Thursday, December 23, 2010

Walk This Way: Dabbling in Mall Walking

Although I'm a mere 29-years-old, yesterday I joined the ranks of senior citizens everywhere by undertaking my first Mall Walking session.  Yes, you heard me right.  Mall Walking.  Mall Walking is a physical activity where people walk back and forth through the long corridors of shopping malls to get exercise.  Malls actually open earlier than the stores within them just to welcome mall walkers into their confines.  I honestly always thought this was some kind of a joke.  Do people really do that?  And who the hell are these people?  Well, apparently, I'm one of 'these people', if one mall walk does a mall walker make.

To train for our 1,000 mile hike along the Camino de Santiago, mom and I have been adding long walks into our workout repertoire.  They range from about 10 to 13 miles and take us to the far corner of Sacramento - along railroad tracks, over levees, across bridges, through parks, down the cobblestone streets of Old Sac and past endless streets of houses, from cozy craftsman cottages to artsy urban lofts to regal Victorians.  However, now that the rains have come, our schedule has been a bit thrown off.  Now before you judge, it's not that mom and I haven't walked in the rain before.  I spent a great deal of the Coast-to-Coast hike across England eating rain-soaked sandwiches in the moors with muddy gators strapped around my ankles.  I know rain.  We have met.  Yet, that doesn't mean I would volunteer to walk through it if I didn't have to.  Which is why yesterday, when mom suggested we try mall walking for the first time, I thought, 'Why the heck not?  Count me in.'  

When we arrived at Arden Fair at 7am, the mall had already been open to mall walkers for an hour.  Yup, 6am!  Guess those must be the Extreme Walkers.  Just opening the doors to the mall when all the stores, themselves, were closed sent a thrill of excitement through me... like the time a group of friends and I spent the night in the Psychology Building of Sac State after breaking into the swimming pool... but that's another story.

When we got inside, I expected to see a flurry of canes and metal walkers with halved tennis balls on the bottom of the legs, but actually, these blue hairs are pretty spritely and swift.  One woman had this whole zigzag technique, weaving in and out of the kiosks that dot the aisles of the mall.  She looked like a human pin ball, only one wearing an extremely tacky Christmas sweater.  I will say, however, that mom and I were definitely walking the fastest.  If the other walkers were vehicles on a highway, we were race cars at the Indy 500.  The best part of the whole deal is the window shopping.  Man, there is this jacket at Forever 21 that would look great with my NYE dress...  Once the stores actually opened, we couldn't help but pop inside to check out sales.  There's nothing like shopping when the clothes are still organized and folded, the employees are still cheerful and there's no one else around.  It's what I imagine heaven to look like should it exist - my experience at the same mall only days ago as I struggled for half an hour to get out of a parking lot filled with crazed holiday shoppers being my image of the fiery depths of hell... should it exist.

The only downfall to mall walking - the Food Court.  Cinnabon and its magical cinnamon/sugar aroma nearly undid my entire 5-mile walk.  I resisted though.  Mom almost got sucked into the Pretzel Shop, herself, until we saw the employee sneeze, covering her mouth but not her nose, which hovered over a vat of bubbling butter.  Starbucks did get us, though, but when you're mall walking like a bat out of hell, you need some fuel, dang it!  All-in-all, a good rain-free time.  Think I'll wait until after the holidays though to go back and get that jacket...  I'll leave you with my favorite quotes from Wikipedia's 'Mall Walking' entry...
  1. "Mall walking in the United States is especially popular amongst senior citizens."
  2. "Mall walkers tend to be a crowd requiring little supervision."
  3. "After walking, mall walkers may well stay on and shop the stores or patronize the mall's food court."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Camino Mission Statement

It took me far too long, but finally, a few weeks ago I finished my pitch for the Camino Gypsy Chronicles.  Whether my travel blog gets picked up by the big leagues, or I end up hashing it out on this very site, it feels good to have some focus in my journey.  Granted, most things in life refuse to be put in boxes, but I've always found that good writing requires good editing.  A box isn't always a bad thing.  I mean, who wants to read stream of consciousness literature?  Or listen to a friend's insanely long, nonsensical dream from last night?  So in an attempt to not make my future blog of my Camino adventure a daily log of verbal diarrhea, I've crafted a mission statement as a self editor.  Here goes...


On April 8th, 2011, my mother and I will set off on a three-month adventure that could kill us.  An adventure we will undertake by foot, hiking 963 miles on the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago (or Way of St. James) from Arles, France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  Scarier than any of the obvious perils of the journey - plummeting down the Pyrenees, bands of roving thieves, starving to death because of an ill-timed Spanish "siesta", refugio Staph infections, a misspoken word of French, my mom or I suffocating the other with a pillow in the night - is the fear of the unknown.  The blog I'm proposing, Camino Gypsy Chronicles, will be a story about that fear: facing up to it, battling it, kicking it with the heel of your hiking boot and hopefully, in the end, conquering it.

Facing the unknown each and every morning is one of life's most frightening truths.  When you exist mile-by-mile, footstep-by-footstep in a place far from home this fear becomes more acute and the question marks more defined. Is my body physically prepared?  Will I get blisters and be unable to walk?  Will we be able to find food each night?  A place to sleep?  Will we get sick on the trail?  Lost?  Do I have enough courage?  An open mind?  A strong stomach?  Will my 63-year-old mother and my 29-year old self be able to get along for an unadulterated 88 days?  Will we fight over directions, time schedules, religion, who gets the first shower after a hard day's hike, the last bar of dark chocolate?  Will the language barrier be too great even with my mother's knowledge of French and Spanish?  Removed from normal routine and alone with my thoughts through vast springtime landscapes, will what I discover about myself scare me to death?  Will I be able to get by without the comforts of home - my bed, TV, friends, cat, beauty products, car, Trader Joes?  Will the life I know be waiting for me when I return? Can I, should I and will I do this?!

Just as in everyday life, I don't have the answers.  I can read as many books and peruse as many websites on the Camino as humanly possible, stock up on all the essentials at REI, put umpteenth miles under my belt in training, make all the reservations I can in advance and recite positive affirmations until I'm blue in the face, but what makes a vacation a true adventure will always be the mysterious, frightful and magnificant element of the unknown.  The Camino Gypsy Chronicles will be a blog for anyone living in fear.  For those who let it hold them back from walking into the great unknown.  I wish to share this crazy journey of mine because maybe, just maybe, my quest to conquer my fears will inspire others to conquer their own.