I sleep cold. At least once every winter Andrew gives me a hard time about being buried in blankets. I also tend to sleep with my head mostly covered and only my nose sticking out. I like to be well covered when I sleep. Also, because of a sketchy neck and shoulder combination I sleep with a lot of pillows. As few as four, sometimes as many as six.
I have two sleeping bags. The first is an ancient relic of my childhood, a sleeping bag that I’ve had since I was old enough to graduate from the miniature “baby bags” to a full adult sized sleeping bag. The second is one of a pair that Andrew and I purchased about 10 years ago just before we flew to Maui to hike Haleakala and stay the night in the crater. This newer bag is, of course, thicker, warmer, and lighter. When packing I debated about which sleeping bag to bring, concerned that if I brought the newer bag I’d be too warm and I’d not have enough space to uncover and cool down enough to sleep well. As a compromise I brought the newer sleeping bag and packed a flannel sheet, figuring that if I got too warm I could always crawl out of my sleeping bag and cover up with the flannel.
We are limited in our luggage to one bag, not to exceed 35 pounds, that must contain or at least encompass all our clothing, personal items, and sleeping gear. I couldn’t pack two full sized pillows, let alone four, so I compromised and packed one real pillow, one travel pillow, and figured that I’d have Andrew bring me a third when he came to see me Friday night.
Let me take you back to Friday evening.
Andrew had just left, taking my laundry and leaving my third pillow, and I went for my shower. It was coming on dark — call it 8:15 or so — and I was in thermal tights, Polarfleece socks, a t-shirt, and sandals. Still grubby, but the only task left for the day was a shower and bed.
I worked my way through the shower line, got my shower which wasn’t as hot as I like them but still a decent temperature, brushed my teeth and headed for bed.
Because I dislike having things on my feet when I sleep I took off the socks before I collapsed into my sleeping bag for the night. This was A MISTAKE.
I have rarely been so cold when sleeping – or trying to as the case may be. Clear night on the end of a row of tents up against a wetland. Heavy dew on the outside of the tent and heavy condensation from Anne’s and my breathing on the inside. The walls of the tent were wet and I was trying like mad not to contact them. So here I am with my damp hair in a towel, a convenient t-shirt covering most of my head, wrapped in a flannel sheet in thermal tights and a t-shirt, stuffed as far down in my sleeping bag as I could manage and I was still *freezing*.
Since I was also exhausted I did, in fact, fall asleep, but it was a tenuous sleep where you’re not really sure that you’ve been asleep until you wake up and realize that you’ve just woken up.
To avoid dehydration and muscle cramps we are instructed to continue to “hydrate” throughout the evening, also that we should expect to have to get up to pee at least once during the night. Having woken up dehydrated with a splitting headache and nausea on the second morning of one of my events, I tend to take these instructions to heart and drink PLENTY with my dinner. At about 1 a.m. I could ignore the urgent commands from my bladder no longer and got up. Dark of course, and with a heavy ground fog that made the moonlight soft and pervasive. The whole camp was glowing as I popped out of my tent and headed for the potties. I was not, by any means, the only stumbling, half asleep walker on my feet. No one was making a sound so all that I heard was the shuffle of feet and the zipping of tents. As I got back to my tent I realized that one upright figure in my tent row was fully dressed and wearing actual shoes, laces tied, instead of sandals. This did not make sense. No walker, woken in the middle of the night by a full bladder, would take the time to dress fully. I thought he was a loon. Then I saw a light flash on his orange “safety” shirt and realized, I’d never known this before, that part of camp services includes having people to patrol the tents at night. I checked later and found that the night wardens are there for security, to help people lost on the way back to their tents from the potties, and to rouse the night shift medical people if they’re needed. Once again I am impressed with the organization that goes into these events. Who would have thought that having someone conscious and coherent to wander the camp all night would be necessary, but I have no doubt that the night wardens are. Attention to details I wouldn’t even have considered.
Woke up at 4:15 when some nitwit’s alarm started to go off. She was either deaf or dead because her alarm kept going off for what must have been 10 minutes before it shut itself off. Or, come to think of it, her tentmate murdered her and shoved the still ringing alarm under her dead body before going back to sleep. It was an option that I considered, but I’d have had to get up again and the inside of my sleeping bag was at least nominally warmer than the outside.
Buried myself back in my sleeping bag until my alarm went of at 5:30. The sun doesn’t rise in mid-September until 6:30 or so. It’s still well dark at 5:30. Managed to get most of my dressing done in my sleeping bag, having forgotten the camp trick of sleeping with one’s underwear in the sleeping bag to avoid the morning nipple freeze. Trying to avoid having my skin in contact with any of my clothes I managed to work my way out of the tent without getting soaked, to get my shoes on without stepping in the wet grass in my socks, and head for breakfast.
