Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Two Papas make it back onto the field

 Sunday July 11th. Last day of the journey

Four miles. After over 100 miles of walking all we had left was four miles. Hard to believe. 
Plan for the day was an easy one. Start at Bunker Hill Community College, leisurely stroll along the Charles River, get to Fenway an hour before game time to meet our Red Sox team connections at gate E, then get on to the field for an introduction. This was more exciting than driving backwards in that station wagon on Storrow Drive as a kid back in the 70's.

Going to be a lot of photos in this recap. A LOT. Good for you because that means less of me.
Here's some bullets from the final leg of our journey
  • AOP at 6:30. John drops us in the parking lot of the college, waves goodbye, and that's the last time we'll see him until Fenway.

  • Link was feeling better on day five than he was on day one. Link is the best.

  • Past the Museum of Science, through Beacon Hill, then we are on the path between Storrow Drive and the Charles River.

  • What a way to end this thing. Even though it was  slightly hot (as you will see in some of the close ups to come), it was much more comfortable than anything we had done up to this point. We approached this in every way, shape, and form as the five of us just out for a Sunday stroll along the Charles River Esplanade. Esplanade. That's one I don't use often. Maybe I'll start. If it helps me remember this day, then I can see myself sprinkling it into many conversations in the future.
  • Ran into a biker (actually, a bicyclist, not a biker) that took a few pictures of us at the Hatch Clamshell

  • This does not look like a guy that just walked over 100 miles, and still had to pick up his camper in Hampton NH when this was all done, does it? Tom, what a great guy.

  • A bus of friends and family is on it's way down from South Portland to greet us before the game. Yep, a bus. A full bus. Not to drop names, but arranged by the same gal that made the koozies for us. She's really something.


  • As we are getting closer to the park we try to sync up with these folks to see if we can get a picture of the bus from our vantage point on an overpass above Storrow. Why not, we had plenty of time. Unfortunately, this was beyond our ability to coordinate. This was us actually discussing that plan.

  • Holy crap, I think I can see the Citgo sign. We are getting close. We are feeling it, have been all day actually.

  • A mile and a half left. After all this time I'm now using half mile increments to gauge our distance.
  • Turn up Mass Ave for a block or two, then right onto Commonwealth. Link and Joe stop into the Harvard Club of Boston for one last bathroom break. 
  • We pass the Citgo sign on our right...Pizzeria Uno ahead in the heart of Kenmore Square. Joe recalls his days tending bar there. So glad I got to reconnect with Joe.

  • See who's in front? Denise. Denise led the way , oh, I'd say, about 109 of the 110 miles between home and Fenway. Denise put up with four sweaty guys without once uttering any kind of complaint. Not one. I mean this in the best way - Denise is the GOAT. (Greatest Of All Time for you non-sports fans).
  • One more time over the MA pike...and we can see the park. Manny Ramirez used to hit homeruns that landed on the MA pike. That's how close we were.

  • At the top of the hill across from the Cask and Flagon (The Cask has played some roles in prior trips to Fenway, but not this one) we see the bus and all of its passengers waiting to greet us. All of our families and friends are there. Surprising how they were willing to and still wanted to  hug the sweaty walkers. Now that's love.

  • Remember the herding cats from the start at Sunset Park? Same scene, different state. Only things left to do was one more interview in the shadow of the Ted Williams statue, then get to Gate E one hour before the game to meet the folks that would get us out on the field.
  • Walking in the shadow of the green monster, we looked like five pied pipers leading a pack of followers  - all fifty of us or so taking over the streets surrounding Fenway

  • Get to the statue and get ready for our last interview. Joe's Dad, Dave - the last of the original walkers - the reason we all did this crazy event - was there to greet us. Joe tells me that Dave goes as Papa now.


