It’s been a long time since I posted.
I’ve had a lot to digest.
I was living with the Cowboy I mentioned many times in my blog. I had my own room, we’re friends, nothing more. He needed the room for someone else, and I hadn’t been able to pay rent, so this week I moved back to Cody to stay with another friend till I find more permanent, affordable digs.
My walk had been funded primarily by my ex husband’s generosity. His luck, however, changed, and he fell upon hard times. (Welcome to the new millennium) I, in turn, ran short of funds, and being in the pain that I remain in, very few jobs were out there that I could handle. Plus, Cody in the Winter is not a very fruitful place for job seekers.
I landed a job as a custodian for the aquatic center in town (meaning indoor pools). Clean, wet, chlorinated people don’t make much of a mess, so, although quite hard on my back, and “janitor” is not a job most people covet, I don’t mind it at all. The pay is decent, the people are nice (the hours suck! 5-10 AM!) and it’s in general a pleasant atmosphere. Except everything I have to clean is well below my waist’s level, therefore I have to bend over… ouch. Hard on my back. It’s just a part time job, and a month or so ago, I took on a second job at the local supermarket in the deli, but lasted just 9 days as it KILLED my back.
I was granted disability and will cease working at the pool soon. My back gives me a LOT of trouble, to the point of tears, on a regular basis.
But that’s all beside the point.
In the meantime, since I’ve been back, or rather, long past since I GOT back they started, I’ve been getting flashbacks. No, I’ve never done acid. They’re flashbacks from the walk. Places I’ve been, corners, roads, bars, barns, fields, towns, .. all brought back like a slide show, wham, right in front of me. I’ve almost run my truck off the road when I’ve been “hit” by one. They are sometimes frequent, twenty or more in a day, and other days, none or one. I can be driving along out here in Wyoming, Tom Petty cranked up on the stereo, and >>poof<< suddenly I’m at that 5-way cross road in Pennsylvania that was very confusing. Or at the rest area in Bellefonte. Or the dirt road near Elsie, Ohio. Or by Lake Michigan, or at the nice couples house. I can vividly recall the details of the places. I don’t always know what state it’s from, or what town, or what the weather was, but man I remember the scenery. Without warning, all the sudden. Some have made me smile, some have made me cry. They are very weird.
I had every intention of commencing writing my book when I got back, but found myself to be overly emotional about the whole experience for quite a while. Every time I’d start reading this blog from April on, I’d cry, from missing it so much, from the disappointment of not being able to complete it, from being overwhelmed, again, at the generosity and kindness of the people I encountered.
I met a man recently, and we went out, and now I am dating him exclusively. His name is Zeke. I adore him. We spend a lot of time together, as he has the same outlook on life that I do. HAVE FUN. He’s retired, and goes fishing every chance he gets. I join him when I can, just for the fun of driving his boat and spending time with a man who makes me laugh till I hurt. He’s been a great mood lifter and distraction.
It’s been over a year since I started my Walk. This time last year I was hoofing along some road somewhere, living my dream. I often look back on the blog to see where I was a year ago today.
But before the memories blur and fade, I need to write it all down. I wish I’d kept a more detailed blog, and wish I’d taken more pictures,, especially of the people I encountered, but I’ll have to work with what I’ve got, and the mile by mile tracks still preserved in my GPS. But I think I’m getting close to starting to write a book. I won’t know till I sit down and start pecking away at my old G4 iBook with the line across the screen, but I’m still in awe at my adventure and I want it all written down if not just for me, then to share. I think writing it, and recalling as many details as possible, will help me enjoy living it again, and at the same time preserving it for the future. Whether it ever gets published would wait to be seen, and isn’t as important to me as “saving” it to pass on, to re-read, to share. I don’t want to forget a MILE of it, though some were mundane, they were all part of the trip.
I’m STILL learning from it, I’m still experiencing it’s repercussions in my life. The biggest thing I came away from it with was an inner peace I’ve never had. This walk, or the desire to do it, was like a gnawing hunger in me for more than twenty years. (more like thirty I think). I finally got that itch scratched, and although I didn’t finish, I think I COULD have had my back not been so screwy. In 1700 miles I didn’t encounter anything insurmountable or scary or disheartening, I didn’t run out of energy, or spirit, or desire.. I just hurt too damn bad to continue. So I have this “nothing can bother me now” attitude, which is wonderful. I accomplished something pretty damn cool, and had one hell of a time doing it. I made friendships that still endure, I learned lessons that will stay with me till I die, and I can close my eyes and still, in my mind, see America slowly passing by at three miles an hour.
I had to get on with life when I came back to Wyoming. It was a tough winter, I stood outside a church on a cold, windy afternoon for free food because I was so broke, I took pain pills and saw doctors for my back, I borrowed money,my beloved dog had to be put to sleep, I got so broke I had to sell my mule I’d had for 20-something years, and her saddle, I am still working a job that is quite hard on my back, but all the while I have this inner smile, this peace, this happiness I’ve never had before, so despite hard times, everything’s been good.
And having a new love in my life has helped as well. It was time to move on from my unrequited situation, and I’m happily involved with Zeke.
So things are okay, except for my back, which hurts all the time, When it gets bad, I just remember how it GOT so bad, and it makes it hurt less, cause it was SO worth it. If I knew, last April, that I’d have a tremendously enriching experience but would be in chronic pain afterwards, I’d still have proceeded.
I will post more soon, as I’m finally becoming able to process my emotions about the walk. It’s amazing what four months of walking west has done for me, how much I literally walked away with, what an ENORMOUS impact it’s had on my life. I have done a lot of neat things, lived many places, seen a lot, birthed and raised two fantastic kids, had a 25 year marriage… but those four months of homeless bliss and wandering essentially have defined who I am.
I haven’t posted in quite a while, and although most of you have probably forgotten about me, some of you might be wondering, whatever happened to Shawnee Moon?
When I last posted, I was living in Glendale, California with my son. The pain management doctor I saw said that my insurance wouldn’t cover epidural shots and such… I have since found out that it’s because they were OUTPATIENT. Because I stopped at Iron Mountain, Michigan, and Rhinelander, Wisconsin to see doctors about my aching back, I maxed out my outpatient insurance benefits. Surgery was still an option, as long as I was retained overnight.
So, in September I moved back to Wyoming. I re-borrowed my ex-husbands Silverado and it took a few days because of my back and much fatigue from morphine and stuff, but I made it fine. The good friend that had gotten me all the hotel rooms let me stay in his Airstream motorhome which is parked on his property. He told me it was an offer good until it got cold, because he winterized the coach, drained the lines, etc. So I had to find another place.
It was good to be back in Cody, a lot of people had heard about my adventure and asked if I had done it. I saw friends I hadn’t seen in months, which was nice.
And I saw The Cowboy. We got together several times and then he offered to let me rent a room. And I do, my OWN room. We’re good friends, as we have been a while. He knows how I feel about him, and I know nothing will ever come of us, and I’m trying to move forward. But living with him is quite a trip… or a treat, something. He’s so funny. Anyway, originally the deal was I was supposed to pay rent, but since I am still trying to figure out what to do about my back, I haven’t worked yet, and my ex, who supported me, hasn’t fixed his financial situation, so he has been nice enough to let me stay on in exchange for housework, sewing, cooking, cleaning, errands,.. I share what food I have, do his laundry, make his bed, wash the dishes, etc. We both benefit, and I try hard not to cost him anything. Vegetarian that I am, I’ve had to make beef stew, chicken casserole, and pork sausage, never having made ANY of them. It’s been an experience. He tripped one day and split his face open, and called me on his phone from elsewhere in the house (he was rather intoxicated) asking for assistance. He had fallen and hit his his head on a small wooden bookcase and his cheek around his eye was laid open, but I decided he could go without stitches, and cleaned him up and iced him down. If nothing else (and I’m SURE there’s nothing else) we have become good, good friends, and I enjoy his company when we’re both here watching TV or working in the kitchen. Since my laptop is here, I have hooked him up on dating sites and he has been meeting women, and learning to use a computer at the same time. I want him to be happy, and it’s not me that can do it (according to him) so I’m trying to help him find Her, as he says he is lonely. Friends do that for other friends.
I am still in contact with the quiet woodcutting janitor from Houghton Lake, and hope one day I can go see him. Right now, however, I have NO money, I have borrowed from everyone, and don’t know if I’ll make it to January. My friends have been wonderful, without them I’d never go out, I’d be homeless, have no gas in my truck, have nothing at all.
So I got more x-rays done and was set up to see a surgeon in Billings, Montana. I was sure I’d come away with a date for surgery. He examined the films (which are now all on CD instead of the big ghostly images of old) and showed me I had scoliosis.. meaning crooked back, caused by degenerative disk disease. 5 vertebra are out of place. It was more than he’d operate on. He explained he could do one level of repair, but that wouldn’t help, or had like a 40% chance of relieving my chronic pain, a risk barely worth taking for the pain and complications of a third back surgery. He recommended physical therapy, and getting in good shape, but physical therapy is outpatient, and won’t be covered by insurance…
When I left the surgeons office, I sat in my car and cried.
I have switched from one medicine to another, currently I am wearing a Fentanyl patch and take percocet for breakthrough pain (and there’s plenty). Not working well, but it’s better than nothing at all. Scarcely. Even my prescription coverage has maxed out, so I had to borrow money for that as well, but it should be renewed January 1st, just 6 weeks away or so.
Meanwhile, I have applied for disability. I’m in pain all the time now, and sitting too long, standing too long, and even lying down too long in one position hurts like a bitch. It’s pretty miserable. This would have happened anyway, they say, but the constant walking day after day accelerated the process. Despite the pain, it was still worth it.
I haven’t begun the book yet, I’ve just been so stressed out about my back and my finances (or lack thereof) I haven’t felt I could concentrate enough.
