On a semi-regular basis Andrew will check his server logs to find out what search terms bring people to this blog. Weirdly, one of the more common search terms is “better Nate than lever”, a title that I used in 2006 for the final post that I wrote about our Great Britain trip. For those who don’t recall it, it’s the punchline of an old joke that my Dad used to tell about a village that couldn’t figure out how to use a lever to move things so they used the village strongman, Nate. Now we have a second post to increase our chances of getting people here on that search term. Better Nate than lever.
Saturday evening I ended up at Medical to get advice on how best to patch up a couple of inconvenient places on my feet that were developing into hot spots. I spent some useful time with a very knowledgeable RN who pasted up my feet with Second Skin and Molefoam then wandered off for dinner and dancing.
Warm, flushed, and happy from the dancing I brushed my teeth and headed for bed.
Keeping in mind the night before, I had decided that I wouldn’t be cold again so I went to bed wearing Polarfleece socks on my glued up feet, thermal tights, a Spandex tank top, and a long sleeved t-shirt. Wrapped up in my flannel sheet and stuffed in my sleeping bag with a towel over my head I figured I’d at least be comfortable if, maybe, not as warm as I usually like when I sleep.
When I first realized that I was too warm I took off my socks. This is a challenge in and of itself in a sleeping bag, made considerably more complicated when one is trying not to brush against damp tent walls, squirm enough to disturb a roommate in a small tent, to say nothing of kinking oneself into permanent leg cramps or pulling the Molefoam off of the bottoms of rather sore feet.
The second time I woke I realized that I had managed to squirm enough in my previous efforts to wad the tank top up under my left arm. I’d been sleeping on my left side and when I woke I realized that I was not only too warm, but I’d a horrendous pinched spot on my side where the wadded up Spandex had squished the flesh along my ribs into a series of folds. Further squirming ensued.
It was not the most restful of nights.
Over several years of experimentation they’ve managed to get the camp for these things down to a science. While I really did enjoy the sense of accomplishment that came from having the camp move with us along the route of the 2002 and 2005 3 Days, I can appreciate that their current strategy of having camp in one place and having the route for the second day be a loop, has got to be a lot, a LOT easier logistically. It also means that we only have to pack and unpack once and (an added benefit) that we only have to take down the tents once. Means you get maybe an extra half hour of sleep on Day 2, which can make a BIG difference.
But on the morning of Day 3 the route opens at 0630 and if you want to be walking when the route opens you have to be up, dressed, packed, fed, and have your tent broken down, folded up and delivered to the gear truck with your gear by then.
Mid-September mornings at 0500 are very dark. And if it’s been clear they’re also very cold and soggy.
I was up, dressed, had eaten, and was back at the tent packing when Anne came back from her breakfast. Anne had somewhat less stuff strewn around or she’s a faster packer than I am because we both managed to finish packing at about the same time. We broke down the tent, trying to avoid getting drenched as we rolled it up into a soggy pink wad and shoved it into its duffel bag.
I was freezing by that time, my fingers gone to ice, and I knew that I’d have a bit of a wait before I could get moving enough to warm up. The way the route worked out this year they had to ship us via school bus from camp in Redmond across Lake Washington via 520, to end at the Washington Park Arboretum. Half an hour or so by bus which, granted, would be heated, but since there were a limited number of busses and close to 3500 of us I knew that it’d be a bit of a wait before I’d get to the bus. The water at the tea making station was fresh out of the cauldron in which it had boiled so it was HOT. Hot enough that I had to hold my water bottle in its insulated holster to keep from singeing my fingers. Standing in line for the bus I was really popular… Or at least my water bottle was.
I don’t know how long I waited for the bus, you’re seeing the line that was in front of me. As my bus pulled out I discovered that I was actually pretty close to the head of the line, the line stretched for a LONG way through the camp. And it turned out that I was also in the first wave of busses since our driver had only the vaguest notion of how to get where we were supposed to be going. Fortunately she had semi-coherent instructions and although we took at least one wrong turn (which was made more inconvenient by the fact that she was trying to thread a full sized school bus down the crowded, narrow, and twisty streets around the Arboretum without driving on the sidewalks) we did eventually get there.
