Day 2 Part 1

Filed under: @ 2:52 pm

Despite ice, ibuprofen, and falling asleep at 2000 on Friday night, I was really stiff Saturday morning. My knee didn’t hurt so much, it was more that I could feel that the joint wasn’t normal. Full weight bearing extension, like going down stairs, hurt, but normal walking was comfortable although I could feel the weakness in the joint.
Got up, showered, ate some breakfast and strapped myself into the bionic knee.
Andrew was almost crosseyed at 0530 but conscious enough at least to drive me back to camp so I could get there in time to get to the medical tent and have someone check the brace before the route opened at 0630. I was concerned too about what sort of skin irritation I was going to be subject to having this thing rubbing on my thigh and my calf for 20 miles so I was very enthusiastic about standing in line at medical.
Morning sick call, as it were, is composed of people who need medical help for blisters, people who were red carded the previous day, and people who have woken up feeling more like they’ve been hit by a bus than the rest of us. They shot me and the red carders to the head of the line and when I told the people that were doing triage that all I needed was someone to check the brace and give me something to keep from chafing under it, even the red carders let me go first. It’s nice to have something that doesn’t take much time to fix.
Out comes the roll of tape padding foam and the sadist in the sports medicine tent strapped me into the brace much tighter than I would have done so myself and I was good to go.


Up stairs isn’t a convenient thing when one has a knee that doesn’t extend properly but I was still right near the front when they opened the route.
At least for about the first five minutes.
We left camp on a long shallow downhill and I discovered that, brace or not, downhill is NOT comfortable. The brace was slipping a little bit, my knee hurt like fury and I pulled off the sidewalk to remove the brace. Took a few steps without the brace and discovered that as uncomfortable as I had been with it, walking without it was MUCH WORSE.
Right. Many bad words and much futzing with about eighteen velcro straps then I just limped.

Saturday morning was clear and beautiful with dew on the grass, but a little cool. We were all a little chilly and I was glad for my long sleeved overshirt. We turned a corner and started on the flat section of Des Moines Memorial Drive. Ah! MUCH better. My gait was in no way normal, but I was at least learning how to compensate to make the brace, The Knee, and my right knee (which hasn’t been 100% normal since I broke my right little toe in Hwarang Do class 10 years ago) all work together.
I had an odd realization too at that point, that I had suddenly gone from the category of “people who are sore and walking anyway” to “wounded walker”. The brace was a big focal point about my appearance for the rest of the weekend and I got comments ranging from “How are you doing? Are you doing alright?” to “Well bless you for walking under the circumstances!” It was also frustrating to want to walk at a much faster pace than I could. A nice rolling gimp is about 2-1/2 to 3 MPH and my natural pace is about 3-1/2 MPH. Frustrated by the limitations I mentioned same to someone who came up behind me and asked how I was doing. When she said “Well, hey, it’s gotta be easier than chemo!” (which was sort of obnoxious under the circumstances since she had asked me how I was doing and I had answered her quite honestly) I decided then that I’d just shut up. My stock answer after that whenever anyone asked me how I was doing was “Oh, I’ll do!”

About half an hour out I was warmed up enough to not need my overshirt anymore. I’d been waiting for WEEKS to unveil my team shirt and it was quite satisfactory. Walking up Des Moines Memorial Drive I pulled off the overshirt and first thing I heard was the woman behind me snort and say “NO WAY! Rats got TWELVE?!”. I had more fun with my Team Eccentrica shirt! I got into some great conversations. People asking if the numbers were really accurate (no, I just made them all up), people asking what a tenrec is (for some reason that was the one that got the most confusion), people asking where I’d gotten the list……. That shirt was so much fun. I was disappointed that no one really asked about sperm whales, platypusses, or saber toothed tigers, but a girl can’t have everything.

Des Moines Memorial Drive isn’t exactly what you’d call the heart of suburbia, so passing drivers felt free to honk and the ambulance crew were playing their music REALLY LOUD over their PA system Why they thought easy listening was appropriate walking music to play for us I’ll never know, but at least they were cheerful about it. We walked up Des Mem Drive then down Des Mem Drive past a coffee stand on the corner of two relatively busy, very commercial streets. I doubt that coffee stand has seen that much business in the past six months as they saw that Saturday morning.
Up and down and around along the flat. Turned left at a corner lot behind whose fence were a pair of largish dogs both barking their lungs out. If I’d have been their neighbors I’d have strangled the dogs long ago.
The first pit stop was at a church on the top of a small rise just southwest of the airport. If you’re interested in airplanes, it was a great place to stop because we were watching approach and take off from just far enough away that the noise wasn’t overwhelming.
Porta-Potties are not the most convenient places when one is somewhat limited in mobility. If you’ve never had the (dubious) pleasure, imagine an airport lavatory with a steep step and you’ve pretty much got the right space limitations. Except there’s no sink, you’ve absolutely no chance to wash your hands (there’s a container of gelled alcohol hand sanitizer on the wall) and you know you have to hustle because there’s about 50 people waiting in line behind you. Now add a leg that doesn’t bend in the right way. Getting up and down and in and out was difficult and it took me about four pit stops on Saturday to realize that it was easier to take the step UP with my right leg and the step DOWN with my left.

mmmmMMMMM peanut butter graham crackers!

