THE JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA – AGAIN
Day 4 (May 4, 2000) – 51.8 miles
Day 4 ended up being one of the more interesting and challenging days of the Journey. It started off on a positive note, given that Greg agreed to stay one more day before heading off to a meeting in Los Angeles. What was starting to turn for the worse, though, was the condition of my feet. The combination of the road conditions and the deterioration of my running shoes was creating a severe blistering problem. For the past two nights, Greg and I had to work extensively on the blisters. After we were done with the blisters, I’d get a brief massage and adjustment.
Greg will be missed and yet, we did have a back-up plan ready-to-go: Pete Egoscue’s Exercise Protocols designed to correct structural imbalances. I would just have to take more responsibility for my own physical maintenance.
I still had great confidence we would be OK. While I was sad Greg was about to leave, I made it a decision to make the day one of it a celebration. Greg’s contribution up to this point was invaluable, and I wanted him to leave on an up note.
After leaving Calexico, Ray told me I had to go onto the interstate. I wasn’t aware that I would have to do this until the very moment he told we had to do so. I asked him if we had a permit, and he replied “You really don’t have to worry about it.” Yet, right at the entrance was a sign: “Pedestrians Prohibited.” The moment I entered the interstate was, it felt like a-no-turning back “crossing of the Rubicon” moment – as if my life and the ultimate fate of the Journey would be changed forever. In a way, it was.
Just before I entered the interstate, Ray and Greg in the Jeep, and Don, Monea, and Laura in the Motor Coach, pulled over and had a meeting. Greg took out his massage table and motioned for me to get on it. The surface of the table was so hot, I couldn’t lie down on it. Greg had to cover the table with a towel in order for me to do so.
Greg checked me out, made an adjustment, and told me I was good-to-go. I then ran onto the interstate, with Ray following me in the Jeep. We were both very nervous about being on the interstate. We agreed to a strategy whereby Ray would remain parked on the Interstate road shoulder behind me, making sure I was OK. When I got about a half-mile ahead, he’d get back on the Interstate and drive past me and pull over a half mile ahead, and wait for me to pass him. The plan was to “leap-frog” each other this way until we got to the Yuma exit.
The entire time I was on the Interstate, I was extremely nervous and full of anxiety. The heat was excruciating; huge trucks were thundering by. I ran on the road shoulder, which was freshly paved blacktop and reflected the heat right back into my body. It was something I hoped I would never have to do again.
We must have been on the interstate for about an hour-and-a-half when we had our first encounter with a CA Highway Patrolman. He told us: “Guys you can’t be out here.” Ray explained to him what we were doing, and he ended up being more than just reasonable – he was very helpful. After commenting that he’d hate to make us turn around and go back, he pointed out a frontage road that ran alongside the Interstate, which wasn’t on our map. He described a route into Yuma which meant following along the frontage road as long as we could, until it ended by a stretch of sand dunes. From that point, the only way to get to Yuma was to crisscross back over the Interstate to the sand dunes on the other side. I was then supposed to run on the sand dunes for a stretch before crossing back on to the Interstate and run there for a while, and then cross back over to the sand dunes. I would have to do that twice, before we finally ended up back on the frontage road that would take us to the RV Park outside of Yuma in a place called Winterhaven. There we were to meet a film crew from the NBC Affiliate in Yuma.
I remember standing out on the Interstate in the blistering heat, after running for three and a half days, listening to the patrolman and finally, he said: “Why don’t you just run across the highway and crawl under the barbed wire fence and get to the frontage road that way? Everybody else does.” I remember thinking that was very strange. He then told Ray to go where it said “No U-Turns Allowed” (and – wink-wink) and turn around when he was not looking. He then radioed for another highway patrolman to show up, who stayed by the No U-turn sign so Ray could turn around.
Ray drove off, leaving me with two bottles of water. I ran for about twenty minutes, choosing to crisscross the Interstate and Sand Dunes twice – as opposed to crawling under the barbed wire. I eventually met up with Ray on the frontage road.
