MR. DIABETES® WAKE UP AND WALK® TOUR
UPDATE : August, 2008
LOCATION: Miccosuki Indian Reservation, Florida
TOTAL MILES: 9748.9
This has been a very tough month – VERY TOUGH!!! There were/are climate issues – walking in the tropics; walking conditions issues – roads, swamplands, animals, reptiles and insects, unpredictable vehicle traffic and more…………..; transportation issues – the support vehicle was in an accident and totaled; and other concerns. All of this has created a major slow down of our progress. Now, I’ll get more specific, in order to give you an idea of life in my world, here in southern Florida in the Summer.
THE CLIMATE: The temperatures are consistently in the 90’s. But Florida has a “Heat Index” similar to the “Wind Chill Index” that exists in the North during the Winter months. The extreme humidity is the reason for this “heat Index” and typically raises the temperature(s) 10 degrees, or more. It makes the air very heavy so, it’s harder to breathe. Unfortunately, the roads I’m walking have swamp and thick vegetation, which greatly interferes with any breeze that may exist.
Interestingly, when I was walking in the deserts of our American Southwest during the middle of Summer, and temperatures were routinely over 100 degrees and up to 115 degrees (that’s air temp – ground temp could reach 20+ degrees hotter), it seemed a lot “cooler” then than this Florida climate feels now. It’s a “dry heat” in the desert, and that seems to make all the difference. I don’t want to minimize the dangers of being active in excessive heat.
Precautions must be taken, always, to meet the demands of heat and ALL climate conditions. I have taken precautions every single day I’ve walked, wherever I have walked. Precautions must include proper hydration, appropriate clothing and more. This is an important subject for another time.
And, along with heat & humidity & swamp(s), comes insects. I should say INSECTS!!, including the dreaded mosquito. Even though I wear an insect repellant, I’m still getting feasted upon. Not much more I can do about it. Russ, on the other hand, is in an air conditioned vehicle and only under extreme circumstances will he get out of it or, even, open the window. As soon as he does these insects are all over him. Welcome to the tropics!
In addition to the excessive heat & humidity, this is hurricane season in Florida and along the east coast up to New England. But, most hurricanes originate to the south and east off our east coast, thus, making Florida the prime target for hurricanes and tropical storms.
Hurricanes can be unpredictable and go into the Gulf of Mexico or up the east coast. Tropical storms, a bit less severe, are not to be taken lightly and can cause devastating damage to life and property. Storm season is from June 30 – November 30. So far, there’s been Hurricane Fay, which has caused flooding not seen in Florida for decades, at least. Now, as I write this (August 31) Hurricane Gustav is working its way into The Gulf of Mexico and threatens the Gulf Coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. Gustav is a Level 4 which means it is carrying gale force winds of 140 – 150 mph and may well go higher. It just crossed Cuba and there are reports of winds reaching 200 mph!! Coastal areas are evacuating!! And, working its way in this direction is the big threat of Hurricane Hanna. Tropical storms do not get names. And, deserving of mention, are lightning storms. Florida is the lightning capital of the world. This presents many more concerns about safety. Needles to say, I won’t walk in any of these conditions. Actually, throughout THE WALK™ there are only a few conditions in which I won’t walk: major storms, snow (no longer an issue) and, if I spot lightning at ANY distance, I stop walking immediately (if I can see it, it can see me!!)
ROAD CONDITIONS: This translates into “walking conditions”. . Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that every single walk from the very first day to today (and until I finish) has presented unique challenges, which must be dealt with and respected.
I got spoiled for most of the walking conditions down the east coast of Florida. For almost 350 miles I enjoyed the luxury of sidewalks (most of that distance) and on flat ground. But, at Florida City, billed as The Gateway to The Keys, that all changed drastically. I walked to Key Largo down Card Sound Road, the alternative road to a suicidal walk down RTE 1. [AN ASIDE: This road is recommended by The East Coast Greenway Alliance as the pedestrian route all the way to Key West. The entire ECGA Trail, the most fantastic pedestrian route, goes 2700 miles from Calais, ME to Key West, FL. I have walked portions of this trail from Maine to Key Largo, Florida and I am a HUGE fan. It is an incredible accomplishment by a dedicated staff headed up by Director Karen Votava.]
Card Sound Road was the most difficult stretch of road on The Keys from Florida City to Key West. It didn’t have the heavy traffic of RTE 1, but the traffic was/is still quite substantial – just slower, necessarily, because of the way the road is laid out. That said, it’s a narrow 2 lane road with swamp on both sides. There is not much of a shoulder to walk on, leaving me to step into the grassy areas lining the roadway. Alligators, snakes, BIG cats, wild boar are all part of the environment and need to be watched for and respected.
