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Nancy Stevens: Walking is a pleasure with a pal at my side

This year’s mild winter brought the opportunity to do a lot more walking outside, not to say I haven’t been out in some very unseasonable situations, and not always by choice.

Walking outdoors is my favorite way to exercise, but it’s not just the outdoors, it is also my walking partner. Lin and I have traversed the roads where we live for about 17 years now. She has been a friend since grade school, but the friendship really blossomed when we took to the road.

It started when she and her husband bought a house about a mile from mine. We meet at one of our houses and start the almost 3-mile hike, chatting all the way. We have never run out of things to talk about. Conversation usually begins as soon as the car door opens to the waiting walker, and ends when that same door closes and we depart.

Three miles can go pretty fast when you have a compatible companion at your side. During our walks we have shared recipes, debated weather forecasts, compared grandchildren, given gardening advice and solved at least a few world problems. On rare occasions we have agreed to disagree.

We have stopped at yard sales, stopped to buy flowers, given directions and carried home rocks for garden decor that didn’t look nearly as heavy as they were 2 miles later.

We’ve had Fruit Loops tossed out a window at us from a passing car by some sugar-high children, met other walkers and numerous puppies, chatted with strangers doing yard work, discovered a ribbon-tied bouquet of lilacs seemingly left in our path for us to find, been barked at by fenced-in furry friends and given the thumbs up just for doing what we were doing.

We have been caught in thunderstorms and blinding snow, neither of which was in the forecast when we started out. On one occasion, Lin’s husband rescued us when the thunder and lightning were coming upon us fast.

Once we had an elderly woman pull alongside us in her car and roll down the window. A wooden cane leaned against her seat. She was alone, lost and confused about where she was, and how to find her destination. Trying to orient her only seemed to confuse her more. So we had her drive to my friend’s house, which at that point was just a few houses away. I got in my car and Lin joined the lady in hers, and they followed me to the Mercy Ambulatory Care Center where the woman was to meet her doctor for an appointment.

Once we located the proper building and office, she thanked us profusely, and we were on our way. Clearly we had made her day, but it also made ours because we don’t know how long she would have driven around looking for the facility and how her story might have ended.

Each of us has worn out more than a few pair of walking shoes, and has dressed inappropriately for the weather – too hot, usually me; too cold, usually Lin.

We have encouraged each other on those days when you just don’t want to get going, supported each other through difficult or sad times and exalted in each other’s achievements.

We have each lost and regained at least five pounds, at least five times. We don’t know why, after 17 years of walking, we aren’t as slim and trim as runway models.

We hope to continue our almost daily walks for many months to come, knowing that it is so much more than exercise that gets us out the door and moving.