Local rider finds friendly faces all across America

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Bill Inman did what he wanted to do when he set out on his cross-country horseback journey.

He has uncovered America, the real America, the good people of America. Never mind the bad news that arrives constantly through the media.

He left Lebanon on June 2 and arrived in Hendersonville, N.C., on Jan. 13. Hundreds of spectators welcomed him as he rode into town on his horse, Blackie, with about 20 other people on horseback accompanying him.

“I’m a little dazed that this particular journey is over,” Inman said.

His journey caught the attention of people across the nation and from overseas, he said.

“It’s been a very good response. I got an e-mail from Singapore wanting to know what Uncovering America’s going to do next.”

His wife, Brenda, cooked cowboy jalapeno cornbread one day for someone who had invited Inman and his crew to stay, Inman said. They put a video on their Web site, uncoveringamerica.com.

“All of the sudden, we get an e-mail from India that 200 people are cooking Brenda’s cornbread in India,” Inman said.

He was interviewed by radio talk shows, including BBC, and he was busy answering an e-mail from someone in Iraq while he talked to The New Era after finishing the trip. After that, he said, he had to go through just 543 more e-mails from all over the nation and the world.

At this point, he’s trying to figure out what he’s going to do next.

While Inman rode solo, he had company from Jonathan Campos and Dallas Pesola, along with Brenda, for much of the trip. Campos took photos and keeps up the Web site. Pesola filmed the journey to make a documentary. They would drive ahead to find locals who would tell Inman about ordinary American life and catch Inman arriving and leaving.

“It was kind of stressful for me trying to keep up with Bill,” Campos said from North Carolina, where he was staying with the Inmans. “It’s kind of nice to be able to relax a little bit.”

Even though he had a crew, Inman spent the majority of his time alone, he said. “I don’t think it’s in my cards to do another long journey solo. It was the toughest thing I ever did, a lot tougher than I thought.”

Still, the journey was rewarding.

Inman has a new meaning for “shock and awe,” he said. “Shock and awe must mean something spectacular.”

And he found spectacular everywhere he went – spending a few days shoeing horses with the Amish; law enforcement officers coming out in a lightning storm to make sure Inman and his companions were all right and providing escorts on freeways, people giving him keys to their home where he could stay the night, and other displays of generosity.

“When you take it slow on a horse, you don’t miss too much,” Inman said. “If the world could see what I’ve seen, we wouldn’t have too many problems.

“I ran into bad weather, bad topography, bad insects. I can’t really remember a real bad person.”

He met people from all walks of life, he said. For the first time in his life, he was accessible to everybody. Pulled over by a highway patrolman, the officer ended up giving Inman $20 for a photo with his horse, rather than giving him a citation.

Preparing to pass through gang-infested territory, people told him he would have a hard time, Inman said. Instead he found friendly faces.

About the worst thing he found, as far as people were concerned, were drivers for whom he might have had a few choice words, he said.

If he had to decide again whether to make this trip, Inman said, “You bet. Now I can sit down with a year’s worth of stories.”

The trip was challenging, with a lack of resources, he said. Blackie pulled a muscle and was cut by barbed wire. At one point he stepped on a rattler, but wasn’t bitten, and another time, he stepped on a manhole cover, flipping it. The weather was tough at times and shelter lacking.

“You name it, we probably ran out of it,” Inman said. They also had to keep equipment running. Panasonic replaced a camera that was dropped in a river.

“But I ate some of the best prime rib in my life in Wyoming,” he said. He visited almost two dozen hot springs. He went tubing.

“Some towns we’d ride in, the whole town would just open up,” he said. People would ask for autographs. He rode Blackie through downtown Nashville, Wichita and Cheyenne.

“I was accepted everywhere I went,” he said. “Some towns got overexcited and treated us like celebrities.”

He has a hard time deciding which were the most interesting places, he said. They were numerous.

“They all have a uniqueness, like Sweet Home,” he said. “They all have certain things that can really catch your attention.”

Inman would like to do a return trip if he can get sponsor support, he said. He hopes to have something figured out this week. He said to keep an eye on his website for details.

“Keep up with us,” Inman said. “Johnny likes to see the hits.”

Inman also urges visitors to leave comments and said “hello to everybody in Sweet Home.”