For the next couple of blogs, I will try to detail some of the thoughts while traveling 100 kilometers raising money for the Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic.
There is a sense of enthusiasm when beginning a journey--even a journey of 100 kilometers or 62.5 miles. I knew the journey would have some difficult moments. Our bodies in this day and age and in this country are not conditioned to travel over long distances. Decades ago, folks thought nothing about walking miles upon miles to get to a particular destination. They knew it was one of the only ways to travel, and they were used to it. We have been spoiled by cars and trains and airplanes. We can zip anywhere and everywhere in a matter of hours. But to travel by foot...
Twelve brave souls dared to take this journey. We arrived on Sept. 30th at 7:30 a.m. to gather and collect our thoughts as we prepared to embark. Of course, we took a moment for prayer and to sing a hymn. What better hymn than "Just a Closer WALK with Thee"? After singing, it was time to start.
We were fortunate in that we had a tractor pulling a trailer with two port-a-potties, ice chests with drinks, water, and hay bales to sit on at rest stops. I conferred with several congregation members, and we agreed that since the port-a-potties were being used at a church function, we could call them "Holy Crappers." By the time we were miles into the journey, we were glad we had them! :-)
The first day would be the most demanding physically. We were scheduled to travel 24 miles. We would take backroads from Cat Spring to just outside Brenham. We were blessed with cooler weather, but it was still forecast to hit the upper 80's during the day. I was worried about a couple of folks who I had learned hadn't trained quite as much as others.
There is something to be said for being prepared. I spent a couple of years in Boy Scouts before discovering football and dropping out. "Be Prepared" was ingrained into my head for those years, and it had echoed in my head during the months leading up to this event. 20+ miles per day for three days means that one's body has to have a very high level of endurance. It also means that your body must be acclimated to the sun and temperature. Nothing zaps energy like walking in full sun. I purposely trained in the middle of the day--when it was hottest. I forced myself to walk consecutive days knowing I would have to do this later. It wasn't necessarily pleasant, but I knew what I would be facing during the journey.
The morning was very nice. We ran into no problems. Our first leg would cover just over 10 miles. The temperature held in the mid 70's. A cool breeze blew from the north. There was ample shade along the route. Everyone held up pretty well. A gentleman who had minor surgery three weeks earlier on his knee had to stop and ride a couple of times, and I started to worry a little about him. Yet, we plugged on.
We stopped at St. John Lutheran Church in Bellville, TX. They treated us to a meal of chicken salad sandwiches, tuna salad sandwiches, pasta salad, fruit, and cookies. Delicious. They also offered us priceless encouragement on our journey.
I knew the next stretch would be the rough one for many. 14 miles through back roads, and about half on gravel. This is where that training would really come into play.
The temperature began rising. The pace was about 3.5 miles an hour. Most were keeping up.
We stopped at a family's house where they had prepared a rest area. Lemonade and cookies were provided as well as Popsicles. It came at a perfect time.
The next stretch started wearing on the group. Constant sun and little shade was taking its toll. The guy who had had the knee surgery became a permanent rider on the trailer. The other gentleman who hadn't done much training began to show signs of heat exhaustion. We stopped on the side of the road in some shade after covering about four miles. Luckily, I had a bandanna, and I dipped it in cool water and put it on the guy's shoulders. I truly believe it prevented him from having heat stroke.
We plodded on, and roughly three miles later, we had to call someone in to pick up the guy who had knee surgery. Got too hot. He would not be finishing the journey as a walker (he would drive the tractor the remaining two days).
Late afternoon and evening began setting in bringing relief from the heat. We also entered into a stretch of road lined with shade trees. I knew everyone else would make the final destination, but you could tell that it had been a rough journey. Most of the ladies who came to walk lived in Katy and had walked 20 miles in a day several times. They were doing o.k., but they had not walked on gravel. Several were limping. Several had blisters. None quit.
We finally reached St. Paul Lutheran Church of Phillipsburg. A good meal awaited us. A cool building. Unfortunately, the other gentleman who was experiencing heat exhaustion decided this would be his first and last day of the journey. He couldn't do more. That left 10 of us to continue on the next day.