Seeking to accomplish yet another feat with his feet, Matt “the walker” Livermanne, 36, is trudging his way towards a goal of walking all the way from San Diego to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska: A trip of 2,556 miles.
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Stopping long enough in El Dorado County to tell his story, Livermanne said he left San Diego a month ago and has already covered 680 miles. If he can reach his goal of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in 145 days, he will earn a $100,000 prize from Pepsi.
“But I’m not walking for the prize,” he said, “but to see this route.”
Claiming, with tongue in cheek, that he is, “a professional street-walker,” Livermanne says he has already earned a world record by walking 10,000 miles over 19 months. In 2010 he said he walked from Los Angeles to New York, then from New York back to Los Angeles, and then to Chicago, finishing in August 2012.
“There was a lot of satisfaction from accomplishing that,” he added, saying that record will be included in the 2013 edition of Ripley’s Believe it or Not.
Livermanne, who is from a small Texas town called Dryden, said he began walking in 2009 after he lost his job as a paralegal and couldn’t find another one. He thought setting a world record would help him get a new job, so three years ago he became a professional walker. Now he has his own company testing shoes and selling ads on his Website with his sponsors helping to defray the cost of his treks. He’s also writing a book called “Within Walking Distance.”
“You can’t wait around for things to get better. You have to make things better. That’s my message.”
The peripatetic Mr. Livermanne said he has made many trips all across the U.S., has met hundreds of people — many of whom send him Christmas cards each year, and has had lots of adventures. “I’ve seen stuff only the pioneers have seen and I’ve seen things in greater detail than most.”
So far he hasn’t had any close calls this trip, although last year in Missouri his backpack was clipped by an 18 wheeler and he was thrown into a ditch.
“It scared me pretty bad,” he said, although he doesn’t blame the truck driver given that it was raining hard and visibility was low.
Carrying everything he needs on his back, Livermanne said his 35-pound backpack usually includes two to three day’s worth of food, plus a tent, sleeping bag, tarp and extra batteries for his tracker. Most of what he eats is dried food that is reconstituted with water. He said he burns 7,000 calories a day and gets his water at truck stops or from artesian wells with his only protection from critters and people being hornet spray.
Because he carries little in the way of extra clothing, he has to stop once a week to wash what clothes he has. New shoes are dropped off by his sponsors at shoe drops. Showers are taken at gyms or in public facilities on the beach, which is important, he said, because after walking for a week, “I smell like a horse.”
But his low tech mode of travel doesn’t prevent him from having the latest gadgets so people can track his progress. With him is a cell phone, solar-powered charger for his phone, and a GPS device so that people can follow his movements on his Website transwalk.com/index.php.
“They can track me like a moose,” he said. “I migrate in the spring and come home in the winter.”
Along the way, Livermanne has had many wildlife encounters. On this trip he’s awoken twice with pelicans next to him. One even let him pet it. He’s also seen his share of deer, prairie dogs and other animals.
“There are lots of wildlife even in Golden Gate Park,” he said, noting that recently there was a coyote alert in the park.
Livermanne said he walks 20 to 40 miles a day, generally along the freeway. He said he needed 26 different permits for this trip to do so. But while alone on his trek, he has had a lot of help from people along the way.
“I’ve met a lot of cool people,” he said. “And once they figure out what I’m doing, they want to be a part of it.”
Friends and fans
One of those offering help was Jim Kisler and his wife Ruth Normandin of El Dorado Hills, who put Livermanne up for a few days before he resumed his travels, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge last Friday.
Kisler said he met Livermanne by chance on a train to Illinois. They struck up a conversation and Kisler offered to let Livermanne stay with him when he made his trek up north. He said Livermanne is even using products made by Physicool, the company Kisler works for.
“I am fascinated by what he’s doing,” said Kisler. “There’s not a lot of civilization where he’s going. He has to have a lot of drive to do something like that.”
Livermanne said he has a large base of interactive fans. He regularly tweets and updates his Facebook page and has 177,000 to 180,000 followers on his Website, including people in Tasmania, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France and the U.K.
Sometimes they are a little too interactive at times, he laughed. They complain when he doesn’t walk fast enough or when he takes a break.
He said he’s had more than a few people try to find him on GPS, sort of like “Where’s Waldo,” but this time it’s “Where’s Matt?” In one instance a woman tracked him in Los Angeles all the way to Kingman, Ariz. She would drive out to wherever he was stopping and deliver food and water. She even went so far as to say she wanted to quit her job and join him.
Livermanne has also attracted seven marriage proposals on Facebook — six from women and one from a man. One of those was from a 76-year-old woman.
“She was a mountain lion, not a cougar,” laughed Livermanne, who went on to say that, “some people think they know you because of social media. They think they have made a personal connection. There are a lot of lonely people out there.”
Across the Bering Sea?
Once out of California, Livermanne said he has people in Oregon who will give him a place to stay.
“I have experienced random acts of kindness from many people,” he said. “There are more good people than the one bad one we focus on. We’re all Americans and have the same problems but can work it out.” Homeless people have given him the most, he said. “They wanted to help. Those with the least give the most — including food and conversation.”
He’s also received 50 different good luck charms from people. One of the last was made for him by an artisan in Big Sur.
Once he reaches his destination in Alaska, Livermanne said he will prepare for his next venture which will be crossing the Bering Strait at the end of December. Only 56 miles across, he said he will face temperatures of 40 degrees below zero and winds 30 to 40 mph. He said he will have to learn to cross-country ski and kayak before making the crossing and is in the process of getting the permits from Russia to do so. He said the only thing he’s worried about is that some killer whale might mistake him for a seal.
In the meantime, Livermanne is pushing on through Northern California.
“This is a beautiful county and everyone should go out and see it,” he said.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.