My walks are my time - Beside the Point


I ventured up to the Canine Corral dog park just south of the Rodeo arena Saturday for a tree planting and ended up in a brief discussion with Larry Smith about exercise.

I don't feel the need to do a first-person attribution on who Larry Smith is. If you don't know Larry, that's on you, and you'd do better to know him.

Anyway, I was shooting pictures at the ground level with a backdrop of about 25 people planting saplings along the outer fencing of the park.

Larry asked, tongue-in-cheek with a chuckle (which is totally unlike Larry), if I needed any help getting up.

Flag on the play. I could've done one of those kip-up things where you sling your body up and land on your feet, then stand up straight, but I had a camera bag around me... and it was day for the dogs not for reporters.

"I still got a couple years in these knees," I said.

We had a very brief conversation about exercise after I said I saw him riding his bike down Avenue E by the Pen City Current fun house. I see him drive by there a lot looking admiringly up at the second floor...maybe retirement has him longing to take a shot at writing.

I'm in. When Larry puts his mind to something, it's my experience it usually turns out pretty darned good.

I know he rides a lot, but he said he usually averages about 25 miles per trip. I lowered my chin to my chest and said, "well I can walk a couple miles a day."

It got me thinking the rest of the day about exercise in this COVID slathered 2020.

Exercise really has become one of those things that moves up the list of priorities as we wait for a return to normalcy. Some health experts say mid 2021. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who actually looks healthier if that's possible, with what appears to be a Joe Biden presidential win, said "the cavalry is on its way" in terms of vaccines and therapeutics.

We all just need to move carefully and wisely, but continue to move.

One of the things I've done is cook more because being confined to our Anglo-Italianate home in the historic district of Fort Madison, has my mind racing of how to... not sit down all the time.

So I'm walking more. Sometimes a five miler with my daughter while I allow her to vent her political frustrations and challenge her to take politics with a sense of humor.

Sometimes it's just three miles at the FMHS track.

One of my favorite routines is putting on Rob Lowe's podcast "Literally" that he pronounces "Litrally" which is profound on many levels. If you haven't listened to this, you can find it through Stitcher. It's a laughable look back at the 80s and 90s with some really raw conversations about life back then and how he's excelled with sobriety.

It's calming and allows for a little deeper breathing and a distraction from the demons that are poking at my hips, ankles and knees... and my heart.

I try to run a little and take advantage of the exercise time, but when heavy breathing and a pounding heart present themselves, I think of a beautiful 20-year-old girl that we lost in February to a heart condition and panic sets in. Like clockwork. That's more of a bully than I can stand up to right now.

So I get back to walking and get my breathing right and tell myself "it's all good." Dr. Huber at FMCH says my heart sounds great, but pizza and beer... not so much.

These crisp morning walks are good for me, I know that. It's not Larry Smith's 25 miles, but in all honestly, 11 miles through Fort Madison on my 18-speed is really not out of the question.

The walks allow me to digest information, process a week's worth of work, come up with a new pie, or think of what I'm not doing well, that I should be at 52.

One of those things is being more active, like that Greg LeMond of a Smith guy - clearing the mind, breathing deep, and looking to a future without COVID.

By the way, Friday was one of the most organized tree plantings I've seen since my brother worked up an Eagle Scout project out at Geode. That dog park is coming along very nicely and if you haven't seen it, you should stop by and bring your pooch - But that's Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is editor/co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached by email at

beside the point, Chuck Vandenberg, editorial, opinion, Pen City Current


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