In the meantime I am trying to keep my chin up. I played around on an online dating site and met a man who has an uncanny amount in common with me. It’s all new territory to me, and not sure where it’ll go, if anywhere. I’ve got my heart in too many places, so it’s hard for me to move forward.
… Even at three miles an hour.
I’m still in the Los Angeles area. City of Angels, huh?
I’ve been staying with my son in Glendale, northeast of LA. Like most of the places I walked through, I hit LA during a heat wave. Heat waves here are triple digit. Ugh.
I used to live here, and had a pain management doctor I saw when I had my back surgeries a few years ago, so I looked him up and made an appointment.
Finally, I was directed to have an MRI of my back. The doctor gave me morphine to hold me till he got the results.
I saw the MRI. They put them on CDs now, instead of the big 11 x 17″ (or whatever they are films. I have stacks of them at home.) Anyway, there are 3 levels of damage, L2,3 & 4. That means my second through fourth lumbar vertebrae are compressing the disks between them. I could see the worst level, the vertebrae are practically touching, the disk is bulging out so far you can see it hitting the nerves, which are shoved over from them. It’s a mess. The solution would be disk replacement (most likely) and fusion, screws in the bones and such. Sounds complicated, painful and expensive.
But first, my doctor wanted to try a cortisone shot in the epidural space. If it worked, it could ease pain for several months.
That particular procedure has to be pre-approved by the insurance company… and they wouldn’t approve it. Said I maxed out my benefits already, nothing else would be covered. What really ticked me off is that they’d have billed the insurance over $800, but the cash price was $700, or, “what COULD you pay?”. Now, I wonder why I’ve maxed out my insurance.. because they charge more to them. I **KNOW** a shot doesn’t cost $800.
So anyway, I pretty much don’t have any money. Neither does my ex, who is always very very generous with me. He’s in a pinch himself right now. So it doesn’t look like I can do anything about it right now, other than take pain pills. The doc gave me morphine at least.
Since it’s been so hot, I haven’t been out much, and the less I walk, the better my back feels. Which really sucks. But “taking it easy”, much as I don’t want to, has been helping some. Still hurts like a bitch, and feels stiff, but the pain is not as excruciating as it was.
I’ll continue to look into my options. I intend to call my insurance company and see when their “fiscal” year starts. I guess my trips to the ER in Michigan and Wisconsin ran my benefits out, I don’t know. I’m beginning to think I pay more to them than they cover.
There are more medical options here, but since I can’t do anything about my aching back right now, there’s no reason for me to linger in Los Angeles.
Well, except one.
It just so happened that a dear friend of mine just happened to be in California while I’m here. He used to live here, and now lives in Florida, but flew back this week to do some maintenance on his home, which he rents out. I haven’t seen him in nearly three years, so I don’t want to go back to Cody while I have this rare chance to see a good friend.
My son is moving from this apartment over this coming Labor Day weekend. He got a new job miles away so he’s going to move closer to there. For now, he’s moving in with his Dad. Which leaves me nowhere to stay, so I’ll have to leave LA. The campgrounds are full, it’s Labor Day weekend in Southern California. You better believe they’re full. I’ll figure something out. I’m currently driving my ex’s long bed Silverado…
And this good friend has an idea. He’s thinking about buying a 42′ trawler ( a yacht ) which is docked in Michigan off Lake Michigan. His idea is to pilot the boat down the Intra-coastal Waterway, which would be Lake Michigan, the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico, to his home in Florida. This would take a couple months. As he described the trip, it sounds much like my walking adventure, only on water. Slow moving, stopping in little ports and places to explore and shop and get diesel. He’s invited me to join him.
How tempting is that? The boat has 2 bathrooms, air conditioning, bedrooms, a kitchen, you name it. It’s a luxury boat you could live in. Sounds like quite an adventure. I don’t know how likely it is that this will happen, but he’s pretty sure he’s doing this, and needs a “first mate”. Not too many of his friends are free to travel and such, and he knows I dig adventure and don’t have commitments right now.
(Big sigh)… But I want to get back to Cody and see the cowboy I miss so much. I’m getting so anxious because I am so close to leaving. I may get back to Cody and not be able to leave him again. It was so hard the first time, and I’m so looking forward to seeing him again. So that’s a dilemma. Another trip of a lifetime has possibly availed itself to me, hard to pass that up, hard to leave the cowboy again.
So I’ll see how this plays out… I have no idea, as usual, what direction my life’s headed.
Just some more ramblings and mental notes I took on the road.
The most common item I found alongside the roadways was a single glove. Usually a men’s work glove, but occasionally a ladies’ or child’s. These were heavily present in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, grew less often the further west I went. I saw so many that, when I DIDN’T see any for a few miles, I felt like I was on the wrong road.
The second most common item was a broken bungee or other lashing tool. I picked up a few NOT broken bungees when they would fit a spot on Pandemonium. And an occasional carabiner clip if it was in good shape. I hung my ipod from one I found.
The rest of the roadside finds were trash, car parts, bolts, retreads, cotter pins (wonder what’s not connected anymore!?) rims, car logos, tail lights, coolers and lids, lids to Rubbermaid type tote bins, an occasional diaper, tools, like screwdrivers, clippers, a hammer, etc. Useful but too heavy to carry. If I could use it, I picked it up. My lanyard for my GPS broke, and a couple days later I found a perfectly good black one on the road. Also found lots of bandanas, one came complete with strange yellow goggles that I passed on to Steve in Tomahawk. The bandanas (one is a hat) blow off bikers. I pick ‘em up and wash them. Can’t have too many bandanas. The hat style one had the Jägermeister logo on it, I wore it on my Harley ride.
Lots of broken sunglasses and eyeglasses. Two lacrosse balls, in the same 100 yards, A few golf balls, “super” balls and a couple tennis balls. Kid toys. Broken keychains with keys on them. Shirts, underwear, single shoes here and there. Stuff that blew out of camping vehicles, like coolers, some actual tupperware type containers with food in them, a few portable grills, grill grates and various parts. Tons of broken Bic lighters.
Most common discarded drink container: Coors Light, followed by Red Bull sugar free. Lots of empty Gatorades too.
Most common dead animal: The fuzzy grey Opossum, hands down. Then unidentifiable bird, then unidentifiable small mammal (rodent, rabbit, rat?) then skunk, deer, a few birds i COULD identify, largely red-headed woodpeckers, a few cats, and one black bear cub. A couple roadkills told stories. One was a set of three opossums, a momma and two babies. All dead. The babies ride on the mothers’ back, and the whole family was wiped out at once. Sad. Made me cry a bit, I used to have a possum for a pet. Another one appeared to be that a hawk swooped down to catch a small rodent that I’m assuming was darting across the road, and the hawk was hit after piercing the rodent with it’s talons… the two were side by side on the shoulder.
Lots of bones and pelts and completely unrecognizable animal remains. Many had dried with a frightening “screams” on their face, eternally snarling or hissing, their eyes open but empty. Their last seconds of life forever frozen. Well, not forever, until it’s obliterated by weather and traffic. If I had a dollar for every possum I stepped over or around, I could buy a car.
Live animals I saw: Bald Eagles, several hawks, a few buzzards, a handful of deer, a snake, a big raccoon crossed a bike path in broad daylight, a skunk crossed a northern Michigan road, also in daytime, lots of small things like muskrats, mice, voles, prairie dogs (gophers?) tons of birds, including woodpeckers, hummingbirds, goldfinches, crows, lots of red-winged blackbirds, a few wild turkeys, geese, ducks , loon, seagulls and other lakeside waterbirds. Frogs, toads, turtles and lizards. And insects. Lots of ‘em. Mosquitos, grasshoppers (by the bucketful) June flies so numerous I took pictures of them. There were swarms all over the outside of a building we stopped for gas at, when I took the Harley ride to Lake Erie. Beautiful butterflies would flit around me as I walked sometimes. Orange and black, blue and black, yellow.
And of course the domestic variety. Cows predominately. Then horses, goats, alpaca, sheep, a barren of mules here and there, and dogs. . Mostly Holstein cows (the black and white dairy variety) but a few other dairy breeds like Jersey and Guernsey. Not so many beef cattle like we have out west, but several of them anyway.
Money: A car ashtray on the shoulder looked as if it had been placed there. It had two ones in it, a Toyota key, and four quarters. I took the cash and left the key. Quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies scattered here and there, and one additional dollar bill outside St. Ignace, MI. I just remembered it because it wasn’t there when I walked UP the street, but was when I returned just a few minutes later. It’s folded up in behind my phone cover. Good luck spare buck. Unfortunately, I didn’t happen upon a bag of cash stolen from an armored vehicle. Or unmarked non-sequential laundered cash from a drug deal. One can dream…
Most unusual items found on road shoulder: The one that stands out the most is a pregnancy test. Just an odd place for it. Did the woman pee on it at a rest stop, carry it the obligatory five minutes, and then say, ,”Hon, we’re having a baby!” as she gleefully tossed the test stick out the window? I found a little Lego policeman a lady at Over the Mountain named Rocky, as we were near Rockton, PA. I kept him in my pocket for miles, but he finally vanished. A broken computer tablet. Has technology gone so far that iPads are just road litter now? I remember when cassettes and VHS tapes would be crushed roadside, great long ribbons of tape dancing like streamers in the wind. Various bags of clothes and toys.
Worst area I went through: Warren, Ohio. It’s a tad north of Youngstown on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Dirty streets, cracked sidewalks, boarded up stores, so many car stereos and cars on hydraulic lifts and cars that were lowered and sported weird tires and spinning rims. People were setting up big 55 gallon drum barbecues in weedy empty lots and were selling ribs, it was close to Memorial Day I think. Just the kind of place you don’t feel comfortable leaving Panda alone, I hurried through the town. Second worst: I was told but didn’t see much evidence that Egg Harbor City was dangerous. I stayed in a hotel that might because everyone said don’t be out after dark.
