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Fund-raising walk to Miami reaches its destination

There was a moment on July 4 when Jordan Dibb wondered if maybe he'd walked as much as he needed to walk. It was cool. It was rainy. And, well, technically once he'd passed the city limits he'd met his goal of walking from Minneapolis to Miami. Did it really matter if he didn't finish things out on the steps of city hall? What's a few more miles when you've already walked nearly 2,000?

The Farmington High School graduate kept walking, though, and around 3 p.m., with his family by his side, he took the last of an estimated 3,574,360 steps that carried him across the country and helped him raise more than $29,000 for relief efforts in Haiti. When it was all done, Dibb was glad he'd kept walking.

"Once I actually saw (city hall) it felt really good," Dibb said. "I'm just really glad we made it all the way there. Those last 50 steps drove it home. I really did walk all the way down there."

It was a walk that took Dibb 100 days and brought him a lifetime of experiences. He watched sea turtles hatch on the beach, waited out violent storms in a stranger's truck in Tennessee and, in Wisconsin, faced off against a police officer who had gotten complaints about a vagrant wandering the streets.

When you're on your own walking across the country, even filling up a water bottle on a scorching summer day can turn into an adventure.

"There were stretches of road where there's not even a house or a gas station for 20 miles," Dibb said. "I'd bring my two water bottles in the morning, but especially when the days got up to 90 degrees, that water went pretty quickly."

Dibb found himself grateful for people who would let him fill his bottle from their hoses or in their kitchen sinks.

For the most part, he found people along his route welcoming and supportive. Some would take him in for the night, cook him dinner or at least drive him to get an ice cream cone. He found himself having long, meaningful conversations with people he'd just met and he said he's made a long list of new friends -- people he expects to call or text weekly if not more often. The Facebook page he set up for his walk drew 10,960 fans.

That hospitality is probably one of the reasons Dibb didn't lose as much weight as he thought he might. He's leaner and stronger than he was when he started, and his calf muscles are, to use his word, insane. But he's lost only five pounds since he started walking March 27.

"In my mind I thought, I'm going to be so skinny, like a stick, when I'm done," Dibb said. "Since I stayed with a family almost every night, everyone thought, 'Oh, he hasn't had a home cooked meal in days.'"

Dibb camped some nights, but as word of his walk spread he found people willing to put him up. He also occasionally got donated rooms or discounts at hotels.

Dibb fell short of his goal of raising $100,000 for relief efforts in Haiti, but he's been told the money he raised will ensure 2,000 people will have clean water for three months. Knowing that makes Dibb feel like he's accomplished something important.

Dibb is back home now. He's back to the frustrating job search that, at least in part, drove him to consider his walk in the first place. He hopes to someday publish his story, and perhaps make long-distance walks for charity a regular part of his life. He'd like to do the "Forrest Gump thing" and run across the country.

"I think I got much more personally out of the walk than I could have imagined," Dibb said.