Back on the road

It’s been a month since my last blog entry. In that month I’ve walked a total of about 50 miles. That’s the same distance I would’ve walked in about 3 days during March. Having been hit with a bad case of plantar fasciitis (PF) in early April, I went back to Oregon with Alanna (where I had been asked to give two speeches anyway), and tried every possible treatment for PF known to (modern) medical experts. I have to thank all of my Facebook friends for their offers of support and cures. I assure you, I tried every one of those (even the Australian magic oil … see item 13 below)! More on that later.After the last entry to this blog, I came to terms with the realization that this problem with my foot might mean the end of this walk. Now, that probably would have meant saving a lot of money, getting back to Oregon in time to work on our new house over the summer, and taking a fun, leisurely drive across the US. But it also would have meant the end of a long-planned adventure, and a sense of – at best – “incompleteness”, and at worst, failure. I prepared for this walk for nearly three years. To abort it only 14% of the way through would have been deeply disappointing. Alanna assured me that we could always try again next year, but I knew that personal circumstances and physical readiness had all converged to make this the optimal time for the walk. I resolved to do all that I could to fix my foot.

Alanna and I decided that rather than wait two weeks in Ohio and then fly back to Oregon, as originally planned, we’d go back to Oregon early, leaving the car parked at the Cleveland airport. So, after the obligatory visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (R&RHoF), we flew back to Redmond for a couple of weeks of the other kind of R&R. The recuperative period in Oregon was punctuated with a number of very rewarding experiences. I gave a keynote speech at the finals of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, in Corvallis, and was the speaker for the March for Science in Newport. In Newport (where I will end the walk this fall), we were joined by 675 rabid supporters of science (incidentally, given Newport’s population of 9500, that would be the same as having 600,000 people march in New York City!). They all marched in spite of temperatures in the 40s, wind in the 30s, and rain by the buckets. I had a lot of fun speaking to the group, and then Alanna and I enjoyed the marvelous hospitality and generosity of my friend Michele Longo Eder, who put us up in her cottage, and provided us a wonderful dinner at Local Ocean, a Newport landmark. We also had a thoroughly enjoyable visit with Bob Cowen (Director of Hatfield Marine Science Center) and Su Sponaugle (a marine biologist at OSU) at their yak farm, where Alanna was able to get her critter fix, playing with the baby yaks (when I asked Bob what you call a baby yak, he said, “Cute!”). All during this time back on Oregon, I was applying the full spectrum of treatments for PF (again, see below). I was very encouraged that the pain had subsided considerably, and I found I could stay on my feet all day without any adverse consequences. I was confident that the treatments might have done their job, but I was also praying a lot for some higher authority to save my sole.

We got back to Cleveland on Tuesday, April 25, and I started walking again the next day. I hadn’t gone far (maybe two miles) when my left ankle rolled and I went crashing down. When I stood up my right plantar fascia was throbbing. I walked only another mile or two, convinced the pain would go away, but it didn’t. When Alanna picked me up, I was despondent beyond description. We drove over to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (a beautiful setting), and sat down for a beer in the quaint village of Peninsula, Ohio. Because of my mood, I think I could have been drinking the most exquisite Belgian brew, and it still would have tasted like a rejected lab test from a racehorse. I was all but convinced that the walk was over. We made plans for the drive home, and decided we could visit the Canadian Rockies along the way, and take several months if we wanted. But somewhere deep inside of me I felt I had to make another try at prevailing over this damned ailment. I had three last things to try: new boots, more aggressive massage, and ultrasound.

It’s at this point that I need to recognize three individuals for their contributions to this continuing saga of plantar fascism. One, of course, is Alanna (again!) who redoubled her efforts to massage away the pain. She was greatly aided by my new friend, and Bend-based physical therapist, Lisa Corrigan. Lisa is the second who deserves great thanks. She is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and, even better, an Oregon State grad. She showed Alanna how to administer what I call the “knuckle drill” to exorcise the evil spirits of pain from my sole. I’m convinced that in her spare time Lisa should offer her services to remove dents from the bumpers on Mack Trucks. That woman knows how to apply pressure, and it works! Additionally, Lisa hooked me up with a company called JAS, who make a portable ultrasound unit. The unit is no bigger than an iPhone, and it provides a strong dose of focused high frequency sound, a proven therapy for treatment of PF. JAS was kind enough to provide me one of their devices, called the JAS Pulse, if I was willing to test it on the walk. Finally, a tip of the hat to my professional colleague, Steve Rumrill, who works at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and who wrote me “Rick – Sorry to hear that you developed PT at this point in your historic Walk Home to Oregon. I also have a bad case of PT. The solution for me was heavier, stiffer boots (3/4 shank) coupled with padded orthotics.” With nothing to lose, I went to REI and tried on about 857 different pairs of boots, finally settling on some nice Lowas (handcrafted in Slovakia by native maidens working under bear-oil lamps, in dark caves high in the mountains, I guess, judging by the price). These boots practically walk themselves.

So I decided to put on the new boots, zap my foot with ultrasound, do one more massage, and hit the road the next morning. Miraculously, after nearly 4 miles, I stopped and felt NO PAIN. Next day, 8 miles, then 9, then 10. Now, a week since the last bout of pain, I am cautiously (VERY CAUTIOUSLY) optimistic that I’m over the hump. I’m walking through Ohio, and while I’m not covering great distances yet, I’m confident that if I keep up the massage, the ultrasound, and the new boots, I might beat this thing.

So, for now, not a lot of great stories about the walk, but I’m pointed west and hoping to have a lot of good tales to tell soon.

Actions taken for plantar fasciitis

1. Cortisone shot

2. Night splint

3. Heel cups

4. Stretches several times a day

a. Heel drops on stairs

b. Toe presses against wall

c. Calf stretch from sitting or lying position

d. Pulled foot from cross-legged position

e. One-legged stand

5. Ice 2-3 times a day

6. Ibuprofen/Naproxen as needed

7. Full foot/calf massage daily

8. Rest/elevation

9. Ice/Heat alternate baths

10. Rolling a spiked ball under foot for 10 minutes daily

11. New boots with steel shank and ankle support

12. Never barefoot … used Doctor-recommended Oofos

13. Australian eucalyptus and tea tree oil (really!)

14. Physical therapy with deep tissue massage

15. Ultrasound

16. PF strap around arch of foot

6 thoughts on “Back on the road

  1. OH My Goodness! I’m so sorry this has happened to you but what a trooper! If ever there was a person that will make it to the other side (where ever that may be) ~ I believe it is you! I am keeping you and your lovely wife surrounded in positive light and best wishes! Keep on truckin’!!

    Neysa (Rachelle’s mom)


  2. Rick: Read about your visit to Ocean Bowl…sounded like a great time. So glad to hear you are back on the road! Stay safe!


  3. Rick. Congrats on retirement! Sorry to hear about your feet. Had similar problems walking the PCT a year or two ago. I changed shoes to Altra zero drop Lone Peak trail shoes ( ) Takes a bit to strengthen the muscles and adapt, but I will NEVER go back. BTW, looks like we’re funded for 3, and we were thinking back over the project and of your help. Look us up when you get back! Good luck.
    And don’t quit just yet.


  4. Rick, way to fight the PF. I had to do something similar with Shin Splints when walking across Spain. Jack


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