A journey across the continental United States by foot is not a decision one makes on a whim. It involves heavy gear, sleeping outside, and overcoming harsh terrain. One must be physically and mentally fit to withstand the trip.
But Aiden and Louis Ardine were on a mission. As a pair of bartenders themselves, the Ardine brothers understood better than most just how difficult the pandemic was on the restaurant industry. With hours cut and jobs lost, many food service workers felt the strain. In an effort to help those who needed it, the Ardine brothers decided to raise $30,000 by walking across the nation.
On May 1 at the Ashbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey, the Aiden and Louis Ardine started their 3,200 trek.
Aiden and Louis Ardine. Credit: Ashbury Park Press
“This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors,” says Aiden Ardine.
At a speed of roughly 20 miles a day, the brothers experienced practically all the extremes the United States has to offer. They soldiered through the intense heat and humidity that comes with summer in Ohio and the frigid 20-degree weather that comes from the desert in Nevada. They walked an isolated stretch on Route 50 in Utah of 100 miles where they seldom saw sign of society. They even ended up on a trail in the Sierra Nevada mountains that dead-ended due to a tragic forest fire.
The Ardines kept a detailed chronicle of their experiences on Instagram. With the right hashtags and support of friends and family back at home, the brothers’ journey started to gain traction. By day 42, they were already 2/3s into their initial goal. News outlets started to report their story. In July, they caught the attention of Verizon Wireless, who provided the brothers new cell phones and donated to the cause.
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The brothers arriving in San Francisco. Credit: Ashbury Park Press.
Along their heroes’ journey, Aiden and Louis met their own everyday heroes. A driver in Nebraska spotted them on the road in 100-degree weather and doubled back to give them cold Gatorades. In Iowa, a couple invited them over for a hearty meal of steak and macaroni and cheese. In Nevada, a woman who ran a campground let them stay free of charge. She felt a particular attachment to their story, as her niece attempted to cross-country bicycle to raise awareness for breast cancer and was tragically struck by a vehicle on the road.
“It reminded me of the gravity of what we were doing,” Louis Ardine says, “and how meaningful this was not only to us, but to other people.”
11 states, four times zones, mountains, deserts, forests, and a run-in with a black bear later, Aiden and Louis Ardine arrived at the sandy beaches of San Francisco after 162 days. Greeted by their parents and other supporters, the brothers were not only happy that they achieved their goal, but that they more than doubled it. Thanks to the Ardines, $70,000 was split between the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation and the COCO Fund— nonprofits created specifically to aid food workers hit hard by the pandemic.
“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge community of people, whether people were donating or helping us navigate our way across the United States.” Aiden Ardine says. “This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors.”
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