Mr. Jenkins answered these questions via phone interview and this is what he said.
1. Have you visited Cooper’s grave? Was it harder to walk without Cooper with you?
PJ: I did recently visit Cooper’s grave. It was hard to find 30 years later because things have changed so much. It was definitely harder to walk without Cooper because he was my best friend. But he was also security from danger. He was an extra set of eyes and ears and he was so alert. I felt safer with him with me. He was fun. It was difficult to lose him and after he died I wondered if I should keep going with my trip.
2. Did the trip clear your mind of what happened in the past?
PJ: I wouldn’t say it cleared my mind. I think I learned that a) you can’t let the past traumatize you or affect you; b) you have to take every opportunity to learn about other people. The trip really made me realize that we are all in this together. We all have tough times just like we all have really great times. We have to focus on becoming the best person that we can and not focus on the negative.
3. When you come to Murphy in March are you going to visit the friends that you made here during your trip?
PJ: Yes. Absolutely! I’ve been back lots of times and I always visit with these friends that I call family. I usually stay with them while I’m there too.
4. Why didn’t you buy a gun or make a spear for fishing?
PJ: Well, I could have had a gun. When I began my trip I was pretty much anti-gun but as my trip progressed I considered a gun for safety purposes. But, I was traveling from state to state and each state has it’s own rules about guns and carrying them and I just decided it was best that I didn’t have one. I never hunted for food so that wasn’t really an issue.
5. Have you visited Homer?
PJ: I did. I visited him once after my trip and then I went to his funeral. I’ve actually been to Saltville several times since Homer passed.
6. Were you ever scared you wouldn’t complete your trip due to sickness or because of Cooper’s death? Did you ever think you would have to turn back?
PJ: No. I was never scared I wouldn’t complete my trip. I learned some super valuable lessons during and after my trip. Kids these days are so used to getting whatever they want whenever they want. It’s all about instant gratification. Life isn’t about instant gratification. You have to lay one brick at at time. Take one step at at time. Yes you are going to be knocked back and thrown off course. I learned to develop a real sense of patience on that trip. One step at at time. I always knew I would complete the trip. I ran into so many folks that told me I was crazy or stupid for embarking on the journey. That only made me more determined. That’s just the kind of guy I am . . . If someone tells me I can’t do something I’m sure to prove them wrong.