Monday, July 25, 2022

I Don't Need the Internet to Define/Esteem Me as an Athlete/Adventurer

I've been a runner and cyclist since I was 11 years old back in 1976. For the past 46 years I've enjoyed both of those sports, but I've clearly put on my running shoes far more than I've straddled a bicycle seat. This summer, I've been aiming to do more cycling than running. The running I did between January and May of this year showed me that I need to strengthen certain muscles in my legs and I decided to use cycling to do that. I don't keep a log of my mileage, but I'm continuing with my goal of going outside every day this year to either go for a run or log miles on my bike. So far, I haven't missed a day!

To share my goal with others -- particularly those over the age of 50 -- I've chosen to post a daily one-minute video to my Instagram and YouTube accounts. Currently, my Instagram account only has about 200 followers and my YouTube channel averages a mere 4,000 views per month. Since I don't promote either account and am not shopping for followers or viewers, I'm fine with the numbers. I'm not focused on trying to get my face in front of a ton of people. If someone stumbles onto either account and wants to watch a video, then I think that's great. However, I don't dwell on the numbers aspect of social media. With that said, over the past six months I've noticed a trend on my YouTube channel that I've concluded must be from a single individual.

No matter what my daily one-minute video from the road may be (sharing about my Catholic faith; thanking our U.S military service men and women; talking about how much litter I see along the roadside; or, simply trying to encourage people 50+ to get up, get out, and get active), there will almost always be just one person who has to "dislike" my video. I can only conclude that there is someone determined to visit my YouTube channel daily with the sole intent of disliking my video. If you look at the photo accompanying this writing, it is captured from a June 27, 2022 video of me on the side of the road with my bike talking about my 2022 goal or running or cycling outside each day of the year. That particular video had over 600 views -- which is not a lot for those people who promote their YouTube videos and want lots of views -- and of those who watched it, 32 gave it a thumbs up ("like") while the usual single person gave it a thumbs down ("dislike"). YouTube has programmed its service to not allow the general public to see how many dislikes a video receives, but the account manager can certainly see those numbers. You might think that the single "dislike" I'm getting on my YouTube videos must truly bother me since I'm writing about it in this blog, but honestly... it doesn't! However, it did give me a reason to write about a topic I've been meaning to address since the beginning of this year.

If you're reading this, you're one of only about 1,500 people who access my blog each month from around the world. During an average week, I'll have readers from 15 to 20 different countries -- based on my blog statistics. So, I don't have a lot of readers here, and not many people are viewing my Instagram and YouTube accounts. In a world where so many people are focused on getting likes, followers, subscribers and readers, I could really care less. Most of the running and cycling I've done for the past 46 years has been seen by no one other than God and I. For instance, when I ran solo across America in 2006 at age 41 averaging 30 miles per day while pushing a jogging stroller of gear, food and water weighing 65 pounds, hardly anybody knew about it. Facebook didn't launch until autumn 2006. I was running into the Atlantic Ocean by then, completing my run across America. Twitter wasn't launched until the latter half of 2006, when I already had my eye on the finish line of my 15-state journey. Instagram launched in 2010 and by then I had already run solo across the United States, Alaska and Germany. Google+ didn't come on the scene until June 2011, and by then I had also run solo across the Mojave Desert at age 46. With respect to YouTube, it officially launched in December 2005, just months before I began my run across America in June 2006. However, in 2006 YouTube was a new concept and didn't have anywhere near the popularity or viewership that it does today. In fact, in 2006 YouTube only had 20 million monthly users, and today it has 2.5 BILLION monthly users.

Overall, my solo running adventures were accomplished outside of social media. Aside from having a personal website from 2006 through 2011 to post some writings and photos as remote connections allowed, I wasn't putting any content online. My adventures were not publicized to a national or global audience and I would typically have people approach me during my running endeavors and ask who I was and what I was doing -- often adding that they had never heard of me. I was fine with that then, and I'm still fine with that. The physical challenges I've accomplished are documented and you can see those on my YouTube channel. I posted the videos years after actually accomplishing my journeys. I've never sought popularity, fame or recognition with my running strides or bike pedal strokes (keeping 1 Peter 5:5-6 in mind). Having eyes on me is just not important. However, if I can somehow -- in some small way -- encourage someone to get up and get moving toward better health and fitness, then that's a positive result of all the mileposts I've reached for over many decades.

For now, I simply post a daily one-minute video to my Instagram and YouTube channels, which are the only social media accounts I have. I'm just a 57-year-old Catholic, husband, father, stepfather and grandfather who is aiming to keep his faith, family and fitness as strong as possible while trying to encourage others to do the same. I train 'old school' and don't need the latest trends in fashion, gadgets or gear. I don't feel the need to post my daily mileage and pace on the Internet, and certainly don't want to be a social media "influencer" or a product "ambassador" as so many runners and cyclists at all levels of ability are aiming to be. I was an athlete for 20 years before the Internet was invented and I don't need the Internet to somehow define me, or esteem me, as an athlete or adventurer.

To the one person who seems determined to dislike my daily YouTube videos, keep up the effort! It gives me a chuckle to know that researchers have concluded that you burn 0.00142 calories each time you click that dislike button. If you were to do that on YouTube 5,000 times a day, you would burn a whopping 7 calories! In contrast, I'm burning about 11-13 calories for each minute I'm running or cycling. Happy clicking!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Friday, July 1, 2022

How Much is Modern Life Dimming The Spirit of Adventure?

I recently read an article that had this question as its headline: How much has modern life dimmed the spirit of adventure? It was written by Sarah Barker, a freelance writer from St. Paul, Minnesota. As I read that article, I began to reflect on my childhood and how I would dream of going on adventures... across my town, across the country, or out into Space. I was born in 1965, so most of my childhood adventure daydreaming occurred in the 1970's -- right after man first walked on the moon. I've certainly had some wonderful adventures during my adult life. Running solo across states and countries has given me an opportunity to learn what I'm truly made of, and to encounter the world in a unique and unforgettable way. In the article, Ms. Barker writes:

Measurable features of the 1960s and ’70s — largely unscheduled childhoods with kid-led activities; life that was to a much greater degree hands-on, face-to-face, manual, analog; minimal student debt, and plentiful living-wage jobs — made the ideal environment for fostering adventure. Whether lifelong or short-term, modest or grand, lots of people undertook adventures. That world is gone. None of those conditions that made adventure widely possible exist anymore. Has the general sense of adventure disappeared, too?

