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Walker pushes rickshaw from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland

Joe Woodcock of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, walks along U.S. Highway 2 Tuesday pushing his rickshaw and heading for camp at the Bemidji KOA. Woodcock plans to winter in Ontario and complete his coast-to-coast trek in Newfoundland next year. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

In his walk across North America, Joe Woodcock has short-term goals - such as reaching Cass Lake today - and goals for the future - destination Newfoundland next summer.

"I kind of know where I'm going to go the next day, but that's about it," Woodcock said Wednesday at his camp at Bemidji KOA. "I'll probably winter out in Ontario."

Woodcock started his walk Feb. 10 from his home on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, pushing a homemade, modified rickshaw piled with his travel gear.

Woodcock said he prepared for his trek with a few shorter walks. He said he dipped into the United States from Winnipeg, Manitoba, to see new scenery, such as Paul and Babe statues.

"I hadn't been down this way," he said.

Woodcock said he sold out his personal goods three years ago to move in with and care for his father after the older man suffered a stroke. Afterwards, Woodcock gave himself a long vacation, originally planning to take a walking tour of Europe. But he said he decided he should see North America first.

"The time was right, eh?" he said.

Woodcock, who has two grown children and two grandchildren, said he didn't own a cell phone when he planned to set out for points east. His children were aghast at the idea they couldn't check on his whereabouts and safety, so they bought him a cell phone. Now, he said, he calls his daughter and e-mails photos every few days or his children worry about him.

"The tables sure have turned - pay back, right?" he said thinking of himself in the past as a parent waiting for his children to call when they were out late.

"The nicest thing is the people along the way," Woodcock said. "People have taken me in for meals, overnight."

Humboldt was the first town in Minnesota he reached after crossing the U.S.-Canada border. He said Humboldt doesn't have camping facilities, but when he asked at the post office, people found him a vacant lot to set up his tent and brought him food.

"This is even more enjoyable than I anticipated," he said, citing how good food tastes and how well he sleeps after walking 18-20 miles a day pushing a 225-pound load. He also relishes the time to himself, seeing the countryside and conversations with folks who are curious about his rickshaw rig and travel plans. Sometimes, he said, people stop him along the road and ask if they can try pushing the rig. After about half a kilometer, he said they are usually satisfied and glad to get back into their vehicles and drive off.

"I'm having a good time," Woodcock said as he prepared to set off Wednesday morning for a day sightseeing in Bemidji. "Everything's good, right?