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One Man's Walk Across America—His Stories and His "Why?"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 20, 2024 3:02 am

One Man's Walk Across America—His Stories and His "Why?"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 20, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, when Ranger Kielak set out across America, many of his friends and family were concerned about the people he'd encounter along the way. It turns out, their concerns were unfounded. Here's Ranger with the story of the good and beautiful people he's encountered along the way, and why exactly he chose to do the walk in the first place.

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What's up? This is your boy Lil Duval and check out my podcast, Conversations with Unk, on the Black Effect Podcast Network. Each and every Tuesday, Conversations with Unk Podcasts feature casuals and in-depth talk about ebbs and flows of life and the pursuit of happiness. Unlike my work on stage, I tap into a more serious and sensitive side to give life advice and simply offer words of encouragement, yet remind folks to never forget to laugh. Every Tuesday, listen to Conversations with Unk hosted by Lil Duval on the Black Effect Podcast Network, iHeartRadio app, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Presented by AT&T, connecting changes everything. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years, I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts.

And we return to our American stories. Up next, a story from a man on a long walk across the country and a big mission. We met up with him when he came through our hometown, Oxford, Mississippi. We're located about an hour due south of Memphis. We had two basic questions, why and how.

Let's get into it. So my name is Ranger Kelak. I am, well, I was born and raised in a small town in Northern California called Chilkoot. It's about half an hour northwest of Reno, Nevada, just inside the California border. And in 2022, I texted my now fiance and said, hey, I want to walk across the country. She said, all right, what do we need to do? And I took my first steps out of the Atlantic Ocean, March 10th of 2024.

A California man, a California man, a California man who is walking across America made his way through central Arkansas today. My college experience was rough. Ever since I was little, I was like, oh, I want to be an animal doctor. Like I love, I loved animals. I started off wanting to be a feline veterinarian.

I remember even there's like the little notes app on like the old Microsoft computers. I would read all these books, read Cat Fancy. And I was trying to write my own book about cat care when I was like 12. Right. So my dad, you know, oh, great job, kiddo. Keep writing. Uh-huh.

Yeah. You'll do fine. I was just, I don't know, 110,000% sold on being a veterinarian, like unshakable.

That's what I was going to do. No questions asked. Every time anybody ever asked, I'm going to be a veterinarian. I'm going to go to UC Davis.

They're the number one school in the world for animal science. And I was top of my class, you know, of 12 people, but still it was a thing, right? The first crack in the foundation came a couple months before graduation when acceptance letters went out. I was waitlisted for UC Davis. All I remember just bawling in my room, just like, I can't believe it. Like how could they say no to me?

This and that. Like I thought I killed the essay. So I sent in the waitlist application kind of like that last fight to get in. About a month later, I got a letter back that said I was accepted to the university. I was off the waitlist.

I did it. During the first day of orientation, they sat down all these animal science majors in a big old auditorium and they said, you know, you guys are the best of the best, like really hyping us up. Like not just anybody can get into Davis for animal science.

This is the hardest major to get into. And then they said, okay, raise your hand if you want to be a vet. Let's say all 250 of us raised our hands except for like two or three.

All right, awesome. Advisors raise your hands and like, you know, eight or 10 whatever advisors raise their hands. And they said, great. Statistically speaking, that's how many of you will actually get into vet school. And they had the advisors kind of placed around the room in different areas. So you could really see you have a very small chance of actually making it, right? And that was kind of like the oh no moment of this is going to be way harder than I thought it was. I thought getting into Davis was the hard part. I think I got put on academic probation my second or third quarter at Davis. Went to the advisor's office and we said, okay, let's go ahead and switch from animal science to animal science and management, basically animal science and business. And then the end of sophomore year, after getting put on academic probation again and fighting to get off of it, it was just kind of just decided two years into being in the major that maybe this wasn't the route for me after all.

A lot of tears were shed in her office. And a lot of that was this is who I am. This is what I'm supposed to be.

