Tues, March 3, walk to Arizona State University Tempe

Dear All, It was a short walk again today. Yesterday after spreading the word about our national marrow donor program in downtown Chandler with Lindsey and Ciara I walked 3.5 miles toward Arizona State University. That left me with just over 9 miles to walk today.
Most of my walk today was through housing tracks built in the 60’s and 70’s. I did get to walk just over a mile along the Arizona Canal Trail. It was refreshing to see the water but without shade it quickly became the hottest part of the walk. I finished at the Memorial Union at ASU where Aubrie picked me up.
I have been stressing how important it is to increase diversity on the Be The Match registry. I’d like to talk a bit
more about that now. A lot of people think that you need to have a matching blood type to be a match for a stem cell or bone marrow transplant but that is not true. The doctors are looking to match proteins in your DNA called, human leukocyte antigens (HLA). These HLA markers are inherited from your parents; one half from your mother and one half from your father. That’s why the best related donors are brothers or sisters. You have a 25% chance of matching a sibling. Sadly, only 30% of patients in need of a transplant find a perfect match within their family.
So 70% of the time Be The Match begins the search for an unrelated donor. Some ethnic groups have more complex HLA markers than other groups. That’s why you have the best chance of finding your perfect match within your own ethnic group. Unfortunately, African Americans, Latinx, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Asians are all underreppresented on the Be The Match registry. I hope you see now how unique you are and why we need you to text LIFE to 61474. If you are not eligible to join you can play an important role by helping to spread the word about joining Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474. A patient’s chances of finding a stem cell or bone marrow match ranges from 19% to 80% depending on their ethnic background. That’s why I am walking across the Sonoran Desert to bring awareness to the need for increased diversity in our national marrow donor program, Be The Match. I want everyone in need of a stem cell or bone marrow transplant to have a second chance at life just like our Jada.

Mon, March 2, Chandler Contacts and Education Day

Dear All, I had a short morning walk of 5.3 miles and all along the way I stopped to talk to folks about the importance of diversity on the Be The Match registry, what it means to be a potential stem cell donor and how to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474. I stopped at the Chandler Regional Medical Center, the Chandler School District Office and then walked over to the U of A campus in Chandler.
The Be The Match on Campus Coordinator for Be The Match in Phoenix, Lindsey, and the Be The Match student intern, Ciara, met me at the University of Arizona, Chandler Campus. We spent the early afternoon visiting with folks in downtown Chandler about Be The Match and stem cell and bone marrow donation. We talked to the student advisor at U of A Chandler. We went to the Chandler City Hall and got information about how to submit a proposal for a stem cell/bone marrow donor awareness day proclamation. And we visited the administrative offices for the Chandler Fire Department. Again we shared information about how to join Be The Match and stem cell donation to save the lives of patients in need of a transplant.
I had a wonderful time with Lindsey and Ciara. There is always so much to learn from others. I find it really useful to listen to others talk about Be The Match and what it means to be a potential stem cell or bone marrow donor. Lindsey and Ciara are both young woman with a passion for saving lives by enrolling potential donors. They each have a unique story to share.

Sat Feb 29 and Sun March 1st, Walking in Queen Creek

Dear All,
Because I did not have permission from the Gila River Tribal Council to walk and pitch my tent on their lands I made up 24 miles by walking in Queen Creek. I walked 12 miles on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. The other 2 miles I will make up on Monday.
I am blessed to have the help of Aubrie and Ben York. I have been able to get up early, have a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, shower, prep my feet for the days’ walk, fill my camel pack with water and head out to walk. Aubrie and Ben gave me a key so that when they are out I can take care of my needs, dinner, shower, laundry, etc and then get to bed early.
I am so grateful to them for their generosity and gentle ways.

On Sunday afternoon I joined Aubrie and Lindsey from Be The Match in a donor enrollment drive in honor of Wendi Tackett, Wendi is in need of a match for a stem cell transplant. We registered donors at Stick 2 It Fitness & Nutrition. Altogether 38 new donors were registered over the two day drive.

Sat Feb 29 and Sun March 1st, Walking in Queen Creek

Dear All,
Because I did not have permission from the Gila River Tribal Council to walk and pitch my tent on their lands I made up 24 miles by walking in Queen Creek. I walked 12 miles on Saturday and 10 on Sunday. The other 2 miles I will make up on Tues.
I am blessed to have the help of Aubrie and Ben York. I have been able to get up early, have a cup of coffee and a light breakfast, shower, prep my feet for the days’ walk, fill my camel pack with water and head out to walk. Aubrie and Ben gave me a key so that when they are out I can take care of my needs, dinner, shower, laundry, etc and then get to bed early.
I am so grateful to them for their generosity and gentle ways.

