Motorists passing through the Tullahoma area on Wednesday, Dec. 19, you may have encountered an usual sight as they made their way through town – a horse and wagon team.
The Old West-style wagon team was using an outdated mode of transportation to make a point about a very current problem, childhood hunger.
Angela L. Wood and her team are travelling across the country in an effort to prevent any child from going without food.
The wagon made its way through Tullahoma last week, travelling parallel to the railroad tracks to avoid the heavy traffic on North Jackson Street.
Tullahoma was a passing point, as the team has already travelled over 1,000 miles from the East Coast making its way to the West Coast.
On Aug. 1, Wood packed up and tied down her covered wagon in preparation for a journey that will cover thousands of miles, through tough terrain and many long days and nights.
Wood started her Hunger Trek across America on Aug. 2 with her two horses, her dog companion and only the necessary living supplies in the bed of her wagon. With the water tanks filled and the mission in mind, Wood set out to raise awareness for an epidemic she strongly wants to see end.
Wood, a Kentucky native, had spent her life driving across the country for work. As an over-the-road-truck driver, Wood has seen firsthand how many children are hungry within the United States. As her heart ached for hungry children, she knew she needed to be the call to action.
“One time I was driving through a big city,” recalled Wood, “I saw a mother and her children on the side of the road. Her sign was begging for people to feed her kids. That’s all she wanted. We live in America, the land of the plenty, and I just can’t see why any child should ever be hungry. There should always be available food for kids to eat. I knew this was the cause I wanted to raise awareness for and contribute to.”
She began thinking of ways to raise awareness for the problem and also find a solution.
“I had always dreamed of doing a horse trek,” Wood said. “One night I had a dream that I was going down the road in a wagon. There was a sign on the wagon that said Hunger Trek. I knew then that this was my call to action.”
Wood started to save her money for three years before she worked her last day as a truck driver on June 1. She then began to train her horses for the journey.
Just like the human body training for a marathon, a horse’s body needs to be conditioned to withstand the hard pavement for many hours a day. With correct nutrition, conditioning and exposure, the horses would be equipped and better able to handle the challenge.
“I began by starting them off light with a few miles a day,” said Wood. “We slowly increased to 8 to 12 miles a day, and then we increased to 15 miles a day. We gradually added miles every day and my horses were eventually conditioned to walking 20 miles a day on the pavement.”
Knowing that the trip would be full of unexpected surprises, Wood also tried as best she could to expose her horses to situations they could encounter during their journey. The trip across America would be made on noisy roads, through big intersections and many distractions that could be scary for a horse.
Wood trained her horses for 10 days pulling the wagon before she completely entrusted them to carry her across America.
On Aug. 2, the Hunger Trek officially started in Liberty, Kentucky. Wood and her horses made their way to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, and set their eyes westward.
Throughout the journey, Wood has had memorable encounters with many people. When she stops, she educates those who talk to her about her mission and why she’s so passionate about ending child hunger.
“People ask me why I’m trekking and if I’m crazy,” laughed Wood. “I’m not crazy, this trek is just what I wanted to do and what I feel God has called me to do. I love meeting new people and talking to kids. They come up and pet the horses, and we all share smiles and laughs. This is just my way of telling people that no child should go hungry or not have a roof over their head.”
The rewards of the trip so far have humbled Wood.
“Meeting people has been the most rewarding part of the trek,” she added. “There are so many generous people out there. Sometimes the news conditions us to believe that the world is bad and that people are bad, but they’re not. I’ve saved for three years to make sure that I have enough funds to cover the expenses of this trek, but people hear why I’m trekking and donate. America is already great, and I believe that because of the people I’ve met during this trek.”
While the trip has made many memories for Wood, there have also been some trying times on the road.
“The hardest part about the trip is finding a place to park at night with the horses,” Wood said. “People are scared of strangers, so I never get upset if they say no. I just have to keep going until I can find a safe place to park my wagon and let my boys [horses] rest for a little bit. When I can find a place to stay, the people are so generous. They often give my horses food and donate to my cause.”
The journey has also raised the question as to why Wood is trekking during the winter.
“I started in August so it wouldn’t be too hot on my horses,” explained Wood. “If everything goes as planned, I’ll be in Oklahoma by the spring. I’ll be passing through the Great American Desert when the snow caps will be melting. I’m hoping that this will provide my horses with more chances for drinking water during our trek across the desert.”
While the covered wagon is equipped with two 18-gallon water tanks, Wood doesn’t like to fill them unless absolutely necessary to keep the weight down on her horses.
Day by day, Wood maps her journey by using her cell phone’s GPS. On average, her horses walk about 3 miles-per-hour, and the team travels anywhere from 15 to 20 miles a day.
While coming through Tullahoma, Wood said the people she met were very friendly.
“I drove through a subdivision and the kids and their families came outside to pet my horses,” she said. “When I was coming through the industrial area, the workers came outside and donated generously to the efforts.”
Woods plans to end her trip in Neah Bay, Washington. However, if that doesn’t plan out, Wood just has her sights set to the West. The duration of the trip will cover approximately 7,000 miles. Wood plans to donate one dollar for every mile travelled. So far Wood has donated $1,332 to No Kid Hungry.
No Kid Hungry is a campaign run by Share Our Strength, an organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty.
What’s next when Wood reaches the West? She plans to just turn around and come home.
“If you have a dream, just do it,” Wood encouraged. “It took me 40 years to finally do this trek. You will never be ready for it, and if you do wait to ‘be ready,’ it will never happen. I just encourage everyone to go out there and just do whatever it is they’re dreaming about.”
To keep up with Wood throughout her journey on Facebook, follow her page Chatrek Challenge Hunger American Trek. Wood also makes daily blog posts about her trip at www.challenge-american-equine-trek.com.
To donate directly to her cause, visit the No Kid Hungry personal link on her blog. If you would like to offer a place for Wood and her horses to stay, Wood can be contacted Via Facebook messenger.
Faith Few can be reached by email at email@example.com.