Archive for May, 2012

Checking in from Arlington, TX …

“I think I can see Fort Worth From Here” a line from one of my favorite movies, “True Stories,” with David Byrne and the Talking Heads and John Goodman. And, I actually can see Fort Worth from here.

On Monday Memorial Day, I walked 13.2 miles in the morning and then enjoyed the holiday. Brenda and I went back to the SMU area and downtown sites for some photos and then went to a cookout at the home of Peter Cooney and Sheila Pedersen. We were joined by more friends, Jeff and Diane Kassing. Both the food and the company were great. What a nice reprieve from our normal days on the road. While gathering food for the cookout, Sheila had mentioned my walk to a cashier at the grocery store. This cashier, Rosario, whose has a family history of heart problems was moved to reach in her pocket and hand over all the cash in her pocket as a donation to the AHA; and then another cashier did the same. It always warms my heart when people identify with the purpose of my walk.

While the day was nice and memorable, the night brought a rude surprise. A really serious thunderstorm with high winds and hard rain rocked the RV right at bedtime. There were moments when we thought we might end up on our side. Like the rest of Texas, the storms here are big and quick.

Other activities prevented me from walking on Tuesday. After cleaning up from the evening storm, we took the RV to Camping World for minor repairs and maintenance. Then we headed back into Dallas for an event at the National Headquarters of the American Heart Association. In mid-morning, a group of the staff did a ceremonial walk with me through their campus in support of my journey across our great country. It was so nice to have these folks joining me in this venture. When ever I have the opportunity to have a one-on-one with individuals in this type of setting, I always run across several folks who either know or have a love one who has suffered from heart disease and shares their story with me. This trek not only raises awareness of heart disease but helps me share their stories through this blog. Everyone is affected by heart disease.

Audrey Ward, an Intern with AHA, interviewed me for the AHA newsletter. Stay tune for this article on the blog “news”. After lunch, I participated in a webcast originated by AHA along with Bobby Whisnand, a fitness expert who is the founder and CEO of Victory of Life. I described my walk, and Bobby and I answered questions from people who want to establish an individual exercise program or take on a larger challenge like a marathon or triathlon. Some 7,600 people tuned in for the webcast. It is encouraging to find so many people interested in heart health and exercise.

There is a new way to help me reach my fund raising goal for the American Heart Association. By going to the AHA website,, and clicking on the icon for my walk, you can pick a song with a “walking” theme off the Songza list. For each play you purchase, ten cents is donated to Heart Trek USA and the AHA. Happy listening.

Much thanks to our friend, Jo Ann Stockwell, who sent me two more reflective vests to wear on my walk. Jo Ann had made the first one that I wore for the first three months of my walk. With “Walking Across the USA” on the back, the vest draws great attention as I tread the roadways and keeps me visible to crazy drivers. With the first vest about to wear out, the new vests, one yellow and one orange, are certainly appreciated.

Late in the day on Tuesday, we picked up our RV and moved to OmniAmerican Bank in Arlington for the night. Tomorrow after a morning walk, I’ll participate in a ceremony at OmniAmerican at lunch and a bicycle ride with Mayor Price in the Tour de Fort Worth in the afternoon. Should be a full day. Here is the projected schedule for the next few days:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 … into Fort Worth on Lancaster Avenue
Thursday, May 31, 2012 … on Hwy 199 past Lake Worth to Azle
Friday, June 1, 2012 … thru Springtown on Hwy 199 toward Jacksboro


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Checking in from Grand Prairie …

