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An epic commute for a family man

OUTSIDE RICHMOND, Virginia - Just outside Richmond, Virginia, at the end of a cul-de-sac, CBS News met the ultimate family man.

Of course, we all love our families and, typically, our extended families too. But not many of us would make the kind of sacrifice Thurmond Alford has made to stay near his loved ones.

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Round trip, Thurmond Alford's commute takes 7 hours.

"It's all about family," said Alford. "If you don't have family what are you going to do?"

About 12 years ago Alford was offered his dream job. It paid three times what he was making. There was no question - he had to take it - even though everyone he loved was in Richmond and the job was in Washington, D.C.

And so began what has now become one of the longest daily commutes in America.

"Every two weeks I was changing oil." said Alford. "The guy at Jiffy Lube ... He knew my first name. He knew my football team. He says, 'You're here every two weeks.' It's like I'm getting a haircut with him - he was changing the oil in my car."

That's how long his commute is. It begins every weekday at 4 a.m. He drives 80 miles to a parking lot outside Fredericksburg, Virginia -- which is still nowhere near D.C.

"We're not there yet, no," Alford said as he took CBS News through the routine.

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On his way to work, Alford passes through three major cities, forged three large rivers and crossed nine different counties.

From that point he grabs a ride with someone else. An hour later he's at another parking lot in Arlington ... which is still not D.C. He then takes a train - two trains actually - to downtown Washington.

By 7:30 he's finally to his program manager job at the Department of Justice.

At this point he has passed through three major cities, forged three large rivers and crossed nine different counties. Round trip, that's 220 miles in 7 hours.

If you calculate from the time Alford started in 2002, he's basically commuted around the entire globe, 30 times, for 2 and half years.

Alford said he travels in "rain, snow sleet or hail."

Or, sometimes, all of the above.

"It could be sunny in Richmond and it could be snowing in D.C.," Alford explained.

And as tiresome as all that sounds, Alford says it's well worth it, especially on weekends.

"I have a support system here. So I have a happy home."

And come Monday, an even happier Jiffy Lube manager.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.