This isn't the legacy that I was supposed to leave. I really just got caught up on that because I knew that our time on earth is finite. Like there's a very specific time that we're gone. We get put on the gravestone like this day to this day with a little dash in between.

And I figured, well, there's all these people in the history books, all these people that are, you know, the people that did all these cool, great, amazing things, like they're still talked about. They did something that was bigger than themselves that I guess awarded them the opportunity to extend that second life as long as possible. To kind of paraphrase it, every man dies twice.

The first time when he stops breathing, the second time when someone says his name for the last time. That really got me caught up in that idea of kind of like living for that second life. But what really changed that getting caught up between that space between first and second death, my grandfather, Papa Larry, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. And what really tripped me up was, well, they lived in Oklahoma, I was still in California, so I didn't really get to see what was really going on. I had a basic understanding of the disease, what it does, you know, you forget things, you get very forgetful, ha ha. It didn't really hit me what was going on until I visited my nana and uncles after he had passed away. And really started to hear, you know, oh, he forgot who he was, he forgot who we were. It attacks different parts of your brain to the point that your fight or flight kicks in until the point that it doesn't.

You can't even eat, you can't sleep, like you can't function like a normal person anymore. And that is kind of when that shift started happening for me. I was so caught up with that idea of being remembered after I'm gone to the point that I was drunk at some party once and someone was like, oh, what's your biggest fear? So I was like, spiders, snakes. And I was very serious, like my biggest fear is not being remembered after I'm dead. And when I'd heard what was going through, like what was happening for Papa Larry and what Nana Rose was going through, I kind of realized, you know, you could live your entire life, focus on the time when you're not even here. And in the last years of your life, you could quite literally forget who you are. I could kind of see how that trajectory that I was on, I was already forgetting who I was. So in 2018, right around the time that my grandfather had passed, there is an artist, a singer named Mike Posner.

He sings songs like Cooler Than Me, I Took a Pill in Ibiza. And in 2018, I saw, you know, some of his social media posts that he was walking across the country. And it was just like this crazy story of perseverance of this guy doing something that felt impossible for me. I remember thinking, man, I wish I could do something like that.

Like, that'd be so neat. But I'm not, insert all these reasons, right? I'm not a multimillionaire. I don't write songs for Maroon 5 and Justin Bieber. I don't have a crew of people that can help me.

I don't have a shuttle. I can't do it. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

That's just not for people like me. Every once in a while, I kind of think of it and think of his walk and look at some of his posts. And when I would listen to his music, that's what I would think.

And right around the end of 2020, maybe beginning 2021, I saw that a couple of other guys had done the walk too. And what I really gathered from that as I was, you know, sitting, doing whatever I was doing in 2022, I think I was working in a bar at a vineyard at the time, was just like, man, all of those reasons that I had as to why I couldn't do it were kind of BS. Like these guys are, you know, just graduated from high school, didn't have any kind of crazy backing, didn't have all these sponsors, didn't have really anything that was on that list that Mike had, and they still did it themselves.

So there's a Mike Posner quote from one of his songs. My reasons are excuses for not being who I meant to be. And that coupled with that realization kind of made me go, oh no, like this isn't the cards for me. This is for people like me. But yeah, that's kind of how it got into my head, what got those excuses out. And then 2022, like I kind of mentioned earlier, I think August is when I texted my at the time girlfriend currently fiance and said, I want to do the walk.

I really want to do this. And she was just like, great, what's the first step? And from that point on, it was just focused on getting to March 10th, 2024, and quite literally taking the first steps. When we come back, more of the story of the man who walked across America and stopped in our studio in Oxford, Mississippi, to talk about it here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4, Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment, oh my God, we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts, if you dare. This show is sponsored by BetterHelp. We all carry around different stressors in our lives, big ones and small ones.

