Woman skates from Miami to New York relying on kindness of strangers

On an early summer evening, Yanise Ho, 23, rollerbladed into Washington Square Park not from work or from school or her apartment but from Miami, Florida.

"I don't even have a sleeping bag or a tent," she said.

Yanise, who at some point in her journey took to calling herself "The Bladress," bladed 40 miles on this day, after three months on the road, with no money in her wallet, no support team behind her and a personal rule not to ask anyone for anything.

"There's not a day I slept in the street," she said. "There's not a day I went hungry."

The question of why a young woman all by herself might attempt to rollerblade thousands of miles across rural America, carrying only three sets of clothes, her laptop and lots of chargers, without spending a single dollar, relying on only the unprompted generosity of others and the polyurethane wheels she changes every 700 miles, seems a fair one, and one Yanise answers eagerly.

"I really want to show that there's a lot of love and kindness in the world," she said.

The Bladress also skates to raise money — $10K and counting — to help young women finish secondary school in Kenya and Uganda.

"People ask me all these what-if questions: What if you don't find a house? What if it rains? I don't have an answer," Yanise said. "I never thought about it."

After 1,700 miles of rollerblading through 10 states and the District of Columbia, Yanise is not yet one third of the way through her greater journey, which next takes her to Los Angeles.

"The Midwest will be a whole new world," Yanise said.

After two weeks of rest staying with fellow skaters and followers of her journey here in New York, Yanise, who's never camped before, plans to add a tent and a sleeping bag to her kit and blade west, in search of roads as fast as Virginia's, meals as tasty as Delaware's crab cakes and people as kind as the 70 families she's stayed with already.

"I just started skating in the dark," Yanise recalled of what night on her trip, "and a family came, pulled over and asked me: 'What are you doing in the dark? You want to come home with us?'"

In nowhere does the open road beckon like it beckons in America. And to no people does it beckon stronger than it does to Americans, a few hundred of whom this summer and fall will meet a sunburned young woman from Hong Kong cutting up their country roads, state highways and big-city streets on inline skates, en route both to setting the world record for most miles bladed and stirring in the breasts of those hundreds who offer her food and shelter the allure of the American road and compassion toward one of its weary travelers.

"This is actually a new backpack," Yanise said, "bought by just some random strangers."