THE JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA – AGAIN
Day 19 (May 19, 2000) – 53.2 miles
Friday May 19, 2000 started out so cold, that for the first time during the Journey, I did not want to get out of bed. For some reason, I became fixated on some birds that were chirping outside my window. I was shivering. I had to convince myself that however I felt at that moment, and whatever aversion I had to being out in the early morning cold, I was certain to experience far worse conditions at some point later on. So, I might as well just deal with it and get moving.
Yesterday, on the other hand, started off magnificently. We left Mountainair with a beautiful full moon still lingering in the daytime sky, and an amazing sunrise greeting us to the east. By the marathon point though, a fairly severe head wind developed and remained for the rest of the day. By the time I got back to the camp in Vaughn, NM, I was overwhelmed with exhaustion and went straight into the bedroom cabin, where I managed to complete a fairly lengthy and effective stretching session. I did not make any more entries in to the journal that day.
Before shutting down for the night, I joined the rest of the crew in the main cabin to catch the weather forecast on the local 10:00pm news. Without a doubt, we all knew we were headed into a part of the country where we were likely to experience hazardous weather conditions. From that point forward in the Journey, knowing what weather conditions lay ahead became a daily obsession. Just before I fell asleep, Ivan came into my room and we discussed the necessity of adding Larry to the crew permanently. I intend to call him today and work something out.
I fell asleep last night around 11:00pm. The pain in my left middle toe woke me up at 3:30am. I put Campho Phenique on it. The fungus had developed to the point where it was pushing the nail into my toe. It was very painful to the touch. The Campho Phenique eased the pain immediately, though I knew it wouldn’t last for long. One of the benefits, though, of waking up at 3:30 in the morning was that I now had plenty of time to prepare for today’s run. I performed my Egoscue exercises and yoga postures from 3:30 in the morning until about 5:15. When I was done, I joined Ray in the main cabin where he had some warm soup, rice cakes and butter. waiting for me.
The stretching session in the morning, combined with last night’s stretching session, left me feeling pleased with the overall state of my body. I felt loose and aligned. Don, massaged my calves and Achilles area before I went to sleep, and told me the knotting, cramping and tightness that had been prevalent throughout the last few weeks were now gone.
At 5:50am, the sun was just beginning to peek out over the horizon in the east. Starting out, we will be traveling in a slightly southern direction on the 60, then intersect with Route 54, which will take us northeast towards Santa Rosa, and eventually into Tucumcari.
Ray warmed up the car, and we got ready to drive to where the Journey ended the night before. As we drove to the start, I was thinking that as I was gaining confidence. I also believed that I was developing the physical and mental tools necessary to meet the challenges of the next phase of our adventure. At the same time, I knew I could not do this by myself. The crew: Ray, Don, Laura and Monea – along with the timely additions of Larry, Ivan, Greg, and Herb – was, truly, the foundation upon which the success of the Journey rested. Together, we believed we could handle anything and everything that might come our way. I still am hoping we can recruit Larry to rejoin us as soon as possible, and remain with us for the duration of our trip. While Ray is here looking out for me 24/7, Larry has a special connection to the rest of the crew – his daughter Monea, his cousin Don, and Monea’s friend Laura. No doubt about it, Larry’s addition to the crew would create an even more effective “Dream Team”.
By 6:56am, Ray and I have been on the road for a little over an hour. The sun is up, the sky is mostly clear, with a few flat, dark grey clouds to the south. My breath is leaving a vapor trail as if I was a steam engine puffing smoke as I chug along on the breakdown lane. I’m starting to warm up, and I’m down to my shorts and a cotton t-shirt, under a polypropylene long sleeve top. I am also wearing polypropylene gloves, and a wool hat, which has replaced my baseball cap.
Over the last hour, I’ve been focusing on things that are positive, such as: Being grateful that it wasn’t as windy as it was yesterday. Even though the wind is starting to pick up a little bit now, the chill of the morning is disappearing. Ray, as usual, has been amazing. The most perfect handler one could ever hope for. He helped me get through the morning, and up to the starting line. We were there early, and his encouragement and support are immeasurable. He has been terrific.
