Leaving home in Detroit at 8 a.m., James Robertson doesn't look like an endurance athlete. Pudgy of form, shod in heavy work boots, Robertson trudges almost haltingly as he starts another workday. But as he steps out into the cold, Robertson, 56, is steeled for an Olympic-sized commute. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he'll take a bus partway there and partway home. And he'll also walk an astounding 21 miles. Five days a week. Monday through Friday.
It's the life Robertson has led for the last decade, ever since his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him. Every trip is an ordeal of mental and physical toughness for this soft-spoken man with a perfect attendance record at work. And every day is a tribute to how much he cares about his job, his boss and his coworkers. Robertson's daunting walks and bus rides, in all kinds of weather, also reflect the challenges some metro Detroiters face in getting to work in a region of limited bus service, and where car ownership is priced beyond the reach of many.