Four point five miles per hour...

With my CBR broke, and not wanting to use the "Beast" for commuting duty; Flo has been dropping me off in the morning and picking me up in the afternoon at the shipyard. This arrangement works out well; most times, but every now and then things just don't go as planned.

Wednesday afternoon I was late coming out of the shipyard gate and she thought I was taking an opportunity to work some overtime. But, this was the evening before Thanksgiving Day and no one in the shipyard was working overtime. I got caught up in a search for one of our crewmembers who missed the last safety check before going home. I was about an hour late coming out the gate and of course Flo was gone.

It was a nice afternoon and I went in search of a pay phone to call her and get a ride home. Trying to find a pay phone was a mistake of great proportions as I was about to find out. It seems with everyone having a cell phone Ma Bell has decided we don't need pay phones anymore.

I could either walk further downtown or start walking uptown in the direction toward home. I headed uptown walking up Huntington Ave. It becomes crystal clear just how big Newport News shipyard is when you walk the full mile or so of its length. I was clipping along at a good pace actually enjoying my pedestrian status; even after working a full day on my feet. Of course I didn't figure then that I would have to walk very far.

As I was getting more comfortable with my pedestrian status walking up Huntington, the situation began to change for the worst. I had to pee. Now this isn't usually a problem but at my age it has become one. When I have to go I have to go; there is no putting it off. (It's just great getting older.)

Well there is no place from 50th street to the junction of Warwick and Huntington to stop except for the bushes and landscaping hiding the shipyard from view along the road. Trouble is its fall and there isn't much foliage left on those bushes and there are homes across the street and still a steady flow of traffic on Huntington.

For at least ¾ of a mile I was not having a great deal of luck suppressing the urge to go. I crossed the street and hid myself as best I could in the bushes and relieved myself. What a joy of relief that was; I figured now I was good until I got home providing I didn't get arrested before that. I could imagine some little old lady getting upset looking out her clean window and seeing this scruffy bald headed guy hiding in the bushes; and then calling the police.

I finally reached the Seven Eleven at the junction of Warwick and Huntington after passing several stores which didn't have a pay phone or the phones were out of order. I kept on walking, I crossed the street again and now I was walking with the traffic heading uptown on Warwick Boulevard. It was a pretty nice evening and the Shell gas station wasn't too far up the street.

I dam near got ran over trying to cross the on ramp to Mercury Boulevard, think motorcycles don't get any respect try being a pedestrian especially a old tired one.

At the Shell Station there was a guy who was using the only working pay phone they had. As I walked up he asked me for a cigarette; I noticed he had a cell phone on his hip and he was using the pay phone. I imagined he was concluding some nefarious criminal activity and didn't want his cell phone's identity discovered. This fellow looked every bit like a drug dealer and I figured it would be best if I just kept walking.

"Sorry I don't smoke." I said and just kept on walking. Perhaps it's safer to call your supplier and customers on a pay phone, I thought about this as I walked on. What are they going to do when Ma Bell stops repairing and maintaining pay phones…

I was walking at such a fast pace I was working up a sweat, of course I had on a sweat shirt, my coveralls and a back pack with my empty lunch box and empty thermos. I was rather glad they were both empty too.

Still no pay phones as I entered Hilton village. The next Seven Eleven's pay phones had out of order signs hung on them. Once again I just kept on walking only to discover that there are no pay phones in the little village of Hilton. I walked along maintaining my fast pace; which maybe the same as your slowest pace; but, it was the fastest pace I could walk. I passed allot of people on the street in Hilton enjoying the evening, walking.

While I was walking it seemed as though I was passed by an unusually large numbers of motorcycles and I kept thinking that perhaps it was an omen. I have a perfectly serviceable Jeep, and one and half running motorcycles and I'm out here walking home after a full day in the shipyard.

Leaving Hilton and still heading uptown I passed a lot of homes. On this side of the street it was pretty dark with lots of trees, bushes and hedges blocking out the feeble street lights. Just as I stepped out of the darkness created by the overgrown foliage into the open expanse of the driveway I was attacked by a dog. The little 7 pound dog may have thought it was a full on attack and that he had successfully defended his master's home. His fierce defense forced the strange bald headed human to leave. I just thought he was lucky he didn't get close or try to bite me. If he had bitten me I would have been forced to defend myself and I was now too tired to put up much of a fight.

Surviving darkness and dogs I finally arrived at the Miller Mart, and lo and behold a working pay phone. I popped in a quarter, dialed my number and the operator comes on and tells me I have to drop an additional twenty five cents for ten minutes. Wow, what a rip off, 50 cents for ten minutes, no wonder everyone else uses a cell phone; it's cheaper…… I'm glad it wasn't a long distance call.

Flo answered the phone and I told her I was walking and where I was. I told her I had to keep walking because I had to pee again and my legs were starting to hurt. As long as I kept walking I would be ok.

By now I had walked about 4 or 5 miles, and I was walking at the same pace I started out at. I kept thinking that my Cardiac Surgeon would be proud of me and his work. My legs were now hurting as bad as they did last year when I had to walk on the tread mill during the stress test. But this time I didn't have nurse or doctor monitoring all of the sensors tapped to my chest.

As I continued walking, I heard footsteps gaining on me pretty fast. I figured this is all I need, getting mugged on my way home all the while trying to hold my water. What a great story this would make for the newspapers "Old Man Kills Mugger and Wets His Pants".

