A 80-mile birthday walk ends on the Pumpkinvine
By B. Harry Dyck
An 80th birthday is something special. Considering the longevity of US males is only 76.61 years, I am quite happy to be on the plus side of that rather sobering statistic. One regular activity that has surely contributed to my longevity is walking, an exercise I have now followed for at least a decade. Wanting to do something unique for this 80th birthday, I decided an 80-mile walk would serve that purpose memorably, and I intended to do the 80 miles in eight days. To add a little variant, I started looking for coins, since my daughter and I had been competing for years in this fun challenge.
My first day’s walk was a 12-mile loop with a celebratory stop for a coffee and bagel at Panera Bread, two miles from home. Day two took me on another loop – in the opposite direction -- an 11-miler to our former home in Elkhart where, as luck would have it, I found some friends and neighbors at home willing to socialize over coffee and cookies (That surely adds to longevity too, not so?) Day 3 Eric, my son-in-law dropped me off in Nappanee from where I would walk home. Alas, the break for coffee and a refill of water that I had intended in Wakarusa was not to be since their shops on my route were all closed on Sundays. Too bad since I was already low on water. What to do? Keep on walking, that’s what - down CR 3 until I heard a human voice coming from the open window of a nearby farm house. In response to my call and request for water a friendly voice invited me to ‘Come on up.” I was promptly supplied with my water needs but with the happy discussion following about commemorating my upcoming 80th birthday, this kind lady acknowledged that she had had a birthday just the day before. I doubt that she had half as many birthdays as I, but, ‘Joy’ - on with my walk. By the time I had covered 10 miles, rain threatened but thanks to cell phones, my chauffeur son-in-law arrived to rescue me moments before the clouds opened.
My Days 4 and 5 were noteworthy for the delightful repast I enjoyed with Jim Smith, Goshen, and a brand-new golf ball I found off the sidewalk in Bristol. By Day 6, I had already walked 64 miles and nothing to rue the undertaking yet except for one blister under my big toe, nothing that a bandage and an extra sock could not remedy.
And then I was on to the last 18 miles of my Birthday walk - from Shipshewana, down our renowned Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, through Middlebury, and on to my goal - The Chief Ice Cream Shop in Goshen where a dozen of my finest friends joined me to celebrate the venture I had undertaken. As for the accumulation of valuables I sought: I found 32 cents, that aforementioned golf ball, and enough hardware to go into business selling used nuts and bolts.