Thirteen months ago, Johnny Warnshuis hit the open road, taking with him camping equipment, clothes, some food and two trusty steeds.
Warnhuis left Redding, CA, March 27, 2011, heading for the bright lights of Times Square in New York City. Wednesday, after about 3,300 miles, he entered Cumberland County, riding along the side of Hwy. 70 N.
He's riding to raise awareness of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, as well as other medical causes, but GBS is his primary concern. His mother, Sally Warnshuis, was diagnosed in 2010 with the rare autoimmune disorder that affects the nervous system.
"It was months of going from hospital to hospital trying to get answers," Warnshuis said of his mother's diagnosis. His mother's disease progressed rapidly and she was left paralyzed from her eyes down.
The medical bills also piled up. He sold his truck and home to pay for housing for his mother and left Redding with his horses.
The website Cowboy for a Cure follows his progress and offers direct links to the charities Warnshuis is promoting on his ride, including Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and the John Wayne Cancer Institute.
Donations go first to provide for the horses and his meager expenses and the rest is given to charity, he told the The Courier News in Russellville, AR.
Warnhuis travels alone, without a support car following him. That has earned him a nomination in the Guinness Book of World Records for single solo trip without support.
Warnshuis averages 20 to 25 miles a day, stopping along the way to share his story and that of his mother and others suffering from GBS. He's camped along the open road or been offered shelter in hay barns, horse trailers, arenas and a few homes along the way. He travels only with two horses, Sandy, a Nevada mustang, and Boog, a registered painted horse.
"There's a lot of shoeing and feeding and supplements," Warnshuis said of the journey.
The Branding Iron and the Bakery stepped up to provide lodging for Warnshuis and his horses while in Crossville. They set up a fund raiser Thursday evening to support Cowboy for a Cure and Warnshuis' cross-country ride.
From Crossville, he planned to head east on Hwy. 70 E. toward Knoxville. Plans are to arrive in Times Square in June or July. There, he and his fiancé, Sherree Hogg, plan to wed in Central Park.
Those wanting to follow Warnshuis may do so at www.cowboyforacure.com, which includes a blog of the journey, photos from along the trail, videos and links to make direct donations to the charities.