Thursday morning I decided to hit the pavement for a nice long walk. Sky was a mix of overcast and sun, which was occasionally peeking thru the steely gray. Made a “Long Walk” playlist on Spotify, topped my head with a beat-up ball cap, and hit the road.
Figured I’d do my usual jaunt which is leaving our wooded neighborhood for the quaint and clear Hawthorne addition. Hawthorne is a fairly new neighborhood that was built about 8 years ago. It’s a great place to get a 3 to 3 1/2 mile walk in with no traffic. It’s quiet and the open skies are a welcome traveler. But as I walked down the desolate county road from my neighborhood to the Hawthorne entrance I decided to just keep walking down the road. I was in a groove; the mixture of desolate, drone tracks and piano pop on the playlist were blending well with the vibes of the day so I carried on.
I headed west from my house and followed the curvy county road which led to 450 N, which is where my addition is on. But I was about 1/4 mile west. I decided to walk north across 450N and see what would happen. The day was good, the songs were kicking in, and I didn’t have any plans. Figured what was the worst that could happen?
Even though I was still fairly close to my house I felt like I was in another country. The road felt more rural than it was, with a scattered farm here and there. I made my way to a bridge that took you over the Tippecanoe River. A small vein of the wide-ranging river, the water was high and moving quickly. It was exciting to be out there staring at the flowing water, no traffic to interrupt the mood. I figured I could just keep going and see where the road would take me. By this time I was too far to go back the way I’d come. I might as well continue on and just make the full square. I figured it would be maybe 3 1/2 miles tops. The weather would hold, despite the overcast skies. Good exercise, so why not continue on? I had a nearly hour mix to listen to. That should cover the journey.
As I continued on the traffic picked up a bit. I’d get over as far as I could, but the road dipped pretty deeply into ditches on both sides due to fields on either side. I couldn’t get off more than a few inches or I’d fall right in. My wife’s comment earlier in the week about shoes came to me. I believe it was “There’s a big difference between a $55 pair of New Balance and a $155 pair of New Balance.” Those steep inclines were wreaking havoc on my ankles as I wore my $55 pair of New Balance walking shoes. The friendly faces I would often see during walks back in March and April were taken over by what appeared to be Jack-O-Lanterns with permanent grimaces. These people weren’t happy to see another person. They seemed angry, and almost resentful that this guy was walking down the road. I waved to one driver in an older Suburban and he seemed perturbed that he had to remove his hand from the steering wheel. The look on his face was that of an older sibling flicking a younger sibling’s ear with much anger and force. As he did his “EHH” look he lifted his left hand off the wheel long enough to give me an almost “Heil Hitler” salute and he was gone.
I began regretting this journey.
I made it to Armstrong Road which is a main road of traffic that goes between lakes and small towns. In my early moments of the walk I thought I’d only have a short jog on it before I made to the small-ish town of Oswego, where I’d get back into familiar territory and be on my way back home. While it was a short jaunt in a car, it’s a little longer walking. I found myself jogging for dear life, in between moving out of the way of speeding cars and RVs with boat trailers.
As I’m sweating, calves burning, and ankles screaming in pain I’m going thru the scenario of me being hit by a car. I have no ID on me, so the only way of figuring out who the dead guy is in the ditch would be to check my phone. Of course it’s password protected, so I wondered if they’d be able to figure who I was from the close-up pic of my dog’s face as my wallpaper. Like, could they plug that into some CSI-like program and be able to discern who the dog in that pic belonged to? My dog does have an Instagram account. He probably has more followers than me.
By the time I’d come to the conclusion that they probably couldn’t figure out who the hell my dog belonged to I’d made it to Oswego and relative safety. I’d started the short distance home, with familiar houses, roads, fields, and barking dogs. The mental square footage that was filled with panic and the need to not get run over had been cleared to process the pained atrophy I was starting to feel in my legs, ankles, and lower back. By the time I’d reached the outside of my neighborhood my pace slowed and all I wanted was a comfortable chair to fall into. And maybe a handful of Ibuprofen.
In the end, what I thought would’ve been 3 1/2 to 4 miles turned out to be a 6 1/2 mile walk in just under two hours. I’d gotten over 16,000 steps on this mid-morning journey. I left at breakfast time and arrived back at lunch time. Do I regret the decision to march ahead? No. Despite the fear and narrow roads it was still a fun adventure. Cows, streams, bridges, and even the pumpkin-faced a-holes that passed and begrudgingly waved only went to make the stroll more interesting.
I got out of bed today around 8am and put on those $55 walking shoes and hit the pavement again. This time I stayed a much safer distance to home, and stuck to much less traveled roads. Still did 4.5 miles. A little hotter today, too. No close calls. No pumpkin-faced a-holes. Just me and the open road.
If you’re interested in my strange idea of a walking playlist, check it out here.