The surface of the frontage road was covered with broken up asphalt and gravel. By then, my one pair of shoes had worn down so significantly that there were holes in bottom black surface of the shoe, exposing the white foam area inside. The shoes were now on the verge of being useless. But good news – I hoped – was about to come our way.
I had been on the phone much of that Thursday, talking with contacts back in NY, trying to generate more funds, and finding out what happened to my shoe shipment. Certain things were coming along and others not so much. Apparently, one potential sponsor already sent three pair of running shoes to the Yuma film crew we were meeting with that evening. The shipment was arranged by Mike Weinstein, who has been doing his best to promote the Journey out of his Public Relations firm in NYC.
Greg headed off to Yuma to meet with the film crew, arrange the evening meet-up in a local park, and to pick-up the running shoes. He came back later in the afternoon, while we were still on the frontage road, smiling broadly when he arrived. “I got your shoes! You can finally get rid of your old ones!” he shouted happily. Greg laced up the shoes for me as I ran over to him. I was so looking forward to replacing the dilapidated running shoes that had heroically keep me going for over nearly 200-very-hard-miles. I took my shoes off and – unbelievable! I couldn’t get my feet into the new shoes. The shoes were way too narrow and short. My feet had obviously swollen as a result of the four straight days of nearly non-stop running combined with the excessive heat.
I tried on the other two pairs, and neither of them were wearable either. So, I put my old shoes back on, and slugged my way towards Winterhaven, past a big brush fire on the frontage road. The firemen were still there hanging out, having a snack, after a full day’s battle with the fire. I waved at them as I ran through the smoke-filled air. We headed to Winterhaven and – thankfully – the RV Park entrance was a short run up ahead.
We met up the film crew about two miles outside the park. I was feeling really beat from the heat, from breathing in the smoke from the fire, and from running on the Interstate, frontage road and sand dunes. Running on the sand was especially uncomfortable – made even more difficult given the run-down condition of my shoes; they were completely full of dirt, sand, and grit. I did get a little perk-up emotionally from the excitement of having some more media exposure for the Journey. Unlike Calexico, this was not just one person: It was a car, with a correspondent, a driver, and a camera man – Yes!
The TV Crew followed us to the RV Park entrance. We stopped at the entrance at the 51.8-mile point. They didn’t want me to run into the RV Park because I was told I would have to back track and go out again. I wasn’t sure what they meant by that, and just let it go. We moved over to an adjacent camp site. It was very exciting for us. We were four days in now with over 200 miles already travelled. Most of it through very challenging conditions: The hills, the heat, the Interstate, the sand dunes, and the fire. Yet this was the second day in-a-row of media. We were happy. It seemed as if the Yuma crew was planning to produce a fairly long one piece; they filmed us for nearly an hour.
I was interviewed first, then the crew. Finally, Greg was filmed working on me. There was some talk of me meeting up at ten that night and running with a correspondent. I turned that down, though. They suggested we call the station because there was a possibility that they might do a live remote of me leaving Winterhaven in the morning, to be broadcast on their morning show. We were just four days out and already had generated two media events.
We were eager to shut down for the night, but we stayed up to watch the news at 10:30. Lo-and-behold the piece was cut. We were told the reason was because of the large fire we had just been through; the fire was big news there. We never found out if our piece was ever broadcast, but we did notice that next day we began to get responses – horn honks, shouts and waves – from motorist, pedestrians, joggers, and cyclists. Up until then, we had been pretty anonymous.
I did remember one instance, though, from the day before, on the road from Ocotillo in the high desert as we were traveling to Calexico. Greg stopped off to get something to eat at a Pancake house. He told a waitress about the Journey, and she donated $5 to the event. When I passed the Pancake house on my way to Calexico, Greg arranged for her to come out and meet me. We took a picture together. It was very touching. I thanked her and moved on. That memory, combined with a newfound realization that we were generating interest for the Journey as we travelled at ground-level, gave us hope. Even with the hit-and-misses with the press, at least we were generating awareness of what we are doing simply by having our slow-moving caravan journeying through the cities and towns along the route.