On Saturday, May 26, I walked only in the morning from Garland into the Park Cities (University Park and Highland Park) section of Dallas ending just south of the beautiful Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus.  The plan over the Memorial Day weekend is to get a little rest by walking only in the mornings about 12 miles each day and enjoying  Dallas in the afternoons.  We certainly did that on Saturday.  Immediately after my walk, we stopped by the home of Tim McMurray to pickup our forwarded mail for the first time in about three months.  Tim is the head of the Mustang Club at SMU and a friend of our son Matt.  We were glad to meet Tim and thank him for being our mail drop in Dallas.  Next, we visited friends Peter Cooney and Sheila Pedersen at their home in north Dallas.  I have had a friendship with Peter for several years, but it was the first time for me to meet Sheila and for Brenda to meet both of them.  We really enjoyed getting everyone acquainted, and our hosts were very gracious and accommodating.  It was also a fun day for Zuzu.  She got to play briefly with Tim’s dog Bailey and longer with Peter and Sheila’s dog Gracie.  After being cooped up in the RV or the car, Zuzu was in her element, playing and cavorting with her new friends.

Peter and Sheila took us to a favorite stop, Jake’s, for a late lunch.  Naturally, the guys partook of the specialty hamburgers while the ladies ate healthy.  Then it was on to the Dallas Arboretum at White Rock Lake for a leisurely tour of the gorgeous gardens and the spectacular exhibit of Dale Chihuly blown glass sculptures that were scattered through the grounds and fountains.  These priceless works of art are at the Arboretum through October and are a must stop if you are in the area.  It was really nice to have Sheila guide us around the Arboretum making sure we didn’t miss a thing with Peter helping identify the local flora and fauna.  We got much more out of the visit just being with friends after so long on the road.  Peter also provided welcome advice as we tackle West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona over the summer.

On Sunday, I walked from the Park Cities through the Arts and Historic Districts of downtown Dallas and then headed west towards Grand Prairie.  Sunday on a holiday weekend may be the best time for a pedestrian to make the trek through town.  I got to gawk all I wanted.  Dallas is such a progressive and attractive city with everything looking absolutely first class.  After my walk, we headed back to spend more time at SMU and downtown.  Lunch was at Eatzi’s, a unique café and bakery  that we remembered from prior visits to the city when our son worked at SMU and our daughter-in-law started her veterinary career.  We have thoroughly enjoyed our visit to “Big D.”

On Memorial Day, I’ll walk again in the morning and then we hope to find a Southwest furniture store or two open.  Just looking, though we really admire this style of furniture.  We’ll also take some time to honor those who have given so much to make America free and safe.  Thanks to our fallen military heroes and their families.  Late in the day, we plan to return to Peter and Sheila’s home for a cookout.  Really looking forward to it.  Here is my schedule for the next few days:

Monday, May 28 … thru Grand Prairie toward Arlington on Hwy 180

Tuesday, May 29 … no official walk, taking RV in for service, then a webcast at the AHA

Wednesday, May 30 … into Fort Worth on Lancaster Avenue

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Checking in from Grand Prairie, TX … Busy last few days.  On Wednesday, May 23, I walked across beautiful Lake Tawakoni, and we parked the RV at Alliance Bank on the outskirts of Rockwall.  We were parked right in front of the bank and that generated some attention to our journey.  On Thursday morning, we were greeted by reporters from both a local newspaper and an area fitness magazine (Susan Tiner with Living Fit-Dallas) for interviews.  They had seen the signage on the RV and had checked out our website.  Our goal of promoting heart health through exercise was a shared interest with both publications.  The exposure is great—hope it motivates others and moves many to contribute to the American Heart Association.  Thanks to Corky Randolph and his staff at Alliance Bank for their kindness and generosity. On Thursday, I walked only in the morning to the eastern shore of Lake Ray Hubbard as our next RV stop at Texas Brand Bank in Garland had several scheduled activities.  Larry Tonroy was our host and really had arranged a warm reception in his city.  A photo journalist, Linda Jaresh, with “Around Garland” conducted an interview and then Brenda and I were escorted to a welcoming ceremony on the square in the center of the city.  Mayor Ronald Jones presented gifts and a proclamation celebrating Heart Trek USA.  About 25 people, including Paul Mayer and several of his staff at the Garland Chamber of Commerce, were present and were very interested in my walk.  Mayor Jones made sure that I was aware that Garland is the eighth largest city in Texas and the 83rd largest in the country and is home to several national companies.  Garland is the “hat capital of the world” and is where Resistol, Stetson, Dobbs and Charlie I Horse hats are made along with numerous brands manufactured at the huge Milano Hat Company.  It’s a small world,  at the presentation we met Priscilla Wilson, originally from Sanford, NC and a NCSU graduate, who was one of the City’s personnel to come out to welcome us.