I can’t recall the name of the town, but it was directly next to and north of Wilkes-Barre, PA… I remember steep steep hills and busted concrete and shady looking characters. Lots of bars that weren’t the type dive bars I like, let’s put it that way. Creepy ones. I remember feeling a bit unnerved there.
Prettiest towns: Bellefonte, Pennsylvania stands out. Mackinac Island, the little town there with all the hotels and carriages. Gaylord, Michigan, … I’d have to go through my photos. There were so many cute towns, little “Mayberrys” here and there, with town parks and fountains and quaint downtowns.
Prettiest areas: Lots of Pennsylvania was pretty, with green rolling hills, foggy skies, 200 year old barns, Amish communities. The Flat northern Ohio cornfields and farms were gorgeous. Bright red barns, brilliant blue skies, snow white clouds, deep green corn; looked like a coloring book ad. Some of the pretties places I thought were in Michigan. When the road skirted the bank of a lake edged by adorable cabins, shaded by tall pine trees, I wanted to stay. Several times the bike path I followed paralleled a lake’s shoreline. Another beautiful place was the park at the top of Michigan where I broke down and cried. Lake Huron was turquoise, the grass was green and manicured, the Mackinac Bridge glittered over the water in the distance. Mackinac Island itself was gorgeous, as were it’s surroundings (Lake Huron), with the bridge and the lighthouses on the rocky outcroppings. So many areas of Michigan are pretty. The southern part of the “mitten” was flat like Ohio, with pleasant dirt roads and lots of corn and wheat fields. I happen to like wide open landscapes rather than forests, but Michigan grew on me pretty quickly. Wisconsin added birch trees to it’s roadside forests, and more wildflowers, and a lot more hills, so I found it to be beautiful as well. Like Michigan, Wisconsin has a lot of ponds and lakes. The banks of any of the Great Lakes are beautiful. You can’t see to the other side of these lakes, so it’s like standing on an ocean shore. A few places along US 2 the road hugs the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and it’s gorgeous. Tahquamenon Falls, in the Upper Peninsula, was probably the single most beautiful place.
Police Encounters: I think all told, about 15 or so. Most were just welfare checks, making sure I wasn’t stranded, pushing a baby stroller cause my car ran out of gas or something. Two or three made me get off the road, one way or another. One put my stuff in their Suburban and drove me. One drew me a map and pointed me off the road. One Sheriff stopped as he got a 911 call that there was a jumper on the highway overpass. A few ran my license to make sure I wasn’t a fugitive. And of course the last one, whom I called, who started to arrest me. The ME/pastor that gave me the $100 wasn’t technically law enforcement I don’t think, but he had red and blue flashing lights and worked for the sheriff’s office, so he counts. One policeman from New Jersey just sent me an email that made me bawl. I’ll get back to him when I can compose myself. It was all good, they were they “good cops”. All but a couple of the law officers I met were very kind and helpful.
Best Moments: Geeeez, there are a lot. What stands out most is the night I spent at the hunting cabin with Rob. He’d made a big fire in the fire ring on the lawn there, by a pond. Above the sound of the crackling fire, I could hear whippoorwills and bull frogs and coyotes off in the distance. We sat in lawn chairs watching the fire and talked, getting to know eachother. Rob made us some rum and Cokes and we stayed up way late. Another one: sleeping on that cliff on Mackinac Island, undetected. Another great one was the picnic I went on with Steve, to that tiny tip of the skinny peninsula in Tomahawk. That was nice, unhurried, quiet. That Sunday night was very nice too. We sat outside on the bank of the Wisconsin River and listened to live music from the tavern on the corner, sipping beer and watching boaters and such. The sunny April afternoon when I went with Casey to his hunting cabin in Knox, PA. also comes to mind. We just hung out and drank beer and talked. He was (is) such a nice guy. Handsome devil too.
The Harley ride to Lake Erie was cool. The ATV rides at Rob’s was cool a well. The trip to Tahquamenon Falls with Margaret was a blast. Meeting my cousin Bill was neat. Meeting “Throcky”the mini donkey and his owner Jim was a good time, and a long time coming. Seeing each Great Lake (less Ontario) was epic. Damn, there are just too many.
When I’d interact with someone who did something such as gave me a ride, bought me a beer, engaged me in conversation with them, I told them, they became part of the fabric. Each person, each place, each event, activity, blister, everything that happened was each a piece of thread, each one woven around the next, and now I have the most beautiful blanket you’ve never seen.
Another powerful moment was when I put my boots back on there on the Ocean City boardwalk, and took my first step.
Another was walking to the top of Michigan, where it all hit me:Look how far I walked!
When I posted from Pembine that I was in trouble, my back hurt, I needed rest but couldn’t afford to stay up in a hotel 4-5 days, friends deposited money in my Paypal account, and I was able to stay put in hopes that rest would heal my back. That was an amazingly generous thing the contributors did. (Thank you!) Such a shame rest wasn’t enough.
Way back in Pennsylvania, a lady I’d only talked to a few minutes tracked me down at my campground the following morning, and left a little bag for me, full of hotel size shampoos and soaps, some spa soaps, power bars, etc. I cried for like a half an hour.
A true highlight was when poor Panda got such a nice repair job by Rodee’s repair shop in Michigan. I was so distraught over it, and they did a fantastic job. They work on cars and engines, not aluminum baby strollers! But they tackled the job and got Panda rolling strong and true, and didn’t charge me.
All the times my dear friend in Cody got me hotel rooms. Every one of them.
And so recently, another memorable moment was when the Medical Examiner/Pastor handed me the $100 bill for the hotel. It was what he said I found so intriguing.
Gotta balance it off with Worst Moments: The second morning of the trip, when I woke up soaking wet, my phone was drowned, my new sleeping bag soggy and heavy. I left my cooler there as I got sick of trying to keep it upright. Spent a good part of Day Two drying stuff at a laundromat, and then shopping for a new phone.
When I discovered my camera was missing. Bellevue, Ohio. That sucked royally.
Another bad one: when Rodger’s attempt at fixing Panda failed, and he drove off and left me in Indian River with a seriously handicapped Panda, his frame cracked clean in two. I was distraught, big time. I didn’t have back-up funds for an emergency, like purchasing a new stroller, I barely had enough to pick up a used one at Goodwill. If they’d HAD a Goodwill or Salvation Army. He was broken in half, thirds actually. But you’ll see I just mentioned that that was also one of the BEST moments, when Panda got repaired.
Let’s not forget the cop who tried to arrest me for the pot, found during his illegal unwarranted search of my stuff, on the last day of my walk. He was a charmer.
And of course, in Tomahawk and again in Prentice, Wisconsin, realizing that my trip was coming to an end, for now. Done in by pain.
* * *
It’s very very hard deal with, having to stop such a great adventure. As you can see, I had a lot of fun, met a lot of wonderful people, made new friends, took some scenic side trips, and that list above sure ain’t all of it. I’m so terribly sad, I have cried over this, and need a good cry, but am staying at my son’s and I don’t like crying in front of people. It’s been a fantastic time, for four months I lived out of a stroller (sure makes me wonder what’s in my two 8 x 12 store rooms in Cody…) homeless, and had the best time I’ve ever had. I’m crying now as I write this. The full impact hasn’t hit me. I imagine when I get back to Cody it’ll seem so behind me. But it’s not. Hopefully I’m in the middle of it, hopefully the doctors can figure out what’s making me hurt so badly, fix it, and I can walk again. Right now I’d settle for, “Okay I’ll limp, just take the pain away.”
I’m sorry to all of you. I know a lot of people were following me, rooting for me, encouraging me, and I feel like I’ve let everyone down. There wasn’t anything I could do about it, other than what I did. I’m let down, my body failed me. It’s going to be hard to keep depression from setting in, but I’ll try. Like I said, I’m changed, so maybe I can better focus on the good, on the fun I had, not the fun I didn’t GET to have. I’m hanging around LA but feel a bit anxious to get back to Cody. I need the support f friends and I have a few good ones there.
I have a good friend flying in on the 24th, seeing him will perhaps get my mind off my sadness, and I hope to enjoy visiting with him a couple days before I drive back to Cody. Might swing by and visit my oldest friend (not age, we’ve been friends since seventh grade) in Colorado if I can do it without spending TOO much extra gas. I need to stay busy and distracted, but it’s hard with this nagging pain.
I am just so sad.
Hello. (insert sad face here)
I managed to get an appointment with my old Pain Management group in Thousand Oaks. Finally, someone has decided that I need an MRI. My insurance company will probably deny the approval because they say I am maxed out my benefits for the year. Huh?
So, to alleviate some pain till they know what’s causing it, he prescribed instant release morphine. For some reason, it was hard to find. I tried the Rite Aid in my old town, they didn’t have it, then the new Target store, nope, then the Rite Aid in Glendale, nope.. They told me a sister store in Los Angeles had it. I called several closer drug stores (as Rite Aid could only check stock at Rite Aids) and none of THEM had it, either.
So I ended up, after having spent most of my day driving (this IS Los Angeles) having to go out again and drive to Weho (West Hollywood) to get my prescription filled. Drugs seldom work for me, but it’s better than nothing. Placebo if anything. I’ve been using marijuana for pain, I still have my California license, as it works fast, lessens my depression a bit, and generally makes me feel better and better able to handle my big letdown.
If I get a call from the radiology place, it means the insurance denied it. Otherwise. Saturday I get my back zapped. I’ve had a lot of MRIs, I usually fall asleep during them.
