If you were out and about, driving around Southeastern Connecticut on Sunday, Sept. 16th, you may have seen a trio walking along with an American Flag. Perhaps you even honked your horn or waved to them. If you had the opportunity to stop and chat with us you would have found out that we were taking part in Ruck Across America.
Back on June 22 in Coronado, California a GORUCK GR1 bag started a 5,000 plus mile journey around the country. Along the way the bag gets passed off to individuals that have completed the GORUCK Challenge. They carry the bag on their back along a set route before handing it off to the next person.
This is more than just a journey to have one bag pass through the hands of hundreds of people while crossing the country, the Ruck Across America is also a fundraiser for the Green Beret Foundation. To date Ruck Across America has raised $7000 for GBF including some donations that we received along the way on Sunday.
Sunday's journey began at 6:30 a.m. where I met up with Chris Nelson and Heather DeCarli. Heather and I have not completed a GORUCK Challenge yet so we would be "shadowing" Chris for the day. That meant that Chris had to carry the bag the whole time but we could carry other things and keep him company. My real job was to keep him from getting lost on our 30 mile walk from Westerly, RI to Old Lyme, CT.
The leg before us was rucking through the night and needed to stop for a little well deserved sleep, so instead of us just sitting around in Westerly we headed up route 3 in the car until we found them. Luckily they were right at the commuter off of I-95 at Exit 1 in Rhode Island so we were able to quickly park and join Tom.
The morning weather was beautiful as we enjoyed our unexpected extra miles in Rhode Island. As we neared the Westerly Armory Matt hopped out of the support car to join us and James started playing pump up music to get their leg excited to be nearing the finish. At the Armory the bag changed hands, instructions were given, and pictures were taking. Now we were officially on duty.
In the world of GORUCKs Chris has become known as Eagle, so it was a must that his Eagle mask come along also. This provided us with added fun as we tried to find places to get pictures of him with his mask on. Our first road was along scenic 234 in Stonington. There wasn't much traffic which made walking along that much more enjoyable.
As you walk along you notice so much more than when you are in a car flying by at 45 mph. Heather and I were trying to keep count of how many cars honked or waved at us but by the time we were in Stonington we had lost count. We even had a young man stop and ask what we were doing and if we needed a ride.
From route 234 we took 27 cutting over to route 184. There was a lot more
traffic now but 184 has nice wide breakdown lanes. Along 184 my father found us and walked with us for a little while. Once we made it to his car he brought us up the road to the US Submarine Force Museum so that we could bring the bag on the Nautilus.
Heather and Chris had never been to the Museum before so they had a quick look around and a quick trip on to the Nautilus. Unfortunately we didn't have more time for them to enjoy all that the Museum has to offer but we needed to get back to our walking. Chris did buy two patches from the Museum to add to the bag so that future legs can see where it had been.
To start the second half of our leg we needed to cross the Gold Star Memorial Bridge. This would be the first time crossing the bridge by foot for all three of us. At over a mile long and over 100 feet above the water this isn't for the faint of heart. I enjoyed the experience, taking my time, looking north up the Thames River.
Once on the New London side we had a quick picture stop at the US Coast Guard Academy before bobbing and weaving our way through New London and Waterford to get to Boston Port Road. As we reached Boston Post Road the sun was near setting so I took out my reflective vest and headlamp. Most of the way through Waterford there were sidewalks so I didn't turn my headlamp on. At the beginning of the day I was told the American Flag goes first and as the flag carrier I wanted to be visible to oncoming traffic. By the time we reached the East Lyme town line the sidewalk was gone and the headlamp needed to be turned on.
Boston Post Road past Flanders Four Corners was tortuous. If you have been there recently you know they are doing road construction. At that point we had walked around 30 miles and the grated roadway was a killer on our feet. Not too far past Stone's Ranch Army National Guard Base our support car met us. Brian would be doing the next leg and we were to meet up at Illiano's in Old Lyme. We crossed the street, said hello to Brian, and then started walking in front of this car.
My spirits were starting to get low as I was having a ton of muscle spasms and cramps in my legs. As we were approaching the Rustic Cafe I noticed a lady outside clapping and cheering for us. Soon the other patrons stepped out and joined in. They asked us to come over for a drink but we had our eyes set on the finish line and pizza.
After a long day it was such a great morale booster for complete strangers to come out and cheer us on. Unfortunately at mile 35 my legs couldn't take it any longer. I passed my American Flag that I had attached to half of a kayak paddle to Chris and got into Brian's car. Coming up at the beginning of October I have
the GORUCK Challenge and I didn't want to risk getting hurt. Heather and Chris pushed on through and made it to Illiano's about a mile and a half later. Success, 13 hours after starting the day in Hopkinton, RI, we had made it to Old Lyme.
We were sore and we were tired but we achieved our goal. Later that night after pizza Brian started his leg by running the ruck through the rest of Old Lyme and over the Baldwin Bridge. From Connecticut the ruck is heading down the East Coast to Florida before heading to its final destination in Colorado. To learn more about Ruck Across America or see pictures from other legs you can visit www.ruckacrossamerica.com.