By Judy Kurtz - 04/03/12 11:24 PM EDT
If you happen to catch Rep. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertFormer GOP congressman lobbying for electric cars Senate races heating up Tea Party class reassesses record MORE (R-Ariz.) waddling around the Capitol, it’s not because he’s auditioning for a role as the Penguin in those “Batman” movies.
Schweikert, 50, tells ITK an hours-long hike down and back up the Grand Canyon with Rep. Peter WelchPeter WelchDems vow to keep heat on GOP over guns Can Congress tackle chronic illness in Medicare patients? Defiant Sanders tells supporters: 'You can beat the establishment' MORE (D-Vt.) last weekend is to blame for any unusual stance that his wife has playfully dubbed his “penguin” walk: “Everyone’s waking up and their calves are just rocks. There’s something funny about watching middle-aged athletes waddling over trying to get over to breakfast.”
Welch says the idea for the bipartisan adventure came as he chatted with Schweikert about their mutual love of hiking a few months ago on the House floor. He accepted
Schweikert’s invitation to join him on the overnight expedition.
Says Welch, “I recommend it for members of Congress. If you go down together you come out friends, or you can be forever lost in the vast regions of the canyon.”
Meantime, Schweikert, who faces a tough primary battle against Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) in the state’s redrawn 6th district, considers his trek the perfect preparation for hitting the campaign trail, saying, “It’s great training for getting to walk door to door a whole lot.”
When asked what’s harder, hiking up the Grand Canyon or an election fight, Schweikert paused before replying with a laugh, “[The Grand Canyon] may be tougher than campaigning, but the scenery’s a lot better.”
But the canyon-climbing congressman, who estimates this was his 16th journey through his home state’s natural wonder, laments the fact that the time it takes to hike back up the
Grand Canyon seems to get longer each year. He claims that “back when I was a younger man,” his fastest time was three hours and 40 minutes. But this time, “We got out at about just under six hours.”
Welch says many of those hours were spent admiring the canyon. But the two lawmakers couldn’t help talking a bit about their day jobs, chatting about healthcare and education.
The Vermont lawmaker explains, “It had a very friendly and very positive feeling to it, which unfortunately we just don’t have enough of in Congress.”
Welch says maybe he can return the favor with an open invite to the Green Mountain State: “Vermont is ready for Congressman
As far as activities, he suggests, “We can tap a few maple trees!”
Welch adds that perhaps some of his colleagues could benefit from spending some time together in the Grand Canyon and off Capitol Hill: “We’ve got to get [Reps.] BoehnerJohn BoehnerDem drops out of race for Boehner's old seat Conservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days MORE and Pelosi down there.”