My son rented a movie from Red Box called The Way, starring Martin Sheen. Good movie, but at the end, the travelers come up over a rise and see the ocean. Made me cry. I didn’t get to do that. I did have quite a breakdown when I came up on Lake Huron for the first time, when I walked to the top of Michigan. I was hoping the next time I saw the Pacific I’d be walking through Ocean City, Washington, over a rise I’d see the sea past the rocky shore. <sigh>
Instead I’m in the giant clusterfuck known as LA. Hell-A is what I call it. There’s just too many people. I live in Cody Wyoming (when I’m holding still long enough to call one place home that is). It has a population of about 9000. No suburbs, just Cody. The town I lived in here, Simi Valley, has a population of 125,500. The two nearby towns, Thousand Oaks (pop. 127,000) and Oxnard (pop. 200,000), the three, combined, are the population of Wyoming. That’s just three Southern California towns, not even in Los Angeles County. LA and it’s surrounding megalopolis contain 12,000,000 people give or take, and give or take several thousand “undocumented” residents. Anyway, just rambling. In other words, I don’t dig crowds, lines, traffic jams, etc. There’s a reason I moved from LA.
I drove the twisty road from Westlake to Malibu. Switchback after switchback, corkscrews and blind curves, steep grades, cactus and ocean views. It’s fun to drive in a sports car, or even a jeep with their great turning radius, but I was in the Silverado that my ex loaned to me. Four door, long bed. Can’t take the curves too fast with THAT behemoth.
Regardless, the road spills out onto the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway, or Route 1) a bit north of Malibu. There wasn’t a parking spot to be found along the PCH by Zuma Beach, so I ventured north and stopped at Neptune’s Net, a seafood restaurant and bar and big biker hangout. Had a couple beers while I looked out over the blue Pacific, and talked to someone in “entertainment” who talked like a surfer. Two other surfers sat on the other side of me, They have an odd way of talking, so, like, like, so they’re like, ya know, like hard to follow. You know?
I’m just so terribly terribly saddened by this. (stopping my walk for now) But something I learned on my trip (which I’ll admit, is hard to keep on the forefront here in LA) is patience, taking what comes. Basically the serenity prayer:
“… grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
I’m not in AA or NA, but the lesson’s the same outside the self help groups. It’s been very hard to accept this failure, this damned evil interruption in my fun, my journey. It’s hard to see a dream fizzle and die, unfulfilled. If you’ve read my journal the past few months, you have seen how I was treated practically like a celebrity, which was very humbling, with free places to stay, free meals, free drinks, open homes, invitations, having my picture made. Now I’m just one of 12 million people fighting my way through the traffic of this city. I have a terrible limp now, walking stiff as a board from pain. I really did a number on myself. Or something did. I’m not convinced it’s all from walking.
The doctor who originally did my back surgery back in like 2006 screwed up. It was supposed to be an overnight stay in the hospital, a quick recovery, and the arrogant ass of a surgeon I had actually used the word “guarantee” when he said he guaranteed I’d feel better in the morning. Instead, I woke screaming in pain and continued to scream for days, no help at all from the 5 narcotics I was on. He sent me home, still screaming myself blue from pain, for my poor bewildered and helpless husband to deal with. A couple days later he brought me back and said DO SOMETHING. So they hooked me back up to the morphine pump and and the next day my surgeon FINALLY MRI’ed me and suddenly I was headed for emergency surgery. He repeated the entire procedure, without explaining why. Kept telling me it was just blood clots or something, but I read the report. There’s a lot more to this tale, but this isn’t an organ recital.
It took months for me to get walking again, and this was during the time when I had the neurological issue that made me walk funny anyway. I used a walker, a wheelchair, canes, I took pain killers for so long I got addicted and had to take methadone for a year.
My point in all this, was the surgery involved removing bone to widen the spinal canal as it closed in around the spinal cord, rendering my legs pretty much useless. Or it was heading that way. So that’s all been cleared up and after the harrowing surgical ordeal, I did end up “better”, meaning I could stand up longer than 5 minutes at a time again. I doubt bone could grow back that fast. My back muscles get pulled easily, so I’m careful, and it didn’t bother me much at all in the first few states. It just gradually got worse, despite many days or rest, the shots I got, the medicines I took, hot tubs, massages, ice packs, easy days like 2 miles (so I didn’t get stiff)… nothing works and it continues to worsen. THAT’S what’s confusing. The pain is still worsening, and I’ve been resting, not walking MUCH, but walking SOME, like a few blocks to the store and stuff. But at this point I’m missing my cane and my blue parking tag!
What this doctor, like the one in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, said, was that I probably have a lot of scar tissue and arthritis, and he identified a pinched nerve down my left leg (another great job by my doctor, “yeah that’ll go away”.. it didn’t, I can’t feel the skin on my left leg, not really a problem but I do cut myself shaving a lot!) They both said that that much walking probably irritated and inflamed the scar tissue, aggravated the arthritis, etc. So, why wouldn’t the lack of me “pounding on my back” help it all calm down? (along with the anti-inflammatories and steroids I took)
You can’t blame me for being a bit pessimistic about tests… a brain MRI years ago revealed a brain tumor I didn’t know I had. I get spooked waiting for results of tests, … when your neurologist calls you back ten minutes after you got home from a brain scan and tells you you need to come back now cause they “found something”.. you don’t get over that. So I’m convinced something more ominous is going on since it’s worsening. Like a tumor pressing on my spinal cord. But who knows, I’m not a doctor. ……….. I don’t think my back surgeon was, either. ……………..
It hasn’t all sunk in, that it happened, that I walked even as far as I did.
My son works graveyard, so while he was sleeping the other day, I read my blog from April 1st on. The duration of my trip. Brought back so many memories, even stuff I left out (the book can catch the shake). What a fantastic journey I took. I doubt I’m articulate enough in my writing to really give a reader a feel of what it’s like to do what I did. It’s at once liberating and nerve-wracking. To wake up beside a stream, bathe in it, dress, and just WALK, strolling along, or stepping out on a mission each day, is a really simple existence. Then I pick up my GPS system on my smart phone, and start hunting down where to head to, a stopping place. THAT’S the nerve-wracking part. Say I wake up in A-town and it’s early but not crack of dawn by the time I dressed and ready to roll, whether in a hotel or a camp. I decide, by weather (checking radar and multiple forecasts for where I am) and by terrain, temperature, time and just by ME, how far I think I can manage in a day. Sometimes, when I can do 25 miles, there’s nothing THERE. I have had to break a longer distance into 2 days many times. If there’s no B-town or campground or motel at the 25 mile mark on the map, I look a bit beyond and a bit short of, and if nothing still, I use the satellite view and look for potential camping spots. Not knowing where I was going to sleep was a bit unnerving at times. But so many times, the plans I made changed anyway. I would be headed for a campground, or a place TO camp, or a bar, or a motel or just a town, and I’d meet someone, take a short ride, get invited over, etc., and wherever I picked to sleep didn’t matter anymore because I had the freedom to do that, which is cool. And to take an extra day here and there, like I did in Clyde, Ohio or Pembine or Tomahawk, Wisconsin, while setting me behind my mental schedule, added so much to my trip, and again, I had the freedom to stay or go as I pleased.
Kinda hard to give that up for a nine to five.
I was planning on leaving here the day after my daughter’s birthday (8/20) but a good friend of mine who used to live here when I did, but who now lives in Florida, called me and is flying in the 24th; I haven’t seen him a 2 years, maybe 3. He’s coming to do some maintenance on one of his homes here that he rents out. So that’ll delay me leaving a few more days. And there’s the doctor factor as well. If they can identify the problem in my back and give me treatment options… (depends on insurance) that may delay me as well. The medical facilities in LA are far more expansive that Cody or Billings., Montana, where Cody people go for bigger procedures.
I don’t know what’s ahead. Right now I hurt too bad to try to take on work, but I need to when I get back to Wyoming. I do owe several drawings and I have a book to work on, but I need to get out there and make some money for part 2 of my trip.
I’m just so lost right now. I’m supposed to be sleeping out somewhere, in Wisconsin or Minnesota or North Dakota, with Panda parked beside me… not in a studio apartment in Glendale, California, handicapped again from pain. Not here, not now, not happening!
I started the walk on April 1st because it’s April Fool’s Day, and I knew I was a fool for trying this walk at my age and health. So I knew what I was up against, but I figured my legs would go. Or the heat would get me. Or relentless blisters. I didn’t think my BACK would be the culprit. And damn does it hurt! Honestly, Fran Camosse and others’ blogs I’ve read, well they all did a coast to coast a lot faster. They were also half my age and male. Sinewy, athletic dudes. Not a cut-open-more-times-than-I-can-count overweight 50 year old women with hot flashes. I did well, I would have spells of being tired, but for the most part I tackled a twenty mile day with energy to spare. Blisters usually gave me problems, but the back issue crept up gradually. A little hard to stand up when I bent over, a little slower start, more than normal aches and pains… until it began nagging louder and louder until NOW IT’S A SCREAM!
This is such a let down to me. I’m trying to focus on the good, because my god what a blast it was, but the fact that it ended not due to a mistake, not due to a miscalculation, or some accident, but just cause my body’s fucked up, is hard NOT to focus on. I don’t know WHY my back hurts, but if both doctors are right, it was just too much for my already compromised spine to handle. Somehow, like I said, I think there’s something else involved. It continues to worsen. I’ve got 3 morphine tablets in me, a couple Heinekens and a bowl of weed, you’d think I’d be sleeping or at least comfortable. Instead, I’m doing laundry, writing and am wide awake at 1:50 AM, … and I hurt. Go figure.
I’m sure when I get the book going, chapters and topics and anecdotes and such are coming to me in my head, and I start recalling all the details I left out, so many memories will come back, as they did when I just read the blog entries. I am trying to fill in the blanks by reading it, and like I said, I get immediate visual recollections of the places, homes, landscapes and all, and more details come back to me. When I read it, it amazed even me how many people I met (and only a fraction were mentioned!) and what a variety of places I walked through, by landscape, urbanity, culture, even food choices. Each state is almost like a mini-country, each has their own laws, their own language (well, just variants and accents and local words) and their own food. Ethnicities were different in places. Some predominately Italian, Finnish, Black, etc. So I’m hoping as I get writing, more will come back to me and I’ll glean more reason and lessons and morals and such from my odyssey.
