I Meet a Real Walker
I spent most of four hours (70+ miles) crossing Lake Michigan
before I met the most extraordinary man.
SS Badger under way.
on board the SS Badger - 2002
I met Andy Horujko on the ferry boat
towards the end of our cruise.
Andy was close to 80 but still chopped wood most every morning.
He ws one of those real characters you meet from time to time.
Andy had two claims to fame.
He had worked as an aeronautical engineer with one of the Wright brothers.
He also had walked a large part of Latin America when he was my age - in his 50s.
So, we had a few things to talk about.
He most wanted to impress me that I was carrying to much weight in my backpack.
He showed me his small knapsack
in which he was carrying the books he had bought in Manitowoc.
I agreed with him more or less.
Andy was also a bit of philosopher and skeptic.
So, we had a few more things to talk about
when we got off the boat and proceeded to a pub
where Andy treated me to fish and chips.
We parted ways that evening.
I believe he intended to walk home to Chase,
40 miles off, in the morning.
Andy and I kept up for a while after my excursion through letters,
then we lost touch a few years ago.
To write my recent book, I did some Internet investigations
which revealed a number of fascinating things about Mr. Horujko
whom I really only knew as Andy.
First, Horujko is pronounced as Eureka which is Greek for “I found it.”
Second, Andy was a champion woodcutter.
After leaving the engineering profession,
he lived as a hermit-loner on 80 acres and made a living cutting pulp wood.
He was said to be a champion wood cutter.
Third, he was a member of the Michigan Mensa Society for many years.
(Mensa’s mission is “to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity;
to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence;
and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members."
To join, your IQ has to be above 149 - genius level.)
Fourth, Andy didn’t just “walk around South America” as he had told me.
His accomplishment was far beyond a walkabout or my modest excursion from Montana to New York City.
Mr. Horujko, weighing in at 130 lbs., trekked from Anchorage, Alaska,
to Tierra del Fuego - the southern tip of Argentina.
He began what he thought would be the world’s longest hike on March 31, 1970, when he was 48 years old.
Andy started his trip covering 30 miles a day, about a 1000 miles a month,
and expected to complete his venture in about a year.
He admitted his reason for his journey was mainly because “it’s the challenge.”
But, he also considered his hike as a protest against air pollution from automobile exhausts.
"That's why I can't accept any rides, no matter what the weather.
You can't protest against cars then hop into one, can you?"
Andy hadn’t driven a car since 1936.
Mr. Horujko made his destination at Ushaia, Tierra del Fuego, on December 23, 1971.
Along the way, he went through twelve pairs of boots.
The latter ones were self-made of kangaroo hide with rocker shaped soles which he first developed in Arizona.
He encountered “the worst coffee in the world in Colombia” and fought off a bat and thieves in the Chilean desert.
When his brother-in-law in Michigan was asked on completion of the journey how Andy would get back home,
he replied, “No one knows.”
Serendipitously, I was fortunate to meet Andy on a ferry boat almost 30 years later.
We shared the boat and dinner at a local pub, conversation and correspondence
regarding our similar paths and adventures.
Andy died in 2008 at the age of 87. It seems he had quite a walk and quite a life.
In December 2012, I filed an application to see if Andy
might qualify for a Guinness World Record
The Longest Walk in the Shortest Time.
A few weeks later, I received the following note:
Claim ID: 412505
Membership Number: 359614
Dear Dr Robert McNary,
you for sending us the details of your recent record attempt for
'Longest Walk in Shortest Time'. We are afraid to say that we are
unable to accept this as a Guinness World Record.
we do already have a record for this category and what you have
achieved does not better this. The current world record is: George
Meegan (UK) walked 30,431 km (19,019 miles) in a journey that took him
from the southernmost point of South America, at Ushuaia, Argentina, to
the northernmost point of North America, at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, USA,
taking 2,426 days from 26 January 1977 to 18 September 1983.
World Records has absolute discretion as to which record applications
are accepted and our decision is final. Guinness World Records may at
its discretion and for whatever reason identify some records as either
no longer monitored by Guinness World Records or no longer viable.