HOODOOS

Checking in from Cedar City, Utah …

 

  On our way out of California, our path once again crossed the Mohave Desert, somewhat north of my walking path.  Wasn’t quite so hot this time because we passed under the continual threat of thunderstorms.  We caught the edge of several storms and had to ease our way across a couple of flood washes that had crossed the road.    Crossing Nevada, we again were lucky to stay basically ahead of the worst of some serious storms.  We heard the next day that flash floods had swamped parts of Las Vegas right along the path we had passed just a short time earlier.  Even so, it was no fun out-running storms and negotiating Las Vegas traffic in an RV pulling a little car.

 

  After bisecting Nevada, we crossed a little 40 mile section of the most northwestern corner of Arizona.  This stretch of road runs through the Virgin River Canyon which is an amazing winding path cut through steep and severe mountain peaks.  The combination of nature’s work and human engineering makes a breath-taking ride.  The Canyon was, however, just a prelude to the wonders of the Utah landscape that lay before us.

 

  On Wednesday, we headed about 100 miles off path to visit the beautiful and unique Bryce Canyon National Park (BCNP).  (Couldn’t help thinking that would have been about five days of walking.)  On the way, we got a taste of what was coming as we passed through the Red Canyon which lives up to its name with spectacular red rock formations including a couple of rock arches over the road.  Admission to BCNP was a whopping $25, but we got in free with our National Parks Seniors Pass.  Finally, some advantage to getting older.  Even at the full price, Bryce Canyon would be a bargain.  The rim of the canyon, which is about 18 miles long, rises from 6,000 to over 9,100 feet in elevation.  It looks down on a vista that is unlike any other—complex, rich and colorful.   The floor of the canyon is littered with limestone towers called “hoodoos,” pinnacle or odd-shaped rocks left standing after erosion over eons of time ate away the adjacent formations.  Most canyons are created by flowing water.  Bryce Canyon and its hoodoos are an exception.  Naturally acidic rainwater dissolved the limestone walls into strange shapes while the freezing and thawing of snow and ice helped sculpt the hoodoos.  Every color seemed to be represented from white through every earth tone to purple.   A favorite sight was the “Natural Bridge” which is actually an arch etched in the limestone.  Brenda describes the hoodoos as looking like huge candles that melted with wax running down the sides.  The view was unique in every direction with each point on the canyon rim offering a different perspective.  Brenda, Zuzu and I even walked about a half a mile down into the canyon for a close-up of the hoodoos.  The walk was worth the effort, but the climb back was challenging.

 

 Riding out of the park, we saw a sizable mule deer buck and several pronghorns, including one grazing very near our car.  We learned that the pronghorns are mistakenly called antelopes, but their closest genetic relative is actually the African giraffe.  We did not see the bears and mountain lines that also roam the park but are thankfully more reclusive.

 

 Be sure to check out our photos of Bryce Canyon.  Only a few of the best are shown since we took over 250 shots.  Not only is Bryce Canyon National Park beautiful, but it also has its place in romantic Western history since it was a frequent hideout of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang led by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Be sure to include BCNP on your list my must-sees across American and allow a day or more to take in the gorgeous views.

 

Next destination for us is Yellowstone.  Stay tuned.

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CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Checking in from Barstow, CA …

 

 After leaving LA, we headed north up the central valleys of California, to visit our son Jeff and his family in Pleasanton, CA (halfway between San Jose and Oakland).  Once we were through the golden hill country, we passed endless fields of crops, groves of fruit trees and vineyards.  Some we could identify; some unique to us.  California produces more than half of the nation’s fruit, nuts and vegetables.  Grapes are the leading legal crop, followed by almonds.  Nationally, the following products are almost exclusively grown in CA (over 95%): artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins and walnuts.  In addition, strawberries, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, greens of all types, onions and garlic are major crops.  The fields, groves and vineyards were massive and generally well tended, mostly by migrant workers toiling in the California sun.

