McNary is on foot and bound for NYC
BY JOY POWERS
Driving along Highway 13 East on Wednesday, August 14th, travelers may have seen a man walking alongside the road with a backpack on his back carrying a flag.
Robert McNary, 53, Lavina, Montana began his journey on June 11th with his dog, Leo. His destination is to walk to New York to see the “Lady Liberty.”
It wasn’t far down the road when McNary realized Leo was not going to be able to make the journey with him due to the heat and the pace. After walking 175 miles to Miles City, Montana he met some bagpipers in a park. After hearing McNary’s story, the bass drummer offered to take the Leo home with him to live just south of Miles City and McNary continued on his journey alone.
McNary spent eight years in the military. He loves parades, marching and walking. Generally, he will carry a book to read while walking down the road, however, he has found that to be a little more difficult to do out here on the prairie.
The flag and Red, White, and Blue mean a lot to McNary. He purchased a split-level garage in Lavina which they now use to host town celebrations and dances. It was also used to celebrate his 50th birthday with the slogan, “Red, White, and Blue and Fifty, too!” A large quilt covered the wall with a flag he had specially designed. Later, this same flag was painted on the wall. A friend of McNary’s then commissioned an artist to come in and paint the “Lady Liberty” on the wall next to the flag. Plans now are to commission another artist that will paint a model of the “Great Seal” in color and specially designed on the front of the building.
Reaching the Dickinson area, he’d heard about the monastery there and began to search for it. He discovered Assumption Abbey in Richardton and stayed there for four days. As he has continued his journey across North Dakota he has done a lot of his traveling along the Interstates. To break the monotony and get away from the noise he will sometimes detour off onto side roads walking through quieter roads and the smaller towns. McNary said, “Big cities have wonderful things, but they’re missing out on watching the grass grow there.” A friend of his drove 4 days to meet and spend some time with McNary, but a family emergency forced them to continue after stopping to see McNary. They did, however, take with them McNary’s laptop that he was using to update his web site to keep his friends and family posted on his journey. The laptop will be waiting for him when he reaches his brother’s house in Minneapolis, where he hopes to be able to update the site.
McNary arrived in Edgeley on July 29th. He found himself at the Tastee Freeze and visiting with Mike Cuypers, Edgeley. As the two men visited and McNary told his story, he learned that Cuypers was about to take a trip heading south and then onto the Badlands. He invited McNary to join him. After considering the offer, and slapping at another mosquito, he decided the break from his journey would do him good. Cuypers took McNary to Plankington, SD where McNary’s brother from Mitchell, SD picked him up. He spent two weeks there resting and helping his brother. His youngest brother brought him back to Edgeley on the morning of August 14th so McNary could continue his journey at the same point he’d left it. McNary looks at this journey as his “working, walking vacation.”
Throughout his journey he’s been sleeping alongside the road, at rest stops, or campgrounds. He carries a small tent in his backpack and the most difficult part of his 600-mile journey to this Edgeley has been the mosquitoes. It was the mosquitoes that prompted him to take the 2-week rest at his brother’s house in South Dakota.
McNary still has 1500 miles to walk. His goal is to reach New York by November 11th. He figures he will need to pick up the pace a little to make that date. He can walk about 25-30 miles per day. Some days are slow and quieter and some days he has the opportunity to meet many new people, making friends and acquaintances along the way. Sometimes he receives offers for a meal or a ride. He declines the rides, however, saying, “If someone made the offer to carry my flag and let me drive, I might take that.” It’s important to McNary to carry the flag as much as possible, displaying the spirit of our country and the spirit he carries in his heart.
What would prompt a man to walk 2100 miles to see the Lady Liberty when he could hop in a car or a plane? McNary laughed and said, “I’ve explained it so many times and people just don’t seem to understand. Even my brother didn’t understand.”
McNary said that two years ago, two days after an All-School reunion, he was walking along with a friend and he said, ”Oh, I’d like to take a long walk.” In the course of the conversation New York came up.
It was two days after that conversation when a man rode his horse through Lavina on his way to the East Coast. McNary housed the man and visited with him for several days. McNary said, “I think that was my confirmation that I was to really take this long walk.”
He’s seen Lady Liberty once and is looking forward to seeing her again. He carries a digital camera to take photos along the way and to post on his web site at http://www.lavinamontana.com where he keeps friends and families posted on the adventures of his journey.
McNary plans to be staying more in motels as he travels across the North Dakota and Minnesota or at least until he finds less mosquitoes and bugs. He doesn’t carry a cell phone although friends and family have been encouraging him to get one; he tries to make phone calls to keep in contact with them when he reaches a pay phone.
McNary does computer work, “doing the technology thing.”
McNary hopes to be in Minneapolis within 2 1⁄2 to 3 weeks, where he will make his next major stop to visit another brother.
When asked if he would walk back to Lavina, MT after completing his journey, McNary replied, “No, no, no, no! I will find some means of modern transportation to get back home.”
As he picked up his back pack and flag to continue his journey, he turned back with a smile and said that he hopes to retrace his journey by car, coming back to meet and see all the kind people he’s met along the way.
With that he turned and headed down the highway. As he swatted at another mosquito, he turned back to wave before he set back on his journey walking his way to see the beautiful Lady Liberty.
This article is copyrighted and appears as part of The Edgeley Mail website.