How many pairs of shoes does a person go through while walking across the United States?
For Grace Nesseth, probably six. Matt Grooms is hoping his fifth pair lasts him until Myrtle Beach.
The couple started walking from Huntington Beach, California, on Oct. 2. They plan to end their trek at the South Carolina coast on May 1.
They’re strolling the nearly 3,000 miles to raise awareness about Time in a Bottle, a nonprofit founded by Nesseth’s mother. Time in a Bottle cleans houses free of charge for families with children battling life-threatening illnesses. The idea for the nonprofit came after Nesseth’s brother dealt with cancer and their mother began cleaning houses to pick up extra money.
“She wanted to find a way to give back to the community for helping us out,” Nesseth said. “She realized how important it was cleaning a house for a person.”
Grooms and Nesseth crossed into the Palmetto State last week. Monday they laid over in Lexington before hitting Columbia on Tuesday. They met with folks at the Five Points restaurant Publico, where S.C. Rep. Micah Caskey of Lexington County presented Grooms and Nesseth with the U.S. flag that flew over the State House that day and a South Carolina certificate of commendation recognizing them for their work and accomplishments.
“The coolest part is all the people we meet,” Grooms said. From Oklahoma eastward, “the Southern hospitality has been so awesome. People have been making us homemade meals and that’s been really cool.”
They had some other cool moments along the way, like when Grooms proposed to Nesseth in Aguila, Arizona. Nesseth said yes, by the way. They also picked up a new friend for their trip — a Husky mix they found in a national forest and named Nemo. Their teacup Yorky, Foxi, is also on the road with them.
But the trip has been tough as well. Planning meals for themselves and the dogs as well as places to stay is a challenge. They also have to keep up with the daily business of the nonprofit awareness campaign before a walking day starts and after a walking day ends. Dealing with the same issues every day for almost seven months has been the hardest part, Grooms said.
South Carolina has proven to be a spot in the shade for the road weariness they’re feeling.
“It’s been a record of honking and clapping for us and pulling over to talk,” Nesseth said. “It really feels like the final state.”
The couple is walking along U.S. 378 Wednesday and hopes to make it about halfway to Sumter before the final stretch to the beach over the next 10 days.
“It’ll be nice when we get done just to relax and sit in the sand for a few days,” Grooms said.
While some might not believe it, South Carolina has had some of the best drivers they’ve encountered in months, he said.
Let’s just say the old South Carolina saying “Thank God for Mississippi” also applies to driving abilities.