Checking in from Springerville, NM …
For the last few days, I have walked through the beautiful mountains of western New Mexico in the Cibola National Forest. While the terrain has been steep at times, the altitude plus spotty cloud cover has kept temperatures nice. We actually enjoyed a 48 degree night. We have seen elk and deer for the last three mornings when we have gone out at sunrise to take me to the start of my morning walks. Leaving the forested area around Red Hill, however, we encountered a change in the landscape, different but still beautiful. This area reminded both Brenda and me of a view of the Sahara Desert if the Sahara was covered by short pale yellow grass. It is not difficult to image huge herds of buffalo grazing on the hills. Seeing unique (to us) scenery has been one of the best parts of our trip.
Another highlight of this journey has been the people we meet. In the last couple of days, we met two people that reminded us of why I am walking—to promote heart health. We shared a table with a nice couple from Albuquerque at the Pie-O-Neer in Pie Town. The conversation turned to my walk and to heart disease. The wife, who commented she was overweight, recounted that she had lost her father to a heart attack when he was just 48 and an uncle when he was in his late 30’s. As with me, she knew that she carried a high heart risk based on heredity. I gave my speech about establishing a regular exercise program. Hopefully, she took it to heart (pun intended).
Passing through the town of Quemado, we were unable to find anywhere to park our RV overnight so we ventured on to Red Hill. There we met a new friend, Don Morris, who as far as we know may be the only inhabitant of Red Hill. He graciously has allowed us to park in front of his home and the place of business he is building for a couple of nights. Don, who is a jack-of-all-trades, has been a farmer, mechanic and contractor over the years. He has seen his share of tragedy in his life. Although a wiry guy, he is diabetic and has suffered three heart attacks and has had stents implanted and open heart surgery. Despite his personal health problems, Don was the caregiver for his paraplegic wife for 26 years until her death in 2006. Then on a dark January night in 2009, Don and his new fiancée were riding on a motorcycle with friends to an event in Tucson. Don’s bike was leading the pack when suddenly it struck and became entangled in a dark tarp that had fallen off some vehicle. The motorcycle cart-wheeled, and both occupants appeared to have suffered fatal injuries. Rushed to the hospital by EMT, Don’s fiancée was pronounced dead while Don was barely hanging on with multiple head and body injuries. Don was in a coma for six weeks before beginning a slow recovery. Grateful to be alive, Don decided to make the most of his renewed chance at life. Against doctor’s orders, he threw away his insulin and statin drugs and turned to a strict regimen of vitamins and a diet of fish, vegetables and salads. He coupled this with a vigorous lifestyle of physical work around his ranch and the restaurant he is building by hand along Highway 60 in Red Hill. While Don’s shunning of medicines may not be recommended, you have to admire his advocacy of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. And, thankfully, he appears to be thriving.
As my walk across America will attest, I am committed to a life of regular exercise. After my trek is complete, I will continue to walk and exercise almost every day though not at 20 miles per day. I also must watch my diet. While on this journey and while burning so many calories each day, we have enjoyed the local cuisine once or twice per week. Moderation has been the key. But a healthy diet must be a lifestyle choice for the future. As Brenda and I can attest from what we have seen on this trip, there is too much to see, too much to do and too much to live for to not do everything possible to protect your health and extend your life. If you have not already, please start your own exercise program—45 minutes of vigorous activity four to five times a week—and eat healthy. And support the American Heart Association.
I did pass a couple of milestones in the last couple of days—2,500 miles finished and nine of eleven states completed. But before I or anyone else gets too excited, my latest calculations indicate that this trip will actually log somewhere between 3,250 and 3,300 miles. Course changes, detours, trips to the woods with my kidney stone have all added miles. Regardless, I am pleased with my progress and continue to stay ahead of schedule. Just Arizona and California remain on this journey. We will meet friends and family in Santa Monica on Labor Day weekend.
Next stops—thru Springerviille and on to Show Low, AZ