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Circuit riding pastor making north-south, coast-to-coast trip passes through central Minnesota

The Rev. Ken Downing of Pinewood and Pilgrim head down U.S. Highway 71 south on Monday morning on a trip from International Falls to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. This is the fourth coast-to-coast journey Downing has made with his horse. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

The duet of the Rev. Ken Downey of Pinewood and his horse Pilgrim teamed up for another coast-to-coast trip.

This will be the fourth major trip for the circuit riding preacher, who began in International Falls July 25 and took four days to ride to Bemidji. After a three-week break, he passed through Bemidji Monday morning and will continue on to High Island, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. He expects to conclude his trek Nov. 11. He hopes to follow U.S. Highway 71 all the way south, except a shortcut around Park Rapids. He will travel between 20 and 30 miles a day. Monday's travel ended at Lake George Bible Chapel.

He said he thought about starting in Texas and heading north but the cold temperatures of October and November made the decision clear.

"I packed more camping gear this time," said Downey. "I can always pare down as I go."

Six days a week, the circuit riding preacher will carry the message of God's word and the need for the United States to return to its spiritual roots.

"It's a good time to minister; it's tough economic times," he said. "I feel people are looking at their family values and reconnecting with the Lord."

Downey's previous coast-to-coast rides were in 1994, 1999 and in 2009. The trips carried him from North Carolina to Seattle.

According to Downey, this trip has an itinerary all mapped out by his friend Kathy Simmons, who helped him connect with more people.