In the early evening, Larry and his wife Janice gave us a whirlwind tour of Garland and Dallas followed by a wonderful dinner at El Fenix, a fixture in downtown Dallas for over 65 years.  Both Brenda and I felt the food was without a doubt the best Tex-Mex we had ever eaten.  We recommend the sour cream chicken enchiladas and the pan-seared fish tacos.   Of the sights in town, I loved the bronze trail drive sculptures at Pioneer Plaza, and Brenda liked the thousand fountains area.  The new high-tech bridge in Dallas is also spectacular.  Larry, Janice and the staff at Texas Brand Bank could not have been more helpful, generous and accommodating.  Thanks to all our new friends.

Friday, was again a morning walk of 15 miles as we prepared to relocate our RV all the way across Dallas to an RV park in Grand Prairie.  My walk crossed Lake Ray Hubbard at Rockwall and crossed both Rowlett and Garland.  The highlight of the day for me was a surprise call from an old friend, Billy Walton (see inset), from high school days.  Billy joined me on my walk for a mile or so as we caught up on our respective lives and shared some old memories.

Later in the day, a lady named Jessica asked me to make an appearance at a health and fitness field day at Kimberlin Academy for Excellence.  We were greeted by Coach Marcia and scores of kids getting exercise and having fun.  After our long trip to Grand Prairie, we treated ourselves to Texas barbeque, aka beef brisket, at Sonny Bryan’s which dates back over 100 years.

Over the Memorial Holiday weekend (please look back to an earlier blog about the start of Memorial Day in Columbus, Mississippi), I’ll make my way across Dallas walking and seeing more of the sights.  Next Tuesday Brenda and I will participate in an event at the national headquarters of the American Heart Association, and I’ll be part of a nationwide webcast about heart health and my trip.  Then it’s on to Fort Worth where Omni American Bank has done an outstanding job of promoting my walk through the area.  Be sure to check out their website at

Here is the projected schedule through Memorial Day:   Saturday, May 26 … Garland to the Park Cities Sunday, May 27 … to the downtown Dallas Arts District Monday, May 28 … toward Grand Prairie   Don’t forget to honor our fallen heroes on Memorial Day!       

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Checking in from Point, TX …

As we travel through various parts of the country, we are encountering new foods, not always heart healthy but part of the full experience of the trip.  Barbeque means beef brisket in East Texas.  Steak might be a big slab of grilled beef or chicken fried (battered, cube steak covered with milk gravy).  And then there are “kolaches” which are a staple in every donut and pastry shop.  Kolaches look like what we think of as “pigs in a blanket.”  They come in different sizes and flavors, stuffed with hot dogs or brats, and appear to be a breakfast favorite of Texans.

We expected to see horses in Texas, and there are plenty—Arabians, quarter horses, even mules and burros.  It was surprising, however, to find ranches devoted to miniature horses.  One such ranch outside Quitman had at least 50 miniature horses in the pasture including the world champion at stud.  These little animals are raised to be companions or pets and come in various colors and coat patterns.  To qualify as a miniature horse, they cannot be taller than 38 inches from the ground to the highest part of the mane.  If you want one as a pet, they’ll be with you for awhile as the hardly little animals usually live for 25-35 years.

Housing in East Texas is predominantly in one-story ranch houses, also called rambler houses.  While the ranch house supposedly originated in California, Texas has perfected the style.  Many have a bunkhouse look with a low front porch all across the front.  There is so much land that it makes sense to build out instead of up.  It is actually rare to see two-story homes.