Down a long hill then a quick left and out to 188th. 188th runs along, and under, the south end of the airport. There’s a tunnel, in fact, that goes right under one of the runways. When I saw the direction we were walking first thing that morning I was rather hoping that they weren’t going to run us through the tunnel, but there wasn’t any practical way to avoid it. And as if it wasn’t noisy enough to begin with, two lanes of traffic going in our direction in a small concrete tube, the passing drivers decided that honking was a good idea. While I appreciate, even encourage, people to honk when they’re driving past, doing so in a tunnel is a VERY BAD IDEA. Most of us marched along in single file, heads down and hands over our ears. It was quite noisy.
We intersected with Pac Highway (some two miles south of where we’d crossed the previous day), took a right much to the annoyance of people waiting at the intersection and started heading straight south. Pac Highway isn’t so much an entertaining place to walk, but I gotta say we sure attracted attention.
Up and up and up, uphill is WAY better than downhill, and in what seemed like a remarkably short period of time we were 5 miles out at the second pit stop. I had discovered about half a mile earlier that the way I was moving with my right leg to compensate for my left was causing a remarkable cramp in my right calf. I gimped past the JV cheerleaders who were out practicing their routines on us and lined up at the medical tent again.
The next available sadist was named Jennifer and when I showed her my brace and explained the situation she told me that I was wearing it too loose and too low which was why it was slipping. She shifted the brace somewhat northward, cranked it down and then approached my right calf.

Consider carefully the term “sadist”.

She dug her fingers into the cramp so hard that I was sure my eyeballs were going to fall out. When she noticed my eyeballs falling out, Jennifer grinned and said “You’ll hate me now, but you’ll thank me later!” which was true. She did manage to release the cramp and then showed me some very specific stretches for that area. To the point where I was moving pretty darned well when I left the pit stop.

Up Pac Highway, down Pac Highway. I limped along with a woman for a while who told me that she was walking with a team but that she’d “left the gimps back at the pit stop” because she had a cramp in her thigh that threatened to strangle her if she stopped moving. The rest of her team had blisters that needed doctoring, but if she stopped moving she wasn’t sure she was going to ever get going again.
At a major intersection along Pac Highway we met the Duck Man for the first time. Duck Man is another one of the safety crew crossing guards. Older rocker looking guy. Shoulder length gray hair, big gray mustache and he and his bike are all decked out in rubber duckies and devil duckies (check out www.mcphee.com if you’d like a devil ducky). Duck Man also has a plastic yellow duck bill that hangs from an elastic strap around his neck. When he needs to provide vocal direction or when he is having a conversation with anyone, the duck bill comes up and he quacks. I don’t think any of us ever heard his actual voice, he just quacked all weekend.
Six miles along, seven miles along and we were taking another damn long downhill when my knee went GINK!

I managed to flag down the 18 Hour Lift and Support van again, I was their first customer of that run and so waving off the bag of Tootsie Rolls that was being offered I managed to get a seat right up front. They asked if I minded if they didn’t deliver me directly to the next pit stop since they were just starting their run.
“Why on earth would it matter to me? You guys are driving!” and I sat back and relaxed.
Aside from the underlying terror of riding with the lunatic behind the wheel, it was a lot of fun. The navigator is a superb cheerleader and she is a lot of fun to watch. It wasn’t very long before we drove past the same quartet that I had been swept with Friday afternoon and when the navigator said to the driver “Well Chuck has got to show us some leg before we’ll pick him up!”, oddly enough at that point one of the guys stepped one leg off the sidewalk where he was walking and hiked his shorts up in what was obviously meant to be a sexy come hither pose.
And we pulled a big gigantic u-turn in a 12 person passenger van across six lanes of major arterial on a busy Saturday morning and went to pick them up.
A couple more pick ups and we had a full van. Jim, one of the husbands far in the back, had a major caffeine jones going so with a little sweet talking on his part we pulled into a Kwikie Mart along the way to the next pit stop. A screeching halt just outside the door and the navigator, gigantic sunglasses, straw hat with accompanying bra and all, hops out to go grab some sodas. She walked in and got a really odd look from the poor kid (all of about 20 maybe) behind the counter. Inside the van Jim suddenly starts agitating from the back.
“Hey! Up front! Open the door! Open the door!”
On the assumption that he was signaling some sort of distress and was maybe in need of exiting the vehicle at some speed, the woman sitting next to the passenger door quickly pulled it open at which point he got up, stuck his head out the door and yelled:
At which point the poor guy behind the counter turned from the pink and sunglasses in front of him and noticed that the gigantic van outside his door was covered in lacy bras.
The look on his face was beautiful.
He waved in an utterly confused sort of way, the navigator came out with the sodas and we roared off for the pit stop.

