Del Webb senior writes a novel about his amazing walk from Tampa to New York City.
On a wall in Richard Albero’s Del Webb home hangs a sign a high-school student made for him 40 years ago.
It reads, “Kindness costs nothing.”
“As I’ve gotten older, it’s meant more to me as the way life should be,” Albero said.
So much so, in fact, that on March 2, 2015, Albero set off from Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on a 1,138-mile, 86-day trek to Yankees Stadium
in New York City with a mission of raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project. The nonprofit provides support to veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound while serving in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001.
Albero, then 65 years old and newly retired from teaching, dedicated his walk to his nephew Gary Albero, who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City. He said he wanted to honor his nephew in a special way. They both loved the New York Yankees and often watched games together, so walking from the spring training stadium to the Yankees’ New York home seemed like an apropos challenge.
“I wanted to do something different for my bucket list,” he said.
And that he did. Albero used nine pairs of sneakers on his journey, four of which wore through completely. He was followed by television crews, was chased by dogs, walked through sunshine and rain and eventually ended at Yankee Stadium, where he walked on home plate, shook hands with all the Yankees players and then threw the first pitch — a strike — before their May 26, 2015, game against the Kansas City Royals.
In his mind, Albero was going to be taking a long, somewhat leisurely stroll to New York. However, on most of the roads, there were no sidewalks, and many had as little as a foot of pavement for walking alongside the road. Albero quickly realized his naivety, but it didn’t stop him.
“Every car potentially could kill me,” Albero said. “It didn’t take much if they veered. People were reading on their cellphones. People put eye drops in. It’s amazing what people do in their cars. People ask me, ‘What was the hardest part of the walk?’ Staying alive.”
In May, Albero published the story of his journey in his first book, “Not Just a Walk in the Park.” The day-by-day account recalls his thoughts and adventures, including a woman aiming a gun at him for taking a picture of flowers on her property, along with nearly being hit by a car.
He talked with friends and family on the phone and listened to music to help mitigate the boredom of walking mile upon mile. Each day, his support driver would transport him from his stopping point to a hotel and then back to where he left off the previous day.
“It was so arduous that if I even thought about quitting for a moment, I would have never made it,” Albero said. “[Keeping focus] takes practice like anything else. It’s a skill set. Having visited Wounded Warriors [headquarters], I would think about some of the disabled veterans that had loss various limbs. I used them as an incentive.”
Albero trekked the 1,138 miles and raised $56,000 from about 600 donors along the way. He walked about 16 miles per day and always took one day a week to rest.
Before his adventure, he walked about a mile per week and didn’t do much training.
“Most people, they have no concept of the difficulty, physically, mentally,” Albero said. “Plus, I was 65. I wasn’t a spring chicken.”
While taking to Del Webb’s veteran’s group about the highlight of his trip in October 2017, two friends, and authors, in the room suggested he write a book.
“It was to get all my emotions out,” Albero said of writing his story. “Even if only 10 people read the book, and ‘Kindness costs nothing’ becomes their mantra, it will be worth it.”