She writes that those who grew up having great swaths of unscheduled, grownup-free time as children, grew into adults who were comfortable without structure. They were used to solving problems. They were used to being independent and assessing risk. Generally, they made it up as they went along. Ms. Barker notes, "Childhoods like that produced, well, yes — flesh wounds — but also adventurers." The author writes that in sharp contrast, today’s children follow institutional schedules and rules almost from birth. Free time, the birthplace of ideas, is nearly nonexistent. Sports and outdoor activities are typically organized and led by adults. She states that two parents working means there are more scheduled activities that are supervised and seen as safe. Kids who are not outside much by themselves are less comfortable doing that as adults.

Boston College research psychologist Peter Gray compared childhoods of 50 or 60 years ago with today’s: “Adventures that used to be normal for 6-year-olds are now not allowed even for many teenagers.” It’s clear that a protected, directed and pressured childhood is not the recipe for an adventurous adult.

The creation of the Internet and advances in communication technology have profoundly affected every aspect of life, including our sense of adventure. Some positively, and some not so much. GPS has made navigation easier and more accurate, and social media has made it possible for people to share their adventures and inspire others. However, the "unknown" of going on an adventure has certainly declined since I was a child and young adult. Back in the 1970's, we didn't have computers in our homes or cell phones in our pockets. The Internet didn't exist and when you ventured down a road you'd never been on before you didn't know what was around the next bend. Now, you can go to Google Earth and drop the little gold guy anywhere onto a road and see a 360-degree view from street level -- even moving the little traveler a few feet at a time in either direction on the road. When I ran across America in 2006, that technology didn't exist. I was not able to "preview" the route before I went and ran the 3,260 miles from coast-to-coast. There's adventure in that!

The country roads that I now run and cycle on in Indiana have not been captured by Google Earth's street-level cameras. I'm happy about that. When I go running and cycling in Indiana where I live, I'm seeing sights that you can only see if you are actually there. If I were to ever run and/or cycle across America in the future, I certainly wouldn't be crawling every mile of my planned course on Google Earth. Where's the "adventure" in doing that?

I believe that adventure is alive and well for those determined enough to make it happen. My advice to those seeking real adventure is to not dilute it with technology.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Getting Through COVID-19 While Reading My Parents' Book

After dodging it for 2 1/2 years, in mid-May 2022 I finally managed to contract Covid-19. I was attending a trial for the law firm I work at when I -- along with others in attendance -- got Covid from a testifying witness. I was away from the office for 10 days in May as a result, and thankfully my family did not catch it from me! I was fortunate to get through it without too much difficulty. My main symptoms were sore throat with cough; headache; chills; lack of appetite; and, decreased energy. I managed to continue cycling each day throughout my time with Covid, but stayed away from running because I didn't want to aggravate my lungs. It has now been 14 days since I was exposed to Covid in the courtroom and I'm pleased to say that I am feeling well, I'm back to the office and I've tested negative for Covid at this time.

During my many days at home in May, I took time to read a book that my parents had written. It's a collection of their life's stories and is truly a wonderful gift. I learned a lot about both of my parents, many things that I didn't previously know. They shared stories about their upbringing; courtship; marriage; travels; accomplishments; and more. Each day, they are edging closer to 90 and have been married for 68 years. They've certainly seen a lot in their lifetime, most of it side by side! I will always treasure the book that they've written -- which was only given to their children. It was a project that they wanted to accomplish so that their stories would be known not only by their children, but also by their grandchildren... and generations to come.

After a year of writing and editing, they completed the book. My Dad said, "Creating this book was a daunting project... we faced it just like we have faced everything through life, together and with the single purpose of finishing what we started." My parents have certainly faced every challenge by each other's side. This book is yet another result of their commitment.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Chasing a Promise: My Solo Running Adventure Across the U.S.A.

In December 2006 -- just two months after completing my solo run across America -- a popular running magazine published an article online about my adventure (which I shared in this blog several years ago). The article was titled "Chasing a Promise." Recently, I've been contacted by a few individuals who are thinking about taking on the coast-to-coast challenge. I don't offer coaching for such endeavors, but will occasionally keep an eye on a runner's progress. Its been 16 years since I stood on the edge of the Pacific Ocean looking down the road at 3,260 miles in front of me. Now, at age 57, that seems like a very long time ago. Even after 16 years, I still cannot find the words to fully describe the feelings I had at the start, at the finish, or for the 108 days between the two oceans. I recently read once again that old magazine article and thought I'd share it with you this month.

Chasing a Promise

Promoting Active Children From Coast to Coast

by Katie Aerni -- December 10, 2006

It's a picture perfect late fall day in Central West Virginia and a lone runner pushing a jogging stroller makes his way along the shoulder of US Route 50. Just after he passes a yellow advisory speed limit sign that reads "15 MPH" the shoulder disappears and he pulls the stroller off the road and crouches, tucked into the 2 feet between the sheer rock wall and the winding highway as an overloaded logging truck barrels past him down the 9% grade. He waits until his pounding heart is the only sound he can hear before he jumps back onto the road and pushes his loaded luggage around the blind turn as fast as he can. "It's the ultimate fartlek workout," he says, "pushing 65 pounds of jogging stroller up these grades at a full sprint."

The runner was Paul Staso and the jogging stroller was loaded with water, food, clothes, camera, GPS, satellite and cell phones, tent, sleeping bag and other essentials. Between June 23rd and October 20th 2006, Paul ran, alone and unaided, from the Pacific coast in Oregon to the Atlantic shoreline in Delaware -- a total of 3,260 miles. It is easy to define Paul’s journey by the bookends provided by these natural boundaries, but that would be oversimplifying the accomplishment. For Paul, the start and finish of the trip were just two of the 108 days of the journey. The other 106 days, while the rest of us worked, ran tempo workouts and local 5K races, cooked dinner for our families and socialized with friends, Paul was somewhere between those two great oceans, alone, running.

