After five months and over 3,000 miles, Roaring Fork Valley native Rickey Gates completed his run across the United States. Elizabeth Stewart-Severy caught up with him by phone just after he ended the trip in San Francisco.
Gates set out from Charleston, South Carolina, on March 1, and crossed 11 states — well, 12 if you count Mississippi.
“I was technically in Mississippi waters on the Tennessee River but I didn’t set foot on land, and I would hardly say that I had any cultural experiences in Mississippi,” Gates said.
And cultural experiences were the primary focus of the run. Gates is a professional runner and has raced all over the world. He wanted to better understand his own country, and he did so during a divisive time.
“I do believe that all of these things that we’re discussing on the political stage and fighting for, I do believe they’re very important,” he said. “But I’ve also seen them tearing relationships apart.”
His journey was about meeting people with differing experiences and opinions, and visiting places he hadn’t seen, and in that, Gates said he was successful. But it was also a long personal journey, including crossing the deserts of Utah and Nevada in the height of summer.
“If this trip was primarily about meeting new people, going through the desert was primarily about getting to know myself a bit better,” Gates said. “The desert, for pretty much all of humanity, has been the landscape that makes us look internally more than any other landscape.”
Gates finished the cross-country trek earlier this week with a final run across the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s now working with Solomon and the film company The Wandering Fever to capture the experience.