LEXINGTON, S.C. (WIS) - Imagine six months of just you, your partner, and your belongings packed into a jogging stroller.
Now imagine that same scenario, but add walking across the United States over the course of six months. Can you picture it? Would you have what it takes?
Those were questions Matt Grooms and Grace Nesseth asked themselves as they sat in their California home during the early months of the pandemic. Matt floated a crazy idea to his girlfriend at the time, Grace, after he had read a book about a cyclist who rode from Oregon to South America. He said to Grace, “Hey, what if we walked across the United States?”
He asked her that question at 7 a.m. before heading to work, and thinking she had written it off in her half slumber, he was surprised and delighted to see that she had mapped out some ideas once he got home. In October 2020, they set off on their cross-country trek from California to South Carolina, starting in Huntington Beach and traveling across several states to make it to the Palmetto State.
They’ve cataloged their journey on their Instagram @theggoldenroad and on Tik Tok. Between Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok, they have hundreds of thousands of followers. Most clips are of them, their two dogs Nemo and Foxi, and their jogging stroller – that they’ve affectionately named “Timmy.”
In one of the posts from their first couple months of travel, they write: “Just under two months ago, we traded a life of normalcy for the unknown. We got rid of our cars, our apartment, and most of our belongings, in exchange for our cart named Timmy filled with just a few things that we now rely on. While the unknown can sometimes be a scary thing, we have always found it to be one of the most rewarding.”
But it’s not just about the walk.
“My brother had cancer when he was eleven,” Grace said. “He’s A-ok now, but my Mom needed to find a job where she could make money on the side and still go to all his appointments.”
Once Grace’s brother got better, her Mom was looking for a way to give back. That’s how “Time in a Bottle” was born in 2011, The mission, according to its site, is to provide “precious time to parents that are dealing with the hope and care of their children becoming survivors of not only cancer but any other life-threatening illness that requires multiple hours away from home and family.”
Right now, the nonprofit solely serves Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“It’s ready to be expanded it just needs the funds and the awareness so that’s where we come in,” said Grace.
What better way to be visible than to strap two safety vests on and walk down the highway for 3,000 miles, right? Along the way, though, there was an unintentional side effect -- a movement was born. The couple’s hundreds of thousands of followers in total from Tik Tok to Instagram continued to come back after donating or checking out their cause. They came back for the mentality of shining a light, and of Matt and Grace’s ability to be a positive social influence in a year of so much hardship.
You could imagine it’s probably helped many others walk difficult roads of their own.
“Just finding love in something small,” said Matt. “And building off that and seeing where it takes you.”
“And waving and smiling at people goes a long way,” Grace added.
The original fundraising goal was $75,000. They hit that this past month, and on an interview with WIS, they upped their fundraising goal to $100,000.
Their walk ends Saturday, May 1st in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Over the past six months, the couple has raised thousands of dollars, brought awareness to a cause, got engaged on the road, and picked up another traveler – their second dog, Nemo. But this isn’t the end of the “Golden Road” for these two. Next, they say they’ll get a small bus and travel to all 50 states, finding a way to advocate and bring awareness to smaller nonprofits with the hope of broadening their exposure.
At the end of the day, it’s two people... two dogs and a whole lot of fans cheering them on. They’re showing us all that sometimes the road less traveled, is the golden inspiration we didn’t know we needed.
If you’d like to contribute to the Time in a Bottle cause, visit https://timeinabottle.org/donate/.
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