And they say nobody walks in L.A.
March 2, 2012
There’s nothing like a brisk evening stroll to pump up your fitness. Ask Rick Albrecht. This week, he’s been averaging seven miles daily. In steel-toed boots. In the middle of the night.
Call it the Rock Walk. In a regimen that’s impressive even by Southern California standards, Albrecht and his coworkers have spent virtually every night since Tuesday on foot next to The Rock, carefully monitoring its 105-mile journey to LACMA.
“We may not look it,” the white-bearded 52-year-old joked as he waited to hit the road in a reflective vest and hardhat, “but we can out-walk just about anybody. Just by the nature of what we do, no matter what age we are, we’re in pretty good shape.”
A supervisor for Portland, Ore.-based heavy haul transporter Emmert International, Albrecht said that, even with breaks, he will personally cover 70 miles or more on foot by the time the boulder is delivered to the backyard of the museum in the wee hours of March 10.
And he’s not alone: More than a dozen crewmen will be walking beside him, escorting the 340-ton centerpiece of “Levitated Mass,” artist Michael Heizer’s new LACMA installation.
Although a handful of Emmert employees will be driving the massive red transport mechanism—a system of tractors, beams and cables within which the shrink-wrapped hunk of granite has been painstakingly cradled—the majority will be walking with radios beside the precious cargo, either remote-controlling various dollies or watching for potential slippage.
“Some jobs, you can ride alongside and watch from a pickup, but this is a specialized thing,” says crewman Joe Schofield, adding that he has mentally prepared himself to walk the entire distance, if necessary. “There’s so much going on that you have to walk or you can’t see it all.”
Schofield, also in his 50s, said the job has made him far more fit than most of his middle-aged neighbors in suburban San Gabriel, where he lives when he’s not traveling for his employer.
“I’ll do 30 miles on a bike when I’ve got nothing else to do,” said the bespectacled crewman, who says he thinks nothing of riding his beach cruiser to Long Beach and back just to see friends.
“People here say, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to the gym.’ Oh yeah? Well, come out here and work with us a day. You won’t need to. When you’re handling big chains and moving blocks and walking five or ten miles a day, believe me, it does its thing to you.”
The boulder and its transporter together weigh about 1.2 million pounds; the move to LACMA from the Riverside County quarry where The Rock was blasted six years ago from the side of a mountain has been spread over 11 nights.
The cavalcade, which will move on surface streets through 22 cities and four counties, can only move between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., and will not travel on Sunday. Its route is circuitous to avoid overpasses and bridges.
Five miles per hour is as fast as the apparatus will travel, so the pace isn’t bad, notes supervisor Charlie Prebble. And, he notes, the miles tend to fly by because the assignment is so high profile and critical. The transportation alone is costing millions of dollars, underwritten by corporate donor Hanjin Shipping.
Indeed, he says, this job’s workout is mild compared, say, to the 700-mile move they once did between Idaho and Montana, or the 14-miles they trekked in work boots, much of it in the sand, during a recent slow-speed delivery to the nuclear plant in San Onofre.
“You don’t get tired,” he says. “You can’t. You gotta keep moving. You only have from 10 to 5, so you’ve got to make the best of what you’ve got.”
Albrecht, whose brother Mark is the general manager of the project, said his family has been in the moving business for generations. “My father started out moving houses,” he says.
So what are Albrecht’s heavy-haul fitness secrets? Has he developed a stretching routine before his shift starts?
Does he carbo load?
“Had a nice steak lunch today, that’s about it.”
What about blisters?
“After a while, you callous up.”
What does he do for variety in his off-hours?
And when the sun comes up and another day of his marathon is over?
“You sit down and take your boots off and—ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. That feels good.”