Margaret’s Walk Journal 2002: Day 2

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:25 pm

Day 2 “The Plot Thickens” (or, at least, “Our Feet Thicken”)

We got up way too early the next morning. We wanted to be walking by 7a.m. The sun was just coming up, the football field where we had slept was misty and we were starving.
As we dressed and hit the portapotties we had a chance to look around at the tents in our section. They had told us that we should bring something that we could attach to our tent to make it distinctive since all 1800 tents were identical. The thought was good, getting up to pee in the middle of the night and then trying to find your pale blue tent in a sea of pale blue tents without risking death by flashing your flashlight into peoples’ faces through their tent wall would have been challenging to say the least.
The tents wore costumes as entertaining as the people did. There was one in our row for the team “Moms for Mams” that was decorated in jumbo size black lace bras, there was a team that had rigged a set of Christmas lights to run off a battery and had decorated their tent in flashing boobs (I bet their neighbors just loved that), there were multicolored cyalume sticks, team flags, and pennants flying from center posts. Our green cyalume sticks and little plastic fish molds, while decorative and distinct from our neighbors, paled in comparison.
I felt better Saturday morning. Sleeping helped, and the knowledge that I had convenient opportunity to throw in the towel mid-day made me a good deal more determined to finish at least the second day. We got our breakfast, put our gear back on the trucks, broke down our tents and were on our way.

Saturday was, unofficially, costume day. The organizers had asked us to wear our official 3 Day tee shirts the first day and most people did. We decided to save our team shirts, a custom designed Andrew Lenzer original, for the second day. To be brief about peoples’ reactions to the shirt, I’ll just say we got a lot of laughs. We started seeing the shirts for the “Babes for Boobs” (a hysterically bright blue shirt with an upside down heart across the chest in a suggestive location), the “Chicks Walking Four A Breast” were in bright yellow, and there was a team whose name I never did get that had to have won the costume contest hands down. They were decked out in good walking shoes and socks. loose pajama bottoms with pink hearts, pink tank tops, pink feather boas, and pink sparkly deely bobbers (the headbands with the springs and styrofoam balls on top? Yeah, those things. They wore them all day.) We walked behind a woman for a while who had a Washington state vanity plate pinned to her pack that read “Feets for Teets”. There was a considerable amount of booby humor.

We walked through Auburn and took a turn on to the south end of the Interurban trail. This is about where I stopped being lost and where the pit stop crews started getting really crafty. I grew my first blister before the first pit stop that morning. I had two pairs of shoes that I thought I had broken in sufficiently before the walk, but the pair that I was wearing that morning was just a smidgen less wide in the toes and my little toe started to protest. When we got to the pit stop I had to stop and doctor my toe so I sought out an actual chair to sit in and got a chance to take a good look at the way the pit stop was put together. The Interurban is a moderately wide (about four bicycles across) paved trail. At the entrance to the pit stop, all foot traffic had to stop abruptly because they had put the row of portapotties just off the trail to one side and there were lines of people at least 5 deep in front of each one. Once you were through the gauntlet of portapotties you had to swing over to the other side of the trail to get to the hand wash station, and before you could leave the pit stop you had to pass in between the first aid tent and the food and refueling tent. Once again, my hat is off to the organizers, they really know how to keep people going.

The vehicle traffic was considerably less Saturday morning which was pleasant. It was still a little cool and since we were walking along through farm land at first (at least mostly farm land, some business developments are along the route) we had a chance to gawk while we walked without the risk of getting smished by a logging truck. People started picking blackberries from the bushes along the trail. As we got further along, and later into the morning, we started having to dodge other trail users most of whom thought we were completely bats at best, and a pain at worst since 3000 or so pedestrians tend to take up a good deal of space. The team with the feather boas and deely bobbers were playing a game of poker as they walked along.

