Randy Montgomery put his circle maker walk around the perimeter of the United States on hold, but he plans to continue his "journey with a purpose" after helping a Siskiyou County friend.
From the joys of summer nights relaxing on Oregon coast beaches to frigid days and nights without sleep during blizzards in northern Montana. Randy Montgomery said the first 15 months of his walk around the perimeter of the country were “some of the most glorious and worst times of my life.”
He met the woman who is now his fiance, and he got the news from a friend that his Mount Shasta home was destroyed by rain water that entered unimpeded while the roofer he hired was out of town.
Continuing his circle-making quest in the midst of an arctic blast last winter, Montgomery said he went five nights in a row without sleep in his tent because it was so cold he wasn’t sure if he’d wake up.
He said he stayed true to the purpose of his walk by offering a kind greeting to every person he passed.
“I stayed with some people I know, and so many people I didn’t know opened their doors up. I made incredible friends,” said Montgomery during his current break in what he calls “a journey with a purpose.”
That purpose, he said, is to bring people together: “Let’s be real, be kind to one another, say good morning, show you care for people. We only have this life. Let’s make it a cool one.”
Montgomery said he offered what he had to others on the walk and always got what he needed. “The universe has all you need if you ask without selfishness. The universe will amaze you,” he said.
The black ink line that marks the path he traveled on a United States Interstate Highway Map had grown to 3,800 miles when Montgomery got a call in mid-October that changed his plans.
A Siskiyou County friend whose daughter had been injured needed help. Montgomery said he knew it was time to put the walk that began in Arcata in July 2014 on hold and return to the place he has called home for 48 years.
Staying close to the US perimeter all the way, Montgomery was walking in his fifth pair of shoes when he reached Niagara Falls and got the word that his friend Jaison Eaton, who operates a logging truck out of Fort Jones, needed help.
He flew back to Mount Shasta in mid-October to drive Eaton’s truck.
When the local weather halted trucking, Montgomery headed to the Florida Keys, where his fiance Cindy recently relocated. Soon after the New Year, he started working on a crabbing boat there.
He plans to return to do some more trucking in the Mount Shasta area long enough to help Eaton get back to work. Then, “I’m going right back to Niagara Falls,” he said of his plan to continue the walk.
Montgomery said he was “only 400 miles” from a planned visit with former Mount Shasta chiropractor Jim Wilmerding, who relocated last year to a remote hillside outside of Brattleboro, Vermont.
“I have 800 miles left to go to Maine,” said Montgomery.
Facebook and friends
He is chronicling his walk and his activities since his return to Mount Shasta on the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/randy.montgomery.332.
The page is packed with photos of the places he’s been, the people he’s met, and the positive messages he frequently delivers to the more than 2,200 Facebook friends he’s made since the start of his walk.
On the last day of 2015 he posted this message: “If anyone is interested in purchasing a tee shirt it would be greatly appreciated, it helps me in keeping my Web site up and running, and I absolutely love sharing this awesome experience with each and everyone of you, and hope you all realize how important it is that we all become friends, how awesome would this world be if we all loved one another? I LOVE you all thank you!!!!!”
The message included a link to: https://circlemakerrandymontgomery.wordpress.com/. That site includes a link to T shirt order page and a link to a video of photos he took on his walk, which was compiled and put to music by a woman he met in Detroit.
15 months of adventure
A truck driver for 30 years, Montgomery was in a funk in mid-2014 when he read the book, “The Circle Maker,” by Mark Batterson. He was inspired by the legend described in the book of a first century man who drew a circle in the sand and refused to leave it until his prayers for his people were answered.
Less than a month later, Montgomery started his own “prayer circle,” stating his goal was to walk around the perimeter of the country and spread the word that “If we all help one another, what a world this would be.”
During an interview in Mount Shasta last month, Montgomery talks a mile a minute about 15 months of experiences both sweet and challenging.
He said he hadn’t planned on seeing Mount Shasta for up to five years while on his walk, but the call from a friend in need changed that.
Being ready to help, he said, “is something we should all do without thinking about it.”
Montgomery had recently gotten engaged to Cindy, a woman he met in Oscoda, Michigan.
He said he stayed with her in Oscoda for about a month, started walking again, then went back for another month.
“Me and her and her sister are very, very close,” he said.
After coming back to Mount Shasta, he invited Cindy to come see the beauty of the area, and they got engaged.
