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Des Plaines man completes 2,105-mile hike along Route 66
By Eileen O. Daday | Daily Herald Correspondent

Emory Duick poses for the official end-of-the-road photo.


Photo courtesy Lauren Duick

Emory and Lauren Duick celebrate a mission completed.


Photo courtesy Lauren Duick

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Published: 12/30/2009 12:00 AM

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After 211 days and walking 2,105 miles, a 71-year old Des Plaines man finally realized his goal. On Monday, Emory Duick and his daughter, Lauren, reached the Santa Monica Pier, and the famed end of the Mother Road.

Their journey that began on June 2 to walk the length of historic Route 66 ended successfully, and with it their desire to promote active living among seniors.

"If I had planned this, I couldn't have made it any better," said Duick, after getting high-fives from well-wishers on the pier, and completing a series of TV interviews. "Everything fell right into place."

The trek, he admits, was not easy. The last leg of it, through the Sierra Madre Mountains in New Mexico and Arizona, was the roughest. But overcoming the elements was empowering, and reaching the end left them jubilant.

"I'm so proud of him and that he reached his goal," said Lauren, a 31-year old occupational therapist who served as his navigator and driver of their support vehicle. "He had a mission and he accomplished it."

Catherine Stevanovich, president of the Route 66 Association of Illinois, says Duick is not the first, nor the last, to walk, run or bike the Mother Road. She points to several over recent years, including a policeman who plans to run from California to Chicago next year to raise money for police charities.

"Mr. Duick's feat is remarkable and his effort and intention shows that anyone can keep active," Stevanovich says. "By choosing Route 66, his effort was even better because he got to see the country on the best road with the friendliest people.

"He's a true roadie now," she adds.

Duick was an administrator for the state of Illinois before retiring in 2000. Though he was an accomplished marathon runner, having completed 18 since the age of 43, he felt himself becoming increasingly sedentary.

"That's one of the most important things about this trip," Duick said. "I wanted to promote health and wellness among seniors."

He conceded to suffering from an inflammation of the sciatic nerve that sidelined him for a total of 10 days during the journey. He sporadically missed another eight days during the nearly seven-month long stretch.

But the rest of the time, he alternated between jogging and power walking an average of 10 miles each day. In the mountainous region, however, there were times he had to slow down and literally take it step by step.

"It was rough and rugged, but it was good," Duick said. "The altitude didn't bother me a bit. I'm a blessed man."

When the pair began the journey in Illinois, they stayed each night in a 20-year old pop-up trailer that had no amenities. Some of the most difficult nights were the ones when the mercury reached 100 degrees and there was 100 percent humidity.

They didn't begin to stay in motels until the last few weeks, when snow piled up in the mountains and it was too cold to camp outdoors.

"I'm not a big camper," Lauren said, "so I was really happy to stay at motels, with indoor plumbing."

Both father and daughter said one of the biggest rewards was meeting people along the way.

"Once you get outside the metropolitan area, the people are really wonderful," Duick said. "They have no hidden agenda; what you see is what you get."

Their trip drew coverage on many of the Route 66 blogs and Web sites, consequently merchants and hoteliers along the way knew of their quest and helped them with reduced room rates and meals.

Another benefit of the arduous journey, both said, was the bond that developed between them.

"We've always been close," Lauren said, "but this was a wonderful father daughter relationship-builder, and something I'll never forget."

Likewise, Duick credited his daughter with serving as companion and navigator along the way.

"She was a real trooper," he said. "This wasn't really her thing, but she did more than hold up her end of the bargain."