A Costa Mesa man has put down his apron and chef’s hat for a new venture: walking across the country.
Thomas Curran, a longtime restaurateur who last operated Taco Brat, a now-closed German-Mexican fusion concept on Harbor Boulevard that combined tacos and bratwurst, is using his adventure of self-discovery to raise $60,000 for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation.
Accompanied by his dog, Wink, and a modified three-wheel, double-wide jogging stroller, Curran hopes to end the roughly 3,200-mile journey in September at the Newport Pier. The stroller features yellow stickers clarifying “No baby on board.”
The transcontinental effort, which he’s dubbed “Moving on West,” started Feb. 2 in Holden Beach, N.C. He chose that spot partially because his son is named Holden.
When I caught up with Curran by phone on March 5, he was staying in Crawford, Ga., a small town about 85 miles east of Atlanta. He was holed up in the Chicken Coop Bed ‘n Breakfast, a rare luxury because he normally camps in his tent.
“One person in, and they’re full,” Curran said of his quaint accommodations.
As of that day, he had walked 366.8 miles and taken 825,300 steps. He was on his second pair of shoes.
Things didn’t get off to the easiest start. On his second day, some people accused him of trespassing and discouraged him from using the road. The entire encounter left him on edge.
But five hours later, a big, friendly man made a generous gesture.
“ `I’m not gonna presume that you’re homeless,’ ” Curran recalled him saying, “`but I used to be homeless, and I wandered with my dog. I saw you a couple of hours ago. I went home, and my wife and I made you some cookies and sandwiches.’ ”
They talked over Bud Lites. The man also gave Wink some dog food.
“That was a real shift in feeling in such a short period of time,” Curran said.
Fortunately, for the most part, he’s been experiencing “amazing humanity.”
“Every single day people meet me out on the street somewhere with food, money,” Curran said. “They find out where I am. People drive out to find me and say hello.”
Curran has also stayed at two Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
“Politically, ideologically, religiously, I have nothing in common with the people there,” he said. “But it didn’t matter at all. There is no red. There is no blue. There are just really good people who wanted to hear my story, let me camp out with them and drink beer. That has been awesome.”
What hasn’t been awesome? The effects on his 50-year-old body.
“My body hates me every day, no matter how much I trained,” he said. “I was in the restaurant business — on my feet. But that was nothing compared to walking 20 miles a day, controlling a dog, figuring out food, pushing a 150-pound cart. It’s really done amazing, good things for my body, but … it was a rough go for the first couple weeks.”
Wink, a 60-pound beagle and German shepherd mix rescued from Mexico, has been fine. A vet checked him out prior to the trip.
Curran is keeping himself to some rules, one of which is calling his parents daily.
“They are just so insanely worried about me,” he said with a laugh.
If it’s 45 degrees and raining, he doesn’t walk. If it’s above 85 degrees, he’ll likely not walk. He won’t walk in pain and has equipped himself with some wilderness survival and first aid training. He tries to log 19 miles a day.
Curran’s daily routine revolves around the sun. He sets his alarm to an hour before sunrise. He goes to bed about an hour before sundown, avoiding any travels in the dark.
“When you’re out here doing this, you kind of lose track of days and time,” he said.
Curran, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu and has worked for Umami Burger and California Pizza Kitchen, plans to meet fellow chefs, dishwashers and servers along the way.
In the blog he’s keeping to document his journey, he called himself “almost like a cross-country chef walker who drops in and cooks with strangers to get to know like-minded people across the U.S.” His trainer told him that sounded like a Netflix series.
After Atlanta, he plans to go through Alabama, up to Memphis, Tenn., through Oklahoma City, then follow Route 66, with possible detours in Utah and Las Vegas.