Ryan (a/k/a ROC) came to me, his wife and caregiver, at the end of last year telling me he wanted to walk from our hometown of Longwood, Florida, to Fenton, Missouri, for the purpose of raising awareness for those with Epilepsy and for Veterans with Battle Induced Seizure Disorders. Ryan has come up with some crazy ideas in the past but that was all that they were… ideas. There was something different about this idea. I am not sure what it was but I could tell that Ryan meant business this time.
As the next few months went on, Ryan continued to talk about this Journey of 1000 Miles. He also started training for it. Now I knew for sure that he was serious so I jumped into action too. Together, we spent the first 9 months of 2022 getting Ryan ready mentally and physically, establishing the 501(c)(3), and promoting the first ever ROC Stop Seizures Journey of 1000 Miles.
Originally Ryan wanted to do the walk in September but on the advice and clearance of his neurologist, Ryan moved the walk to October. October is supposed to be a cooler month but not so cold that we are risking snow. While October is still in hurricane season for Florida, we generally do not see a lot of activity in October historically.
We do, however, usually see the hurricane scares in September. We thought we were going to be able to get through this past September without a scare but then on Wednesday, September 28th, through Thursday, September 29th, we lived through one of the worst hurricanes Longwood has seen, Hurricane Ian. Our power was out for 36 hours and while I say this gratefully and recognize how lucky we were to only have our power out for 36 hours with no other problems, having the power out in a Florida September heat is a trigger for seizures. We were very fortunate that Ryan did not have any major complications due to the power outage. We were also very fortunate that after the storm passed the temperatures dropped drastically.
Hurricane Ian also interfered with our plans for a big send off hosted by the City of Longwood in the city park, Reiter Park. City officials needed to be ready to help with clean up plus they could not guarantee whether the park would be open for Ryan to even start from the park. I have to say, our the City did a great job of handling everything with Hurricane Ian from preparations to clean up to damage assistance. We need to give a big thank you to the City for being there for our town and community. As our Mayor, Matt Morgan, says we are #Strongwood.
Ryan is not big on fanfare but as our community was coming together in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, it seemed only fitting to bring the community together to send Ryan off on his Journey on October 1st as originally planned. We ended up having a small, informal, and impromptu send off in our subdivision. Our neighbors came out to join us as well as friends and family who live in the Longwood and Central Florida areas. Again, a big thank you to those who came out for the send off. I think Ryan and I were a bit nervous by this point but seeing everyone together and having your support helped ease the nerves.
I finished packing the RV after Ryan started his Journey from the send off. I met up with Ryan for a rest stop in Apopka. I met up with him again in Mount Dora, where we found a farm that offered RV camping through an app I found that lists private residences and businesses who offer camping on their property. It was a total of approximately 25 miles of walking for Ryan that day.
The second day Ryan got a late start but it was OK because he got to meet up with Orlando Sentinel reporter Patrick Connelly to do a follow up interview that was supposed to have happened at the originally planned send off. Thank you Patrick for coming to meet Ryan in Mount Dora!
The heat spiked on this second day so given the late start and the heat, Ryan cut his walk for the day short at around 13 miles in Tavares, Florida. We stayed at a great RV campground, Fisherman’s Cove RV Resort. It was here that I really learned about how to maintain the RV (hooking up to electricity, water, etc). This is my first experience driving a 25 foot motorhome so there is definitely some learning to do.
On day three, Ryan tried for an earlier start but like the day before, the route still did not have much shade. That did not stop Ryan, he kept walking up State Route 441/27 about 15 miles until he was ready to stop for the day. While Ryan walked, I did some shopping at the Walmart Supercenter for the last minute things we realized we should have brought with us for the RV. Even with that shopping, I realized when I went to cook dinner that night that we still need more things like sponges, a spatula, and tongs (yes, this is my list for myself of things to buy today). While it would have been nice to have a bowl to mix the ground beef with the hamburger seasoning for the hamburgers I was cooking, I improvised by mixing it in a baggie. I also had to improvise when flipping the burgers with two plastic forks. This was risky and had to be done quickly and carefully so as not to melt the forks!
Now here we are on day four. Even though we are four days into this, the whole thing seems surreal. We spent so much time planning but now we take things on a mile by mile basis. I think we both keep thinking, “is this really happening” or “are we really doing this” and we may keep thinking this way through the next 30 days or however long it takes Ryan to get to Fenton. The purpose of the walk is not for Ryan, not for us, but for those who have silent conditions such as Epilepsy and Battle Induced Seizure Disorders. The purpose is to help people find their voice and start talking about these conditions instead of hiding from them. The purpose is to #neverquit raising awareness, education, and funding. We can’t do this without the help of our followers and supporters. We appreciate everything you have done and continue to do. Thank you.