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Home Culture & Arts One Man's 21-Mile Daily Commute On Foot Inspires Thousands

One Man's 21-Mile Daily Commute On Foot Inspires Thousands

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James Robertson, a 56-year-old man from Detroit, has perfect attendance as a factory worker at Schain Mold & Engineering in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He also has a daily commute that requires him to walk 21-miles round-trip, rain or shine, to get there.

Ever since his 1988 Honda Accord broke down on him about a decade ago, Robertson has been making his commute by a combination of bus rides and long walks. He has to leave his Detroit home promptly at 8 a.m. every weekday morning in order to catch the bus that will take him to a shopping mall called the Somerset Collection in Troy. From there, he walks north for 7 miles to arrive at work in time for his 2 to 10 p.m. shift. And that's the easy part of his commute. 

When it's time to go home, Robertson makes the 7 mile trek back to the mall to catch the last bus of the night, which leaves right before 1 a.m. The bus doesn't cover the same distance it does in the morning. It ends its route at the State Fairgrounds, just south of Detroit's infamous 8-Mile, about 5 miles north of where Robertson lives. Robertson credits his faith for getting him through the last 5 miles of his route through dangerous neighborhoods. 


Credit: Detroit Free Press

"I'm not saying I'm a member of some church. But just before I get home, every night, I say, 'Lord, keep me safe,'" Robertson told The Detroit Free Press.

By the time Robertson gets home at 4 a.m., he has a mere 2 hours to sleep before waking up at 6 a.m. to do it all again. Short naps on the bus and highly caffeinated sodas help him make it through his long days, but Robertson still feels the mental and physical demands of his commute.  

Most of Robertson's co-workers don't live close enough to carpool, and moving closer isn't an option. Occasionally, Robertson is able to get rides from co-workers and friends, most often when the weathers bad. 

However, Robertson's commute may be getting a lot easier soon. After hearing Robertson's story, fellow Michigan resident Evan Leedy created a Go Fund Me campaign in order to raise money to get Robertson a new car. The original goal of the campaign was a modest $5000, but since being created on Feb. 1, over 8000 donors have pledged more than $215,000.  

As the donations flow in, so do the comments of support for Robertson, with one donator writing, "James-You make us ALL proud. I sincerely hope this campaign makes your life journey life a bit easier. God bless you, man and thank you for reminding us all that effort and hard work lead to rewards."

Robertson's dedication and determination is definitely something to be admired. But as Robertson told The Detroit Free Press, it's just part of who he is. 

"I just get it from my family. It's a lot of walking, I know."

To see more of Robertson's journey, check out the video below. 

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