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September 22, 2017

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‘Walking Man’ Karl Bushby wraps Las Vegas visit; Oscar Goodman talks about his hitchhiking trek


L.E. Baskow

“The Walking Man” Karl Bushby, right, shows Robin Leach, left, and Gerald Tuthill, assistant general manager for Caesars Palace, his cart “The Beast” as he arrives at Caesars on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, for a three-day stay where he will enjoy the spa, restaurants, shows and other amenities at Caesars and other Caesars Entertainment resorts in town.

‘Walking Man’ Karl Bushby Arrives in L.V.

“The Walking Man” Karl Bushby makes his way along Las Vegas Boulevard South past Treasure Island on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, with his cart “The Beast” on his way to Caesars Palace for a three-day stay. Launch slideshow »

What better place than Las Vegas to get some much-needed R&R when you’re halfway through your 36,000-mile walk around the world. Walking adventurer Karl Bushby has so far racked up 20,000 miles of his ambitious global trek in the past 15 years.

I walked with the “Walking Man” as he was welcomed to Caesars Palace to start his four-day visit here. While here, he met with former Mayor Oscar Goodman and downtown Zappos execs, who have promised to provide him with walking shoes for the remaining five years of his remarkable journey. He also spoke at the Las Vegas City Council meeting and thanked Mayor Carolyn Goodman for the city’s extraordinary welcome.

Star chefs Nobu Matsuhisa and Gordon Ramsay treated Karl to meals at their Caesars Palace venues, and my pal Michael Boychuck’s nearby salon Color gave him a haircut, a beard trim, a manicure and a pedicure. He watched “Jubilee!” at Bally’s and posed with the dancers after the show. At the Rio, he met his heroes Penn & Teller after watching their show. Another highlight was seeing Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage.

He told me: “Members of the Caesars Palace staff gave me a great welcome, and my photo was up on the marquee right below Shania Twain! I felt like royalty. They gave me an amazing four-star room with a Jacuzzi and everything in it, an amazing stay in an amazing casino. The food was fantastic, and Bacchanal Buffet was absolutely mind-blowing. I got to eat like a rock star. There were so many people to thank for their Las Vegas hospitality, so I went to the public council meeting to thank Mayor Carolyn Goodman and the city of Las Vegas.

Karl Bushby

Karl Bushby in his walk around the world. Launch slideshow »

“It was great to hang out with Robin and Oscar. I wish we could have spent more time together. Oscar wanted to know how I managed to eat on the road. I told him that sometimes it got so bad, I had to eat trash and steal from farms, but whenever I got sick, locals would look after me. He told me he had once hitchhiked across America when he was in college and even slept in barns when he couldn’t afford a motel. Robin was amazed that he’d never told the story before of when he was broke, didn’t have a cent, and had to be put up by strangers in San Diego. Sounds just like me.

“I saw Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles ‘Love’ production, which was pretty impressive stuff. Everything you’ve heard about the amazing Cirque du Soleil shows is true. Meeting Penn & Teller was a real highlight because I’ve watched their ‘Bullsh*t’ shows on my computer as I have been walking.

“The visit to Las Vegas was a great success, and there was a fabulous reception at Zappos’ new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. They really do live up to their reputation. It was such an overwhelming welcome with screaming crowds. The staff showed us around the building and explained how everything worked. The place is like one giant party, like a college campus gone mad; it was so much fun. They showered me with gifts, as well, some really important stuff. They gave me new pairs of shoes and socks and clothing. They also gave me a fit bit, which is a device you can wear that counts steps and distance and calories you’ve burned and monitors your sleep. The shoes that they gave me replaced the ones that I had that were giving me such a hard time. So I’m really grateful to them.”

I caught up with Karl again on his first day back on the road out of Las Vegas toward Washington, D.C., where he plans to visit the Russian Embassy to get the necessary paperwork to walk across Eastern European countries.

“It was an incredible experience being in Las Vegas,” he told me. “A total contrast where one moment I was sleeping in a ditch somewhere, getting yelled at by police because you’re a general nuisance to the world, and then suddenly people fell all over themselves to help me out. It’s always been like that. This entire adventure just goes from one extreme to the other; it’s just one contrast to another.

