Thursday, December 5, 2013

Locked up at the watershed

Just when everything was going so well, once again I had to "tap out" due to injury.
I awoke early in the morning with my right side and leg "tight as a drum" from my lower back to the tip of my toe. Knowing this would force me to stop again, I instantly began an anguished conversation with myself, my pride battled my good sense.
A cold sleet tapped on the van windows, glazed with a layer if ice. The cold temperature and wet wind was a dramatic change from the warm sunshine of the previous day. I had walked fifteen miles and felt loose and full of energy when I fell asleep. I awoke to immobilizing pain.
This was no minor cramp. Too many long days of pushing too far before we could stop had been aggravating the dull pain of my sciatica and crooked bones.
I had injured my sciatic nerve in the Spring, adding to my chronic back pains. With the help of chiropractic treatment I have built my stamina. But nerves take much longer to rehabilitate than strained muscles.
All Summer I had been able to average ten miles each day, in the developed eastern states. The distances I need to cover between towns on the high plains have shown me my limitations. Though I have been able to keep moving forward, with the help of good people I meet daily, who shuttle us back to the support van, as I lay in the van racked with pain my mind turned to my need for more help.
Without a support person to go with the van, who can pick us up when we have gone far enough, I will keep injuring myself through overexertion.
My pride and ego argued. I had told people I was walking to Albuquerque and that's what I should do. No matter the pain I had to endure. I had, after all, walked thousands of miles with back pains, torn Achilles heal, wrist injuries, shoulder pains and arthritic fingers.
My good sense countered. I had also said I would stop if I or Nice (the dog) were injured, if the weather got too cold, that I would stop for snow or if the distances were too great. With a wind chill of fifteen degrees, numbing pain and sleet I had those criteria covered.
I battled with myself all morning while stretching and massaging my leg and lower back, but the pain only worsened.
I could go no further...
A guardrail, seven miles outside of Tiaban, New Mexico would be the romantic end of the walk from Lubbock.

I spent the next several days in tortured pain driving back to Louisville.
Thru December I have been able to rehab by trading work with the chiropractor for adjustments.

It has been a good year. A hard year of limits, injury, pain, failure and revision.
A year where the most meaningful accomplishment was no landmark.
I had lunch with my Uncle.
It is hard to admit that the first walk I made six years ago, in honor of my eighty year old uncle was a failure. I was late for his surprise birthday party. My goal was to walk to Pittsburgh for the party.
The surprise party was marred with my frail uncle going into the hospital. When I finally arrived at my destination I didn't want to upset him. We talked on the phone and I quietly returned home.
I was glad I took so long to go back.
When I had lunch with my uncle I felt a sense of completion.

I sometimes accidentally push the wrong prompt on this phone and paste something I copied last month which I had forgotten about. I was doubting myself when I unwittingly pasted the following.
A woman interviewed me when I was walking through Ohio. She wrote for a monthly magazine. She sent me this to proofread before its issue.



