This travel update is just a tad bit more “gritty”, the realness of what I am doing is setting in. I never expected this walk to be all peaches and cream, and I am completely ok with some of it being a struggle!
Before arriving at Penny’s place a bill came due faster than I expected and my money situation got very difficult. I am so grateful for the support offered to me when I asked for it. I am also waiting for a 2K check from my ex that he of course is trying to not pay on time. I ended up spending almost a full week at Penny’s place, and it was as always a wonderful new friend to meet. Penny was incredibly generous with food and supplies for my walk. She also paid to have my tire repaired. Penny’s generosity was above and beyond anything I could have expected, as I was dead broke. Not only was Penny incredibly generous, but so were her friends. It was a pleasure to meet her and her friends.
While I initially started doing my usual break related tasks – looking for couch surfing, updating my blog and spending some time on my route this took a good day and a half. I was also invited with Penny to meet several of her friends, and that too was such a pleasure. Penny also spent an full evening showing me Victorville and surrounding areas. There was quite a lot to see and a variety of neighborhoods. And then of course, the allure of route 66. On Monday I was interviewed for the Victorville Daily Newspaper, and it brought a lot of new friends to my facebook account – I am grateful for all the support. On Wednesday I got to meet Penny’s 4th grade math class and tell them about my walk. These were some seriously smart kids, and I was bombarded with great questions.
One question I especially liked was – “what if you fail?” That question stuck with me, as I know, now probably more than ever, the monumental task I have set myself. The question was a great reminder that the most important thing is to do everything in my power to succeed. The worst failure is not to try.
On Thursday I returned to route 18 and finished the walk I had not been able to do when Penny had to pick me up due to the flat tire. I didn’t have my pack with me, but I basically walked 8 miles in 5 hours and still felt not even remotely tired. It is going slowly, but when I started this walk my daily range was 5-8 miles a day. Now it is 8-11 miles a day. In the late afternoon I met Nancy – a new friend in Victorville – who will help with some water drops on route 66. It was also thanks to Nancy’s knowledge of the area that I decided to amend my route a little and go to Barstow first.
Friday morning I left Penny’s place without my full pack as Penny had promised to pick me up at the end of the day. Given the ease with which I walked 8 miles the day before I really wanted to see if I could push my range to 12 miles. Leaving Victorville I could feel the full pulsing of the desert under my feet. Soon – I also felt something else pulsing – another bout of diarrhea, something that is horrible dealing with out in the wild!
Initially I passed through several neighborhoods that were very uniform and into the outskirts of the city with houses that were a lot more varied. Until I finally picked up the coveted route 66. Leaving on route 66 were an experience – somehow I could sense it’s history. There were houses that were still lived in – some even modern, then there were much older houses, some in disrepair reminding me that the climate in the desert is definitely a struggle. Finally, there were quite a few abandoned houses. They, more than any others, spoke to me. They had so clearly been beloved homes once. What happened? I could almost hear the echo of laughing children, passions spent and lives lived. Why were they left to fall down and rot like that?
This day I made it 11.5 miles before I finally sank down on the side of the road absolutely exhausted and beat. I was so grateful for the ride back, the hot shower and the soft bed that night. Shopping and waiting for a check in the mail meant I got a seriously late start on Saturday and only walked about 2 miles, before I camped out. I was still sore from the previous day so that was ok with me.
After the full moon coming in to Victorville the night sky was now dark until after 2 am. With zero light pollution the star show was stunning! Above me were several arms of the milky way and a sky so full of stars it was almost dizzying – that, and the shooting stars as it is the time of year for meteors kept me enthralled with the beauty. Perhaps because of the beauty above me I was reminded of the grief of the last year, and it came at me rushing, new, harsh, hit me like a truck in the middle of my chest until I managed to breathe through. Finally, I started to settle down – as the big dipper disappeared in the west just to have The Seven Sisters, followed by the little dipper and the moon appear in the east. The movement of the stars soothing and allowing my soul to breathe and believe again.
The next day I got a late start – as I was not so focused on starting early because the midday heat had subsided I could walk through the day. It ended up being a lovely day of walking. Into Helendale there was a nice little restaurant that I stopped at. I fueled up on water and an ice cream a couple of miles later at the Helendale convenience store. The weather was gorgeous and the terrain was also fascinating and I was really having a great day.
Just before Helendale I was stopped by two sheriff’s officers. They didn’t much like me walking on the side of the road, although they had to agree I was doing nothing wrong and it was legal. They checked my ID and found it of course to be clear as can be. The Sergeant looked suspiciously at my big pack as if he suspected a baby or contraband among my stuff. (I know an officer in Palmdale came rushing out to find me because someone had called and said there was a “crazy woman with a baby in the middle of the road”) As I explained my mission and my walk their suspicion and irritation at a crazy chick by the road side turned to a certain grudging disbelieving respect. They soon left with admonitions to be careful of the cars. I found a wonderful camping spot about 2 miles out of Helendale, after walking about 8 miles that day. Again, the night time light show dazzled me.
