Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cynics Are Left Behind on Cross-Country Trek Devoted to Late Brother

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cynics Are Left Behind on Cross-Country Trek Devoted to Late Brother

Article excerpt

A guy pushing a 45-pound backpack on a dolly on the shoulder of a four-lane highway shouldn't be as happy as Ian Cummins.

When I reached him on his cell somewhere east of Bedford, Va., 13 days and about 240 miles into his walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Mr. Cummins was as upbeat as he appears in his daily online videos on ianwalksamerica.com.

"The sun right now is with me," the 22-year-old intensive care nurse from Dormont said Thursday afternoon. "I feel Ryan with me. I feel God."

Mr. Cummins began this trek March 1 as his way of dealing with the November suicide of his younger brother, Ryan. He also sought to stimulate conversations about mental illness and raised about five grand for that cause before he began.

Ian's first video shows him dropping a handful of his brother's ashes on the cold shoreline of Virginia Beach, saying, "I figure the world deserves a little piece of him everywhere we go."

Since then, he's been treated like the prodigal son. People along the road have handed him twenties, treated him to dinner or lunch, and put him up for the night once they hear what he's attempting and why. Some have shared the crushing stories of suicides in their own families. Mr. Cummins' daily videos, which generally run a couple of minutes, are filled with his thanks to benefactors who had been strangers the day before.

About every samaritan he has met has known somebody 15 or 20 miles ahead. One guy made a call to a string of Methodist churches along State Route 40 and, presto, he had places to stay the next three nights. Walking a path roughly parallel to the retreat of Confederate forces at the end of the Civil War, Mr. Cummins didn't need to camp out once in his first week.

As he was preparing to bed down in a spare bedroom in a dot on the southeast Virginia map called Yale, his video had him recounting how he forced a dollar on a clerk named Moad in a minimart in Sussex, saying, "That's the only dollar I've spent in the past two days. …

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