St. Joseph man fulfills lifelong goal by exploring the world

Monday, March 3, 2008

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The hometown rested barely 30 miles from the big town. Hugh McFadin found something significant in those 30 miles.

As a teenager, he'd hitchhike that distance from Excelsior Springs to Kansas City. The youngster had no mission, usually wandering about, browsing in sporting goods stores, seeing what could be seen.

After a while, he'd hitchhike back.

"I guess it was just to get out," he recalls. "I just wanted to get from one place to another."

In the sixth grade, maybe earlier, the boy made a promise to himself. He would see the world. He would visit every state and touch down on every continent.

Now 80, the St. Joseph man looks back on a pledge met, a wanderlust mostly honored. "Mostly" means Antarctica never made his travel itinerary.

"I don't want to go there," he says now. "I hate winter almost worse than anyone."

Dreaming of other lands, he landed a high school job at the local resort. He would set out the deck chairs, pull up the dandelions and cut the grass.

With the money the teenager saved, he bought an Indian Chief motorcycle. Over a weekend, McFadin and a friend set out for a drive to Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas, all states to be marked off the travel list.

The motorcycle would later carry him to New Orleans and the southern states, and to Chicago. After graduation from the high school in 1946, he went with his parents on a circuitous trip west, through Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone, to the Pacific Northwest and down to Southern California.

The next year, he went alone on a train to eastern cities, touring the White House, seeing the Liberty Bell and walking through Central Park.

Over the years, his travels continued. A world map in his apartment shows lines that mark the routes, to Japan and Hong Kong, to Australia and Egypt, to Brazil and the nations of Europe.

The St. Joseph man likes the old expression about life being like a book. People who don't travel, he says, read but one page.

Abroad, he learned to appreciate what he had at home. "I've been everywhere," the traveler says, "but I always return."

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