The next day was harder. It started with the remainder of a large hill, and the road had become desolate. I knew I really wanted to hit 10 miles which I have done before fairly easily. But my right hip was bugging me – stretching out especially the psoas major and other hip muscles is almost impossible on the road. I was still sore from my 11 mile trek a few days ago and the road seemed to go on interminably. Every step sore, the heat a little more than I thought it would be. I had promised myself to make some quinoa in broth with beef jerky for lunch, but I was too sore – and that was a mistake. As I was making my way a highway patrol officer wanted to know what on earth I was doing. His answer was “9000 miles, that is an awful lot of walking”. I agreed with him, but inside I was thinking: “Now you tell me?” The seriousness and size of my journey seems to be settling in with each labored step on a day like that. As I fought the miles, the hills and the heat I found myself fantasizing about steak. Medium rare, with mashed potatoes and salad. I should have had that quinoa for lunch! In spite of the fight for each step I also had the pleasure of the third person stopping on the road because they had seen the article about me in Victorville and they wanted to meet me. These impromptu meetings on the road were incredibly fun, uplifting and supportive. They were also generous as I was offered a donation each time. Towards evening I had trouble finding a nice hidden spot for the night as I had to beat the setting sun. When another Sheriff’s officer stopped to ask what I was doing. It seemed he had heard complaints about “a woman walking in the middle of the road”. He too – like his colleagues the day before – had to admit that he had found me on the side of the road, walking legally, and actually quite aware of the cars coming at me. He did take the time to argue with me about what “the side of the road” actually meant in an effort to make me take a ride with him to town. His concern for my well being was kind, but frankly at this time I was tired, hungry, low in blood sugar and so damn sore. I was getting irritable which is never a good place to be with officers. Sure, I wanted a ride, but I have promised myself to do this route walking, and that is what I explained to him. When he realized I was bound and determined to walk and I explained my mission to him he actually then switched to curiosity and a certain respect I suspect he would not have shown if I had accepted that ride. I had to cut the conversation short both because I was feeling so crappy and the sun was going down. Still, I don’t know what it is with the Barstow police officers! Soon after some bushes around a burned down homestead offered the hiding I needed for the night. I had managed to get within 7 miles of Barstow and 9,5 miles of the truck stop I wanted to check out.
As I was making my quinoa with beef jerky I found myself wondering – why is it the last day or so before arrival at a city are so hard? Is it that I am road tired? It seems the last miles are much, much longer than the initial miles. I find myself almost wanting to say “Mommy, are we there yet?”
The next morning I was on the road by 7:30, but I was still tired and sore. I really only had 9 miles to go, and I have done 9 miles before without blinking and feeling strong at the end of the day. Today was to be different! I made it in to Barstow but by then the sun was in full force and the heat was back. I should have looked for a shaded rest area in Barstow before heading for the truck stop, but I figured – what the hell, just two more miles. They were horrid miles, with no place to sit down. We were back in the 90ties with heat and my right hip hurt like hell. I had enough water but a heat headache was setting in, and then later dizziness. In the middle of that exhaustion I saw a dirt road which promised to cut the last mile in half. I argued with myself a bit – pushing the heavy stroller on anything other than asphalt is extremely difficult. Still, the temptation to get out of the heat and sit down was too much. I made it down the dirt road a little over a quarter mile when I realized there was a huge fence at the end of the road – one I couldn’t possibly get over. At first I was in denial. Then I slumped over the top of my cart trying to catch my breath and not cry. Then I turned around. That last mile was simply painful. The heat, the pain in my hip and the slight uphill was all accomplished with tears down my face. Too tired to even count steps, every step an act of will and determination. I made it to the truck stop at around 2 pm and limped in to the first store where I could sit and eat a sandwich. Soon the AC’d store made me shiver with cold and I fished out my large sweater I take over my clothing at night. Two hours, some ibuprofen and a chat with Maureen later I felt a whole lot better – and I set out to find that steak dinner! Lesson here – the desert is not done with the heat for the summer season, and I better be prepared to settle down midday if I have to.
Last night finding a hiding spot by the truck stop was a lot easier than I thought, although the light pollution drowned out the milky way, I still had a great nights sleep. The reason I wanted to check out the truck stop was because I was told it might be a great place for certain amenities while on the road – such as laundry, showers and areas to relax for a day or so. This is indeed true – but it is almost obscenely expensive – I mean, $12 for a shower! I will be staying over here tonight as well, waiting for a check to catch up with me in the mail tomorrow before I head out.
I have about 3 days walk to Newberry Springs before I pick up route 66 again, and that really desolate stretch I have been wondering about for a while now. So far I have walked 175 miles and that stretch is 155 miles on it’s own. Nancy have so generously offered water drops so I should be a-ok, but I must admit, I suspect this is where my mettle and determination will truly be tested.