Monday, Oct. 14, 2013 | 9 p.m.
Karl Bushby has completed 20,200 miles so far in his quest to walk around the world, and, after 15 years on the road, he has finally arrived on the Strip. I walked the final mile with him at noon today on his first Las Vegas visit before he checked into Caesars Palace for three days of rest and relaxation.
Now my feet are aching!
“I’m a little later than planned because your Las Vegas police wouldn’t let me walk into town on the highway. I had to go out of my way and take lesser-traveled roads,” he told me. “They were nice but said they had to stop me to also check that I wasn’t a terrorist. They checked my knife but realized quickly that it was not a weapon and just useful travel equipment.”
The one-time elite British paratrooper departs Thursday to continue his trek across America to Washington, D.C., where he will meet with officials at the Russian Embassy to get necessary documents to hike across Soviet territories in Eastern Europe. He estimates that it will be another 15,800 miles and sometime between five and 10 years before he returns home to Hull, England, where he began his global adventure on Nov. 1, 1998.
He was then just 29 and is now 45, yet he doesn't look a day older than when he first set out. “It’s all the exercise and fresh air,” he joked with me as we walked along the Strip. “When I started out, it was before an age of smart phones, GPS and the Internet. I began with just a cassette player and a disposable camera. I’ve progressed as technology has progressed, and now, with GPS and the web, everybody knows where I am any time of the day or night.”
He uses solar panels to charge his equipment. Caesars employees gave him a headliner entertainer’s welcome with his name and photo posted on the large Strip marquee. Security and valet staff gave him the VIP No. 1 space for his “Beast,” a two-wheel cart he pushes and hauls with all of his road equipment.
Karl gave me a tour of the self-built box, which includes a puncture repair kit for its two tires. He managed to maneuver it into the elevators to cross from the Fashion Show mall to Treasure Island.
Later today, he’ll receive another official welcome to the city from former Mayor Oscar Goodman, and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and his team will greet Karl on Tuesday and have him select new boots to continue his walk. He also will do a live satellite interview with British television from Caesars on Tuesday.
Karl will be Gordon Ramsay’s guest at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Nobu’s guest at Nobu Caesars Palace, and the last Caesars stop will be Bacchanal Buffet to fuel up for the walk’s continuation.
While here, Karl will get the Michael Boychuck treatment at Color salon in Caesars: hair and beard trim, a manicure and a much-needed pedicure. Karl will be a guest at “Jubilee!” in Bally’s, his first-ever Strip spectacular. Then he’ll reminisce about hometown North of England watching the Beatles’ show “Love” by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage.
I had to ask why he set out on this extraordinary adventure and challenge. “It really was just because,” he said. “Just because everybody said it couldn’t be done. Just because nobody had ever done it. Just because it was there. Just because it was the biggest challenge in the world.
“It was something the world told me I could not do and which I knew I could. I had to prove it to myself to remove any self-doubts about my ability to succeed at something I set my mind to doing.
“I didn’t know until I was 15 that I had dyslexia, so I was always having difficulty at school with my teachers. It took me five times to join the Army parachute regiment even though my father was a decorated SAS (Special Air Services) officer.
“I wanted to do it, and once I started, it was like a drug. I had to finish it. I’ll be the first to admit that it could have finished me. I’m feeling really well and fit now that I’ve passed the halfway mark. But there are bad days with not so much the feet but more the knees and the hip joints. That can get very painful.
“I never think of stopping, though. I get through it in sections. I don’t ever think I’ve got five more years and another 15,000 miles to go. I don’t know if I would actually reach that if I thought about it in those terms. I think of it in terms of I must get to the next target point within a deadline time. Then once I’m there, I set the next new target. That keeps me going.”
He told me that his trek through Death Valley, Calif., to reach Nevada was the most enjoyable part of this 3,000-mile U.S. hike. “Those morning sunrises were spectacular, and it was just the right time of year to walk it — not too hot and not too cold,” he said.
The Beast holds his zippered sleeping bag, meals, water and a basic one-man tent. “The water is the most important,” he said, pointing out his own water-filtration system. “Particularly when you’re going through a jungle or a desert. So Las Vegas will be like heaven for me for a few days: a comfortable bed and great food. No hills to climb or push my belongings up.”
Karl can fish, forage and cook his own meals on the go when he needs. “The road is empty for a lot of the journey, so when I can eat a home-cooked meal at somebody’s house or in a restaurant, that becomes truly enjoyable,” he added.
It has meant treks through blistering heat and bone-chilling cold over mountains, through jungles and deserts, but everybody he’s met along the way has been inspired by his courage, grit and determination.
Karl, who is now on his fifth passport — one was stolen, another simply vanished — has lost count of the number of pairs of boots and walking shoes he’s worn down to the bare soles.
“It was five pairs just on the first leg from the South America tip in Chile to the top of North America in Alaska," he said. "Then I stopped counting.” Karl became the first person in history to cross the Bering Strait on foot.
When he leaves us for Washington, D.C., for proper documents to cross Russia, he will complete the rest of his journey across Asia and Europe to return to Hull.
“I don’t ever think for one minute about what I’ll do when this is all over,” he said as he laughed. “I know that it will never be like anything I’ve experienced. I’ve survived in jungles, near starvation in Patagonia and a dust storm in Peru. I’ve crossed front lines of a civil war between guerillas and the army in Colombia.
“I lost 40 pounds but survived a brutal Alaska winter. The good days, though, outweigh the bad days. The worst day was when I’d fallen in love and then had to leave her to continue the walk.”
Karl showed me a postcard he’s been carrying since 1999 from somebody he met on the road to deliver to his brother when he eventually reaches Austria.
“That will be the ultimate in snail mail,” he said, laughing.
“House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon and producer Jordan Tappis are chronicling Karl’s extraordinary adventure for a cable TV special. In the meantime, follow his 3,000-mile walk across America and his entire odyssey at bushby3000.com or via Twitter @bushby3000. His current GPS on the website shows him comfortably on a well-deserved rest at Caesars Palace.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
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Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Transport yourself to the opulent and excessive Roman Empire at Caesars Palace. But the ever-changing Caesars Palace is far from ancient. The hotel and casino is constantly raising the bar for what visitors can expect in a Vegas resort experience.
Caesars Palace features 3,348 rooms and suites in five towers, including the new luxury boutique Nobu Hotel and Restaurant, which opened Feb. 4, 2013, in the totally remodeled Centurian Tower. Caesars features 129,000 square feet of gaming space, including the Strip’s largest poker room and a 250-seat sports book. Other amenities include about two dozen restaurants, a four-level shopping mall, four pools, a spa, Pure and Poetry nightclubs and Pussycat Dolls.
Dining options include restaurants from world-renown chefs Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay and, on Feb. 4, 2013, Nobu Matsuhisa.
You never know what characters you’ll run into at Caesars with regular performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Bette Midler, Elton John and maybe even the emperor himself.