Across the Great Plains, the summer of 2006 was one of the hottest on the record. In the first half of his journey, from Cannon Beach, OR to Appleton, MN, Staso witnessed only 35 minutes of rainfall. While Dakota farmers were losing crops and livestock to the heat and drought, Paul was running in the sun for up to 48 miles/day. His route took him across some of the least populated regions in the country -- western Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota. Drinking fountains are hard to come by in areas where houses are miles apart (never mind how widely spaced the towns are), so he carried 2.5 gallons of water with him as well as food to get him through the day. "Eating and drinking was a constant activity," Paul said. "Out West, I couldn't carry anything cold or chocolate because it would melt... further east I would stop and actually have lunch somewhere."

There was only one day, Paul said, that he would have quit. But at the time quitting wasn't an option. He had run 25 of the scheduled 35 miles for the day when he came to the top of a bluff in the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota. From this vantage point he could see clear to the horizon, and he sat down and started to cry. What was it, that brought tears to his sun-scorched eyes? "I saw nothing," he recounted. "No trees, no cars, no houses. And I thought 'Can I really do this?'"

He made a lean-to with his tarp to get out of the direct sun and he sat down and cried. "It was really frustrating," he said. "My emotions just started to break and I couldn't stop. It just hit me like a ton of bricks." Over an hour later, he was finally able to pack up and return to the task before him because another 10 or 11 miles down the road was a place to lay his head and there was no way to get there except on his own two feet. 

He struggled along for a few days after the Standing Rock breakdown, but the curative effects of the accumulating miles started to kick in and he got back into the swing of things. Minnesota, he says, is when it really felt like he was going to make it.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, now why-ever would a grown man, with four kids and a full time job go so far out of his way as to dedicate four months of his life away from said family and job to create such agony as has been previously described? You might be wondering why he took such an odd, difficult and twisting route to get between points A and B (this was the most northerly cross country run and the first to end in Delaware). As Paul will explain to you again and again, "it was all about the kids."

The plan for a cross country run was hatched at bedtime one evening, as he was tucking in his 12-year-old daughter, Ashlin. Paul and Ashlin realized that the kids at her school would be much more likely to run if they had a goal in mind so they started brainstorming places to which the kids could "run". Paul recounted his first attempt to run across the country in 1986 (which unfortunately failed). They did some calculations and determined that if each member of Ashlin's 5th grade class were to run 2 miles/week, they could complete a virtual cross country run in the course of the school year.

Paul challenged the 4th and 5th grades at Russell Elementary School in Missoula, MT. If either one of the classes could complete the virtual cross country run over a school year, he would run their actual cross country route that summer. Ashlin chose the route to go through parts of the country that she was interested in and as she and her classmates ticked off the miles at school, they traced their progress along the way, learning about the cities and states that they were passing through. By the end of the school year, both classes had completed the route and each student had run the equivalent of three marathons.

Was it ever in doubt that the classes would reach their goal? "Oh yes, yes," Paul said. But one day near Christmas, he came by the school -- it was zero degrees and snowing -- and saw the 5th graders out there, circling the track. He knew then they were going to make it. 

In that same frigid Montana winter weather, Paul started picking up his training as well. He had a promise to keep to 97 grade school kids, and he needed to be in shape to run across the country come summer.

Rising early to try to beat the heat, ("That never worked!" he said.) he would ease his body into each day's task with three miles of walking, then break into a trot for awhile before he really got to work. He didn't want to be rigid in a schedule so he would let the weather and terrain dictate his pace and rest breaks. Along the way he stopped and talked to groups at several grade schools, YMCAs and sports teams. He sought no media attention but reported back to his friends and family in Missoula as frequently as he could. 

His feat garnered much criticism along the way. Some thought him a fool for trying it alone, or in the middle of the summer, or along the winding route that Ashlin had chosen. Some wondered why he wouldn't contact larger media forces and try to make a bit of profit along the way. He was run into ditches, verbally accosted and spit upon. One straight-speaking old man in North Dakota stopped him asking, "What are you doing?" "I'm running across America," came Paul's reply. "Young man, you've got the brain of a scarecrow."

"But for every person who wants to hinder you," he explained, "there's far more who encourage you and want to help however possible." And then there's that commitment to the kids back home -- they did their part, now he was doing his. One of the girls in the class reported to the school's PTA president that this was "the first time an adult has kept his promise to me." "Now that's a huge impact," Paul insisted, "there's a ripple effect there."

Paul frequently receives emails from kids in the class and elsewhere excitedly reporting that they are still running, or that they are going out for the cross country team this year, and teachers and schools across the country contact him about starting a similar virtual running program at their school. These are the reasons that Paul did the run, these are the stories that kept him going through heat, bugs and storms.

Despite crossing several mountain ranges, logging trucks spraying bark as they pass on narrow Idaho highways and hundreds of miles of open prairie, it was the rolling green cornfields of Iowa that presented the toughest challenge to Staso. "All the shoulders are gravel," he explained, "the stroller stopped tracking straight." 290 miles of running on gravel shoulders left him with missing toenails and bruised feet that made standing painful -- nevermind 44 miles of running in a day, or 16 miles through ankle deep puddles during a flash flood. "It didn't rain many days," Paul said, "but when it rained, it really rained!"

Like any seasoned distance runner has experienced, fresh off his completion of the run, Paul vowed he would never repeat the feat. As more time passes, and for reasons he won't yet reveal to me, he has retracted his statement that he would "never run from coast to coast pushing a jogging stroller again."

This summer, Paul Staso got a chance to see the best and the worst this country has to offer. He was victim of an attempted robbery, recipient of many a plate of lasagna, spare change from strangers and inquisitive questions from kids he met along the way. He ran through hail, thunderstorms, heat waves and perfectly cool, sunny fall days. He saw the spectacular views of the Cascade, Rocky and Appalachian mountain ranges, feasted his eyes on the sparkling expanses of the Susquehanna, Mississippi and Columbia Rivers and couldn't help but notice the continuous trail of trash lining the roads that became his home for those four months.

