Walker, Texas Aggie

A Texas man is about to embark on a cross-country trek and will take his first steps from La Jolla. Departing at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 1 from Scripps Park, John Ball will spend 170 days walking 2,673 miles from coast to coast, ending his journey in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The Texas A&M University alum said he spent 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, during which time he fervently exercised, and especially enjoyed running. When he retired in 2006, it was hard on his knees for him to keep running, so he took to walking.

“The more I walked, the farther I wanted to walk and several years ago, I came up with the idea to walk from coast to coast,” Ball said. “I thought it would be something I would like to do.”

In the course of his research, he found there were trails and routes designed for cross-country walks, but he wanted to create his own.

“I prefer to walk through towns where there are hotels and restaurants, but also a lot of Texas A&M graduates. Of the 170 walking days, 94 days will end in towns where Texas A&M graduates live,” he said.

Ball originally planned to depart from Mission Beach, but considering his first stop would be in Poway, he wanted to move the starting point a little more north, eventually deciding on La Jolla. From Poway, he will walk to Ramona and then on to Julian during his voyage toward Florida.

He will carry only a backpack with a few changes of clothes, lightweight tent and sleeping bag, and enough food and water for the day, plus an iPad and iPhone, so he can document the journey daily.

Ball, 58, said he recognized the challenge isn’t for everyone, but feels undeterred. “A cross-country walk has been done before and it has been done by people older than me,” he said. He has been married to wife Wyn for 38 years, and together they have two daughters, Jessie and Karla, and two granddaughters, Bailey and Ava.

When Ball decided to embark on the trip, it wasn’t as a fundraiser with benefactor in mind. “My original cause was, ‘cause I wanted to,” he joked.

But last year, he decided to use the walk to raise funds to establish an endowed Aggie Ring Scholarship Program at Texas A&M.

Maggey Felix, vice president of programs for the San Diego County A&M Club, said the Aggie Ring is an honored tradition; students who complete 90 hours of class time qualify to purchase a custom ring, named for graduates of the Agriculture (Ag-gie) & Mechanical College.

“It symbolizes all the hard work that you’ve put into your education,” she said. “I looked forward to getting my Aggie Ring more than graduation day. It’s something that Aggies hold very close.”

However, the rings start at $500 for women and $1,000 for men.

“For students putting themselves through school or those who took out loans, it’s hard to come up with that amount, so what John is doing to give back to the students and the school through something he is passionate about is such a wonderful thing,” she said. “We couldn’t be more proud of John in showing endurance and persistence on behalf of the students at the school.”

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