A little ibuprofen, a little gatorade, some string cheese, and a potty stop and I was good to go. Especially since we were going uphill.
An involved conversation with two women behind me who were sure that beavers shouldn’t be on my shirt because they were convinced that beavers didn’t nurse their young. Another conversation with another woman about why I hadn’t included parrots on the list.

The first cheering station of the day was at Highline Community College and it was HUGE. A quarter to a half mile at least of people clapping and cheering, of bubbles, and candy, and high fives. One group of people with mist bottles, a second group (as it turns out) representing the Woodland Park Zoo handing out deeley boppers with pink flamingos on the end (Woodland Park is opening a flamingo exhibit next May). The cheering stations are so intense. It’s such a weird thing to have perfect strangers thanking you sincerely for doing something that just doesn’t seem that extraordinary. People thanking me when all I’m doing is, well, just walking.
It was a good thing I was wearing wrap around sunglasses, because these folks got me crying.

And it didn’t help that the dang cheering station was on the top slope of a long and steep downhill. I managed about half the way down when my knee gave up the ghost again. The 18 Hour Lift and Support van passed me going the other direction and I signaled them, but there were too many people and too much traffic for them to safely get over to my side of the road. The driver shouted that she’d signal another van for me and I kept walking (ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch) which turned out to be the wrong thing to do because when the Princess van finally came to get me they were sure that they had to pick up two people just past the cheering station and then they couldn’t find us (the other pick up had kept walking too).
The Princess van pulled over and with one Princess, complete in pink tutu, out in the middle of the road holding up traffic for me I managed to hobble across the road and swing up into the van.
What a horrendous pink monstrosity! I believe my exact words were:
“Wow! Tack-o-rama!”
Sparkly stars and crowns, rhinestone sunglasses, magic wands with shiny mylar ribbons streaming off of them, enormous pink puffy crown shaped pillows with ‘PRINCESS’ embroidered across them….. It was wonderful.
I was forcibly handed a pair of Hershey’s kisses, some stickers, one of the pillows and a permanent marker. I was instructed in no uncertain terms that I had to sign the pillow. I signed the pillow and we drove off looking for other pickups. Since we were driving right through we were talking about the cheering station and how wonderful all these people were coming out to support us like this. The driver and her spotter had walked in 2006 and the driver said that a friend of hers had engineered a special pair of sunglasses for her after talking with her at the second cheering station on their first day. She pulled out the sunglasses, a small pair of closely fitting pink plastic sunglasses. Each lens had a small section of sponge glued to it. The driver said that they were extremely helpful at the cheering stations because you didn’t have to take any time searching through your waist pack for Kleenex.

A few more pickups and we were off for lunch. When I got the e-mail that said we’d be “lunching right on the shores of Puget Sound” I was sure that we’d be having lunch at Saltwater State Park and I was right. And getting down into the park I was extremely glad that I was in the van and not trying to walk DOWN into Saltwater State Park. It’s a gorgeous place to eat lunch but the driveway is very steep. The sky was clear, the sun was warm, there were sunny bits with picnic tables, there were shady bits with soft grass, there was a nice breeze off the sound, and sitting on the fender of one of the semi-trucks that was used to help move the food from place to place was a ghoul in a straw hat. Andrew knows what sort of ghoul it was, it’s apparently a prop from some or another horror movie, but it really threw me for a loop to be walking past with lunch on my mind and have this…um….thing suddenly pop up in front of me.
The theme for lunch that day seemed to be Hawaii with a twist. People in grass skirts, cardboard cutout palm trees taped up all over the place, a lot of coconut bras, especially on the men, and over all of it wafts the slack key music.
I was pooped. Despite the van assists, I was outright pooped. The tummy weasels were a little unhappy, my knee hurt and I was just ready to stop.
Got the lunch, sat down with the lunch, and started nibbling on the lunch when some of the music finally started percolating into my conscious mind. I looked up suddenly and caught the woman down the table from me at the exact same moment that the realization that had just hit me, hit her.
“Did I really just hear that or did I hallucinate it?”
“No, if you hallucinated it, I did to. Did you hear ‘Rocky Mountain High’ translated into slack key guitar with Hawaiian lyrics?”
“Oh dear.”
I have no idea where the music came from. I have no idea of the artist, the band, or the REASON, but John Denver in slack key guitar it most certainly was. *shudder*
I finished my lunch and limped off to find an ice bag and a nice sunny grassy spot then lay down to ice my knee and eat chips off my chest with my hat over my face.

And that’s all of Saturday that I’m going to detail at the moment. I’ve got to unload the dishwasher and check my dehydrator (dried tomatoes and plums thank you very much) then I really should go and socialize with Joan and Tony for a while more before we go off to dinner. Further installments as time allows.

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