Training has officially begun. On Wednesday, June 29th we took a 5 mile walk to Waterfront Wednesday, and music and community event held on Wednesdays in the summertime at Waterfront Park. It was cool out without the sun that evening and we and the dogs were happy to be out. The walk was easy, low key, and enjoyable.
Note: Waterfront Wednesday events are NOT dog friendly. We generally sit on the lawn outside of the event where we can still hear, but are not actually INSIDE the event fences. Maybe some day this will change…
Walks like this are not unusual in our routine. John and I enjoy walking and we will often find ourselves taking a 4 or 5 mile walking without thinking much of it. They don’t really take any significant planning, and we live in a city where it is very easy to get around on foot. There is always something happening, especially this time of year, so we always have somewhere to go. However, unlike the walks we used to take, our walks have a very specific purpose now. We aren’t just walking to walk, as much as we still enjoy it. Every time we leave the front porch, we are training.
When we walk across America next year, we plan to cover 20 miles every day. That is a distance that needs to be worked up to, for ourselves, but mostly for the dogs. In our research speaking with other cross country human and dog teams, the overwhelming consensus we were given is that the dogs will slow us down. A lot. Especially in the heat. I was fascinated by this because it is exactly the opposite of what I expected. Properly wearing your dog out every day (a tired dog is a good dog!) can be such a challenge, particularly with the more high-energy breeds.
On Thursday, June 29th, I walked with Max and Grace from our home in the Highlands of Louisville to the New Albanian Bank Street Brew House in New Albany, IN. The route is 9.03 miles. I was joined by a good friend, Kate, and her 2 rescue dogs Zeke, a 10-year-old pit bull, and her 1-year-old 1/2 pit mix Mo, who was rescued through Saving Sunny Inc. John was not with us for this adventure- he was at the office that day, but he was waiting at the day’s finish line to congratulate us with dinner, brews, and a much appreciated ride home. Our support vehicle on call that day was a good friend, Justen Fisher.
We mapped our route using GoogleMaps walking directions. I have heard good and bad things about the safety and accuracy of their walking routes and wanted to try them out for myself. Online walking directions would be a great tool cross-country if they are at least semi-reliable.
It was sunny and hot, about 85 degrees. Expecting it take about 4 hours, with lots of breaks considering the heat, we left at 2:30pm. The temperature would only be cooling down from that point on. Our route took us into downtown and over the 2nd Street Bridge, which has a completely acceptable pedestrian walk on either side. We had to off-road briefly when we reached Indiana to get onto Missouri Ave, which runs parallel to 31 N (the Bridge) and then onto South Clark Blvd. which is unmarked at that end. We took a guess, and thanks to an android app Kate downloaded on her phone called “CardioTrainer”, we were able to confirm that we were in fact on the right road. It also told us exactly where we were, how far we had gone, as well as how many calories we had burned (if you care about that kind of thing). It is definitely a useful tool.
I mean no offense to you techies out there, but I would like to think that we are capable of finding our way with good old fashioned maps, intuition, and luck. Although I hate to admit it, this app was very useful throughout the rest of our walk that day. It confirmed for me another piece of wisdom that was shared by a fellow walker, Tyler Coulson: “Get a good smart phone and pay your bill.”
The next section of the walk went up South Clark Blvd. and then onto Harrison Ave., all residential with sidewalks. Walking in an urban setting is easy. They are riddled with people, police officers, gas stations, plenty of cell service, and are designed for pedestrian traffic. There is water available and plenty of shade, grass, and places to sit and cool down when it is needed.
We did not plan our water breaks ahead of time, but when we plotted everything on a map afterward, we took a break almost exactly every 2 miles. That just happened to be when the group needed them. As foretold by our mentors, we ended up stopping primarily for the dogs rather than ourselves. We are built to deal with the heat, all tall and strung out, elevated away from the pavement that collects and radiates heat all day from the sun. The dogs are closer to the ground, wrapped in fur, and have most of their bodies exposed to the heat coming off the cement and asphalt. Being hyper-aware of their condition, considering the heat and this being our first training walk, we didn’t want to take any chances.
Our walk took us along the river and past the Ohio River Greenway. This was an area without sidewalks, but had low traffic and high visibility. The scenery was beautiful. We chose this part of the route- GoogleMaps wanted to take us along 31, but we re-routed because we thought the parks and river bank seemed more our style. Here is the waking route GoogleMaps initially generated for us. Here is what we adjusted it to.
Our route reached a choke point at a bridge where old 62 becomes Spring Street on our way into New Albany. This bridge is the only way across the river for miles. Because of this bridge, we cannot recommend this route to the faint of heart. We were warned by fellow cross-country walkers that we will have to go through areas that are not designed with pedestrians in mind. This was one of those areas. Fortunately, there is a small shoulder, the speed limit was 30 mph, and it was only 1/8 of a mile long, but it was easily the least pleasant section of the walk.
In New Albany at 5:45 pm with only 2 miles to go, we were on schedule, the temperature had dropped significantly. The dogs were dog tired, but doing well. The remainder of the walk was very easy- a simple stroll up Spring Street to our destination at the corner of Spring and Bank. About 1/4 mile away I saw my dear husband, John, walking to meet us from the Bank Street Brewery. Max saw him long after I did, too tired to be worried about what was that far ahead. When John called him, I dropped the leash and he barely jogged over, wagging, and laid down at johns feet, belly up, ready for scratches. I know that John had badly wanted to be with us and it felt strange to me to do it without him, but it was awesome to see him walking in our direction at the finish line.
As we turned the corner from Spring Street to Bank Street, we were greeted by the red, yellow and black New Albanian Brewing Company logo painted big on the side of the building, a figure standing strong, holding a beer barrel triumphantly above his head. YES SIR, I thought. YOU ARE EXACTLY RIGHT. IT IS TIME FOR A BEER! We were met by Justen, our support diver on call, Lacie, our cross country diver and her boyfriend Travis, and of course John. We would like to thank The Bank Street Brew House of the New Albanian Brewing Company for their dog friendly patio, delicious pomme frites and dipping sauces, and fine micro-brews. It was the perfect way to end our mission.