Nice folks outnumber ‘crazies’ on man’s long walk


On the Street

If Jason Sager had driven from Key West, Fla., to Neah Bay, he probably would have missed a lot of people.

He never would have met the Mexican migrant worker outside Miami who pulled off the road to give him a cold Coke and two steak sandwiches.

He wouldn’t have talked with the 72-year-old woman in Marked Tree, Ark., who offered to let him sleep on her couch for a night. He never would have tasted the apples a woman sliced at her home and then delivered to him on a road outside Memphis. He would have missed out on the free drinks, bought for him by a few women at a bar in Pomeroy, in Eastern Washington.

But Sager didn’t drive. He walked. And that made all the difference.

Yes, you read correctly, he walked.

When I pulled off to the side of Highway 522 south of Monroe on Friday and asked the 23-year-old what he was doing and where he was headed, Sager estimated he had already logged something just short of 3,740 miles. He was roughly 100 miles shy of his goal to walk from the southeastern tip of the lower 48 states to the northwestern edge at Neah Bay.

The trip wasn’t a publicity stunt or a fund-raiser, he said. He wasn’t trying to draw attention to the plight of an endangered species or collect money to find a cure for a lethal disease. The most political he got was slapping a few bumper stickers on his baggage for "my man," as he put it, George W. Bush. This was just an adventure for a young guy with few responsibilities, some money in the bank, a couple months to kill and a fairly strong set of legs.

Sager was preparing to take a leave from his job as a Kellogg’s salesman based in Baton Rouge, La., when the company hired his replacement early. He left his job in February, and didn’t need to start studying for his master’s in business administration until the end of August.

"I thought, ‘Well shoot, should I just sit back between February and August or should I try to do something big?’ "

He settled on walking across the country, but not without some concerns.

Spending hours walking along the sides of roads, and nights sleeping in a tent, Sager feared run-ins with "crazies."

"We always hear these horror stories about what happens to people alone," said Bill Sager, his father, who lives in Lolo, Mont. He was even more fearful than his son, he said.

But the younger Sager discovered something different on the roads of America. Unexpected kindness.

He was considering quitting near Miami when the man stopped to give him the drink and sandwiches, he said. His backpack was feeling heavy, Florida was flat and monotonous, and he still had more than 3,000 miles to go. He had the second half of a round-trip ticket from Miami to Montana tempting him.

But that gift, from a migrant worker who wouldn’t take any money in return, revived him.

"That one gesture right there kind of gave me the feeling, ‘I’ve got to do this trip,’ " he said.

There were more like it: the apples, the offer of a place to sleep for the night. He got water from people who saw him striding down the road, pushing a fancy baby-stroller designed for runners piled high with gear, like some slightly deranged yuppie with a newborn baby. An executive for a running shoe company met him by coincidence in Yellowstone National Park, and gave him a free pair of shoes and T-shirts, Sager said.

Of course, his appearance might have helped. Freshly shaved, with close-cropped hair, Sager has something of the Boy Scout look to him. He had planned to grow a bushy beard during the walk, but shaved it off when he noticed fewer people were stopping to offer help.

But it was also that he was walking, rather than driving.

As this vacation season arrives, thousands of us will pile into our cars and speed onto the highway. We’ll stop in some places. But often the world becomes a blur of gas stations and fast-food restaurants, each looking like the others. In our cars, we insulate ourselves from the world, keeping out the heat with air conditioning, the noise with stereos, the people with doors and windows. Our encounters may often happen through the drive-through window of a McDonald’s. It makes it easier to hang onto assumptions about what people are like, about the dangers they may pose, about the possibility of running into "crazies."

But, out on his own two feet, Sager took a chance and learned otherwise.

If all goes as planned, some time later today he will be dipping his toes in Neah Bay, 31/2 months after he began. Then he will send post cards to more than 350 people he met along the way, who asked to find out if he made it.

"I guess it kind of lifted my spirits on mankind," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

A closed road at the Heather Lake Trail parking lot along the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County, Washington on Wednesday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountain Loop Highway partially reopens Friday

Closed since December, part of the route to some of the region’s best hikes remains closed due to construction.

Emma Dilemma, a makeup artist and bikini barista for the last year and a half, serves a drink to a customer while dressed as Lily Munster Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at XO Espresso on 41st Street in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After long legal battle, Everett rewrites bikini barista dress code

Employees now have to follow the same lewd conduct laws as everyone else, after a judge ruled the old dress code unconstitutional.

The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies in mid- to late April 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Clouds to dampen Lyrid meteor shower views in Western Washington

Forecasters expect a storm will obstruct peak viewing Sunday. Locals’ best chance at viewing could be on the coast. Or east.

AquaSox's Travis Kuhn and Emerald's Ryan Jensen an hour after the game between the two teams on Sunday continue standing in salute to the National Anthem at Funko Field on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New AquaSox stadium downtown could cost up to $120M

That’s $40 million more than an earlier estimate. Alternatively, remodeling Funko Field could cost nearly $70 million.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.