 

We enjoyed several days in Pleasanton, which lives up to its name and is certainly “pleasant.”  On Friday night, we were greeted by Jeff and Debbie’s neighbors with a block party featuring pizza, ice cream and a cake tracing the Heart Trek USA path.  Early Saturday morning, our granddaughters, Ashley and Olivia, marched through the vibrant downtown area of Pleasanton that looks like a movie version of Main Street America along with at least three hundred other kids that are part of the Pleasanton soccer leagues.  Each team was dressed in costumes to match their team name.  Ashley, who plays on the 10-12 year old Bullet team, was dressed with a silver cape, silver face paint and silver swim cap and was followed by coaches and team mothers carrying bull eyes (that had been made by Brenda, Jeff’s wife Debbie and Debbie’s mother Lillian).   Olivia, who plays on the 8 year old Matador team, was carrying a red cape and had a red flower in her hair while her coaches dressed as bulls and charged in front of the girls.  There were lots of creative costumes among the other teams as well.  After the parade, we visited the downtown farmers market that featured many of the products seen on our trip north plus some unique Asian fruit that were new to us.  Soccer games followed with Ashley’s team coming up a little short and Olivia’s team winning.  But all had fun and got some good exercise.

 

 On Sunday, Brenda had a full day learning to prepare and cook some Chinese dishes from resident master chefs, Debbie and Lillian.  After a quick lesson, Brenda was busy folding and filling won ton pastries.  There was much chopping and dicing going on.  With the kitchen full, I was allowed to watch pro football which starts at 10:00AM in California.  (I knew there was something special about the left coast).  The meal that night included won ton soup, fried won tons with sweet and sour sauce, chicken with broccoli, bok choy with ginger, Chinese sausage, crispy pork and of course rice.  The meal was very tasty, but Brenda found that Chinese cooking takes a lot of preparation.  We’ll probably continue to eat most of our Chinese meals out of little paper pails with wire handles.

 

 Jeff was busy on Sunday finalizing a musical video review of my walk across the country.  Be sure to check future blogs for the end product.  We had a wonderful, relaxed visit with the west coast branch of our family that was much too short.  The girls are growing so fast.  We miss seeing Jeff, Debbie, Ashley and little Olivia on a regular basis.  It was great to see them so happy, however, and enjoying life in Pleasanton.

 

 As we left Barstow, we headed south down Interstate 5 and east on Hwy 58, passing more groves and vegetable fields plus fields of roses and assorted flowers.  We’re headed next for Bryce Canyon, Utah.  Stay tune for what will hopefully be some spectacular photos.

CULTURE IN LA

Checking in from King City, CA…

 

  Before leaving the Los Angeles area, we had the opportunity to visit two of the premier attractions of not only Southern California but of the nation—the J. Paul Getty Museum and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  

 

The Getty Museum is rated as the number one attraction in Los Angeles.  This magnificent art museum is housed in a stunning architectural facility on a high bluff above the 405 (Interstate 405) with a great view of the LA basin.  It has the distinction of being the richest museum in the world, having been originally endowed by Paul Getty to the tune of $1.2 billion.  Its collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present includes works by such masters as Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Gauguin.  The museum attracts over 1.3 million visitors annually.    We were shocked at how up- close-and-personal we could get to the priceless artworks.  Unfortunately, the Getty is so massive that we got to see less than half of the exhibits on our visit.  If visiting LA, don’t miss the Getty and allow two days to complete your tour.

 

   It was a personal thrill to visit the Reagan Library on a hilltop in nearby Simi Valley.  In my opinion, President Reagan was the greatest President in my lifetime and one of the two or three greatest of all time.  The life of “Dutch” Reagan is artfully presented from his childhood in Illinois, his college time at Eureka College, his experiences as a radio sports announcer, his diverse acting career, his tenure as president of the Screen Actors Guild, his time as the spokesman for General Electric, his governorship of California and his monumental performance as the 40th President of the United States.    Utilizing numerous films of Reagan’s speeches, it is clear why he was known as the “Great Communicator.”  In a quiet voice but with impeccable timing, he inspired Americans with strong values and a spirit of optimism and determination.  Thirty years after these speeches were delivered, I was moved by his words and infected with pride to be an American.