Erik Bendl: Rollin’ Along for Diabetes Awareness
​My house sits on Route 40. We frequently meet up with people who walk/run/bike/etc. along the National Road to draw attention to a cause. Every year State Highway Patrol personnel run along the road in support of the Special Olympics. I’ve met a man driving his solar-powered car across the U.S., a Vietnam Vet advocating the draft be abolished, a man hiking across Ohio in support of the Health Care for All Ohioans Act, and promoters of world peace. So I wasn’t totally surprised to be confronted a few months ago by a large world globe rolling down the sidewalk as I left the store after buying my morning paper. The globe was larger than the man walking behind it, Eric Bendl. He was accompanied by his dog named Nice, and he is rolling the globe along to draw attention to his cause -- diabetes awareness and prevention.
​Erik and Nice have walked over 6,000 miles and touched into 40 states. He walks in memory of his mother, Gerta Bendl. Gerta was a Kentucky State representative who was too busy to take proper care of her diabetes. At age 54 – way too young, she died unexpectedly of complications from the disease. Erik reports he also has an uncle with diabetes who has had a difficult time managing the condition but is still “hanging in there” at age 86.
​Erik is a carpenter from Louisville, Kentucky. “I do the carpentry jobs no one else wants to do – like shoring up a house with foundation problems or taking off doors and refinishing,” says Erik. In 1988, a friend who taught school gave him a giant globe the school wanted to get rid of. The globe is made of canvas with an inner tube similar to those inside waterbeds. Outlines of all the continents were drawn on the canvas. Erik stuck the globe in his garage for 10 years, but when his son was old enough to enjoy it, he would blow it up, and they would play with it in the park. He put a coat of paint over the rough bare canvas – painting the continents green and the oceans blue. Friends began asking him what his cause was. Erik surmised they asked this because of his mother being in the State legislature and always fighting for good causes. Thinking of his mother, Erik decided he did have a cause and the cause was diabetes awareness.
​In the late 1990s, Erik did his first walk – a 160 mile trek around Kentucky to promote the American Diabetes Association. He began calling himself World Guy. He and his globe frequently walked in parades across the state. As time passed, he got divorced and his son grew up. In 2007, Erik did his first long walk from Louisville to Pittsburgh where his uncle lives. When I met Erik he was repeating that 430-mile walk.
​Erik averages 10 miles a day. The ball weighs 80 pounds on a dry day, but a couple of hundred pounds if it rains. In the early days, Erik says, “I didn’t have the world on a string at first.” He learned to clip a leash onto the ball and use the leash and a stick to steer it. He personally has benefited from the walks. “I’m finally losing weight and keeping it off,” he reports. He’s also been able to study his eating habits on the road. “Once, more or less by accident, I went for two weeks without eating anything fried. I was in the South and was then invited to dinner by a man whose wife was undergoing surgery to have her stomach stapled. He fed me a dinner of fried fish, French fries, grits, hush puppies --the works. A few hours later, I felt like I had the flu – fever, chills, nausea. The next day I ate nothing but some fruit, walked a lot of miles and felt fine. I decided the fried foods have a great impact, but we may not realize it because we become acclimated to them.”
​So Erik talks with people along the way and chronicles his travels on a blog. He has a Facebook page as well. His message is simple, “Love yourself, and go for a walk! If you walk every day, you can prevent, control and sometimes even turn diabetes around.” He thinks his message has gotten a “lot of people off their assets!” Sometimes people do walk with him, such as the Indian tribe that walked along when he was in the Plains or the volunteer firemen in Oklahoma, but most of the time, it is just Erik and Nice. People do let him know that they have taken his message to heart, and he says that is what the walk is all about: “Hearing from people who say they are getting up out of their seats or a whole town eating better to lose weight.” He recalls hearing from a group of three school girls who held a 5K walk/run and raised $25,000 to fight diabetes. While walking through New Concord, Erik met a teacher. He blogged, “We were invited to talk to the entire seventh grade class at the middle school in New Concord. I transported the world there in the van. We inflated the world in the gymnasium where I spoke to them about my journeys, my family who have suffered from diabetes, and the many who have shared their success, through activity and healthy diet, in preventing and controlling the disease. I also encouraged the class to learn who in the school are diabetic, what they can do to help if their classmate is in distress. I answered questions. Then we had a group photo before Nice was surrounded with attention and petting hands.”
Eric’s van is painted a glittery purple with rainbow highlights. He got it from a friend who used to own a coffee shop. He sleeps in the van, and starts each day from it. He reports he never has had trouble getting a ride back to it so he can drive to his starting point for the next day. He calls the people who help him his “support team.” And he reports, “The less I worry, the more things just come together.” A couple of weeks before I met Eric, the comforter he sleeps under was a mess – old and falling apart. He bagged it up to throw it away and happened to mention it to a woman he’d just met. “And what do you know? She gave me a fresh, washed, down comforter.” This past February, Erik and Nice were walking in Florida when Nice began limping. “We found out he needed to have two knee replacements. Two nice ladies we met helped us by giving us a place to stay for two weeks while Nice recovered. The Good Samaritan Fund at a local vet school helped pay for the surgery.” Recently, dispatchers at the State Highway Patrol in Wilmington, Ohio gave Erik an official patch and said he could show it to any officer who stopped him so he could prove his bonafides. Erik reports he was surrounded by several highway patrol cars as he walked near their post on Route 40 and was ruing the fact that he had left the patch in his van. “But it was OK – they were friendly and interested in what I was doing.”
Erik says he used to be a pack rat. However, as he has journeyed around the country, he has become less and less tied to possessions. “I used to go on a walk and then return home and work for several months to get the money to pay my bills and go on the next walk. Eventually, I decided I could do away with a lot of that if I reduced my bills.” So Erik has given up having a permanent residence and has divvied his possessions up among a group of friends who he drops into see. He has a garage where he stores his tools, but takes a few with him and helps people along the way – repairing some steps or putting in a railing. He says he and Nice plan to do this “until the wheels fall off.”
I just checked Erik’s website. He’s making his way from Texas (where the tumbleweeds were rolling like the globe) to New Mexico. You can follow Erik’s travels at his website www.worldguy.org. The website has a button to allow you to donate to the American Diabetes Association. Or “Like” his Facebook page: Erik Bendl – World Guy.






Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Jewels of Simpler Times

We have the world at our fingertips now.
In the palm of my hand I can explore cyberspace with more technology than man took to the moon.
Not so long ago a child would be happy with a "breaker" and a bag full of marbles.
Walking out of Clovis, by the train yard, I found a glittering prize washed to the surface of the sand.
I imagined the hours this ball of glass helped keep a circle of boys entertained before they retired it to the rail and the westbound train.



Thursday, November 14, 2013

St. Vrain and Melrose

St.Vrain had the oldest Post Office in New Mexico until it was closed recently due to budget cuts. Two houses and a roadside picnic area was all it had to offer. It was all I needed. The wind had been against me and I would not have made the seven and a half miles to Melrose before it became dark.
The woman who walked me in Ohio one day earlier this summer had called her relative who lived by Cannon AFBto see if she could help me with a ride as I passed through her area. Though many had stopped during the day (I meet all kinds of people) she was my only contact. Because we were at the roadside stop We has to deflate the world and take it back with us to the van. I then drove back to Clovis to get some supplies for the long distances ahead. After Melrose the towns are very far apart. Once back at St.Vrain I inflated the world and began work on two spots that needed a patch. That is when I was invited to visit with the people at the third house in town, about a quarter if a mile down the road. They picked me up and let me shower. After watching a little barn-pool I was back to the van and a good nights sleep.
The highway runs alongside the railroad. The double line along this corridor is one of the busiest I have seen. The mile-long trains trains seem small out on the high plains where you can see a water tower eight to ten miles away on a clear day. The conductors have begun giving me a toot' of the whistle as they pass. Sometimes they have to stop and wait their turn and idle out in the middle of nowhere. A train hauling. Mile of coal stopped short beside me. The conductor got out of the engine, walked over to ask what I was doing. Gave me an encouraging word and got back in the engine and rolled away.
I made it into Melrose early and after I got a ride I spent some time touching up the world. The road ahead was going to be long so was taking advantage of the last short day before the long haul to Fort Sumner that would take two days with only another small town, Taiban, that had a working Post Office. Fort Sumner was thirty six miles and Taiban was twenty two.
I was still sore from the last two days ouin Texas when I walked thirty seven miles.












Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clovis, Cannon AFB.

