Cross-Country Hiker Does It for Kids With AIDS


Louie Rochon doesn’t have AIDS, but he once met a little girl named Stephanie who did.

That is why he has hiked 3,150 miles across the United States.

Today, the 45-year-old Rochon--who set out from Miami in 1996--will head down Harbor Boulevard to downtown Ventura, carrying a 6-foot-long walking stick and wearing a knapsack with a dozen teddy bears peeking out the top.

“This has been my best day in California so far,” said a tanned Rochon as he stood on a muddy shoulder of Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the Pacific, enjoying the warm day. “Only 1,800 miles to go.”

Rochon lives in Seattle, where he will end his journey to raise attention and dollars for children with pediatric AIDS. The teddy bears that travel with him are gifts from children with AIDS that he has visited in his travels. He also sports a fishing knife, pepper spray (for menacing dogs), a couple of fanny packs and a water bottle.


On Wednesday, the 520th day of his trek, Rochon looked back on what has become his life on the road.

“Since 1996, I’ve been in a hurricane in Florida, a snowstorm in Pensacola and I dodged tornadoes all through northern Texas,” the former real estate agent said. “Sleet, rain, and oh, yeah, in the South, alligators are a real threat, since I only walk on back roads.”

So the rain he has encountered in California in recent weeks has been a walk in the park compared to sleet and twisters. “It’s coming on the road closures that are tough in California,” Rochon said. “I have to detour. Otherwise, I just put on my Gore-Tex and do fine.”

Although he has been spat on a couple times--once in California--he said he expected that, and worse.

“I thought the worst would be rednecks in Texas, but people were great in Texas,” he said. “The loneliness of walking through the desert of south New Mexico was tough, and I felt snubbed in Los Angeles, but I’ve never been really threatened.”

Rochon’s is a one-person operation--he even drives his own sag wagon, a Winnebago. Each morning, he drives the Winnebago up the road 20 or so miles, and unloads a moped. Then he drives the Winnebago back to his starting place, parks it and heads out on foot. At the end of the day he hops on the moped, scoots back to his Winnebago, loads it, and drives the camper to where he left off walking that day. Needless to say, he sleeps well at night.


His major obstacles, he said, are “gasoline and a place to park the Winnebago.”

He never carries more than $10 on him and relies on friends, his mother and donations to get him to the next point. He carries a beeper, and messages for him can be left throughout the day on his voice mail at (800) 549-2965. He checks his messages often throughout the day.

His pet project is Camp Heartland, which he calls the nation’s largest summer camp for kids with AIDS. To find out how to donate to the camp, call him. “And even calls of encouragement are wonderful,” Rochon said.