Road Scholars

When we last heard from perpetually active married couple Maud Dillingham and Cesar Becerra, it was December 31, 1999, and they were rolling into Miami in their flag-festooned 1979 Chevy Malibu Classic station wagon, after logging about 50,000 miles on a road trip across the United States they called Motoring into the Millennium. On July 4, 2001, they began a twelve-month and 23-day hike of the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia (2168 miles) with their miniature schnauzer Trudy. Still together, the daring duo now live in Los Angeles. The trusty car does too -- in a dump somewhere. It finally gave out and Becerra donated it to a charity. The dog, who came into their hands just before the hike and was perhaps the smallest pooch to scamper across the entire trail, met an unfortunate and ironic end right after the trip: It got run over by a car.

Bumps along the way notwithstanding, Dillingham and Becerra remain undeterred. They haven't lost the itch to travel. In fact last Friday they trekked to Miami, where Becerra grew up and the couple met nine years ago. Returning is "weird," Becerra admits. "Every time we come back it's different, it feels smaller." Not surprisingly, they have no plans to stay. They arrived to open two museum exhibitions commemorating their trips. Named after their motto, "Dream, Dare, Do," the shows are installed at the main libraries of FIU's Biscayne Bay and University Park campuses. "She dreams it," Becerra says of his wife's ideas about their adventures, "and then I blow it way out of proportion."

Filled with keys to various cities, artifacts, souvenirs, photos, and more, the road-trip exhibit has been moving around the country for the last two and a half years. Becerra notes, "It's an exhibit about America in a more innocent time before 9/11, before America changed." The hike show, which has just hit the road, features fun stuff like a small mountain constructed of all the boxes and cartons of food the couple consumed along the route. The couple observe that in the last few years travel itself has altered. And Spartan touring, like living out of backpacks and hiking through snow in eight-degree temperatures, has done a lot to transform them. Becerra, a noninsulin-dependent diabetic, lost 35 pounds and has left behind his once-notorious pack rat ways. "I'm no longer attached to anything!" he claims. "I've been unloading everything. At the drop of a dime, I can go anywhere."

The place they'll go next? Well, Becerra would like to walk around the world. His once-wanderlusty wife has more permanent pursuits on her mind for the moment, though. They'll head back to L.A., where she is learning to edit film; she hopes to whittle the more than 60 hours of footage they shot on their hike into a documentary. But eventually they'll get moving yet again. "We really don't seem to fit into society that well," Dillingham notes. "Traveling on such a grand scale is such a different lifestyle. You never really come back down to earth."

"Dream, Dare, Do -- at FIU: The Story of Cesar and Maud's Appalachian Trail Hike" is on display at FIU Biscayne Bay Campus Library, 3000 NE 151st St, North Miami. "Dream, Dare, Do -- at FIU: The Story of Cesar and Maud's 50 State Road Trip" is on display at FIU University Campus Library, SW 8th Street and 117th Avenue. Both exhibits run through December 5. Admission is free. Call 305-444-1932.

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Nina Korman
Contact: Nina Korman