Since William Fairbanks began walking across the country July 2, 2009 in Los Osos, Calif., he has seen many things.
He said he has seen indescribable kindness on the roads, despite the effects of a downtrodden economy.
He has had to make his way past angry farm dogs, travel up and down mountains and roam across sun-baked highways as he traces places that hold significance to him and his family.
He climbed a mountain his father climbed.
He visited his childhood hometown, and he has been accompanied for miles with old friends and classmates.
Now, Fairbanks is in Craig, ready to continue his journey.
Fairbanks, 73, is crossing the country as a rite of passage, and as a way to reconnect with the country.
In 2007, Fairbanks retired after 41 years as an anthropology teacher at Cuesta Community College. He began his journey two years into his retirement.
“When you go into the military, you have to go through boot camp first,” he said. “When you retire, there is no challenge.
“This is my challenge.”
His journey has been tailored around not only places that have meant something to him or his wife, Carole, but also to suggestions from strangers, Fairbanks said.
But, regardless of where his route leads him, it will end in the same spot.
“I am going to the Fair-
banks House in Dedham, Massachusetts,” he said. “Everyone with the last name Fairbanks can trace their roots from there.”
The scariest part of the trek, apart from curious leash-free dogs, has been the traffic, Fairbanks said.
On several routes, he has had to deal with narrow shoulders, over-vegetated guardrails and tractor-trailer congestion.
As Fairbanks said, his journey has been put on hiatus several times to get his “ducks in a row,” but being retired has meant he has no pace to keep. He expects to finish in either 2011 or 2012.
The longest he has traveled in one day is 23 miles.
On most days, he walks between eight and 15 miles.
Carole has been driving along with him as his support crew.
They prearrange a pick-up spot, then William walks.
Fairbanks said that, despite calluses on his feet, he is in better health than when he started.
“It doesn’t matter what sex or age you are,” he said. “Everyone I have talked to has said that when you are done, you are in better health than you were when you started.
“I already feel better.”
Walking alone, Fairbanks said he has had plenty of time to think and reflect on life in America, which is what he studied for years.
“I never did any real, in-depth research,” he said. “As a teacher, you just interpret what other people have done.
“Walking across the country, there are so many things I would research if I were younger.”