The last two days walking out of Texas the wind favored progress, thirty seven miles. The walk from the border town Texico; into Clovis, the crosswind in my face was challenging. Aside from a direct headwind, it is the most difficult.
Each state has its own standards for roads . The big, flat, Texas emergency lane turned, comparatively, to a sharply tapered and much narrower paved berm. One mile per hour was all I could muster for the eight miles to Clovis.
A schoolteacher, whose husband had joked with her to take in the man she had seen with a dog walking along the side of the road, did just that. She met me on the road to Farwell the previous day to offer a meal and a shower when we arrived in Clovis. When I found a safe place, Iron Horse Detail Shop, her husband came to my aid while she prepared a hot dinner. Shepard's Pie. The warmest times come when sharing a meal with a loving family. I am glad the schoolteacher mistook her husbands' sarcasm for suggestion, her husband was also.
The next day, with similar wind conditions, I labored out of Clovis to Cannon Air Force Base. On the way out of town I met the man who would give me a ride back to the van when I stopped by Allsup's store near the base. He had brought me bean burritos for breakfast, most of his hispanic family suffered from diabetes. He had been diagnosed two years earlier. For lunch; delivered hot by a woman who had heard I was walking for diabetes awareness, I had deep fried chicken fingers with gravy for dipping. I know better, but ate it anyway. The previous day filled with fruits, nuts and vegetables didn't leave me drained of energy. Wind, grease and beans slowed me to a crawl into Cannon.
Don't put diesel in a jet.
I had salad for dinner.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Into Texico, New Mexico.

From Farwell into "the land of enchantment", New Mexico the border is the railroad tracks. Everyone had told me I might need to take a detour. the border was under construction. The road to Texico was barred to traffic.
The last few blocks of Texas were like a ghost town. As I approached the barricade blocking the tracks a small tumbleweed rolled by. I rolled the world down the center of the street.
The public radio tuned an "elevator music" version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" thru my Walkman's earbuds as we ambled along to the colorful bricks across the tracks.
I took a few pictures. We were stopped for a few also.















Sudan, Muleshoe, Farwell.

I had arrived early in the afternoon in Sudan from Amherst. The sun and wind helped dry a fresh coat of paint I put on the most worn parts of the world. I fell to sleep early so I could get going before daylight. Rising at two, I was on the road at four with a good wind at my shoulder. It helped me along all day until we were at the Muleshoe city limits. I was met by the mother and son team from the independent cable television of Muleshoe. I was very tired during the interview, I thought my answers rambled. They put the entire interview on Youtube. Then the wind shifted and blew directly at me. A tumbleweed rolled straight down the middle of the highway. The headwind made the last of the seventeen miles at the end of the day difficult to push against. I had a good dinner with some of the local dignitaries and had a good night sleep in a motel.
I was going a bit later than the morning before, we rolled out at five thirty. Twelve hours later after twenty miles we made it to Farwell on the border with New Mexico. We were given a ride and a place to park at the Napa dealer.
These long and hard days have made for tired nights with me having little energy to write.
I have not watched this interview but have heard it is a good one. Here is the link.



http://youtu.be/4mjcv-nmeaM



















Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Texas Roundup and aTaste of Texas.

Along the highway out Shallowater the wind was putting me to work blowing at my face hard from northwest. It was slow going. Far ahead I noticed a crop-duster flying low. A few seconds later my nose dried with the smell of petroleum. For the next mile or two I watched as the yellow plane strafed his load along the field, the three others beside him, the highway and me. I lifted my bandana over my face not concerned people would think I looked strange. That I am used to that. I was almost under the planes path when he finally noticed me and purged his tank in one last, thick swath of black. Tasty.
Not long after that I passed through the town of Roundup. Little was there save for the chirping prairie dog town.
Another memory of the day was when a man stopped with water and two bags of walnuts. The words he said about beginning to path to getting healthy: it's the first step.
I also have been glad for the energy boost the walnuts have given me the past two days where I walked thirty eight miles...



