Dear family and friends – old and new,
Grab a glass of wine or coffee and have a seat. This could take several minutes to read and several more to digest and it’s important that you – someone I love and respect and care about – read this all the way through with an open mind and a loving, compassionate, understanding heart.
I’ve been a chef for 25 years. I love cooking, I love opening restaurants, I love seeing happy faces, I love community and everything that comes with the grueling lifestyle of a chef. The past 2 years were my most challenging as I embarked on opening the greatest little taqueria and sausage place ever called Taco Brat.
I met a cool couple last year, right before we opened, and we were drinking and celebrating a friend’s birthday. I was telling them all about my restaurant I was going to open. Well, the other night they came in for the first time and admitted to me that the day after we met they said to each other, “That guy was full of crap. Drunk talk. He’s never going to open that restaurant!” Ha!! They ate their words while they ate our awesome tacos and drank a lot of beer.
As you may or may not know, I am no longer an active part of the beauty that was Taco Brat. My business partner and I decided to go different directions but we’re still buddies and we hugged it out. It’s been one hell of a long, wonderful few years for me both personally and professionally. I’ve been challenged in ways I never knew imaginable and I’ve persevered through it all. But that’s not what this campaign is about.
So here’s another story and, again, I’m not full of crap…
This is about the next chapter in my life
A few months ago I read a book called By Men or By The Earth. It was the story of Tyler Coulson and how he ditched everything in life for 8 months and walked across America. I’ve read hundreds of books and never have I been so profoundly touched than when I read this one. Next I read his follow up book How to Walk Across America and NOT Be An Asshole. It was more of a “how to” guide. It discusses gear, training, different routes, dealing with strangers, camping, etc. Then I read Life on Foot by Nate Damm and watched his TedX Talk. He was another trans-continental walker. Then I read about Kate and John Seyal – they’re a couple that did it together with their 3 dogs. I’m now on my 8th book about the trek. One common denominator in their success is that they had a reason WHY they were doing it. Whether to explore the country, find their soul, figure out their life or for philanthropic reasons, they had a purpose that motivated them to get up, fold up the tent and get walking. Without the “WHY” they never would have made it.
One thing that I learned about myself from reading these books is that I have many things in my head and heart that culminate to a big, fat WHY and that’s what I’m going to tell you about.
In February 2019 I’m going to fly to the East Coast, spend a few days with my son and walk home. Yes, I am. I’m going to spend most of my 50th year on the road, alone, re-discovering myself and raising money for a cause that’s near and dear to my heart – Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. I met Dr. and Mrs. Fowler back in 1987 when I started dating their daughter, Leslie. She was a survivor of childhood cancer and her family was intimately involved with PCRF. Leslie and I ended up getting married and several years later had our son Holden. Although Leslie and I separated, she and her husband Brett are two of my best friends. I spend more time with them than I do anyone else. Here’s a little bit about PCRF.
PCRF Organization Information and History:
An average of 43 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer every day in the United States (almost 16,000 annually) and that number is dramatically compounded when we look worldwide: nearly 250,000 new cases of cancer affect children annually, or 700 new children affected every day around the globe. As evidenced from these numbers, pediatric cancer is not rare – in fact, it remains the number one disease killer of all children. More children die from cancer than pediatric AIDS, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies combined. Time will not stand still as we search for a cure, which means we must work quickly, strategically, diligently, and in collaboration to combat childhood cancer. We thank you in advance for your thoughtful support.
Founded in 1982 by physicians, parents and community leaders, Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF) has raised over $42 Million for cancer research since its inception. This represents the persistent hard work of physicians, researchers, volunteers, staff and community partners who are dedicated to the health of our future generation—our children. Our mission has stayed true over the course of time: to improve the care, quality of life and survival rates of children with malignant diseases.Over the last 35 years, we have seen drastic improvements – survival rates for childhood cancer have risen from 10% to almost 80%. Because of research, the cancer death rate has dropped more dramatically for children than for any other age group. However, there are still childhood cancers that have not had the same results – rare and aggressive cancers continue to devastate families and rob children of their childhoods.
Because childhood cancers still exist, PCRF presses on, funding experienced researchers as well as emerging researchers to continue the necessary work of finding cures and improvements to care. Your partnership with PCRF powers this gift of Hope. Hope for a cure, hope for aggressive treatments that attack cancer cells but leave the healthy cells, hope for long-term quality of life through safer therapies to fight cancer. Hope for new research, new protocols, new interventions.
