Newsroom

Song of the Open Road

by Scott Hutchinson
September 19, 2019


Tim and Ann Moe's adventures would supply enough raw material for a series of books. Try squeezing them into a single article.

When it comes to travel, Tim Moe refers to himself as “the idea man.” Supplying the support and energy necessary to transform those ideas into action is his wife Ann, every bit the go-getter her husband is. 

“Many times, I’ll come up with the idea for an adventure,” said Tim. “And I’m fortunate to have my best friend and partner as a willing participant in those travels.”

Ann’s enthusiasm is a trip’s affirmation; it’s a done deal. There’s no dismissive chuckle that’s followed by a laundry list of obstacles that bring into question why the trip was even considered in the first place.

“When do we leave?” might be the only question she asks. Ann’s all-in for an adventure.

Now be aware, gentle reader, that the Moes once spent a year biking around the globe, so when Tim Moe comes up with a plan, it often goes beyond adding a third night to a weekend in Chicago. 

He had something special in mind for 2020.

“Let’s walk across the country next year,” Tim said recently. “What do you think?”

“Dear,” said Ann quietly, sweetly, “that has to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth.”

Wisely, Tim’s cross-country plan has been revised. Left unchanged was the need for physical preparation beforehand.

That’s why, at the very moment you are reading this, Tim and Ann Moe are walking all 500 miles of the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. And this latest trip is more than just laying the groundwork for Tim’s 80th birthday party next year. 

It goes much deeper than that.

**********************

Tim and Ann are kind and generous, people who love to share, the kind of people who invite you into their home and immediately make you feel that you’ve been friends forever. 

Tim, a 30+ year man at Kimberly-Clark and father of two, met Ann, an art teacher and mother of three; they combined their families and love for one other, along with their passions: hard work, travel, good food, conversation, biking, hiking, fun. 

In their Neenah home they have mementos of their trips, their family visits, the life they have built together, from a map in the hallway covered in pins marking the places they’ve been – and places they have yet to see – to a photo collage that tracks their bike trip around the world, to original paintings commemorating their visits to Olympic Games held in Norway and Australia. 

They also have a bathroom that must be seen to be believed. 

And you’ll see Tim and Ann at the center of a family, in pictures taken where their children and grandchildren live. Permeating these images is the unmistakable spirit of adventure, clearly a familial trait. 

*****************

To say Tim Moe and his wife Ann have traveled extensively is a massive understatement. An exhaustive list of where they have walked, biked, wandered and explored would fill pages, and that’s with zero descriptions. We’re talking just the list. 

Wait. Tim put together two lists: one for hikes, one for bikes.

For the former, Tim cut down the size by including only the ones he and Ann did in the United States. A half dozen in Montana’s Glacier National Park – including a 20-mile hike on Tim’s first day of retirement on August 1, 1998 – several in Wyoming (Yellowstone), Maine (Arcadia), and Michigan (Isle Royale), a few hikes with overnight camping in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado as well as in Denali National Park in Alaska. 

And it seems like Tim and Ann like the state of Washington quite a bit; lots of hikes listed there, starting with a Mount St. Helen’s day hike, but one gets the feeling that by “day hike” Tim means a hike that lasts ALL DAY. 

Pretty sure also that Tim got bored compiling the list and just decided to hop on a bike and ride. Hence the omission of hikes around the globe that he and Ann have been doing for nearly three decades.

Like the hikes they went on last summer, with Tim’s new knee. 

The first of those was the Camino, known in English as “The Way of St. James,” a 500-mile route over the Pyrenees traversed by pilgrims since the 800’s, which ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela and under which the remains of the Apostle Saint are said to be buried.

A couple of summers before, Tim would not have been ready for such a pilgrimage. It had been a long, slow decline with his knee, and the once peripatetic retiree, following 30+ years at Kimberly-Clark and many more years than that engaged in active pursuits, became something neither he nor his wife could recognize: a somewhat sedentary man.

“I got to the point where I didn’t like getting on a bike and riding anymore,” said Tim. 

Seeing a husband less active and not as happy, Ann kept pushing for Tim to do something about it. Tim talked to friends who had knees done; some tales were positive, others were horror stories. Tim soldiered on, but, as with all who have limitations superimposed upon them, there would be a breaking point, an epiphany. 

For Tim, it was climbing the Black Butte hiking trail in Oregon. Tim described “gimping” his way to the peak of the 1,600-foot extinct volcano, knowing he was really going to suffer on the way down. He was not mistaken. By the time he reached the bottom, Tim said to Ann, “I really think we should seriously consider having the knee done.” 

*********************

Tim began his search for a doctor soon after his return from Black Butte. A family friend recommended Dr. David Ritzow of the Orthopedic & Sports Institute (OSI), so he made the short trip to Appleton to begin what Tim termed “a physician interview.”  

