SAN ANTONIO Sweat pouring off his forehead, his shoulder stained yellow from the wood of the giant cross, Art Robles laughs in the enormous face of the long road ahead.
His mind is set on his ultimate destination 1,673 miles away from Texas: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
I may change my route fifteen times before I get there, Robles says through a smile.
With little more than the clothes on his back, the 58-year-old Kerrville pastor is literally walking into uncertainty.
On Labor Day, he left behind the comforts of home, a devoted wife and his beloved pulpit for the rigors of the road.
You know, I can't walk one mile with a hundred pound cross without God's help, Robles grins. So I know and I'm convinced in my heart God has called me to do this.
With each step taking a giant leap of faith, Robles is determined to walk his way across the country for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet President Obama.He s worried about the direction of the country and says as a believer, he s called to do one thing.
I m not going there to complain. I m not going there to fight, Robles says. I m going there just to pray for him.
More than the destination
It took the pastor 12 days to walk from Kerrville to the intersection of Blanco Road and Loop 1604 in San Antonio on Friday.The path hasn t been straight, either. Robles has made stops in Boerne, Comfort and other towns all along the way.
His progress might have been faster, but Robles grabs attention wherever he goes.A giant cross and huge American flag will do that.
What you re doing -- the symbolism -- was too great for me to let it pass by, George Rutherford says to the pastor.
At every step and every corner, strangers feel led to stop and encourage the pastor.
I had to come talk to you and offer to help shoulder your load between here and the corner.
For a few feet, Rutherford carries the cross while Pastor Robles re-hydrates with a drink that another passerby generously offers.
For the most part, the reception has been friendly.
Lots of honking, waving and taking pictures, Robles says. There's been a few jeers, people say things, you know.
A few more feet and Robles is greeted by another stranger who says she read about his mission on Facebook. The two spend a minute in prayer and Robles continues down the road.
My cross broke down yesterday
It took Pastor Robles two days to build the wooden cross.While it weighs more than 100 pounds fully loaded, the pastor added a small wheel in the back to help lessen the weight.
There s also a small compartment built-in on the side where he keeps snacks and a Bible.He also tied a small bag to the cross with toothpaste, deodorant and a cell-phone charger to keep in touch back home.
On this trip, there are few luxuries while he s out walking.There s little protection from the elements or the brutal hardships of an unforgiving road.
A couple days ago, I got rained out, Robles says. I ve had two flats on a brand new tire, and my cross broke down yesterday.
He starts walking each day at 8 a.m. and continues through the heat of the day, never really knowing where he ll stop for the night.
I end up stopping wherever God provides and takes care of me, Robles says. He s always taken care of me.
He was talking about something big
Back at home, Jo Ann Robles didn t blink twice when her husband of 11 years called to share what God had just told him to do. He has been speaking about something national, something big, Jo Ann says. I wasn t surprised at all.
After the initial plan was hatched at a revival in Lubbock, there has been little planning.Jo Ann says the pastor has tried to remain flexible.
He pulled out a map and looked up possible routes that would get him where he wanted to go, she says. But he s sensitive to the voice of God.If God tells him to get off the beaten path, he does.
Considering the fact that the love of her life is setting out on a journey fraught with unknowns and potential dangers, the pastor s wife is remarkably calm.Faith will do that.
I know he s totally under the protection of God.Every day I pray for his safety, protection and provision, she says.
Husband and wife stay connected through Facebook and talk on the phone at least two times a day. Usually he calls in the morning before he leaves and calls during the day around lunch to tell me where he s at.
While he does walk the streets during the day, the generosity of others has made it possible for the pastor to lay his head down and rest his feet in a safe place each evening.
Every night he will spend a night in a different hotel, says Jo Ann. It s a faith walk totally by God s provision through other people.
The pastor s wife believes God will give her husband physical and spiritual strength for each step of the grueling journey, but she doesn t discount the help of ordinary strangers.
Log onto Facebook and send him some words of encouragement.
There are no guarantees
When Pastor Robles beats the odds and finally crosses the finish line, there are no guarantees of a presidential meeting.
He sent a letter to President Obama ahead of his trip signaling his intentions, but Robles wife says her husband won t be disappointed if the long journey doesn t end the way they want.
Whether or not the president is available in the White House in that moment, he s going to be OK with it, Jo Ann says. Even if he doesn t get to speak with President Obama, he will still be at the White House praying outside, speaking to people and hearing their concerns.
Still, the Robleses believe God has called them to do this and are keeping the faith this trip will somehow make a difference.
You know I m like every other American, Pastor Robles says. I m concerned about America.
After progressing all the way to San Antonio on Friday, Robles returned by truck to Kerrville for special church services over the weekend.Being in close proximity to home allows that luxury.
Come next Monday, he will be dropped off at the place where he last left off and continue walking for the remainder of the mission, not knowing when he ll see home again.
To the passerby who wonders where his strength comes from, Pastor Robles directs people to read the inscription on the side of the cross he bears.
The cross says 'Jesus is Lord, Jesus is alive.' Robles says. I m proud to be an American, and I m proud to be born again.
He's a small-town Texas preacher with a tankful of faith for wherever this long road leads.