They actually feed us very well in camp. For all that what they feed us is mass produced steam tray fare, it’s well cooked and well seasoned. It’s cafeteria food, but it’s good cafeteria food and you don’t have to worry about not getting enough. Saturday morning breakfast is scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal, fruit, cold cereal and yogurt, and all sorts of juice, milk, and hot drinks. Despite the spaghetti beast having been fed only a few hours before I was STARVED and ate far more breakfast than any normal person should be eating at 6 in the morning. I also managed to fill my stainless steel water bottle with hot water from the tea making station so I could get some feeling back in my fingers before I left camp. Brush the teeth, brush out and re-braid the hair and we’re off!
I had seen the Texas Cowbelles the day before. I’d seen the route peppered with their dumb cow jokes by the dozens but I’d not gotten the chance to actually meet them. The Texas Cowbelles were hanging out in a parking lot in downtown Redmond a short distance after we’d left camp.
I’m not sure whether the Texas Cowbelles were official cheerers that were endorsed and/or funded by The 3 Day or if they were just a pair of cow crazed ladies from Texas who were interested in keeping Seattle 3 Day walkers amused. A pair of older women, mid-50’s to early 60’s I imagine, both dressed, as you can see, as cows driving about in a tricked out PT cruiser waving cowbells, playing music, honking, cheering, and handing out “heifer hugs”. The heifer hugs were dandy, a good way to suck a little more warmth into my body and the fact that the Cowbelles were stationary gave me a good chance to photograph their car which was a work of art. Vaguely obscene from some angles, but a work of art nonetheless.
The back of the car sported a long tail that was want to stream behind them as they drove along. I came to think that it was probably easier to be a walker than it was to be one of the cheer squad. Not having to put that much effort into one’s costume and persona for the weekend is considerably easier I think.
We walked through downtown (as much as there is) Redmond. Walked past McDonalds where a manager was out with a table offering to sell us cups of coffee and hash browns for $1 apiece. I didn’t see anyone take her up on the offer, but a few blocks down the way EVERYONE was taking the Jamba Juice people up on their offers for free smoothies and the Starbucks guy across the street up on his offer for free coffee and croissants. McD’s was the subject of much scorn that morning.
We finally ended up getting back on the Samammish River Trail at the same point where we’d gotten on the afternoon before. Heading north towards Woodinville we were still early enough in the morning that the ground fog hadn’t dissipated yet and the surrounding cow pastures were beautiful in the early morning light.
Walking hard we were all warm enough, but it was welcome when the sun got high enough to burn off the fog in the river valley.
The second pit stop of the morning was along the river trail complete with a team of cheerleaders from the local junior high school. How do you manage to convince teenagers to haul their carcasses out of bed to be at a pit stop on a cold river trail at 7:00 on a Saturday morning to cheer for people who are working towards something that probably has no meaning to you at the time? Granted these kids were probably warmer than we were, standing in one spot and bouncing up and down, but it was still BLOODY early in the morning. When I was that age it was difficult to get me out of bed at that hour with a spatula, let alone expect me to be perky about it. Kids these days………
North towards Woodinville, a sharp left then east northeast through Kirkland. Warm enough now, up hills that weren’t extreme but were awfully LONG and through the sort of scrubby far east end of Kirkland. Lotta strip malls, car dealerships, BO-ring.
Except the people. People in the parking lots, people driving up and down the route, people standing on the sidewalks handing out popsicles at 8:30 in the morning, people with their kids waving flags and giving us high fives and hands full of bubble gum as we walked past.
North again past Evergreen Hospital then up along a pedestrian overpass over 405. LOTS of honking as we went over 405.
I started to recognize some of the territory as we headed west through suburban Kirkland. Susan and I walked some of the same route when we did the 2005 3 Day. One bit in particular that stuck in my head was walking past a vacant lot that had a developer’s sign out front. The chunk of land was going to be developed into 18 new single family town homes. All sorts of fancy doodads mentioned on the sign, but what made me sit up, as it were, and take notice was the dimensions of the homes they were advertising. “Starting at 7000 square feet….” the sign read. Seven. Thousand. STARTING at seven thousand square feet. Eighteen homes on this one parcel of land, all better than seven thousand square feet. I discussed this at length with a woman who had been walking behind me. Our discussion lasted half a mile or more and we came to the conclusion that to fit eighteen homes of that size on that parcel of land they’d have to have basements for their sub-basements and they’d all need to be six or more floors above ground. Foolish.