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That's slash OAS. And we return to our American stories and with Ranger Keelak's story. When we last left off, Ranger was telling us about the events leading up to him deciding that he needed to find out who he was again rather than title chasing and attempting to create a legacy for himself for legacy's sake alone. Let's return to the story. Only my closest friends and family knew about it leading up to it.

I still had a day job. I didn't want them to think that I was half in half out even though I kind of was, you know, but I gave my notice and then the very next day is when I posted about the walk and I started telling everyone about it. But the more logistical side of it, I noticed that a lot of people went east to west.

A lot of people on social media from what they had posted had a cart and a backpack. I saw that the general advice was start early spring, finish kind of summerish time. I ended up picking Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as my starting point and I picked Pismo Beach, California as my end point. I picked Myrtle Beach kind of just because I saw some pictures. I thought it was pretty. I thought it was cool. Like it just kind of made sense and I mean I've never been to South Carolina.

The states, I mean I haven't really been on the east coast at all so I was like anywhere I go is going to be cool for me. Leading up to it, I had a lot of concern from friends and family about the state of the country. Are you sure you want to do this? Like we're worried about the people. We're worried about someone hurting you or robbing you. You know all these negative things that could very well could happen at any point, right? And I guess from day one, one of the mantras that I tell myself every day is there's good people out there. And that's kind of what I focus my attention on is you know be cautious, keep your head on a swivel. You know all the normal safety things, right? But at the end of the day like there are more good people than there are people with ill intentions.

It's just been proven true every single day. So I mean what was it? I think it was the day after I left a little town called Saluda in South Carolina. That morning, probably about two or three miles in, this pickup truck kind of just whipped out in front of me and stopped. The guy ran over to me and was like what are you, what are you, are you the guy that I saw on the page?

I was like what are you talking about? And he's like oh I saw that there's a guy walking across like it's you, whatever. And we just kind of struck up a conversation for a few minutes and he is a first responder for the area. I can't remember if he was EMT or fire specifically.

I think in that area it might be you're a little bit of everything. But he was telling me and his face was a little bit messed up and he was telling me that he got really injured on the job one day like damn near lost his life. You could tell he was all scarred up and he was just telling me his story and how he was in the hospital for 24 days and it was just this crazy recovery. And he told me that what got him through it and he kind of compared that to my journey. He's like there's going to be terrible days. There's going to be moments where you're thinking like why the heck are you doing, am I doing this? Why did I do my like I should just quit right now? And his thing was if you're still breathing, you're still fighting and to never quit. And he said that and he pointed out his wrists and he had these bracelets on and he took them off of his arm and gave them to me and it says just that.

The never quit, still breathing, still fighting. Ever since then I haven't taken them off. I have one to where other people can read it easier.

I have one to where I can read it easier. And my third day of walking I ended up in this town near Pee Dee, South Carolina. I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night.

I was about 20 miles in for the day. I was starting to get later in the day, I think it was like two or three o'clock in the afternoon and I just walked into this coffee shop. I asked the lady if she knew of anywhere I could set up a camp tent or a tent for the night. She said no but try the outdoor store next door. And I walk in there, I tell the gentleman that owns the shop what I'm doing and immediately he was just like well I have extra property, like I have a couple acres next to my house.

Do you want to just set up there? Like after talking to him for just a few minutes and I kind of was just like why help? He's like well you just seem like a good guy. Like you're out here raising money, you're doing these things and you know the American Legion Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations, I'm not a veteran just as like a side note. They were very, very helpful throughout Alabama and Georgia. And you know they were just you know there was a Veteran of Foreign Wars chapter that got me a hotel room for a couple nights. Another American Legion guy that just sponsored a couple hotel rooms. Another one that let me stay in a shed for a few nights. And the guy that got me hotel rooms, they had an Airbnb that they're going to let me stay in. But he messaged me, I got like the hey man bad news, like those you can see the little, I don't know, appetizer of the text, of a long text that's going to ruin your day basically right?