I feel changed. I look the same, except people comment on my legs (is that good, to say I have walkers’ legs? Or does it mean I have big muscular dudes-legs?) and I have a tan, but inside I feel changed. I feel more at peace (when not in LA), I have a depth to me I don’t think I had, or not AS “deep” anyway. I feel like I took college courses in Life. I think I probably got a B. I don’t ALWAYS learn from my mistakes, Some I make time and again. Perhaps at that point they’re not mistakes, they’re just bad habits. But I feel different, like I have something you don’t, but NOT in a bragging way. Like a young lady with the secret smile who’s the only one who knows she’s pregnant, I have a special THING inside me, I don’t know what to call it, and you can’t tell by looking at me, but it’s there. It wasn’t there before. I’m not the same person. I feel wiser, I have a lot of love in me, I have never been more humbled in my life, I have never cried so much, tears of joy that is,… it was almost a daily occurrence. I have never worked so hard, missed someone so much, been so happy, felt so good (until the end there…)trusted so much and BEEN trusted so much, thought so much, acted so goofy, smiled so much or had so much fun in my whole life. I really took it all in, and loved every minute of it. This back pain is really bothering me and it hurts like a bitch, but in all honesty, it was worth it. I just want ‘em to patch me up and get me back on the road.
But back to the book, if it ever comes to fruition, I hope I have or can develop the ability to really express the gazillion different things going on in my head, and to capture moments that I want to share, and get the reader (if there are any) to really feel what I was feeling. My idea for the “theme” of the book changed over miles. The outpouring of graciousness and generosity was amazing. I wrote about it several times, and not all the stories are in there. There were a LOT more free meals and drinks and such. There were so many conversations with so many strangers who just wanted to know what I was all about. Families and kids and men and women all would come over to ask me questions. Often the same basic ten questions I answered like ten times a day. Having lived in LA for like 15 years, and in Cody where rumors abounded about me, I had a bit of an attitude and zero self confidence or self esteem. I’m no prettier than I was, and not much thinner, but I have a lot better self image than I’ve ever had. Nobody judged me, everyone accepted me immediately, I know because of what I was doing, but many people I met still text or call me, I made friends across the states I walked through. It was a nice feeling I’ll admit, to for ONCE in my life, to feel special. I’m not, but everyone likes to feel that way once in a while. Like birthdays, you feel special. Well I felt birthday-special for four months. SEVERAL people told me they’d never met anyone like me. I like that. Not just another Joe Schmo. Er, Jane, rather.
I’m not saying there weren’t days when I was aggravated, questioned myself, “What the hell are you doing??!!”; days when I felt very alone, days when I didn’t feel good, my feet hurt, I was too tired to go to my planned quitting-for-the-day spot, etc. I had money issues the whole trip,and I had blisters the whole trip. I walked 5 miles the wrong way one day. I changed routes, I got lost, rained on, burned, all that not-so-good stuff.
But like Yin and Yang, there’s a balance, Mine appears to be a bit off-balance, but in a good way. Perhaps grief and sadness and frustration have more mass than happy times, so they balance out. Seriously, when you’re in love you “float”, when you’re happy you’re high, but when you’re sad you’re depressed, that means also “pushed down”.. when you have worries you have something “weighing you down”, my theory might be right. Sadness weighs more. So you need to be happy twice as much as sad, to keep the balance. I had by FAR more fun than I had blisters. And I got a lot of blisters.
And it’s hard to explain to people, as they have asked, “What’s so fun about walking twenty miles in this heat?” what exactly IS fun about it. It’s the freedom, the fact that I was walking a dream come true, that I was doing something for myself that I always wanted to do, that I saw a butterfly or a deer or a waterfall that the people whizzing by in their cars missed. It’s the sunshine and exercise and gallons of water. It’s fresh air, it’s people waving, it’s feeling stronger day by day. It’s no alarm clocks, no schedules, no one waiting at home, no home except wherever I land that night, for a few hours. Obligated only to myself. It’s amazing. Or was.
And it’s hard for me to understand what effect I had on other people, Several people told me I inspired them. In what way? I was just an old lady taking a walk. I wasn’t trying to prove anything, to raise money, to win anything. I simply walked from New Jersey west. When I was in Tomahawk, I got an email from a lady I’d met in South Jersey. She had found my card in her wallet and sent me a note, surprised that I was still (at the time) plugging away on my quest. She said, “… though our meeting was short you’ve made an impression on me that will last forever!” Another person said it was like I left a trail of pixie dust wherever I went. I don’t get it, but I do. But I don’t. See, when I met people doing what I was doing, walking, biking, whatever, I was inspired because I wanted to do that myself. So I understand being drawn to people like Fran, the young man that walked through Cody a couple years ago on HIS cross country walk. But most people I’ve met have never had the desire to walk 3000 miles. So how am I inspiring them? How have I moved so many, touched so many, inspired so many, when all I did was quietly walk along back roads? It blows me away, I’m just a nobody taking a walk. Or was. Now I’m just a nobody.
It will take some time, some going over the blog from it’s very beginning as I prepped for the trip, up to now, and taking notes about all the stuff I remember from each part, and soaking it all in; the meaning, what I learned, what I didn’t, what it all meant to me, what it meant to others, what others meant to me, what certain people meant, or mean, to me; and taking that information and try to get it worded so it all makes sense, .. well it’s going to be a task. But since I just walked 1700+ miles, I think I’m up for it.
When I last posted, I was staying at the internet café.
The picnic I mentioned in closing was very cool. Steve and I rode bicycles into Bradley Park and onto a skinny peninsula. We chained them up and continued north on the skinny strip of land, which was tricky to navigate due to all the rocks and gnarled tree roots.
But it was worth it. Where it ends is a nice flat spot on which I spread the picnic blanket. We hung out and talked and ate and watched the boaters. Really a cool spot. I’ll post a satellite view of it on this blog. The tip of it, circled in fuschia, was where we picnicked.
In the evening we watched the Kwahamot ski show. High school kids practice and put on a show three times a week on the Wisconsin River. Kwahamot is Tomahawk backwards. The heat was backing off some, and a nice breeze floated up the Wisconsin River as we had a couple beers and watched the skiers.
Steve and I would occasionally take Steve The Dog for walks. Right behind the library was a great place to toss sticks into the Wisconsin River for the dog.
Steve likes to cook, so on Sunday, he played in the kitchen baking really good bread and some vegetable dishes, while the Olympics aired in the background. On Sunday evening we walked over the The Bridge Inn for some live music. A man played a steel slide guitar and had some digital background music. He sang some old stuff, some Johnny Cash and such, and after a bit a lady got up from a table and fiddled along side him. It was a very pleasant evening.
Monday I dealt with getting my pain pill prescription refilled, getting my pack more organized, and resting. On Tuesday morning Steve fixed me a fantastic breakfast consisting of a cheese omelette, fresh steamed spinach, homemade bread and melons. He walked me to the bridge over the Wisconsin River and I headed west.
I walked rather stiffly and a bit slowly down highway 8. According to my GPS there wasn’t a campground or motel until Prentice, about 25 miles away.
I had had a lot of time to think over my options in Tomahawk. Steve had offered me a bicycle and we talked about converting Panda into a bicycle stroller and such, but I decided, since just sitting on a couch hurts, that I doubt I’d be able to handle a bicycle seat, with motion, for hours. I’m just not into bicycling much, I prefer walking. I could have called it quits, as my pain has gradually been increasing; anyway, we discussed options and I decided I’d just walk on and see what happened.
So, back on the road, I was feeling pretty good, mentally. Walking is an antidepressant to me. Walking that fulfills a dream is not just an antidepressant, it’s a drug, it’s a “high”, it’s a powerful spiritual mood enhancer. I knew my back was an issue, and I knew I wouldn’t see the coast of Washington this year, but I was content with my decision to just plug along and see how I felt, taking it day by day.
A sheriff pulled up behind me, he had gotten a call about a “woman pushing a baby stroller” and was just checking that I was okay. He said he’d notify other law enforcement about me in case they got calls too. Nice guy, he wished me well.
A few miles down the road an unmarked blue Expedition pulled me over, red and blue lights flashing from behind the grill. The license plate bore a sheriff’s star and the numbers 874, so I knew it was some law enforcement or official use vehicle. A man stepped out and asked me how my trek was going.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Where are you staying tonight?”
I told him I wasn’t sure, I doubt I’d make Prentice, so I was probably going to camp roadside. He told me there was a motel and restaurant a couple miles up the road, and he handed me a $100 bill, and told me to go enjoy it.
I said, in utter shock, “You didn’t need to do that!”
He replied, “I know. That’s the point.” and got into his truck. I tried walking away but was doubled over from crying so hard. I’m sure he saw that. I never even got his name.
And sure enough, a small motel with a restaurant/pub attached sat on a corner on the left side of the road. No one answered at the desk, so I walked to the pub and asked. I told them where the $100 came from. They gave me a key, and since I was done for the day, I stayed at the bar and ordered dinner and had a few beers. I met several nice people there, including a nice gentleman named Darroll, to whom I gave my card, and I played dice and such. I was getting tired, and had miles to cover tomorrow, so I left to retire to my room. I opened the door, and the bedding was all piled up on the beds, so I went back, they gave me another key, and same thing, so they finally sent someone to scout out a clean room. Apparently their cleaning lady didn’t show up.