I was wearing my new Team Eccentrica shirt and as we wound down through Kirkland towards Lake Washington I spent a lot of time talking about shirts with members of the Tough Titties, a large, mostly male mixed team the backs of whose shirts read “Busting our balls for boobs……AGAIN”. For some reason my blue footed booby shirt struck a chord with the guys because later in the day I was passed by a group of Breastie Boys who were absolutely convulsed by it.
We stopped for lunch at Juanita Beach Park. I scored a nice shady patch up against a fence in which to eat my lunch, argued briefly with a seagull about whether or not he could have the tortilla from my teriyaki chicken wrap (which was repulsive by the way) and then moved out to a patch of sunshine to take a nap and dry out my feet (it was lovely shade, but it was a bit damp).
Walking through Kirkland along Lake Washington is lovely. There’s a whole section of wetland walkway that takes you through some of the tail end of Juanita beach. Shade on one side, sun on the other. Lake on one side, wetland on the other. If you are, as I am most passionately, interested in wetlands more than beautiful, but mostly empty lake views, you walk along the boardwalk in the shade looking at the shoreline plants and animals. The boardwalk is softer and more irregular to walk on (soft and irregular is somewhat more comfortable than harder and smoother when you’ve walked 30 plus miles)…. I really think I had the best of the two options, but I did get some odd looks from my fellow walkers.
And for the second time I ran across the “Proud of the Whole Bloomin’ Bunch!” guy. Along with the “Be a Film Star, Have a Mammogram” guy, this is one of the regulars that shows up at least once along the route every day of the Seattle 3 Day. His wife is a team walker and while standing there with his banner (that reads, of course, “Proud of the Whole Bloomin’ Bunch!)he not only hands out candy, he puts out a garbage bin about 50 feet down the road from him so we can empty our pockets of all the junk we’ve been carrying since the last pit stop. It’s very thoughtful of him because you do end up with pockets and waist packs full of random wrappers, baby wipes, kleenex, and other debris that you would prefer not to carry, but you can’t, of course, just dump on the ground. Unless you’re walking right through the downtown core of a city or inside a municipal park, there just aren’t a lot of trash cans around. You learn to appreciate the little trash cans that King County Metro attaches to their bus stops. Or considerate guys with banners and trash bins.
We walked through downtown Kirkland proper, walking along the lake front which was lovely. Some uku expensive real estate down there, sheesh! Waterfront Kirkland has a huge number of up scale boutiques and bistros. A lot of whom were advertising open restrooms for people with walker credentials. One day spa was offering free 5 minute foot massage. I didn’t see anyone take them up on it, though I know we all thought about it. One of the weirdest offerers of a freebie that was out along the sidewalk was a guy that was handing out samples of this super powered antioxidant juice. He was standing right at an intersection with his little table, business cards, books for sale (selling books? To people who have another 10 miles to walk? Weirdo.), and what looked like bottles of red wine. Because he was standing at the intersection and we had to wait for the light to change, he was getting a lot of business with his freebies. He was doling out little paper cups of what looked like grape juice concentrate, all the while explaining to us how wonderful and healthy this stuff was. It certainly may have been healthy and full of antioxidants, but it tasted like nothing on earth and was so sweet at the first taste that when the tangy hit your tongue a second later it was like having someone apply a pipe clamp to your face. There was a Metro bus stop about half a block down the sidewalk in which I saw an awful lot of mostly full cups of purple juice.
Down through suburban Kirkland, absolutely STUNNING lake front homes probably priced, even in this market, at better than 2 million. Walking along a side street there were lots of families out with their kids, spray bottles, candy, signs, balloons, and clapping. Stopping to get a semi-melted Tootsie roll from a kid who can’t have been more than about three, I was nearly bowled over by his probably 5 year old sister who obviously didn’t want to be letting her little brother get all the glory. She put a hand up to stop me, imperiously shoved her pile of candy at me, said “I think that you should have THIS one!” and handed me a chunk of bubble gum. Never let it be said that I don’t obey the promptings of fate. Come to think of it, that was the spot where about a third of the kids were wearing powder pink t-shirts that read “My Daddy is a Breastie Boy!”.
Zigzag through Kirkland. There’s a LOT more Kirkland than I’ve ever known about. Stopping at an elementary school for the final pit stop before the second cheering station for the day. An excruciating 15 minutes on the bench of a picnic table (you wouldn’t believe how many muscle cramps you can get by trying to fold yourself up and look at the soles of your feet when you’ve walked that far) to figure out whether or not I was getting a blister on the ball of my foot (I wasn’t…..quite). Stretching in any number of exotic ways and then someone handed me the tube of Ben Gay. I’d forgotten about Ben Gay! I slathered my legs from knee to ankle in Ben Gay which was a miraculous relief after a second or two then stumbled off past….. Well, you’ll just have to see it.
