Singer-songwriter Jimmy Wayne has passed the halfway point in his walk from Nashville to Phoenix to call attention to the problems faced by homeless teens. In planning the trek, the 1,637-mile trip seemed like a good compromise.
“I thought maybe I should walk across Tennessee,” he told CMT Insider two days after hitting the halfway mark Saturday (April 3) in Amarillo, Texas. He admits he briefly contemplated walking from coast-to-coast, but concluded, “That’s the craziest thing I ever thought of.”
He’s averaging approximately 20 miles per day, although he’s interrupted his walk several times because of concert dates.
“I’ll mark my place on the side of the road,” he said. “There’s a driver that comes to pick me up, takes me to the airport and drops me off. And then I’ll go back to that spot and continue walking.”
So far, the worst health problems he’s dealt with have been blisters on his feet, although January proved to be one of the coldest in Tennessee history.
“The first couple of days were pretty tough,” he said. “The ice and the snow and all that stuff that came through, it was just very unexpected.”
Cold weather is no longer a problem, however, now that he’s made it through Arkansas and Oklahoma.
“The last five days in Texas have been the toughest part of the walk,” he said. “With the cold, I was OK because I could layer [clothes] and could take off stuff — a coat or whatever. But not here. You wear shorts, you wear a T-shirt, you wear sunscreen, and you try to fight the wind. There was a 60 mile an hour wind blowing through, and it was blowing sand. … And the heat was 91 degrees on top of all of that. It went from the 40s in Oklahoma, where rain was blowing sideways, to 91 degrees in Texas. It was like I crossed the line and someone turned the heat up.”
Wayne has firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a homeless teenager.
“When I was 13, my mom had married a guy who had committed a crime,” he explained. “He took my mom and me with him on the run from the law for a little while, and we lived in this little car for about two or three months. I lived in the back seat and slept there every night.”
Things got worse for him while they were in Pensacola, Fla.
“My mom woke me up, and they told me to get my clothes,” he said. “I was kind of half asleep. I didn’t really know what was going on, and I got out of the car. … I was 13 years old, and they drove off and left me standing there and never came back.”
He added, “How does a 13-year-old survive? Your instinct just kicks in, and you survive somehow. I remember when I had to do it … and that’s why I tell everyone I’m simulating being a homeless teen.”
Wayne acknowledges he had hoped to have completed the walk by now, but he’s looking forward to continuing the trip until it concludes in Phoenix at HomeBase Youth Services, an Arizona-based, nonprofit organization that addresses the needs of at-risk and homeless youth aged 21 and younger.
“I think it’s accomplished a lot already,” he said. “Obviously, the key is the kids that need homes. That’s been my main thing. I set out in Nashville saying, ‘If one person’s life is affected in a positive way from this, that’s going to be worth the entire walk.’ I’ve heard already of people taking in kids that need homes, but I hope the campaign continues helping raise awareness about these kids that are at risk.”