I got a late start in the morning, and, although sore, figured the 20 miles to Prentice, the next town with any facilities (camping, motel) wasn’t a big deal. For a while my legs were cooperating with me, the pain was bearable, and I trucked along in a fairly decent mood. It was a warm day, but a breeze kept me comfortable, and it was intermittently cloudy, so I had occasional reprieve from the sun beating down on me.
I hadn’t had breakfast, so when I came to a BP station, I bought a prepackaged sandwich and some snacks and drinks for my pack. Far cry from the gourmet food Steve prepared for me! I sat on the curb outside the station to eat. A couple from Quebec on motorcycles was there, gassing up and such. Their bikes were laden with sleeping bags and stuff sacks and bags; I assumed they were on a camping road trip. I don’t think they spoke English. They looked Panda over, smiled a lot at me, but never said a word. When they pulled out, they both waved and gave me a smile that said a lot; like they appreciated what I was doing, they were fellow travelers on their own expedition. You know, people say it’s hard to communicate by texting because you can’t express sarcasm or humor or emotions well without being there in person. This was the opposite, they said so much with their faces and smiles and gestures, without using a single word. Pretty cool.
As I walked into the afternoon, the clouds built and the breeze became a light wind. Thunder rumbled almost constantly from various areas of the sky. Big raindrops started splattering Panda’s cover. As luck would have it, right across Eight was a cute log church with a generous overhang in front. I dashed across the two lane highway and saw that it was a church called, appropriately enough, the Log House Church. A man mowing the yard waved me under the overhang, it was apparent I was seeking refuge from the oncoming storm. He stepped under the porch himself, and said, “You didn’t make it very far today.”
I’m not good at remembering faces and names sometimes, especially if they are brief encounters.
“I’m the man that stopped you last night,” he said.
I walked over and gave him a hug. I told him it had made me cry, that it was unexpected. He said that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Turned out he was the pastor of that church, as well as the county medical examiner.
We stood under the overhang awhile, until the storm really picked up, and the rain slanted under the roof, spraying us. He swept his hand in an invitation for Panda to be rolled into the church, as well as me, and we stepped inside the adorable log church. It was quite small, he said they get like 40-50 people at the service. The inside walls were round sided logs with white chinking. Larry, the Pastor, told me the church has been in continuous operation since 1917.
SLAM. The wind blew the front doors shut. He simply said, “Spirits”. I told him not to creep me out.
We talked a few minutes, and soon the storm blew over Sunbeams again drew shadows on the steamy pavement, I thanked him again and headed west.
Several hours of walking had made me very sore. On top of the back pain I’ve been enduring for weeks, my legs started doing strange things; .. things they used to do when I used a cane or crutches. Involuntary bending, spasms, jerky movements… weird neurological and muscular stuff… stuff I don’t like.
So, like I did outside Rhinelander, I called the sheriff’s department to see if I could get a ride to Prentice. I told them I had Panda, well, luggage, and I was feeling poorly and just wanted to get to the Countryside Motel in Prentice. After a couple minutes on hold, the dispatcher said he’d send someone, after making sure I didn’t need an ambulance.
So I stayed put at their recommendation. I sat on a grassy slope alongside Eight, and drank a Gatorade. After a bit a sheriff’s car rolled up and parked. A sans-a-smile cop got out and questioned me all official-like. My needle alarm went off. Notifies me when there’s a potential prick in the area.
Now, remember, *I* called *HIM*. So he looks at my license and asks me about felonies and arrests and stuff. “Hi, I’m a fugitive running from the law, and I just dismembered a body, but I thought I’d call y’all for a ride…” Um,.. yeaaaahhh. He didn’t think Panda would fit, and I was about to move on, but he said let’s try. So I hauled the big bag, then the backpack, and loaded them into the truck of the squad car. With those items removed, the big Bowie knife was revealed. He explained that he’d have to confiscate it, just during the drive, for his own safety; and would return it when we arrived at the hotel. That’s fine, as long as I got it back. Then he said he’d have to check for additional weapons. I told him I had my Leatherman and a small pocket knife in my Camelbak, but that was all. He decided to be a cop and check anyway. Of COURSE I was lying. (Remember, I called him.) So he unzips the big bag and the feels around a bit. The big bag is an army duffle bag, in it I carry my camping supplies, clothes, tools, hammock and stuff I don’t use everyday. The first thing he pulls out was a vibrator. (Hey, I’m alone all the time!) I laughed inside. I TOLD him I didn’t have a weapon. He didn’t look hard, perhaps the discovery of Bob threw him, I dunno. Then he opened the top pack. That’s a backpack that I access all the time, it carries my maps, food, computer, bandanas, first aid, makeup, maps, battery chargers, etc. I was cool with him just doing a general search, I already told him what “weapons” I had.
Then he unzips the cosmetic bag. It’s a small flowered bag about the size of a men’s shaving kit bag. Okay, conceivably I could hide a Derringer in there. THEN he opens a small container about the size of a toothpick container. In that container was a few “roaches”, mostly-smoked-up marijuana cigarette remnants. If it was measured, it would have been about a quarter of a teaspoon of the evil, deadly herb.
“Well, what have we got here?” he announces proudly. He sniffs it, shakes it out into his hand. Marijuana. Might have well been anthrax.
“I’m gonna have to place you under arrest.”
He ordered me into the back of the car and proceeded to make calls to report his big “find”. “Gonna need back-up. We’ve got a seven one five here.” or some such crap.
I questioned him repeatedly. Having been arrested before, I had had a reason to look up search and seizure laws. The policeman had told me he was looking for weapons. I asked what weapon would fit into a container the size of a tube of mascara. He “explained” it was for his own safety. The bags he was searching were in the TRUNK of his car, even if I had a gun, I couldn’t have accessed it.
He tried to convey some story to me about “my kind” of people,.. which turned out to be transients. Technically I am one, but not in the matter in which he referred. I am only “transient” in that I pass from town to town, but I’m not broke, hungry, homeless, or running from the law, etc.
Anyway, he was on and off of the phone while I continued to ask questions and say basically are you fucking KIDDING me? He asked about any criminal record, past arrests, was a fugitive.. think hard Mr. Copper,,. I called YOU. If I was wanted or a fugitive, would I have called you for a ride?? I guess the police academy doesn’t check IQ’s. So after a couple phone calls, or perhaps realizing that his search wouldn’t hold up in court, he said (now playing Mr. Nice Guy) that he’d be “lenient” and not arrest me. He tried, again, to explain his search, but I still pointed out that no weapon would fit in a container that small, I had no problem with him doing a weapons search in my stuff, but not a small container drug search. I looked this stuff up, he needed probable cause to search for drugs, and he had none. Anything he found wouldn’t hold up because he wasn’t looking for it, now was he searching correctly nor with consent.
I would have turned his life into a media nightmare. I was just on the TV news last week, and this area’s not very populated, so a lot of people knew who I was when I entered a place, “I saw you on TV!”. A cop arresting the “lady walking across the country” for such a minimal thing, based on an illegal search,.. I don’t think the police would like the attention for that.
So after he dropped it, and stepped on the couple tiny roaches, another sheriff showed up to assist in hauling Panda’s gear. They can only use their trunks, and his was already full. This one was female, and patted me down.
He suggested that he take me to the county line and drop me off. I RE-explained that I was in pain, and was going to get a hotel room in Prentice, so I could lie down. There’s nothing at the county line but a few trees.
How odd that *I* called the cops and get treated like a criminal.
Anyway, he, they, rather, drove me to the Countryside Motel in Prentice. I’m sure the desk clerk was a bit alarmed when 2 sheriff’s vehicles pulled up and started unloading bags and crap.
The Countryside Motel sits just off 8, across from a truck stop. The truck stop is just a BP station and a restaurant/bar called Boondocks. I never actually saw the town of Prentice, just this intersection. Right behind the motel was a pond that was frequented by Canada Geese.
Because it was in an isolated place, I had a choice of one place to eat: Boondocks. So after I got settled, and smoked the pot the cop DIDN’T find (my nerves were frazzled after almost getting arrested, and I hurt like a son of a bitch) I walked over for a sandwich.
As frequently happens, the topic of my walk came up, and when I went to pay, the manager (I assume) scratched my bill.
I spent time on the computer, on the phone, texting and calling people and places and finally got a way out of Prentice. The man I’d met at the Sportsland Pub, Darroll, came to meet me and volunteered to drive me to Eau Claire, where I could catch a shuttle to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.
So now I am back in Los Angeles. I am staying with my son, I visited with my daughter, I will be seeing my ex-husband and animals and such tomorrow.
I will write another entry soon, of what’s next, what I’ve learned, what’s going on the holy head of Shawnee Moon.
Steve The Dog gets his bath at the car wash. He sat perfectly still while he got soaked down, washed with doggy shampoo, and rinsed. They skipped the wax.
Obviously I changed the colors. Tall pine trees and a golden field, roadside, northwoods of Wisconsin.
Like Michigan, Wisconsin has a lot of lakes. Here’s just one of many I passed.
On Dino’s boat in Lake George. Owner of Fisher’s r
Resort shown, his first name escapes me.
Fisher’s Resort in Pelican, Wisconsin, just outside Rhinelander. Really nice people, the Fisher’s, run the place. It sits perched on the bank of Lake George in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.
I left off my writing at Fisher’s Resort.
Before I carry the story forward, I’ll just tell you that the people in Rhinelander were wonderful to me. When I left the Quality Inn for cheaper digs, I took a chance on a place called the Clear Lake Inn. I knew it was a “Mom and Pop” (actually it was a “Pop and Pop” place) and that, like a lot of small motels, the owners also do the room cleaning, and they often are away from the phone. Since I was trying to rest, and it was backtracking a bit to east of Rhinelander, I called the local cab company for a lift. The taxi dropped me off at the Inn, and no one was there. Guests, but no management. So I sat awhile and after an hour or less, a nice man pulled up. He was one of the owners. No vacancies. But he was kind enough to call Fisher’s and ask, and they had a spot for me, and he was kind enough AGAIN to drive me there.