 

  The library holds more than 40,000 artifacts and has some magnificent exhibits—Air Force One that was used during Reagan’s presidency; an actual piece of the Berlin wall; and, an exact replica of the Oval Office.  The most inspirational part of the library, however, is President Reagan’s tomb and memorial on which is inscribed these words:  “I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”  

 

When visiting Los Angeles, you should consider skipping the cheesy tourist attractions and visit the world class Getty and Reagan Library.

END OF THE ROAD

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.

ALMOST THERE

Checking in from Van Nuys, Los Angeles, CA …

Over the last two days, I walked from Pasadena through Los Felix and Hollywood to Beverly Hills ending just some 7.5 miles short of the finish line of this fantastic journey. That last leg will take place on Sunday, September 2, ending at the Santa Monica Pier. Some members of our family and some of our friends will either walk with me or be at the finish line to celebrate with Brenda and me. Many others, who have been with us in spirit, will be in our thoughts as the final of an estimated 5.6 million steps are completed.

A press release from the LA American Heart Association (AHA) had invited the media to meet with me in Pasadena at the Colorado Street Bridge. This is a beautiful 99 year old concrete arch bridge that spans Arroyo Seco and connects Pasadena to the towns of Eagle Rock and Glendale. It is on the National Historic Register and is beloved for its Beaux Arts arches, light standards and railings. Locals know it with the unfortunate moniker of the “Suicide Bridge” since almost 100 people have jumped from this structure over the years.

We were delighted that four television stations and one newspaper were there to cover and help promote my walk for heart health. (No, they didn’t come to see me jump from the bridge.) The ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates were represented and filmed interviews as did the Los Angeles local station, KDLA. The local newspaper, the Pasadena Star-News also sent a photographer and conducted a telephone interview. The media coverage gets our message out and helps explain the need for exercise to mitigate the risks of heart disease. It can also help encourage donations to the AHA through our website. Thanks to Kristine Kelly of the Los Angeles AHA for a great job arranging the media event.

The Los Felix area borders Griffith Park, a 4,310 acre municipal park that is a favorite of Angelinos. Much of the park was donated to the city in the late 1890’s by mining tycoon Griffith J. Griffith. He had owned the land for years where he had attempted to breed and raise ostriches. When ostrich plumes for ladies hats fell out of favor, he deeded the land to the city to avoid property taxes and promote adjacent land that he was developing for housing. The deed specified that the park must include an observatory, a planetarium, amphitheater and boys and girls camp. The park today includes all that plus the LA Zoo, horseback riding and hiking trails, numerous picnic areas, a golf course, the Greek Theatre and my favorite, the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum. Countless films and television shows have been filmed in Griffith Park. As an aside, Mr. Griffith was a colorful character who later served time in prison for shooting and nearly killing his wife.

Much of the walk through Hollywood treads on the Stars Walk of Fame. There 2,476 of these stars planted in the Hollywood sidewalks, literally everyone I could imagine from the film world, TV, radio and music. I found the star for Gabby Hayes but missed Hopalong Cassidy’s. I also got a taste of the other Hollywood when I had to skirt my way around two winos involved in a shouting, pushing battle in an apparent turf war. Every cuss word I have ever heard, plus a few new ones, were being screamed. As I scurried away, the police were on the way.

We had heard on the radio that California and Hollywood in particular was a haven for potheads with marijuana legal for most any ailment, real or imaginary. On a whim and not because we were interested personally, we asked SIRI on my I-Phone for how many “medicinal marijuana” shops were in Hollywood. She replied that there were 36 “cannabis clinics” within a three mile radius with names like The Honey Spot, Mr. Greenjeans Collective, The Gourmet Green Room, 99 High Collective, Hollyweed Caregiver and The Fountain of Well Being. The freaky sideshow in Hollywood now makes sense.

Traveling west on Santa Monica Blvd, I was humming Sheryl Crow’s “All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun (‘till the sun comes up on Santa Monica Blvd)”. The path got progressively better as I moved into Beverly Hills–attractive boutiques and bistros; beautiful houses and estates; upscale in almost every way. It’s easy to understand why this is home to the stars.

Sunday, the walk moves on to the beach. Time to celebrate and think about this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Time to thank Brenda for her unflinching partnership on this trek. Time to thank so many others for so much encouragement and support. Time to remember that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts. We’ve seen a great country and met wonderful people. Hopefully, we’ve touched a few lives. We are gratified by those who have said that Heart Trek USA has inspired them to start an exercise program. We’ve fallen short so far of our fund raising goal for the AHA but are so grateful for those who have contributed. Thanks to all our supporters.

Thanks to Walt Mancini (Pasadena Star-News); eecue.com and greyism.com for their great their pics.

TOURISTS IN LA

Checking in from Van Nuys, CA …

  With some down days in Los Angeles, Brenda and I have played tourist in the Los Angeles area.  Much of it was a refresher as we have visited LA several times in the past.  The area is still busy as can be, with lots of road construction, unbelievable traffic and really aggressive drivers.  You have to blend in and drive like a crazy person just to keep from getting run over.  But there is so much to see if you can only get there.
  From the RV park in the Van Nuys section of metro LA, we headed down to scout routes through the city for the final legs of the walk.  On the way to the center of the city, we passed the magnificent J. Paul Getty Museum high on a hill above the 405 (Interstate 405).  It is now rated as the number one attraction in the area, no small feat.  We hope to visit the Getty with friends and family on Saturday, the day before the end of the walk.

  We rode by our headquarters hotel on the edge of Beverly Hills and scouted several possible routes down to Santa Monica.  Since others may choose to walk all or part of the final leg with me, we wanted a safe and scenic route.  We settled on a walk down Olympic Blvd and Colorado Ave, a distance of roughly 7.5 miles.  We couldn’t resist diverting briefly down a cross street, Rodeo Drive, to see how the other half lives.    Lots of people were strolling down this thoroughfare, but not many were carrying shopping bags.  The stores were all the famous, high end names with lots of bling available at a price.  One store under construction, Bvlgari the Italian Jeweler, caught our eye.  The cars on the street included Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and for the commoners Mercedes, Lexus and BMW.  And then there was our red Honda Element.

  Not far from Beverly Hills down Sunset Blvd and Hollywood Blvd, we headed into Hollywood proper, passing by the Gateway to Hollywood structure (commonly known as the Four Ladies Statue) with the four corner posts representing the multi-ethnicity of movie’s leading ladies with likenesses of Mae West, Dorothy Dandridge, Anna Mae Wong and Delores Del Rio.  First stop was Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Stars Walk of Fame.  Couldn’t held remembering Lucy and Ethel stealing John Wayne’s cement hand and boot prints.  We certainly weren’t the only ones seeking this famed tourist spot.  Tourists were thick, mixed with locals dressed in costume garb and hawkers luring people to shops, restaurants and tour buses.    The area has upgraded considerably since our last visit with lots of new buildings and attractions.  One modern building, the Hollywood Highland Center, is designed to frame the trademark Hollywood sign on a hillside in the distance.  Even some of the old holdovers have been really spruced up, most notably the El Capitan Theatre operated by Disney and continually showing classic Disney animated films—“Cinderella” today.

  Trying to get a better view of the Hollywood sign, we headed up into the hills toward the Griffith Observatory.  Didn’t get very close, however, as the parking lot was full and both sides of the road were crammed with cars for more than a mile in both directions.  So we returned the next day when the Observatory itself was closed.  The view was spectacular in all directions and with a smaller crowd and a half full parking lot, we were able to visualize the scenes that were shot here for James Dean’s “Rebel without a Cause.”

Three more days of walk ahead—Pasadena to Beverly Hills to Santa Monica.  Been a long and memorable journey.  Thanks for being with us in spirit on Heart Trek USA.