It was the hey man text is what I call them. Hey the people in our VRBO or Airbnb whatever it was, extended their stay so you can't stay in it anymore. But we already got you a hotel room here. We got you a hotel room in this next town. We're going to pick you up, we'll drive you around, we'll get you supplies, this and that. They could have easily said hey man our plan fell through, you're SOL, sorry. But they were willing to just kind of go out of their way, I don't know, put in the work before even contacting me.

Which helped me a bunch when I was you know 15 miles in when I got the text for the day. Like are you kidding me? There's people that have given like a hundred something dollars just on the side of the highway. I mean I'm sure some people don't know what I'm doing, they just assume I'm some homeless guy.

Which is also like even crazier that they're just hey here's a 20, hey here's a 10, here's a whatever. And I always think it's like really sweet when I see somebody like reach into their like quite literally grabbing whatever is in their pocket and handing it over without even looking at it. And people have done you know they give me like three or four bucks but like that's just like such a genuine like whatever is in this pocket is yours you know. Even just coming into Oxford there was a police officer that stopped and you know I heard the horror story or like not horror stories but like people that walk across the country get pulled over by cops right.

Mostly for like wellness checks somebody called the cops on them because I'm pushing a baby stroller right. So they assumed oh there's a kid in there there's this crazy man walking on the side of the highway and I was like okay gotta get my like get my ID get my whatever. But he pulled over and was like hey are you the guy walking to California? I said oh yes sir I am. He said great I'm gonna turn around I'm gonna go to the gas station about mile up the road grab whatever you want tell them that I came by like I'll go talk to them right now I'm gonna come back tomorrow and pay for all of it. And I was like no freaking way.

And it was it was great because you know I mean I'd already restocked like I had everything I needed and I just got like some snacks like an energy drink or something. But again that was just someone from the community going out of their way to help me in their own in their own way. Everywhere you go you hear the horror stories like that's the first thing people say. Kind of like defining good people by their worst days. I mean I'm sure people when they hear I'm from California have all the stories they've made up in their head or what they've heard about the horror stories you know. I don't know I don't know I've been called naive I've been called ignorant but I really do believe that there's good people much more so than bad. My perspective has been validated 100 percent.

I've gone through what would be like the bad areas of certain neighborhoods and I'm not in areas that long like I haven't had any negative experiences. And I'm sure a lot of that is also just like like I'm a big white dude like six foot something 200 something pounds like I look crazy right like people don't you know they would probably think twice before messing with me if anything but soccer moms and and people on their way to and from church or doing what like going out of their way to stop and you know give me a water give me a snack an extra you know a few bucks like it's just been insane how generous people have been. And a terrific job on the production and storytelling by our own Monte Montgomery and a special thanks to Ranger Keelak for sharing his story sharing his journey and stopping by on his walk across America with us. And my goodness what he thinks about America we do too. That it's a good country filled with good and decent people everywhere and that yes there are people of ill intent as he put it but the news tends to lead with that. The story of the man who walked across America well just to do it and I think to prove his thesis that the country is a good place and of course to raise some money for charities.

His story here on Our American Stories. From BBC Radio 4 Britain's biggest paranormal podcast is going on a road trip. I thought in that moment oh my god we've summoned something from this board. This is Uncanny USA.

He says somebody's in the house and I screamed. Listen to Uncanny USA wherever you get your BBC podcasts if you dare. LED headlights whatever you need eBay Motors has it and with eBay Guaranteed Fit it's guaranteed to fit your ride the first time every time or your money back. Plus at these prices you're burning rubber not cash.

Keep your ride or die alive at eligible items only exclusions apply. This show is sponsored by Better Help. It's a simple truth no matter who you are mental health challenges can affect you and how you manage them can make all the difference. That's why everyone should have access to mental health support that meets them where they are and helps them get through. Better Help provides online therapy on your schedule. It's flexible simple to use and more affordable than in-person therapy. Connect with a licensed therapist selected just for you. Learn more at that's
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-20 04:49:50 / 2024-05-20 04:59:22 / 10

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