In Jacks Own Words: “Hendrum Or Bust”
Senior CaliforniaPreps.com writer Jack Nelson has been down a long road since September 2006. It started with brain surgery and culminated with a 27.3 mile walk a year later in Minnesota. In an earlier article we presented a local Minnesota magazine's version of the event; now read it in Jack's own words.
Jack likes to write as if he's talking to you. So we've pretty much left his story unedited so you get the full flavor of his adventure as only he can tell it. The narrative is a little long and wordy but if you set aside a few minutes and read it all, we think you'll be glad you did!
What Inspired A 27-mile Walk?? -- Brain Surgery!
I must say I had never attempted a walk this long in my life and before this summer had not ever walked further than the 7 miles from Ft Leonard Wood to Bivouac in early 1955 but the first time I walked that far this summer I found out it was easier at 72 years old without an M-1 and backpack than it was at 20 years old with them. So that got me thinking that maybe I could do something special to mark the anniversary of my brain surgery.
Last year at a shipmates reunion was the week that I first knew there was something seriously wrong with me but couldn't put my finger on what it was but just knew that I wasn't able to keep up on walks with my shipmates and I had never been so slow as I was and knew I would not be able to go back to work when my vacation was over. So my wife Sherry ended up calling doctor back there before my vacation ended and made an appt.
The next day was when I was supposed to have an MRI so I went in and had that and was going out for lunch when they said to wait until it was read which would be about 10 minutes so I sat down in waiting room and read the morning paper and it was a lot longer than ten minutes but I was in no hurry and then about an hour later a nurse came with a wheelchair and said I was being admitted to hospital and was going to have brain surgery so that was quite a shock.
But at least they had found something as I knew there was something really wrong as when I would park in a reg parking space and then get out of the car and find out I was not between the lines and this was happening all the time so it was pretty scary and I realized I probably should not have been on the road at all.
Well I didn't have much time to get scared as I had surgery that evening and when I came out of anesthesia and was on the gurney being wheeled to Intensive care unit I could feel that my legs felt like they were already up to full speed again and though they said I would be in ICU for four days and then another week in the hospital that I would be out of ICU by Sunday as I was 71 years old and had never used a bedpan and wasn't going to start now and I did it and was out the hospital 81 hours after the operation and I was feeling good.
Not looking good though as they had my head shaved and a row of staples on each side of my head but at least I felt a lot sharper and although I was right when I told my friends I would never be working at the post office again it wasn't because I couldn't have but after they gave me all the time off to recuperate I thought it was probably as good a time as any to call it a day in the work force so after I took complete physical and nothing else was found to do medically and I was cleared to go back to work on May 15th, I decided to take two weeks of vacation from 15th of May until the 1st of June and retire on June1st.
So that is what I did and Sherry and I left Calif on April 1st and came back to Wisconsin and I retired by phone on June 1st. I was pretty bummed out up here in Wisconsin in April and May because I am used to Calif weather and this was not a beautiful spring up here and truthfully I would much rather have been going to work out at my Irvine post office than loafing up on Wisconsin country home but around the 1st of June the weather changed for the better so I got out walking and that was what started me on my way to the eventual marathon walk I undertook.
In Wisconsin One Year Later: Time To Walk The Line
On Thursday afternoon we went out shopping and Sherry wanted me to get something to eat as I was walking the next day and I told her I always just got by with a little beef jerky and a baggie of pretzels and she did not think that was enough for 27 miles so I bought a couple of Snickers energy bars for a buck and a half each to satisfy her that I would have enough energy.
We went back to our motel and I waited for the news with the weather forecast and when the weatherman came on and gave the prediction of southeasterly winds the following day I just said ,thank God..and went to bed knowing that I was not going to have a problem with the weather so had no excuses and went to bed. Well I was up a couple of minutes before my wakeup call , I wasn't really nervous at all as I was really looking forward to the challenge as I knew that I was going to finish the deal unless I came up with an unlikely blister or something and I hadn't had one of those in a long summer of walks.
I was figuring on 3 miles per hour with 20 minute breaks in each of three towns on my home run march as Kragnes was first base, Georgetown, second base, Perley, third base and the Last Chance Saloon in Hendrum was home plate.
Well the big day had arrived and I left the motel at 6:30 AM for the Sunset Lanes Bowling Alley parking lot on Highway 75. Paul Granum was going to be there when I left and go ahead a few miles and wait and see if I needed anything and he had a bag with some extra socks and another pair of shoes if I needed them but when we got there he wasn't there yet so we sat in the south end of the parking lot and after a few minutes Sherry said we might as well move to the north end of the lot as it will be a little shorter walk from there.
So we did and then we saw a car at the other end near the bowling alley but it wasn't Paul's but when I got out of our Explorer , a guy jumps out of the car and says :Nelson, where the hell have you been. It was my friend Lowell Bolger who had just read my e-mail about a 6:30 start but he hadn't got word that I changed to a later start so it wouldn't be dark.
He had decided to surprise me and was wondering what had happened and seconds later another college friend, Dick Krabbenhoft arrived and that was a surprise. Then Paul arrived and he had a cardboard sign reading Hendrum or Bust and Sherry took a picture of us and then Lowell handed me a 5 dollar bill and he said, "That buys your first beer"
Heading For First Base
I said "Thanks and It is time for me to now JUST DO IT and I walked to the highway and started the trek at 7AM it was still over a mile to the north Moorhead city limits and Granum was parked up there and I had him take a picture at the city limit sign and the police came along and wondered what was going on and I told them I was walking to Hendrum and at least they didn't arrest me for being crazy as I think there were a lot of people that thought they must have taken my brains out last year to do something like this but I was on down the road and a little later took nice picture of the sun rising between Kragnes and Georgetown.
I guess it was about 9am when I pulled into Kragnes and Paul and John Kolness the publisher of the FM Extra were both there pulled into a driveway into town. It was too early for the bar in town to be open so John pulled out a can of Busch Light for me and I sat down and took off my shoes and Paul gave me a new pair of socks and I took out my phone book and wrote down Johns number and I took out my cell phone to give John my cell number and put on my shoes, drank the beer and my twenty minutes was up
Heading For Second Base With A Troubling Mind
I was on my way down the road to Second Base, Georgetown and I told Paul to go back to Hardees and tell the guys I had made it to first base and then come out to Georgetown and they had said the bar didn't open there until 12:30 and I knew that with the favorable wind I was going to do better than that but figured the earlier I got in the more time I could spend at the senior center where people I knew would probably be playing cards and I would probably even have a bite to eat and then would go and have my second base beer at 12:30 and be on my way.
I was walking merrily down the road when up ahead in my tracks was a car facing me and it wasn't Granum's and a guy was out in front of it and when I got closer I saw it was Tom Pantera ,the columnist from the FM Extra taking picture of me walking toward him. When I got there we talked a minute and he asked me for my cell phone number and I reached for it and then went thru all my pockets and now after everything going so good I was in trouble as I had told Sherry I would call her shortly before 10 to tell her where I was and she was going to be at a hair appt at the Moorhead Mall at 10 so she was really going to be worried when she didn't hear from me but there was nothing I could do.
I continued on my walk in to Georgetown and I would be at the approximate halfway mark when I got there so I was walking as fast as I could to get there early and make a phone call to Sherry. I got in to Georgetown before 11:30 AM which was actually going to give me an hour or so break there but when I got to the community room that served as the Senior center when I had been there in previous years the doors were locked and there was nothing open on main street.
The only business in town was the Elevator. I walked across the street where a young guy was mowing lawn but he was from a lawn service in Moorhead and knew nothing of what was going on in town but at that time Paul came driving in to town and I told him of the problem about the cell phone and if it was a worst case scenario it could have fallen off the top of the FM Extra Jeep Bronco so Paul drove back to Kragnes and looked for it in the area we were parked and a little ways down the road and came back and said no sign of it so that actually made me feel better as now I was sure it was in back seat.
So I went over to the elevator and made a phone call to Sherry and naturally she had been worried when I hadn't called since I left Moorhead but I told her to go to the paper and look for the phone in the back seat of the Bronco .
I then got a break when the girl came to open the bar early, just after 12 pm and then I waited a few minutes and then I said that maybe the owner had told her to open early because I was coming thru so I went across the street and sure enough that was what happened so I got my beer and in a few minutes was on my way out of town headed for third base.
Jack Bee Walking To Third Base
Perley would be the 21-mile mark for my projected 27.3-mile walk. Well just when I got back on Highway 75, I encountered the worst 5 minutes of the day as a bee attacked my face and I kept waving him away and he kept flying back at me and on and on it went and I am sure the traffic going by thought I was a crazy man with arms flailing and walking at the same time but I was thinking how far can a bee fly anyway as it kept going and I am sure I walked for a good quarter mile before he finally must have given out.
That ended up to be my toughest battle of the day, it really seemed downhill from there. The weather started warming up about then. I was still wearing my Mater Dei sweat jacket and it was past noon but about a mile out of Georgetown I took it off and tied it around my waist. It was just perfect with short sleeve shirt now and about three miles out of Georgetown, John Kolness drove up in the Bronco and asked me if I was missing something and handed me my cell phone as Sherry had showed up at the office and though he was out on the road a secretary called him and asked him to look and see if my phone was there and it was.
After I got the phone I called Sherry and told her I had it and where I was and she had finished her hair appt and had lunch with Florence Wilson who is a sister of a friend of mine in California, Dr. Tom Amberry who is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the all time champion in most consecutive free throws made with the astounding mark of 2,750 in a row. He never did miss as they shut the lights out on him saying it could never be beaten anyway but he grew up in Grand Forks and went to the UND in Grand Forks and was the leading collegiate scorer in the nation in 1946-47 and was offered a no cut contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. But he opted to go to Medical school and became a podiatrist and he had a practice in Long Beach and retired there.
One of my best friends on the USS Bennington , Tom Countway got out of the service and became a podiatrist and started out in Long Beach and Dr Amberry knew him well so besides being from North Dakota that was another tie in and then it turned out another friend of mine in Fargo, Bruce Warner ,had played against him in college when Bruce was playing with NDAC in Fargo against the Univ in Grand Forks 4 times a season back then and he sent me articles from Fargo Forum back then that I passed on to Doc Amberry so this summer we have seen his sister every time we come up to the area.
Well after they had lunch in Moorhead and I was still several miles out of Perley, Sherry and Florence drove up and I stopped and talked to them a couple of minutes and then gave Sherry my jacket so I didn't have to cinch it around my waist and they drove back to Moorhead and she was going to take Florence home and then pick up Lyle and Jan and drive them out to Hendrum for my 5 pm slide into home.
I got into Perley and was really doing good time as it was only 2:20 PM which gave me 40 minute stop instead of the 20 I had planned and in the last mile in to town, three or four cars with friends in them passed and honked as they made there way to the Perley Place to have a beer with me before I started the final leg which was just 6 miles to city limits and .3 from there to last chance saloon so figured it would be no sweat to leave at 3 pm and be at the Last Chance by 5. Had nice visit with friends in there and I now knew I had it made as I knew when I got out on the highway I would already be able to see the water tower in Hendrum from there and that is the first water tower north of Moorhead as the total population of Kragnes, Georgetown and Perley don't equal the population of Hendrum which has a gigantic population on their city limit sign of 315. Georgetown and Perley are just over 100 each and Kragnes well below that mark.
Heading For Home!
Well I had a second beer there in Perley as I had so much time but got out of there at 3 pm for the last leg and as soon as I got out on the highway I spotted the water tower and got on my cell phone and sang the song like when I was a kid in that sing songy voice of "I see the water tower, I see the water tower" and it really felt good. I was still going just as fast as I had all day and the city limits kept getting closer and closer and Sherry still hadn't got by.
I called my daughter who was at work in Calif and told her I was just about there and then the police van from Hendrum came up when I was less than a mile from town and did a u turn so I figured he was going back to tell the people where I was. As I kept getting closer I was wondering if I should stop for awhile to make sure Sherry was there by the time I arrived and I don't think I was even 100 yards away when she, Jan and Lyle came driving by and there were some people out at the billboard that says "Hendrum, Next 9 exits."