“I had questions about the procedure, about the restrictions I’d have following a replacement,” said Tim. “Dr. Ritzow told me I wasn’t going to run 5K’s anymore, but I was good with that. He told me I wouldn’t be skiing. That I didn’t want to hear. But I had a very good feeling about him, so I trusted what he said. 

“Ritzow’s a good guy,” said Tim. “He’s special.”

Validating his decision and the efficacy of the procedure, Tim and Ann would travel to Spain and select segments of the Camino to hike, totaling 50 scenic miles where they could go at their own pace, dine comfortably, and meet other travelers. They fell in love with The Way, its beauty and its transformative powers, and vowed to return in a year to experience the entire 500-mile journey.

Oh, and right after their visit to Spain, Tim and Ann flew to Iceland to hike glaciers and lava fields. Then it was on to the mountainous Lake District of England to punctuate their European swing.

Tim was sedentary no more.

*****************

What will be Tim’s upcoming birthday celebration is really a dovetailing of thoughts that can easily assail a man as he reflects on 79 years of life.

“I’ve been very blessed, and I’m not sure why that’s the case,” Tim said.

With this began the tale of long-time friend and KC co-worker Dave Grinsel and his wife Kathy, Ann’s best friend. Classic “on-the-go” couples, these four found in each other the type of friendship that may come only once in a lifetime, and both Tim and Ann recounted the times spent over the years with their dear friends and the memories that were created.

Tim described his friend as every bit as active as he was, maybe more so.

“Dave was an outstanding motorcycle rider, and he went on cycle vacations all over the U.S. and Europe,” said Tim. “He also liked to ski down a mountain after a helicopter dropped him off.”

Dave developed a brain disorder called progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), that affected Dave’s balance, walking, coordination, eye movement, and speech. Slightly more common than ALS but more difficult to diagnose, PSP has no known cause or cure and affects 6 people in 100,000. 

The toll it took on Dave, Kathy, Ann and Tim was devastating. After a prolonged fight, Dave succumbed to the disease last October.  

“I told Kathy I wanted to do something for them, because we have been very fortunate in our lives,” said Tim. “So I came up with the idea that I was going to walk across the U.S.”

To support Dave and the fight against PSP, Tim’s plan was to start in San Francisco and walk to Yorktown, Virginia, a total of just under 3,000 miles. 

“I was thinking I could do it in about 15 months,” said Tim.

Tim decided earlier this year to check out the route with Ann. They hadn’t gotten out of California when he realized there might be hitches in his plan. 

“No shoulders on the roads I’d be walking on, plus a host of logistical issues,” Tim said. “Compared to this, riding around the world on a bicycle was a piece of cake.”

The kicker was Ann’s reaction. She said she would be happy to visit Tim at certain points during the trip if this was what he wanted to do, but she wasn’t going to accompany him from coast to coast. 

“We’re perhaps down to the last ten years of our life together, and I’m not sure why you want to be apart for that long,” Ann told Tim.

Her response really registered.

“Ann was right. We’ve been a great partnership for all these years,” said Tim. “Why would I want to be separated from my best friend for that period of time?”

The idea man pondered a new plan, one with Dave in mind, as well as another close friend stricken with ALS. In addition, the number 80 kept popping into Tim’s head, as he’ll turn 80 in 2020. After some late night tossing and turning, something new materialized. 

Tim is still going across the country, through nine connecting states, but he’s going to walk 80 miles in each. He’ll be on rails-to-trails, so the multi-use paths remove vehicular traffic, and he can walk out and back on each hike, removing the logistical issue of getting back where he started on a road hike.

Even better, the trip is a fundraiser for PSP and ALS, with all proceeds going directly to research. Tim is working on getting a website ready by mid-November for pledges and donations.

“We’re walking for Dave Grinsel and Chris Wigton Klee, and that’s what’s keeping us going,” said Tim.

And with this new plan, Ann has agreed to be with Tim the whole way. The nine-state trip begins January 1, 2020 and should take them till mid-March to complete.

For the final 80 miles of the 800-mile trek, Tim and Ann will walk 75 miles in Wisconsin, meeting their entire family up north, saving the last five to walk with their children and grandchildren in honor of Tim’s 80th.

Now that’s a plan.

***************

In the break room at OSI you’ll find an image on the wall. It’s a sprawling shot, a vista of the Camino near the town of Castrojeriz, perfectly capturing the reason why people have walked the path for a thousand years. There is such beauty here, and the potential for discovery, or re-discovery. 

Below the shot is a small plaque, with text supplied by Tim Moe:

“December 6, 2018 marked two years since Dr. Ritzow replaced my left knee and gave me an active life back.”

Heartfelt words, a testament to a life-changing (well, lifestyle-continuing) procedure and the ramifications it can have. 

“It’s so good to have him back,” said Ann.

***************

To appreciate where Tim and Ann are now, it helps to see where they’ve been. That is a lengthy conversation, glorious indeed. It takes only a moment, however, to understand at the very heart of their travels is the desire to learn about the world, and so learn about themselves. 