At Fisher’s I was given a room on the lake, in a small building that I think was 4-6 rooms, all felt like a cabin. Anyway, the TV was fuzzy and there was no air, but it was a cool place. My view from the room was Lake George, a boat dock, several ducks and geese, boaters, etc. Really nice. On the property of the resort was a bar and grill. So after I unloaded, I went the fifty feet or so to a neat lakeside bar, busy with guests, friends, boaters, fishermen. Jake, the son of the owners, was tending bar. Really nice young man. He messed with my cable but couldn’t fix it, and put a nice tower fan in my room. He was a soft spoken, very pleasant and likable fellow. The owners were also very hospitable. A herd of 20-something dudes came in, played pool stinking drunk. One fell down on the cement patio and surely up woke with a black and blue and bloody hangover. His friends took him home. Also met a very handsome man named Brian, we shared a beer or two, and a joint, but because my back was bothering me, we were in my room so I could lie down. I fell asleep without paying my bill.
So in the morning I re-upped the room, paid my tab, and spent a bit of time lying down, and some at the bar for lunch and such. It was a pretty busy place, and I met several nice people. I was invited by a guy named Dino to cruise on his pontoon boat to a couple other lakefront resort bars. Jake and some others took Jake’s boat, they went straight to the bar across the lake, Dino gave me a more leisurely cruise around Lake George, and we met up with Jake, his parents. and several others that had been at Fisher’s. I talked to Jake’s mom Billie, and told her I was pretty low on money and needed to stay on another night, and she said I could stay Monday night free of charge. What lovely people!
Dino and I cruised on to a couple other lakefront bars, had a beer here and there. He shut the engine off in the middle of the lake, and we sat and talked and watched watercraft, jet-skiers, fishermen and women. He reminded me a bit of The Dude, from The Big Lebowski. Nice guy.
In the morning, which was now Monday, I called the pain clinic, but they couldn’t see me till Thursday. They referred me to a sports medicine doc.
Fisher’s bar is closed on Monday, so I walked to a place called Rocky’s Roadhouse about a mile away for lunch. I hung out and talked to a few people and a very sweet barkeep. I called a cab to the doctor from there.
The blog Bad News picks up here.
In the morning after the doctors appointment, I packed my room up and left a thank you note to all of the Fishers for their kindness, and Panda and I headed out. The news anchor had texted with me that he was coming to walk with me. Along Lake George road he showed up, drove ahead of me, and walked back to meet me. I just kept going, and he wired me up with a mike, and walked along, talking to me while filming me. He would occasionally set the camera on the ground and film Panda’s wheels going by, and different angles of me, as he asked about would I continue, what have I seen, who I’ve met, etc. After a mile or so, Matt wished me well and headed back to his car. He beeped at me as he passed me later, headed I assume, back to NBC.
I walked on through and past Rhinelander. Several miles west of town I came upon a place called The Town Pump. Seemed to be the only place along 8, so I stopped for a meal and a cold one. I tried to take more breaks for my back’s sake. They had a big TV on set to NBC, Jeopardy was on. I almost spit my beer out when the teaser for the 5 o’clock news was MY story. I figured I’d watch the news there, so I ordered a sandwich and another Heineken.
I asked the bartender to turn up the volume a bit, and after a few leading stories, my short little tale came on. The guys at the other side of the bar were like, “Hey, that’s YOU!” One attractive tall bald man went outside, came back in and handed me an envelope. It was a gift certificate to a free night at the Tomahawk, Wisconsin Super 8. He’d won it in a raffle and said I could use it more than he could. I called the hotel and checked,; yes, they’d honor it. Now I just had to GET there. It was 15 miles from The Town Pump. I hung around a bit longer that I should have, saw the story again at either 5:30 or 6:00, and then headed out west on 8.
After a couple hours the sky began to dim. I wanted a ride. At the pace I was walking, slower than usual as I was limping some from pain, I wouldn’t get to the hotel till midnight. I called the Oneida County Sheriff’s office and explained my situation. I asked if they had a courtesy ride, that I was a bit injured and walking to Tomahawk, I had a place to stay. I didn’t know Tomahawk was in a different county. All they’d do is take me back to Rhinelander. The dispatcher, a woman, was a bit rude I thought. “If your doctor told you not to walk so far, what are you doing WALKING?!” I said I had to go SOMEWHERE and hung up. I tried to hitch a ride with no luck. Hell, I don’t know if *I’d* pick me up either.. a woman with a stroller walking on the road at dusk.
After a while a young girl in a maroon car pulled over and made a u-turn… she pulled over on the other side and asked if I needed a ride. I said I’d LOVE one, and told her I was headed to the Super 8 in Tomahawk. She said it was on her way anyway, and loaded Panda into her trunk and back seat. She drove me right to the hotel, waited to make sure there wasn’t a problem with the gift certificate, gave me a joint, and took off. Nice girl.
I got settled in my room, walked to the local BP for a coke and a lighter, and it started to rain. Perfect timing. Had I walked ten minutes longer, I’d have been caught in a thunderstorm.
I used the nice hot tub there at the Super 8 before crashing.
In the morning it was still raining. And I was still sore. I think because of my back pain, I was carrying myself differently (this is an assumption) and therefore I pulled a muscle in my right leg. The sky cleared up, and in the early afternoon I thought I’d take a walk into town for a meal. I get a bit stir crazy in one room for too long. The downtown area was only about a mile, so I walked into Tomahawk. The Wisconsin River cuts through town. There was a big city park as well; nice little community of about 3300 people.
I GPS’ed for places to eat, several showed up. One that didn’t, called the Rodeo Saloon, appealed to me. A lovely woman with tattoos and dreadlocks waited on me. I ordered my favorite, grilled Swiss on rye with lettuce and tomatoes.
Somehow the topic of my trip came up, and she was intrigued with my story. When she finally got a break, she leaned over the bar and heard my story. Turned out, after I hung out a while, I had no tab. Since I had “mentally” spent $20, meaning I had assumed I’d spend about that much, but didn’t, I was going to buy their bar shirt, which I liked because it had a cowboy kind of theme. They didn’t charge me for that either.
It was a pleasant evening, and I went outside on the patio, and got talking to some more people. One of the people was a man named Steve. He seemed rather interested in my story, and we talked a while. He invited me to have dinner with him at the nearby supper club. We shared a big platter of grilled vegetables.
Steve wanted me to hang around, and I said, give me something fun to do, and I will. So he invited me to his mom’s cabin on a lake north of Tomahawk, to take their pontoon boat out for a cruise and to play with Steve the Dog. Steve the Dog is Steve the man’s business partner’s beautiful Black Labrador Retriever. So the next day that’s what we did. Amy, Steve’s sister and Steve and I, and the dog, floated along Lake Nokomis. Steve the Dog stood proudly at the bow of the boat, his ears blowing back in the breeze. When we docked, we played fetch with him. He can leap a good ten feet from the dock to retrieve a stick. Incredibly well mannered and well trained dog.
We made a big campfire but soon a soaking rain put it out. The three of us sat on the second-story porch of their parent’s beautiful cabin until dark, and we all crashed there.
After scrambled eggs and English muffins in the morning, we packed up and drove back into Tomahawk to Steve’s internet cafe. The back part of the internet cafe and lap top repair and sales shop is Steve’s living quarters. He even has a hot tub in the basement. I h.ad slept too late and was (am) enjoying the company of Steve and his sister and coworkers, so I hung around all day.
And am again today. It’s a beautiful day in Tomahawk, and we plan to take Steve the dog for a picnic lunch.
I’m in a strange state. I don’t mean Wisconsin, which is quite lovely, but mentally.
I Googled the walking distance from Tomahawk to Ocean City, Washington. It’s 1950 miles give or take. According to my GPS, I’ve gone 1700+ miles. Originally Google said this trip was 3200 miles. What I’ve walked so far, according, again, to Google, was 1345 miles. Like I mentioned, my GPS says 1700-and-something miles. Now, most of that is walked, but when I take a ride, ten miles here, whatever, I shut it off… so I’ve travelled further than that. I didn’t follow the original route Google gave me, but didn’t vary TOO much… so I don’t know what’s accurate and what isn’t.
But because it’s nearly August, and I’m not even half way, and my health is compromised, it’s pretty apparent I won’t be seeing ocean City, Washington this fall, unless I bicycle or use another faster mode of transportation.
Anyway, so as I ponder what to do, based on “doctor’s orders”, my wishes, my back, my time, etc., I remain in Tomahawk with my extremely hospitable hosts.
One friend suggested, just go till you hit winter. I thought about just picking an end point, like the Minnesota border (either one, eastern or western), or an end date, say, September 1st, and just taking my time and doing what I do best, walking, meeting people, eating America up at a slow pace.
Breaking the trip in half does give me an advantage, once I get over the Failure Factor, … if I start again April first with 1800 miles to go, I can go at a more leisurely pace and take my time as I travel through the remaining western states. I would also avoid summer temperatures, as by the time they hit, I’d be at a higher altitude and closer to the Pacific Coast.
Breaking the trip in half, however, also signifies a failure to me, but I have put myself up against the young men half my age on the pace of the trip, and it has never been about just getting to point B.. it’s about meeting people, seeing communities, local food, local language and traditions, learning about this country we call home. That’s one of the reasons I am so far behind time-wise; I don’t just walk through a town, I live IN it a day or two and get a good feel for it.
I am open to suggestions, ideas, comments on this subject; how to go from here, where to go from here. Steve has offered me a bicycle, but I don’t have a trailer, and I’d have to really lighten my load, but a bicycle would cut my travel time in half or third. But it ain’t walking.
This evening I am going on a picnic complete with French bread, wine, Wisconsin cheese, salad, grapes, you name it. Sounds like a relaxing evening. Trying to get some thinking done, some rest for my still very aching back and cramped legs,.. trying to get my head wrapped around reality.