Fri, Feb 28, A Surprise Ending

Dear All, Oh, what a pleasure it was to stay at the Holiday Inn in Casa Grande. I was up early but took my time getting ready because I had just over 10 miles to walk and my ride couldn’t pick me up until after 5pm. It was all arranged for Aubrie Vargas, an account manager with Be The Match, to pick me up at the Sacaton Rest Area off of the I-10 at the end of the day.
It was a good day to walk, a bit windy but not knocking me off balance. As I neared the I-10 I decided it would be best to cross over the interstate and go up the ramp headed west toward Phoenix (which is really north at the
N. Pinal Ave interchange.) As I get closer and closer to cities then I can’t walk on interstates or freeways. I have to find roads that run parallel. I thought that I was still out far enough into the desert that a 9.9 mile walk along the interstate to the exit for the 587 would work. in the desert there is a nice strip of desert that you can walk and you are not even walking on the immediate shoulder next to the lanes of traffic. It is really quite safe.
As I approached the I-10, and crossed with great caution over the interstate on a bridge with an 8″ shoulder, I saw a Police car sitting on the side of N. Pinal Ave just past the on ramp. I thought better to go talk with the officer rather than have him follow me into the I-10 if I was too close to the city to walk on the interstate. I told the officer who I am and what I am doing. He said I couldn’t walk the I-10 and I couldn’t walk outside the fence because it is Gila River Tribal Lands. I told him I want to be respectful and not walk on the tribal lands without an invitation. That’s when I noticed the ensigna on his car was from the Gila River Tribe and it dawned on me that he was a tribal officer. I was in a bit of a spot. So I asked him if I could get a ride to the Sacaton Rest Area. He helped me arrange a ride with a n officer from the Pinal County Sheriff’s office. He arrived after about 10 minutes. I admit a few times as I was waiting I thought, oh, it won’t hurt for me to just walk up to the rest area. It’s just 2 miles. But I was able to go through the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other debate and follow what my conscience said was the polite behavior for a visitor to do.
The county deputy came and dropped me off at the Sacaton Rest Area where I waited for Aubrie to come and pick me up. Oh, what a joy it was to see Aubrie Vargas York again. She and I worked on drives together on my walk across America from Phoenix all the way through Albuquerque, N.M. And she and her beautiful family were amazing trail angels on the first Step To-Marrow walk. It was a wonderful reunion.

Thurs, Feb. 27, An unexpected Hero

Dear All, Every day can be filled with promise. I know sometimes that is hard to see, to accept. But the challenges I faced yesterday were light burdens today. I had a much shorter walk. The pathway was free of obstacles and there was just a gentle cool breeze as I made my way to Casa Grande. Walking through Casa Grande I spied the newspaper office, the Casa Grande Dispatch. After hearing my story they agreed to do an interview later in the day. The general manager of the Holiday Inn offered me a room for the night along with meals! I had lunch and did my interview with Melissa from the Casa Grande Dispatch and by 4:00 I went to my room for some rest.
Around 8:00 pm I went down to the bar to have a light supper. There I could hear two men speaking with German accents. (Ronnie and Alex) During the introductions I told them and Dean who was also sitting at the bar Jada and Torsten’s story and how easy it is to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474. Then I added in Germany you can type in to join the German Donor Center. The younger of the two men, Alex, said, “I know. I belong to Deutschland Knochenmarkspender and I donated my blood to a young man who was about to be married.” Just hearing their German accents had put a smile on my face because it made me feel closer to Jada’s donor, Torsten Huber. Then to hear Alex’s story of saving the life of his fellow countryman filled me with joy. Alex humbly shared his donor story. He and his recipient are the same age. He received a letter from the recipient two years post transplant that said he had married his girl and that he and his wife are indebted to Alex for his life. This is why I walk so that there will be many, many more stories of successful transplants from donor to recipient. I am especially determined to increase awareness for the need to register folks of Native American, African American, Latinx, and Asian descent, on the Be The Match registry, with this Steps To-Marrow 3 walk. You all can help by sharing how to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474 and joining yourself if you are between the ages of 18 and 60 and medically eligible.

Wed, Feb 26th, Back Where I Started my journey to Tucson

Dear All, Today was a long trek in strong winds and with many obstacles to overcome. I have been on the road long enough now that my backpack, even with the extra weight of a days’ water, feels like it is part of me. In the beginning of the walk physically and psychologically the backpack felt like an extra weight hanging onto me. Perhaps it seems odd to you but after I have carried the heavy weight of the backpack for so long it feels like it is part of me, like it belongs right there on my back. That doesn’t mean that at the end of a long rough day it isn’t a relief to lower that heavy pack to the ground; it is a comfort to feel the pack resting against the hollow of my back, knowing I have what I need to survive right there.
Well, today was one of those hard days. I started out walking along the outside of the fence on the west side of the I-10. After only a mile I ran into a fence running east and west, perpendicular to my path. I walked almost a 1/2 a mile out of my way before I found a break in the fence. I walked back to the I-10 and up the off ramp to avoid having to add more mileage to my day. Most of the day I was fighting winds strong enough to blow me and my backpack off balance. There was not a clear path on the small strip of desert terrain along the interstate so I had lots of ups and downs through ditches and tos and fros going around things blocking my path. Oh, how happy I was to see the familiar Motel 6 sign raised up high in the sky at exit 200. A hot bath to ease my muscles, a warm meal to fill my belly, a cool drink to refresh my spirit and I dropped off to sleep having extended loving kindness to myself and others.
I hope you will be able to extend loving kindness and text LIFE to 61474 to find out if you are the cure for a patient in need of a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant!

