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May 1, 2009
“Where do you keep coming up with these nutty ideas?”

Russell celebrates a previous, less traumatic birthday with his sons Cameron and Joss

“Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.”
– Chili Davis

For Gail, her 40th birthday several years ago was “the big one” – the one she was not looking forward to. Her wish was to be out somewhere having an adventure far away from home, so we surprised her with an Alaskan adventure cruise.

For me, my 50th birthday is “the big one.” I must confess, I am beginning to feel my mortality. This is partly because “50” is halfway to the 100-year century mark. But it’s also because of my family history of cancer. My father and mother never smoke, drank or caroused, yet they died of cancer at age 63 and 60 respectively. (My father died just as he was preparing to retire.) My brother Curtis died of cancer last year, just shy of his 52nd birthday. When I include extended family, I have about a 25 percent cancer rate on both sides of my family.

In addition, I am beginning to feel my age. My metabolism has slowed down, leaving me unable to devour the massive amounts of food from my youth. The laugh lines are getting more pronounced around my eyes. And I am seeing more white hairs mixed in with the black.

My 50th birthday wish is to be out somewhere having an adventure, far away from home. Consequently, Gail and I began investigating exotic trips last year. We looked at cruises and all-inclusive resorts. My sister Joanne ultimately used some of her timeshare points to book us a week in July at a lodge near the Grand Canyon.

But this still left the question of where to be on my actual birthday, May 21st. With no more discretionary money, I thought of spending the day up at our mountain vacation home, across the state in California’s historic gold country. Then a further idea occurred to me. After our one-year trip around the world in 2001-2002, I had joked with Gail about wanting to walk across the United States next. Why not spend my birthday walking from our home in the Bay Area… all the way to our home in gold country?

When I mentioned the idea to Gail last fall, her first response was, “Where do you keep coming up with these nutty ideas?” After I described the idea in more detail, her second response was, “That sounds like fun! Can I go too?” My son Joss overheard us talking, and his response was, “That sounds like fun! Can I go too?” The idea began to turn into an actual plan.

When the economy took a turn for the worst, we ended up cancelling our Grand Canyon trip. As a result, my only 50th birthday celebration will be this walk, which I now plan to take over a period of 12 days from Thursday, May 15 through Wednesday, May 27.

During the days leading up to my departure, I will share details of my planning and preparation. During the actual walk, I hope to blog from the road (if I can find adequate Internet access). My goal is to provide updates every day, but we’ll see if that actually happens.

I invite anyone and everyone to join me virtually on my birthday walk. Wish me luck!

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