Saturday was really when we got to appreciate Linda. As a sweep driver we really didn’t see much of her during the morning, but she made sure that she was at most of the spots where the trail crossed a road, shouting, blowing bubbles at us and waving one of those magic wands with the sparkly liquid inside and ribbon streamers coming out of the end. We came to the conclusion that someone had spiked her Gatorade. We couldn’t come up with any other reason that she could consistently have so much energy. But at that point we hadn’t encountered the Knocker Walkers either so it seemed to make sense at the time. After we met the Knocker Walkers we figured that, like everyone else involved in this endeavor, that Linda was just flat out nuts.
The fun, silly, and utterly over the top cheering that a lot of people took time out of their weekends to do was really a great part of what made this so special. There were an older couple that we saw multiple times along the route each day who had an enormous flowered fabric banner reading “We’re Proud of the Whole Bloomin’ Bunch” that they’d sit and hold up for hours, there was a group of people that weren’t even associated with the walk who took it upon themselves to sit at one spot on the Interurban in Kent and hand out Gatorade while directing people to pass under the pink and white balloon arch that they’d constructed over the trail. And then there were the Knocker Walkers. The Knocker Walkers were a pair of women who had walked the San Francisco 3 day a few weeks earlier and had decided to DRIVE up to Seattle for the express purpose of cheering for the Seattle 3 day. They had their car decked out in neon signs, they were both wearing horrid neon flower print mini-dresses, bright pink wigs, and they were blasting music with a good walking beat from a boom box in the back seat. It was all utter madness.

So we walked out of Auburn, and through Kent. We took to the street again just a smidgen north of Kent and tied up traffic along the East Valley Highway. People were honking and waving, walkers were leaving the route and running into convenient Starbucks and 7-11s and it started to get HOT. None of the three of us managed to keep our team shirt on much past the time we got off the trail.
At 10 miles out we were in the south end of Renton and ready for lunch. We had twisted and turned so many times that I’m really not sure where we were, all I can say is that we were lunching in the parking lot of a building right across from the offices of Wizards of The Coast. That may have started the surreality of the meal (WOTC being the rather surreal company that it is), but it sure didn’t end it. Once again we ran the gauntlet of the lunch greeters, this time singing loudly and badly in Italian, snagged as much food as we could carry and were looking for a spot to sit that was out of the sun when we saw the belly dancers. Belly dancers? Go figure. Entertainment is entertainment after all and I guess the organizers figured that while we were lunching in a parking lot we needed something to look at but where they got the belly dancing idea I do not know. We walked past.
We really scored in that we found a shady spot in the grass which had a recycling dumpster that we could lean up against and started our discussion on feet again. I took a bunch of pictures of feet during lunch the second day. Andrew didn’t post them to the website because he didn’t see the interest in bunches of feet. Andrew wasn’t walking. By lunch time on the second day you could talk feet, shoes, socks, blister remedies, blister prevention, foot powder vs. baby powder, foot lotion, bandaids, duct tape (keeps the bandaids on), and whether it was better to doctor your own blisters or wait at the medic tent for one of the nurses with anyone and everyone. There was a woman sitting just up the hill from us who had more mole foam than foot showing when she put her socks back on. I was still only at one blister, but then I had dry socks twice a day and well fitted, if somewhat less than ideally broken in, shoes. Laurie was turning into the blister queen despite her shoes, Steph was sunburned in a distinctly odd pattern, and I still had prickly heat along the backs of my legs that would fell an ox.
For the uninitiated, after walking 30 miles in 14 hours, a patch of grass with a little shade and something to lean on is a wonderful thing.

We wandered through office parks for a while then crossed over 405 on the bridge that’s just west of 167. Coming in contact with a freeway as a pedestrian gives one a distinctly odd perspective. It makes you realize just exactly how small you are and how fast 60-70 MPH can be when you’re not encased in a ton or so of steel and plastic. Someone had tied pink ribbons around each of the uprights for the railing along the sidewalk.