We are about six miles from the campsite where we planned to rendezvous with the motor coach and crew. I asked Ray to give Don some money so that he can buy my son Beau and daughter Mackenzie some gifts. I promised that I would get each of them a gift from every state we travelled through. After leaving our home in California, I already owed them two gifts each, one from Arizona, and now one from New Mexico. They are lucky, because they’re about to hit the trifecta, as we will be passing through three more states in rapid succession over the next few days: Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.
For just an instant, and as a self-indulgent moment of comic relief, I fleetingly – and not too seriously – wondered if what contributed to my lethargy, and the lack of enthusiasm this morning, might have been the fact that the NJ Devils lost to the Philadelphia Flyers last night. Anyways, I’m was certain that we’ll get them next game.
At 9:43am, Ray and I are 3-hours-and-32-minutes into the run. We just left Vaughn, New Mexico, and are headed northeast on Route 54. This turn onto Route 54 marked what we thought was the beginning of a long journey along on this particular road, that would be taking us clear through into Missouri. We were to find out at day’s end, that we were mistaken.
We falsely believed that Route 54 would truly be our yellow brick road, leading us to the Emerald City. The road in front of me extended out as far as my eyes could see, and had a gentle, slightly rolling up-and-down quality. I could see a brief rise out towards the horizon. There were barren fields to the right and left, where cattle grazed and horses roamed. Rabbits darted in and out of small bushes and across the road. Occasionally, elk and deer were sighted. I’m feeling pretty good, and relishing in the possibility of being on this road for many more days.
The pain in my toe seems to have subsided and nearly disappeared. Muscular skeletally there is nothing of note. I feel a little tired, perhaps from the lack of sleep last night. My appetite has increased significantly over the last few days. Thus far today, I’ve already gone through three rice cake sandwiches with butter and Bragg’s Aminos inside. I am awaiting the pickup of the almond butter, so we can return to the almond butter and rice cake sandwiches.
I have begun to chafe for the first time, inside of my left thigh. Perhaps I need to be more diligent in applying the calendula ointment to my body each morning. I had to stop for a few minutes to rub some ointment onto the distressed area, and soon I was feeling much better.
It is sunny now, with a slight chill in the air. I am now running in a cotton T-shirt and Lycra shorts, polypropylene gloves, sunglasses, and baseball cap, with a bandanna around my neck. Thus far, Route 54 has been a two-lane highway with a very wide asphalt shoulder that is (thankfully) fairly clear of pebbles – though it is slightly beveled to the right, making the surface somewhat uneven, but not too uncomfortable. All in all, Route 54 looks fairly clear and safe to run on.
At 12:18pm, 6-hours-and-27-minutes into today’s run, we are 23.5-miles out from the start. Thankfully it has been a relatively easy flowing day, as was yesterday when we started out; yet it ended up being the most challenging day of the Journey. With that experience in mind, I remained cautious and kept my emotions in check.
The wind picks up every so often, and then seems to die down just as quickly, as if having a conscious intent to tease me and drive me crazy. But I wasn’t taking the bait. The wind had nowhere near the severity of yesterday’s event. It would be like comparing a pet cat to a mountain lion.
I spent a good deal of time this morning touching base with my family. I spoke with Mary Beth and my son Beau. Beau made sure to tell me that he wanted a Dallas Stars cap for his Texas souvenir. My daughter wasn’t up yet so I didn’t get a chance to speak with her.
Ivan has been riding along side of me for a while. We’ve been brainstorming about how best to get word out about the event and generate contributions for the Anthony Robbins Foundation and the Aubrey Fund. Ivan even went to the extent of calling the New Mexico Governor’s office.
We already were aware that the governor of New Mexico was a triathlete. Ivan wanted to arrange for the governor to join me at the 1,000-mile mark. I wondered how do you address a governor? Your governorship? Your Honor? I’m sure Ivan will advise me on that later, if his plan actually materializes.
Adhering to the strategy of eating small amounts more frequently, I consumed a total of six rice cake sandwiches by this point in the run, in addition to one feeding of a mixture of rice, quinoa, string beans and broccoli. The last 30-minutes or so I’ve been running up a fairly steep incline. When I finally reached the top, I saw an equally long decline, leading into a valley that extended to the south, to my right, onto a plain that stretched as far as I could see. To my left, and about three miles away, was a long plateau. Apparently, the plan is to run around the plateau.