  • There was one more Papa with us. I carried my dad - another one of the original walkers (who, for the last twenty years or so of his life, was also better known as Papa), in my pocket with me the entire trip. I was going to make sure he made it on to the field on more time.
  • We do the interview - Pete - the spokesman - gets a little choked up standing there with his old friends made new again and with Dave. It's almost too much. Knowing that this thing that was the main focus for all of us the last 18 months....the hours of planning with each other and independently....the miles and miles of walking to get ready...emails, meetings, jokes, hiccups, discussions, obstacles/hurdles, excitement, and anticipation...was all coming to its conclusion.

  • We make it to Gate E...ahead of schedule mind you, and get a chance to start letting it all sink in a bit. 

  • You see John is back with us. He was the rock for us the entire trip. We would not have, could not have, made it without him. We are all forever in his debt.
  • Time to go on the field. This was truly the icing on the cake. During all of our planning (which took place during the height of covid) we never actually knew if they could get us on the field or not. My one ask of Joe was "Get us on the field". Joe did just that.
  • Too many feelings and memories and emotions to call out - overview was this- we got on the field for about 15 minutes before we were announced...with a few other groups of honorees - our handler told us what to expect and what we were to do - soaking it all in - got introduced (along with Dave!) - made an announcement about who we were and what we did - got some photos from our walk on the centerfield scoreboard - then our time in the limelight was done...and that was alright. I (and all of us) will never forget that experience. Here's some pictures that will capture it much better than I ever could in words.

  • Even Xander was happy for us.

  • Papa got back on to the field 38 years later - Don't tell anyone. This is our little secret.

  • Hope you enjoyed the recap of our walk. We accomplished all we could have hoped for  - and so much more. When all is said and done, our total raised will be a bit more than this....

  • That's all there is, there isn't anymore.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Day Five - Link gets an eyeful

Day five - Saturday

Early AOP. It's amazing that a good's night sleep can erase 80 miles of wear and tear. No shade cast on either the condo from night one or the campground for the last two nights, but this was the way to do it. Duly noted for next time (Like there would actually be a next time).


-This happened earlier in the trip, but for the life of me can't remember when. Maybe end of day one, beginning of day two? We had lot of local media coverage in Maine leading up to the walk. Just before leaving, Joe's hometown paper (Joe lives in New Jersey) did an article about him and the walk. Joe told us about the coverage. Went something like this. Article started of with...."Bob McHugh of...". Joe became Bob off and on for the rest of the trip, Good stuff. -

Huddle in the parking lot then we were off to the city line of Danvers. Would like to make it to the Boston town line - just about 14 miles.

John brings us to the exact spot we stopped during our walk with Elsa the day before - The Boston Sports Club. Still a very hilly climb, now I know how the Hilltop restaurant got it's name, never actually dawned on me before.

First half of the day was straight along route 1 in Saugus. This must be one of the heaviest trafficked roads in New England. As a kid going down to Red Sox games I still remember the excitement driving in the back of a car (sometimes facing backwards in a rear facing seat of a station wagon) on this stretch of divided two lane highway of cars on each side, whizzing by, bumper to bumper, usually being ably driven by my Dad or Norm Payette (Denise's dad - one of the original four), what a thrill as a kid.

Here's a prior post where I pay homage to this road and a particular memory I have of it.


Bit of a recap of this stretch -

  • Decent weather compared to the 90 degree days and tropical storm we had experienced thus far. Maybe low eighties?
  • Still a lot of water in the breakdown (or for us, the walking) lane
  • At the top of the second or third hill we had a break for a photo op

  • The Cabaret is a strip club. Don't know if it's more or less seedy than the strip club across the street - The Golden Banana. Probably splitting hairs here.
  • That's me and Joe tipping Denise as she makes her best non stripper pose. Note that they are hiring dancers.
  • Cars whizzing by, we are passing all of the landmarks I remember as a kid.
  • Here's one you might recognize

