Archive for April, 2012

MISSISSIPPI BLUES

Checking in from Winona, MS …

Our condolences to our friend, Barrye Kirk from Mariette, GA, on the death of her brother, who passed away recently at age 70 from a heart attack.

Walking on US Highway 82 is very similar to being on an Interstate highway, pretty easy walking but pretty boring. Not always something interesting to see. Late in the walk Saturday, there was an exception. I came upon a steer with the largest horns I had ever seen. May have been a Texas longhorn that got lost in Mississippi. I felt sorry for the animal. His horns were so heavy that he actually appeared to have trouble holding his head up.

We enjoyed our stay at Whites Creek Lake Park in Eupora Saturday night. Really a pretty setting. Eupora also has a place in history. It was here in 1770 where the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes banded together to completely annihilate the fierce and brutal Chocchuma Indians.

On Sunday, April 29, my walk took me through the tiny town of Kilmichael where Riley King was raised by his grandmother from age 4 through 17 before he moved on to Memphis and became known as that Beale Street Boy or B. B. King. Mississippi bills itself as the “Birthplace of America’s Music.” And they have a legitimate claim to the blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, even rock and roll. Particularly the blues which trace their roots to Robert Johnson, who purportedly sold his soul to the devil at a crossroad in central Mississippi in exchange for his musical gift. Many other Mississippi natives added their own touch to the music evolution and took their talents up and down the river to Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago. The list is long and includes the aforementioned B. B. King, Sam Cooke, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed (my personal favorite), Ike Turner, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elvis Pressley.

Sunday night is another first for us with the RV parked at a truck stop. Just our six-wheeler among fifty or so 18-wheelers. Running with the big dogs. Not recommended because of the loud noises from the trucks coming and going all night.

Temperatures are projected in the 90’s for the next few days. Don’t know how that will affect my pace, but I can definitely feel the effects of rising temperatures. Trying to stay hydrated and be sensible. For now, here is a projected schedule, all of which follows US Highway 82:

Monday, April 30 … thru Winona to Carrollton
Tuesday, May 1 … thru Greenwood to Itta Bena
Wednesday, May 2 … to Indianola
Thursday, May 3 … to Greenville with the mighty Mississippi River in sight

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STARKVILLE WEST

Checking in from Eupora, MS …

Thursday night, April 26 we parked our RV at Belaire Park Campground, east of Starkville as the guests of owner Chris Sears. Thanks, Chris. Friday was a short day for me with a morning walk only through Starkville and Mississippi State University. Starkville has a vibrant downtown, but is basically a college town with most activities centered on the university. MSU is a well laid-out, land grant university with several well respected fields of study including agriculture, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, education, business and architecture. The school is a member of the powerful Southeastern Conference (SEC) and is a national power in collegiate baseball. The teams are known as the Bulldogs with the mascot named “Bully.”

We were invited to park our RV Friday night at Oktibbeha County Hospital (OCH). That’s a first for us—we’ve been to banks, churches, Wal-Mart’s and RV parks previously. And we’re always looking for our next spot. While at the hospital, we met with the staff at OCH HealthPlex and Liz Varco who is the director of the cardiac rehab unit. They have a state-of-the-art facility and do a great job of getting heart attack survivors and heart disease patients back of the path to good health. Brenda and I shared our experiences with Liz and her staff. We were all singing the same tune, emphasizing a regular exercise program as a key element of heart health.

Two new friends, Nina Peele and her husband, John O’Hear, took us to dinner Friday night. Nina is an RN and administrator at OCH who arranged our stay at the hospital. John is a recently retired MSU archeologist whose specialty is the Southeastern Indian tribes. He is also a weekend drummer in a rock and roll band. We enjoyed visiting with Nina and John and look forward to seeing them again in the future, perhaps in Natchez where John will soon be working on a dig with a colleague from the University of North Carolina. We also appreciate the hospitality of OCH and the good work they are doing for heart rehab.