It's the little things, Paul says: show your commitment, keep your promise and respect your body. This is the message he wants to promote to kids and adults everywhere.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Its Been Nearly 40 Years Since I Graduated From High School in 1983

I graduated from high school in 1983 -- nearly 40 years ago. Now, at age 57, it's hard to believe that almost four decades have gone by since I walked out of the high school gymnasium with my diploma in hand. As I was filling up my car with gas, I began to recall the 'old days' and how less expensive things were. That got me going down memory lane and flashing back to the simpler days of the early 1980's -- long before the Internet, cell phones, and the fast pace of today's world. Here are a few nostalgic items from my high school graduation year:

I wish that my children and stepchildren could have experienced life in the early 1980's. Truly, those were more simple and innocent times. I recall my parents saying the same thing about the early 1950's. Now, they are in their mid to upper 80's in age and I can only imagine how different the world looks to them compared to the early 1950's.

The Internet, cell phones, and computers changed the world forever. In some ways, those advancements in technology have provided many positive results. However, there are certainly ways in which those things have made society pay a significant price -- and I'm not just talking about at the checkout counter. I'm glad that when I graduated from high school in 1983, personal computers were not common and the Internet and cell phones were not yet available. Today, most people walk around with the world in their pocket. They have Internet-driven portable devices that can access any information within a few words typed into Google.

I remember when the Encyclopaedia Britannica was my "Google," when a phone mounted on the wall at home was my only phone, and when the library was my "computer." I remember when having a portable phone meant having a CB in your car, and when getting written words to someone fast meant paying extra for postage at the post office. Back in the early 1980's there wasn't anything "on demand" as there is today. If you missed a TV show on one of the few channels available, then you missed it. There wasn't on demand streaming services. The TV Guide or a local newspaper was the only way to find out what was scheduled to be on television. And, each day at midnight the TV went off -- for everyone! The National Anthem would play before the TV went to static. Back then, it cost too much for TV stations to run for small night audiences. Generally, the TV came back on around 6 a.m. the next day. Yes, that's how it was until I was in my 20's.

Its been almost 40 years since I packed my bags and headed off to the University of Montana, where I earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees after five years on campus. I paid out-of-state tuition (having gone there from Alaska) and my total bill for two degrees was around $25,000 -- and yes, that included tuition, room, board, and books. I was curious what it would cost me today to attend the same university and pay out-of-state tuition. As you can image, the cost has certainly gone up! If I wanted to earn two B.A. degrees now from the University of Montana, I would pay approximately $192,000 for five years of tuition, room, board, and books as an out-of-state resident. That's about $167,000 more than what I paid back in the 1980's.

The average cost of a U.S. home in 1983 was $75,000. Today, the average cost is $375,000 -- or five times more! Back in 1983, the world population was 4.6 billion people. Today, it is 7.9 billion -- an increase of 58 percent! In the words of Doc Brown... "Great Scott!" (and you would only understand that if you've watched the movie 'Back To The Future' from 1985)There certainly have been a lot of changes that I've seen in the world during my 57 years on this big blue marble, and I'm hoping to live to 100... in the year 2065. What else might I see in the next 43 years? I can only imagine!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Turning 57 and Feeling Healthy, Strong and Fit. What a Blessing!

In just a few days, I'll be 57 years of age. In some ways, it's hard to believe that I'm closing in on 60. My four children are now between 22 and 28 years old, and my stepchildren are 14, 17, 24 and 25. Next year will mark 40 years since I graduated from high school, and it has been 36 years since I made my first attempt to run across America. Now, I'm only 8 years away from Medicare. What in the world?? I just don't feel my age!

I'm running and/or cycling outside every day during 2022. As of now, I'm three months into the routine and am feeling better as a result. Actually, to be turning 57 years of age and to not need any medications whatsoever is a blessing. My blood pressure is low; my cholesterol levels are good; my weight is where it should be; and, my energy is great. Statistics show that 75 percent of those between 50 and 64 need prescription meds. Not me!

My father is 88 years of age and doesn't require any prescription drugs. He is a strong and fit man at nearly 90 and even shovels the snow off of his own roof in Alaska. That's how I want to be 31 years from now! Since I completed my solo run across the Mojave Desert in 2011, I haven't focused much on being physically active. Over the past 11 years my life has been focused on other important areas. Following a separation and ultimate divorce after my Mojave run, I relocated to Indiana; began a new job with a law firm; met Kelley in 2015; became engaged to Kelley in 2017; and then in 2018 I purchased a home and got married. Since then, Kelley and I have been enjoying the journey of parenting two teenagers, making improvements to our home, and even launched our own business. Life was very busy for 11 straight years and the moments were few and far between when I would put on my running shoes or straddle a bicycle seat. That changed on January 1st of this year and my wife is supportive of my goal to get back into a healthier lifestyle. My ultimate goal is to simply stay healthy, strong and prolong my life so that I can have as many days as possible with my wife and to enjoy years of chasing after grandchildren. Will there be another endurance adventure down life's road? In my heart, I feel God prompting me to that and I've had discussions with Kelley about it. Again, she is such a blessing to me, supportive and loving. However, any future 'adventure' would not occur until I'm retired from working in law. For now, I'll just keep talking with God as I'm on the road running or cycling.

I don't believe a person has to feel 'old' at 50-plus. Age is just a number. I believe in goals, dreams, desire, ability, tenacity, conviction and faith. Age, like mileposts along the road, should be glanced at but not distract from the view on the horizon.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Monday, February 28, 2022

It's Time to Say Goodbye to The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation

In 2009, I formed a non-profit organization called The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation -- PACE being Promoting Active Children Everywhere.

The mission of the foundation was to encourage, educate, inspire, and motivate children worldwide to adopt life-long habits toward a healthy lifestyle; to expand their knowledge of the world around them; and, to pursue their goals and dreams with the abilities they possess. While President of The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation, I spoke to thousands of school children in the United States and Europe through assemblies with the hope that my message would spur them on toward a healthier lifestyle. Now, 13 years after forming the foundation, I am dissolving it and retiring from actively promoting health and fitness to a national and global audience of children.

I'm about to turn 57 years of age and my focus has now shifted. These days, my running is much more personal and has a stronger spiritual component than in the past. Also, rather than aiming to encourage or inspire young people who are several decades beneath my age, I would like to try and challenge those who are 50+ in age. 