Throughout our history of supporting pediatric cancers, we have maintained a stable foundation financially. This year we attained a Platinum rating from GuideStar. What this means for our donors is that you can have confidence in PCRF’s ability to fund the best researchers in the world, with the utmost attention to financial efficacy and transparency.
The Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation has been sustained for the last 35 years thanks to the caring investment of individuals, organizations, and business like you! Your trust over the years is truly valued and put to excellent use in advancing effective life saving treatments for children diagnosed with malignant disease.
PCRF is located in Irvine, California, and currently funds 13 institutions across the country. Cancer knows no boundaries, and neither do we. We will stand vigil until a cure is found.
MY WALK ACROSS AMERICA
My route is planned but I know it can/will change regularly. This I learned from every walker I’ve read about and talked to. The idea is to have a general route that has flexibility. Weather patterns and desirable terrain will play the predominant role in the decision making and route changing along the road. I’m going to stand in the Atlantic Ocean at Holden Beach, North Carolina and start walking – how could I not start there?? I will head west through Asheville, Knoxville, Nashville, the Ozarks, Wichita, Pueblo, Las Vegas, Joshua Tree and over to Pacific Coast Hwy in Dana Point. Then it’s just a quick 19 mile walk up the coast where I’ll jump in the waters of the Pacific Ocean at Newport Pier.
WHY THIS ROUTE?
I’m using a route planner that has allowed me to explore over 20 different scenarios. Weather and terrain were the biggest reasons I chose this route. There is NO WAY to avoid bad weather and there is NO WAY to avoid mountains and desert. This route made sense to me.
This is certainly easier for me to feel than it is to explain and make sense but I’ll give it a go.
Taco Brat and the lifestyle/financial impact it had on me became overwhelming. It got to a place where it just wasn’t working financially and my partnership was suffering. We both had the same goal but we ended up in a place where our path to get there was not working. Chance and I are both highly emotionally invested there and this was a tough decision. But we had different skin in the game and we had to make the decision for me to step out of the partnership at Taco Brat and allow Chance the space to make changes.
Going through this process really made me question what is important to me - call it my Fight Club moment…”the things you own end up owning you”. And that’s how I’ve lived my life…always trying to get ahead and not quite getting there and feeling stressed and disappointed. I know that I cannot move forward like that and be healthy. I need a deep soul cleanse. I need a big change and I want that change to mean something to other people than just me.
I have never allowed myself the space or time to find my spiritual path. I may not have one or it might come to me on the road. It’s important for me to figure this out before it’s too late. This is not a religious quest, rather, a time to connect with nature, the people in our country and the deepest parts of my heart. I hope to find out what spirituality means to me and embrace it regardless of how it presents itself or, perhaps, doesn’t.
As I was thinking about getting the hell out of here, before I started thinking about this walk, I always pictured myself running off to Europe to escape to my friend’s house. But then I realized that I don’t even know my own country so, perhaps, the best place to start this journey is right here in America. I want to meet the people of this country, I want to see the small towns, I want to sit on a stranger’s porch and drink root beer and make a new friend, I want to be scared out of my mind because I think there’s a bear outside my tent, I want to brave the Rocky Mountains with my cart and sing when I get to the top and know it’s all (mostly) downhill to home.
LITTLE THINGS I WANT TO DO ON MY JOURNEY
- I want to find pleasure in simple things. I want to be excited to heat up some water and make top ramen.
- I want to go days without a drink so that a cold beer or glass of wine becomes something remarkable.
- I want to learn how to defend myself against animals and crazy people.
- I want to meet a lot of likeminded cooks across the country – more on that below.
- I want to get a tattoo in every state I pass through – just kidding, Mom.
- I want to journal and take pictures and record my journey on a go pro.
- I want to facetime my family and friends from crazy little corners of the country.
- I want to learn how to light fires and pitch a tent in the black of night, read a book while listening to absolutely nothing but what’s lurking around outside and see some serious stars from the mountaintops.
- I want to find the courage to knock on a stranger’s door and ask if I can build my camp on their lawn for the night.