My walk on Saturday took me to Eupora where we camped at a city/county park, Whites Creek Lake Park. To camp at the park we had to call the local police who unlocked the water and electricity and collected the fee. This could only happen in a small town in Mississippi. It is a tranquil and pretty setting where we are having the unique experience of being the only camper in the park. We may stay here two nights if we can stand the quiet. Here is our projected schedule for the next few days:

Sunday, April 29 … from Eudora thru Stewart to Kilmichael
Monday, April 30 … thru Hendrix to Winona
Tuesday, May 1 — to Greenwood, MS

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Checking in from Clayton Village, MS …

In between two walks totaling 21 miles on Thursday, April 26, Brenda and I toured the historic town of Columbus, Mississippi.  The downtown is thriving and has a neat, old timey look.  We were directed to the Friendship Cemetery on the south side of Columbus.  This huge, old cemetery has some of the most interesting and unique tombstones that I have ever seen.  Rivals some from Savannah and Charleston.  “The Weeping Angel” is a good example.  When a popular preacher died some years back, it is claimed that even this stone edifice shed tears.  Veterans from every war from the Revolution through Vietnam are interred at Friendship Cemetery as are two Mississippi governors, three congressmen, a US Secretary of War, two Confederate congressmen, five Confederate generals and four college presidents.   

The real claim to fame for Friendship Cemetery, however, is the fact that Memorial Day was started on this very site.  In April, 1866, the ladies and school children of Columbus wanted to observe “Decoration Day” when flowers would be placed on the graves of 2,194 Confederate soldiers and one Confederate nurse.  It was noted that the cemetery also held the graves of 54 Union soldiers.  In an act of healing for the South, these Union graves also received flowers as a “memorial” to soldiers from either side lost in battle.  Decoration Day became a tradition that was picked up by other cities, was renamed Memorial Day and became a national holiday early in the 20th century, observed on the last Monday in May to honor any American lost in war.

  Columbus, MS is also the boyhood home of playwright Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams.  Many consider him to be America’s leading playwright with two Pulitzer Prizes and a list of works that includes “The Glass Menagerie”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “Sweet Bird of Youth” and “The Night of the Iguana.”    Williams’ first home, which was also the rectory of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where his grandfather was rector.  The gingerbread Victorian home has been meticulously restored including the vivid paint scheme of the period and now serves as a monument to Tennessee Williams and a welcome center for the town of Columbus.  We enjoyed our visit to the home and appreciate the history as detailed by our hostess, Ms. Virginia Thomas.  Columbus was one of our favorite stops.

On Friday, we move on to Starkville and Mississippi State University.  Here is our projected schedule:

Friday, April 27 … in Starkville

Saturday, April 28 … thru Adaton, and Mathison to Eupora, MS

Sunday, April 29 … thru Grady and Stewart to Kilmichael, MS

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HELP HEART HEALTH

Checking in from Columbus, Mississippi …

With meeting new people, seeing new places, walking generally twice a day, moving the RV, etc., the purposes of this journey can sometimes lose focus.  But when I talk about the trip with a new contact, the conversation always comes back to developing a regular exercise program.

I hope that each person who has shown interest in Heart Trek USA and offered kind words, moral     support and prayers for well being has taken the core message to heart (pun intended) and started his or her own individual exercise routine and made exercise a habit.   

The second purpose of this venture is to raise funds for the American Heart Association.  To date, almost 100 friends and supporters, both old and new, have made contributions.  Please accept my sincere and heartfelt (pun intended) thanks.    To those who have yet to make a donation, I hope that you will be moved to help this outstanding organization.

Your donation goes directly to heart research and education to lessen the impact of this #1 killer of both men and women.  Please help make Heart Trek USA a success and hit that “Donation” button on this website.  Remember 100% of donations go directly to the American Heart Association in an effort to help others become more aware of heart disease and it’s prevention; and none to myself.

