A few people walk the 2,400-mile length of Route 66 each year. Not many do, but it’s not that unusual, either.
But a man who’s just south of 80 years old walking Route 66? That’s unusual.
M.J. Eberhart, an avid hiker by who calls himself Nimblewill Nomad. is walking west on Route 66 as we speak. He is 78 and will hit 79 on the road within the next few months.
WRSP / WCCU in Springfield, Illinois, caught up with him the other day.
The station reports he hopes to reach the Santa Monica Pier by November.
If he can’t find a place to sleep at a motel or home, he’ll camp out overnight. He’s been walking 15 to 25 miles daily, except on days when he’s sightseeing, like when he visited the Abraham Lincoln sites in Springfield, Illinois.
This isn’t his first hike by a long shot, but it’s one he’s been looking forward to for a long time.
“I’ve hiked all the major national scenic trails,” he said. “I’ve hiked the six major trails of westward expansion, the pioneer trails. I do one of these hikes about once a year, and Route 66 has just been hanging back in the back of my mind.”
He’s hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Coast Trail, Continental Divide Trail and 11 national scenic trails. According to The Guardian newspaper of London, his legs have logged more than 34,000 miles. As for his first name, it’s derived from a creek in Georgia where he once owned some property.
The Guardian article tells about a talented but tormented former eye surgeon from Missouri who abandoned almost all of his belongings, began walking and experienced a religious epiphany.
Nimblewill Nomad keeps a daily journal of his travels; they’re fun to read.
Here’s his encounter in Virden, Illinois, where he goes to charge his cellphone and write his journal at a Hardee’s restaurant:
Half hour goes by; here comes the hostess. Looks like I’m gonna get booted. But no, I meet Ashley. With a bright, wide smile she asks, “Would you like a free cheeseburger?” Well now, how far off was I on judging this one! “Sure, that’d be great.” I tell her. Few minutes, here she comes with a burger basket, containing a burger–and fries! “Need catsup or anything.” The bright, wide smile continues. A short time later, she returns with two hot apple tarts.
Well, I came in here tired, and downing the burger and fries, plus the tarts did it. My head dropped to the table, into my crossed arms, and I fell into total sleep. Don’t know how long it lasted, but it was more than a few minutes. Awake now, here comes Angel, the assistant manager. This is it for sure now, I’m thinking – doubt they like people sleeping in here. Goodness, Angel also greets me with a wide, bright smile! “Took a little nap!” she says. “Here, I have something for you.” She hands me two big coupon cards – for free meals. “I think all the Hardee’s from here to Missouri will accept them.” I don’t know what to say. Finally, I manage to blurt out, “Thank you, thank you!”
If you see a long-bearded man walking briskly along Route 66 with a tiny backpack, it’s probably him. And if you treat him to a bottle of water, a meal or a place to sleep, he’ll appreciate it.
(Screen-capture image of Nimblewill Nomad on Route 66 in Illinois from video report)