Diabetes Awareness Campaign: Trekking Along the Erie Canal.
North Tonawanda
Little Falls
St. Johnsville
Friday, October 5
When my alarm went off I just lay there. I was very tired and groggy because I hadn’t slept well. I had troublesome dreams. The nightmare was obviously instigated by worry about my feet.
A constant fear of a diabetic is damage to his feet since diabetes is the major cause of foot amputations. Diabetic neuropathy is a condition where poor circulation causes nerve damage causes a loss of sensation. As a result, injuries can happen to the bottom of the foot or between the toes without the diabetic being aware of it. If untreated gangrene might occur. Once the flesh is dead it must be cut out or the person will die.
Years ago, it was a fear of amputation of a toe that sent me to a doctor who diagnosed my diabetes. At a party I met a man who was a diabetic. When I told him that my mother had been diabetic he told me that I probably would become one also. He recommended that I get a fasting sugar test. When I hesitated and expressed confidence that I was too young (45) he just laughed and said: “After you lose your first toe, you’ll wake up!” The next day I made an appointment with my doctor.
I don’t have neuropathy. I still have those tiny little hairs on my toes which signify that I have circulation to my toes. And at my last physical exam the doctor checked the pulse at my feet—strong he said. He also banged a tuning fork and touched it to the ankle. He wanted me to nod when I stopped feeling the vibration. “Not completely normal but not too bad.” These were all positive indicators that neuropathy had not occurred. Besides, the burning pain on the sole of each foot was a stinging reminder that I still had feeling in my extremities!
Since my feet were sore, I had a lot of inertia. The idea of backtracking north two miles to the canal and heading southeast for three miles seemed unnecessary. Rather, I decided to walk along Route 31 due east four miles to an intersection which was only a half mile from the canal. Not only would such a route save wear and tear on my feet, it would shorten my time by a half an hour. (My geometry teacher would be proud.)
Farm field.
After grabbing a bite at McDonalds, I headed out of town. It took about a mile before I left the shopping centers and warehouses and reached farm fields.
The fields were quite lush in full crops. One, a cabbage patch, was at least a half mile wide and two miles long. I looked — but no baby.
Cabbage patch.
Soon the fields of crops were replaced by a golf course and boating marina. I was back on the canal again.
Duck crossing.
I crossed the canal to take the tow path along the northern edge. There the path was wedged in between the canal and a country road. As a result there was quite a diverse traffic profile—cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, and, apparently, waterfowl. Until that day I had never seen a caution sign for ducks!
Maintenance barge.
At one point I passed a maintenance barge that was rigged with a back hoe. It is used to keep the canal free of debris and aquatic weeds. I thought how difficult it must have been to maintain and keep the canal open 150 years ago. They only had hand rakes and hoes. What is the old saying? All one needs is a strong back and a weak mind!
Of course it is difficult to project oneself into the past. My sore feet remind me that leading a mule team for 15 miles a day was no easy task. I made a note to myself “Quit your bitchin’, it could be worse.”
About midway between Brockport and Spencerport was Adams Basin. A basin was a mini-harbor and situated at were strategic points along the canal. They were important because they provided berths where the barges could pull out of the canal and not tie up the traffic. Near the basins stores and taverns sprang up to provide supplies for the crews and food and lodging for passengers of the packet boats.
Adams House.
The Adams house was such a tavern. Today it is a very popular bed and breakfast. Since one of my friends has a B&B back home in Newburyport, Massachusetts, I had to take a peek inside. As soon as I stepped inside I was greeted by the proprietress who mistook me for an early arrival for a wedding party. She was a very pleasant lady named Pat. When I told her that I was hiking the Erie Canal she offered to show me the tavern and dining room.
Pat said these two rooms still look very much like they did at the end of the 19th century. I could imagine the New York dandies enjoying their cigars and brandy after consuming a pleasant repast. Or perhaps they sat on the veranda fanning themselves and drinking cool mint juleps while the sweat boys changed teams of sweaty horses.
