Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Gay man completes walk across U.S.


Richard Noble, carrying his rainbow flag, stood in the sand at Jacksonville Beach after his 16-month walk across the United States. (Photo: Courtesy Richard Noble)
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Danville native Richard Noble reflected on his journey of being the first out gay man to walk across the country, covering 10 states and over 2,700 miles in 16 months, saying at times that the trek was a lonely one.

The trip took almost twice as long as Nobel expected – he originally envisioned a nine-month journey – and he ended up in Florida instead of New York – but said it was worth it.

Noble carried a rainbow flag with him and a copy of the American Equality bill, which is a project of that calls for full equality.

During his journey, Noble met community leaders, local, state, and federal officials, talking with them about full equality and civil rights. Eleven mayors and three city councils issued official proclamations in support of his walk, including those in Oakland, Salt Lake City, Houston, and Baton Rouge.

Noble, 46, from southern California, left West Hollywood on March 7, 2011 and headed to San Francisco, where he began the walk March 12 of last year. He arrived in Jacksonville, Florida on June 9. Afterwards, he went to Washington, D.C. where he met with staff of the LGBT Congressional Equality Caucus chairs.

In the months prior to his walk, Noble was working at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. During the LGBT youth suicide crisis in the fall of 2010 and around the time that repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was being debated in Congress he marched 72 miles across the desert from Palm Springs to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twenty-nine Palms with both the American and rainbow flags. Shortly after, he went on a nine-day public fast to draw attention to bullying.

"My conscience would not let me go to work or play," he said, "I found myself in a 24/7 response to the national crisis."

Shortly after, while sifting through emails on hate crimes, global homophobia, youth suicides, and other topics related to the community, and after participating on national conference calls with activists around the country, he decided it was time to do something radical. Noble turned to prayer and meditation.

"I just keep hearing this voice, telling me to walk the rainbow flag across America," he told the Bay Area Reporter . "It was too sweet and the inspiration so beautiful and peaceful and full of love and free spirited, that I wanted to do it."

The hardest part of the trip, he said, was walking 49 days without vehicle support in the desert. He not only questioned his beliefs while walking across America alone with a flag, but also feared for his life.

"I had no idea if I would be attacked or murdered," he said. The elements, the animals, and the dangers of the highway kept him up at night even after exhaustion. Noble even took to carrying a gun while crossing Nevada.

"It was the extreme challenge and everything seemed to make the impossible even more impossible," said Noble.

Turning to his Facebook community for support, Noble would receive gift cards and at times wire transfers when he needed it.

"There was nothing fancy about what I was doing," he said. "There were no pomp and national news stories, I was on my own and I was going to make it or not."

When asked about highlights of his journey, Noble quickly thanked his supporters.

"I had so many little gifts from people who wanted to add a trinket to the flag staff that it just became one great ornament," he said. "It's very beautiful and will be a highlight for me if I ever got a call that it could find its resting place in the GLBT History Museum in San Francisco."

Noble overcame his fears and said that many of his dreams came true. He was fortunate not to have any assaults or thefts during his walk. While walking through Texas, he adopted a dog named Trinity who walked 700 miles with a rainbow bandana. Trinity is now affectionately referred to as "The Equality Dog."

Noble is returning to southern California to "absorb the experience," he said. He also hopes that publishers might show some interest in the hundreds of stories and nearly 9,000 photographs he has taken.

"I've begun to write the stories and want to arrange them in a timeline for a book," he said.

Noble, who is returning home depleted of resources, hopes his writing will provide for his future. Noble spent $19,000 on the walk, and also sold his vehicle before leaving. He said that he feels a disconnect from his friends as he has been gone for so long, but is ready to move forward.

"I have no regrets, I knew I was walking into the seemingly impossible and had to make it possible," he said.


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