Monday, November 4, 2013

Silent in Sudan

After a Sunday walk to Amherst, today we walked to Sudan where I spent the afternoon painting the world, again. The road is hard on it.
I have sixteen miles to get to Muleshoe tomorrow so I won't try to write anything. Don't have anything to say anyway.



Just One

The first day of November, diabetes awareness month, the crosswind blew hard from the direction I was heading. Working my way from one side to the other I spent most of the day tacking to find an angle that kept me moving toward Anton. The only line I could be sure of often was beside the bed of the train tracks. The gravel and brush would hold my forward motion while the rocked hump of the track base acted as another hand. By the tracks was slower-going but less strain on the shoulders for the thirteen mile hike from Shallowater.
When the wind would shift direction slightly I could move to the pull-off lane of the divided highway and not struggle to a standstill.
At times like these, one step forward is my satisfaction,
knowing I will get where I am going, eventually.
Old Mac told me once, "A wall is painted one stroke at a time. Bring the well with you. Keep it moving, keep it wet."
It is diabetes awareness month, make the first step, just one, then go to the next .







Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Dog Whisperings

Outside of Littlefield Nice (the dog) looked longingly to a house far from the road on the opposite side of the divided highway. He softly called, almost whimpering as we walked past. His low toned murmuring lasted only a few moments. I thought no more of it. The dogs inside the house went into action alerting their humans of the spectacle outside and insisted they do something immediately! First they lured them to the window knowing that they would have to save their compadre attached to the giant ball and chain. The woman of the house was soon in her car to come hear my side of the story.





The little things.

During these walks, where I seem to randomly choose a starting point, there are many moments which assure me I have made the right choice.
On my way to Lubbock, driving through the Texas plains,I stopped to get gasoline. I had been questioning my choice to begin another journey in Texas for diabetes awareness. What good could I do in this land of wide open spaces? Standing in line at the gas/food mart I noticed everyone of the nine people in front of me were more overweight than I. Even the two small children whose mother was buying them snacks before school. It made me realize that awareness needs to be shared everywhere, even in the small communities of the plains.
Sharing this story with a man after I began walking out of Lubbock he told me they have a saying in Texas regarding the prevalence of diabetes and obesity, " at least we are better than Mississippi."
On another note. When I was last in Texas a young man met me as I was heading to downtown Dallas. He asked to walk with me for awhile. He knew the downtown area and walked with me for twelve milled or more into the night and guided me to "the grassy knoll" where I had planned to end that trip. Over the past two years the young man's Facebook account had no activity. His cell phone had been disconnected. I thought I would never see the man again.
Yesterday as I walked to Littlefield, hundreds of miles from Dallas, the man pulled up to ask if I remembered him. Very few people walk with me for any distance, especially a dozen miles into darkness. I could hardly contain my gladness to see him again.
It is the little things that keep me going forward.





Saturday, November 2, 2013

Shallowater.

The soaking rain overnight gave the canvas world it's first drenching after replacing the patchwork. It held up very well. A horrible wind stirred overnight into a torrent, the world trashed outside the van as I slept. The winds that blew in had almost completely dried the fabric and had blown the clouds away. It also made the first day out of Lubbock a challenge. The thirty five mile per hour winds were the strongest I had endured since I walked the Dakota and Nebraska Plains. The cup of the ditch and resistance of the grass was sometimes the only way to keep moving forward. The first steps away from the campground was accompanied by classical music from my Walkman radio. It was Halloween. The Sorcerer's Apprentice boomed as the wind swept me through straw grass. The Tempest buffeted my eardrums and the headwind strained my muscles against the weight of the world. On my way to Shallowater a man stopped to talk on his way back from lunch. Being a small town, I asked if there were place he knew of where I could park overnight. He arranged for me to park by his employers building.
When I arrived I was greeted by a ghoulish crowd who poured out of the building. Costumed minions of the Dark Knight, the master over his science laboratory. ( insert sinister laugh here)
I so much enjoy Halloween.