CARLSBAD — He can still hear the inflection of his late wife’s voice when she would say to him, “You’re such a dork.”
When Kevin Doyle hears that now it brings a smile to him. But not long after his wife Eileen passed away from pancreatic cancer in November of 2012, it would bring tears.
“Eileen has passed, but her memory does not,” Doyle said, all the while dressed in full Stormtrooper armor.
On Monday, Doyle was walking along a stretch of Coast Highway 101, part of a roughly 645 mile trek that he began back in Petaluma — all in honor of Eileen.
“Doing the walk down the West Coast in armor was really the only choice I had,” said Doyle.
They were both “Star Wars” fans, he explained. She was a self-proclaimed geek and he was dork and they were OK with that.
He left the Rancho Obi-Wan, a “Star Wars” museum on June 6 and anticipates arriving in downtown San Diego just in time for ComiCon July 9.
Since he started his walk Doyle has been greeted by joggers, other walkers, bicyclists and motorists all stopping at the sight of this Stormtrooper walking his way down the state.
Apart from honoring his wife, Doyle is also raising awareness and fundraising for the charity he created called Eileen’s Little Angels, donating blankets, bandanas, coloring books and plush toys featuring his wife’s artwork to children battling cancer.
Doyle, a former photojournalist in the ‘90s and a sketch card artist at Topps for the past 8 years, stopped briefly at the South Carlsbad State Beach campground mulling over renting a campsite for the night.
That’s how he’d spend nights during his walk, camping or staying at hostels or even just keeping on walking.
But he wouldn’t have to camp.
Friends from the local 501st Legion, an all-volunteer organization for costume enthusiasts, offered him a place to stay.
He’s kept up a pace of about 20 miles a day, though at times he would end up doing as much as 45 miles a day.
And walking in the full armor was comfortable, he said, adding that he’s been fortunate with his feet and no pinching from the costume.
He pushes along a dog-jogger with him filled with gear: A cot, a chair, a tarp (sometimes what he’s been sleeping under), extra clothes and some other provisions.
Now, that he’s made it to the North County, he can “coast it” a little bit some 25 miles away from downtown. He said he can spend some quality time with the people he meets along the way.
And he’s been blown away by the response he’s received.
“I get people that come up to me who are fighting cancer or are cancer survivors, people and their families and they just want to talk to me and thank me for raising awareness,” Doyle said.
“It’s just been one amazing experience,” Doyle added.
“For me, I haven’t had my head around it just quite yet. For me, it’s just me walking to honor my wife, but then people are gathering and making it really special. And they’re making it personal for them, which I hadn’t accounted for that — that people would receive me in that way,” he said.
He’ll be set up for ComiCon once he arrives, with a weekend pass donated by Steve Sansweet, president and CEO of Rancho Obi-Wan.
The 501st Legion also managed to raise enough money through a GoFundMe page to allow him a four-day stay at a hotel.
After ComiCon, Doyle is planning on taking an Amtrak train back home, slowly though, he said, allowing some time for himself.
“I have a few things to do on the way up,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will take me.”
What may happen when he gets back to San Francisco is walking across the Golden Gate Bridge with a full garrison of costumed Stormtroopers, he said.
“We’ll see what happens after this,” he said. “I kind of left this as an open book for me.”