I saw a doctor today. Sports medicine type. Unlike the two ERs I went to, this man examined me, standard neurological and strength stuff. The Good News, he said, was that I had good strength in my legs. (well no kidding, I walked from New Jersey…) The Bad News, he said, was that since I’ve already had two back surgeries and severe arthritis, that I’m doing more damage to an already compromised area of my body. If I keep it up, he said I’ll be walking into another back operation. Or crippling myself.
I’m not ready to give up.
I’m very depressed by this. I want to ignore it, and the doctor’s remarks, and carry on. And tomorrow I’m walking from this place and back onto highway 8, and see what happens. If the pain persists, I’m not sure what to do. I’m one stubborn son of a bitch. But I can tell something’s bad wrong with my back.
I want to keep going. So many people encourage me, I feel as if I am letting everyone down, especially myself. People who believed in me, encouraged me, cheered me on, … If I can’t do it in one shot (and that’s not looking good), perhaps I can do it in two parts. It’s not the same, not to me.
I’d try a bicycle, if I could afford one. It would need a trailer or big panniers. $$$ Or a lawnmower (don’t laugh, it’s a nice slow pace), or … Or I don’t know. The doctor kept saying I would enjoy a nice comfortable car, I could still see the country. Grrrr.
The TV station contacted me several times today. I told them call me in the morning, they want to walk with me while they film me. Might be filming the end of my walk, if I don’t improve soon. They ran part of the story on the news already.
I’m going to close here. I have some stories from Fisher’s Resort and Rhinelander, but I’m depressed and hurt like hell, so this is all for now. Just “joyfully” sharing my bad news. :(
When I left Crandon, I walked a good 20-something miles before being offered a ride for the last maybe 7 into Rhinelander, where my good friend had a Quality Inn room reserved for me. The lady who picked me up was very kind, … she insisted on giving me $20. I checked in and used the hot tub.
The next morning when my alarm went off, I swung my feet over the bed, stepped down, and knew right away I was in trouble. My back hurt way worse. My friend re-upped the room for me.
When I got out of the shower, the phone in my room rang. The man at the desk told me there was a man waiting for me in the hotel lobby. ??? I didn’t know anyone in Rhinelander… then he told me he had a camera. I went downstairs to get my keys recoded for another day, and there sat a nice looking, well groomed man with a TV camera. He was from the local NBC affiliate, and had received a call about me. It had to be from the lady who drove me, as she had my card, my name and knew what hotel I was at. So I talked to him a bit, wired up with a mike, and then he came to my hotel room to see Panda and my gear and stuff. They want to finish the story by filming me walking, but I explained that that may be awhile, and why I was laid up. The man, Matt Doyle, said to watch the news at 5, he might have the story on at 5.
In the early afternoon, I set out for the hospital ER. My GPS directed me to some kids psychiatric clinic, a branch of the hospital. Aggravated, I stopped at a bar and had a beer and a sandwich. I figured I’d wait there and watch the news, then attempt the hospital again. I got talking to a nice young woman and her father. The five o’clock news didn’t run the story, and the nice lady offered to drive me to the hospital.
So again I got looked at, and again, no MRI. Just another drug that doesn’t work. They referred me to the pain clinic and said perhaps I could get an epidural shot or a nerve block or something to help ease this relentless pain.
I couldn’t afford the Quality Inn any more, so I checked out, called a cab to take me to a mom and pop type hotel on the outskirts of town. They didn’t have any rooms. But the hotel owner called Fisher’s resort, a bit further out, and they had a room available.
So here I sit, in an un-air-conditioned room, with a nice view of George Lake. Bored, depressed, restless, running out of money, and nothing I can do but wait for tomorrow morning to see if the pain clinic will take me.
I do fear that I can’t go much further, unless I really get some help. This depresses me to no end. So along with physical pain, I am in great mental anguish as well. It wasn’t supposed to go like this.
I stayed a few days in Pembine. A few people had generously contributed money via Paypal, so I was able to rest my back.
Unfortunately, it didn’t help.
I went up the bar Nite Deposit on Monday afternoon. I wanted a sandwich, but more than that I wanted to get out of the hotel room. I had spent a lot of time horizontal, just watching TV, trying to rest my back as much as I could. But I got stir crazy. I was also feeling quite depressed. I worry that this back trouble will be the end of my trip. I hope not.
Anyway, I talked to the other customers. The bartender told people about me, and/or Person B overhears my conversation about my trip to Person A, so when one person leaves, another starts asking questions. I got talking to a man named Ed. We got alone great, he seemed like a fun guy, He invited me to go to Niagra, the next town up, to another joint, where we had a beer. It was pretty dead in there. But he was mainly showing me the area a bit, I saw his house, his other property where he had a motorhome and some apartments he rents out. Anyway, I had a nice time with him, and he volunteered to drive me to Iron Mountain, Michigan the next day so I could go see a doctor for my back. He told me he’d be busy in the morning, so it’d be 11 or so when he’d be free to drive me. I had told him that since we’d be going to Iron Mountain, when I got back, it’d be too late to start walking, and I’d have to find a place to stay. He offered his motorhome to me to stay in. He had a 2 bedroom house but was going on a date,.. need I say more.
So in the morning I walked up to the restaurant and had breakfast. I took my time. When I was done I called Ed and said I was ready anytime he was. He said he was in the middle of working on his hay baler, and for me to “wait”. I was just a block from the Nite Deposit again, so I said for himk to meet me there, I’d just park Panda and have a beer and wait.
And wait, and wait…
People reassured me that Ed was a good guy, he’d show. I tried to call him, it went to voice mail. Meanwhile, the lady I mentioned in my last written entry that was a barkeep, offered to drive me. Her name is Angel. She lived up to her name. I gave up on Ed, and she had to run to Iron Mountain to shop, so she dropped me off at the emergency room.
(That night I text-bombed him a few nasty messages, I thought that was rude to offer all that and then just disappear)
I went through the annoying registration, and was taken to a room where a nurse then a doctor or trained higher-level nurse talked to me. They don’t do MRIs in emergency care, so, just to see if there was anything obvious, they did an xray. I was given 3 painful shots in my butt, of a steroid, an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxer. I was also given prescriptions for the same type of relief attempt.
Then Angel drove me to Walmart to fill the prescription, and she and her cute 5 year old son waited for it to be filled, and she drove me back to the bar, where Panda spent the day. We loaded him into her car, and she drove me back to the Grand Motel, where I had been staying, and I checked back in. They gave me the same room, they hadn’t even cleaned it yet, no problem. I think it was the only room with a little fridge. Then Angel waited for me to gather my dirty laundry, and took me to her house a block or two away, to wash it. There was no laundromat in town or at the motel, and I had been there four days or so, and had run out of clothes. I don’t carry many.
We hung out and talked and played with her dog and her son. When my clothes were done, she made me a care package of egg salad sandwiches, applesauce, yogurt, breakfast granola bars, a banana, etc. So sweet!! And she returned me to my hotel.
She told me she would call me in the morning. She arranged for me to take Panda to her boyfriend’s shop, as he is able to weld aluminum. Panda had a couple stress fractures up on the front fork by the front tire. This trip is apparently hard on both of us.
In the morning I requested permission to leave the packs in the room and wheel Panda over to the shop, essentially across the street. The motel owners said it was okay, in case I had to check out late and such.
So I walked Panda over, and we took the front wheel off. He put Panda up on a table and fired up he torch. He filled in the holes made during manufacturing, and beefed up the area with a little more metal, sealing the stress cracks. He then examined Panda all over, and found no other problem, other than a loose joint. (Panda HAD been pulling to the right a bit I wasn’t sure why.) He added washers to make a tighter fit, and tightened the bolt. Panda rolls straight again. That is better for his frame, because when he doesn’t roll true, I have to pull on one side, which is a strain on me and the frame.
He didn’t charge me.
I loaded Panda back up at the hotel, and wanted to go to the ATM. So many places are backing away from accepting plastic it seems. Always gotta carry some cash. I texted Angel and she said to come by the bar, right by the bank. She had something for me, she said. So I stopped in for a beer and to thank her and say good-bye. She had done me so many favors, had even given me cash, plus the rides and the care package. She had a grey hooded sweatshirt for me, with the name of the bar sil screened on to it. Pretty cool. Lots of times in the mornings when I camp it’s chilly, it’s nice to have a light jacket. She also had ANOTHER care package for me, with crackers and fruit and yogurt and such. She such a…. well, ANGEL!
We talked as I sipped a Coors Light, and her boyfriend the welder showed up. And we talked and discussed this area, and what’s out highway 8 west of there. He said he was going to a town west, and offered me a ride. The radar showed a line of thunderstorms headed our way. I agreed, hoping to get closer to a reasonable schedule. Holing up in the hotel set me back 100 miles (5 days at 20 miles per day average, feels like how far ahead I’d be if I had stayed afoot daily.)
So we loaded Panda in his 4-runner, and took the drive to Crandon. Because now it was mid-afternoon, and I am STILL hurting pretty bad, and it was raining besides, I got a cheap motel room, and that’s where I am.
My back pain is not any better. If anything it has increased. I plan a good days walk tomorrow… I hope I hold up. I’m getting quite nervous that this will continue to worsen and put an end to my trip, or I’ll get diagnosed with something which required , say, no walking, or surgery or something, which would take quite a lot of healing and resting… and I’m already behind schedule.
I have been taken aback by the kindness and generosity of people, both strangers and friends. The people in Pembine, especially the angel Angel, were all so nice and welcoming. And friends contributed money to me, which was awful to ask for, but people stepped right up and gave me encouragement and best wishes for a resolution to my damned sore back troubles, and money via Paypal so I could get the motel room several night to rest my back. It has been unbelievable.