“I walked 3,800 miles along the Oregon coast, Washington coast, and across the top of the United States, Washington, Montana, North Dakota. I saw a lot of very pretty places, but nothing like what we have here,” he said of Mount Shasta.
“Everywhere is beautiful in its own way,” he said, describing how he “came off the mountains in Montana into the plains, and for 380 miles there was not one tree.” The plains of North Dakota were the same, and it was 30 degrees below zero.
“I started out doing a prayer circle, but I didn’t know what I was biting off. But I wouldn’t trade for the world all it has entailed.”
Montgomery said his mind at times would question what he was doing and “try to defeat me,” but his heart would keep him going.
He said he walked with the attitude of wanting to help others. “If there’s something I can do, I just happen to have the rest of my life,” he said. “My purpose in life now is to create friendship and kindness and get us back on track with ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Everywhere on my walk for 15 months when I talked to people, I would say, ‘Why don’t we do that anymore?’”
Hard times along the way
Montgomery said he was in the middle of Washington when he got the news by cell phone that he had lost the Mount Shasta home he built in 1984.
He said the roof was being replaced, had been torn off and left uncovered while the roofer was gone for a week. It rained hard that week and flooded the house.
He got a call from his friend Doug Terrell saying his house “was devastated.”
“Insurance wouldn’t cover it because he was not a licensed contractor.”
“It’s part of the American dream to build your home and live happily ever after,” Montgomery said. “I had it all, and I walked away from it.”
He said he sat on a bench for half the morning after hearing the news wondering what to do.
“It’s just a pile of sticks on a pile of dirt,” he eventually concluded.
Then he walked on.
He went through Cut Bank, Montana, which claims to be the coldest place in the nation.
When he stopped in Grand Forks, North Dakota last winter carrying a sleeping bag and tent in his backpack and wearing crampons “it was 58 below zero.”
He paused his walk there and earned some money driving truck. The eastern half of the country on his Interstate Highway map is crisscrossed with red lines that show the thousands of miles he traveled driving truck. From Grand Forks to Shreveport, La., Knoxville, Tenn., Newark, NJ, and many other places.
‘Don’t stop, keep going’
While he walked, Montgomery said he thought a lot about children “and what kind of life we’re creating for them.”
The country grappled with events in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, while he was walking, and he thought about how “our forefathers came across the ocean so we could have a life that’s good... The love they had was so powerful... Now we’re spitting on their graves. Adults are arguing like kids... We argue over black and white, big and small, like children.”
At one point he asked his Facebook followers to “go out and say to your neighbor, ‘I’d like to be your friend.’ It does no good to sit there in our homes and complain that the world’s going to hell in a hand basket... We made a mess, but let’s do it for the kids. I want to say if you love your children, let’s do something to turn this around. We can. I truly believe this in my heart.”
He said he’d tell people in each town he passed through what his purpose is, “and they’d tell me, ‘Don’t stop, keep going.’”
He visited old friends along the way and made many new friends.
After visiting former Mount Shasta resident Mark Turk in Libby, Montana, Montgomery said he got back on the road despite the forecast of an arctic blast.
“I left in a blizzard,” he said, and the blizzard continued for days as he “walked through the middle of nowhere.”
Each night, he said he set up his tent with a tarp beneath it and a tarp above it. He didn’t have a heater for the tent, only a small stove to cook some food.
He had hand warmers that people had given him. “I crunched them with my feet.” But he was so cold he said he didn’t sleep for five days.
By the time he got to Kalispell, “I knew I couldn’t go on with that sleeping bag,” he said. He was able to buy a $2,000 sleeping bag good to 50 degrees below zero for $400. After that he kept his clothes in a garbage bag inside his backpack.
“Backpacks are not water proof,” he said. “Without dry clothes, you won’t live 20 minutes in Montana.”
For 380 miles, Montgomery said the wind from Canada “was blowing all the time,” pushing him toward the southeast.
It blew so hard he couldn’t put his tent up. So he learned how to lay the tent on the ground, crawl inside with his sleeping bag and zip it.
In the morning he’d crawl out from under four to six inches of snow and be on his way.
Yoopers and trolls
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where the residents are known as “Yoopers,” is 300 miles of outback, according to Montgomery. It stretches across the great lakes above Green Bay from Wisconsin to Canada.
The Yoopers, he learned, refer to those who live on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as trolls.
The two peninsulas are connected by the five mile long Maciknac suspension bridge. Nearby is historic Mackinac Island, a place that fit right into Montgomery’s circle maker mode: no motorized vehicles are allowed entry.