Inside Adams House.
Inside Adams House.
I knew that Pat was busy so I didn’t tarry long. Spencerport was about an hour away where there were supposed to be nice places to eat. So I thanked the lady, promised someday to return, stepped down from the porch, and shuffled down the path.
I’m not being hyperbolic because I was indeed shuffling. My feet were killing me and my soles felt like they were burning up. Every 15 minutes or so, I would stop and rest. I soon abandoned that plan because they hurt as much resting as when I was walking. So instead I took three ibuprofen tablets and marched on.
When I was all alone would sing out at the top of my lungs. For some reason, singing this way is quite distracting. Perhaps my brain can only register so much pain at one time. I had to wait to be alone because I didn’t want to be mistaken for a lunatic—a lunatic who sings badly off key.
It took me longer to get to Spencerport than I had hoped. From thy way I felt, I knew my blood glucose level was low. At the little gazebo near the canal I asked a middle aged couple where I could find a good lunch. They recommended a place called the Galley. It was an inviting place with a large bar, a restaurant down stairs and what was probably a dance floor upstairs.
I sat down and ordered a large glass of ice water and another of iced tea. So dehydrated was I that I consumed both beverages in just a few gulps. Fortunately, my waitress kept both glasses full.
In large type across the menu was the declaration the Galley was the home of the world famous Galleyweck sandwich. (A word play—weck bread vs. a shipwreck. Get it?) It seems like every town on the canal has the world’s best weck sandwich. I tried it the. It was okay. But it was better than the previous weck sandwiches I’d tried. Instead of potato chips it was served with tasty steak fries. After the meal and I took some insulin and sat back to let everything settle in.
I realized that the next seven miles were going to be very painful even though I had at least three to four hours of daylight left. So, I gave in and asked the waitress if she knew the number of a cab company. To my good fortune, one of the dishwashers was going off duty and offered to give me a lift to my motel.
And it was a good thing that Mike gave me a ride. The motel was in an industrial park near the airport. Paralleling the canal was Interstate 390 and there were only a few places where I could cross over/under the highway. You might say that the area was not pedestrian friendly.
And it was not dining friendly. There were no restaurants near the motel and the vending machines were not appetizing, so I ordered pizza to be delivered.
I spent my 30 waiting minutes on the phone trying to find a reasonable motel. It was Home Coming weekend or some sort of celebration at the University of Rochester—everything was booked. The only place with a vacancy was in Shortville which was about 30 miles south east of Rochester. It was okay—it had to be! Jerie was driving out from Massachusetts for the weekend. She could rescue me at wherever I gave out. For at least a few days, she would be my chase vehicle. And at my pace, 2.5 miles per hour, a mighty slow chase it will be!
Later that evening after my shower I had to check out my feet. This necessitated my examination of bottoms of my feet. Well, I’m an ancient ex rugby with a bad back. I am neither thin nor flexible. It took a great deal of maneuvering with the chair in front of the mirror to catch a peek at my feet.
I was dismayed at what I saw. Not only did I have a blister on the ball of each sole, but they had gotten larger. Last night at they were the size of dimes. Now they were the size of a silver dollar. And they were full of fluid. No wonder my day’s walk was so painful.
In previous years have completed three long distance walks across Spain with only one small blister occurring. That was fixed by applying a small patch. I had seen other walkers with problems similar to what I was now experiencing. I knew what had to be done—drain the blisters. Fortunately I have a good supply of sterile lancets and alcohol swabs. I barely felt the prick of the lancet and actually the release of pressure immediately reduced the pain.
Now, I was trained as a biologist and once taught lab techniques. Why, I can even sit through an episode of House or CSI while eating dinner. Nothing usually upsets me. When I saw what came out of those blisters, I felt queasy.
It must’ve been the pizza!
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