Not too far into Renton from the freeway we started running into the cheering stations again. Now there had been a fair crowd at the cheering stations Friday morning, but Saturday afternoon boggled the mind. Balloons, bubbles, confetti, spray bottles, a charming young man running along the sidewalk with a supersoaker asking people if they wanted to be squirted and then hosing them directly in the backs of the knees, people handing out goodies again (the lady with the Costco box full of Eskimo Pies was extremely popular), Gatorade, pitchers of ice, stickers, and a lot of clapping and cheering. We met up with Andrew, my parents, and Sheri. Dad took me aside and gave me an update on Gram. Her condition hadn’t changed, and it was partially that and partially the fact that the endorphins and the adrenaline had kicked in again that kept me going past the cheering station (which, just for the record, lasted a good 3/4 mile).

So here we are wandering through downtown Renton. If you’re headed northeast through Renton from Kent, there’s not much of Renton before you start getting into Boeing territory, so we started marching through Boeing. It was at this point that the afternoon became distinctly tedious. At first we were still hyped up from the cheering station and from being in close contact with downtown. We speculated on how many psi we were putting on each of our feet and decided that whatever the number it was way to damn many. We started noticing distinct differences in the relative softness of concrete vs asphalt vs painted asphalt (in order of hardest to softest), and we tried very very hard to keep ourselves from wandering off the concrete sidewalk and on to the grass strip or bark beds that follow the sidewalk. After we had exhausted those conversational topics, it just got dull. We were still scouted by the sweep drivers every 10 minutes or so, but there wasn’t much other traffic to keep us busy, everyone was tired, it was hot, the line was strung out over miles, the endorphins wore off with a clunk and walking through a Boeing facility on a Saturday afternoon is just flat boring. It can’t really have taken as long as I remember it taking, but it seemed like it lasted well into hours.

The light at the end of the tunnel was the grab & go at Coulon park on Lake Washington just north of Boeing. It’s the park where Sheri and I were thrown into the lake fully clothed during our joint birthday party in 1985, and it was very reviving to speculate about being thrown (or jumping) in. So were the bags of ice and herbal foot soak that someone was handing out. We left the park at least somewhat revived, our endorphins geared up and we started off northwards through an extremely fancy neighborhood along the lake. The endorphin rush didn’t last very long and we crashed again, but at least we had the lake to look at (we didn’t dare leave the route to go swimming, none of us were sure we’d have the energy to start walking again), and the Knocker Walkers blasting past every 15 minutes or so.
Eventually we were walking along the trail that parallels the southbound lanes of 405. It was very comforting to be somewhere familiar, especially since I had some sort of idea of how much longer we had to walk to finish the day. It was also comforting that some group of walk crew had been through with chalk and had left goofy messages on the trail for us. My god we were tired.

We were plodding along (there’s no other word for it) discussing the fact that all 30 of our toes had a different personality and that each of them, at that point, was a lousy personality when a small snake crossed the path. The three of us were enchanted and spent a few minutes trying to catch it. We didn’t want it to be squished and it didn’t seem to have much of a chance to escape the feet and find a hidey hole in the rock wall along which it was crawling, but it did find some crack to wedge itself into. The women around us, however, thought we were nuts.

So we got to the spot where Coal Creek Parkway crosses the trail just south of Factoria, we took a right and were within sight distance of Newport High which was where camp was for the second night. This is where Grampa comes back into play. Remember Grampa? He was the sweep rider with the touring bike, and he had energy to spare. We plodded up the hill (it may not seem like a hill when you’re driving it, but when you’re at the end of 40 miles, it’s a hill) from the freeway and had to wait at the intersection before we could get into camp. Here’s Grampa, whistle at the ready, blasting Sousa marches while he guides us across the crosswalk. It’s difficult to describe adequately. Here’s this older, probably quite distinguished in his regular life, white haired and mustached, somewhat portly gentleman in jeans, a bright orange tee shirt and yellow reflector vest with a whistle in his mouth blowing to beat all while standing in the middle of a busy Bellevue intersection marching around waving his arms to guide us through the crosswalk. It was awe inspiring (well, it was at least inspiring. It got us in a much better mood as we got into camp. The awe I’ll leave for his performance Sunday).