On that route, Montgomery learned, “You can’t just lay there at night and look at stars.”
Before he got there, people started asking him if he had a bug net. He soon found out why: “Black flies hatch out of the mud.” They’re so thick you can’t stop without being covered by them.
With a bug net covering his head and face and a long sleeved shirt, “I could sit on the side of the road,” he said.
There were mosquitos, too, “thick like a fog,” he said. When he stopped for the night, “I’d throw up my tent as fast as I could, get in as fast as I could, zip it closed, and nothing would bother me.”
Giving and receiving
Early on the walk, he slept in his tent on beaches along the Oregon coast, where “it was so beautiful and there’s a lot of oxygen.
He said he intentionally wanted to experience the Oregon coast “to get the right mindset... I spent 48 years with a home and business here, then threw a backpack on and left. There were lonely times. I had no idea it would be like it was. There was nothing for days, days at a time without talking to a soul. It was hard on my mind. I would cry my eyes out in my tent... But I will not stop until I come back to Arcata.”
In Tillamook, Ore., in a laundromat at 5 a.m., “I had $20 in my pocket. A kid asked for $7, but all I had was a $20 bill. I knew I had food for a week, so I gave him the $20.”
The kid told him he had just gotten out of prison and wanted to sell him a knife.
Soon after he left the laundromat, “Someone on Facebook told me to go see her uncle in Tillamook who owns a dairy,” Montgomery said.
He went there. “It was a huge dairy and a beautiful farmhouse.”
He told the man his niece had told him to stop by and he had just walked 600 miles from Arcata. The man asked him, “‘What’s the earring for?’ I told him, it’s so I don’t look like you; my individuality; a way to be different in my own way.”
They ended up talking for two hours. “He shook my hand at the end and put a $100 bill in my hand. I said I don’t go around taking handouts. He said, ‘I want you to have it for your walk.’”
The moral of the story, the way Montgomery sees it, is: “I had $20 and gave of my heart. Two hours later I had $100. I wasn’t doing it to get the money, and that’s why I got it.”
In Washington, he said he walked 10 miles before remembering he had left behind the rope he used for his tent tarp.
He had $10 in his pocket and used most of it to buy a roll of rope in Omack, Wash.
When he got back on the road, he went through a stretch of a couple miles where he saw “hundreds of feet of bailer’s twine” that he could have used for his tarp.
“I’m sorry I didn’t trust the universe,” he said.
Another time, when he was in Ohio, thinking he had $400 on his ATM, he called to book a motel room for the next night. He found out he was $85 overdrawn on his card.
“It caught me off guard,” he said. Then, while he was looking for a place to spend the night in the bushes, “Two guys walked up to me and asked if I was the guy walking the perimeter of the US. They were brothers, and they invited me to dinner. I said, are you for real? It meant the world for me.”
When he arrived for dinner at “a beautiful home on Lake Erie,” they were with their wives barbecuing. After “an absolutely beautiful dinner,” they went kayaking while the sun was going down on Lake Erie. “The water was smooth as glass.”
Then they invited him to stay, take a shower, and have an evening drink.
“Wow,” Montgomery said of that experience coming so soon after he felt like he had nothing. He asks, “Do you believe in a power greater than yourself?”
He tells stories of people along the way recognizing him by his pink bandana and saying they heard he was in town.
“People want to help my cause because they believe in my cause. I’m walking to make the world a better place for the children.”
He said he came to realize, “My body is incredible. I walked 3800 miles in five pairs of shoes, Danner hiking boots. The bottoms wore out, but I never had one blister. It’s amazing to me. I carried 75 to 85 pounds in my backpack the whole way... some days in the mountains, some in the desert.”
He typically carried a sleeping bag and tent, five to six days worth of food.
“You don’t want to get in the middle of nowhere and not have what you need... There’s nobody out there to take care of you.”
In Libby, Montana, when he needed shoes, he didn’t have the $189 he needed to buy them. He took them to the register, handed the clerk his card and asked, “Could you help me with these? He said, ‘Take them.’ He said, “I believe you.’”
At times he would ask people if they knew a place he could put up his tent for a night, and “lots of them cooked dinner for me and let me stay in their house.”
Many of the “wonderful people” he met became his Facebook friends.
Now he gets calls from those friends around the country.
“How cool is this,” he says. “When we leave this world, nothing means anything but life memories. I’m filling my bags with a lot of memories.”