Saturday, August 30, 2008

walked 20 miles

Not quite the 25 I had aimed for, but I gimped 20 miles today. According to Chuck, I've managed a total of 60 miles since my arrival in Irrigon, an average of about 15 miles per day. I'll be walking to Walla Walla tomorrow-- a trek of around 25 or so miles that I plan to take slow and easy-- and shacking up in a hotel for a couple nights. I won't be able to meet Becky, who's off on a two-and-a-half-week trip with her hubby to New England, but I still plan to hang in Walla Walla for a while, doing transcription, possibly arranging a hospital visit, talking with some folks recommended by Becky (and other folks recommended by Chuck and Lori), etc.

More later.


I hope you can read this

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the Twin Sisters

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Chuck and Lori in their element

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where am i?

I'm about two or so miles past the border, back in Washington. The going was rough for a while until I decided to take a second painkiller. While I'd rather not slip into the behavior patterns of an ibuprofen junkie, I see no other way to avoid hobbling. So: drugs it is.

I doubt I'll make my stated goal of 25 miles today. If all goes well, I'll make 15-18 miles, and will count myself lucky if I manage 20 miles before Chuck comes by to extract me from the LZ.

Right... gotta move on.


Have I just found Dick Cheney's undisclosed location?

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crossing back into Washington

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a few miles on, and back in gorge-like conditions

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that just about says it all

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a full day

Friday was a pretty full day. I left Kyle and Amanda's house around 8AM and walked a few miles before pausing to write the earlier thank-you entry. I ended up walking all the way to the Hat Rock campground, where I stopped to eat lunch and refill my water containers. The walk in to the "store and grill," which follows Hat Rock Road inward from 730, is a bit less than a mile; while walking back out, I ran into Chuck and Lori, who were in their truck and trying to track me down to see whether I had made it all the way to Sand Station. Had I walked that far, it would have been around fifteen miles. Having walked into Hat Rock State Park and partway back out, I'd guess I walked close to fourteen miles.

Chuck and Lori drove me to Sand Station and told me they'd be willing to keep hosting me at their home, dropping me off each morning so I could walk successive segments to Walla Walla, and picking me up wherever I decided to finish for the day. I thought it'd be a good idea to take this opportunity; one never knows when such generosity might recur down the line.

So we went back to Irrigon. Lori told me that a friend of hers, a professional massage therapist named Marti, was offering me a free session across the river in Tri-Cities; we had also received a dinner proposal from Amanda, who thought we all could meet in Tri-Cities along with Kyle and his mother, who was purportedly interested in meeting me.

Lori did my laundry while I showered and de-funkified myself. When my pants and socks were sufficiently dry, Chuck, Lori, and I piled into an SUV belonging to their daughter and headed across the river to Tri-Cities.

The massage therapy session at Tranquil Waters lasted about an hour and was focused entirely on my right leg. Marti employed a gamut of gentle but firm techniques to my knee and ankle while calming music played in the background. I nearly fell asleep at least twice; at one point I caught myself in mid-snore.

Marti told me that she had found at least two problems:

1. A patellar tracking problem. This refers to how the kneecap (the patella) is supposed to move over the femoral and tibial bones of the knee joint. According to her, my kneecap doesn't roll properly along the bone grooves. She recommended a set of leg exercises to help counteract the problem.

2. An ankle flexibilty problem. It seems my right ankle is unusually inflexible, which may be affecting how the foot rolls on both even and uneven surfaces. Marti recommended a battery of stretching exercises, to be performed at least twice daily.

I thanked Marti for her generosity (the session was indeed free), and we drove over to a Mexican restaurant where I had the pleasure of meeting Kyle's parents, as well as two friends of theirs. Kyle and Amanda arrived not long after we had all settled, and Kyle's mother peppered me with questions while we all chowed down. Amanda very thoughtfully gave me a Dry Pak, which is a waterproof container for one's cell phone-- something I've been needing for a while.

Kyle's mother was concerned about my knee, so as we left the restaurant, she did a "laying-on of hands" for it, in which she put her hand atop my knee and prayed for its healing. We don't normally do such things in my church, but I certainly appreciated the gesture.

While Chuck, Lori, and I drove home, we discussed my itinerary to Walla Walla. Earlier in the day, I had resolved to try to walk 25 miles on Saturday; Chuck would (1) drop me off at the beginning of the walk (somewhere by Sand Station), (2) visit me at about the halfway point with fresh water, and (3) visit me again at the very end in order to make me back to Irrigon for the night. Assuming I can walk 25 miles both Saturday and Sunday, I can make Walla Walla on Sunday afternoon.

So that's the plan. Wish me luck... and my sincere thanks to all the people who are helping me in some way or other, as well as to the people I had a chance to meet Friday evening.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Marti at the Tri-Cities Tranquil Waters Massage Therapy Clinic (I got a free session!)

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today's meditation on impermanence

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thanks, guys

A big thank-you to Amanda and Kyle for hosting me last night.

A and K are a young couple who'll be moving into a new house soon; they've got two happy dogs, Jack and Elle (Jack spent a good part of yesterday evening licking the salt off my right forearm*), and many stories to tell.

I think I was an overly talkative guest, though: we went on for about four hours, covering topics ranging from abortion to homosexuality to racism to jobs to teaching abroad (Amanda has taught in both China and Georgia [the country]) to differences between Assembly of God, PCUSA (my denomination), various types of Buddhism, etc.

One side effect of all the religion-speak was that at least one dog fell asleep. I, on the other hand, had a great time listening to the sound of my own voice. What a blowhard. A and K have interesting religious backgrounds; Kyle is a former Assembly of God member; if I'm not mistaken, he and Amanda are now Seventh Day Adventist (or am I still mixing you guys up with Becky in Walla Walla? this might be an idée fixe).

I didn't get to see Kyle's mother, who is apparently interested in meeting me, but we might all be getting together at some point along the way to Walla Walla.

My thanks, once again, to A and K for their hospitality, and also for their patience with the fact that, for a long time, I couldn't give them definite arrival dates. I hope we all keep in touch.

*Man... talk about a sentence that can be taken out of context.


McNary Lock and Dam

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

pleasant surprises

My overnight stay with Lori and Chuck was the result of a command decision by Amanda in Umatilla, something of a freak accident from my all-too-human point of view, but it's yielded some unexpected fruit (Chuck, by the way, says there are no accidents).

First, I think I've made two more friends. Chuck and Lori were cool and relaxed from the beginning, and keenly interested in my project. While we have many differences (e.g., what the heck do I know about biker culture?), we share an interest in religious matters and, dare I say it, a desire to live deeply.

Lori, it turns out, runs a women's ministry, which I think is great. She and I had a far-ranging talk about life, the universe, and everything, and it became clear that she is a passionately giving person; I admire her dedication to the service of those in need.

Chuck, for his part, has offered to be my chase car (well, chase bike) to and from Walla Walla, which will allow me to make better time to the city. He also took my backpack off my hands this morning, allowing me to walk to Umatilla unencumbered, which came as a great relief (you'll recall that Dave Underwood did something similar for me in Centralia, WA).

Well, Chuck's good-heartedness apparently knows no bounds, because he also rumbled up to me on his Harley and gave me one of his old leg braces ("I've had four knee operations," he said)-- one of those reinforced braces with metal joints on either side of it.

The difference to my leg was like night and day. No joke. For the first hour after I put the brace on, I was walking full-speed down the road. The pain eventually began to creep back, but at nothing like the level it had been at earlier in the morning. I made steady progress to Umatilla, first along the comfortably sandy Heritage Trail, then along 730 again when the trail became too overgrown. (That was where Chuck found me hobbling along.)

Later in the afternoon, Chuck and Lori met me at G and J, a burger joint in Umatilla. Chuck had stuck my pack in a cycle trailer and had left the trailer at the home of Kyle and Amanda, my Thursday night hosts. The plan is for me to walk about fifteen miles to a campground just beyond Hat Rock (Sandy Station, if I remember correctly), and I'll call Chuck in the afternoon and ask him to tow my pack from Umatilla to the campground. Lather, rinse, repeat: Chuck says he's willing to help out over the weekend to get me to Walla Walla, and if I need to go back south to I-84 on a weekend, he'll drive my stuff back to I-84 to help speed me on my way.

Amazing. Humbling. I'm very thankful.


for Dad

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despite the name, it ain't Korean

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Irrigon Wildlife Area

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the scenic route: Heritage Trail from Irrigon to Umatilla

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Lori and Chuck, my hosts last night in Irrigon

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arrived, arrove, arriven

I made it to Irrigon much earlier than expected; the 12.2 miles flew by, if limping qualifies as flying. I didn't meet Lori and Chuck right away; they were out, but their good friend Gennie (I know the spelling thanks to a text message from Amanda) was house-sitting, and she let me in. Very nice lady.

