ST. GEORGE — After traveling for nearly four months cross-country on an electric scooter, Vietnam War veteran Raymond M. Black flew back to Utah Sunday, specifically for surgery to save an injured foot, thereby cutting short his intended 2,000-mile scooter ride for veterans awareness. Black left St. George on April 15 and made it as far as Groesbeck, Texas, on his quest to reach Florida, a respectable 1,300 miles before an infected foot put the brakes on his journey.
Just outside of Groesbeck, Texas, Black began to feel out of sorts.
“This lady saw my leg and told me I needed to get it checked out and to hurry to get to the next place I was staying,” Black said. “Well, it took me a little while to get there because of my frequent stops to charge my scooter.”
Black arrived at Lisa King’s house July 23 in Groesbeck, Texas, the last place he stayed, where he was checked out by the Kings’ family doctor. The doctor said Black’s foot was infected and that he needed to seek emergency care.
“I had the pleasure of having him at my home here in Groesbeck, Texas, for the past four days and he has been the most amazing man ever,” King said on July 27. “It was divine intervention that brought us together. It’s unfortunate that he had to end his trip today due to health issues.”
Black shipped his scooter back to Utah, left his generator and trailer in the Kings’ outdoor shed and then flew by airplane to the Veterans Affairs clinic in Salt Lake City where he was immediately taken into the emergency room.
“I felt kind of upset about having to end my trip early but my health is more important,” Black said. “I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do: help spread awareness for the veterans, MIAs and POWs.”
Black found out Thursday that he will undergo a surgical operation in about a week to remove the fourth toe on his right foot. Black is grateful that he will only lose one toe and not his whole foot, his friend and Vietnam War veteran Danny Greathouse said.
“I said to Ray, ‘look I know you’re stubborn but are you going to fly back out to Texas to finish your trip,'” Greathouse said. “Ray said, ‘Nope. My son talked me into staying close to home until my foot is completely healed.'”
Even though Black will not be finishing his 2,000-mile scooter ride to Florida, he said the places he went and the people he met along the way made his trip a true success.
“You see things riding a scooter that you wouldn’t notice if you were traveling in a car. I feel like I was really able to enjoy the outdoors and listen to the birds,” Black said. “Some nights I had to pull the bugs off my vest,” he said with a laugh.
Right after he crossed over the border into Texas a couple gave him a large tennis racket to swat the bugs. Then just outside of Waco, three police officers came up behind him wondering what he was doing. He gave them a brochure informing of his cause, Black said, and they looked at him in disbelief.
“One of them said, ‘you didn’t come clear from Utah on that scooter,’ and I said, ‘well yeah I did,'” Black said.
After that, the police officers helped Black find a place to camp for the night, bought him dinner and then checked on him several times over the night. It was in Groesbeck, Texas, though, where Black found the most love and support.
“They treated me like a king there,” he said. “One restaurant invited me to eat twice for free. I received more donations there than I received the whole rest of the trip.”
As for these dwindling days of summer, Black plans to relax, camp and go fishing with his son. He said he and his scooter will have plenty of time to recuperate before he sets off on his next cross-country venture – planned for Spring 2015.
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