Tom Hanks in the 2000 adventure/drama “Cast Away spent a lot of time alone with a volleyball he named Wilson.
But it was a just a movie. In real life, New Smyrna Beach resident Brent Martin just spent 97 days traveling 3,400 miles by bicycle accompanied by his cat.
It was the fourth bicycle trek across the United States by the 32-year-old, who has racked up 17,000 miles bicycling across 46 states. This was his first trip with a feline. Fern, his two-year-old travel companion, was adopted as a kitten from the Edgewater Animal Shelter. The two are inseparable.
“Fern is my second cat,” he said. “She came out to the sailboat (where he lives) with me. We go kayaking every day, we go bike riding. I say my cat, but it’s not my cat, she is my partner. She is my friend. She may be my cat, but I’m her human. She owns me as much as I own her. We’re tight. She freaks out if I’m not around. Our feelings literally transfer to each other. I’ve got to take care of her as much as she takes care of me.”
He said his first cross country trip 10 years ago was difficult in that he had no money and no support, and “those were the hard times.” But he finds himself in a much better emotional state now, assisted by Fern, his constant companion. Prior to this outing, his last trip was in 2016. After Covid-19 hit last year, he knew another trip would be forthcoming and he started planning for it.
Mr. Martin was clear that if Fern didn’t travel well, he had family and friends willing to come get her wherever they were and take her in until he returned. But amazingly she loved the adventure, although the desert wasn’t one of her favorite spots, he said. They were able to navigate through all kinds of weather, taking cover in his tent or other places along the way as needed. Dollar General stores proved to be a good source of cat food as “they are everywhere,” Mr. Martin said. “That was our main hookup. For water, bathrooms, some snacks.”
He carried little cash but did have a debit card.
The cast of characters, some unsavory, they met along the way is too lengthy for this story, but he stated he never felt they were in danger.
“The world will take care of you, if you allow it,” Mr. Martin said. “If a stranger comes up to you and offers help, take it. Use your intuition. Be smart, but you will be all right.”
This trip began in early February and ended the last week of May. It took the pair across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California.
“I love my cat. She has to come everywhere with me now,” he said. “It’s just about the ride and the people all in between. It’s about the people I met along the way. I have plans to go to El Salvador in November with some friends I met outside Los Angeles. I have never been outside the U.S. before.”
And, yes, he is going to try to take Fern.
When not traveling, the pair live on a 40-foot Endurance Cutter Rig on the south causeway. Mr. Martin graduated from the University of North Florida with a psychology degree in 2011. A smoker and self-proclaimed alcoholic, he has worked a variety of jobs but is clearly a free spirit. He also is an artist with an impressive collection of work, which he keeps on his boat.
“My mom’s my great motivator,” he said. “When I have an idea, she helps me get it done.”
He has a younger sister and two older brothers.
He ranks “Into the Wild,” a 2007 American biographical adventure drama film written, co-produced and directed by Sean Penn as much of his inspiration. It is an adaptation of the 1996 non-fiction book of the same name, written by Jon Krakauer and tells the story of a man who hiked across North America into the Alaskan wilderness in the early 1990s.
You can follow Mr. Martin’s adventures on Instagram (@withbrent).