Tuesday, Feb 25th, On the Road to Casa Grande

Dear All, I was sad to say goodbye to Stacie this morning. What a beautiful time we had together. I told her it was my turn now to host her again. So whether she is walking or just traveling through eastern Washington I would love for her to stop by and visit me in Deer Park. We took a photo together with Picacho Peak in the background.
I felt drawn to Picacho Peak, by its unusual formation and its towering presence, as I passed it on my way down to Tucson and now again as I pass it on my way to Casa Grande. I Googled Picacho Peak to learn a bit more about it and here’s what I found on Wikipedia, ‘…Though appearing to be the remnant of a volcanic neck, it is now believed to be a tilted and eroded piece of rock overlain by a lava flow. The place name is redundant: “picacho” means “peak” in Spanish.’ Peak Peak, I like that.
I walked most of the day on a frontage road on the east side of the I-10. I hoped that I would be able to find a safe place to pitch my tent somewhere near Eloy for the night. About a mile and a half before the turn east to Eloy I saw a sign for Picacho KOA Campground. The KOA was on the west side of the I-10. I was on the east side. did a quick search to find the best walking route over the interstate to the KOA. Google maps showed me a route that would take me 5 miles north up over the highway and back down 5 miles to the KOA. Ouch! 10 extra miles to reach a campground that was just a mile up the road. I decided I would look for a way under the barbwire fence running along the I-10. You can walk for miles and not find a way through the barbwire but I was lucky and soon found a spot where the top two strands of wire were missing. It was easy for me to step right over. Next I had to wait for a break in the traffic and run across 4 lanes of traffic, down and back up the median, and then run across the south bound lanes of traffic. I assure you that I was extremely cautious. My next challenge was to find a way under, over or through the barbwire fence on the west side of the highway. Luck was with me again. This time there was a gap at the bottom of the fence large enough for me to shimmy under.
The folks at the KOA were wonderful. They gave me a great spot for my tent. The wind was very strong as it had been all day. With the help of some children camping at the KOA I was able to get the tent up. The kids each held down a corner while I drove the stakes into the ground. Then they each took a turn pounding a stake into the ground. When we had the tent up I thanked them and praised them for their willingness to help me when I was in need.
Each of the children (I am guessing that they were between the ages of 5 and 7.) came to me later and expressed how it felt to be able to help me. The little girl said she felt good inside knowing that she helped me to put up my tent and she knew I couldn’t have done it without her help. The oldest boy smiled big and said he would help me again if I needed it. And the youngest little boy shyly said he learned that he was strong enough to hammer in the stake all by himself. They were very sweet exchanges.
You see part of the joy of relying on the generosity of others is the opportunity it gives to folks to be a part of the success of the Steps To-Marrow 3 journey. Yes, I am walking every day but I could not successfully complete the journey without the help of others who share water, food, a safe place to sleep or help me put up my tent on a very windy afternoon.

Monday Feb 24, Last Day in Tucson

Dear All, My trail angel, Stacie, dropped me off early this morning so she could drive back to the east side of Tucson to meet her crew to begin their days’ work. There was a chill in the pure desert air as I began my walk. It felt good to be out on the road as the sun was rising over the eastern mountains.
It was a simple, steady, rather uneventful day of walking. The one unusual event was my participation in a Peacemaker Circle meeting while I was on the road. The Peacemaker Circle is a project I began with a group of folks from around the world about a year ago. It is based on work that I did about 15 years ago with Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers. The meeting was to begin at 11 am. I found an old tire to sit on, kicked it to be sure that no critters were hiding in it and settled down for the meeting using the Zoom app. Shortly into the meeting I was having trouble with reception so I spent the rest of the time in the circle walking slowly across the desert sand. There was a beauty being connected with the circle participants from Europe and New Zealand as I stepped gently through the Sonoran Desert.
I walked late into the afternoon. Stacie picked me up a quarter of a mile past mile marker 222 near the base of Picacho Peak. I walked further than I had expected which meant less time with my heavy backpack tomorrow. That’s a reason to smile!
When we got back to Stacie and Doug’s house I started my laundry, showered and started packing up all of my gear so I would be ready to leave in the morning. I am so grateful to Stacie and Doug for the exceptional care they have given me in my stay here in Tucson. Having walked across America herself Stacie was able to predict my needs and provide for me even before I expressed a need. I also was very taken by all of Stacie’s stories of her walk across America.
I went to bed early and fell asleep almost instantly.