. walking and walking. One foot in front of the other! Walking and trudging, struggling and slipping and "What! Five more miles!?! The marker said two!"
Right about now I will be walking across the width of England from the Irish Sea on the west coast to the North Sea on the east coast.
Right about now my head will be light, my back aching, my legs burning and my right knee locking up, but I will still be walking and walking and walking without talking because I'm doing this alone.
Right about now my digital aging clock will be flipping from 64 to 65 and flashing "Officially Old."
And I will fight this inevitable process of aging every step of the way.
Why would a man walk across England for his 65th birthday?
Well I'd like to look at this adventure as a milestone marker of physical maturation, a rite of passage from man to middle age, a lesson in life both contemplative and reflective, a journey in which . oh who the hell am I kidding?
No, the fact is that as we approach the end of our lives, men do really screwy things.
Some do really insane things like jump out of airplanes, race fast cars, get married again.
Milestone birthdays are common these days.
Coronation Street just celebrated its 50th anniversary on British television by staging a train crash in the neighbourhood, killing off half the cast.
Former President George W. H. Bush celebrated his 85th birthday with a tandem parachute jump near his home near Kennebunkport, Maine, attached to US Army Sergeant Mike Elliott. (Wouldn't it have been great if George Bush Senior had jumped out of that plane attached to his son George "Dubya" Bush. instead of a parachute.)
Remember Jack LaLanne, TV's original fitness guru, the man who has muscles in his spit? Jack LaLanne celebrated his 65th birthday by swimming from the island of Alcatraz to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. while handcuffed.
At age 70, Mr. Muscle did it again, this time pulling 70 boats with 70 people behind him while he was shackled and handcuffed. Amazing!
Jack LaLanne was so fit that at his own funeral he was still able to greet guests at the door and crawl into the casket. unassisted.
So yes, as you're reading this column I am fulfilling a wacky dream of walking across England from St Bees on the Irish Sea, through Britain's supremely scenic Lake District, across the bleak and barren moors of the Yorkshire Dales and over the streams and through the woods of the North York Moors, all the way to Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea.
From sea to sea, coast to coast, "C2C" as the markers boast- 192 miles of rural and rugged England in 14 consecutive days.
The Coast To Coast Walk was designed by Alfred Wainwright, a brilliant and gruff curmudgeon who became a TV personality after writing a series of guide books for English hikers.
He designed this particular route across England to steer his followers away from roads and traffic and into the finest, most desolate countryside Great Britain has to offer.
Appropriately Wainwright was 65 years of age when he created this national trail that leads a rambler across undisturbed English wilderness where the reward at the end of each challenging day is civilization and a pint in a pub.
In two weeks I will, Wainwright willing, complete this remote strip of wild countryside that juts up and down on the map like the teeth of a saw, peaking at 2560-feet at Kidsty Pike, England's highest mountain.
I have wanted to make this trek for a very long time . and by the middle of October I'll know if I left it too late.
I've told a few friends that I'm walking across England and the reaction is always the same: "Why?"
I don't know exactly.
I used to be a runner until I had to have both knees 'scoped.'
I used to be a tennis player but my back wouldn't take the twisting and turning and I was never one to play nice!
But I can walk.
I love to walk - from the daily one-hour loop along the lake to all-day hikes in foreign lands.
So I suppose I'm tramping across England on my 65th birthday to see if I still can.
Put off the things you really want to do for too long and they're gone, but you're still here to regret it.
So it's one foot in front of the other, stiff upper lip, loose joints, stretched calves and a pocket full of pounds because some of these pubs and B&B's are so remote they do not take credit cards. And my backpack is my only friend.
I have the spirit and the fight within me, not to mention a compass, $200 worth of waterproof clothing and a set of walking poles with titanic, make that titanium tips.
I shall emulate those milestoners who have gone before me.
I shall stroke on like the great Jack LaLanne but not shackled by my limitations, indeed buoyed by a relentless belief in strength at all ages, a journey of unlikely success to remember - yeah, I'm thinking what you're thinking - this plan is more like the Coronation script, a train crash in the works.
Honestly, I'd sober up and drop the whole idea right now except I've already paid for my airfare and I passed on cancellation insurance.
Wish me luck.
Stay tuned and stay out of my way. I'm on a mission here.