- I want to experience the goodness of the kind-hearted people I know will reach out to help me.
And then there are the silly little things I just need to get over…like my absolute fear of having body odor and dirty fingernails. The idea of squatting behind a highway sign to take care of business is, right now, absolutely ridiculous but it will be my life. Going several days without a shower. Those kinds of things.
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS I’M ALREADY GETTING
I know there are a million questions you may want to ask so I’ll take a crack at answering some of the ones I think will come my way. PLEASE – I would love to talk to any of you and answer your questions or just talk about the journey! I know you will be worried about me so the more we communicate, the better you can feel about what I’m about to do.
- Yes, I had a complete physical and blood work done and got the OK from my doctor.
- Yes, I am training. I’m walking (nearly) every day and weight lifting on a regular schedule. I’m working with a trainer to get this slightly old(er) body in shape!
- No, I am not backpacking. I will be pushing a cart that is designed for this type of adventure. It’s basically a tricked out, modified 3-wheel double wide baby jogging stroller. It has huge airless tires, strong chassis and axles, hand brakes for safety, lights and reflectors. There are points on the trek that are 2-3 days between water sources. I will need to have about 8-10 gallons of water as well as my other gear so the cart will, at some points through the Midwest, weigh well over 100 lbs.
- I will sleep in a sleeping bag in a tent in random places all the way. Sometimes several feet off the road, sometimes under a bridge, sometimes in a campground, sometimes behind a church, sometimes on people’s lawn (with their permission, of course), sometimes in the woods, etc. I will plan on campgrounds as much as possible. I will treat myself to a cheap motel sometimes. I’m certain I will meet cool people that will invite me into their homes for a hot meal, shower and a bed. I will never know for sure where I will sleep because every day will be different and I’ll never know how far I’ll make it each day.
- It will take approximately 9 months. I’m not putting myself on a timetable.
- The goal is to average 18 miles per day. Some days will be much more and some much less. Weather, terrain, my feelings, my body, people I meet, rest days – they will all guide my daily mileage.
- Total miles across, depending on my route, is approx. 3200.
- How many steps? 6,400,000
- I am planning for everything. I have long lists.
- Yes, I know that this is crazy and dangerous. Only a few hundred people have done it in modern days but not many people have tried. I don’t know what the success rate is but I don’t really care anyway. Most weren’t athletes or experienced walkers. They were people just like me that planned, trained, learned to eat and drink right and then they did it. Only 1 of them died on the journey when he got hit by a drunk driver (but, hey, that could happen anywhere, right?)
- Yes, I will be connected to all of you. You can follow my blog www.movingonwest.comand I’ll certainly post to social media regularly. I have a few ideas about this – I’d like to record the experience on a go-pro set up and use the footage to create a video of my journey. I also plan on reaching out to diners and restaurants along the way and meet as many cooks, chefs, dishwashers, servers and owners as I can. I want to spend a few hours in their kitchens – almost like a “cross country chef walker who drops in and cooks with strangers to get to know like-minded people across the US” kinda thing. My trainer said it sounds like a Netflix series…who knows?
- I will be very lonely on many days. I know this and accept this. I’m looking forward to some time with myself.
- I accept and I allow myself to know that stopping is always an option if my survival gets to a level of risk that I’m not comfortable with or feel safe to continue. I will not be stubborn. This is not about proving anything to anybody. I will walk until I hit Newport Pier or until I am done walking.
- With the help of some experienced walkers I’ve set some rules of engagement to help me be safe.
- If it’s 45 degrees and raining I don’t walk
- If it’s 40 degrees with rain in the immediate forecast I don’t walk
- If it’s 85+ degrees I don’t walk (depends on humidity and shade)
- If I am in significant pain I don’t walk
- If I feel any symptoms of hypothermia or dehydration I don’t walk and immediately seek help
- I’m going to take a few courses at REI – wilderness survival and first aid.
I need help, a lot of help, to achieve this next goal in my life and hopefully hand over a great big check to the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation at the end of my walk. Opening a restaurant was HUGE. This is bigger. This is only for me and those little warriors battling cancer. The walk for me is selfish, the walk for the kids is not. I don’t believe I’ve ever been a selfish person. I’ve always been a giver, a pleaser. I need to give to myself right now, please myself and, in return, give back to a great cause.
