By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In a Comfort Inn across from Miami International Airport, a normal interview morphs without warning into a vigorous session of "pump the American for potentially lifesaving information."
"Crocodiles, yes?" William Guinaraes asks, his searching eyes open wide behind wire-rimmed glasses. "They are a real worry?"
"Yes," Riptide nods solemnly.
"And in Mexico, we read there are kidnappings," prompts Laetetia Casareto, William's sharp-featured girlfriend.
"There's this, um, big drug war right now," Riptide replies.
They exchange worried looks. Spread across the faded comforters on their twin beds are the essentials for their imminently perilous expedition — tents, a propane stove, cameras, solar panels, tennis rackets.
"We played at the same tennis club," explains Laetetia, a broad smile spreading between high cheekbones. "This is how we met."
The young French couple from Bordeaux — William is 26, Laetetia 23 — doesn't look insane. But the more they pitch their plan, the more the question begs to be asked.
On a small plastic map, a route is drawn in black marker. It stretches north from Miami through Jacksonville, west through Texas and Mexico, and due south to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of the Americas.
They plan to walk there. It's 14,000 miles. Neither one speaks Spanish.
"But I speak some Portuguese," William offers helpfully.
"It will take about four years, we think," Laetetia says. William smiles.
They have done this sort of thing before, William is quick to explain, yanking photos and letters from a worn blue folder. Two years ago, he says, he walked from France to China. Last year, Laetetia joined him for a hike from France through the Middle East to the coast of Africa.
"In Iran it was crazy, it was impossible," Laetetia explains. "You could not walk down the road without people saying, 'Come on. Come to my home and stay with us.'"
"Will Americans think we are crazy?" William asks earnestly.
"No, no," Riptide assures him. Patriotism swells. Riptide cannot — will not — let the Iranians win. "You will have no problem finding people to stay with. Americans are very hospitable people."
Don't prove us wrong, Florida.