The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation saw participation from nearly 100,000 school children from 12 countries in numerous PACE Trek running/walking challenges across states and countries. Those children logged a total of nearly a half million miles – enough to circle the globe 20 times!

As I lead the foundation I had seven teaching goals:

  • The importance of good health/nutrition, as well as the benefits of frequent and consistent exercise.
  • The benefits that can be experienced from running and/or walking.
  • That if you take care of your body it can take you on some wonderful adventures.
  • Interesting information about the various locations that I ran through completely alone.
  • The importance of setting goals and pursuing dreams, no matter the obstacles in front of you.
  • That a positive attitude and the desire to positively impact the lives of others can be very rewarding.
  • That perseverance can take you places that you never imagined you could go.

The P.A.C.E. Fitness Foundation also participated in child-focused health and fitness seminars, as well as presentations at schools, conferences, and other settings. Educational curriculums were also developed by the foundation to benefit school children, such curriculums promoting an active and healthy lifestyle.

I am closing the doors on the foundation with great satisfaction in my heart for what was achieved over the years. It will be the only non-profit organization that I will form in my lifetime and to know that it reached children around the globe means a lot to me. Now, it's time to run forward into the next chapter of my running life. For those of you who take time to stop by this blog now and then to read the words of this runner, I thank you.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Year 2022: Running and Cycling for 365 Days Toward Greater Fitness

One of the Christmas gifts I received from my beautiful and loving wife a week ago was a Yeti SideKick waterproof dry bag. She knows that I have future adventures in my mind and heart, including bicycling the length of the Katy Trail across the state of Missouri -- the longest Rails-to-Trails route in the United States at 240 miles. Having her support of my health, wellbeing and goals means more than I could ever express in words. I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions, but I have decided that in 2022 I am going to aim to either run or bike every day... outside... regardless of the weather.

At instagram.com/Run_Bike_Cross and www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek, I will be posting videos and photos as the weeks and months unfold. It has been about 10 years since I was actively cycling or running each day. In fact, this April will mark 11 years since I completed my solo run across the Mojave Desert at the age of 46. I'll be turning 57 in just a few months and although I've maintained a good level of health, I know that it's important for me to keep moving forward toward greater fitness. The closer I inch toward 60, the more I understand the importance of adopting the mindset that a healthy fitness level is a lifelong journey.

You can read my Mojave Desert adventure run journal here. The other day I read a May 2, 2011 journal entry I wrote the day after completing my 506-mile solo run across the Mojave Desert. I want to share that writing with you today.

This morning I woke up and realized that I don’t have to run today. As most of you know, P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 was wrapped up yesterday morning at 11:20 a.m. Pacific Time when I ran into Badwater Basin, Death Valley — the finish line. I had pounded my body for 17 days of running across the Mojave Desert, a journey of 506 miles with my 150-pound body (and less now!) pushing a 100-pound BOB stroller full of gear, water and food. I’m pleased with the 30-mile-per-day average I maintained and am actually thrilled that I was able to do 35 to 40 miles per day for several days through the Mojave National Preserve. That was incredibly challenging considering the high winds, sand roads, and overall remoteness.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that I’ve just made history with this solo, unsupported run across the Mojave Desert. I knew going into it that nobody had attempted a run from the Grand Canyon to Death Valley by going across the Mojave, but I wasn’t focused on becoming the first to do so. This run was very personal — in so many ways. I needed this challenge. Most of you know that I wrote a press release for this journey before starting. I never sent it to any media sources. I didn’t do any interviews and had no speaking engagements. I didn’t do any school assemblies along the way, and did not seek any attention during this run. P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 – Destination: Mojave Desert was not about getting attention. It was about an endurance quest to challenge myself in a way that I had never done before. It was part endurance, and part survival. It made me dig deep within myself to see if I could push myself past the boundaries of physical, mental, emotional and social abilities that I had become accustomed to during previous P.A.C.E. Treks (Alaska, Montana and Germany).

This run made me draw from so many past running experiences, and it had many personal spiritual elements as well. This was not "Man vs. Wild" the running version. This was about a runner trying to go beyond the limits he had grown comfortable with. Every now and then you have to step outside of your comfort zone. You have to look into your heart and determine if there are steps you should take that you've either been hesitant to or that you've been uncertain to because you can't see the outcome beforehand. Too often we live our lives in a zone of familiarity... a zone of comfortable existence. I believe it’s healthy and positive to have moments where you try to stretch yourself beyond what you are sure of in your everyday life. I did that through this P.A.C.E. Trek. I know more about myself and my abilities. I know more about what I want, what I can achieve, and what makes up the core being of Paul Staso.

I’m 46 years old and this wasn’t a journey for "self discovery." I know who I am, but I wanted to know what else I can become. I feel I’ve accomplished that through this run. So, does that mean the process is over? No, it should never be. As I said, I believe it is healthy and positive to have experiences like this in life. You can’t necessarily plan them. Often they come along as a prompting in your heart that you need to do it. That’s how this was for me.

I am always encouraging kids to set goals, run after those goals, and to persevere through to the finish. I hope that this run has been a live example of the words I share. I shared my experience through pictures, videos, audio files, journal writings, and even a live tracking tool so that kids could virtually come along with me... seeing and feeling some of what I was experiencing. I wanted to be very transparent on this P.A.C.E. Trek, yet once I was into it I decided to lean toward the side of less transparency due to the extreme nature of what I was doing. There was so much more that I could have shared through the P.A.C.E. Trek 2011 website. The pain was often intense -- bandaging my feet at the start of a new day; the agony of taking off my shoes at the end of the day and dealing with the latest damage; the tears of frustration, exhaustion and emotional turmoil as I tried to get myself and a 100+ pound stroller across the desert; and so much more. 