THERE ARE 5 WAYS YOU CAN HELP ME
Financial Support– this is the only thing that can stop me at this point. I know you’re probably thinking, “Tom, this is not the time to go do something like this. Go get another job and be responsible”. Maybe you’re right, but I’ve been doing that my entire adult life. I need this time to figure out the remainder of it. And, hey, I turn 50 this year so if you were thinking of giving me a gift and wondered what you could give a swell guy like me…
- You can donate here. There is no minimum and every penny helps tremendously. Dollars help more. Dollars with lots of zeroes helps even more.
- You can also donate on Venmo @thomascurran. Venmo is free and the donation site takes a little cut but not too much.
The money I raise will help fund the entire trip including gear, insurance, food, lodging when necessary and at the end of my journey everything that’s left will go to the PCRF.
Gear– if you have anything on the list below that you are willing to loan or sell for cheap, that would be awesome. If you have anything you think might help, please offer. Please don’t be disappointed if I decline something that you offer. I have very limited space and keeping weight down is critical so every item must be a necessity for the success of the journey or I won’t be able to take it.
Be supportive. I know you think this is crazy. It is crazy. But I’m going to do this and I need you to understand that I have not stopped thinking about this since day one of reading that book and the pull to do this is the most powerful, good feeling that I’ve had in a very, very long time.
Visit me! – feel like meeting me somewhere and walking for a few days or a week? I would love that.
Communicate with me– I will post on my blog regularly…www.movingonwest.com. I will also be active on Facebook and Instagram. I would love to hear from you while I’m out there! I’ll certainly keep it active and interesting
A PRETTY THOROUGH LIST OF GEAR AND NECESSITIES
I know that people have a lot of this stuff in their garage or junk drawers and never use it. If you are willing to loan/donate/sell cheap – that would be awesome! Most of this I will be able to find used or get donated. Things like shoes, clothes, hats, gloves I will purchase as needed and have shipped to me when I’m ready to use them.
- Tent – (2 person, 3 or 4 season)
- Sleeping Bag – 0-10 degrees
- Sleeping pad
- Jetboil cooking system/cooking equip
- Clothing/windbreaker/socks, undies…you know…
- Gloves and hats
- Shoes – 5 pair total should get me all the way (2 pair Teva sandals (worn most of the time except when cold, 2 pair Altra Lone Peak 3.5 hiking/walking shoes, 1 pair boots for snow)
- Solar Charger for all my electronics – not a lot of USB outlets on the road!!
- Umbrella – big and bright yellow for safety
- Safety vest
- Tent lights
- Prescription sunglasses – obviously you can’t donate these
- Backup pair of prescription glasses – or these
- Food for 9 months – and instant coffee packs!!!
- Random equip – fuel cells, waterproof bags, bear spray, bug spray, hats, gloves, first aid supplies, insta ice paks, salon pas, hand/foot warmers, first aid book, fire starters, a few knives, compass, emergency whistle, toiletries, sunscreen, bungee cords, zip ties, rope, bear food container, light, headlamp, etc.
- IPod (can’t risk losing battery listening to music on my phone)
- GPS Communicator/Locator (emergency tracking/communication when no cell service
- Go Pro set up – maybe I’ll make a movie out of this!!
- Self defense, wilderness safety and first aid courses at REI – these aint cheap!
WHAT I WILL GIVE BACK TO YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
First and foremost, you are helping me accomplish a Herculean goal that will, in turn, help kids fight an even bigger, far more important battle than most of us can even imagine.
I could make “Thomas Walks America for the Kids” t-shirts or whatever but that’s just more money. What I can offer you is my story, my friendship and eternal gratitude for helping me even if you don’t understand or think I’m absolutely nuts. I’m a great story teller and I’m pretty certain I’ll have some amazing tales to tell. I’m also a pretty good writer. Maybe a book?
I greatly appreciate that you took the time to read this all the way through. I’m not expecting people to be super stoked or excited about this but if you are that’s even better! It’s scary, dangerous and crazy. But I am going to do this. I can do this. My body and my mind are made up. I hope for your emotional support, financial support and anything else you can do to help me succeed.
First things first – please make sure we are connected on FB and Instagram @movingonwest and that you are following my blog www.movingonwest.com. You can always call me, too, at 949-278-7368
Thank you so much!