Tonawanda News

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July 7, 2013

Wheatfield native getting plenty of attention for travel memoir/financial guide "Walden on Wheels"


Tonawanda News — His new, simple life served as the book title inspiration. It’s a reference to Henry David Thoreau, who wrote “Walden,” a book about a spiritual journey of discovery and independence.

What the world is quickly discovering about Ilgunas is, though not considered mainstream, his journey has been anything but boring. In fact, it’s probably more interesting considering the upbringing he had in Wheatfield with his parents, Ken Sr. and Tina Ilgunas.

“I had a wonderful childhood,” he said. “It was unexciting, but wonderful. Actually, the fact that it was so unexciting probably led to me going on my adventures like to the truck stop in Alaska.”

Or the recent trips to New York City and Los Angeles. He said he was treated like a king both stops he made promoting his story. CBS This Morning, his first television interview, made him extremely nervous. He said he wore makeup for the first time in his life during the interview, sitting with Charlie Rose, Gayle King and Nora O’Donnell at a table.

He tripped over his words once, he said. But the nerves quickly subsided.

By the time he got to Los Angeles to tape Jay Leno’s show June 25, he said he was calm. It was his parents who were nervous then.

“They were thrilled,” he said of his parents. “They were more nervous than I was. They were frantic. It was a great experience. (Leno) was a very nice guy, really down to Earth.

“When I was getting ready in my dressing room, I heard my dad scream out, ‘Hey Jay!’ He came in and was very sweet to us all. My Dad’s Scottish and Jay’s mother is also Scottish, so they ended up talking about heritage.”

Ilgunas isn’t done. The author inside him – he graduated UB after writing for the college newspaper and majoring in English and history – is getting stronger and a second book is creating itself even as he continues to promote “Walden on Wheels.” He said he’s writing “Trespassing America” right now about the controversial Keystone XL, a 1,700-mile oil pipeline between Alberta, Canada and Texas.

And the press tour for “Walden on Wheels” isn’t done either. He’s planning an appearance on MSNBC Tuesday, though he’s not sure when it will air or even if it ever will.

Ilgunas’s travels are well documented online at his blog,

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.

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