anything to make a difference," Goodman said.

"One morning, I woke up and I looked around my apartment. I went to my Gevalia coffee maker and turned on my flat screen TV, and I went out to my truck with my boat sitting in it. And I thought, look at all this crap that I touch maybe twice a year that's destructive to the environment in their making, in their disposal, in their running," Goodman said. "So, I wanted to change my lifestyle to be more in line with the lip service I'd been spouting for so many years. The biggest way I decided to do that is, before I left, I donated all my possessions to charity including all my stocks, everything down to the last penny. I did that because everything you own, even the clothing on your back, is destructive to the environment because there's some truck that's got to ship it to you, there's some machine that's got to spin to make it and whoever goes to work to spin that machine is going to drive a vehicle to get to it. So, the less things you own, the less destructive you are to the environment, individually."

Another big thing Goodman said he decided to do to help the environment seemed an obvious connection to him. "Since I've been a long distance hiker my whole life and I wanted to raise money for the environment, it was the perfect connection," Goodman said.

His cross-country trek will take him 11,000 miles, and, he said, his goal is to stop at 20 national landmarks. He said he plans to wrap up his journey in June 2011 in the Florida Everglades.

"Mammoth Spring is the first of my 20 landmarks," Goodman said. "I want to introduce America to some of the most beautiful places in this country and some of the most environmentally astounding places so they're motivated to take a small step. Not everybody has to give all their stuff away, I acknowledge that, and that's not even necessary. What I'm trying to do is be an outlandish example that will catch (the public's) attention so that maybe they'll take a small step (towards helping the environment)."

Compared to Mount Rushmore, Yosemite, Crazy Horse Memorial, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and other national landmarks on Goodman's list, Mammoth Spring seems an out-of-the-way place to visit. He said he chose Mammoth Spring for a special reason. "The reason I chose Mammoth Spring first is because I don't think people appreciate their water supply. They expect to just go to the sink spin the lever and kaboom, there's water," Goodman said.

He said he has walked by thousands of waterways both on the human level and on the mountain level. Goodman said waterways in the mountain level are crisp and clear, whereas those on the human level, where people live, are usually filthy and full of trash. "I think people fail to recognize that water there that they're throwing a tire in is the same water that's eventually going to spew out their sink," Goodman said.

About 10 million gallons of water per hour gush forth from Mammoth Spring. "No one knows it's there and it's this beautiful, wonderful, pristine place that, out of Arkansas, nobody knows anything about it and that's why I chose it first," Goodman said.

Added to all the water coming from other springs and other water supplies in the country, 10 million gallons per hour is a small amount, but it is just as important to the environment to keep the spring clean.

Goodman said along his way he tells people about his mission and about the charity he raises money for. The charity is the Sierra Club (www.sierraclub.org). The Sierra Club is one of the oldest grass-roots environmentalist organizations in the United States. The Sierra Club has 1.3 million members. It was founded by well-known conservationalist, John Muir, in 1892. Goodman said Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt were good friends. "He actually kidnapped Teddy Roosevelt and it was the birth of our national park system," Goodman said. "(Muir) took him to Yellowstone, and there was John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt and 50 secret service agents. Anytime you go into the wilderness, part of the experience that is the most uplifting is the solitude and here they are trying to find solitude in the middle of the woods with 50 secret service agents following them around everywhere they go, and John Muir didn't feel like Teddy Roosevelt was getting the wilderness experience. So, in the middle of the night one night, he grabs him, sneaks off, leaves the 50 secret service agents behind and for four days the secret service was in a panic thinking they had lost the president, but John Muir was taking him out for the true wilderness experience. Four days later, John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt came out of the woods and within a day, Teddy Roosevelt had birthed our national park system and our very first national park was Yellowstone."

"It was the beginning of America's understanding of the need to conserve our natural resources because they don't, for lack of a better term, grow on trees," Goodman said.

Before going on his hike across the country, Goodman, along with a board of members with the Sierra Club, set some rules of the hike "to make it additionally challenging and interesting," Goodman said.

He said the rules include, "No cell phone; no GPS; no rides of any kind, I walk the entire way; I have to camp every night, no hotels, no conveniences. I have to sleep in my sleeping bag in my tent every night, and the real challenging part of that is that there isn't always a campground waiting for you at the end of the day when you're tired. More often than not, there's not, and what I have to do is, I can't ask for anything, I can't solicit anything. The most common places I camp are municipal buildings, police stations, fire houses, churches and by far the most common is people's back yards (with their permission)," Goodman said. "Because I donated everything to charity before I left, one of the rules that I came up with is that I can't carry food, water or money with me. This is where it gets really cool. Not only can I not carry any of those things, I'm not allowed to ask for, hang about or request or suggest any of those things in any way if I need them. The only way that I'm going to survive the entire 11,000 miles is on the unsolicited kindness of strangers and I've already come 2,000 miles. Think about that. That's 2,000 miles of like 7,500 calories a day plus all the water I drink in this heat, and I've survived this far without ever having to say I need, I want, can you."

He said people find out about him by watching and reading the news and stopping him as he walks to give him food or drink or a place to set up camp for the night.

"In essence, what I've done is put my life in the hands of America and said if you'll just allow me to survive I'll do this wonderful thing for someone other than myself," Goodman said. "I either live or die on the kindness of strangers, and it's a beautiful, beautiful concept."

"America is going to get the credit for pushing me 11,000 miles across this country," Goodman said.

Goodman is allowed to have a Blackberry that is only programed to dial 9-1-1 so he can update his Web page on Facebook for people to keep track of him. To view his site search for "Ray's Sierra Club Hike" on Facebook. Though Goodman said he does not accept donations to Sierra Club directly, people can go to the club's Web site or on Goodman's Facebook page to make a donation.

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