What could have been a leisurely 50-minute drive from New York City to Stamford, Connecticut, turned into a 19-hour, 92,019-step odyssey for this father and son.
What’s up with that?
In a sayonara to summer, Fred and Jake Sirianni walked the 40 miles that Google maps said would take 13 hours by foot.
The Marysville dad knew what he was getting into when his media-savvy big-city son invited him to go on an epic walk from his Brooklyn apartment over Labor Day weekend.
“I was a prop. A well-loved prop,” said Fred, a 55-year-old financial advisor. “There was no noble cause. We weren’t raising money for any charity. It was just his stupid whim.”
Fred, of course, was honored to be along for such a journey with his only son, even though it meant taking a cross-country plane ride in a pandemic and stepping out of his comfort zone.
“I’m not a jock,” said Fred, a vice president of D.A. Davidson in Everett. “I’m a slightly paunchy guy.”
Jake, 24, had confidence in his dad’s grit.
“Thirteen hours is a long time, but it didn’t seem like we’d die over it,” he said.
The two set off at 2:57 a.m. on Sept. 5 in Brooklyn with Jake at the Instagram helm, wearing the Marysville T-shirt his mom, Jane, sent in a care package at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.
You might remember Jake from the clever video he made in 2017 to apply for an internship on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” his junior year at Washington State University. His “Alphabet Aerobics” rap, which made him look like he was performing with Jimmy, got him about 300,000 views — and ultimately the internship.
After graduation in 2018, he was hired by Brooklyn creative content agency Mustache, where he’s now an editor.
To escape from his pandemic life in a 400-square-foot apartment with two windows in the borough of Brooklyn, he started taking long walks with his friends — to Coney Island and beyond.
The longest walk was 25 miles, 56,000 steps, in June.
Jake wanted more and suggested a 40-miler.
“I originally shipped it out to my friends and they gave me a big old ‘No,’” he said.
He mentioned it to his dad on one of their daily phone calls. His older sister, Anna, lives in Florida and works for Disney. So his parents are childless in Marysville.
“I said, ‘Hey, if you want to fly out in the middle of a pandemic,’” Jake said.
He was joking, but Dad was game.
“I thought, ‘Shoot, that could be a really good memory,’” Fred said.
Fred had a month to train for the trek. After the virus closed the YMCA, he’d walk a few miles and was feeling very proud of himself. This upped his game. He bought a pair of $50 Asics from the outlet mall and started walking more — five miles, nine, 12, 17.
“I got up to 27 miles the week prior. On the flat Centennial Trail, that took nine hours,” Fred said.
“A buddy of mine said, ‘You’re perfect, that’s what marathon runners do, they don’t do 26 miles leading up to it. The adrenalin will propel you.’”
Made sense to Fred.
Jake wore Brooks Addiction 13 running shoes with orthotics.
“My first year at Marysville Getchell High School, when I was a freshman, I had pretty major foot surgeries. One foot was December 2010, the other foot was March 2011, and I was on a knee scooter and crutches for four months per foot. I had really flat feet to the point where I was basically walking on my ankles,” Jake said.
“Part of this trip was just proving it to my younger self that something like this could happen.”
How Jake got the idea to walk to Stamford depends on whom you ask.
Jake told me he looked at a map and zoomed out. “Stamford was the first place that popped out because of the association with the TV show ‘The Office’ in Season 3. It rang a bell in my head.”
Fred remembers hearing a different story.
“He said he read a review of a really good diner up in Stamford called the Elm Street Diner that had good milkshakes and good onion rings,” Fred said.
The online review was by an 8-year-old kid.
Fred said the plan was to get to the Stamford diner in plenty of time for dinner. That’s why they left Brooklyn at 2:57 a.m. Thirteen hours, remember?
After slinking through dark streets, they were immersed in the magic of the city coming alive at sunrise.
Then reality set in.
Fred’s 27 miles on the Centennial Trail was smooth and flat. New York City had curbs, cars and rats, dead and alive.
“We saw a lot of roadkill,” Jake said. “A lot of garbage.”
“I was just thankful to God that I didn’t stumble,” Fred said.
At 20 miles, they hugged and soon after took a half-hour break in a grassy area in Rye, New York. “It was nice to be calm with my Pa,” Jake said.
Jake posted on Instagram along the way.
“I’m tired just watching your video,” someone remarked.
Fred’s a caveman when it comes to social media, and an old dude when it comes to feet.
Blisters took over.
“Around 30 or 32 miles, I got grumpy,” Fred said. “At one point I was really contemplating catching an Uber. I was hitting a wall.”
Jake inspired him to cross the finish line.
At the border at 6:12 p.m., Fred is shown on the Instagram video jesting, “Connecticut? I’d like to call it Connecti-quit.”
Jake talked him into saying that.
They still had more than seven miles to hoof it to Stamford.
As for the diner with the good shakes and rings, it was closed by the time they arrived in Stamford at 9:39 p.m. They checked into a hotel, ordered Domino’s Pizza and spent the next two days soaking in the pool.
After a few days in Stamford, Fred got his Uber. The 50-minute car ride back to Brooklyn was a nice sequel to 19 hours and 92,019 steps of father-son bonding.
“It was a good mix of silly laughter, blisters and a few good deep conversations,” Fred said. “Jake loves a good story and he loves documenting it. I was just a prop in the story.”
Next year the pair might do another epic walk.
Meantime, Jake plans to visit Marysville in November.
“We are going to walk to the Dairy Queen, which is three miles from the house,” Fred said.
This story was modified to correct the last name of Fred and Jake Sirianni.