The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 22, 2008

Walking tall: Man heads east with purpose

Will Buchanan is walking cross-country as a journey of personal freedom

By Tanner Kent

MANKATO — Will Buchanan’s first pair of shoes carried him out of Cannon Beach.

Away from the Oregon town’s sharp rock cliffs that plunge into the Pacific and away from its tourist landmark, Haystack Rock.

That first pair carried him right into southern Washington, through the apple orchards and past the hops harvesters of Yakima and into the westernmost expanse of Montana.

His second and third pairs of walking shoes escorted him along hundreds of miles of Highway 12 roadside, past Montana’s Lolo Hot Springs, through dozens of dusty towns, a documentary crew and the Dakotas.

As an overcast Monday morning found Buchanan trekking through St. Clair and toward Waseca on Blue Earth County Road 15, Buchanan was already several miles into his next three pairs.

“I’m rotating my fourth, fifth and sixth pairs of shoes,” said the be-swooshed Buchanan, his road-hardy Nikes still pulling the earth underneath his feet.

“I think I’ve found some that are durable enough for the journey.”

Today will be Buchanan’s 143rd day of walking. He’s expecting to make his destination — New Hampshire — sometime before the end of November. Averaging about 20 miles per day, Buchanan is sure he’ll make it in time.

In front of him lie hundreds of miles of lazy Minnesota farmland and more of the same in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Then onto Indiana, where Buchanan grew up and still has family, and through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

But it’s worth it, Buchanan said, because this isn’t a journey for fame or fortune. Or even a journey to save the troops or the environment.

This journey, Buchanan said, is about personal freedom.

“I want to start a new life,” he said, “and find a way to make a living fighting for liberty.”

Buchanan is an avid Ron Paul supporter and a firm believer in the Free State Project. The project began in 2001 when Yale graduate Jason Sorens argued the Libertarian movement would fail unless supporters were more concentrated.

The goal of the project is to gather 20,000 pledges from activists across the country to move to New Hampshire and create an enclave of minimum governance. The state was chosen in a 10-state ballot because of its motto — Live Free or Die — and its absence of state sales and income taxes.

Buchanan said the long hours of walking and introspection have only strengthened his resolve.

“This whole journey is a transition,” Buchanan said. “And the walking lets me clear my head.”

He believes now, more than ever, that Paul is the clear choice for America’s next president and that New Hampshire is the only place where he can settle. He’s tired of the rules. Tired of the regulations and taxes. Tired of big government and big legislation. And Buchanan decided he would take the ultimate action: move to New Hampshire and devote his life to the Libertarian movement.

But Buchanan’s principled stand and his 4,000-mile walking route are alike in at least one way — there can be no cutting corners.

Every day, when Buchanan ends his walking around 8 p.m., he logs his latitude and longitude and counts his miles for the day. He marks his spot with a GPS and the next morning, after awaking in the RV packed with household goods that his wife is driving, Buchanan picks up exactly where he left off.

“That way it’s official,” said Buchanan, feet still churning toward the coast.