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March 27, 2005

American Walkabout, Part II.

If you need to catch up - Part I. This is the story of a young man walking across the US. In today's installment - well, anyone who has done road marching, much less managed one, will relate. It wasn't that long ago when we moved Armies like this...

Hey Lee, I'm rushed. And I've got no photo capabilities right now, sorry. Thank You.

It's been a week since Rory and I flew to LAX. We did our vacationing while we stayed with my cousin Kristen and her husband Nick in Hermosa Beach. On Tuesday Kristen drove us down to Costa Mesa where we stayed with my friend Mally. Wednesday morning we got up and went to the ocean in Huntington Beach where we started our walk. We wanted to get our feet in the ocean and take our picture, but didn't want to take our shoes off because they're hard to put back on when you've got a bag weighing nearly sixty pounds on your back. But our boots are waterproof, so we thought we'd be able to simply stand at the water's edge...BAM! The unpredictable waves came up to our knees and we were drenched. I could feel my socks squishing under my feet as I made a useless attempt to run from the ocean's arms.

Our plan was to walk up the Santa Ana River Trail as far as Orange, California where I had arranged for us to stay in a Methodist church there. We changed our socks, but our shoes were still wet, so we put on yet another pair of socks a few miles later when we stopped for lunch at a park along the trail. We quickly learned that Rory and I have a different pace, so when we walk, one of us will be in front while the other is about 40 yards behind. But before we take any turns, the lead man will wait for the other, that way we won't lose each other. Our goal was to average 20 miles a day, and I'm not sure what that was based on, but it's no longer our goal. I think we did a few miles over that the first day, but we were completely exhausted when we made it to Orange. It wasn't supposed to be that far to Orange, but the trail detoured and we got directions from a homeless man who insisted that "this road right here will take you right to the church in a few miles." That was at mile eleven. By mile twenty, we were ready to hunt the homeless man down, had we the energy left.

We weren't even in Orange, we were in Santa Ana. Once we walked to where the church should be, we realized we were a whole town away. Finally, after much pain and agony, and after Rory's shoulder had been cramping up for ten miles, we made it to Orange. But by then, we couldn't think straight, so we were lost in the city. I called the church, but again, the directions I got I couldn't seem to comprehend. We dicided we could make it, even though they promised it was only a few blocks away. We got a room at the Best Western in Orange.

The Rest is in the Flash Traffic/Extended Entry

The didn't have any rooms on the ground floor, so we had to walk up stairs--no small task by now. We dumped our bags and limped across the street to a Ralph's. For dinner we acquired everything that would satisfy the cravings we had been having all day long--we got dill pickles, chips, salsa, peaches, cottage cheese, bananas, Powerade and Ibuprofen. We ate and then hit the showers. It was then that I noticed my hips were swollen a half inch on both sides, exactly where my pack had been riding all day. And my right shoulder was the same. We crashed by 9.15, fully prepared to die in our sleep.

We forced ourselves out of bed by 8.30 Thursday morning and began walking through the pain. Picking up that bag again was the promise of all things painful, but we did it anyway. We had to, checkout was at 11.00 and those Best Westerners don't mess around. We made it back to the trail and almost immediately we began to see the mountains--beautifully intimidating. The promise a whole new world of adventure and a whole new world of pain. We're both ready for our bodies to be acclimated to this rigorous workout.

As the sun began to sink, we began looking for a place to put our tent up for the night. Signs were posted everywhere saying camping was prohibited. By the looks I was getting from people though, I would think walking with a huge pack is prohibited, and we're ignoring that one, so why not ignore the other? We finished putting up the tent just as the sun went down and the rain began. The only place we could find was in the Santa Ana River bed, below the highway and below the trail. I think we were in Yorba Linda, California, 13 miles from where we were. We were nervous that we would get caught and cited, as the signs promised we would. We were also nervous about what that noise was in the tree we were hiding behind.

The rain poured down violently, and the wind threatened to throw us and our tent into the river. This is not the rain recorded for those help-you-sleep-mood-setter thingies, this is the rain from horror movies about rain. We had put our bags on the outside of the tent, but they were still under our rain fly. We would sleep in ten minute increments, waking up everytime the tent would give us a good shake. Rory woke me up and told me to check my bag; the wind had blown the tent stakes up and my bag had been in the rain. Everything was wet, and it was just getting wetter. There was water under the tent even--not the waterbed I was hoping for.

By 5.00am we were up and walking through the rain. We took cover under a store awning for about an hour, while we had our gas station breakfast in a $1.15 danish and large orange juice. The clerks said it was five miles to Corona where we could get a hotel room and wait out this storm that was sure to last a couple of days. This is the last guy we took an estimated distance from without asking for confirmation. It was not five miles to Corona. Maybe in a car, on the freeway, listening to your favorite song...then, and only then, would it ever feel like five miles. But when you're on foot, going on no sleep, and it's raining hippos and, no, it's not five miles.

The trail ended, and we had lunch in a drainage culvert--the only dry place we could find. Just as we were leaving a security guy from the neighboring golf course came to kick us out. We eventually made it to Corona, but the streets we were walking on weren't on our map. I've always heard that hell is very hot, but I'm pretty sure it's just raining all the time and you have no way to stay dry. I had long stopped looking for dry places to rest, and now I was just plopping down in front yards and facing the rain. That's what I did when I came to a "T" in the road. Of course, the guy who gave us directions didn't mention anything about this. And now we couldn't get anyone to help us when we were standing at a street corner because we looked like beggars. These are the same people that spent all day trying to drive through the puddles and get us wet--their pretty good at it, too. We were just about ready to put up our tent and wait for the cops to come stop us, so at least they would be forced to talk to us, when Rory flagged down a postman and he sent us toward the hotel.

We've got all of our clothes draped around room 125 at the Travelodge in Corona, California. We're recovering and waiting our what the weather channel called a tropical storm. If you're ever in Corona, Guido makes a great pizza pie. I'm at the Corona Library now and my hour's almost up.

I'll send a photo ASAP. Thank you. Guy.