On Tuesday, April 24 my walk took me to one of the last towns in west Alabama, Reform.  Thanks to Melanie Jaynes of West Alabama Bank for arranging a parking spot for our RV at her church, First Baptist Church of Reform.  Wednesday’s walk took me across the border into Mississippi, ending in Columbus which Brenda and I hope to explore on Thursday.

Some thoughts on Alabama:

  • The state’s slogan is “Alabama the Beautiful,” and it certainly is.  Also, much more hilly that I expected.
  • We met some great people in Alabama and are grateful for their interest and support.
  • The Chief Ladiga Rail-Trail was special.  I thoroughly enjoyed this scenic and well maintained path.  Hope other states will follow Georgia and Alabama’s example and use abandoned railways to create a trail network across the nation.
  • We got to visit two truly beautiful college campuses—Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama.  Don’t know what I expected, but these campuses rate as some of the prettiest I have ever seen.
  • Football is definitely king in Alabama.  At least in west Alabama, “Roll Tide” is spoken as often as “hello.”  14 National Championships will do that.
  • Like South Carolina, Alabama’s roads need work.
  • And Alabama drivers also need to improve—they drive too fast, they tailgate, many are inconsiderate.

So four states have been crossed off, seven more to go.  Here is the proposed schedule for the next few days:

Thursday, April 26 … to Starkville and Mississippi State University

Friday, April 27 … thru Adaton to Mathison, MS

Saturday, April 28 … thru Eupora and Grady to Stewart, MS

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Checking in from Northport, AL …

The first number is correct, checked daily by GPS.  I did hit the 1,000 mile mark on Monday morning, April 23.   The second number assumes that my average stride is a yard long.  Both numbers are pretty daunting especially when I consider that this marks approximately one third of the journey.  In many ways, the trip has seemed quick to date; in other ways, it has felt long.  But I have been aware of the support of family and friends on every step.  Couldn’t have made it this far without each of you.   Special thanks to my wife Brenda who does all the dirty work and puts up with me.  Only 2,000 miles and 3.4 million steps to go.

Roll Tide …

Monday afternoon, was a thrill for a football fan like me.  We visited the Paul W. Bryant Museum that chronicles the history of Bama teams that have won an astounding 14 national football championships.   This is a shrine to the Bear, but there are countless gridiron heroes and achievements that are showcased.  Names like Johnny Mack Brown, Don Hutson, Bart Starr, LeRoy Jordan, Ray Perkins, Kenny “Snake” Stabler, Joe Namath, Steve Sloan, Wallace Wade, Gene Stallings and Bear Bryant.   After leaving the museum, we got a  private tour of Bryant-Denny Stadium from Associate Athletic Director Ronny Robertson that had been arranged by our son Matt.    What a great facility on a beautiful campus.  Ronny, a linebacker on the ’73 national championship team, was a gracious host showing us all around the stadium including standing at midfield.  Can’t imagine what it would be like to be playing in front of 101,000 rabid fans.

The afternoon ended with a visit from a new friend, Cheri Smith, who brought gifts of Bama gear.  Cheri is a seller on eBay, who has worked with our son Jeff.

We have so many more pictures from todays events as well as days prior.  Please check out and “like” our Facebook page, Heart Trek USA, to see more pictures; especially the one of me standing beside the Bear Bryant statue and the UA Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Just a couple more days in Alabama.  Here is the projected schedule:

Tuesday, April 24 … from Coker to Reform, AL

Wednesday, April 25 … into Mississippi on US 82

Thursday, April 26 … to Columbus, MS

 

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WEST ALABAMA

Checking in from McCalla, AL …

We apologize for irregular blogs. Internet access has been sporadic at best. Hope you’ll be patient with us. Updates will be forthcoming whenever possible.

