Jim Doss walks every day. His is not a leisurely
stroll. He doesn't walk with a group. He rarely
stops to chat. He enjoys the solitude of his trek,
one he has made nearly every day, along the same
route, for the last fifteen years. He does a ten
mile, intense power walk along a broad route around
Westlake Lake. He chooses the same route because
he knows how long it takes. Two hours, home and
"There's the walker, our walker,"
he's heard people yell. People smile when he passes.
They honk their car horns. They wave. Most don't
know him by name but they recognize him. He is
so consistent in his walking that to most people
he's simply the "Westlake Walker."
We live in a community swarming with bikers
and walkers. So, picking out a single individual
as "the walker" says a lot about Jim
Doss' discipline, his physical effort, his consistency.
He's thirty-eight years old and works for a
surveying company. He's usually off work early
in the afternoon and that's when he most often
walks. "I'm religious about it," he
says. He walks every day, Christmas, New Years,
in the heat, cold, even in light drizzles. In
a downpour, he'll reluctantly do his daily walk
on a treadmill.
Jim walks for his personal pleasure. He calls
it a "positive addiction." He describes
himself as a "loner by nature." But
although he doesn't walk in the company of people,
he enjoys a "silent camaraderie" with
other walkers, bikers, and runners.
Besides walking Westlake, Jim Doss has also
run eleven marathons and has biked across country
by himself several times. His first cross country
ride was in 1981 - Westlake to New York City in
"I rode a hundred miles a day," he
says, describing his journey. That's a good clip
but he breaks no records and he stops to sightsee.
"I'm an endurance athlete," he explains.
"I can go forever."
He planned on biking to New York and back in
'81 but on the day he arrived in New York City,
after taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry
to the Statue of Liberty, he came back to find
his bike stolen. Only the chain it had been locked
up with was left. So in 1984, he made the trip
again. This time "double cross," round
trip in 65 days.
Walking and biking, Jim says, you learn to appreciate
nature. And in his travels across this country,
he says, there are few places as beautiful as
"On some days the lake is like glass. A
blue sky and clouds reflected in it. I've seen
beautiful rainbows. During the winters the hills
are so green, so gorgeous. At night, I'll come
down Lakeview Canyon, cross over the freeway,
and see the lights of the golf course illuminating
the trees. It makes them look absolutely white,
like they're covered in snow."
Jim Doss is a little like Forrest Gump. Certainly
there are no hordes following him. But there is
something comforting and pleasurable about his
familiar, reliable, and constant trek. Perhaps
he reminds us of the beauty all around us that
most of us are riding by too fast to see, and
too busy to appreciate.