“Since I had full communications in Las Vegas, I was able to get caught up on all the multimedia for my website. I shot footage and uploaded everything to Facebook and Twitter and More and more people are following me on the journey.”

Click to enlarge photo

Gerald Tuthill, assistant general manager of Caesars Palace, greets “The Walking Man” Karl Bushby on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, outside Caesars.

Click to enlarge photo

“The Walking Man” Karl Bushby makes his way along Las Vegas Boulevard South on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, with his cart “The Beast” on his way to Caesars Palace for a three-day stay.

Click to enlarge photo

“The Walking Man” Karl Bushby documents his walk along Las Vegas Boulevard South on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, with his cart “The Beast” on his way to Caesars Palace for a three-day stay.

I asked Karl if the worst of this trip is behind him or is the worst still to come. He responded: “You don’t really know, but as far as the planning goes, the most challenging sections of this journey are over. The real physical challenges and the real crux of it all were crossing the Bering Strait. That was the one that everybody told me couldn’t be done. No one had walked from the United States to Russia. The goal of some freak Brit thinking that he could walk all the way up from Chile to Alaska and then cross on ice into Russia was outrageous to fathom.

“It’s that notorious because you have a 57-mile line of sight. You can actually see the mountains of Russia from the coast of Alaska. It’s notorious because the Bering Strait is something that is never settled. It’s never like a sheet of ice that you can walk across. It’s crushed ice that’s constantly on the move. So one half of the Bering Strait is Russian south, the other is Russian north, and it switches, and there are lots of local currents. If the wind is up, then the ice is moving, and it’s incredibly dangerous. The ice sheets meet and crash, then start folding up on top of each other; constantly splitting. It’s the nightmare in which you simply die.

“You can’t walk it; you have to slush it and paddle it and swim it. Nobody has ever completed it, and some have nearly died trying. There’s a golden window of opportunity during March, when the lighting and weather conditions are at their best. The ice is at its maximum extent before it starts to melt. That’s the only time to do it. When I stepped onto the ice, I was occupied with one single thought: ‘How do I get off this thing and stay alive?’ I was really concerned that I would never be able to make any second attempt. I went out there meaning business, but, honest to God, I did not think it was going to happen the first time. I thought we were going to bounce off this thing like a brick wall and work out a strategy and understand how it works, then make it. But to make it first time; absolutely amazing.

“There was this sense of we’re going to take it as far as we can get, but honestly I didn’t know what to expect. We were on the Strait for two or three days, and we were already getting swept striding off. We were trapped behind a large area of open water. At that point, I’m thinking this is inevitable. We basically couldn't make any progress west because we were on ice that we couldn’t even stand on; as soon as you stop moving, you just slip into the ice into the ocean. Seawater ice is like putty; it’s soft, and you can just fall though it.

“Then everything changed. The weather conditions changed, the wind stopped, the temperature dropped from almost 0 degrees Celsius down to -32. So all of a sudden you had a hard surface, and everything stopped moving. We had this great opportunity; we broke out and managed to get across to Russian waters, and then again we find ourselves in trouble. We’re tired, slowing down, so we ended up ditching most of our equipment.

“The Russian military picked me up the very same day I arrived in the village there. The mayor couldn’t work out what I was doing there. The border guards came and asked questions, but they couldn’t quite work out what was going on, then more officers came. They were really confused, so I was taken off to their barracks and spent 58 days in cycle through these interviews and interrogations with the FSB, the border guards, then the politicians took over and the court case started for entering the country without all the proper travel visas. There was just one important document missing. The whole thing embarrassed the security forces but the politicians gave me a break and made the whole thing go away.

“Now I’m walking on eggshells to get all the proper documents this time from the Embassy in Washington so we can start from the other end of their country and cross Eastern Europe and Western Europe. We have a lot of support now, and the good people of Las Vegas want to see me succeed — so I will plead my case.”

Karl estimates that with the Russians’ approval, he will be able to walk into his British hometown in the North of England in five years and be reunited with the friends and family he said goodbye to in November 1998 at age 29 when the journey started. At that point in time, he should be able to celebrate his 50th birthday with them.

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.

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