A tough road lies ahead for a Vietnam veteran making his second attempt to complete a 51 mile trek from Lawton to Altus. 61-year-old Lawton resident Alan Barth plans to endure high temperatures and walk from Whataburger on NW Cache Road in Lawton to the Altus City Park to raise awareness for Muscular Dystrophy on Friday, Aug. 29.
Barth will be setting off on foot on Friday morning at 9, to walk all afternoon and through the late hours of the night, and hopes to arrive at the City Park around Saturday at 10 a.m.
“It was the heat last year that I wasn’t really ready for,” he said. Barth fell short of his goal in 2012, due to high temperatures. He explained that when it was 109 degrees outside the street surface was about 135 degrees, and that heat gathered around his feet and ankles on up above his head as ambient temperature. “And its very, very hot,” he said.
Friday’s forecast is calling for upper 90s with a high of 103 in the afternoon before going down into the low 90s that evening.
Barth is used to the extremes of hot and cold temperatures since he bought an Altus School bus in 2006, and as enjoyed living in it despite very cold nights in the winter and “very, very hot,” summer days. “So the deal is, who gives a crap in denying myself simply by not having AC and sleeping in a bus,” although it can be a hard life, he said.
“I’m in better shape this year and I think the weather is gonna be more forgiving,” said Barth, a Lawton resident. Barth has been preparing by walking three times a week at Elmer Thomas Park in Lawton to stay loosened up.
Barth chose Altus because it’s just the right distance. “I believe the long distance duration on foot shows a little more that just a ride and rumble ordeal,” he said.
“If I walk a half mile an hour and can barely stand up when I cross the finish, I could care less,” he said.
Like last year, Barth will have his mobile phone with him for the 25 or so hours it will take him before walking in to Altus. He can be reached at (580) 585-9747. He reported receiving over 70 phone calls from Altus residents last year.
Since his story ran in the Lawton Constitution on Sunday, Barth has already received over 50 calls from people showing support for his walk, and for his cause.
“People want to be a part of something. They don’t want to just witness it.” One call was from a guy who said his dad was also a Vietnam Vet. “I’m sure your dad would have done the same thing,” Barth told him.
Barth was stationed at the Altus Air Force Base from 1971 to 1976 with the 11th Air Refueling Squadron, he said, and spent one year in Southeast Asia with the 307th Bomb Wing at U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand during the Vietnam War.
Coinciding with his walk to raise awareness, there will be a Muscular Dystrophy Association “Show of Strength” telethon on Sunday, Sept. 1, 8 p.m. CT, this Labor Day weekend.