In many small Texas towns, we see older buildings surrounding a courthouse square.  These buildings are typically two stories with flat roofs and brick, stone or stucco fronts.  For an Easterner, many look like miniature Alamos.  Some of the towns are refurbished, vibrant and busy.  Others have empty storefronts and little traffic.  Size of the town doesn’t seem to determine the life of the downtowns.  Rather, it appears to be how interested the local citizenry is.  Since many of the towns have a unique history, it is sad to see those that “close up” and give up their bragging rights.  Fortunately, several towns get it and greet visitors like us as new friends with whom they love to share their stories.

The roads and traffic are not what we are used to.  Even though driveways enter the roadways, the typical two-lane roads generally have 70 mph speed limits which the drivers take full advantage of.  Many of the roads lack shoulders and have 18 inch high wild oats growing right up to the pavement.  Stoplights are rare with four-way stops letting the speeders get through quicker.  Almost everyone drives a pickup truck.  And like the rest of the states, the roads are not designed for pedestrians, and drivers don’t particularly want to share the road.  It does keep you awake just trying to avoid being run over.  One more thing about most every state since we left North Carolina and particularly about Texas—they are not big on convenience stores.  Except in the towns, you can walk 20 miles or more and never find a place to get a cold drink or, in my case, find a public restroom.  Still fighting those kidney stones. 

But don’t get us wrong, we are enjoying Texas.  We’ve met many friendly folks and made several new friends.  I’m still fascinated by the longhorn cattle.  And we keep seeing funny things along the pathways and even in the cemeteries.  Pee Wee’s tombstone is a good example—either he or his family had a good sense of humor.

I lost a day Monday when the large kidney stone I have been carrying decided to move.  The attack sent me to the emergency room at the regional hospital in Greenville, TX.  After an extremely long wait (4 hours), I got good care and some meds along with permission to keep walking but to shut down when attacks come.  Looks like I will fight this battle until the end of the trip and that stone can get blasted.

Thanks to Melanie Stroschein at Cedar Cove Landing RV Park, who gave us a complimentary two night on beautiful Lake Tawakoni while we are in the area.  So many nice people like Melanie have supported our trip.   Melanie has a special talent…she quilts blankets and throws by hand.  She gets together with her friends and they make quilts from old used but clean t-shirts.  Normally the quilt has a theme such as t-shirts with school emblems; or themes related to 4th of July; or fishing; or just about anything you could think about.  Most of the shirts come from Goodwill, Salvation Army or good friends.  She gives away her quilts to well deserving families.

We must be better stewards of our wildlife.  Yesterday afternoon we spotted a crane struggling in the lake where we parked the RV.  A nearby resident, John, waded out to the bird to see if he could help.  Luckily the bird was only twenty feet or so from the bank.   John couldn’t lift the bird up because it had managed to tangle its legs and one wing with fishing line.  After a few minutes John had cut the lines and brought the crane to shore where we were able to remove more of the line from around it’s neck and torso.  The bird was exhausted from fighting the lines an it’s feathers were torn due to it’s struggle.  We let it rest on the grass in hopes it would recover and get up and fly away but by morning he had died laying in the same spot.  Someone came by later to carry him away.  Please be more careful with your disposable fishing line and don’t throw it back in the water.

Looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing more of Texas.  Our projected schedule:

Tuesday, May 22 … thru Emory to East Lake Tawakoni (ta wok a nee)

Wednesday, May 23 … thru Quinlan towards Rockwall

Thursday, May 24 … thru Rockwall toward Garland

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Checking in from Quitman, TX …

On Friday, May 18, I walked from Lake O’ the Pines to Gilmer, Texas.  It is beginning to be very hot in the afternoons (95 degrees) making it difficult to maintain the pace.  Anticipating the toll that the weather might take, we have managed to get ahead of schedule.  Really going to need to be ahead as we hit West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.  The first 1,500 miles was completed in about 80 days.  The second half of the trip is projected over 100 days.

