You see the warnings on television shows like “Myth Busters” or “Jackass” and its later motion picture releases. Somewhere -- it may be small print -- will be inscribed some message similar to, “Kids, don’t try this at home.”
Maybe Mario Landeros of Los Angeles, Calif., should have that on the back of his t-shirt to balance the message on the front: “Walking Across American for Charity -- Facebook, Operation Cheer.” The charity is St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, a cause worthy enough for any of us to try at home. He wants to raise $1 million.
But the 38-year-old Landeros, who says he loves to walk, is taking on the Mojave Desert without any support. He doesn’t check in with anyone before he leaves each day, nor let anyone know when he arrives safely at his next destination.
He’ll later be crossing the Wasatch Front and then the Rocky Mountains, with no means of contacting emergency help except his cell phone, which needs periodic charging.
“I have a blog I keep in touch on,” he assured me on Friday, June 25, as he rested during the day at Pulsipher Park on Second Street South before starting the next leg of his pedestrian journey to raise awareness for sick and crippled children who need all the help they can get.
“After the Rockies, it’s all flat,” he said hopefully, which will be easier on him and the three-wheeled cart he pushes that contains his water, food, tent and sleeping gear.
Before he could leave Mesquite, he needed to push the cart the paltry 0.8 miles to Wal-Mart to get some spare inner tubes. Flats are a continuing problem.
And he only has one pair of shoes with him.
“They’re holding up great,” he said looking at the sole of his right foot, musing if the shoe company might become a sponsor.
He’s says Maine will be his destination, but he hasn’t decided which town. He’s planning on writing a book about his trek, and has met, on-line, another pedestrian adventurer who is crossing the country from east to west. His starting point was in Maine and he hopes to meet him at that starting point later and collaborate on a book.
His website address is http://mariolanderos.com/blog and if you’re interested you can keep track of his progress, both geographically and toward his financial goal.
If he were traveling by car, he would be about one-tenth of the way there from Santa Monica to Maine. But his financial goal, as of June 16, still has another $999,730 to reach its destination.
Landeros started his trip at the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif., on May 7.
At first, he walked during the daytime. But after he got into the desert, the brutal sun proves too much. He had to drink too much water and if he didn’t eat regularly, he’d get weak. It was difficult to carry that many supplies and it taxed his budget. So the last couple of days he started resting in the daytime and walking at night.
He covers at least 20 miles a day. This is his first major hike, and he didn’t do any special training for it, except dislike automobiles.
“I walk all the time. I don’t drive,” he added.
He doesn’t describe himself as the outdoor type, although he’s undergoing that metamorphosis now under the Southwest sun.
“I’m kind of a studio rat,” he said. “I sit all day in a dark room without windows.”
Studio rat he may be, but a talented one. When Landeros isn’t taking on a monumental task that daunted many of the Western Pioneers, he’s a technical assistant and recording engineer in the music and film industry.
Early on in his life he was interested in art, but after a group of friends suggested they form a band he focused his energies on music.
He experimented with different music genres before studying music production in college in Sacramento, Calif. He later worked with J. Street Recorders and also studied with film and television composer Wendell Yuponce (“American Princess,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Daisy Does America”).
After moving to Los Angeles he worked on film, concert and video game projects
During that time he worked with Golden Globe-winning composer Richard Horowitz (“Any Given Sunday,” “The Sheltering Sky”, “Return to Rajapur”) and vocalist and composer Sussan Deyhim (“Sleeper Cell,” “The Last Temptation Of Christ,” “The Kite Runner”), as well as on projects with Frank Serafine (“Star Trek,””Addams Family”,”Hunt For Red October”) and Gingger Shankar (“Passion Of The Christ”).
His most recent projects include music for the short films “Dirt Nap” and “Stuicide.” It’s a competitive business and a continual challenge.
But Landeros wanted a different kind of challenge and decided to walk across America. He started his quest to raise $1 million for St. Jude’s with his feet instead of his talent on May 7.
“I expect to reach Maine in October,” he said. It will be winter by the end of his coast-to-coast stroll, and Landeros notes that somewhere along the way he’ll need to pick up winter clothing that would be useless dead weight now.
As well as the heat, Landeros also has had some bad experiences with the desert winds and the poor opinion those dry gusts have of tents and their stakes in sandy soil, but the blast-furnace challenges nature has thrown at him are being balanced by the warm hearts of the people he’s met. Motorists stop along the way to learn what he’s doing. Some want to contribute to his journey; some are lost themselves and are just asking directions.
In Moapa, he met several people who helped him find water, food, a better walking route and were generally more friendly than a Los Angles denizen is accustomed to.
In urban areas, he doesn’t need to camp. He’s a “couch surfer.”
Couch surfing is a service provided by a San Francisco-based company that has more than 4 million profiles listed in 246 countries. You register as a host or traveler, and it gives people an opportunity to stay short-term in a welcome home where the traveler can get a shower, wash some clothes, catch up on social media or eat a meal at a table. Don’t worry, there is screening for members; it’s not totally like picking up hitchhikers.
But there won’t be many couches for Landeros to surf on between here and his next scheduled stop in St. George, Utah. A driver would cover the 38 miles to St. George in less than an hour via Interstate15. But Landeros will be pushing that cart 45.9 miles up Old Highway 91. Google maps says that’s a 15-hour walk; but Google doesn’t compute in pushing a heavily laden cart.
Landeros says he no longer trusts the web-based mapping systems after he was mislead a couple of times and got lost. Now he depends on old-tech atlases and road maps.
That’s good. Because if he had requested walking directions from Santa Monica to Maine, he would have discovered a message that says, “Walking directions could not be found between these locations.”
But maybe it should have just said, “Kids, don’t try this at home.”