The Japanese garden at the Arboretum has a large and a long parking lot. Three busses at once could fit end to end and the chaos of people getting off, milling around the porta-potties, stretching, and jogging in place to keep warm and fend off leg cramps while waiting for teammates in the potties, was quite something to be seen. I heard a fair number of startled shrieks, only partially suppressed, from the potties as well. We’d been waiting for the busses, freezing in our shorts and t-shirts. We’d gotten on the busses where the combined body heat of 60 or so people mixed with the heat from the bus to thaw us to a relatively reasonable temperature. Then we poured off the busses into a shaded parking lot in the early morning chill and those poor souls who had to stop at the potties were greeted by a remarkably rude shock. Apparently the seats were a wee bit chilly.
Fortunately I didn’t need to stop and so was able to start off at, granted, a brisker pace than I was really interested in, but my bottle had cooled to merely tepid so I had to move to keep from freezing solid again.
Through the Arboretum, absolutely stunning on a cold, quiet, bright morning, and through the neighborhood around the arboretum. Cold, yes. Bright, without a doubt. Quiet? Well sorta.
I really feel for those people who live out there. Sure they have an absolutely gorgeous setting for their (mostly) stunningly maintained early 1900’s era houses, but they live right along the freeway, right next to the UW football stadium (which means absolutely obscene traffic in-season), and everybody and their dog, or Texas Cowbelle as the case may be, is stomping through your neighborhood at all hours of the day and night during the weekends and holidays. Which isn’t to say that we weren’t trying to be quiet. We and the Cowbelles were very aware of the fact that we were in a suburban neighborhood at 0715 on a Sunday morning, but that number of people, mouths shut or no, will make a bit of a ruckus. There were a fair number of people out in their yards waving and I saw more than a few houses with rows of kids’ heads in the living room window.
A quick mile and a half got us across to the north side of 520, into the parking lot of the Museum of History and Industry and the first pit stop. They only had water and Gatorade at the drinks tent, I was hoping for something hot, but didn’t really expect it. Since they had PB & J at the snack tent I did stop though. Stretching and eating peanut butter is somewhat of a challenge, but I didn’t dare stop and stand still. My muscles were still on the border of being too cold to want to work properly and I had to stay in motion to keep myself from dying of the cramp.
North along Montlake Boulevard and across the Montlake cut.
For those who aren’t Seattle natives, you’re looking east along the Montlake cut towards Lake Washington. It was a beautiful sight, one that I’ve seen probably thousands of times before, but one that I’d never seen while on foot.
That’s another part of what makes this so enjoyable for me. I can see parts of my city with which I’ve been familiar for years, in an entirely different way. Details that have been overlooked get noticed and I gain new appreciation for the underlying beauty of this area.
We turned west and started across the University of Washington campus. And if you’re in the mood for quiet, the middle of a large university campus on an early Sunday morning is your spot. Heading vaguely north by northwest along the campus we saw exactly no one. Well, no one except the geese.
We started seeing humans again when we got far enough north to enter The Greek Zone (do do do do…… do do do do………) Apparently we had the bad luck to be walking through the university, and more specifically, through Greek Row, on the first day of rush week. Music was blaring from every house competing most horribly with each other. Hung over frat rats all in matching t-shirts were in the street, jamming the sidewalks, and in many cases without some, shall we say, small physical encouragement, refusing to GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY. Literally. We were thousands strong marching along the sidewalks at a fairly decent pace and in a lot of spots we actually had to shove our way through the crowd because the oblivious gits didn’t happen to realize that other people were -gasp- trying to walk in a public space. One of the more pleasant things about being out of veterinary school is that I *never* have to put up with the self important little prats who seek out “the Greek life”.