Had a documentary been done about this particular journey run, it would have been very revealing about what happens when one person takes on such an endeavor. I’ve looked back at my pictures and videos and can see smiles that were not always genuine. I see enthusiasm at times when it was truly lacking in my strides. I see a man who wants to be a positive example to kids and display excitement and/or fun in the images but inside is feeling the total pain of what he’s doing. Yes, in some of the photos I feel as though I’m giving a false image. However, there are certainly many images that reflect my true feelings. There were moments that were incredibly wonderful and rewarding throughout the journey. I did have times of fun and at times felt like a big kid on an adventure. This is such a big, wonderful world we live on and there’s so much adventure right outside the door. I stepped outside and experienced that and I hope that there are some kids that watched and are now thinking about what they might aim for in their own lives.

I’ve had several people say that it would have been easier for me to run west to east (due to the jet stream) and that I would have had less headwinds to battle the entire way. Yes, I could have run from Badwater, Death Valley to the Grand Canyon. However, that was not the goal I set for myself. I created the toughest route I could... in the toughest direction. Of the 506 miles I ran there were only 20 miles of that done on interstate roads (and that was out of necessity). The other 486 miles was done on small secondary roads, like the old Route 66. Those roads often did not have a shoulder and had far less populations and services. It was a rather remote route that I ran, and the terrain was very challenging. I did that on purpose. I wanted a difficult challenge — one that many people told me could not be done, particularly in 17 running days.

Some told me before I began that there was a chance that I could die alone in the desert (heat stroke, rattlesnake bite, or some other terrible incident). I won’t deny that those thoughts crossed my mind. I actually had to arrive at the mental point of knowing that I could die while trying to run across the Mojave Desert alone. I knew that I was going to use all of my experience to avoid that, but there was certainly a chance that something terrible could happen. Yes, I went into the Mojave Desert prepared to die if that would be the result. Talk about stepping outside of your comfort zone! I can’t quite explain all of my thinking and reasoning that went into arriving at the point of deciding to run into the desert without a guarantee of coming out the other side alive. However, I knew well the risk I was taking and was at a point in my life where I needed to do this.

I persevered and accomplished the task. Yes, I became the first in doing so, but that’s not what I was running after. Sure, it’s a great feeling knowing that I just did something that hasn’t been done before by another solo runner, but my running means more to me than accolades or a title as being "the first." It will always be a run that I hold close to my heart and I’m sure that I’ll draw strength from the experience in future moments in my life.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Esto Viri. Esto Sancti. -- “Be a Man. Be a Saint.”

As a committed Catholic, I believe that my faith should not only be lived in what I say, but also by what I do.

As we enter the Advent season, I've been thinking about the birth and life of Jesus Christ and what it truly means to be a committed Catholic man in today's world. Being such a man takes daily training.

One source of my training is The Catholic Gentleman. It is designed to strengthen and encourage Catholic men to lead holy and fulfilling lives. The website features posts and podcasts to help Catholic men to be authentic Catholic gentlemen. Their motto is Esto Viri. Esto Sancti., which means “Be a Man. Be a Saint.” Catholic men are called to change their lives, to leave mediocrity behind, and to strive for greatness.

My confirmation saint is Saint Francis de Sales ("The Gentleman Saint"). For non-Catholics reading this post, as a catechumen or candidate goes through the sacramental preparation for Confirmation in the Catholic Church, a confirmation saint is chosen as someone he or she wants to be like, as well as someone who can pray for that person from heaven. As St. Paul wrote, ‘We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses’ (Hebrews 12:1). These witnesses are the saints who continually intercede for us. In choosing a confirmation saint, we are choosing a special friend to intercede for us in heaven, and after whom we can model our lives while here on earth. Knowing that Saint Francis de Sales is praying for me from heaven as I pray to God here on earth is truly a comfort in my Christian life.

It has been said in recent years that there is a Catholic "man crisis." Various media sources have reported that large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are "Casual Catholic Men" -- men who don't know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. Many believe that this large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating decay of the post-modern culture. Committed Catholic men realize that Satan lurks behind the cultural decay. As one Catholic writer notes about committed Catholic men, "they have come to know that Satan is real, Hell is real, Sin is real and that life is a battle to confront and defeat Satan -- the Evil One who is waiting at every turn to devour the unprepared. Committed Catholic men are not perfect, but take seriously Christ’s call to perfection. Committed Catholic men have made Sainthood their goal and have made their purpose to lead their families and as many others as possible to Heaven."

Surveys show that only about 33 percent of Catholic men pray daily, and only about 25 percent attend Mass each Sunday. Only about 40 percent of Catholic men pray the Rosary, and only 10 percent carry the Rosary with them. As those of you who have been reading my blog the past couple of years know, I regularly strive to seek God's will for my Catholic life. My first and foremost aim in life is to please Him. As we experience this Advent season, I will be thanking God daily for His countless blessings and for the many gifts that He gives to me and my family.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Looking Back on 2021 Family Happenings as the Autumn Leaves Fall

The Fall leaves are falling in our neighborhood and our family is enjoying a wonderful autumn season, but winter is not far away. A couple of days ago we had the first snowflakes flying around in northern Indiana, but there was no accumulation. At least we're in a warmer climate than my parents are in Alaska. Currently, they are experiencing below zero temperatures for daily highs in the heart of Alaska!

I recently completed our family holiday newsletter. As I looked back on the happenings of 2021 I realized that we've been extremely busy as a family! Kyndal (age 13) and Hannah (age 16) continue to perform at the highest level academically. Kyndal was recently inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, and she continues to participate in band and choir. This year, Kyndal took part in her first 5K event, finishing ahead of many adults. Hannah is in 11th grade and was confirmed in the Catholic church this year, earned her driver's license, and started working her first job. She enjoys being a part of her high school's marching and pep bands, and is setting her sights on where she wants to attend college in 2023. Both teens continue to excel in dance classes and performances -- Kyndal in jazz, tap and hip-hop and Hannah in ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, lyrical, and hip-hop.

As most of you know, Kelley and I got married in 2018 and combined we have eight children -- six of whom are adults. Kelley's eldest daughter, Rachel, is getting married in October 2022 to Bailey, and we've been enjoying the preparations for that big day. Nathan, Kelley's son, continues to be a manager at a national computer/electronics company in Indianapolis. My eldest daughter, Jenna, is settling into married life in Minnesota, and my Montana-based daughter, Ashlin, and her husband are expecting their first child in March 2022. My eldest son, Kyler, works for a computer company in Montana, while my other son, Brian, continues to pursue his college studies in Arizona.

