EVERETT, Wash. — Ron Williams suits up, in jeans and a Seahawks sweatshirt. At 7:30 a.m., he tightens the laces of well-worn size 11 New Balance walking shoes. He puts on his white bucket hat, with its red Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo. And every day, step by step by step, he walks 6 miles.
The Everett man has done that daily since May 2, 2002. A retired car salesman, his last day on the job was May 1, 2002.
“I was looking for something to do,” he said.
Williams is 84. His years are evident in his gait. When he walks, he wears a soft neck brace to ease arthritis. But his vibe, his energy and manner are those of a younger man. He makes frequent use of the word “cool.” He’s witty, quick and a tiny bit profane.
“There’s nothing I hate more than exercise, all that bull__,” he said. By that, he means sit-ups, push-ups, that sort of thing. Walking is something else. “It’s addictive after a while,” Williams said.
A widower whose wife of 42 years died in 2010, Williams never deviates from his twice-daily routes. Each morning, he completes a 3-mile loop near the Everett Mall. And every afternoon, he walks another 3 miles, starting and ending at his home in the View Ridge neighborhood.
His routine — “I do it in snow, ice, rain” — is a fitness regimen, but there’s more to it. Tag along, and you’ll meet his treasured friends. His daily walks are social calls. Those connections, those people he sees along the way, are as important to Williams as breathing.
“He’s a remarkable guy. He stops in to say hi every day,” said Tammee Hindman, manager of the Woodbrook Apartment Homes in Everett. The apartment office is on Williams’ morning route. “Every day he asks me a trivia question,” she said. Those questions could be about anything, perhaps some little-known fact about British royalty.
The complex is one of Williams’ “pit stops.”. There, he can use a restroom and catch TV news in a lounge in the main building. Williams once lived in a Woodbrook apartment, and he has known Hindman for years.
She cooks for him, especially during the holidays, and has repaired that hat he has worn on every walk since 2002. “She really and truly is my best friend,” Williams said.
His journeys aren’t footraces. He makes time for other friends. He starts and finishes his morning walk at the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market. Friendships there include store owners Tod and Debbie Jackson, and checker Renee Steuer.
When he’s done walking each morning, he gives Steuer his copy of The Daily Herald — which he reads at home at 4:30 a.m. “I feed him and he brings me the paper,” said Steuer, who cooks meatloaf and enchiladas for Williams.
His walks are a joy, but Williams’ disciplined routine also has meant a physical transformation. When he retired from Kompact Kar Korner, a used car business on Highway 99 in Lynnwood, Williams said he weighed 237 pounds. “As of today, I weigh 152,” he said.
He didn’t want to change his diet too much. “I still have my biscuits and gravy, just smaller portions,” said Williams, who also quit smoking.
For lunch, before his afternoon hike from home to Pecks Drive and back, he eats the same thing most days: kidney beans and butter, a chicken or turkey sandwich, and salad with Catalina dressing. “I only drink water,” he said. Sometimes, he’ll stop at the McDonald’s for hotcakes after his morning walk.
“He is somewhat of a celebrity at the McDonald’s,” said Eric Wiseman, who sent The Herald an email to let us know about the daily walker in the white hat. “He told me he has never missed a day for many years,” Wiseman said. “I toot hello every time, and get a great wave back.”
Williams is on his second trip around the globe, on foot. He keeps track, jotting down days and miles. The distance around the Earth at the equator is 24,901 miles, according to the National Geographic Society. By the end of last week, Williams had walked more than 33,300 miles.
“What I’ve done is pretty cool. I don’t get sick,” he said. “Once I had a kidney stone removed. I sat around at the hospital for a while, but later that day I did my walk.”
He has neither a cellphone nor a computer. A fan of John Grisham and James Michener novels, he reads every night. During his walks, he thinks about old friends, or stories he has read.
Mile after mile, he doesn’t tire of familiar sights. Each day is new. And there are all those smiles, waves, honks and hugs.
“A new route never entered my mind,” Williams said.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldnet.com