MILTON-FREEWATER, Ore. — Sam Hubbard said he was "taking a little trip" when requesting a leave of absence from the Milton-Freewater City Council. "Little" was an understatement.
From April to September, he said he plans to trek 3,000 miles across the United States with two horses, read his own 11-page patriotic speech along the way, rely on the goodness of strangers for shelter and pen a book at the end of it all.
"That's only my plan, of course," Hubbard, who owns Sam's Corner Market in Milton-Freewater, said.
The city councilor will start in Milton-Freewater and end in Washington, D.C., staying on Highway 20 for most of the route. Highway 20 is a coast-to-coast route that runs from Oregon through southern Idaho, the northern Plains, Upper Midwest and along the border of Canada and southern New England.
Hubbard, 52, hopes to document the kindness of people he meets on his trip.
"The goodness of the American people will get me across the country," he said. "I'll be meeting family along the way. The difference is, I won't know they're family until I meet them."
Hubbard shared his traveling speech during an October council meeting, reading about his hope for a country of diverse yet united citizens engaged in the political process. His speech also had clear opinions, conveying conservative and Christian values, arguing for the existence of God, more state rights and less government.
Hubbard plans to read his speech wherever he can, including schools and religious institutions. He said that while his speech is important — he's trying to get onto the National Mall in Washington D.C. to read it — the words of fellow U.S. citizens will trump his own.
"It's more important that I listen than that I get to read my speech," Hubbard said. "I hope I talk to Americans who disagree with me. I want to be able to have a dialogue. I want to expand my understanding of the world."
Milton-Freewater City Council unanimously approved Hubbard's leave of absence Monday with praise, allowing him time to prepare for springtime departure. Hubbard planned to resign, but City Manager Linda Hall and his fellow councilors convinced him to keep his role in local government.
Now, Hubbard must tie up his life in Milton-Freewater. He is training his employees to run the corner market, paying off bills, raising funds and saying goodbyes.
The divorced father raised his two grown children, now in California, in the town after arriving in 1982. He opened his store in 1996 and became a council member in 2009. Hundreds often gather for community events on the store’s property.
One farewell Hubbard won’t have to give is to his best friend Max. When Hubbard arrived at his pasture outside Umapine on Wednesday, the 2,000-pound horse came trotting up and nibbled on his vest.
“He and I rescued each other,” Hubbard said of adopting Max soon after his divorce six years ago.
Hubbard will spend his next months training his horses — Max, Tucker and Gracie — for the long journey with daily hours of riding. He plans on taking along Max and Tucker and is training Gracie as a backup.
Hubbard, fringed chaps and all, will ride Max for 20-30 miles per day. Tucker will trot beside them with a custom-made saddle pack carrying three changes of clothing, a solar charger, laptop, collapsible buckets and a first aid kit. His local veterinarian will mail pre-fit sets of welded horseshoes along the way. Hubbard will carry a gun he hopes he won’t use.
The rest, Hubbard said, is in the twists and turns of an untraveled road.
“I don’t know what will happen,” Hubbard said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. But we’re going to get there.”
Hubbard will detail his journey on www.onenationride.com.