The Old Tokaido is a long walk, 303 miles. And I need to be in shape. Fortunately, I’ve read several accounts of “retired people” walking the route, though many walk a bit one weekend, another the next, and so on, and I’m intending to do the whole trek in one trip. I’m going to embrace the luxury of a summer off (most CA colleges have suspended summer sessions because of budget cuts) and take my time. If I pace myself, I imagine I will have to average just about 10 miles a day. But even that will take some conditioning. I am no longer sixteen and tossing on a humongous backpack to toil up switchbacks in the Sierras.
But I love walking along the beach. Sometimes I stay on the strand and/or bike path; at other times I’ll kick off my Van’s and walk along the sand (sometimes even letting the cool Pacific wash over my feet, though there’s always the chance that some yucky bits of tar or drink cups or worse will be in the foam).
My favorite bits are between Venice Pier and Will Rogers State Beach; if I’ve little time, though, I’ll do a quick maunder between Ocean Park and go under or onto the Santa Monica Pier and back.
OK, I could add some ground by walking from my home (about a mile from the beach), but that takes me through dull, suburban landscape. Maybe that’s good practice. By all accounts much of what I’ll be walking on will be highways, dense urban scapes, industrial sprawl, suburban doldrums. The pine-tree-shaded paths and Edo-era villages with carp ponds and ancient post markers are part of the trip, but I’d better get used to the less-picturesque parts in-between. The problem is, there are only so many ways I can get from home to the beach and back, so I’ll be looking at the same liquour-mart on 7th and Marine, the same Albertson’s on Lincoln and Ocean Park, the same soup kitchen on Rose and Bernard over and over and over.
I don’t find this a problem with the ocean. Yes, it’s the same ocean, but it’s always moving, changing, alive, and the ozone-rich breeze, the reflection of morning light off the glossy wetsuits of surfers, the multi-colored spokes of Pacific Park’s ferris wheel–I don’t tire of these.
Well, when I get time (what’s that?), I intend to add some of the local pop nature walks (Temescal Canyon, Tuna Canyon, Will Rogers State Park) And I’m urging myself (will I listen to myself?) to exhume my t’ai chi ch’uan (Yang style) and maybe mix in a bit of work with weights. Last night I helped strike the set of the high school musical production of The Wizard of Oz; there was plenty of weight lifting involved, and I learned (again) that I am no longer sixteen.