At the last minute I turned to face my attackers fully prepared to do mortal combat; it turned out to be two rather good looking young women who were jogging. I turned and came face to face with thease ladies to see a very confused look on their faces. It had to be the first time they had confronted an old man with a killer who has to pee bad face; they cautiously took a detour around me leaving a allot space between us.

I was rather relieved I didn't have to brush off those old street fighting skills and more thankful I didn't wet my pants. I figured if I had to defend myself I would immediately release my water and while my aggressor was laughing I would then kill him. After all I couldn't let him tell anyone that I wet my pants in fear which wouldn't have been true.

I kept on walking. I was pretty sure that Flo would catch up with me by the time I got up to the Burger King. Now I face a new dilemma; Burger King had rest rooms readily available. But, if I duck in and use them I might miss my ride and have to walk all the way home. So I decided to keep on walking; now I was getting very uncomfortable trying to hold my water; in fact it was starting to hurt.

I was walking past all of the new cars at Bowditch Ford when I knew I had no choice but to find some place to go. Lucky for me the back road which cuts the corner of Warwick and Harpersville was dark with lots of bushes. Yes once more I heeded the call of Mother Nature in a semi public place. Fearful of discovery, yet feeling the glow of relief I nervously released the water I was saving. All the while I kept looking back and forth to make sure I wouldn't be discovered. When I finished I walked on to the corner.

Here I decided to take a little break and wait while standing under the only street light, hoping that Flo would arrive before the cops to arrest me for public urination. Getting arrested and going to jail I could do, but trying to explain to the judge in front of all the people in the court room about how my crime spree or pee came about would be more than I could bear.

We have all seen movies where folks were either lost in the forest, out on a desert or adrift in a boat at sea, when a plane passes by and they know they're saved. But the plane just flies on by without any sign that they even saw them. I now know how that feeling.

I'm standing there in glow of the street light, fully illuminated as I watched Flo make the turn up Harpersville Road off of Warwick and head straight for me. I knew my ordeal was over and I was now feeling relaxed and glad to be rescued. All of sudden without a warning she did a U-turn and went back the way she came. I waved, jumped up and down, and yelled; she just completed the turn and continued on, her timing was impeccable she caught the green light at the intersection and disappeared back into the night.

How could she miss me standing here in the light; I had to look like a hooker with a backpack waiting for a car to come by and make a deal for services. The only thing on the corner was the light poll behind me and lots of light, how could she have not seen me….

Ok she would be back anytime I thought. Feeling a little depressed as well as tired, I kept on walking up Harpersville road. I had to keep walking, my legs would soon quit on me if I didn't keep moving. This section of Harpersville is not well lighted and doesn't have a sidewalk on either side. It does have a 2 foot deep culvert ditch about 12 inches from the road bed on either side. Here I am trying to navigate in the dark along the edge of the road and not fall into the culvert or get hit by a passing car.

Once again I found out pedestrians don't get any respect, as I walked I came close several times to getting hit. Several times I saw the cars veer back to the center of the road after near missing me. I think they were deliberately trying to hit me.

As I came up to the Catholic Church I came across a guy who was looking for the homeless shelter. He told me it used to be over here but it's been moved and he asked me if I knew where it was. I gave him a few cigarettes and we talked for a few minutes. He went on looking for the homeless shelter and I started walking thinking that maybe I should have gone with him, I was feeling rather homeless myself at this point.

I made it to Morrison the little hamlet on that end of Harpersville and crossed over the tracks. The only things that you find in Morrison are funeral homes, churches and a factory that builds roof trusses. This was a town before the county was incorporated into the city of Newport News.

I continued on to Jefferson Ave and still no sign of Flo. I crossed the Harpersville road to make use of the sidewalk and the pedestrian crossing at Jefferson Ave. I was surprise that all through my walk I had caught every light just right on the way home, something that never happens when I drive the car or the bike.

After crossing Jefferson I was on the wrong side of the road; if Flo did come by she would never see me. It was dark; this section of Harpersville doesn't have street lights. I was really glad for the sidewalk, walking on the grass just tires your legs even more. Ok, walking on the grass has less impact on the legs, but it eats up energy which at this point I was running low on. At least on the sidewalk it gave me some safe distance from the oncoming traffic.

I cut the corner at the light where Harpersville road makes the left turn. I cut across the parking lot of the Farmers Market and damn near twisted my ankle. They are rebuilding from the fire they had last year and some of the parking lot is still under construction. And yes it's not lit.

At this point I'm in the home stretch only about 5 blocks to go. Once again no sidewalks, no lighting and more ditches. How is anyone supposed to walk in this city without sidewalks? This section does have streetlights, but the trees are still holding enough leaves that all you get is a dim glow to see by. Just enough light that after you twist or break an ankle you will be able to see yourself fall.

I cut the last corner and turned down my street in the final 200 yards of my 8 mile walk. I felt a little angry that Flo had missed me, but at the same time I felt pretty good; tired yes, but good just the same I could see the end of my ordeal.

Flo finally caught up with me just as I started walking up our driveway. I had walked the entire 8 miles in about an hour and forty minutes; a trip that only takes 15 minutes by car or motorcycle. I was making about 4.5 miles per hour not bad for an old guy. I could only think about how nice it is to ride those 8 miles, or any miles. How many times had I rode out to the strangest places got lost and still got home in time for diner without having to resort to walking home. I became a non-smoker, attacked by a dog and then mugged by two lovely joggers, broke the law twice, learned that cell phones could be a useful thing, and that walking is pretty good for the soul.

The walk home made me very thankful for owning a car, two motorcycles and a very comfortable set of work boots.

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