MAPLE PARK – Carrying an American flag and sitting atop one of his horses, Sam Hopkins-Hubbard spoke softly to a small group of people who stood near him Tuesday afternoon at Boots and Hooves on Beith Road in Maple Park.
Hopkins-Hubbard, 53, delivered a message of togetherness, of dropping political labels and cooperating with one another.
"People around this country are wanting to stand united," he said.
He said he knows that because he has been traveling throughout the nation on a trip that started in April in Oregon. Hopkins-Hubbard was in Kane County this week, making his latest stop on his One Nation Ride event. He plans to finish his ride in September on the East Coast, riding his quarter horses, Max and Tucker.
He said he experienced chilly days and nights in April and fought through severe weather, thunderstorms and tornadoes in the plains states. He has carried his flag through many towns and has spread his message, saying that most people he encounters have been receptive and friendly. He said he wants Americans to know that they have the power to stand together, and that they shouldn't look to national politicians for answers.
"I'm trying to connect people and trying to remind people of who we are," he said.
Hopkins-Hubbard ended up in Kane County because of connections he has made through his Facebook page – www.facebook.com/onenationride. Jerry Paulsen, the president and one of the founders of Boots and Hooves, has been among those following the trip. The nonprofit organization, based in Maple Park, is focused on equine-assisted psychotherapy for military personnel and their families.
Paulsen said it was a happy coincidence that his latest five-day program is taking place during Hopkins-Hubbard's visit. Paulsen said those in the program have been able to benefit from the experience of meeting the coast-to-coast rider.
"He's an inspiration," Paulsen said.
Hopkins-Hubbard also enjoyed the time he spent with another fan this week – Wayne resident Cindy Shearer, who also has been following his ride through Facebook. He carries a cellphone and posts updates on his page. Shearer called Hopkins-Hubbard "a ray of light." She said she found him "fascinating," and she contacted him through Facebook.
She said his message speaks to her.
"I am a disappointed American at this point," she said, adding that Hopkins-Hubbard understands how she feels.
"He loves his country," she said. "He's just a gentleman. … I've made a new best friend."
"I think we both have," Paulsen added.
Hopkins-Hubbard said he is grateful for such support. He said he misses home, and such a trip was a lot to get used to. The kindness of people along the way has grown, since word of the ride continues to spread on social media. He also has a website – www.onenationride.com.
He next is planning to head to Indiana. The Fort Wayne native is excited to head there, though he said he grew up mostly in the west. Asked how the Kane County area measured up, Hopkins-Hubbard said it was one of the largest areas he had visited. He said he had found inspiration at every stop.
"Every area is beautiful and unique," he said.