After reaching Key Largo, I decided not to walk the 106 more miles to Key West. The primary reason is that from Key Largo to Key West there is a miniscule population, except for Key West, and THE WALK™ is a walk of awareness. For purposes of THE WALK™ I am more productive by getting across the State to Naples and the Gulf Coast of Florida where there is a large population who will benefit from this effort. I hope to one day go back and do that stretch, as it will be an absolute pleasure – 99 miles is very walkable with 90+ miles of that walkway being sidewalks. The only part I consider UNwalkable (for safety reasons) is the 7 MILE BRIDGE. There is a decent breakdown lane, but if you are on foot and a vehicle strays into that breakdown lane at a high rate of speed, well……………………………..I’m sure there are some who would call me overly cautious. But, I’ve walked this country on every conceivable type roadway, roads much more dangerous and challenging than 7 MILE BRIDGE, and if I do walk The Keys and decide to include walking across this bridge, you can be assured I will take extraordinary precautions, as I did on all the others.
Now, I am walking across southern Florida in The Everglades. I am on RTE 41 (The Tamiami Trail aka Alligator Alley). This road is much like Card Sound Road but more of everything. This 2 lane road is a major link between the West Coast of Florida and the East Coast. The traffic is non-stop (slight breaks) and innumerable simi-trucks going in both directions. The road stretches for over 100 miles from downtown Miami to Naples. I don’t think there are any intersecting roads that would offer an alternative to this one, except, that is, RTE I-75 which crosses the State a bit further north. But, that’s an interstate and no pedestrian traffic is permitted. What this means, in terms of vehicle traffic, is that the posted speed limits of 45-55 mph are ignored by many drivers who, I guesstimate, are traveling at speeds of 100+ mph.
Also, I find myself surrounded by snakes (not my favorite thing) and alligators are common to see. So far, the closest any alligator has come to me is 20-30 yards; the snakes, though, has been several feet and one big black snake (10’+/-) was only a few inches; it was stretched out in the shadows of the guard rail I was walking close to, while watching/avoiding the oncoming traffic. I’m learning to improve my multi-tasking skills. I’m ever vigilant about the BIG cats, wild boar and other wildlife living and hunting in the woods and swamp lining this road. Of course, Russ is always nearby in the event of problems and I have taken precautionary steps to guard against unwanted attention. Unfortunately, I haven’t found those special “snakebite boots” which offer protection up to your knees. I couldn’t find any my size.
On the other side of this picture is the extraordinary beauty that is The Everglades. Here, there is an eco-system that has existed since the beginning of time (at least as far back as I care to look) and demonstrates nature’s fantastic balance. There are a number of air boat tours available to visitors. They will take you through The Everglades where you can get up VERY close and personal, guaranteeing you sightings of alligators, exotic birds, and more. I haven’t taken an air boat ride, yet, but I’ve seen plenty of all of that anyway. Maybe I’ll come back just for the boat ride. HHMMmmmm………………….
TRANSPORTATION: If you remember from my July UPDATE, I told you about the “support vehicle” being broadsided by a cab in Miami. Well, after a month, it’s been determined to be totaled. That’s created another problem that needs to be resolved. Insurance provided a rental vehicle for the month, but that time has lapsed. Now we only have Russ & Shirley’s pick-up truck. It will suffice for a little while, but it isn’t intended for the rigors of THE WALK™. So, the hunt is on for a replacement vehicle. If anyone wishes to assist me, here, I sure would appreciate it. Maybe you know a Dealer, or an individual, who would like to support this cause and get a tax deduction, too. DDF can give a tax deductible receipt for a vehicle donation. A financial gift will also work to help replace the “support vehicle”; the insurance won’t cover a replacement of the vehicle. Thank you for any help you can give.
MEDIA and MEETINGS: Miami Herald: Reporter: Allison Goodman. This article first appeared on the internet on August 5. Then, it was included into 4 regional issues of the newspaper on August 7. Allison did a great job and I got many compliments on how well she did with writing the facts of the story. I also did a follow-up interview with Claire Stanford of the prestigious “Health.com” internet news service. I don’t know, yet, when this will be published, as this interview was quite extensive. My guess, though, will be within a week.
My only Mayoral meeting was with Mayor Linda Bell of Homestead, Florida. It was a very comprehensive meeting and this is one Mayor who truly cares about her city and really has her act together. Homestead, you may remember, was literally decimated in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew. I would put it on the same plane as New Orleans being hit by Hurricane Katrina. I drove through Homestead right after “Andrew” (about 1 week) and it was an image of destruction I’ll never forget. They have come a long way since, but you can see recovery is still in process.
