One step at a time: Ohio woman is walking around the U.S. perimeter
For nine years, the Rev. Carol Cruise asked God to choose someone else.
And so, on Jan. 1, 2002, she took one step forward, one of the many she will need to take to complete her goal of walking around the perimeter of the United States.
In December 1992, Cruise's right leg was amputated due to an injury. Doctors performed 15 surgeries trying to save the leg, but eventually there were no other options.
The night before the amputation, she prayed.
"I told God I wanted to be a better person, not a bitter person," said Cruise, of Canton, Ohio. "I asked him to use me in a way he couldn't when I had two legs."
From then on, while trying to sleep at night, Cruise said she would wake up with an overwhelming feeling that God wanted her to do this, to walk around the perimeter of the United States.
For nine years, she said, she offered excuses -- she was too old; she only had one leg.
"Finally, I figured if I can't sleep, I'd better start walking," Cruise said.
She left Palm Beach, Fla., on Jan 1, 2002, and has since logged 4,708 miles, as of 4 p.m. Tuesday.
She was walking Tuesday through downtown Bemidji, taking a lunch break at Pizza Hut. Cruise walked along state Highway 197 until it met U.S. Highway 2, which she will take west. Her journey and mission is detailed online at faithwalk.net.
She isn't alone on her journey. Her spotter, Wendi Miller, accompanies her for some of the trip. Miller usually drives the car to their destination for the day, grabs her bike and cycles back, meeting Cruise along the way. Miller then walks the bike alongside Cruise until they reach the car. Miller, who has been with Cruise for the last 3,000 miles or so, often brings water and lunch in the bike basket.
Also along for the ride is Walker T., a three-legged dog. He scampers along their side or naps in Miller's bike basket.
Every mile, Cruise stops, placing a small, wooden cross into the ground. A note is attached that reads, in part, "If you find this cross in your hands, PLEASE don't throw it away! Please pass it on to someone south of you and tell them, 'God loves you.' Ask that person to pass the cross on to the south and keep it going."
The rest of the message details her journey and implores the handicapped to focus on their abilities rather than disabilities.
It will take nine years for Cruise to complete her Faith Walk, as it is now known. She plans to end up back in Palm Beach on Dec. 31, 2010, just before midnight.
"The ironic thing is I fought it for nine years -- I'd be done now," she said.
While emotionally healed before she began her trip, Cruise said the journey is healing her spiritually.
"The biggest thing I thought about when I took off was, 'How am I really going to be able to do this?'" she said. "I really believe God is carrying me the entire way."
The doctors, she said, wanted to amputate her leg above the knee. She only had a few inches of good leg below the knee, and she said that doctors told her it wouldn't be enough to maneuver a prosthetic leg, that she would have to rely on crutches and canes the rest of her life.
"I give God the credit," she said, adding that she does experience aches and pains. "I have a really hard time. But the more I walk, the better I walk."
After the first 100 miles, Cruise said she knew she would complete the endeavor.
"I thought, 'If I can walk 100 miles, I can do it,'" she said.
Cruise walks in rain, but not lightning, snow or ice. She has walked about five miles in snow, and once had to hike through a blizzard, but that was unusual.
This year, she will go through the Rocky Mountains, so she figures that she'll walk until about October and then stop for the year. She starts up, again, the next year at the exact spot where she left off.
Cruise and Miller do have a tent, but haven't had to use it yet this year. Usually, people hear about her journey and offer to let them stay in their homes.
"It's a chain of contacts," she said.
She has been interviewed by newspapers and several Christian radio stations. Once, a radio host invited them to stay with him and his wife.
"The gentlemen we're staying with now heard me on the radio," she said. "He came out looking for me."
Cruise said she can do a 20-minute mile, but averages about 30 minutes. She usually walks 10 miles a day, but Tuesday, her goal was 12.
Her father in Florida has been "very supportive" and she has a daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Cleveland, Ohio. Her father constructs the crosses she places every mile.
Asked what she would do once she completes her journey, Cruise said: "Move to Minnesota, God-willing. The nicest people are here in Minnesota."