At 4:01pm, 10-hours-and-11-minutes into the run, I am still very grateful for the way this day has evolved. The weather has been very accommodating, even though somewhere around two in the afternoon ominous clouds began to appear in the sky both to the north and south of me. The cloud formation looked like a giant crab in the sky. The claws of the crab were dark storm clouds, that gave off flashes of lightning every so often. Ray and I were moving forward in the open space between the claws. We could see rain pouring down to right and left of us. We’ve been pretty lucky thus far in that other than a few sprinkles, everything has been pretty calm where we happened to be.
While this was happening, we were trying to get in touch with the news talk radio station we had been on earlier. After a few moments of apprehension when we were going in and out of service, we finally hooked up with the station and it turned out they wanted me on for the entire hour, with a triathlete named Will Greer. The talk show host was going to do a triathlon this weekend. We had a little bit of a potential fiasco, because all of my cell phone batteries were dead, as was Ivan’s cell phone. We had to hook up the phone to the charger in the Jeep. I had my plug-in headset on – there were no Bluetooth headsets back in 2000 – and Ivan was holding the cell phone that was plugged into the Jeep’s cigarette lighter, as Ray was driving along side of me at approximately 4-miles-per-hour. What a sight that must have been! Me running alongside the Jeep being driven by Ray, in the breakdown lane on Route 54, talking into my headset, its cord connected to a cell phone, being held by Ivan, which was connected to the Jeep’s cigarette lighter, but – Heck! We got the interview done, and eventually we made our calls to the Ken our website manager, and let him know that the interview went well.
Soon after, I was back focusing on just running. I was still feeling relatively good, though the storm clouds that were beginning to swirl around us were threatening, and a harbinger of things to come. I began thinking about all of the challenges we’ve been able to handle since the Journey began, starting with making it through the foot hills leading to the high desert in southern California. Then there was the scorching record-setting heat as we approached the Mexican border; making it safely through the treacherous roads and sever mountain climbs of Arizona, and surviving the mind-numbing wind storm of the last few days. Are we ready to handle the challenges that lie ahead? We will soon find out.
At 6:46pm, 12-hours-and-56-minutes into the run, we’ve already past 48 miles, and we are closing in on the end of today’s Journey, which finally finished at 7:59 pm, at the 52.3-mile mark, after 14-hours-and-9-minutes of movement.
There were some fun aspects today. I found a hammer when I was with Ivan, which added to the tool box Ray and I have been collecting. Thus far we’ve found a pair of regular pliers, a wrench, needle nosed pliers, an allen wrench, a socket wrench, a flat head screwdriver, and a philips head screwdriver. All we need now is a hacksaw and a power drill and we’ll be in business. We had one little tease of a weather event, but the light rain only lasted a few minutes. The rain did bring out a glorious rainbow. We stopped to look at it, and Ray took a picture. Now we are headed to the end of a day that went remarkably well. Soon, we’ll be able shut down for the evening and get ready for the final two days of our adventure in New Mexico – or so we thought.
As fate would have it, the last 45 minutes of the run turned out to be quite the unpredicted adventure. Route 54 ended up unexpectedly merging with Interstate 40, and Ray and I were hesitant to go on the Interstate – we had thought that we were supposed to stay on Route 54. Ray stopped at a nearby gas station to inquire which was the way to get to Tucumcari. Unfortunately, it was on Interstate 40 – not Route 54. Ray drove ahead and I followed, and we spent the next 45 minutes on one of the most miserable stretches of Interstate we’d been on so far – and that was saying a lot! There was virtually no shoulder, trucks were whizzing by one after another at dusk, on a Friday night. Every minute we were on the Interstate felt like an hour. Both Ray and I were visibly shaken and relieved when we stopped for the day at 8:00pm. We got back in the car and immediately tried to figure out an alternative route to Tucumcari.
Unfortunately, it looks like we’re stuck on this nightmarish road until tomorrow night.