Retired teacher embarks on 4k-mile walk

Jim Ostdick, of San Juan Bautista, is shown hiking. He is a fitness enthusiast and a retired teacher.

Jim Ostdick has already completed a cross-country bicycle ride and hiked the rugged Pacific Crest Trail. On Feb. 21, the 64-year-old San Juan Bautista resident embarked on his latest adventure, a 4,000-mile walk starting in Delaware and ending at Point Reyes. Give or take 10 days—after all, weather plays a factor—Ostdick expects to complete his trip on Oct. 21.
Ostdick is living proof that age is no barrier when it comes to tackling a monumental physical challenge.
“Just because you’re in your 60s and retired, doesn’t mean you have to settle for the La-Z-Boy recliner and TV,” said Ostdick, who taught earth science at San Benito High before retiring in 2012. “Getting older doesn’t mean it’s the end of time. There’s a lot more to do, and it just takes effort. If you try, you can build up some endurance to test yourself.”
In addition to wanting to inspire people of all ages to be more active, Ostdick said his main goal for the cross-country walk is to raise enough money to create an endowment fund to launch the regional park and riverbed parkway, a major project that has been in the planning stages for several years.
“We’re hoping to get that project going,” he said. “I want it to be done before I’m too old to use it.”
If history is any indication, Ostdick isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. Ostdick completed a cross-country bike ride in 2013 and hiked the famed Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)—a rugged 2,663-mile trek that stretches from the U.S.-Mexico border to the Oregon-Washington border—in 2009.
The PCT features a whopping 420,880 feet of elevation change, making it one of the more challenging long-distance hikes in the world. Ostdick actually started the trip in 2001, trekking 900 miles. However, due to issues beyond his control, Ostdick had to wait another eight years before finishing it.
It’s no wonder Ostdick felt sheer elation once he completed the PCT.
“It makes you feel good you finished because it’s a pretty small percentage of human beings who have done it,” he said. “The fact it took so long makes it even more special to me. I just wouldn’t quit until I was done. It was a good test of my commitment to something. When you do something like that, it’s a great feeling.”
For the upcoming walk across the nation—and Ostdick will literally be walking, as he cannot run anymore because of joint pain—Ostdick is planning on walking 20 miles a day, five to six times a week.
“It’ll be a real challenge in terms of length and how much time I’m spending on foot,” he said. “For eight months, I’ll be homeless essentially.”
With meticulous precision, Ostdick has all of the logistical elements of the trip on a spreadsheet. More important, Ostdick has developed a mental game plan to counter the rigors of the mental and physical challenge that awaits him.
“You can’t think of it as walking 4,000 miles,” he said. “You have to break it into pieces. I’m walking five miles, then resting. Then another five miles and a bunch of food after that. Then another five miles and more food, and then five more miles. You have to keep yourself in the present. You have to play little mental tricks, like enjoying where you are, because it really helps.”
Although Ostdick will be doing the trip solo, he’ll have support along the way. He’s a member of the Recreation Exercise and Community Health (REACH) San Benito Foundation, which is an advocate for parks and recreation in San Benito County. Onlookers can keep track of Ostdick’s progress on his blog, which can be accessed on reachacrossamerica.org.
“They’re going to mail me packages and new shoes every 600 miles, or something like that,” he said.
Ostdick will sleep in a cheap motel two nights a week, and along the way it wouldn’t be a surprise to have a friendly family provide instant hospitality.
“On my bike trip, I found people to be very receptive to your adventure,” he said. “They want to hear stories, and some of them invite you into their homes, feed you and put you up for a night. It makes you feel inspired when that happens. If you just go home after work everyday and watch the news, you get the impression America is bad and going crazy. But going on the bike trip, I got a renewed sense of pride for this country.”
Ostdick also plans on sleeping behind police stations and fire departments. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Ostdick expects to lose around 15 pounds by the time he reached Point Reyes. Having enough food and water, of course, is paramount to completing his journey.
“It’s calming to know if the situation presents itself, I could knock on a door, ask for water and get it,” he said.
But along one 100-mile stretch in western Utah, Ostdick said there will be no services of any kind.
“I have to be really careful and disciplined, especially along that route,” he said.
Just before the halfway point of the trip, Ostdick will make a stop in Omaha, Neb., and stay for a couple of days at his cousin’s house. Ostdick’s siblings will also be there to share a moment in the journey.
In his 30s, Ostdick actually lived without a car—by choice—for a six-year stretch. That’s when he started running longer distances, completing a couple of half-marathons while going on increasingly longer bike rides. In 1986, Ostdick rode from Vancouver to San Diego, then repeated it again a couple of years later.
Before that, Ostdick was a standout basketball player in high school, and he remained competitive in the sport in adult recreation leagues until he was 40.
“Basketball was my favorite thing to do, but after a while I couldn’t do it anymore,” he said.
Ostdick has been living in San Juan Bautista since 2005, and he’s finally found a place he could call home.
“I’m a wanderer. This is the longest time ever I’ve lived in one place. I don’t see myself leaving—I’ve found a home.”
Even though Ostdick’s upcoming trip will be a vaunted undertaking, he said the PCT hike has prepared him well, giving him supreme focus and a steely determination to never quit. And every time Ostdick finishes a monumental hike or bike ride, he gets an urge to come back for more.
“I would say doing these things sort of draws you to do some more,” he said. “It calls you back.”

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