Photo and article by Mary Alice Murphy
Ari Ramos is on a mission. She has a master's degree in public health and wants to teach people how to prevent disease, such as obesity and diabetes, through nutrition and exercise.
She began her journey in Jacksonville, Florida on Jan. 28, 2016, but said she had a mental breakdown in Louisiana. She took a break.
"I realized I couldn't change people, so now I'm stronger. I realize I may not change everyone, but I want to change myself." She entered Phase 2 of her journey on Nov. 30, 2018 in Austin, Texas, to continue her trek across the U.S. all the way back home to Lake Tahoe, California.
Ramos landed in Silver City on Jan. 9, 2019 and said the journey is a combination of her sense of adventure and her mission to talk to elementary school students wherever she stays for a day or two to help them understand the importance of nutrition and health. She will talk to students at Jose Barrios Elementary on Thursday, Jan. 10. "We need to get them early."
She has no time frame for when she will complete her long walk, because she does not want to hurry it. "I plan to finish the walk in Los Angeles. I have a strong team behind me. Right now, I have only planned to Phoenix and don't know my route after that. I'll take my time."
"I have found food deserts, where people don't have access to good food," Ramos said. In Pecos, Texas, she went to Walmart to stock up on fresh food for the next couple of days of walking. "I couldn't find any fresh fruit. No bananas or apples or anything."
She said the journey would not be possible without all the people who have helped and will help her along the way, whether by hosting her or walking a stretch of the road along with her. "People don't realize how much impact they have on my journey. Letting me, a stranger, stay in their homes, I can't thank them enough."
She said the most grueling part of her journey to date was in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas. "There's nothing out there. People think this is a physical challenge for me. It's a mental challenge."
"The first of the journey from Florida to Louisiana was in some ways the easier, because there was a town every 20 miles or so," Ramos said. "Out here, because places can be far between, I've had to switch from cooking meals to doing jet boils (a stove system). Now I have to be self-sufficient for at least two days."
She has mostly stayed with hosts along her walk, but also has tent camped, with the coldest temperature so far of 28 degrees in Anthony, NM, where she stayed in a tent.
Ramos spent Christmas Eve in the Guadalupe Mountains in the middle of nowhere, with no cell phone reception, knowing that at a previous stop, she had inadvertently left her passport and money. She couldn't turn around, because she did not have enough provisions. "Going through my equipment calms me, but I was feeling a little beat at that point."
"I kept going," Ramos said. "My host family in El Paso was wonderful. He drove me back 75 miles to where I thought I had lost them. Thank goodness, my money and passport were still there. I had arrived in El Paso pretty beat up. I was scared about leaving my host family. I teared up. I had cried a lot on the first part of my journey. I've been stronger on this part, but the kindness of my El Paso hosts was wonderful.
"All my hosts have believed in me," she continued.
Because she is not allowed to travel alongside interstate highways, she is taking the state and federal highways as her route wherever she goes, even though it may take her far out of her way.
"From Deming to Lordsburg, I came through Silver City, and I'm looking forward to exploring your town," Ramos said.
She will be traveling from Lordsburg through Safford and Globe on U.S. 70 on her way to Phoenix. She generally travels 20-25 miles a day, with her longest so far at 35 miles.
The entire trip from Florida to California is 2,700 miles, with about 700 to go.
"I have a new appreciation for the simplest things in life—a warm meal, a shower, a hug, a warm towel," Ramos said. "I push a repurposed baby stroller, with all my gear. It weighs about 50 pounds. At first, I dreaded being alone. Now I'm loving what I'm doing. I don't want to be anybody else. I am blessed to have this opportunity to be on the road. I live as if I were dying. If I died tomorrow, I will have accomplished what I wanted to do. I see the world at three miles per hour. Some days, I'm singing and dancing and people are wondering who that crazy lady is. Other days are hard."
She has had her issues along the way. Just in El Paso, she had two flat tires. She has had a tire split. "I carry extra innertubes, but I've also had to replace tires (and shoes)."
Ramos is an experienced traveler, having ridden a bicycle across France, Switzerland and Italy. "I figured it would be easier in the U.S."
If anyone has contacts for people which whom she might stay along the way, she would love to receive the information at firstname.lastname@example.org or by text to 530-318-8670. Some places she may not have cell service or email access but would appreciate any help a reader can give her.
A young woman with a dream and a purpose is more than two-thirds the way through her journey. May the rest of her trip be happy and pleasant.