They greeted me there and I had to have picture taken there but I still had some blocks to do to get down to the Last Chance saloon and I had arrived at 4:40 so after a few minutes there they had the police escort me down to main street by letting me walk right in front of them on the right side of the road and I arrived down at the bar at 4:50 PM and there in front of the bar they took a picture of me sliding in to home and Jim was the umpire waving me safe at home and that picture will be in the paper Friday as they called me yesterday to get Jims name.
The No-Nike Walk Of Fame Celebration
After that it was in to the Last Chance and there were a lot of friends to see and good friends Chuck and Shirley Aasen from Audubon, Mn bought a bottle of bubbly and we shared toasts and lots of pictures were taken and now my little story about shoes. In August on way down to Fargo, Sherry said I should get an expensive pair of good shoes to make the walk in so I bought a pair of 70 dollar Nikes on sale and when I got back to Wisconsin the next week I took a walk in them and they just didn't seem that comfortable as my older ones so I went in and bought some inserts for them that cost me 20 bucks and they still didn't feel that good.
The following week a couple ladies that went to high school with Sherry came over and visited for a few days and on the day they were going home they followed us in to Rice Lake and bought us breakfast and we were sitting in a booth and there were two guys at a table right across from us and I saw a guys shoes with Velcro tabs instead of laces and they looked nice so I said to him "Nice shoes " where did you get them? He said he had gotten them when they were on sale at K-Mart for 9 bucks so after the gals left for home we went over to K-mart and found them but they were not on sale but only 15 bucks so bought a pair.
Right away they felt so much better than the Nikes and then the next week they went on sale for 9 bucks so I got two more pair and had white, brown and blue ones so when I made my trip up to Fargo for the walk I had three pairs of K-Mart easy striders with me and one expensive set of Nikes in my closet in Wisconsin and on this night I took off those shoes and wrote Moorhead to Hendrum walk ,Sept 28th and autographed them and they are going to hang on a plaque in the Last Chance Saloon so I guess I can say my 9 buck K-mart Easystriders made the wall of fame in Hendrum.
Some Final Thoughts
Well it went as good or even better than I could have hoped for as if the wind would have been from the other way, I am stubborn enough of a Norwegian that I wouldn't have given up but it sure would have been a lot harder than it was. I cant say I was really tired but of course I could feel the tootsies had some miles on them that day but I wasn't even stiff the following day and we came back to Wisconsin on Sunday and I made my weekly 8 1/2 mile walk to Spider Lake for my two buck Monday burger.
I told Sherry on the way home that I kind of hoped for rain as then I could ride up there with her but it didn't so I made the walk and Sherry joined me when I got up there and they were happy I had made it and I told them that my 10 weekly walks up there made the flat highway 75 up in the Red River Valley a piece of cake comparably.
Well later that night I figured out my walking time and Instead of the 9 hours of walking I had figured at 3 mph which is 20 minutes a mile ,I actually averaged a mile every 18 minutes so my total walking time was 7 hrs 50 minutes and I had two hours of breaks instead of one so I have to credit the wind for that as if the wind had been from the north I would have been very lucky to average 20 minutes.
When I said I did it my way ,this is what I meant as Sherry and others told me to drink a lot of water to keep from being dehydrated and don't drink any beer on the way as that will dehydrate you. I told Sherry that I am doing the walking and I will do it my way.
More Final Thoughts And Something For All To Think About
My time for 27.3 miles was certainly no record but the record may be that I drank one swallow of water out of Paul Granum's bottle at one of the stops and didn't take the cap off my own while I drank 48 oz of Busch Light which proves it is just barley water anyway. My only food was some jellybeans that Paul gave me and I stuck in my jacket pocket and a few cheese puffs he had in his car as we sat in Georgetown.
But they sure do make good burgers at the Last Chance Saloon but I only ate one... I am not recommending that diet for anyone else making a walk like that but it worked just fine for the Sailor.
Oh I forgot. I had a bite out of one of those Snickers energy bars and I kind of spit it out as I didn't like it as they didn't taste like a regular snickers so I ended up I still have the one unopened one and I threw the other one away so I guess I wont be doing any commercials for them but I guess the two companies that would like me would be EasyStriders and Busch Light.... Well that's my story and I am sticking to it.