Friday, the 20th was a short walk day. Some banking business in Birmingham and a TV interview occupied the morning, and then we relocated the RV to historic Tannehill Ironworks State Park. So I only got in a 7 mile walk late in the afternoon. I probably overdid it on Saturday, covering almost 28 miles and getting us closer to Tuscaloosa. Along the way on Saturday, a young man named Keith waved me over to his truck. He handed me a cold bottle of G2 and a Clif bar. He also handed me a red marble for good luck and a small vial of a gold liquid, reported to be holy oil called snipenard. This is the same oil that Mary, sister of Lazarus, rubbed on Jesus’ tired feet in the week before Passover and with which Jesus was anointed in the days just before his crucifixion. Keith wanted to share his faith with me and to provide some relief for my tired feet. I am grateful for both.

On Sunday with the RV in McCalla, I walked into Tuscaloosa right through the path of the tornadoes that hit the area almost exactly one year ago. It is frightening to see the devastation and encouraging to see the efforts to rebuild. At the Piggly Wiggly store in the area, we met two new friends, Lee and Paulette, who wanted to discuss my journey. Lee has survived two heart attacks. I stopped for the day at the edge of the University of Alabama, and Brenda and I got to visit the beautiful quad area that is the heart of the university. Tomorrow we plan to tour some of the athletic facilities.

The local independent TV station, WVUA, which is owned by the university, sent out two nice reporters, Jordan and Kristen, to film a piece on Heart Trek USA. They did a great job with the session. Look for a link on the website in the next few days.

Also for our followers in NC, look for an interview statewide on WUNC-TV that is expected to air on Monday, April 23 at 7:30PM.

Here is my projected schedule for the next few days:

Monday, April 23 … through Tuscaloosa to the Coker area
Tuesday, April 24 … through Gordo to Reform, AL
Wednesday, April 25 … across the AL/MS border to Columbus, MS

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OCCUPY WALMART

Checking in from Pelham, AL …

We’ve parked the RV at WalMart for a couple of nights lately. Just us and ten or twelve big rigs in the outer reaches of the lot. We were surprised to learn that many a rig is driven by husband and wife teams. One such couple told us they sold all their real estate, vehicles and personal property to buy their rig and travel. Not sure if we could do this but envy their travels to different places. So we parked our little Honda and RV right beside the big rigs just like we belonged.

On Wednesday and Thursday, April 18 and 19, I traveled back roads (mostly Wolf Creek Rd and Bear Creek Rd) south of Birmingham from Lincoln through Pell City, Vandiver and Chelsea to Pelham. This part of the walk covered over 50 miles of truly beautiful countryside. I-Phone photos just don’t capture what I was privileged to experience. Every shade of green was evident, and the fields and woods were abloom with white, yellow, pink and red blossoms. The air was perfumed from honeysuckle, jasmine, flowering boxwood and wild roses. Mountains and hills, pastures with horses and cattle, farmhouses, barns, new gardens were all part of the vista. Spring is a special time of the year. Take some time to enjoy the season. Take some country roads.

The only thing that detracted from my walk over the last couple of days was the unfettered dogs that came after me on four or five occasions. I carry a trekking pole that I had to wave at the dogs and even made contact once to deter these aggressive animals. One mean looking pit bull mix harassed me for over a mile. After the walk, Brenda went to several stores to add to my arsenal with some pepper spray.
I love dogs (like Zuzu) but don’t understand these uncontrolled mutts that are allowed to run loose in the country.

I did a brief telephone interview on Thursday with NBC 36 TV’s “Charlotte Today” show that focused on heart health. On Friday, I have an interview scheduled with the ABC affiliate in Birmingham. All media exposure of Heart Trek USA and its purpose are greatly appreciated.

We also were hosted by Cadence Bank in Chelsea on Wednesday night. Thanks to the Alabama Bankers Association for their help and to Jamie Echols at Cadence for her hospitality.

Heading toward Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama in the next couple of days. Here is the proposed schedule:

Friday, April 20 … country roads towards Woodstock, AL
Saturday, April 21 … Hwy 11 to Cottondale, AL
Sunday, April 22 … to Tuscaloosa

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