Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

____-er Than I Thought

Mile Marker 215:

There's nothing more tempting than heading out for a walk in the middle of a workday.  Plus, my colleagues and I agreed -- Shopping in the name of school support is about as good as it gets! 

And if shopping weren't lure enough,
there were free café drinks for all
book buyers!
Our students were hosting a “book fair” at Barnes and Noble to raise money and buy books for their classrooms.

The bookstore sat squarely off Rittenhouse, just blocks away from our school.  The weather was sunny, cool, and perfect for walking.

So where had this endless uphill climb come from?

Mile 215 was LONGER than I thought.

Stopping for rest (and fun)
on the way back
What I’ve discovered from walking with a prosthesis is that the city is HILLIER than I ever noticed before.  

And in case I haven’t mentioned it, the sidewalks are also SLANTIER;  the curb cuts, STEEPER;  the potholes, DEEPER;  and the many construction sites, just plain CRUMBLIER.

What’s more -- Traffic lights blink FASTER, while streets spread out WIDER. 

All that adds up to a 6 block walk that feels MUCH, MUCH FARTHER.

Last Friday, I ventured north from my house along a route that’s the bravest in my independent repertoire.  Round trip’s at least a mile, I thought.  Turns out it was barely half.  Actually SHORTER than I’d ever guessed.

Close to the half-way point – which I reluctantly admit was only about 3 city blocks -- a middle-aged man stopped to tell me he’d bought a Tiffany’s bracelet for his girlfriend.  “If this doesn’t get her, nothing will!” he said.   Is it my imagination, or are people FRIENDLIER and FUNNIER than I'd ever noticed before, too?
Toward the end of that walk, I rewarded myself with a stop at Strange Brew, a coffee shop that’s both SWEETER and QUIRKIER than any other place in the area.  And its Pumpkin Latté is TASTIER, too.

Back in the days when 6 blocks still felt like 6 blocks, Strange Brew wasn't around.  

And if it were, would I have walked slow enough to stop there?

(Nostalgia:  It's my old bike
parking rack!)
Mile Marker 222:

These last few miles have also carried me HIGHER and LOWER than I could have ever anticipated.

In the tiny, tinsel-trimmed town of Phoenixville, PA, I "triple" stumbled.  The sidewalks slanted toward the street.  The street sloped downward toward the water.  And the bumpy bricks rose and fell to their own concrete tune. 

Mom in the Phoenixville lights
If it weren’t for Mom, friends Polly and Jen, and a certain sturdy railing, I would have tumbled my way through the town. 

Last week, someone asked me if I often fall.  “No,” I replied.  “But it’s only because I’m very good at catching myself.”  

Phoenixville proved that.  Again and again....

Later in the weekend, Bosco and I twisted through a yoga clinic at Prosthetic Innovations.  Then tasted our way through a gourmet market in Swarthmore.  

The next day, Prosthetist Tim and I taught students at Neumann University about my Genium.

Rocco and Susan -- is this
really December in Philly?
It was a tri-county weekend, topped off by a walk near the Art Museum with brunchin’ buddies Susan and Rocco.

But despite all the travel, leg pain dragged me LOWER than you’d think.  For the last few days, I’ve had to take off my prosthesis mid-afternoon to relieve the redness and burning.  Tim has faith in a newly molded socket, and I definitely have faith in Tim.   But constructing a new socket takes time.  Stay tuned.

Yet also through these miles, some amazing people have boosted me HIGHER.

A quick mile rolled by with the lunch trays as I spent my first day volunteering in the rehab hospital’s dining room.  One remarkable patient was learning to walk with her brand new C-Leg.  But what she wore on her wrist surprised me most – a little green bracelet with the words A THOUSAND MILES! -- passed on to her by those amazing surgeons we shared!

She told me how much she'd enjoyed this blog, and yet, at that moment, it was her smile, her encouragement, and her vigor that inspired me!

See, I knew what she was facing.  And I knew it loomed BIGGER and SCARIER than what either of us had ever bargained for.  In the midst of my own pain and worry that I might not make it through my volunteer shift, her courage made me BRAVER.

After all, it's only been a year since I sat at that very table.

When 6 blocks feel like 6 MILES, it’s easy to forget how far you've come.  

I measure this journey in miles (and half-miles and quarter-miles….) because any GREATER step is too difficult to venture. 

The distance between destinations is always LARGER than I think.  Footsteps must fall STEADIER and GENTLER than my instinct tells me.

I work HARDER and get STRONGER, but some days even that does not make walking EASIER.

Every aspect of this journey has been _____-ER than I thought.

But those little steps are adding up.  Walking me FARTHER than the streets of Phoenixville.  FARTHER than the market in Swarthmore.  FARTHER than the steps of the Art Museum.

Farther than I ever thought possible one year ago. 

Farther -- even -- than a Barnes and Noble that lies at the top of a hill.


  1. Rick, an open invite to trek in CA. Great flat walkways/boardwalks of concrete by the beach. Anytime......

  2. Loved the post. The part about your interaction with the woman at rehab gave me the chills.