Wynema Collins Sharman has a bottle filled with water from the Atlantic Ocean that she wanted to pour into the Pacific, as sort of symbolic union of East and West.
Ordinarily that would be no great feat. But 54-year-old Sharman, known as Winnie to friends, had hoped to hold her small ceremony by personally carrying the bottle on a coast-to-coast walk from Virginia Beach to Seal Beach, Calif.
That's past tense for Sharman. On Sept. 10, she was forced to abandon her walk -- temporarily at least -- in Madison, Ark., after completing nearly 1,100 miles of the 3,000-mile hike.
Sharman, who lives in Arlington, said she took off her sneakers when $1,100 from commercial sponsors dried up and her companion-driver, LaVonne Brandts, a retired Arlington nurse, decided to go home because she missed her husband.
So after 70 days of walking in the grueling sun, losing 22 pounds and dipping into family coffers to meet $3,000 worth of expenses the sponsors didn't cover, Sharman decided to head home in search of more financial support and another driver.
"I hoped to be the first woman to walk from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I still have that hope," said Sharman, who wants to raise another $5,000 to complete the trip.
The Guinness Book of World Records measures cross-country walks in terms of speed, not the sex of the walker, and mentions no woman completing such a trip.
Because Sharman wants to finish the trip and be home before Christmas, she said she needs to line up sponsors this week or put off the rest of the expected 100-day hike until next year.
While only a few companies have contributed money, others have provided supplies such as vitamins, T-shirts, sneakers, sun-shielding cosmetics and a much-used foot massager.
But food, gas and car repairs claimed their toll. Sharman said she also was paying expenses for Brandts, who drove ahead a few miles each day, waiting for Sharman to catch up on foot. At night, Brandts would drive herself and Sharman to a motel, then drive Sharman back to her last stopping point the next morning.
Sharman's original sponsor, whom she won't name, had promised $5,000, a van and clothing, but withdrew the offer three days before the trip started June 30.
"It was right after the Rosie Ruiz incident, and one of (the sponsor's) lawyers was afraid I'd leave them with egg on their face," said Sharman, referring to the runner who took a "shortcut" to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and was disqualified as the first-place female finisher.
But Sharman, who works part-time at a firm that helps people obtain visas, hopes her progress so far will assure potential sponsors that she is serious.
The most difficult parts of her walk, she said, were scaling Stuart Mountain in the Blue Ridge and crossing high bridges over the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers.
"I'm a little afraid of heights, so I said the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm all the way across," she laughed.
Besides undertaking the project for fun and a chance to be the first woman to walk coast-to-coast, Sharman said she had other reasons: "I thought it would be a legacy for my children and grandchildren, to show them that if they want to do something badly enough, they could -- and to finish what they start.
"I also wanted to show people that people in my age bracket aren't old."