Kelley and I have stayed busy with our jobs and projects around our home... our home sweet home. During 2021, we enjoyed several road trips for fun and family events. We recently returned from Chicago where our family took in several popular sights - including the Willis Tower Skydeck at 1,353 feet (103 floors up!) above the windy city and "The Bean" (Cloud Gate) in Millennium Park. I've included a photo below. We enjoyed good food, good shopping, and a great family time. This year also included a trip to Minnesota so that I could have the honor of walking my eldest daughter, Jenna, down the aisle at her wedding. We're so happy for she and Cole! We also made a road trip to Missouri for another family wedding, that of Kelley's niece, Kiley, to Luke. We went to Kansas to spend time with family, and enjoyed a visit from family who traveled from Kansas to Indiana.

I'm about to enter my 8th year at the law firm where I work, and this year Kelley and I launched a new Indiana company that provides specialized services to law offices and insurance agencies statewide. I'll continue to work full-time at the firm, but will also be operating this new business as well.

Yes, it has been a busy 2021 for our family. Now, we're looking forward to enjoying the holidays together! May the Lord bless you and your family as you enter into this season of thanksgiving, joy and love.



From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Running Across the USA -- Failure in 1986 and Success in 2006

Today marks 15 years since I completed my solo run across America at the age of 41. I thought I had seen every photo of me that was taken during that journey and published online. However, I recently came across the picture that accompanies this writing. It was taken as I was running between the towns of Logansport and Peru, Indiana, in September 2006.

This year also marks 35 years since I first attempted to run across the United States at the age of 21 -- back in 1986. That run was unsuccessful, but the 2006 attempt allowed me to place my footsteps from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I occasionally look online to see who is running across the country, particularly those who are making the attempt solo. There are always people walking or hiking across the country, taking 6 months or more -- or even a year or more -- to cross the continent. I'm more interested in those who take on the 3,000-mile challenge and complete it in 4 months or less all alone. My journey required me to average 30 miles per day for 108 days while striding through 15 states. In the 15 years since I became the 5th person in history to run solo across the country from one coast to the other, there have been plenty of people who have taken on the across-USA challenge. Some have succeeded with massive support crews and luxury mobile accommodations while others have tasted success simply by using the approach I did -- a jogging stroller.

It has been 112 years since the first documented crossing of the United States on foot, which was by Edward Weston in 1909. It's reported that he averaged 32 miles per day at the age of 70. Although he was considered a notable "pedestrian" by many, there are those who doubt that he actually stepped the entire distance. Today, there are various devices to track and validate crossings. Unfortunately, most crossers still don't use such devices and some have been identified as cheaters -- or actually admitted it.

I believe that the most publicized run across America was in 2011 when ultramarathon professional Dean Karnazes ran from California to New York with a massive media and support team in multiple luxury vehicles. His run was consistently featured on the Live with Regis and Kathie Lee morning television show and Karnazes garnered media attention from around the world as he did what made him happiest -- run. He averaged 40 miles per day for 73 days to complete the journey. However, that same year there were 8 other across-USA runners who all did more daily mileage and ran it faster than Karnazes, but their accomplishments were simply a side note at the bottom of sports pages. In fact, three years before Karnazes did his run, Marshall Ulrich ran across America by logging 58 miles per day -- or about 18 miles more each day than Karnazes. Finally, since Karnazes did his run in 2011, there have been many people who have logged more daily mileage across America than Karnazes did, but you don't hear about those runners.

On the flipside of the coin are those who cross the country at such a slow pace that hardly any training is needed at all -- just an abundant amount of time to do nothing but log a few miles daily. In 1984, one man went across the country at a mere 12 miles per day (requiring 259 days). In 2012-2013, a man crossed the country by only going 6 miles per day (requiring 456 days). Another man did similar mileage in 2015, and no... these were not old people. In fact, over the course of the past 10 years there have been several people who have crossed the country on foot by averaging 10 miles or less per day, sharing their journeys online. Generally, those are people with a lot of free time to wander the roads of America for over a year.

So far in 2021, there have been at least a dozen people who have set off to cross America on foot. Some have completed the journey while others are still out there. When I made my first attempt to run across America in 1986, it was extremely uncommon and unthinkable to many. Of course, the Internet has fueled interest and been a catalyst for getting people on the road. After my 1986 attempt nobody else tried to run across America until 1990. There was a four-year period when there were no adventurous souls willing to try it. However, since 1990 there has been an increasing number of people each year who have been attempting to stride from one side of the country to the other. I believe that this interest will only grow as more people accomplish the task and share it with the world via the social media and published books.

I'm glad that I succeeded at running across the country in 2006, but I'm also glad that I made the attempt in 1986 long before the Internet was around. I undertook something at the age of 21 that was truly rare and relatively unheard of. Now, at the age of 56, I believe that 1986 attempt impacted my life in ways that I never fully realized as an adventurous 21 year old.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Cross to Run and/or Bike in the Future?

Sometimes, God purposefully and unexpectedly places something on your heart that resonates deep in your soul -- and no matter what you do, you just can't shake it. In such moments, we can either choose to willfully ignore it or prayerfully examine it.

Without going into much detail at this point, for the past year I've felt that God has a cross for me to run and/or bike at some point. However, my priority is my family and I do not believe that God wants me to disturb the routine of my family's life right now. My wife and I have been discussing when I might retire from working at the law firm. I'm 56 years of age and I'll likely step away from working in law in my late 60's. Between now and then, we have two teenage daughters to complete raising (currently ages 13 and 16) and my wife and I both work full-time. I believe in my heart that God does not want me to disrupt the course that He has me on between now and retirement. In addition, I believe He will be strengthening my faith as a Catholic in many ways over the coming years. All of that is to say that you won't be hearing about any endurance adventures in the near future. However, I truly feel God prompting my heart that He has a cross for me to travel. The full reason has yet to be revealed to me and I can only believe that in time He will make His complete will known.