We did have a lot of fun though freaking the mundanes, as it were. On average we were tricked out in a considerably more bizarre fashion than they were, there were more of us than there were of them, and all of the male safety crew were wearing button down shirts that were open to the navel and pink lacy bras. It was quite a site to see the reaction of a group of sorority chicks to this guy who was not only wearing his pink lacy bra, but was playing catch with us as we crossed his intersection with something that looked not unlike a gigantic blue lychee. Oh, and just for the record, yes, those pink things that are strung on his necklace are latex boobies. *Squeaky* latex boobies. The sorority babes were mightily taken aback when we walked past grabbing at the necklace and squeaking the boobs.
Straight through Greek Row and northeast-ish along Roosevelt. Walking along a side street there was an odd woman tricked out as a gypsy, honestly considering her physiognomy and coloring she could really have been of gypsy descent, dancing in a dreamy sort of fashion in the middle of the sidewalk. As we passed she told us that she was 63 years old and a 20 year breast cancer survivor. Very matter of fact about the whole situation, very straightforward, but never missing a beat in her dance. Seattle is a very odd city.
A wee bit further north we started to walk around Greenlake. Greenlake is a nice walk at any time, but it was stunning that morning. Add to the fact that the whole of the time we were there, probably about 2/3 of the path around the lake, we were in the midst of a cheering station. Literally miles of people feeding us, squirting us, and generally spoiling us rotten. I rather think we were a bit of annoyance to those people who were trying to get their daily exercise, but we really didn’t have much in the way of cyclists or other people on wheels trying to pass us. There were more than a few people going in the other direction, but for the most part the right hand lane (if you’re heading northwest around the lake) was empty of people besides us. I found these folks standing out by one of the tennis courts. I love the fact that even the baby has pink hair. How her mother managed to get just her hair and not the entire child pink is a mystery that will likely never be solved.
Greenlake was lovely, but too it was an irritating place to walk. See, if you don’t know where the public loos are, there’s no place for the 3 Day organizers to put huge banks of porta potties. If you’ve been drinking, pardon me… hydrating, sufficiently, you’re faced with the prospect of continuing to walk along doggedly hoping against all hope to find a sweep van on the road outside the park or evaluating every patch of brush for sufficient available cover.
We finally left the lake trail and headed west to intersect with Aurora just a bit north of Woodland Park Zoo. For those not familiar with Seattle, Aurora is a six lane north/south arterial with delusions of being a freeway, that runs from as far south as our house, through the city, and as far north as Everett. Aurora is busy, noisy and gritty and that, along with my bladder, was spurring me to a turn of speed that I really shouldn’t have maintained for as long as I did. But we were also walking south along the sidewalk on the northbound side and there was absolutely no way for me to catch one of the vans to get to the potties quicker. For a while I walked along with a group of women in a similar quandry. We saw one of the route marking signs that told us how far to the next pit stop. When we discovered that it was just over a mile to the next pit stop there was considerable wailing and tooth gnashing until someone piped up with: “When I see one of these signs I just imagine the spot along my training route that’s only a mile from my house and then imagine myself walking there! It makes it go a lot faster!”
A cheering thought, certainly, and distracting forbye, but for the record it still took me about 20 minutes to walk that damned mile and I was about to burst by the time I got to the pit stop.
It was there that I discovered that it wasn’t only the male safety crew wearing pink bras that day, it appeared that all of the male crew were wearing pink bras.
I love that the guys that attend and volunteer for these things have, for the most part, absolutely no sense of self consciousness.
We’d stopped at one of the play fields that’s attached to Woodland Park (the park, not the zoo) and from there we took a right and started heading south. A few scraggly neighborhoods, then we started into the Freemont neighborhood. Freemont is a very desirable neighborhood. A close knit community with most of the amenities you’d need within close walking distance, there’s even an erotic bakery, what more could you want? Lovely houses and great little funky shops. I couldn’t live there, regardless of whether or not I’m a suburban mouse rather than a city mouse, if for no other reason than the houses, lovely as they are, are so close to one another that you’re in your neighbor’s lap all the time. It’s an entertaining place to walk though. Also since we were coming up on late morning/noonish all of the funky little restaurants were firing up for the day and the smells were tremendous.
