By Aaron Reiss
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Bobby Simek, a former co-worker Page calls his best friend, says that Page once shared this vision with him back about five years ago, when the two had worked together for Rusty Greer Equipment, and long before his failed marriage to Ardes. There, the two labored insane hours repairing engines and clearing out brush for pipelines for the former Texas Ranger baseball great. At one point, Simek was laid off and laid up at Page's house, where he was crashing for the time being.
"He just told me one day he wanted to ride a lawn mower from Texas to Florida," Simek chuckles. It was typical Kenny, Simek says. He also liked to say he was going to buy a canoe and put it in the headwaters of some northern river and float down to the coast. Neither idea seemed to be much more than idle talk. "I was like, 'What?' Come on!"
Simek thinks the world of Page. Simek was his shop manager — he both hired him and served as his superior, and he says that Page was "one of the more dedicated workers I ever had." He recalls that he and Page would work from seven in the morning until midnight, and Page, who was living behind the shop in a company travel trailer at the time, would stagger off to bed, sleep a few hours, and head right back to work. They called him "Turbo" around the shop, and Simek says that there is little Page can't accomplish if he sets his mind to it, especially if it is something that has to do with small engines.
But to ride a lawn mower from Texas to Florida? That still sounded crazy, even for a guy like Page. "I thought he was full of shit," Simek says. "I guess not."
Indeed he wasn't. While Kenneth Page never did make it to Talladega, Florida — which, of course, doesn't exist — he did ride a lawn mower all the way to the Sunshine State. (Watch a YouTube video on Page's journey here.)
When he left, and throughout much of the early stages of the trip, Kenneth Page had a hard time articulating why he wanted to undertake this journey. There was some talk about setting the world record, and at other times he would say it was about finding a job. He would say that the EPA was hiring lots of people in Florida for oil spill clean-up, but why would he need to ride his lawn mower all the way there? And how did that jibe with the fact that he had told Simek about this dream of his all those years ago?
People he met along the way were left wondering. "I don't really know what drawed him to Florida," said Dan Culler, a mechanic he met in French Settlement, Louisiana. "It sounded to me like he just wanted to get away."
"He just didn't have a real good reason to stay here, I guess," said Christina Miller, Page's niece and someone who was privy to his dream in the development stages.
Another person he shared his dream with early on was Nikki Watson, a manager at the Dollar General store in Elm Mott, Texas, another little town just north of Waco. She said Page would come in her store often and the two of them would "talk and talk and talk." (And Page is a world-record talker.)
"He is an outstanding man," said Watson. "He is so pure-hearted. I would love to see good things happen for him, and hopefully because of this. He's doing something that hardly anyone would do. He left here with hardly any money and nothing but a dream and hope."
From committing to the idea to actually getting on the road was a bit of a journey in itself. First, there was this small matter: Page did not own a lawn mower. He did have that Harley, though, and he found a man in Austin who was willing to make a deal. He swapped the hog straight up for a beat-up old Murray with a streak of rust a foot wide on the hood. The man did throw in a trailer to go along with it. Page rode it up from Austin to Waco. "When he got to our house, that motor was already going bad," said Miller. She and her family gave him another, slightly less worn-out motor, along with a push mower for him to put in his trailer.
Page needed the push mower because once he got going, he planned to finance the trip by mowing lawns as he passed through. (Other friends gave him an old Weed Eater, too. Page charged $20 per yard.) But first he needed to get together a nest egg, or "startin' cash," as he called it. After all, Mow Murray (so he has named his vehicle) would need some extra gas and oil, and Page would need some Ramen noodles and Chef Boyardee. "He kept tellin' me, 'When I get 60 bucks I'm outta here, 60 bucks I'm gone.' That was all he needed, I guess," Miller says.