Saturday night we spent camped on the football and baseball fields at Newport High in Bellevue. Our tents were out on the baseball field, but we didn’t even take the chance to go that far before the three of us collapsed (a shady grassy spot is a wonderful thing), hauled out our bags of herbal foot soak and sat with our feet on ice for about 20 minutes. When I end up doing this again, I’ll have to remember that one of the essentials that a prepared walker will keep in her pack is a pair of flipflops. Taking off the shoes and getting the feet somewhat happy again (or at least numb) then having to put the shoes back on to get to your tent so you can get your stuff and go take a shower is truly a horrid thing.

Once again, though, the showers were astonishing. For one thing, they were placed so that while you waited you were in the shade, for another the lines were moving faster.
There was an older woman in the changing room peeling off her sweaty clothes while I was changing after my shower. She was wearing one of the pink “Survivor” tee shirts and had had a double mastectomy. She wasn’t (no big surprise) too shy about taking off her shirt in public, but what astonished me, and a number of women in the changing room, was the absolutely gorgeous tattoo she had on her chest. She noticed us noticing and had the presence to be pleased by the attention, and the courage to let this group of younger women gawp while explaining that reconstructive surgery hadn’t been an option for her and she had wanted something to look at when she took her shirt off. Really cool lady.

Once again Andrew met us at our tents after we showered (a note to the wise: don’t use peppermint foot lotion on blistered feet, it stings). He was accompanied by my parents with chocolate and his laptop computer so he could empty the memory stick on the camera.
The news from my folks was static. Gram was on oxygen, was comfortable, but was comatose. She had been feverish earlier in the day but the fever had responded to medication so she was doing as well as could be expected at the time. I decided that I was going to go ahead and finish out the walk, but that I wasn’t even going to stop at home Sunday afternoon, I was going straight to see her. Mom & Dad left, taking the chocolate with them since there wasn’t any place for us to keep it where it wouldn’t melt and we went to dinner.

It’s strange how certain parts of the walk are so very clear even this much later. The kitchen facilities were amazing. There were something like 10 serving lines for meat eaters and at least 5 for vegetarians. We had some form of stir fry that the menu referred to as “Chop Suey”, the meat version was uninspired, but the vegetarian version looked pretty palatable. The thing I remember clearest though was the fact that the women in the serving line were letting people sneak into the end of the line and score extra eclairs for dessert.

Andrew ate with us and we were back at our tents looking over the photos from the previous day when Dad called. Gram was feverish again, her caretaker and the visiting nurse were worried. Did I want to go and see her? I told Laurie & Steph that I had to go and I didn’t know whether or not I’d be back that evening.
To his credit, I don’t think Dad broke any laws getting from their house to Newport High to pick me up but he sure didn’t waste any time. Andrew and I got in the car and suddenly I was moving but I wasn’t walking. It was a really weird sensation.
I remember getting to the retirement home, in clean clothes, but truly disreputable sandals, lotion and baby powder all down the backs of my legs, and my still wet hair all over the place. I had to wonder what some of the ladies thought seeing me come in like that.
I remember sitting with her. Andrew brought a chair into her room so I could sit but he knew that I needed some time alone with her so he didn’t stay. I remember how warm and how thin her hand was, and how for the first time in my life I could be with her and she couldn’t use her Grandma sense to hear and see me like she used to do when I was little and thought I was getting away with something while she was asleep. I remember the weird stillness of it all, her breathing the only motion she had left.
Dad had called Matt (it’s handy having medical professionals in the family) before he left to come pick me up so Matt showed up not too long after we did.
“How you doing Sis?”
“Ah, not so bad. How you holding up kid?”
“I’m okay.”
He checked her pulse and her breathing then kissed her and went to talk to Dad.
The only thing I had left was a kiss, I couldn’t hug her for fear of never letting go, and the fervent plea I left with: “Say hi to Gramps for me.”

I got back after lights out –this being a relative measure since, as with the previous evening, we had no interest in, and no energy to stay awake once we were showered and fed. Suffice it to say that it was past 9 p.m. and we were planning on being up at 5:30 the next morning so we could be on the route at a little after 6. The fact that there were still lunatics up and about, even up, about, and dancing, was of no moment. Laurie was asleep when I got back and I didn’t last much longer.

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