As described in previous blogs, I keep a sharp lookout for discarded coins on the roadside shoulders and gutters as I walk along.  This is just one of the diversions that keep me sane when the route gets monotonous.  Haven’t counted the change (which will go to the AHA at the end of the trip) in awhile, but I would guess that I have found at least $10 so far.  Pennies are the most common find, but nickels, dimes and quarters have also been picked up.  Thursday’s haul, however, was unusual.  I found a silver dollar and several German coins spread over about 100 yards.  Have no idea the value of these coins.  Anybody know?

Gilmer was a typical little Texas town—county seat (Upshur County) and shopping area for surrounding farms.  The Cherokee Trace, a road blazed by the Indians from Gilmer back into Arkansas, was a principal artery for the settlement of Texas and was the route taken by Sam Houston, Davie Crockett, Jim Bowie and others as they rode into the state to fight for Texas independence from Mexico.  Other primary claims to fame for Gilmer—a state high school football championship in 2009 and hometown of renowned singers Johnny Mathis and Don Henley (of Eagles fame).

The walk to Quitman took all of Saturday and will be finished on Sunday.  Along the way, I walked by a huge, gorgeous ranch with at least five lakes on the property.  Locals informed me that it was owned by Dallas multi-millionaire Sonny Oates.  Also in the area was a tree and shrubbery nursery (Tree Town USA) that lined the road on both sides for almost two miles.  We had a dinner at an “authentic Mexican” restaurant, Peralta’s.  The food was very good and somewhat different from the fare at Mexican restaurants back home.  Thanks to Martin for the fine service.  No margaritas, it’s a “dry” county.  Quitman is billed as the “big bass capital of Texas” and is the hometown of actress Sissy Spacek.

Thanks to Troy Robinson, President of BankTexas, for providing a parking space for our RV while in Quitman.   Here is our projected schedule for the next few days:

Sunday, May 20 … thru Quitman to the east side of Lake Fork Reservoir

Monday, May 21 … thru Alba and Emory to Lake Tawakoni

Tuesday, May 22 … thru Quinlan toward Rockwall

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Checking in from Lake O’ the Pines …

On Wednesday, May 16, I walked into Jefferson, TX where our RV was parked at the Tourism Office. On the way into town, Carolyn Cerda, a reporter from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport (KTBS), met me and recorded an interview. Publicity for Heart Trek USA is always appreciated to help promote heart healthy exercise and hopefully raise funds for the American Heart Association. All media coverage can be linked to by clicking on box at top of website page; provided we could obtain a link.

Jefferson is such an interesting town that I took an afternoon off so that Brenda and I could visit the sights, all of which are within walking distance. The town has many historic sites and original and attractive shops including a throw-back country store with a working soda fountain. Jefferson, a town of just 2,100, boasts 34 B and B’s (bed and breakfast) and is known as the “most haunted small town in America.” It is a frequent destination for serious ghost hunters and paranormal investigators who claim to have documented evidence of the town’s spirits. There are also several very good restaurants including one we tried called Kitt’s Kornbread Sandwiches. Unique and tasty.

Wednesday evening, we were invited by our new friend, Paula Youngblood from the Tourism Office, to a covered dish dinner at First United Methodist Church. The home cooking was great but the hospitality was even better. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and interested in my journey. Several made contributions to AHA. We met Paula’s parents. Her father, Milton Bass, who will soon be 90 years of age, was scheduled for an angiogram on Thursday. He showed us around the church and even insisted on ringing the church bell for us. This bell with its beautiful tone was created in 1858 from 1,500 melted Mexican silver dollars. Milton has been ringing the bell for 76 years. We learned Thursday afternoon that Milton had heart surgery but was recovering nicely. God bless Milton and all our new friends, especially Paula and Jeff Campbell, who do such a great job at the Tourism Office promoting Jefferson. I’d have to say that Jefferson, Texas may be our favorite stop so far on our trek across the country. And that’s not false praise as we have really enjoyed many towns.

