By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times
WALTHALL — A Londoner who is biking across America made a rest stop here last week to stay with a longtime friend.
Naz Yacoob of London left Los Angeles in February on foot for his 3,000-mile trek to the Atlantic Coast. He switched to a bicycle in Gallup, N.M., having since pedaled his way east pulling a 100-pound bike trailer/stroller hauling a tent, tools, water, food and other supplies. He is also still walking some because of the up-and-down terrain.
It is not only a personal journey, but a mission to raise funds on behalf of three United Kingdom charities: Disability and Development Partners, which works with disabled people and their organizations in developing countries; Sunndach House, a respite center in Scotland for children with severe disabilities; and the Diabetic UK (Yacoob has Type 2 diabetes).
The idea for his trek across America came to Yacoob in 2011, when he walked part the Way of St. James, a 750-mile pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great. He said the experience and rhythmic energy of the walk inspired him to make a longer journey.
The 66-year-old engineer chose the United States mainly because he has studied its history and is a film buff, especially of Westerns, and has read many American novelists and poets. He is also fond of blues, jazz, and country and western music.
“So in a way I will be reliving those pages of the history books I studied a long while ago and feel them under my feet and breathe them and search for them in the library chambers of my mind,” he wrote in a Facebook post before beginning his journey. “In a way I’ll be doing it like those pioneers Lewis and Clarke in 1804-1806 when they went out into new territories beyond the Appalachian Mountains.”
Yacoob’s friend Michael Davidson of Walthall picked him up in Indianola on April 25 and brought him back to the home of him and his wife, architect and Walthall Mayor Belinda Stewart, where Yacoob was resting up last week .
Yacoob and Davidson met when Davidson was living and working in Scotland. They met through the Findhorn Foundation, a Scottish charitable trust that is a spiritual community, ecovillage and international center for holistic education.
“People have been very receptive to me,” Yacoob said. “I haven’t met one person that has been negative to me.”
In New Mexico, he stayed a few days with a Findhorn friend of Davidson’s, Morten Nilssen of Taos, to recuperate. Nilssen, who is originally from Norway, decided to ride to Walthall on his motorcycle after Yacoob departed. He arrived April 26 and was also staying with Davidson last week.
On the night of his arrival, Yacoob went with Davidson and Stewart to Columbus, where they enjoyed a dinner at a historic house with Columbus native Robert Ivy, who is CEO of the American Institute of Architects, and his wife, Holly.
Yacoob, who is ahead of schedule because of the bicycle, is still working on his final destination but plans to follow U.S. 82 to Brunswick, Ga., and tally up his mileage. If he hasn’t reached his 3,000-mile goal, he plans to go either north or south along the Eastern Coast to make up his miles.
Yacoob cannot solicit money in the United States, but has a Facebook site, “nazacrossamerica,” where his followers can see his progress. The Facebook page include posts about Yacoob’s “inner journey,” and the history of the places, landscapes and people he encounters.