More than 1,000 miles into their journey, five friends and a goat relaxed on the side of Wilshire Boulevard on Thursday afternoon.
What started as an inebriated conversation after a slowpitch softball game morphed into a hike of around 2,000 miles for Philip Aldrich, Blake Ferrell, P.J. Fisher, Matt Gregory and Kyle Townsend.
The group worked at a resort in Denali National Park in Alaska, and that's where the plan to hike from the Chicago Cubs spring training base in Mesa, Ariz., to Wrigley Field in Chicago was hatched.
Four members of the group — all but Fisher — are Cubs fans, so they decided to walk with a goat in the hopes of snapping the curse of the Billy Goat. The “curse” began at the 1945 World Series, when Chicago tavern owner Billy Sianis and his pet goat were asked to leave Wrigley Field. The Cubs haven't made a World Series since.
The original idea involved a hike from Cubs legend Ron Santo's hometown of Seattle to Wrigley Field that would benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
But when the late Santo's family didn't latch onto the idea, the group decided a walk to benefit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Hutchinson, a Washington native, played for the Tigers and managed three teams before dying of cancer in 1964.
“Cancer is something we've all been touched by,” Ferrell said. “We wanted to do something for other people.”
So far, they've raised around $6,000, including a $2,800 donation from Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts.
After some research, the group decided the weather in hiking from Seattle would be too dangerous, so they decided to leave from Mesa.
Before leaving Phoenix, the friends picked up a two-month-old goat, which they named Wrigley, on Craigslist.
“As much as anything, we needed the goat to break the ice,” Gregory said. “You walk in somewhere and it's just five guys in backpacks, we look like homeless guys. We walk in with a goat and there's something to talk about.”
They left Feb. 25 — Santo's birthday — and plan to make it to Chicago on May 28, when the Cubs host the San Diego Padres.
The journey so far has been plenty eventful. The carrier that Wrigley rides in broke and had to be welded back together in Shamrock, Texas. The mesh window on one side of the carrier was first torn by some barbed wire and then gnawed away by Wrigley. Aldrich's shoes include a scrap of tire duct-taped to the sole to get him through the journey.
Friday, though, New Balance is outfitting the group with new shoes in Edmond.
They've been making good progress, lately walking around 25 miles each day, while camping on the side of the road generally.
At one Texas stop, a hotel owner put them up for free. Locals along the way have also helped with food and water.
“Everyone's been real friendly,” Gregory said. “We've met a lot of awesome people pretty much every day.
“It's been really nice going through Texas and Oklahoma where you've got little towns everywhere.”
When the group left Roswell, N.M., they had to load down with food and water because there were no towns around for days.
Along the way, they've taken four days off from hiking. Thursday was their 17th consecutive day.
Their next scheduled day off comes Monday in Tulsa. Fisher's sister lives there, and Ferrell also has some friends in Tulsa.
“We're really looking forward to that,” Townsend said. “It'll be nice to relax for a bit.”
The next day, though, they'll be back on the road with Wrigley.
“We're not sure if they'll let the goat into the game,” Gregory said. “I guess we'll find out when we get there.”