  • The aforementioned Hilltop. Alas, it is no longer a restaurant. Super busy place back in the day. Always a long wait. Place was huge, Their rooms were named after old time Western towns like Dodge City or Kansas City. My wife's family breaks into a verbal rendition of how the hosts or hostesses used to make the announcements when your table was ready (cup your hands together around your mouth and say "Pandora - table of seven in Sioux City. Actually it was more like " Pandora - table of seven in Soooooo City"). Or something like that. They do it much better.
  • Miles and miles of being sandwiched between fast moving traffic and every form of retail establishments imaginable.
  • Hopping puddles, sometimes walking on sidewalks, sometimes breakdown lanes, sometimes just the grass or gravel.
  • Admittedly some traffic dodging.
  • Did you know the nickname of the Saugus High School mascot is the Sachems.
    • One - Surprised that is still being used as the mascot (look at the Cleveland Indians, Washington Redskins, etc,)
    • Two - Maybe the next best choice would be the Saugus Strip Clubs.
    • Three - Saying Sachems make me giggle like the teen age boy I think I still am.
  • We're close to the point where we get off of Route 1 for the final leg into Boston - this was the recommendation from Dave and Maria the night before . Their advice -
    • Stopping at Kane's Donuts was a must do. We got a few. Ok, maybe one or two more than a few. Handsome Joe opted for a slice of pizza. Even Denise partook in the donut haul.

  • The second piece of advice was that this is where we would veer off of Route 1, onto Route 99. This was the way to get to Boston if you were walking, Coincidentally, that's just what we were doing.
  • This is actually the spot where we hung a right on to 99.

  • This guy used to be in a miniature golf course we used to pass by when we were flying by in the car back in the 1970's. Now he sits atop and behind an enormous wall, maybe in the same location? Right about here there used to be batting cages we would some times visit on our way through, Bob , I mean, Joe and I remembered the cages being built into a natural granite wall so all of your line drives and homeruns would careen off of that granite mountainside. Good stuff when you're twelve years old,
  • Route 99- less traffic, more sidewalks. Interesting part of the walk. We are now on Broadway, This is our straight shot into Boston.
  • We no longer have the traffic, but we do have neighborhoods, Lots and lots of neighborhoods. And sidewalks, Sidewalks are good,
  • Saugus into Melrose into Malden into Everett. Lot's of ethnicity. Asian markets, Italian food stores, Barber shops with names like Zip Zap hair salon or Razzle Dazzle Barbershop or Style Cave.
  • This should give you an idea of the density of this area

  • A combination of blocks of apartment buildings, cemeteries that are the only green space for blocks and the occasional plantings between the sidewalk and the side of the road.

  • Not far from this idyllic shot the five of us walk past a bus stop. In it was a veteran. Perhaps homeless, sitting alone with a newspaper in his lap.
  • Denise walks by, no eye contact from him. Then Pete, Joe, and Tom.
  • When Link walks by, he had moved the newspaper off his lap and , let's say, gotten a little more comfortable.
  • So comfortable that his, I don't know the best way to say this, his member, or penis, or rumpleforeskin, or ding dong, or tiny tim, or frank 'n beans, or flagpole (need I say more? Didn't think so), had found its way out from behind the safety of his zipper and into the fresh air of a brave new world.
  • He was happy to show Link, I don't know how happy Link was to see it. Link did say he was only flying at half staff.
  • Why he picked Link to do the show and tell, we don't know, but he was the chosen one.
  • We tried to get Denise to go back to snap a pic, but she opted to pass. Good call.
  • Walked for blocks with a few of us needing a pit stop. Popped into a few establishments, none with a public restroom.
  • Things were starting to get serious.
  • Finally, a sub shop , DiBlasi's, had one, but we had to go around the back and use the rear entrance in a back alley. Very grateful.
  • This picture of the back door does not do justice to possibly the filthiest bathroom I've ever had the displeasure of stepping into. Not as grateful.

  • A few blocks up we did a pit stop on the side of Broadway. Building we stopped in front of was the Everett Masonic Hall. Tom is a Mason. The Masons were very generous to our fundraising effort. Held a pancake breakfast with the proceeds going to us...Tom went from lodge to lodge in Greater Portland spreading the word and raising money for the cause. I think this was Tom's favorite stop of the entire trip.
  • John informed us that we were five miles from the Boston city limits. We pressed on.
  • Joe or John (forget which) had been speaking with WBZ (I think it was WBZ) and they wanted to do an on the road interview with us. We decided to take a break at the Encore Boston Hotel and Casino. Good spot for an interview. Huge complex just before the Mystic River which is the border of Boston.