South along Greenlake way then a left at 45th, east on 45th for a mile or so then we took another right and headed straight south through the suburban Freemont area towards Lake Union. Interesting homes to look at, gorgeous front gardens, a lot of people cheering and cars blasting back and forth waving and hooting at us. And the people who’d attached signs to poles…..
Finally far enough south to end up at lunch at Gasworks park. I really should get out to Gasworks more often than I do. For while I’m at a point in my life where the primary draw of the park is no longer the fact that one can play on the old cleaned up gas works themselves (although that is still a strong consideration), it’s an absolutely lovely piece of ground on Lake Union that gives you a most stunning view of Seattle and on a sunny day it’s a great place to just sit. Especially if you’ve been on your feet for most of 50 miles.
I found a nice chunk of shade with a convenient wall to sit against and proceeded to engulf my lunch. For all that the breakfasts and dinners that we’re served in camp is actually pretty darned good, the lunches are really lackluster. Every day it’s a variation on sandwich, potato/pasta salad or coleslaw, chips, and cookies. Occasionally there’s fruit. The sandwiches are all pretty uniformly dry, the “salads” are pretty uniformly squashy and tasteless, the chips and cookies are all prepackaged, and the fruit is often overly processed and highly sweetened prepackaged fruit salad, or overly processed (I HATE that nasty waxy crap they put on apples) underwhelming apples. It’s odd, too, since they do manage to get pretty decent fruit for the snack stations at the pit stops.
Of course, mediocre or no, when you get to lunch time you’re ready to eat something more substantial than PB & J and pretzels.
I sat for a while in the shade then I lay back to finish my cookies and gatorade (YUM!) with my head in the sunshine and my legs stretched up against the wall. 10 minutes or so of getting cookie crumbs up my nose and I was ready to approach re-pasting my feet and getting back on the route.
West along Lake Union towards Ballard. A stop at the intersection where, in 2005, the crossing guard had stopped in the middle of the crosswalk and hollered at us “Welcome to Freemont, home of NAKED PEOPLE!” while flashing us her chest. (Again, for the non-natives, the Freemont Solstice Parade every summer is often host to a horde of naked cyclists and other pagans, nude except for body paint). Waiting For The Interurban was tricked out in 3 Day gear this year as it had been then, but we got high school cheerleaders and not flashing crossing guards.
And again, a chunk of Seattle that had never been fit into its place in the puzzle in my mind that represents this city, but a welcome one, we walked across the Freemont bridge.
And then along the west side of Lake Union.
This is where the route started to get a little annoying. Seattle natives will know that the north west end of Lake Union is right next to Seattle Center. Seattle Center is the home of Memorial Stadium, where the walk was due to terminate. As we were walking along Lake Union, we were headed in a gradual southeasterly direction…. which is to say, exactly the OPPOSITE direction that one is supposed to walk if one is heading for Memorial Stadium.
I was starting to be a little annoyed about this, so far as I could tell we were headed straight downtown and I’d bloody well had enough of looping around through the city. I did consider sort of sneaking off the route and heading in the direction I knew we were “supposed” to be going. There was no way I could have gotten lost, so long as I was still able to see the Space Needle I would get to Seattle Center eventually, but herd mentality and the fact that I was having a nice discussion with a number of British and South African women about my t-shirt (last year’s “However Many Boobs You’ve Got” shirt) kept me going with the crowd.
I should have broken ranks and headed for the Center on my own…..