INSPIRATION

Checking in from Pomona, CA …

Continuing on the historic route of old Route 66, I have passed endless small towns that run into one another and make up part of the greater Los Angeles area—San Bernardino, Rialto, Fontana, Rancho Cucamongo, Upland, Claremont, La Verne, Pomona, San Dimas, Glendora, Azusa, Duarte, Monrovia, Arcadia, East Pasadena and Pasadena so far. Each town has its own character–some upscale, some downscale, some attractive, some not, some well maintained, some not—but all are interesting as part of the mosaic that our journey has revealed.

As many of you have seen from our photos, I walk with a bright orange or yellow vest (provided by our friend Jo Ann Stockwell) for safety and to promote my walk with the emblazoned message “Walking Across the USA.” The vests have often been our best promotional tool, causing many passersby to stop me and ask about my journey and wish me well. The message doesn’t get through to everyone, however. On many occasions and three times in the last two days, people have stopped me to ask directions. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d assume that someone walking across the country probably is not a local boy.

While walking through San Dimas and Glendora, I got a couple of e-mail messages from a guy who had been following my journey via our website and had passed me earlier in the day while taking his daughter to school. Dan Crowther was very interested in my trip, said I had inspired him and wanted to meet me. He tracked me down near the end of my walk and shared his story with me. Dan’s father, Tim, was a Glendora policeman who worked with the youth of the area. In 1996 at age 48, Tim died suddenly of a heart attack. He was so beloved in the community that a new teen and youth center was named after him. Tim’s family was obviously crushed by his passing, but Dan took the loss to heart. He took up an active exercise program, and with his wife Janna, has now run five marathons and is training for a sixth while raising funds to help fight cystic fibrosis.

I was impressed by Dan’s positive reaction to a tragic loss and his dedication to exercise to help overcome obvious genetic heart disease risk. I also could not help noting that I was 48 years old in 1996, had suffered a heart attack but had been blessed to have survived. Tim Crowther had obviously touched many lives and had left a wonderful legacy. My trek suddenly seemed a little less significant. While Dan felt that I had inspired him, I was instead the one who was moved and inspired. After my walk, Brenda and I visited the Tim Crowther Teen and Family Center and felt privileged to be there. Dan had also given me a gift that I will wear proudly on the rest of walk and even afterward—a small pin replica of Tim Crowder’s police badge. Thank you Dan and thanks to the memory of your father, for putting my efforts in perspective and for inspiring me to continue to spread the word about improving cardiovascular health.

I passed some landmarks on my latest walk. The Santa Anita Park in Arcadia is the most famous horseracing track in the west and is home to both the Santa Anita Derby and the California Derby. Winners of these races usually go on as three year olds to run in the Triple Crown races. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is a shrine to football fiends like me. It’s the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All,” the first and still most important bowl game. We also rode by the Tournament of Roses Parade Headquarters which is housed in the former mansion home of William Wrigley, the chewing gum tycoon. Brenda and I had been fortunate to have helped decorate a Rose Bowl Parade float some years ago and loved the experience. We hope to participate again in a year or two.

At the end of my walk in Pasadena, Brenda and I were met by old friends. Lillian and Dennis Mah are the parents of our daughter-in-law Debbie, and Helen Wong is Debbie’s aunt. We have stayed in touch with these folks since our son Jeff’s marriage to Debbie some thirteen years ago and have always enjoyed visiting with them. They plan to walk with me some as we pass near their home in Eagle Rock and will be with us at the end of the walk to celebrate. We enjoyed a very nice lunch with Lillian, Dennis and Helen and had fun sharing stories of our trip.

I have just three days of walking left on this journey. To accommodate the LA media, I will take a few days off and walk from Pasadena through Glendale and on to Beverly Hills early next week. Then friends and family will join me as I walk the final leg to the Santa Monica Pier on Sunday, September 2. Brenda and I will play tourist in the days in between. If we see anything interesting, we’ll continue to share the descriptions and photos with you on our website and on Facebook.