  • Made friendly with the doorman, let five sweaty walkers and one non sweaty driver hang on the benches at the entrance while we waited for the camera man to show up to do our interview. We thanked him by giving him two of our custom made koozies
  • Moved away from the entrance to do the interview. We had done so much media coverage over the past week, it was getting old hat. Group always seemed to have Pete be the spokesman, which is odd because, if you remember, I've got a great face for radio. TV, not so much.
  • Check this out...

  • Just had a bridge to cross then another mile or so and we'd end the day. Bridge we walked over was either the Malden bridge or the Alford Street bridge. Either way, it was a drawbridge, and guess what?

  • Yep. Bridge was up. Slight delay.
  • Get across the bridge, over the river and we were now in Boston, Charlestown to be exact.
  • Spent a minute or two discussing what the Schrafft's building was all about. Joe voted for brewery (makes sense with a name like that) I was hoping for a candy factory. Turns out it did indeed used to be a candy factory, but not for the last 35 years or so, Still, I'm claiming victory on that one. 

  • Finished our walk in the shadow of Bunker Hill Community College, For those of you with any movie trivia interest, this is where Good Will Hunting was filmed.

  • Done for the day. We were just about four miles from Fenway. For the first time the end actually was in sight. We were feeling good. Extremely good. Almost celebratory. But not yet. We still had one more day.
  • Brief recap of the rest of our day
    • John brings us back to the Champions Pub. Remember John and I went there the night before with our friends Dave and Maria? Now we had to share our favorite spot in Peabody with the other walkers. Another one of the good choices for the trip. Some version of steak tips all around (straight tips, tips subs, tips salad, tips shake - well maybe not a tips shake - and so forth and so on). We looked relieved, right?

    • During our meal Joe gets a call from his older brother, David. Dave wants to know where we are, says he and his wife are in town early for tomorrow's game, maybe they can meet up with us there. Joe gives him the deets.
    • David and his wife never show up, but when we go to pay our bill, we find it's already been covered. Joe's brother. Well played you sneaky bastard , well played. Another random act of kindness we were blessed with on our journey.
    • Back to the hotel, showered up, and head to the lobby.
    • Turns out David and his wife actually were planning on meeting up with us and do so here.
    • Denise's sister Donna (who was also a big part of our pre trip planning process) also pays us a visit. Donna brought candy. Divvied amongst the six of us, just in case we felt like having a snack in our rooms. Just in case.
    • There is a wedding reception going on in the hotel (yes , it was a nice place... not Tidewater Campgrounds nice but nice enough for a wedding reception).

    • Pete, a little slow on the download (and I'm not blaming it on our pre-celebratory drinks we were partaking in) sees a captive audience and dispatches someone to get the Fenway for Our Fathers sign and a Jimmy Fund donation canister out on a table to see if there might be some takers.
    • Turns out there were, but if we had been about an hour quicker - pre reception - we would have been raking in the dough.
    • Talked to a couple of the party goers that were interested in our story, Gave them our website info, and got a few donations that way as well.
    • Only John and I felt like getting some dinner so we ordered pizzas to be delivered to the lounge of the hotel. Funny, when the pizza showed up, turns out it wasn't only Pete and John that wanted dinner. We made quick work of those pizzas.
    • We each headed back to our rooms, one day left, we were feeling good, Very good.
    • Pete was the last one in the elevator and when he got on, rode up with two women that had some interesting pastries with them. Making small talk up in the elevator, seems these were available for the asking, if you knew who to ask.
    • So...Pete rides back down, gets a platter of creme brulee and brownies, and delivers them to Tom and Joe's room, Denise either wasn't interested or I didn't think she'd be interested, so Link and I made sure the extras didn't go to waste.
    • One day left. The culmination of over a year and a half of planning was upon us.
  • Up next - Final day. Papa gets to get back on the field 48 years later.