This blog, my Run_Bike_Cross Instagram account, and my YouTube channel will be used for sharing any future information. For convenience, I've purchased the domain www.RunBikeCross.com so I'll be able to refer people to that domain for accessing this blog. Until I can write more about this in the future, I'm continuing to listen, to pray, to seek, and to discern. As it says in Proverbs 4:26 -- "Survey the path for your feet, and all your ways will be sure."

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso

-- Pictures and Videos on Instagram: Run_Bike_Cross
_______________________________________

Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Monday, August 2, 2021

"Tempus Fugit" -- Time Flies: Watching My Eldest Daughter Get Married

My wife and I recently attended the wedding of my first child, Jenna -- who is 28 years old. We drove 11 hours from our home in Indiana to the venue in Minnesota. As those hours clicked by, I recalled many special moments with Jenna -- dating back to 1993. As I did, I couldn't help but to think of a phrase imprinted on a pendulum wall clock that I gave to her in June for her birthday. On that clock are the words "Tempus Fugit"... which is a Latin phrase, usually translated into English as "time flies." The expression comes from a writing by the Roman poet, Publius Vergilius Maro -- usually called 'Virgil.'

I believe that parents best understand how quickly time flies. Watching children grow up, mature, and eventually marry certainly makes a parent pause to reflect about the passage of time and just how quickly the years go by. As the mileposts went by in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, I kept thinking "Tempus Fugit" -- time flies.

I remember well dancing with Jenna in a little red house in Montana when she was just a few years old. I knew that one day I would be dancing with her at her wedding reception. It has been 28 years since I became a father and as I watched her dance with her husband I kept thinking... Tempus Fugit, time flies. Then, it was my turn to dance with her for a father/daughter moment on the dance floor. She didn't know it at the time, but when she reached out her hand to step onto that floor, I saw the little girl that would reach out to me like that when I got home from work. She would wait anxiously by the front door and reach out to me for a hug and to spend time together. When my newly-married daughter reached out to me before that dance, I saw -- and felt in my heart -- the little girl that was always so eager to spend time with me. It pierced my heart instantly, and my eyes welled up. Jenna stayed very composed, while I struggled with emotions that she won't understand until she is a parent at her own child's wedding. Tempus Fugit... time flies. Just how fast that time goes swept over me like a tidal wave as I danced with her.

Jenna and I reside in different states, nearly 600 miles apart. We don't see each other often and that's simply the reality of life. Children grow up, marry, and blaze their path in life -- which is often away from parents. She is beautiful, intelligent, successful, and now... a wife. Her husband is a fortunate man, and she is blessed to have a man who loves the woman she has become. He didn't see the entire journey to that point as I did, but I pray that he will always love and cherish her as if he did.

Before I walked Jenna down the aisle, she gave me cufflinks as a surprise gift. I wore them as we took each step side by side. One of the cufflinks was a photo of she and I from when she was a young child. The other cufflink had these words printed on it: "Always your little girl." My little girl got married last week and I'm still looking at those cufflinks thinking Tempus Fugit... time flies.

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso
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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos:

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Watching Children Grow Up -- There's an Appointed Time for Everything

Recently, my 16-year-old stepdaughter attended two week-long Catholic retreats where she was able to dive deeper into her faith. These opportunities were located at two separate college campuses, both of which are in consideration for her to attend after high school. As my wife and I toured the campuses with her, and got her set up into a dorm room -- which was each retreat's accommodations -- we both felt the emotions of what is to occur in just a couple of short years. It will be then that we'll take her to a campus and know that she's an adult... blazing her path in life. I must admit, I got a bit choked up thinking about it as I watched her strolling across each campus.

As we read in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, there is an appointed time for everything... including letting children step out on their own. It's an emotional experience for any parent -- a combination of joy for watching their child become an adult, and sorrow for knowing that the child will not be around as much. I felt a twinge of that as I walked around those college campuses last month.

My wife, Kelley, and I were married in 2018 after first meeting in 2015. Between us, we have eight children -- six of whom are adults. The two daughters remaining at home are ages 13 and 16. So, we're only five years away from feeling the "empty nest." I'm praying that those 1,800 days go slowly! All of our adult children have pursued, or are currently pursuing, higher education in one form or another. Several have earned university degrees and are on their career path. It's truly a blessing to watch children mature into adulthood and take ownership of their future.

Its been almost 40 years since I packed my bags and headed off to the University of Montana, where I earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees after five years on campus. I paid out-of-state tuition (having gone there from Alaska) and my total bill for two degrees was around $25,000 -- and yes, that included tuition, room, board, and books. I was curious what it would cost me today to attend the same university and pay out-of-state tuition. As you can image, the cost has certainly gone up! If I wanted to earn two B.A. degrees now from the University of Montana, I would pay approximately $192,000 for five years of tuition, room, board, and books as an out-of-state resident. That's about $167,000 more than what I paid back in the 1980's.

According to EducationData.org, the average cost of college in the United States is $35,720 per student, per year. The cost has tripled in the past 20 years, with an annual growth rate of nearly 7 percent. The average in-state student attending a public four-year institution spends $25,615 for one academic year. The average cost of in-state tuition alone is $9,580; out-of-state tuition averages $27,437. The average traditional private university student spends a total of $53,949 per academic year, $37,200 of it on tuition and fees. Experts say that taking into account student loan interest and loss of income, the ultimate cost of a bachelor’s degree may exceed $400,000. And to think that I received two B.A. degrees for around $25,000!

Across the U.S., college enrollment numbers are down -- particularly in community colleges. This cannot simply be blamed on the Coronavirus pandemic. The overall cost of higher education is certainly a factor that more young people are taking a hard look at before applying to colleges and universities. The skyrocketing cost of college has created a $1.7 trillion dollar student debt crisis, leaving many prospective students questioning the worth of a college degree. Unless scholarships and grants can be obtained to help decrease the final bill, the cost of college is simply getting out of reach for many.

In just a couple of years, Kelley and I will taking an 18-year-old to her college campus -- an intelligent young lady who has a bright future ahead of her. Three short years after that, we'll be doing it again... for the final time. May the sands of time fall slowly over the next five years!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),

Paul J. Staso
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Visit my YouTube channel -- https://www.youtube.com/user/pacetrek

Click on any of the links below to see some of my adventure photos: