The Shasta Sundial Strollers
By Richard DuPertuis
On the Go
Story and Photo By Richard DuPertuis
Three times a week, an organized group of local outdoor enthusiasts meet at Turtle Bay. The Shasta Sundial Strollers then cross their namesake Sundial Bridge and walk an hour together, tracing about a three-mile loop through forest and meadow on the north side of the Sacramento River.
Each member moves at his or her own pace, some folks chatting, some walking the asphalt path in silence. “We walk rain or shine. We’ve been known to walk in the snow,” says Cynthia Turbin, founding member and club president. “It’s a hardy group of people.”
One of these hardy people is 88 years old. Franz Schueling, who immigrated to the United States from Germany in 1964, joined the club when it formed 10 years ago. “I wasn’t in very good shape at that time. I couldn’t walk the 10K,” he recalls as he ambles along with his walking stick.
His wife, Brigitte, got him started walking. “She knew I can’t sit still for a long time,” he says. “I have to get out and do something.”
Asked if he’s in better shape now than he was when he was 78, Schueling says, “Yeah, I can walk the 10K now.”
This 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) designation is one of two distances for walks defined by Internationaler Volkssportverband, an international organization promoting non-competitive sports that started in Germany in 1968. The Shasta Sundial Strollers is a local chapter of the state branch, the California Volkssport Association, which operates under the umbrella of the national nonprofit American Volkssport Association.
The second officially recognized volkssport walking distance is 5K (3.1 miles), the length of the loop that 11 Shasta Sundial Strollers are walking this day. Debbie Thomas, club treasurer, pauses to show her volkssport record book, an option offered by the national organization for members who really want to get into the sport.
“I’m on my 134th walk,” says Thomas, who joined the Strollers in 2008. “I pay $3 for each walk to get a stamp in my book, and I get a pin for every 25 walks.” The sun shining brightly on her white baseball cap, festooned with achievement pins, she smiles and adds, “This has really changed my life.”
To maintain active status at the national level, local clubs are required to offer a year-round walk and an annual event to out-of-towners, according to Turbin. “The year-round is available any time. It is like a self-guided tour,” she says. “People sign in and pick up a map and other directions.” The location of a sign-in is listed on the American Volkssport Association website.
Using this resource, Shasta Sundial Strollers can walk routes mapped out by clubs in other regions of the state. “They’ve taken me places I wouldn’t have gone by myself,” says Pat Tucker, pacing along in a white, wide-brimmed hat. She recalls a tour through an old neighborhood in Red Bluff, a route on the coast and another in the Delevan Wildlife Refuge in Colusa.
“I love to walk, and I had no idea when I joined what a social group this is,” Tucker says. “This group celebrates life.”
Walking beside Tucker is Mary Provence, club vice president. “What I love about it, in addition to the exercise, is being outside,” Provence says. “Being in nature is the most healing experience. Whatever is troubling you, you can let go of it.”
Turbin sees a deep level of bonding between members. “When you’re walking with someone, you’re not looking at them, so you tend to share more,” she explains. “There are so many levels of positive things that happen in the group.”
She numbers the current membership at 40. All of the members who showed up to walk together today are seniors. Provence is 80, Tucker 84. “Our youngest member just turned 60,” Turbin says. “Before volkssport, I never met so many people in their 70s and 80s who were so healthy and vivacious. It’s a real testament to what this organization offers.”
At the end of the walk, the group gathers on the Sundial Bridge. Turbin shares the club motto, translated from Latin written in 4th Century B.C.: “It is solved by walking.”
To join, Cynthia Turbin (530) 949-2810
Weekday strolls Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays