Life here in California can best be characterized as easy living. Lisa and I came to that conclusion after recently driving on I-4 in Orlando Fla., a city known for Disney World but based on crime statistics was recently labeled the angriest city in America. We were actually screamed at twice while in Orlando – once by an eighty year old codger on a golf cart and once while digging in our trunk for change to get through a toll booth. Angry indeed. Our son, Justin, lived in Orlando for two years and had to drive I-4 often. He never wants to go back.
That is not the case here in California. Traffic is crazy busy and ten lanes can be intimidating. But drivers seem far more accommodating here – even more so than in central Pennsylvania. The stereotype of the laid-back California beach comber may not be such a bad thing – ‘Cheech and Chong’ at least will let you change lanes.
So life is easy here and I spend a good amount of time walking around enjoying the weather and the mountain views. Although it does not really compare to walking the battlefield at Gettysburg, walking around Loma Linda has become my main past time outside washing, cleaning, cooking and all the other domestic chores I have agreed to while Lisa works. It is an arrangement that works.
An enterprising grad student could probably get a doctorate degree researching the spiritual benefits of walking. I have even considered writing a Bible study based on scripture where walking is involved. The first century may have looked much different had the combustion engine been invented and I have no reason to think that Jesus and the disciples would not have tooled around in a mini-van rather than hoof it all over Galilee. However, we know that was not the case and walking became a part of the gospel story. For me – walking is a spiritual endeavor.
My journey here begins with a walk through the Loma Linda University campus. There I dodge passing students with their noses in a text-book or study guides. These are mostly medical or dental students who seem stressed and tired. I feel sorry for them. Often I will see them with their lap tops open typing something or looking over a program about kidneys or bicuspids. The hospital campus is a beautiful place – the prettiest hospital Lisa and I have ever seen. It is a world renown hospital and is the answer to an obscure trivia question. Alan Reed, the original voice of Fred Flintstone – donated his body to the hospital here for medical research. So one can say this is Fred Flintstones final resting place. You would think there would be a “Yabba-Dabba Doo” sign somewhere.
I walk on and from there I make my way to the first busy cross-street, one of many I will eventually traverse. Here pedestrian right of way is honored by almost everyone as there are many walkers, bikers, joggers, skaters, and even a few homeless people pushing grocery carts. While I have been here – no one has been run over (someone knock on some wood). So I push the pedestrian crossing button and wait until the yellow stop hand turns into a white stick person and then I proceed.
My hike next takes me past the University Fitness Center. Here the parking lot is always full as people serious about their heart rates come and go non-stop. The outdoor lap pool is normally busy with swimmers of every age and I am reminded I am in southern California where outdoor pools are the norm. Just past the outdoor pools are the sports fields where both adults and youth play soccer. I have to wonder why there are not more adult soccer leagues back home – but maybe there are adult leagues and I am just out of the know on that since I never really cared for the sport – just saying. I do know a lot of adults play it here.
Next my journey takes me past the “Jerry Pettis Memorial Veterans Hospital”. I actually tried to volunteer there but they could not even talk to me until April – not kidding. My heart goes out to these men (mostly) who are patients here and many suffer from mental illness along with other physical conditions. I never know what I will encounter as I make my way past the people milling around and the dozens of poopy ducks that make the hospital grounds their habitat. Ducks are just nasty and here I have to be careful where I step. All part of my daily adventure. Loma Linda has bike lanes on nearly every street and just past the Veterans hospital it is not unusual to see as many as thirty very serious spandex wearing bike riders in law-abiding formation. Before I leave here I hope to stir the ducks up just at the right time to greet the bike riders. Bombs away!
It is about this point in my journey that my arthritic left knee begins to cry out followed soon by the bunions on both my flat feet. Inevitably I will reach down and cover my knee with my hand as if I just became Bennie Hinn. It never relieves my pain – only throws me off stride and makes my knee hurt even worse. So – I just keep hobbling along.
I sometimes stop at the Loma Linda Public Library – which is just across from the Veterans Hospital but closed Fridays and Saturdays (you read that right). I just can’t get use to the Seventh Day Adventist Calendar. (We have been told this is the only place in the US where mail runs on Sunday – again not kidding). But most days I just walk past the library as I near my halfway point.
Here in Loma Linda we have “Carls Jr.” which is the western version of Hardees. “Carls Jr.” is the next significant landmark on my journey. Everything on the menu at “Carls Jr.” has a Mexican flavoring. I believe even the soft drinks have salsa in them. My walk goes past “Carls Jr.” and toward the “Stater Brothers” grocery – our Krogers. Tired and (always) hungry at this point I often pit stop at “Mannas” Donut Shop. For all the health food emphasis in Loma Linda – you would not believe how many donut shops there are here. I hope to try them all and leave my review of each. Still, I would pay good money for a Rolling Pin long-john. From there my journey continues past the Loma Linda Golf Center where I sometimes stop to practice my golf game. Amazing how good I am on the driving range and how terrible I am on a real golf course. I suppose I’m a practice player. Cue Allen Iverson – “We’re talking about practice, man!”
The last part of my hike takes me across a railroad overpass. Trains run here night and day and if it’s not the ambulances and helicopters going to the hospital that wakes us up in the middle of the night – it will be the blaring train whistles. But I love trains so – no big deal. Finally I reach a point where the sidewalk ends and stop, turn around and head back home. My total journey is about nine miles – not bad, I suppose, for an old, fat guy.
But all that walking gives me (more than anything else) time to think about stuff – pray about stuff – appreciate God’s earth – and much of the time – long for home. I think about our friends and family. I smile when they cross my mind and I thank God for his goodness in giving them to me.
And then I thank God I can walk – because I plan on doing it again tomorrow.
Thanks for reading!