We walk a lot. Since 2010 I and many members of my family as well as countless ever-changing friends have been keeping track of our steps, and there are lots of them.
In 2012 we added Tim to the spreadsheet tracking system and he has been an active member ever since. Using Google Drive I have been able to stay in contact with my family in a fun and daily way as we log in to add our steps and can comment on each other’s progress. When we started purchasing fancier pedometers (most of us now have FitBits) the tracking regularity reduced, but when I go to enter my steps every week it is fun to see new progress and new comments and allows me a small connection to my family that I otherwise wouldn’t have.
However, most notably on our steps spreadsheets are days where Tim and I have the highest steps in the group. In 2013 that day was Saturday, August 3. We started out bright and early that morning, knowing we had to get to his grandmother’sbirthday dinner, with a smoothie. We took small string-style backpacks at 530 in the morning and snuck out of his apartment that he shared with two roommates to begin the adventure we’d been talking about all summer. We were going to walk from Chicago to Griffith, Indiana. It comes to about 40 miles, mostly in the city of Chicago, and countless neighborhoods, street types, landscapes, and most importantly, steps (which are not countless).
As the sun rose we crossed the Milwaukee Avenue overpass over the Kennedy Expressway, still in high spirits and feeling fine.
We passed the barricades to Lollapalooza which was happening that weekend, dressed like we were going to attend (bright colored shirts and “hipster” sunglasses) way too early for any revelers to be around and crossed onto Prairie Avenue, which heads through the old part of South Loop in Chicago. We were able to see old mansions and a side of life that we have never thought of in the city.
When we finally made it down to the University of Illinois and walked through the Midway Plaisance we were beginning to feel some of the sun, but it was a morning sun and the shade from the trees was welcome. I have spent very little time down by the University of Chicago and it was wonderful to see the south side of the city slowly passing at a walkers pace (and there are public restrooms in some of the parks! But be prepared to hold your nose).
When we saw a sign that was perfectly indicative of our route (but we weren’t walking on the Skyway) we made sure to take a moment to capture it!
We arrived at our planned lunch point (about half way through the walk) earlier than expected (it was barely 11am!) but we were still starving and ready to eat! The guys inside of the iconic Calumet Fisheries were surprised we walked all the way there, and more-so because of how far it was!
And they showed us the smoke box where they smoke all of the fish. (the smoked salmon here is amazing! If you’re ever in town you should definitely stop by, though I wouldn’t say it’s the most pedestrian friendly location).
And we were able to enjoy our food with an amazing view of some of the industrial bridges in Chicago.
Along the route we ran into some issues, there were no sidewalks along Avenue O for quite a while, which meant we walked in some random grasses that had giant bugs jumping around in them (scary!) and at some point, the bushes wereso overgrown that our only option was to walk in the median (luckily it was curbed!) while the few cars that passed us (there were a couple more than a few maybe) rushed by probably exceeding the speed limit. We don’t usually condone walking in the middle of the road, but in this case, we didn’t have much of a choice. If you look up Avenue O and 118th in Chicago and imagine walking south, there aren’t really many (any) other options!
We finally finished the day with me slightly ahead of him in steps (I say it’s because I had to walk around to keep my blood flowing smoothly while he took so many bathroom breaks and he says I take smaller steps and am therefore cheating) at a wonderful birthday party for his grandmother! His parents are now no longer shocked when we say we don’t need a ride from the train station when we visit because they’ve seen how extreme we will be to get to a party!
While out on these walks we realize we go through some dangerous areas, and we try to not dress in a way that would encourage robbery, and I always carry some money separately from my wallet just in case. On The Walk we will never be able to as easily walk around knowing we can be safe in a moment’s notice by hopping on a bus or waving someone down, except when we repeat this walk once we reach Chicago! We are taking precautions to have emergency backups and emergency notifications in place so someone will be able to look up where we were when we last connected and a few people will know to be looking out for updates from us very regularly along the way. We don’t know all of the dangers we will see along the way, but we have discussed some of the ones other people have encountered and how we would deal with those.