SM PIER — For many tourists, the Route 66 sign that marks the terminus of the historic roadway on the Santa Monica Pier makes for a good photo-op. For 71-year-old Emory Duick, the signpost means a lot more: the end of a grueling and improbable journey.
A retired youth employment counselor for the state of Illinois, Duick set out on a jog from Downtown Chicago on June 2, intending to make it as far west as he could. Seven months later, having covered some 2,150 miles on foot and crossed eight states, he arrived this week in Santa Monica.
The inspiration for the journey was to show retired people that getting older doesn’t have to mean shutting down.
“I wanted to do it because of the fact that people my age are dead,” he said on Tuesday.
The goal was to prove to people that, “[If] this old duffer — 71 years old — is doing what he’s doing, why can’t I. That’s what this is about,” he said.
For Duick, of Des Plaines, Ill., the trip was also a chance to see the country and spend time with his daughter, Lauren Duick, who took a leave of absence from her job as an occupational therapist to accompany her father. Lauren was responsible for driving the camper as her dad plodded along for four or five hours per day, usually logging about 10 miles.
“His speed is slow but his spirit is high,” she said a day after the pair arrived in Santa Monica.
She described her dad as “very ambitious” as well as “stubborn and strong willed.”
In the course of the journey Duick endured two bouts of sciatica, one of which forced him to stay off the road for more than a week. But he decided to keep going.
“I can’t believe that we’re here, actually. Time went by so quickly,” she said.
Duick on Tuesday said he’s run nearly 20 marathons, works out regularly and relishes being on the move.
“I liked the lure of the road, I liked the idea of traveling down it,” he said, “just seeing different things and all the people.”
He admits he didn’t walk every step of the way, avoiding some sections of Route 66 where the 2,450-mile road became a dangerous interstate highway. Still, he said he covered at least 2,150 miles on foot.
“I wanted to cheat but my daughter is my conscience — she wouldn’t let me when I got tired,” he said.