The first person I met after walking away from the fire station in Shalimar was an old gentleman out for his morning stroll. I rolled the World to the side allowing him to pass. He stopped to ask what I was doing. He agreed that the best thing was walking and with his thick southern dialect learned before even home made radio began to blend our speech he said, "If I don't get up I bind up solid." He curled his fingers toward his stomach and for an instant he turned ancient revealing his years, he gave a proper southern encouraging word then walked on, now looking spry as a seventy year old.
To get out of Shalimar was a bridge, naturally, with walkways on both sides guarded by a concrete wall , six inches wide at the top. With the leashed world balanced atop the wall I made my way up the bridge until I came to the first of three roadsigns bolted to the inside wall. The outside wall is higher and has a metal guardrail making it two feet higher than than the inside. To balance the world I need three feet clearance, the signs outside point allows only two feet meaning I would have to swing the six foot, eighty pound canvas over the bayou and not let it fall over the railing. The first sign went well. I took my time to get the guideline in just the right point and was able to pull down hard as I swung it around. It was a "ballsy" move. Before the second sign a man was fishing with two poles. His pile of gear was lined up on the outside. He held his poles down as we did a dance-like pass. The world teetered toward the oncoming traffic. Thirty yards beyond him was the second sign. It may have been the wind direction or rush of air from an oncoming truck, the tension or position of the guideline but when I made the move around the second sign the World fell over the edge of the bridge. Held aloft by the dog leash, the bindings and every ounce of leverage I could muster' I stepped on top of the outside concrete wall and worked the bindings as high above the metal guardrail as i could and pulled the World back over. The rough outside edge of the guardrail and the twisting move I had to use to force the canvas covered balloon back to safety had cut an eight inch tear in the fabric. I had no choice but to make a repair there on the bridge with the World nestled across the four foot wide walkway. The position of the rip and the pressure from the inner-tube would quickly become larger. That morning the last thing I had put in my pocket when I left the support van was a large piece of canvas. I always carry smaller patchwork and several 2 ounce tubes of rubber adhesive for patches while walking. I couldn't know what was about to occur but I am glad I took that piece of fabric with me. The piece was just large enough to cover the rip in the fabric of the World, I spread the glue on the ball and soaked the canvas patch then waited for them to dry before I applied the patch. Thus the name contact adhesive. I had a few visitors while waiting for the glue to dry before rolling the world atop the inside wall again to the last sign. At the third sign I jumped over onto the roadway and ran the last hundred yards during a lull in traffic. I survived the first Cinco Bayou bridge but not without a large slice of "humble pie" and a few lessons on gravity and motion.
When I was waiting for the glue to dry while on the bridge two woman came up the walk. They had come to meet us and had a small bag of dog treats which they fed to Nice (the dog) while we waited for the glue to harden. They invited us to stop at the business where they worked which was just up the road. A man who was roughly my size rolled up on a bike and we all had a few moments there on the bridge talking about diabetes and the wonders of daily activity to get healthy and keep healthy. The women walked on after I ran to the base of the bridge.
The man waited at the approach , he told me that he had lost one hundred pounds since being told his body was " binding up" like the old southern gentleman had said. Looking at him I would have not guessed he had once been so large and sedentary. He now had a vitalic enthusiasm and wanted to share the things he'd learned in life with his children. Changing his lifestyle was the only way he could do that. Mutually inspired, we went our separate ways with like enthusiasm.
I could see the two women with all their coworkers waiting as the manager from Denny's came out to offer breakfast and a bowl of water for the dog so the entire office staff came over for a group picture and many encouraging greetings. Inside the restaurant I sat by an older couple . We talked as I waited for my healthy salad to arrive, the husband was diabetic and after hearing my tales he was encouraged to walk more to help the circulation in his neuropic feet. His wife silently urged me on as gave him a few examples of people I had met who improved their condition with exercise. The woman thanked me for the inspiring conversation, they were late for the man's doctor appointment, she said she would otherwise stay to listen to more about my adventures but had to leave.
Sitting at the booth behind where the old couple had been was a woman and her daughter. She shared that her husband had become diabetic depending on medication to keep his insulin regulated. He had, over several years, lost a few "stones" and was now off medications.. I was glad to hear this and happy for their daughter who also looked happy and proud of her father.
Hearing good stories helps inspire me to work at getting healthy. It took a lifetime of poor habits, of not realizing the damage I was doing. Some of my bad habits a cravings still longer but I am slowly making progress. One step at a time.
I crossed three more bridges before arriving in Destin. One was like the first which I had to balance on top of the parapet wall, the third was an older bridge to Okalooska Island. It had a three foot wide walkway exposed to traffic but with patience I was able to get to the other side. The last span is a long modern structure with a wide emergency lane. The most difficulty were the strong winds in my face.
The day, as with everyday, was filled with conversations, some happy and others tragic. I don't have the ability to write about all the encounters . The type-1 diabetics who look better than most, the husbands and wives and parents of diabetics who beam with pride that their loved ones take such good care of their bodies. But others. despite their best efforts have constant struggle to maintain balance. Some don't care and succumb, for whatever their reasons, and suffer .
I walk everyday. If I could end my days like the old southern gentleman I met this morning...it wouldn't be so bad.