DISASTER AVOIDED: Another disaster was avoided ONLY because I prepared for its possibility. Everyone knows about Murphy’s Law: if something can happen, it will. Now, learn Mandell’s Law: Murphy was an optimist. Here’s what happened:
Every day I walk, I routinely download the 2 digital cameras we carry. I carry one on my hip and typically take from 200–300+ pictures of sights, events and people I meet during that day’s walk. Russ and/or Shirley has the other camera and, from the “support vehicle”, will take upwards of 200 pictures. And, of course, there are a couple of camcorders always working. When I return to my RV I download all pics to my 2 external drives. I used to download to only one of them, but a while ago I began downloading to both at the same sitting. And am I glad I did!! For some unknown reason, as quickly as flicking on a light switch, one of my external drives malfunctioned and wiped out everything on it – well over 100,000 pictures of THE WALK™. I immediately went to Best Buy, got another 750 gig external drive and copied everything onto it from my “backup” drive. Best Buy told me the information was lost and might be retrieved by going through an extremely expensive recovery process. But, they thought, from their extensive testing in their store lab, that it’s irretrievably lost.
A good lesson, folks, back up ALL that you care about. My next step is to back it all up on DVD – thank you, Lisa. Best Buy will do it, reluctantly, as the content is kind of large – 223 gigs!
THE WALK: On the DDF front, excitement is building as THE WALK™ is reaching its final miles - 250+. I am currently walking across the State of Florida, through The Everglades, along Alligator Alley (RTE. 41) to Marco Island & Naples. Then, it’s up the Gulf coast to a big-time fun-time celebration in Sarasota. This will be under the BIG TOP sponsored by the Police Athletic League (PAL), and others. It is being organized by Judy Dean of The Finer Places, which is located in Sarasota. Judy is being assisted by our own Public Outreach Director, Dawn Swidorski. This event will take place on December 14, 2008. It will have a parade, demonstrations and many activities for the Family and kids of all ages.
Then, on December 21, I will be walking the absolutely FINAL miles into Madeira Beach. This is where THE WALK™ began with its first steps on December 1, 2000 from DDF Headquarters. Here we’re planning a different kind of celebration. If you’d like to join me for this momentous occasion, you are invited. That’s right, if you are reading this, you are invited. However, it will be helpful if you let us know you are coming, so we can plan accordingly. Judy, Dawn and our DDF staff look forward to hearing from you. Go to: www.DefeatDiabetes.org
and “CONTACT US”. If you don’t hear back from us within a few days, try again, as our high volume of website traffic sometimes has a way of misplacing an e-mail or two. Also, check our Home Page for updates and announcements of these events.
That said, I’m feeling strong, mentally and physically, and am eager to walk the remaining 250+ miles.
This UPDATE has focused on my struggles of THE WALK™ and the various activities taking place during it. But, don’t ignore our many valuable programs: E-Lerts™ newsletter; Defeat Diabetes® News Service; MADDCAP™, DefeatDiabetes® CareGiverHelper; Acsia Insurance; B-CLEAR energy drink; Sensational Stevia Desserts; and several others, which can be found on the side rails of our over 3500 pages on this website. And, we will soon be adding other products & services helpful to diabetics and those interested in achieving and/or maintaining their good health.
Defeat Diabetes Foundation is now finishing its 18th year in existence. That date will occur in September, 2008 – THIS MONTH!! In our non-profit 501(c)(3) capacity we have grown to help people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We also have a presence, via the internet, into over 28 countries around the world. Our programs, which we offer to the world, are free to them and ongoing. But, they are not free to us. The cost of raising money to continue to deliver our valuable programs is prohibitive. But, in these trying times, we are left little choice. But, YOU can help!!
When you designate a program for your support 100% of that donation (less bank processing fees if you use a Major Credit Card) will go to that program. Defeat Diabetes Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity, which allows for your donation to be tax deductible. You may donate to any of our programs with VISA, MASTER CARD or AMERICAN EXPRESS.
During my perimeter walk of the United States I have interacted, one-on-one, with tens of thousands of individuals who suffer with diabetes. These victims require relief NOW, for themselves AND their families. It is absolutely clear and well recognized by top diabetes researchers and scientists that there WILL NOT be a cure in the next 20-30 years, if then.
But, we know how to prevent future Type 2 diabetes (90% of the total 24 million diabetics in the U.S.) 95% of the time. That means we can prevent diabetes from afflicting 95% of the 57+ million pre-diabetics in the U.S.) So, Defeat Diabetes Foundation is introducing programs that address prevention.
So, please make your next tax deductible donation to: Defeat Diabetes Foundation.
For sponsorship and/or advertising on our website: www.DefeatDiabetes.org and click on Products & Services to learn our policy(ies).
Remember, What’s worse than finding out you have diabetes? …….. NOT finding out!!!!
To reach me personally with your questions and comments:
AWARENESS + ACTION = PREVENTION®