The 123-day trek on foot across America has ended for Jeremiah, Isaiah and Dennis Godby and their cousin, Jonas Ely.
The 3,200-mile sojourn — organized by Dennis Godby, a Davis doctor of naturopathic medicine — was designed to spread the word about preventive care and energize practitioners and followers of the approach.
While the entourage ran triumphantly into Bridgeport, Conn., on Nov. 16 (they left San Francisco on July 17), along the way there were moments of breathtaking wonder, thousands of well-wishers, terrific forums to get their message across, good Samaritans … as well as a harrowing day on the desert, snakes, worry of lions and tigers and a death-defying helping hand from a pair of drunks.
Now, safely home in Davis in time the holidays, Jeremiah, Isaiah and the senior Godby look back on their experience.
Did the trip accomplish their goals?
“There were a lot of things we hoped to achieve,” says Isaiah, 20. “And we did: like getting naturopathic doctors and people in the natural-science field together. Some were getting worn out trying to explain themselves to others … trying to get friends and family and patients to (buy in).”
Naturopathy offers a holistic approach to medicine. Preferring non-invasive measures instead of surgery and drugs, the practice favors preventive routines.
Isaiah is a graduate of Davis High. Jeremiah, 17, attended high school at DHS before moving to Portland, Ore., and Ely, 24, is a Chico State student who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Dennis Godby, 54, reprised his solo cross-country journey from the 1980s.
Stopping for myriad interviews with print and broadcast journalists, attending or speaking at a handful of health fairs and visiting schools across the nation, the four runners saw the beauty and the wrath of Mother Nature.
While running through Indiana and Illinois as the leaves began to turn last month, the Godby-Ely group embraced the changing of the seasons. It was a welcome time; the Stephen King-like adventure of Day 13 — in the middle of the Nevada desert — but a distance memory.
On July 30, Isaiah battled blisters from ill-fitting shoes and had ridden in the motor home that was chasing the party.
Outside of Fernley, Nev., Isaiah decided to join back in “to test my feet for maybe three miles.”
Then, as Isaiah calls it, “the hell day began …”
The motor home broke down, so Isaiah and Company pushed on, the four getting farther and farther away from their watchdog vehicle. Poor Isaiah was wearing only shorts and a tank top and had no hat or sunscreen. He didn’t expect to be out long. The desert floor temperature was over 100 degrees.
Following railroad tracks, the foursome had to negotiate periodic hills. They were hungry and thirsty. The main road was nowhere in sight. Dehydration was setting in. Suddenly, they heard the squeal of locomotive brakes. A train was coming to a stop in the middle of nowhere. The crew offered the four lost souls water.
“Who stops a train to give somebody water?” Jeremiah told The Enterprise. “They even gave us electrolytes!”
Buoyed, the group trudged on, battling snakes, mirages, heat, blisters and thirst. Twenty-eight miles into the day’s trek, with Isaiah sunburned and hurting, the thirst now affected everyone. Dennis Godby’s crew drifted toward a back road. There was a car coming!
“The occupants were drunk,” the elder Godby recalls. “I thought, ‘What kind of father am I?’ I had to make a decision: Were we going to die of dehydration or be killed by a drunk driver?”
Accepting the ride, Godby remembers the driver being less intoxicated than the passenger. After the driver stowed a rifle from the back seat, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonas and Dennis piled in.
They made it safely to the next town, where the repaired motor home met up with them.
In that chase vehicle were Australian recovery expert Michael Killan, 65, and National College of Naturopathic Medicine student Kristin Odegaard. Within a day, the quartet was running again.
Along the way, places like Kings Beach at Lake Tahoe; Boulder, Colo.; Lawrence, Kan.; Columbus, Ohio; and Washington, D.C.; provided heroes’ welcomes.
The scenery was glorious, offering a pioneers’ view of America.
Then, suddenly, 35 miles outside Zanesville, Ohio, a text from family friend Dr. Erin Kirwin: “Are you guys all right?”
Dennis Godby says he didn’t know what she was talking about, although a confrontation in a diner with an argumentative disbeliever — and pouring rain — had the four runners edgy.
“A couple of guys literally threatened me … because I had different beliefs than they,” the senior Godby says. “It was kind of a mob mentality.”
But why did Kirwin text?
Just 18 hours after the Godby-Ely pack ran through Zanesville, a private zookeeper released his wild animals, then committed suicide. For hours, lions, tigers, bears, wolves and monkeys were on the loose. The local men just missed running through that menagerie.
“We were in the media a lot,” Jeremiah explains, happy that his run gained such notoriety. “We talked to so many people. We were a conversation-starter. We’d tell people we’re running across the United States and we’d tell ‘em why.
“They’d say ‘Any people crazy enough to run across the United States for that’ … well, they had respect for that. We found a lot of people that cared (about) naturopathy and us.”
The Godbys and Ely met with more than 20 congressmen in Washington, D.C., and talked with elected officials all along the route — which cut through more than 100 million people.
So, will the group be doing that again?
Jeremiah and Isaiah say they want to. Mom Wilma says no. Dennis Godby figures twice is enough, so if his boys want to, they’re probably on their own.
“There are so many beautiful places,” Dennis Godby recaps. “The whole trip was just phenomenal. It depends on the time of year, the circumstances, the people you meet as (to which) my favorite place was.
“But I still love California. And somebody once said, ‘The best journeys are the ones that bring you home.’ ”
Notes: That much-traveled motor home is sitting in Connecticut with a “For Sale” sign on it. Interested in buying the vehicle, or helping the Godbys defray the cost of the five-month trip? Visit www.therun.org. Also at that official site are blogs from the various stops, picture information on naturopathy and a complete itinerary of the journey.
— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047.