Imagine walking 2,000 miles in three months – that’s nearly the distance of a marathon each day – through hot deserts and sticky humidity, with horribly blistered feet, and heavy packs.
Then imagine enduring that with a stubborn goat.
Five guys from across the U.S., who met while working in Alaska, did just that. Their mission was twofold: to raise money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and to break the “curse of the Billy Goat” that sportslore alleges was cast upon the Chicago Cubs all the way back in 1945.
As the story goes, the owner of Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago, William Sianis, was not allowed to bring his goat into a Cubs World Series game because, well, it stunk. “The Cubs ain’t gonna win no more!” Sianis yelled on his way out.
The team hasn’t played in a World Series since.
The friends were convinced they could break the curse if they walked, with a goat, from the Cubs’ spring training field in Mesa, Arizona to the scene of the crime — Wrigley Field. And if they could break the curse while raising money for a good cause, all the better.
“It was amazing to see that five guys could finish this together – five personalities and a goat,” said Phillip Aldrich, who made the trek along with Matt Gregory, Kyle Townsend, Blake Ferrell, and Patrick Fisher. “I think it’s a testament to us and our friendship that we actually finished it.”
Team “Crack the Curse” stuck to Route 66 and camped out for most of their epic walk — though they sprung for a hotel room every once in awhile to shower and do laundry.
Well past hitting halfway mark in their trip, the guys had only raised $7,000. They were discouraged, but pressed on.
But gradually news of their quest started catching on and they began to be welcomed as minor celebrities when they passed through small towns.
“We’d go around the corner and there’d be a picnic set up for us, and all these people just handing us money,” Aldrich said.
Meeting great people helped ease the pain of walking. Every step hurt some days, with blistered feet slamming the pavement for miles that never seemed to end. The desert was the worst for the crew because they had to cart around gallons of water in addition to their heavy packs. They once walked for three days – 67 miles – before seeing a gas station where they could fill up on water.
Townsend had a toenail removed after a particularly grueling 27-mile day. That afternoon they walked 25 more miles.
And then there was the goat, Wrigley. Falling somewhere between a wild animal and a pet, their aptly named companion was feisty – unhappy on the leash, unhappy in the cart (which he often got pushed in) — and was constantly trying to be at the front of the pack.
“Wrigley was the face of the walk,” Aldrich said. “Without him we’d just be five guys walking down the road.”
By the time the crew reached Chicago, they had already raised more than $20,000 and were welcomed onto the field to cheers and were given front row seats. The team’s owners presented them with a $5,000 check on the spot, and just they’ve just recently passed the $30,000 mark.
That five people could raise that kind of money for charity by walking halfway across the country with a farm animal is an inspirational reminder of how much people are capable of achieving with the proper motivation.
But will the curse be broken after 57 years?
Odds say no, but we’ll just have to wait and find out — because it looks like anything is possible.
Follow Kayla’s story on Twitter @kaylafrost.