|Highway 6 walker Joe Hurley returns to Holyoke for visit|
|Written by Chris Lee|
Nine months, eight pair of shoes, 3,600 miles and a loss of about 25 pounds was what Joe Hurley endured just over six years ago.
Hurley spent the night in Holyoke six years ago on his way to California while walking down Route 6. A potluck barbecue was held at the home of Steve and Cherrie Brown Aug. 20, 2004 where community members had the chance to sit and chat with the highway walker. Cherrie is one of a handful of people Hurley met on his journey that has kept in contact with him over the years since he completed his walk.
Hurley and his wife Pat made a special stop in Holyoke Wednesday, Sept. 8 on their way to Frisco. The Browns along with Chamber of
Commerce executive director Mary Tomky and some guests gathered for dinner to catch up and find out what Hurley has been up to since completing his walk six years ago. Route 6 enthusiast Ken Oltjenbruns and his parents Milton and Leona gave the Hurleys a brief tour of the Phillips County Museum before they took off for the next leg of their two-week vacation the following morning.
While on his journey in 2004, Hurley traveled with a photographer to help him document the trip. Hurley also wrote numerous stories for newspapers to help him fund the experience. The duo didn’t have any sponsors and funded the entire trip themselves.
The idea began as a simple one-week walk across his home state of Connecticut while working as a journalist for a newspaper. He was interested in tying the people of western Connecticut to people from the eastern part of the state. “I didn’t know anything about the eastern part of my state,” Hurley said.
The newspaper he worked for funded his week-long trip across Connecticut. After finishing, he was curious about the road he had been traveling on—Route 6.
He decided to keep following it and when he found out it went clear across the country he kept following it. He retired from the newspaper business prior to his walk, but continued writing and selling his story to other papers.
Hurley and his photographer, Travis Lindhorst, have put together a book full of the stories and pictures of their journey down Route 6. Hurley said the book is due to hit shelves next year sometime but he has been telling people that for nearly three years now. “It’s in the hands of the publisher,” he added.
He also noted he doesn’t know the title yet. If he had to choose it would be “Discovering America Step by Step.”
The coast-to-coast walker revamped and added to many of the stories he wrote in addition to writing other stories for the book. Many of Lindhorst’s photos will be featured in the book as well.
While on his journey in 2004, Hurley would walk about 20 miles a day, five days a week. Lindhorst dropped Hurley off each morning and picked him up each night while taking plenty of photographs in between. The remaining two days, usually Mondays and Thursdays, would be spent touring the area, meeting people and writing his stories.
“I met a lot of nice people,” Hurley said. A rough estimate of about 42 newspapers conducted interviews with Hurley along his 2004 journey including the Enterprise.
The Aug. 26, 2004 issue of the Enterprise features a photo of Hurley walking with Brown and Tomky near the Nebraska-Colorado border. Numerous Holyokites met up with Hurley to walk a mile or two with him down Route 6.
A group gathered at the Colorado-Nebraska border including then State Representative Diane Hoppe to present Hurley with a state flag that had flown over the State Capitol building. After a quick photo op, Hurley began his trek across the Rocky Mountain State.
Route 6 runs east-northeast from Bishop, Calif., to Provincetown, Mass. and is considered the second longest highway in the United States. Hurley wasn’t the first and most likely won’t be the last to traverse the historic route, but he touched some hearts in Holyoke like the Browns who said they plan to visit Joe and Pat in Connecticut sometime soon.
Hurley’s website features many of the stories and photos from his trip. It can be found at www.route6walk.com.