Early Thursday morning, I participated by Skype in an Executive Breakfast hosted by the Triangle Chapter of the American Heart Association. I described the motivation for my journey and encouraged the 70+ executives in attendance to get their companies and their staff involved with the Triangle Heart Walk. Since I could not get feedback during the presentation, I can only hope that it had a positive impact.

Leaving Jefferson on Thursday, I walked along the north shore of lovely Lake O’ the Pines where our RV is parked at a nice Corps of Engineers Recreation Area. Near the end of the day, I finished my 1,500th mile. That’s the halfway mark—I hope! It’s been a great adventure so far. Looking forward to seeing what’s out there in the western half of this great country. Here is our projected schedule for the next few days:

Friday, May 18 … to Gilmer, TX
Saturday, May 19 … to Quitman, TX
Sunday, May 20 … to Alba, TX

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Checking in from Jefferson, Texas …

On Monday and Tuesday, May 14 and 15, I completed my short tour through Louisiana. Covering only the northwest corner of the state, I’m certain we didn’t get to experience what the state has to offer. What we did encounter was a very vibrant oil industry. Operating pumping equipment is everywhere—in fields, pastures, every clearing in the woods, even yards (Be sure to check out the Facebook pictures on Heart Trek USA). I saw hundreds of working pumpers with storage tanks every half mile or so. Some were located in the yards of homes and some out in the cornfields. Sometimes you would see just one in someone’s yard and then next door would be six or seven scattered all over the lot. With all this activity, I wondered why the area didn’t look particularly affluent. One local told me that most of the wells are owned by diverse corporate entities, some even international. Since each well costs between $30,000 and $90,000 to drill and set into operation, most locals cannot afford to take a chance on what could be a dry well. Instead they lease drilling spots for $500 to $1,000 a month. That helps pay the bills but certainly doesn’t build wealth. I also learned that they often hit natural gas when drilling. Since the natural gas is so prevalent, they usually just cap that well for potential later use. Right now all the focus is on bringing up the crude.

One sad note as I left Louisiana. A nice couple, Buddy and Irma from Vivian, LA, pulled up beside me and handed me a $5 donation to American Heart Association. They told me that they were on their way to the funeral home to be with family, as their five-year-old great granddaughter had died Sunday in a tragic ATV accident. I tried to return the money, but they refused. Buddy stated, “Life must go on.” Thank you, Buddy and Irma, and God bless you and your family.

Crossing the state line into Texas, the difference was immediately noticeable. The roadway straightened out and the shoulders were wider. Also, even though still just a two-lane highway, the speed limit jumped to 70 mph. I can’t walk any faster, but my road mates have certainly speeded up. The road signs in Texas are different and interesting. They have the regular Interstate signs and state road signs but they also have what they call the “farm to market” roads or FM written on the signs. For example, Brenda took the FM3300 road to scout me a path through the town of Plain Dealing. It was a winding road shaded by trees and lots of acreage. It reminded her of going down someone’s six-mile long driveway. Most of the FM roads are narrow and winding with little room to pass. However, there are some that are wider. We have enjoyed learning and experiencing new things.

This is the east Texas hill country or the piney woods section of the state. I already like it here because it feels like the west. My inner cowboy is coming out. We are spending the night in Jefferson, a historic and very attractive little town. Jefferson is the fifth oldest town in Texas, and Marion County boasts 74 sites on the National Historic Register. I got to say the Tourism Board (with the help of Jeff and Paula) is very active here and helping us promote our Heart Trek USA Walk by posting my walk and stay in Jefferson on their Facebook page as well as alerting the news media of our arrival. This is why all their hard work in promoting the town creates a vibrant city and welcoming feel to the town. The Visitors Center is allowing us to park our RV in a city-owned parking lot. We hope to get to tour the many interesting shops and sights in the town on Wednesday.

So now I have crossed seven states with four to go. These last four will go slow as it is expected that it will take at least 40 days just to cross the Lone Star State. Here is our projected schedule for the next few days:

Wednesday, May 16 … to Jefferson, TX
Thursday, May 17 … to Lake O’ the Pines
Friday, May 18 … to Gilmer, TX

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