Caleb Childs ’08 sits in a Vernal, Utah, library, trying to softly talk to a reporter on the phone and keep it down so as not to disturb any of the patrons who are quietly reading. He comments how curious Vernal, which is close to the state line between Utah and Colorado, strikes him. He says he sees water everywhere in the middle of town, yet all the terrain he and his brother, Tanner, crossed walking in to town was dry sand.
Vernal has been just one of the stops for Caleb, 26, and Tanner, 22, on their 3,082-mile trek across the U.S. that began in May in Wilmington, N.C., and will end in early September when they make it to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., a destination Caleb can’t wait to see. “You walk 3,000 miles across the country, you deserve a ferry ride,” he says.
Caleb, who graduated from NC State with an agronomy degree in turfgrass management, gave up his job last spring at a hardware store in Lake Toxaway, N.C., to embark on this journey with his brother. He says he and his brother decided to take this trip as a means to do something crazy before they got too old. At first they had just considered walking, but then they threw in longboarding, basically skateboarding on a larger board and something neither Childs brother had ever done, as their means of travel.
Knowing he was going to spend so much time with a brother concerned Caleb at first. “I thought we’d either end up very close or one of us would beat the other one up and we’d never talk to each other again,” he says. Fortunately, the two have grown closer, and their trip has been surprisingly devoid of craziness. Instead, Caleb says, the trip is a grind, mostly filled with the worry over where to stay when they reach a town. They stayed at a number of fire departments along the way through North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri. But out West, they’ve had to depend on word-of-mouth. They’ll stay with someone in a town, who will call someone in the next town who can house the pair for a night or two.
The Childs brothers are also raising money along the way as they tell those who help them about the charities they hope to help benefit from their journey. They had a fundraiser before they left to secure a trip fund, so whatever they don’t use from that and what they raise they will give to the Vickie S. Honeycutt Foundation, a charity in the Childs’ hometown of Mount Pleasant, N.C., that assists educators battling cancer, the Semper Fi Fund, which provides money to injured and critically ill U.S. military members, and the North Toxaway Food Bank. They hope to give $1,000 to $2,000 to each charity.
Those charities are a way for Caleb and his brother to give back. They also serve as a way for the brothers to respect the aid that’s been given to them on their journey. “That was one of the things that we set out to prove or find, that there’s good in America,” Caleb says. “Everybody we’ve come across is so willing to help us. It’s really been encouraging.”