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Going for a long walk

By Staff | Sep 29, 2013

A lot of people cross the United States in a jet plane.

Some folks drive a car or a motor home across the country. Some do it on a motorcycle. And a few hardy souls go from coast to coast by riding a bicycle.

Then there is Stacie Eichinger from Tucson, Ariz. She is doing it on foot.

Eichinger left Ocean Shores, Washington, on the Pacific Ocean, on May 8, walking across the country. She hopes to be in Savannah, Georgia, on the Atlantic Ocean, by this next February.

Last Wednesday and Thursday nights she was in Blue Earth, staying at the Dusty and Nadia Lane home. The Lanes picked her up in Fairmont Wednesday night, after she had walked from Sherburn to Fairmont.

On Thursday morning they drove her back to Fairmont, where she started her journey again, finishing Thursday night back at the Lane’s home on 10th Street in Blue Earth.

Friday morning she struck out for Albert Lea, or at least in that direction. She wasn’t quite sure where she would end up for the night.

Eichinger pushes a strange looking cart in front of her as she walks across the U.S.

“It holds everything I need,” she says. “And it draws a lot of attention from people.”

She likes the attention, because Eichinger isn’t just walking thousands of miles for the exercise. She is raising money for a cause called ‘Beads4Courage.’

“They give beads to kids in hospitals who are battling cancer,” she explains. “They get a different colored bead for each thing that happens to them. Shots are a black bead, blood transfusions are red and chemo is white.”

The beads go on a three foot string necklace. Some kids have several of them, Eichinger says.

Her goal is to get a $10 donation for every mile she walks. If she is successful, she will have raised $38,000 when she is done. So far, she is at $16,000. All of that will go to the Beads4Courage organization.

“People have been so nice to donate,” she says. “And they have donated to help me on this trip.”

Eichinger says people like the Lanes give her a place to stay and a meal. Sometimes her hosts buy her some supplies, and sometimes they are donated. Juba’s Supervalu in Blue Earth did just that.

One person bought her some shoes. Eichinger goes through a pair of shoes every 500 miles or one a month, so she is on her third pair.

Besides strangers along the way, Eichinger is also supported by her family back home in Tucson her parents, brother and boyfriend.

So do her employers. Eichinger works two jobs in Tucson, as a landscaper and as a clerk in a garden center. Both those jobs will be waiting for her when she returns home in February.

The young woman travels from 20 to 25 miles per day and takes about one day off per week.

“I’ve been pretty lucky so far, without many problems,” she says. “I have met a lot of nice, helpful people. And the weather has been OK.”

She has had a couple of medical issues, however a pulled Achilles heel, nasty case of shin splints and tendonitis in her left ankle.

Then there was the moose she came face to face with on her last day in Idaho. Both she and the moose were pretty spooked.

None of it has slowed her down much.

The most memorable part of her trip was walking into Sturgis, S.D., right in the middle of the big motorcycle rally.

“I seemed to become an instant celebrity, the only person who walked to Sturgis instead of riding a motorcycle there,” she says. “A television station did a big piece on me. I was the talk of the town. It was hilarious.”

If you want to learn more about Eichinger’s journey, make a donation or find out about Beads4Courage, check out her website at walk4courage.com or her Facebook page at walk4courage.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” she says. “If somebody stops to ask what I am doing, walking out in the middle of nowhere, I love to tell them my story,” she says. “When they find out it is for kids who have cancer, they usually make a donation.”

And it all adds up – $10 and one mile at a time.