BACK IN 1972, Linton Grundy and his wife, Renee, decided to sell everything they owned and take off for faraway places.
Often hitchhiking, they toured Europe, then set out for Africa, where they explored a large portion of the continent, catching rides on crowded buses or trains, battling snakes and bugs, unforgiving deserts and monsoon rains.
Linton was a Vietnam War veteran who made 50 combat parachute jumps and later joined the Green Berets, and Renee spent years working for Mayors W. Wilson Goode, Ed Rendell and John Street, once in the thankless job of having to respond to every citizen complaint.
And so, coming from these backgrounds, these two people, approaching middle age, decided to dump their entire life and take off for Nowhere Special.
Linton Grundy, a skilled auto, bus and truck mechanic who worked for a number of transportation agencies, including SEPTA, a lover of horses and Western lore who spent time in New Mexico indulging both loves, died April 24 after a series of strokes and heart attacks. He was 74 and lived in Southwest Philly's Paschall section.
Renee, the former Renee Rudisill, lives in New Mexico. "He was very adventurous, a genuinely nice person," she said. "People out here just loved him."
She told the story of a neighbor's boy of about 14 who was watching Linton, handsome and muscular in his youth, in his Albuquerque back yard.
" 'I want to look like Linton when I grow up,' " Renee quoted the boy as saying.
Their yearlong exploration of Europe and Africa included many memorable highlights:
While being forced to sleep in a park in Barcelona, Spain, they listened to the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman heavyweight fight in Zaire - the "Rumble in the Jungle" - on the radios of others in the park. (Ali won.)
While crossing the Sahara in the back of an overloaded truck in the company of a goat, they dug holes in the sand to sleep away from the bitter desert wind.
In Dakar, the capital of Senegal, they wound up sleeping on a stair landing of an apartment house because there were no hotel rooms.
A train to Mali was so crowded, Linton had to ride on the roof while Renee was able to find a seat.
In Upper Volta, where monsoon rains had flooded the Volta River, Renee managed to wade across the shallow river, while Linton had to help push their bus across.
In Mali, they visited legendary Timbuktu and other ancient sites. In Ghana, they met people from Philadelphia, including a group from Temple University.
They also explored Liberia and Nigeria before they headed back home, weary but none the worse for wear.
Linton Grundy was born in Philadelphia to Romie "Bill" Grundy and Nannie Grundy. He graduated in 1958 from Bartram High School, where he studied auto mechanics. He worked for a time for a dental-supply company before being drafted into the Army in 1964.
He volunteered for an airborne division in the Vietnam War, and later joined the 3rd Special Forces Group. He was discharged in 1966.
Linton then moved to Albuquerque, where, in addition to adopting a Western lifestyle, he became a master diesel mechanic and worked for the Albuquerque Bus Co., and the Navajo and Yellow Freight lines. He also attended the University of New Mexico for a time.
After the European-African adventure, Linton lived in Philadelphia and went to work as a mechanic for International Harvester and SEPTA, from which he retired.
"Although Linton was a loner, he possessed a generosity of spirit," his wife said. "He didn't volunteer much, but if you asked him to do something, he unflinchingly gave it his best shot."
Besides his wife, he is survived by two sisters, Barbara Walker and Cheryl Grundy, and a brother, Terrance Grundy.
Services: A memorial service may be planned later.