Lori and Chuck arrived a couple hours later, rumbling in on their bikes. They're as open and friendly as advertised (thanks, Amanda!); we've already had some interesting conversation.

Chuck brought reality crashing down on me, though: in his opinion, I should simply stick to I-84. "Lewiston sucks," he said in reference to the weather. "And I guarantee that by the time you hit Missoula, there's gonna be snow." (Yes, he's talking about October.) Further harshing my mellow, Chuck also noted that Route 12 past Lewiston goes up and down a lot, is generally a high-altitude route, and is serious bear country.*

So it looks as though I've got some rethinking to do if I decide to head south. Will this mean canceling on Walla Walla entirely? Poor Becky... she's been prepping for my arrival. And what about Dad and the chase car? Will I be postponing dad's trip west until I hit a barren patch in, say, Wyoming? Or will anyone in my vast (cough) readership be able to do a bit of "chase carring" for a few days? I may be getting to a point where the only way forward will be with the help of a chase car.

Chuck's idea for a southward route brings Salt Lake City back into the picture; we at Kevin's Walk have been going back and forth about this city since at least Seattle, I think; my manager Alan's recently emailed list of possible routes included SLC as well.

So there's plenty to ponder, and it all has to be pondered quickly. Meanwhile, it's time to rest. I'm bizarrely proud that I made it through the day on a single ibuprofen tablet; tomorrow's walk to Umatilla promises to be short, so here's hoping I'll need only one tablet again.

Many thanks to Lori and Chuck (both now asleep) for their hospitality, especially on such short notice. See y'all at 6AM.

(A reminder to readers that this blog's time and date stamps are still set for Eastern time; subtract three hours for Oregon time.)

*Note to Dad: Chuck also gave a much smaller mileage figure for the Lewiston-Missoula route-- around 100 miles shorter.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

through the dust

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DUST! --we're about to enter the set of "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome"

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big sky over Route 730

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an immense field of... something (the plants are no more than eight inches tall)

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the trudge

I left late this morning because I had to wait at the pharmacy for my prescription to be filled (90 800mg tablets of ibuprofen-- take one tablet at a time, no more than three times per day; it's actually cheaper than buying even the house brand ibuprofen), and the pharmacy, while not far off, was nonetheless across town from where I was, which made for a few minutes' extra gimping.

Amanda, my CS host in Umatilla, very kindly sent me the address of the folks who will be taking me in today (thanks, Lori and Chuck); at the rate I'm going, which must be barely two miles per hour, I suspect I'll be arriving in the evening. I'm about a mile or so onto Route 730, and a little less than seven miles from my destination. At a healthy clip, I could be there by 4 or 5PM; as things are, I'm guessing significantly later-- say, 7PM.

I did something I haven't done in a while: I used MapQuest to plot my route. This was prompted by my irritation with Google Maps, whose route calculator inevitably displays longer routes than does MapQuest. GM kept telling me that today's walk would be around 16 miles, but that didn't seem at all correct when I looked at my large map. My own guesstimation was about 12 miles, and when I ran the starting and ending points through MQ, that's what I got.

But in plotting the path toward Route 730, MQ routed me through the back roads, not along Route 84. Shrugging, I decided to follow MQ's suggestion, going from Main Street, where my motel was (and where I saw that "I love me" graffito on the bike path), to Wilson Lane, which runs straight a little over three miles until you reach Bombing Range Road (not a random designation: there really is a bombing range here), which leads right to the I-84/30/730 junction..

While Wilson is a quiet, two-lane road, it's also a farming and residential zone, which means dogs. I had a scare today when, while passing one residence, three large dogs followed me along their fence until there was no fence, at which point they all ran toward me. I didn't raise my voice or make any sudden movements; I merely continued to walk along without making eye contact with the animals. There was a moment where I felt that matters might have spiraled out of control had I done anything rash, but luckily, nothing happened. The dogs rushed up to me on the street, barked a bit, then retreated to their property as I passed beyond their territory.

