Sunday, September 24, 2006

Adventures in 32,700 Easy Steps

Last Saturday was one of the great days of my life. I've looked forward to it for the past six weeks. My plan? To walk seven miles. To take my time and enjoy it.

It was a beautiful day here in Pancake Flats. The temperature was perfect in the upper 60s. My First Wife and Her First Sister were off in St. Louis at a Joyce Meyers conference. I was alone. And sometimes, there’s something special about solitude.

So I drove to The Big City, to my starting point, and started walking on the world-class Indian Creek Hiking/Biking Trail—alone.

Indulge me: I’ll tell you about it. Let me tell you how Indian Creek flowed high and heavy after the delicious rains the two nights before. Ducks and geese and blue herons and bluebirds; red cardinals and blackbirds. Frogs. Monarch butterflies and—oh, and the cutest little caterpillar walking across a footbridge.

Bronzed maple leaves and golden cottonwood leaves fell here and there along the trail, reminding me that Saturday was the first day of autumn. It was a great day, too.

There were a thousand little soccer players running around in park after park. Little boys and little girls and matching little cheerleaders. Cute. I’d never seen such tiny cheerleaders before. They did pretty good.

Bike riders by the dozen, including one who slipped and fell into a pool of mud. Walkers like me; and joggers. A few couples and lots of pretty young women with dogs. Everyone was really friendly.

I walked through beautiful forested stretches and past a couple of ponds and along Indian Creek; behind little shopping strips, behind apartment complexes, under major freeways and four-lane streets; through 14 parks that are lined up along the trail.

Well, in just three and a half hours, I completed seven miles. Whew.

Well, silly me: I left my pickup in a parking lot that was seven miles behind me.

I had a sandwich and a bottle of water, then walked back toward the pickup. I retraced my steps. Every one of them. By now the picnickers were out. I spied an elderly couple holding hands and smooching on a park bench. It was the first day of autumn. The soccer fields were still full, just different little teams.

"What a day, Lord. What a walk," I kept saying.

At the eleventh mile, my body rebelled without warning. My calf muscles shouted out, “Enough!” My hamstrings (one of which is really, really tender) suddenly protested any inclines—and there were plenty of them. My blistering feet didn’t want to go downhill.

There was only one thing to do: put one foot in front of the other. So I did. Gingerly. Oh, and I prayed, too. “Help!”

Suddenly, I didn’t like myself. “Why didn’t you plan better? Why did you go so far? Why didn’t you call a friend to come and get you? Why didn’t you go in a circle? You’re not going to make it! Call 911! Your feet are going to bleed when you take off your shoes! Oh, this hurts! You doo-fus!

I put one foot in front of the other. Gingerly.

Finally, when those last tortuous miles were nearly finished, I saw my little red pickup. I’ve had it for 13 years and it never looked so good.

When I got to it, I celebrated with a whole liter of water. I checked my step meter: 14 miles; 32,700 steps. Pain or not, I loved every one of them. It was one of the great days of my life.

In two weeks, I’m going to walk ten miles in the other direction. Wanna go with me?

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