RVC man hits homestretch of walk across America

Rockville Centre’s Daniel Finnegan has endured plenty of hot days on Nevada’s Route 50, known as the loneliest road in America.
Rockville Centre’s Daniel Finnegan has endured plenty of hot days on Nevada’s Route 50, known as the loneliest road in America.
Courtesy Abby Bongaarts/Facebook

After refueling with some burgers and beer at a Nevada bar called Middlegate Station last Sunday night, Rockville Centre native Daniel Finnegan and his walking buddy Abby Bongaarts pushed onward Monday morning toward their final destination.

The two are set to reach San Francisco — less than 400 miles from them — on Sept. 16, at which time they will convene with family and friends who will make the trip to celebrate the end of their half-year trek.

“It’s something we’ve looked forward to the whole trip, but it felt sort of out of reach,” Finnegan said of completing their journey. “Now that we’re 400 miles away, it’s definitely become a reality.”

A dream of Bongaarts to walk across the country, she and Finnegan embarked from Long Beach on March 1. The hike has raised about $20,000 for JOIN, an Oregon-based charity that the two had volunteered for, which focuses on helping the homeless.

When the Herald last spoke with Finnegan on July 31, he and Bongaarts were 20 miles from the Utah-Nevada border. On Monday, they began the day about 40 miles from Fallon, Nev., where they planned to take a day to rest from the consistent low-90s heat.

Nevada has brought more beauty and mountainous terrain, Finnegan said, adding that it had the least amount of services of any state they have passed through. The travelers met a man at a campsite in Eureka, Nev. who was heading back home to Reno. Impressed by their mission to walk across the country, he agreed to drop off water along his way that Finnegan and Bongaarts could retrieve for necessary hydration.

Perhaps the last major challenge is crossing the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range primarily in California that is best known for comprising Lake Tahoe, Mount Whitney and Yosemite National Park.

The two will continue taking Route 50 — dubbed the loneliest road in America — until they hit Carson City, and Finnegan said they are still deciding how they will cross the Sierra Nevada from there. Once past the mountains, they will span through Sacramento and Napa, Calif. before heading south through Sausalito toward the city by the bay.

In the meantime though, Finnegan and Bongaarts will endure a few more weeks of long days in the summer heat. They have had ample time for thinking over the last six months, and they shared some thoughts that cross their mind while on the road in a blog post earlier this month.

“I get intense salt cravings and this can manifest into some strange food fantasies,” Bongaarts wrote. “I once killed an hour imagining myself with a giant bucket of French fries licking the salt off each one. Don’t ask my why I didn’t just eat the whole fry in this day dream; salt cravings never make me rational.”

Though equally fascinating thoughts enter Finnegan’s head, one consumes him more than any. “I think about the day we’ll finish,” he wrote, “when we will cross the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, walk the couple miles to the beach with our family and friends beside us, dive headfirst into the Pacific Ocean, celebrate and then fly home.”