Sometimes the creepiest dog encounters involve silent dogs-- the ones that stare alertly at you, sometimes relaxed, sometimes in a posture of readiness. That also happened today when I passed a different residence: a little dachshund, leashed to a tree, began yapping away at me. Thanks to experience, my eyes swept the property for another dog, and there it was, way back from the main road: a huge German shepherd sitting on the gravel driveway, still as a statue, ears up and directed my way. I thanked my lucky stars that it wasn't moving, but that focused stillness gave me the willies.

I'm sitting on a dirt road by a huge field of... something, just off Route 730 and out of sight of traffic. The wind and sun today make for an exhilarating combination, and 730's shoulders have thus far been wide enough to make me feel I don't need to dodge traffic. I'm resting my knee, but will get up in a few minutes and plod on. I really don't have far to go, but it's going to take a while.

Slow and steady saves the knee.



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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Umatilla finally within my reach (and the way forward)

I'll be leaving Boardman tomorrow morning, armed with painkillers, and marching to the town of Irrigon, a distance of about 12 miles. From there, Umatilla is less than ten miles away, so I'm hoping to stay only a single night in Irrigon.

[Note to Amanda and family: this means I'll be arriving in Umatilla this coming Thursday, probably mid- to late afternoon. Is that OK? If you prefer another weekday, that's fine with me; there are several motel and camping options in the area, including Hermiston, so I can hang back if you need me to.]

After Umatilla, my next stop will be Hat Rock State Park, which will mark my final stop in the great state of Oregon; after Hat Rock, I follow Route 730 north back into Washington, then turn east to Route 12 at Wallula Junction, and follow 12 past Touchet to Walla Walla.

I'm not sure where my next stopping point will be immediately after Hat Rock; I see nothing on any of the maps I have that lies within a 20-mile range of the state park, so I may have to play it by ear. My manager tells me there's an RV park/campground about eight miles west of Touchet on Route 12 (somewhere close to the town of Reese, I imagine; the campground's not shown on my map); I won't be able to reach it immediately, but will definitely be there the second day.

So my itinerary looks this way:

1. Boardman to Irrigon (motel)
2. Irrigon to Umatilla (CouchSurfing)
3. Umatilla to Hat Rock State Park (camping)
4. Hat Rock to unknown point in Washington (Route 730; possibly illegal camping)
5. Unknown point to campground at or near Reese, WA (camping)
6. Campground to Touchet (likely a motel)
7. Touchet to Walla Walla (CouchSurfing)

After Walla Walla, it's a matter of following Route 12 to Lewiston, Idaho and beyond. Route 12 will, in fact, be my companion for the next 400 miles; it's about 125 miles along 12 from Walla Walla to Lewiston, and around 275 miles (give or take) from Lewiston to Missoula, where I hope to hit the University of Montana in full academic swing (I imagine the semester's already under way). My father will be my guardian angel during the Lewiston-Missoula leg of the trek; he'll be helping me get through the narrow part of the Rockies.

I hope that answers questions for those who've been wanting to know what my path ahead is going to be. Beyond Missoula, I'm not sure yet how things will go, but the path through the Rockies is essentially a 275-mile sprint, just to get me through that distance. With Dad in the chase car, I'll have supplies and a place to stash most of my gear so I can travel light and make better progress than I have thus far.

So by the time I hit Missoula, I'll have logged approximately 280 + 164 + 400 = 844 miles. Let's just round that down to "over 800 miles," pending more precise calculations. And that, in turn, would seem to put me almost a fourth of the way across the country, though I won't really know if that's true until I know exactly how far I'll have walked.


Monday, August 25, 2008

recovering and about to go shopping

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able to walk (more or less)

I took six aspirin last night and feel a lot better this morning. Not only had I gone to bed with stiff muscles and a screaming knee, but I also had a slight fever and a runny nose-- very possibly my first cold of the Walk. Whatever it was, it was mostly gone by this morning, though I don't think I got more than four hours' sleep.

I'm doing laundry right now; clothes are drying. Once they're done cooking, I need to hobble off to the local Wal-Mart (I thought I saw a sign for one) and buy my ibuprofen and water purifying tablets (if the store's outdoor sports section carries them).

One thing this pain has taught me is never to take a simple thing like walking for granted. While I repeatedly learn-- and forget-- this lesson whenever I stub my toe or bark a shin, I'm now in pain so frequently and for such long durations that I'm pretty sure the wisdom will be burned indelibly into my psyche.

