Note: This story was last updated at 6:21 p.m.
He’s walked more than 2,300 miles and posed for thousands of selfies with people he’s met along the way. On Monday, he passed through Oak Ridge, trekking from Oliver Springs to Powell.
Ryan Ray is walking across America from Los Angeles to New York City. It’s a 3,050-mile journey that will include a stop at the White House and is expected to end in Times Square on October 10.
Ray said he is following his passions: speaking, traveling, and writing.
“Follow your dreams,” he said during a 90-minute walk from a welcome sign at the north end of Oak Ridge on North Illinois Avenue to the intersection of South Illinois Avenue and Lafayette Drive on the south side of town. “Nothing is impossible.”
Dozens of people stopped Ray along the three-mile route to pose for selfies. Some offered food and water, and a few gave donations. Oak Ridge Police Department Officer Scott Carroll presented him with a police patch.
Ray tries to cover 20 to 23 miles per day. He will pass northwest of Knoxville on his way to Bristol, Tennessee. He was hosted in Oliver Springs on Sunday night and will be hosted in Powell on Monday night. You can learn more about his trip and follow his journey here.
Ray left Los Angeles on February 28. He took a five-week rest after picking up a bacterial infection on April 4 in Arizona. But he’s been walking continuously since May 20, starting in Winslow, Arizona, with 10 days of walking followed by one day of rest.
Ray tries to travel lightly. Still, his backpack can weigh 30 to 60 pounds. On Monday, he said he was carrying 15 pounds of snacks, three liters of water, evening clothes, a sleeping mat, and a tent, among other items.
His trek has inspired others.
“It’s really about me following my passions,” said Ray, who has previously had a syndicated television show that grew to an audience of 1.2 million viewers, taught English in Spain, worked on a cruise ship in Alaska, and hiked 1,000 miles from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean in 62 days. It’s a path he’s been following for 12 years.
“I live life on my terms,” Ray said. “This is me putting into place my passions. This brings me incredible joy.”
He shares a message that other people can create realities with their minds.
“It starts with an idea,” Ray said. “Set a goal.”
He encourages others to have dreams and use their imagination.
“You just have to keep focusing on what you want, rather than on what you don’t want,” Ray said. “Don’t let fear motivate you.”
Ray plans to be in Washington, D.C., around September 24 or 25 and take a selfie with President Obama and shake hands with him.
He’s now 137 days into his walk and has 40 more to go. He’s passed through California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
He’s guided by a preprogrammed GPS map, and with help from from Google walking routes, he chose a path that would take him to his mother’s house in Oklahoma, his father’s house in Arkansas, and the White House in Washington, D.C.
“I want to show other people that they can do this too,” said Ray, who has done administrative work for Nestle and waited tables in California,
Ray walks with double-layer socks and sandals, which let his feet swell and breathe, he said. He’s only had three blisters in 2,300 miles. He’s had places to stay and only slept in his tent three nights since Texas. He got through the desert before the extreme heat hit and before the snakes came out.
There have been a few rainy days, a few thunderstorms, and some lightning, but “for the most part, it’s been very chill in terms of weather,” he said. He’s occasionally walked on trails and dirt roads. He does not walk on interstates.
A group will walk with him his last day, including his mother and people from Texas, Los Angeles, and Missouri.
Ray said he’s had 400 people sign up to host him, with 80 in the last 24 hours alone. He said he is getting to experience America.
“This is the point,” he said.
He cited obstacles that he’s overcome that might have stopped others, including raising money for the trip, continuing after his illness, and trekking through the Mojave Desert in California, where conventional wisdom says you can’t carry enough water to walk through it.
You need intention and focus to overcome obstacles like that, Ray said. Through contacts he made on his trip, he was able to find someone in the Mojave Desert that dropped off water at GPS coordinates that he provided, just when he needed it, and he found a host.
“You create reality with your mind,” Ray said.
There are probably about 15 other walks like his per year, and he crossed paths with another walker in New Mexico.
Ray is not sure if he’ll do another similar walk, but he said a trip to South America is coming up soon.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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