Understand that the theme for this pit stop was “The Double D Ranch”. The doors of all the potties were decorated with paper cut out stars and moons to make them look like old time outhouses, the crew were wearing cowboy outfits and handing out cowboy stickers. At most pit stops the crew makes an effort to have some sort of thematic backdrop against which people can take photos. This, um, horse? was part of a typical straw bale, lariat, and horse blanket sort of backdrop. The type of thing you see at those campy places that let you take photos in period dress from the old west. Except for the horse. That was one of the more well dressed pieces of stage prop that I’ve ever seen.
I went for my snack and realized that I’d forgotten about Ben Gay.
See, there’s no place to actually wash your hands except at camp. When you come out of the potties there’s bottles of waterless hand sanitizer and buckets full of Sani-wipes.
So when you have something smeared on your hands you tend to wipe it off as best you can with the Sani-wipes, or you rub it in or let it dry off.
Carrots and Ben Gay is a bad combination.
Through the elementary school, around a corner. Up a hill. A left turn and up another hill. Then around a curve and up another hill. And another hill. And smarmy gits standing out in their driveways clapping and encouraging us with “You’re almost to the top!”.
Then we went up another hill.
At the top of the third hill after that, a group of us were standing to blow, catch our breath, and bitch about the sadistic sons of bitches that were the route planners when someone looked up along the route and saw that to get across 405 again we had to use a pedestrian overpass. To get to the pedestrian overpass we had to walk up a tight spiral sidewalk that had to rise better than 20 feet in the air.
We were not amused.
Crossing from west to east across 405 we were considerably less enthusiastic about waving at the people blasting past and honking underneath us.
But we really were at the top at that point. We walked through the Bridle Trails neighborhood and on to the afternoon cheering station.
I am consistently astonished at the sheer bloody number of people that are coming out to cheer. Sure a lot of them are there to see specific people, but not all of them are and I suspect that not even a majority of them are. Too, the outpouring of emotion is very moving. I’ve said it before that I don’t consider doing the walk to be anything particularly spectacular. Having literally hundreds of people standing and applauding, patting my shoulder, high fiving, and thanking me for, well, just for WALKING always brings tears to my eyes.
Andrew, my folks, and my sister were there cheering for me. I couldn’t stop for as long as I liked, because if I stopped moving for too long my legs threatened to cramp. I visited with them for a while, Andrew got photos of me in the booby shirt, and I walked off again.
Down through Bridle Trails and into, as it turns out, Redmond again. I started thinking that I recognized the neighborhood where we were walking and was seriously confused then absolutely floored when the last pit stop of the day turned out to be the same last pit stop of the day from Friday. The route planners may have been sadistic sons of bitches, but they were efficient, I’ll give them that.
At that point, though, I had developed pretty decent blisters on the balls of my feet and remembering the last mile or so of the route along the river trail from the day before (also knowing that a good deal of the approach to the river trail was downhill which is flat murder on blisters), I gave it up. There’s a bus that hangs at the pit stops and at the lunch stop that will take you either to lunch (if you catch the bus before the lunch stop) or straight to camp (if you catch the bus after lunch). My feet hurt and I most emphatically did NOT want to walk that last mile or so of the river trail with a full bladder and blistered feet. I caught the bus which was soft to sit in, had reclining seats, was air conditioned, and moved a hell of a lot faster than I could have at that point.
They drove us back into camp, scanned our credentials, and day 2 was done.
Mom and Dad again went above and beyond by offering to pick me up from camp to drive back to their place for a shower and dinner. At that point a shower to myself that I wouldn’t have to wait upwards of an hour for was a concept that I looked upon with unseemly lust. Mom and Dad came down, picked me up, and I had a simply glorious shower. Hot, decent water pressure, no wait, big towels…. Lovely.
And dinner. Serious amounts of dinner. I was fading fast after dinner and needed to get back to camp before it got too dark for me to find my tent.
Mom and Dad drove me back to camp, I swiftly, or as swiftly as I could under the circumstances, headed for my tent to put on more clothes. Adding tights, a t-shirt, and fuzzy socks on top of my shorts and tank top warmed me up again to the point where I realized that I was hungry. Again or still didn’t seem to make much difference, so I went to the dining tent and had a second dinner. Fully meaning to sit in a quiet corner and start writing I got caught up in the activity and you all have read the narrative I’ve written about that.
Suffice it to say that the dancing was energetic, although there were more than a few people who were only able to rhythmically shift their weight from foot to foot, and it kept all of us quite warm and happy. It is a very surreal thing to be boogie-ing with a group of women in jammies all reeking of Ben Gay.
But a mighty joyful one at that.
Day 3 and the closing ceremonies to follow.