“The more we visit different places around the globe, the more we realize just how many more similarities people have than differences,” said Ann, with Tim nodding in agreement.

These are two people who embrace life and want to live it to the full, and in each other they have found the perfect companion to travel the open road.

Over 150 years ago, Walt Whitman penned his classic “Song of the Open Road,” ending the elaborate poem with these two questions:

Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

Asked, and answered.

 

Addendum: No surprise that Tim was generous enough to send updates as he and Ann traverse the Camino. His log entries reinforce a simple truth: each of us has a unique path, but we all share the road – SH

Camino de Santiago, Spain

September 1st to October 14th, 2019

Tuesday Sept 3rd – Up on time this morning. Met two women, Kelly and Katherine, at breakfast from the state of Washington. Upon arrival in Madrid, Kelly left her purse in the restroom. When she remembered and went back, it was nowhere to be found: passport, credit cards, camera gone. Great way to start the trip. She got a replacement passport, canceled her cards, borrowed some money from her friend and moved forward. She later learned the purse was turned in at lost and found and they will hold it for her until she flies home. We were on the trail 8:00 A.M. Walked quite a while without seeing anyone. Meet up with two men, one from Canada and one from Holland. They met in grade school when their parents emigrated from Holland to Canada. They have remained friends all these years even though one has moved back to Holland. We walked about 30-40 minutes together. Their pace was a great deal faster than mine and we did several hills. Consequently, two hours into the hike I was toast! Met more new people on the hike: a couple from Puerto Rico, a girl from Switzerland, two guys from Ireland. Saw the German girl we met yesterday, resting her dog. Back at the hotel we crashed. Hot showers and a good night’s sleep and we should be ready to roll tomorrow. All for now – good night!

Wednesday Sept 4th – Off to another great day. Breakfast at the hotel and out by 7:45 A.M. Walked the first 2 miles just getting out of Pamplona. It was interesting to see the city come alive. Mothers taking their kids to school, women and men heading to work via walking or riding bikes, and a good number of all ages out doing their morning exercise of walking or running. After leaving Pamplona there was a steady climb. Said hello to a lot of people we have talked to on previous days. Met a nice man from Australia who just retired from a job he had in NYC. He has children in Hong Kong, Australia, and California. We both agreed that the Opera on the stage in the bay with the Opera House in the background was truly spectacular. After talking for 10-15 minutes he left us in the dust, never to be seen again. By 11:00 A.M. we reached the church that was in the movie "The Way.” Got a passport stamp and took a little break before a long 45-minute climb to the ridge that had the metal figures that were also in the movie. Next came a steep downhill. I'm constantly worried that Ann will fall and set back the healing process (SH: Ann broke her collar bone in a bike accident prior to leaving for Spain). She does really well with a messenger-like bag over her good shoulder and a walking stick in her right hand. Now we were in the afternoon heat, 80+ degrees. Took another break in a park in a small town. It had a water source so we drank and filled up our bottles for the push to our hotel in the next town. When we arrived, we had a shower and changed for dinner. On the way there we ran into the two ladies from Washington. Over dinner we all shared why we were doing the Camino. Kelly and Katherine were walking with the ashes of Katherine's husband (and Kelly’s brother). He had died of brain cancer. The women were spreading his ashes along the trail. The remaining ashes will be put in the Atlantic. 

Saturday, Sept 7th – Juice and a croissant for breakfast. Walking at 7:40 A.M. Another beautiful day: sun with white clouds, a slight breeze with a high of 75. Perfect. Walked to the second town where there was a nice church which let you in and stamped your passport for one euro. As we left the town there was no water till the end of the day. Shortly after leaving town there was a cemetery with a fountain. We drank what we had left and filled up our water bottles. The next phase of the walk was known as “the knee wreaker.” Lots and lots of ups and downs. Just before one of the long steep ups, I met a woman from England. I asked her to explain what Brexit was all about. She talked all the way up the hill while my side of the conversation was just huffs and puffs. Got a great history of the issue and learned of her father’s participation in WW II and how he (should he be alive) and she were set against the exit. She was very glad Parliament had just passed a resolution that would restrict leaving until a deal was finalized and hoped this would prevent England from ever leaving because they will never be able to establish a deal acceptable to both sides. Got to the top and kept walking as I waved goodbye, bent over gasping for breath. Ann had been waiting for me at the top. She had climbed the hill with a man from Ireland and he had kept going while she waited for me. The next few minutes flew by as we exchanged what each of us had learned on the hill! Got to our destination at about 1:00 P.M. Beautiful hotel, showered, brief nap, and out to explore. Town was very busy; they had a fun run for children in the morning and everyone was in a good mood. Said goodbye to Kelly and Katherine as they were pushing on to the next town and our paths probably won't cross again. Had a great dinner of spaghetti and risotto, olives and beer! Back to the hotel and a chance to write in the log. Time for bed. Tomorrow is a short day – 6 miles.