NORTH PLATTE — The inspiration for her trek came from a woman named Mary Joyce, who was an adventurer in Alaska in the 1930s.
“Plain” Jane Sullivan began her American Walk of Life — what she is calling her hiking and biking trip across the U.S. — June 5 in Delaware and will finish it in San Francisco, near her home. On Friday, Sullivan was having breakfast at the Lincoln Highway Diner in North Platte and shared her story.
“I’m currently halfway through my hiking and biking across America,” Sullivan said. “A few years ago I went to Alaska for my husband’s 60th birthday and I found out about this woman named Mary Joyce.”
Joyce became the first female bush pilot in Alaska and had many other exploits, including a 1,000-mile trek across Alaska with sled dogs, all before she was 27 years old.
“So when I came back from Alaska, I’m thinking, what are you doing?” Sullivan said. “You’re 60, you better bust a move.”
She thought late in life, all we have are our memories.
“I really didn’t feel that I hadn’t done enough,” Sullivan said. “So that’s why I set off and I really felt I wanted to try to get old people to keep them moving and young people to start moving and people to just start making memories.”
Sullivan is originally from Keighley, West Yorkshire, England, and has been in the U.S. for 29 years.
“My husband and I drove across America to Delaware in an RV,” Sullivan said. “Then he went home, and each state I’ve got a different mate to travel with me.
“I started the trip by dipping my feet in the ocean in Delaware, that’s a tradition.”
When she reaches her destination, she will take a dip in the ocean in San Francisco.
Her goal for the trip is to be an inspiration to others to do something with their lives.
“It doesn’t have to be through fitness,” Sullivan said. “You can try and draw a picture, you could throw a pot, you could help your neighbor in the garden, but something so that at the end of your life you’ll sit down and think, look what I did with my life.”
That’s the reason, she said, she started her journey.
“Don’t waste it, don’t waste a minute,” Sullivan said. “I’ve loved every day. I’ve learned a lot from it, I’ve met a lot of people and I’m getting great mail. People are writing and saying, ‘You’ve inspired me,’ ‘I did the neighbor’s garden yesterday,’ ‘I walked for 2 miles yesterday and I haven’t walked in 10 years.’”
Sullivan planned to visit Scout’s Rest Ranch before heading west later in the day. She has a number of ways she is sharing her journey on Instagram and Facebook at JanesGoneAwol and the Youtube page: Jane Sullivan. She will receive emails at Janesgoneawol@gmail.com.