I don't want to give you the impression that I'm in agony, however. I'm not. While the pain did get bad enough last night to make me, at one point, afraid to get out of bed, I'm not down for the count. I imagine that I'll be ready to hit the road again by tomorrow morning.

What worries me, though, is this "one day's walking, two days' resting" business. I'm hoping that, when I start my trek through Idaho and beyond, my knee will have a chance to heal while it's unencumbered. My father's going to be the chase car operator, helping me through the Rockies, which means I won't be carrying much with me during that segment of the walk-- just some water, fall/winter clothing, bear spray, a knife, and little else. During that time, I'm counting on going faster and with little if any pain.

A few of us are discussing the route from Lewiston. After hearing several possibilities from my father and from Alan (many thanks to Alan's brother as well), I'm leaning toward Route 12 again. This will mean a mostly isolated 270-mile stretch that will get me out of the Rockies more quickly than other routes might. Because I'll simply be walking the route and not zigzagging among different towns, I might be able to do the entire stretch in two to three weeks (this assumes some 15- and 20-mile days along with 10-mile days). By the end of that stretch, I'll have logged at least 850 miles since beginning in Canada.

That reminds me: an article about George Martin's walk says he averaged 22 miles per day... but the walk took him around nine months to complete and was almost exactly 3000 miles. If so, that's about 333 miles per month, or a little over ten miles per day. While I'm averaging less than that right now, I don't feel so bad about taking it slowly.


not 12 miles

The walk from the Exit 151 campground (two days' camping for FREE!) to the town of Boardman (Exit 164) was a bit more than thirteen miles. Most of the walk actually went quite well for me: since my week-long stay in Arlington, I'm back to using two trekking poles, and like a Venetian gondoliere, I use the poles to push myself along at a faster pace than I can muster without them.

So I was able to maintain a decent clip for most of the distance, but I did have to rest three times-- twice for about forty minutes, and the final time (at the Mile 161 rest stop) for about an hour.

I lost $1.50 in one of the rest stop vending machines; not having eaten a bite in nearly three days, I had punched "F8" in the hopes of getting a danish. The coil in which the danish was trapped obediently rotated to let my prize out... the danish tipped forward... and then it stopped in mid-lean like a fearful diver. I stared, exasperated but unsurprised, at my quarry. The vending machine was shielded by an enormous blue cage to prevent exactly the sort of violence I was thinking of unleashing; because of the cage and because I was in a public space, I simply walked away.

Strangely enough, when I checked the machine almost an hour later, no one had come by to claim the danish. Had they put in their own $1.50, they might have gotten two pastries for their trouble.

The sight of Exit 164, Boardman, came as a relief. It had been a long, hot day of rushing cars, honking trucks, and little brown grasshoppers leap-flying everywhere. My knee was holding up, but I could feel that it wasn't going to last much longer, and I knew that after two days in the bush I wanted a motel.

The town has at least three motels; two are on the side of the exit closer to the river, and the third is on the opposite side (to the right, from my eastbound perspective). I called the front desk of one of the riverward motels; they were full up. Not seeing many vehicles at the nearer hotel, the one on the right, I limped over to it and booked a room for two nights. At 50-some dollars, it's not a bad deal.

All my clothes are in desperate need of laundering, but I'll take care of that in the morning. Tonight, it's all about resting the knee, which after two hours became so painful that I could barely put any weight on it. Funny how it was obedient all day, but let go as soon as I stopped walking.

So, tomorrow: laundry, painkillers, get a new grill lighter, see whether the town has a sporting goods shop, and perhaps grab a decent meal. I limped over to the nearest Shell station earlier in the evening and got two microwaveable burritos, but I think I'll scarf down some real food tomorrow.

A word about water treatment: despite precautions, I think some surviving microorganisms got happy in the Sunday heat: toward the end of the walk to Boardman, my stomach was starting to feel funny from swallowing the filtered river water in my Camelbak. Perhaps I should have invested in a UV Steri-Pen (earlier, I noted why I decided against it), but a cheaper solution may be, as one commenter suggested, to go with chlorine or iodine tablets. I remember using iodine tabs in Switzerland; they make the water taste horrible, but probably do kill all the critters.

Now I need to take a fistful of aspirin and get to bed. It's after 2AM, and I have to wake up before housekeeping barges in.


resting the scary, hairy knee

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mile 161 rest stop: one of the most bizarrely structured picnic tables I've ever seen

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tiens bon, Frère Genou

Encore 3,3 miles à marcher...