'If You Kill Dad, We're Going to Be Very Upset With You'

​20 miles. 24 neighborhoods. PittGirl takes her father on a hike to remember.



 

It takes a special kind of audacity to ask a 67-year-old man to take a 20-mile walk. When Light of Life Rescue Mission invited me to take part in the annual Tour with Tunch & Wolf — presented by former Pittsburgh Steelers players Craig Wolfley and Tunch Ilkin — I understood it to be a huge honor that I could not decline. Not wanting to do it alone, I selfishly asked my father to come along because he’s a supporter of the mission.

“How would you like to hike 20 miles with me for Light of Life?” I asked in my best “The Price Is Right” spokesmodel voice, trying to make potential hell sound like a breezy trip to heaven.

He agreed to do it. I have no idea why — though I’d bet his hearing aids were off and he misunderstood. My sisters had sent texts in the months leading up to the tour: “If you kill Dad, we are going to be really upset with you.”

You’d think a person who plans to walk 20 miles in the near future would put in a bit of preparation. Maybe a few 10-mile hikes. Extra stretches. A vitamin-rich diet. Nah. I took a 4-mile walk one day and woke up the next morning to find I had temporarily crippled myself. “Well, that’s not good,” I thought. And then I ate some cookies.

The day before the tour, my father had laser eye surgery on a torn retina. Assuming he would not be able to join me, I wondered how I could quickly tear something important in my own eye. His doctor said the tour would put no undue stress on his eyes.

Yay?

On the morning of the tour, I picked up my father at 5:30. The moon still was shining over Heinz Field when we arrived. In the parking lot, Tunch explained to all of the participants that we would be hiking “20-plus miles.”

“‘Plus?’ What is this ‘plus’ you speak of?” I thought in a panic. “I would like to get off this ride before it starts.” I sent up a quick “Jesus-take-the-wheel-and-maybe-gently-crash-me-into-a-runaway-truck-sandpile” prayer.

Off we went.

Heinz Field to deep in the North Side and then back to downtown for a rest. That was an easy 3 miles.

Then Tunch said, “Next stop. Squirrel Hill.”

Excuse my French but, “Pardonnez-moi?” Did you know in Pittsburgh it actually is possible to walk “uphill both ways”? Our parents weren’t lying about that. 

Jesus, take the wheel and get us stuck in some tunnel traffic so I can rest for a bit.

Mile 10. Various muscle groups were tightening up. Dad stopped occasionally to massage his calves. My sisters sent regular texts: The “Hydrate. Don’t infarct.” message was meant for my dad. “Your hamstrings are going to explode, you know?” was meant for both of us.

Mile 14. My knees were stiffening, and my father had gained a slight limp. “Is Dad still alive?” queried one text. “Yes. But I think I’m dying,” was my response.

Mile 16. Hamstrings were threatening to blow. I considered bike-jacking a cyclist on the Eliza Furnace Trail.

Mile 18. I realized a hip replacement probably was a lot closer in my future than it was 18 miles ago. Dad’s limp was borderline zombie-like. Then there was Tunch, who continued to march like a fresh soldier. I irrationally hated him for it.

Mile 19. Our bodies were warzones. Hips were yelling at ankles, which were giving the middle finger to knees, which were sending hate mail to the Achilles.

Mile 20. My eyeballs stopped making moisture, leaving my cloudy contacts fused to them like wallpaper. My father’s face was a mask of pain. When we reached the steps at the end of the West End Bridge, I briefly considered flinging myself down them because it was the path of least resistance.

And then it was over — 20 miles through 24 neighborhoods in 11 hours to benefit our city’s homeless population.

A bit later, we managed to fold our bodies into my car. I realized that in order to get us home, I would need to find the physical strength to transfer my foot from the brake pedal to the gas pedal.

Jesus, take the wheel. I quit.
 

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

The 412

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

Gear Up for Month of Mud's Final Bike Race of 2014

The homegrown race series wraps up on Sunday at Ohiopyle State Park.
Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Local Developer Creates Pittsburghese Plugin for Google Chrome

Have a little fun as you search the Web.
Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

Pittsburgher Ali Spagnola Releases an App Version of Her 'Power Hour' Album

The creator of the app — which takes any playlist on your smartphone or tablet and plays it in one-minute pieces — reminds users to please drink responsibly.
NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

NPR Blog Team Tries, Critiques Primanti Bros. Sandwich

The group behind the station's Sandwich Monday blog series orders the iconic sandwich and writes a review.

Hot Reads

Review: One Thirty One East

Review: One Thirty One East

Located in the southwest suburban community of Carnegie, One Thirty One East embodies the area’s renaissance.
Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

Grow. Cook. Drink.: Maggie Meskey of Butcher and the Rye

The charismatic Maggie Meskey had tended bar for years before landing her gig at downtown bourbon haven Butcher and the Rye.
13 Bartenders You Should Know

13 Bartenders You Should Know

Get acquainted with this group of charming bar professionals working in various establishments around the city.
Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

Why Things Get Squirrely Near the Tunnels

PittGirl doesn't know why we say "warsh" — but she has figured out why we 'Burghers hit the brakes at the sight of the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
12 Hot New Restaurants

12 Hot New Restaurants

A diverse crop of eateries caught our attention this year, so we’re highlighting some of our favorites.
40 Under 40: 2014

40 Under 40: 2014

In their own ways, the 40 men and women we introduce here show us daily how we can ensure that Pittsburgh is deserving of its Most Livable City title.