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Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Adventuring friends (from left) Michael Nelsen, Eddie Bond and Eli Lepen are in the middle of a walk across the United States, trading services for food and lodging along the way.

Walking to inspire

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WORTHINGTON -- It's not every day people of this city get to see backpackers walking into town on their way across the country. But Thursday, they did.

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Edwin Bond, Michael Nelsen and Bulla "Eli" Lepen, are on their mission of "The Great American Walkabout."

"We're walking across America to inspire people to live their passion and follow their dreams," said Bond, whose personal message to others is to "believe in yourself."

Beginning their journey in California, they've trekked across Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, "a little bit" of Montana, and South Dakota. Tomorrow marks their fifth month on the road.

The trio arrived in Minnesota Aug. 2 and has already experienced "Minnesota nice." They've dined twice at Pizza Ranch in exchange for helping around the restaurant. On Thursday night, the guys stayed at Holiday Inn Express.

"It's already a more positive state," Bond said.

As they've run out of funds, the guys, who are also street performers, work in return for food and lodging. On nights they're not in a motel, they camp outside.

Walking across the country, they have experienced some of the strangest encounters.

Nelsen explained how he saw a lady let her dog out of her truck and proceeded to follow it while she drove.

"I've never seen that before," he said, laughing. "It was ridiculous."

For Bond, a major obstacle was getting caught in a hailstorm while rafting through Big Horn Canyon in Montana.

As the temperatures fell, the raft lost air pressure and started to sink.

"We hadn't seen any people in two days and we were six miles from anywhere in freezing cold water," he added.

Being hit by debris and living off barely any food did not deter them.

"It was a sense of adventure between life and death," Nelsen added.

"At that point we were out of food," Bond said. "We were literally eating survivor rations given to us by the U.S. Coast Guards."

As Lepen, the appointed camera man, has been filming their travels, they are hoping produce a TV show that would air on Travel Channel.

"To me this isn't a competition, like the Amazing Race," Bond said. "It's about meeting the incredible people that make this country great."

Nelsen was inspired by author Peter Jenkins, after reading his book "A Walk Across America."

"Mostly, the people he met were amazing and I wanted to meet the great people of America," he said.

In response to the people he's met so far, Nelsen said "only great people."

In about 84 days, Bond, Lepen and Nelsen are hoping to be in New York City which will end their Great American Walkabout.

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