Holden Ringer sets off on a journey across America. You asked him your questions and he’s answered
With all of his supplies strapped to his back, Holden Ringer leaves La Push, Washington on foot for his solo trek across the country – where he’ll eventually land in Washington D.C. He has many reasons for embarking on such an ambitious adventure, including advocating for walkability stating, “A large part of the reason I am walking is to shine light on the fact that although walking across America is tough, walking IN America can be just as difficult. The goal is less about getting people to walk across America like me, and more about getting them to walk around THEIR America in order to see.” In addition to raising awareness, Holden is raising money for America Walks along the way – “advocacy is built into the activity.”
Last week, we put a call on our social media platforms asking for questions about Holden and his trip. You asked, he answered! Below are some of the most popular questions and Holden’s answers (we are so grateful he took the time to answer these questions while on his walk!)
Q: Do you prefer the East Coast or West Coast?
A: West Coast, Best Coast. I went to high school in Massachusetts and College in Atlanta, but living in Washington State this past year and change has made me a true believer. The natural beauty is plentiful, but the culture to keep it that way is probably even more important. I think the worst part about the west coast is the cost of living, but to me, that seems to be reflective of the desire to live here combined with decades of NIMBYish attitudes towards housing. Fortunately, that NIMBYish attitude is starting to break down and the West will continue to have a bright future. Not to say I don’t like the East Coast, but like I said West Coast, Best Coast.
Q: Why are you choosing to/encourage others to support America Walks?
A: Initially I wasn’t planning on fundraising for a charity, but through conversations with others who had walked across the country it seemed to provide them an extra source of motivation to get up every morning. I was also looking to redirect some of the attention I may receive walking toward something that I cared about.
There were a couple of reasons why America Walks specifically though. The first was that I was afraid that if I was not engaging with the issue every day then I would lose interest. I can promise you that no matter where I walk in this country, I will be confronted by America’s car dependency and hostile places to walk. Cars can be useful and along the walk, I will have a complicated relationship with our car-centric infrastructure. However, our overreliance on cars and failure to acknowledge the issues stemming from that addiction is causing issues for our environment, our health, our lifespans, our wallets, and importantly our ability to walk.
In that light America Walks is very much challenging car dependency in meaningful and productive ways. America Walks also has a tangible goal to make America more walkable. I will be walking, and like so many other Americans, would benefit from great places to walk.
Bringing attention to the need to upzone our cities and allow for mixed commercial development also goes towards creating more walkable spaces, but there’s less of a one-to-one connection for people to easily understand. As I like to say, the advocacy is built into the activity. I walk so that we can walk.
Lastly, so much of the work regarding active transportation happens at the local level. If my goal was to raise money for an organization or a project in say Seattle. Someone in Kansas probably wouldn’t care, nor would their money go very far in creating a sidewalk in Seattle. But if I were to support an organization like America Walks that facilitates and provides resources to local advocates, someone in Kansas would be much more likely to donate and their money could be leveraged further. It also allows me to relate the message of improving Walkability to their town or city.
Q: What are your go-to’s? Snacks? Music? Podcasts?
A: Snacks: Pop tarts, Bobos bars, Lenny and Larry’s cookies, and anybody who knows me, knows my affinity for canned pears halves.
Music: I literally will listen to anything from Eastern European Hardbass to 1940s Country to Didgeridoo music. I’m always down to listen to new music, especially from other cultures. But as for some go-to’s:
- Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison
- Appalachian Spring VII by Aaron Copland
- Guiles Theme by The Capcom Sound Team
Podcasts: The Ezra Klein Show, The Daily, Up First, Throughline, and The War on Cars are all pretty consistent. Although those are more nationally focused, one of my favorite things about walking is how much less focused on something happening somewhere else and more so focused on what is happening in front of me or the place where I am walking. I also have enjoyed listening to some of the regional NPR podcasts KUOW would do. I would really like to find some good podcasts about whatever state I am walking through at the time.
Q: What is your biggest fear for your walk across the country?
A: Cars Trucks and SUV’s. I’m really not all that worried about much else. It’s not even someone intentionally trying to hit me it’s more of someone who bought a Ford F-150, because the dealer told him that it would make him look like a man, doesn’t see me in their now much bigger blind spot when they are turning out of the grocery store. Maybe it’s just some guy driving on a two-lane highway and feels oppressed driving the speed limit so they do an illegal pass and go out wide which hits me. In both cases, I’m inevitably blamed because I wasn’t wearing reflective pants or something similar.
In line with that fear, I don’t walk at night unless absolutely necessary, I wear a reflective vest, and I try to tailor my route so that I am avoiding cars as much as possible. Just a couple of days ago I spent about 10 miles walking on what seemed to be a dilapidated railway instead of walking on SR 507. Sometimes it is unavoidable to walk on a not great highway, so I just grit my teeth and walk.
Q: What are you most excited about seeing along the way?
A: I think the most exciting thing I am excited about on the journey is the people who I will meet along the way, but in terms of something that I will see along the way there are a couple.
The Columbia River Gorge: it is how I will be crossing the Cascades and everyone has been hyping how beautiful it will be.
The Great Salt Lake: I changed my route to go and hit the salt lake. Recently I heard that there is a chance that the lake could dry up within the next 5 years, although that could be a doomsday estimate. It seems like something worth seeing on my trek
All of Colorado: Because I will go see the Great Salt Lake, I will now be crossing all of Colorado. I have loved Washington, but the one place that people have said that I may enjoy more in Colorado. I’ve been and I’ve enjoyed it, but this will definitely be the longest time spent there.
Indianapolis: Indy was the city that I was born in and although I don’t have much attachment to the city now, other than being a Colts fan, it seems symbolic to go to the city I was born, in while on this long journey of mine.
Q: You will obviously be spending lots of time alone. How do you plan to keep yourself occupied on long solo stretches?
A: A couple of things, but first I am pretty good at keeping myself entertained. Although I am a friendly guy for the most part and enjoy meeting new people, I have always considered myself something of a loner. As such, I really enjoy spending time by myself.
A lot of the time when walking, walking will serve as a form of meditation where my mind will just be completely empty and I will just focus on what’s in front of me.
I listen to plenty of music and podcasts along the walk and I won’t be surprised if I get into audiobooks. Reading too is a great way to stay entertained, currently, I am reading The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti. Since I started the walk though, I’ve honestly had very little time for sitting down and reading.
I hope to do a lot more writing when I have spare time. I honestly wish I could do more, but there is usually something that gets in the way. So hopefully when there’s much less to interact with in my environment, I can write some of the longer-form thoughts that I have been saving up.
Lastly, I was never much of a Tik-Tok or social media guy, but coming up with skits or ideas to illustrate the journey could definitely be a way I spend a lot of time.
To learn more about Holden, why he is walking across the country, and support his journey, visit his website www.walk2washington.com, and be sure to follow him on Instagram to keep up with his trip!