IF you knew nothing about Ward and Judy LeHardy, and heard that the 80- and 77-year-old husband and wife were setting out to circle the world in less than 80 days, you might be a tad skeptical.
But anyone who knows the former Fredericksburg couple’s history—five years around the world in a 39-foot sailboat while chronicling the trip in 60 stories for this newspaper—would know better than to bet against them.
I recently caught up with the LeHardys, who now live near Kilmarnock in the Northern Neck, to hear about this latest ambitious trip around the globe.
Ward LeHardy, a West Point grad who retired from the Army as a brigadier general after 32 years, said this trip won’t be like the last one. That adventure took place aboard a sailboat and wrapped up in August of 1996.
This time, the couple will combine airplane flights (his service lets them hop military aircraft as space permits), a cruise from Australia to South Africa and whatever transportation they can arrange with friends, family and supporters.
The lively couple, who have a beautiful waterfront home on a creek a short hop from the Chesapeake Bay, say they’re taking this trip for a couple of reasons.
They want to show that if you have faith and maintain your health and fitness, anything is possible, “even hitchhiking around the world at 80 and 77.
They also want to prove that an around-the-world adventure is possible on a “shoestring” budget. They plan to spend less than $5,000.
And finally, they want to raise awareness as they go for their primary trip sponsor, “Anglicans For Life.”
Judy LeHardy noted that to challenge themselves and ramp up the sense of fun, she and her husband will try to complete their latest circumnavigation in 80 days or less.
“You know, try to beat Jules Verne and his record of doing it in 80 days,” she said with a big smile.
The pair became familiar faces to the readers of The Free Lance–Star during the five years it took to complete their sailboat journey. They sent pictures and stories that ran regularly in the paper.
Whether they were trapped in a 100 mph storm off Australia, coming across pirates in the Red Sea or finding breathtakingly beautiful spots in the Cook Islands, the couple chronicled their adventures. Their dozens of dispatches eventually became a book, “Once Around.”
It’s just been re-edited and repackaged in a new 3rd edition—available at Amazon and other major booksellers—and has paid for a major part of the trip.
“A friend suggested that one of the cruise lines might be interested in us giving talks about our sail around the world and the book we wrote about it,” said LeHardy.
The friend was on the money. The couple will pay for their entire cruise from Perth to Cape Town by giving 12 talks to fellow passengers on a cruise ship.
The couple say they miss family and friends in Fredericksburg but love their new home and its water views.
This latest trip started as a craving for adventure. The LeHardys say it took on a more spiritual significance when they realized it could give them a chance to champion something they keenly believe in: the ministry of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
“We’ll be talking about that whenever possible,” said LeHardy, noting that the trip will be somewhat of a fluid experiment, combining some scheduled hops with rides and stops that will be known only after their trip starts.
A few things are fairly well set: They plan to depart from Andrews Air Force Base and visit friends and relatives in California and Hawaii before traveling on to Guam, Sydney and stops in between.
The LeHardys, who have been active in their local and national branches of their church, are ready to get going.
“We’re excited about the chance to visit places we haven’t seen, to support the right-to-life and to show that you’re never too old to accept a new challenge,” he said.
The couple, who list 40 Days for Life, Hosea Initiative, Mercy Cove and the Northern Neck Burger Co. as other trip sponsors, plan to keep followers updated on their new blog, NorthHistPress.com/LeHardy.php.
I will also stay in touch with them and provide updates as they race to beat Jules Verne’s 80-day record around the world.
Like I said, don’t bet against them.