Checking in from Santa Monica, CA
My cross-country walk to promote heart health and raise funds for the American Heart Association ended at the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Ocean on Sunday, September 2 at noon. After 186 days, through 11 states and covering 3,275 miles, this incredible journey came to an end amid a celebration with family, friends and new acquaintances. The day was doubly significant as this adventure was ending on my and Brenda’s 45th wedding anniversary. So much to celebrate.
As Sunday dawned, Brenda and I were joined at our hotel by our sons, Matt and Jeff; Jeff’s wife, Debbie; two of our granddaughters, Ashley and Olivia; my cousin, Holt McRoberts and her husband, Gary; and friends from Dallas, Peter Cooney and Sheila Pedersen. At a little after 9:00AM, five of us (Peter, Sheila, Holt, Jeff and me) started out on the final stage of my long walk, 7.5 miles to the Santa Monica Pier. Brenda and Matt left to serve as paparazzi, snapping shots at several points along the route. Gary, Debbie, Ashley and Olivia headed out to make arrangements at the finish line and to meet other friends. The walk down Olympic Blvd and Colorado Ave was leisurely, giving me a chance to talk and visit with my fellow walkers. Much different from most of my trek. As we reached the final mile, another group of walkers (including Ashley and Olivia and Debbie’s extended LA family, the Mahs, Wong and Le Renards) joined our parade. We walked in together under the arch that spans the Pier and marks the end of both Historic Route 66 and the final steps of Heart Trek USA.
As an even larger group of friends cheered me on, a television cameraman representing NBC, ABC and KTLA filmed the final steps and celebration. He conducted an interview and followed me as I walked down to the beach. The Pier was crowded with people enjoying the holiday weekend, and many of them stopped me to offer congratulations. Removing my shoes, I edged down to the water to dip my toes in the Pacific along with Ashley and Olivia. We ended up dipping more than toes as a rogue wave crashed into us wetting me to the waist, Ashley to her armpits and completely covering little Olivia. We were wet but happy.
Our group walked back up on the Pier and made our way through the crowd to the end of boardwalk past the Ferris wheel and the signature landmarks. We enjoyed a lunch at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company (so appropriate since so many folks have compared me to Forrest Gump, who also ended at the Santa Monica Pier). It was a great time for Brenda and me to reflect on our journey, share tales from the road and catch up with family and friends. Later in the day, many in our group ventured down the beach to Venice Beach to people-watch and gawk at this Bohemian area, famed for its street entertainers, fortune tellers, muscle builders and just plain funky people.
The end of this journey brings mixed emotions—happiness, sadness, pride, humility and a little relief. We have met so many wonderful people and have seen so many memorable sights. We have been proud of those who have heeded our message and embraced an exercise routine. We so appreciate those who have offered encouragement, kept us in their prayers and especially those who have donated through Heart Trek USA to the American Heart Association. Thanks to all who have followed us and been with us in spirit on this wonderful adventure. This trip has truly been a life changing experience and a blessing.
For those who have asked and those who are interested, we plan to continue to blog as we make our way back across the US visiting some of our National Parks. We’ll keep sharing our journey until we are back in Raleigh for the Triangle Heart Walk on October 7. If in the area, plan to join the Heart Trek USA team and some 20,000 others for this 3 mile walk.
Keep exercising. God bless.