JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS (August 15, 2012) — David Lindstrom and Gerald “Jerry” Cook of Johnson County recently got their kicks, or in this case their footsteps, on Route 66.
They walked the entire stretch of Kansas Route 66 Historic Byway in the southeast corner of the state, but it didn’t take long. Although the famous highway spans more than 2,000 miles from Los Angeles to Chicago, only 13 miles of Route 66 snakes through Kansas, linking the communities of Galena, Riverton, and Baxter Springs.
The walk by Lindstrom and Cook took only about three hours to complete on August 11. It’s now one down, 12 to go for them and signals the beginning steps of their campaign to promote the benefits of walking and to fight obesity.
They are doing it for fun, to see parts of Kansas they have never visited, and quite frankly to see if they can walk all 11 Byways and two historic trails of the Sunflower State. That means footsteps covering more than three times the length of Kansas over the next 10 months.
The Route 66 Historic Byway was the shortest leg in their walking campaign. The quest is scheduled to end on Memorial Day 2013 with their longest walk spanning more than 450 miles along the Santa Fe Trail and taking about three weeks.
Neither Lindstrom nor Cook are poster examples of middle-aged men in prime physical condition with their images appearing on boxes of Wheaties.
“It all started as a personal challenge: Could two ordinary guys over 55, who are overweight, and less than physically fit, walk cross Kansas was east to west? From that, we expanded our challenge and set our goals to walk along the State’s designated Byways and two of its historic trails,” Lindstrom said. “In total it’s a 1,220-mile challenge that we hope to complete in 59 days.”
“We’re talking the talk by walking the walk,” he said with a smile. “And in the process, we’re exercising, enjoying nature’s beauty along scenic roadways, visiting great communities, meeting wonderful people, and having fun.”
Lindstrom, who played defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1978-1986, is a restaurant businessman and current member of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, who is leaving the board in January 2013 after a decade of public service. Cook is a trustee at Johnson County Community College and president of the Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau. They have been friends for years. Both live in Overland Park.
The Walking with L[indstrom] and C[ook] campaign hopes to encourage Kansans to become more physically fit by walking. The walking duo also welcomes walkers of all ages, shapes, and sizes to join them, in whole or in part, when the walk comes to the Byways of their counties and communities. All walks start in the early morning.
The main purpose of the campaign is to promote health, wellness, and happiness. In that end, their personal feat involves going afoot to address two serious health concerns: Obesity and clinical depression.
Headlines, past and present, echo an ongoing alarm from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that reports more than a third of Americans suffer from obesity. And, that fact weighs especially heavy in Kansas.
In the 2012 “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future” report released in mid-August by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kansas was named the 13th most obese state in the nation. The state was in the 16th position a year ago.
According to the report, the percentage of Kansans who are obese has more than doubled in the past 15 years, with 29.6 percent of the adult population now fitting that category. In 1995, Kansas ranked 36th with a 13.5 percent obesity rate. In May, the CDC released a new report in which they indicated that an estimated 42 percent of Americans will be obese by the year 2030. That’s roughly an additional 32 million Americans who will become obese in the next 18 years.
Health officials also report that 10 percent of Americans are in a state of clinical depression each day. Walking with L and C hopes to reduce stress and anxiety a step at a time while getting into better shape.
A third aspect of the campaign is to promote and expand awareness of each of the Kansas Scenic Byways and the local communities, historic sites, and Kansans that are found along the pathways of each byway.
The challenge has been in the works for a month. Lindstrom and Cook have mapped out the direction and dates of their future travels, found comfortable shoes and socks - along with a few extras, and walked a little more on their own to get their walking legs into better condition.
They also received donations of glowing lime-green clothing, reflective vests, and caps with lights from Ergodyne that make them unmistakable and safe while walking along the Kansas roadways alone and hopefully with others.
Sponsorships also may be arranged at the various communities to raise contributions, such as donations per mile per walker, to support local charities.
The campaign has set up a blog and website at www.walkingwithlandc.com for the posting of updates, photos, and comments about the activities and experiences.
The next stop for Lindstrom and Cook is the Post Rock Scenic Byway on August 25. It’s an 18-mile route that goes through the Smoky Hills of Ellsworth, Lincoln, and Russell counties in north-central Kansas and links the communities of Wilson (Ellsworth County) and Lucas (Russell County). The walk will be done in one day.
The campaign then gets longer in both time and distance.
Two-day walks will occur in September, including walking the Gypsum Hills Scenic Byway that links Coldwater, Medicine Lodge, and Wilmore (42 miles) on September 15-16 and the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway that connects Council Grove, Cottonwood Falls, Matfield Green, Strong City, and Cassoday (47 miles) on September 29-30.
The schedule includes:
• Native Stone Scenic Byway (Alma, Eskridge, and Dover) on October 20-21 (48 miles);
• Prairie Trail Scenic Byway (Lindsborg, Marquette, Canton, and Roxbury) on November 2-4 (56 miles);
• Smoky Valley Scenic Byway (Trego County and WaKeeney) on November 16-18 (60 miles);
• Glacial Hills Scenic Byway (Leavenworth and Atchison along with Doniphan County) on December 7-9 (63 miles); and,
• Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway (Claflin, Ellinwood, Great Bend, Hoisington, and Hudson) on January 18-21 (77 miles).
A three-day walk in February will go along 69 miles of a portion of the historic Chisholm Trail, starting February 16 in Newton and ending February 18 in Abilene.
“We thought it most fitting that this walk should end on President's Day 2013 to commemorate and celebrate President Dwight Eisenhower’s significant contributions to our state and our country,” Lindstrom said.
The next stop in 2013 will be a five-day walk on March 13-17, spanning 102 miles on the Western Vistas Historic Byway and including the communities of Oakley, Russell Springs, Scott City, and Wallace. It will be followed by an eight-day trek (April 8-14) along the Frontier Military Historic Byway that stretches 168 miles in Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson, Miami, Linn, and Bourbon counties.
Finally, the mother road of the Walking with L and C campaign involves a statewide walk along the historic Santa Fe Trail from Johnson County to Johnson City, a small community of about 1,500 and the county seat of Stanton County in the southwest corner of Kansas. It begins in early May and finishes on Memorial Day (May 27) with the task of completing the 457-mile challenge in approximately 22 days.
With the baby steps of the Route 66 walk now behind them, Lindstrom and Cook now only have 1,207 miles left to complete alone or with other Kansans joining them along the way, one healthy step at a time.
“We both sincerely believe that if a person’s head, heart, hands, and in this case feet are effectively aligned with the serenity of nature on a daily basis, better wellness and personal happiness will improve,” Lindstrom said. “The clock to slow down, enjoy life, and improve personal health is ticking.”