We walked the full length of Lake Union then further south through downtown, then west, then south, then west, then south (sensing a pattern?) until we were dead in the center of the downtown shopping and tourist district. It was hot, it was noisy (even on a Sunday there’s a fair amount of traffic through that section of the city) and we were having to duck and weave our way along the sidewalks trying to keep out of the way of what seemed like millions of tourists. I’m not sure what, outside of being a lovely weekend day in an interesting city, was pulling people downtown that day but it was damned annoying. We had spent 2 1/2 days keeping to the right of public walkways so we could walk without bumping into the people going in the opposite direction, and suddenly we were in the middle of a crowd of people who were window shopping, stopping and chatting, rubbernecking, and paying no attention at all to our perception of what constituted polite sidewalk behavior. Our feet all uniformly hurt, we were at a stage where failing to move at a consistent speed could cause terminal leg cramps, we were tired, smelly, clumsy in trying to avoid people, and we had to stop at every damned intersection because for some reason all the stoplights were conspiring against us to turn red just as we got to the crosswalks (or at least they were all turning red when I approached).
One of the bright spots on this trek, however, was the guy outside one of the downtown pubs with a pressure washer. While we waited for the light to turn in our favor he was pressure washing the sidewalk outside the pub. Once the light turned green and we crossed to his side though, he was blowing a lovely rain of cool water into the air for us. We appreciated that a lot. The two women in skirts and heels with cell phones glued to their ears that were at the tag end of the group of us that crossed the street, did not.
We fought our way southwest to First Avenue and walked past the Pike Place Market where we managed to cause considerable consternation in a group of Japanese tourists who were standing at the intersection of first and Pike. Continuing south we confused some very well dressed people outside the Seattle Art Museum and then we headed west to the waterfront.
The final pit stop was a zoo, with people rushing to pee, get their bottles refilled, and get back walking so we could be done with it. While the walk itself is a helluva rush and the closing ceremonies very moving, the stretch between the last two pit stops and the end of the walk is just plain annoying. At that point you’ve pretty much had it with everything and every one, you’re sick to death of gatorade, nothing that anyone offers as a snack has any appeal, you’re tired of being honked at, you want a flush toilet, a quiet place to sit for a while so you can cool down, and then a long hot shower. This feeling goes away of course. By the time you hit the finish line you’re back to an insane euphoria (else no one would do it more than once, I’m sure), but the last few miles….. sheesh.
Add to this that we were still having to weave our way in and out of everyone and their dog, and to my still smoldering resentment of being shunted southeast from Lake Union when we should have been going northwest… well I was grumpy. We were headed in the right direction at least. From the last pit stop we took a right and started heading straight north again. We got to confuse the bejeesus out of what seemed to be a whole cruise ship worth of German speaking tourists, and we managed to be remarkably, um, outgoing, yeah that’s the word, while walking past the photographer that was taking wedding photos outside the Edgewater (I know that some of us ended up in those wedding photos).
The breeze was nice and the crowd considerably thinner by the time we ended up at the Sculpture Garden, we walked up through the garden (lovely, LOVELY irregular surface of the gravel path that winds through the garden) and then there was….
I know I’ve posted this photo before, but there is just something about it…. Okay, there’s something about Bubba…. This tattooed, Harley riding, butch muscle man willing to publicly bedeck himself in pink and boob associated lunacy for three days… Bubba makes me laugh. And on the tail end of the trek, uphill through the last gasp of Belltown, I needed a laugh.
It helped, too, that Polly was the crossing guard at the last crosswalk of the day. We were crossing Mercer at the terminus of First Avenue near Seattle Center and here’s Polly with her dinosaur cheering us on. I think the people who assign the safety crew stations probably did that on purpose.
North along the very tag end of Belltown to the outskirts of the Queen Anne neighborhood that intermingles with Seattle Center. Past Key Arena, on to the Center grounds proper, and then it was all over again.
The descent into the basement holding area, the crowd of pink and white erupting into applause and cheers, the weirdly frenetic activity as the organizers try to herd 3000 people into some semblance of order for the victory march. It’s relief. It’s grief. It’s triumph. It’s an honor to do it and I know I’ll do it again.