Anna Willman

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Days 142 and 143

Posted by Anna on October 29, 2015 at 12:15 PM Comments comments (0)

  

We started early on a fine September morning about a week after I got back from my August trip with Valerie. I had gotten lucky and found Oshara, an unexpected travel companion, and was excited to be on the road so soon again. I’d been swimming and walking all week and felt I was still in good shape and ready to go.



The day began perhaps a bit ominously as the morning mist that filled the valley quickly turned into smoke from the wildfires that were ravaging much of Oregon. Hillsides around us were blackened and we had to roll our windows all the way up as we drove past Crater Lake.





After a night’s stay at my sister’s ranch, we set up camp at Givens Hot Springs. This lovely spot is run by descendants of the same Givens family that settled the land one hundred and fifty years ago instead of finishing the long trek to Oregon. They believed quite rightly that they could not do better than start a business here, providing rest and comfort to weary travelers.



I slept beautifully that first night, settling down on my comfortable mattress – so much more comfortable than the aging mattress on my bed at home. My bare feet explored the deliciously cool night air and then pulled back to enjoy the warmth of the covers, the smooth feel of the comforter and the rough woven texture of the cotton blanker. My poor curled up hammer toes pressed hard against the suitcase at the foot of my bed for a few moments of delicious straightness.



Even as I slept and dreamed a dream (now long forgotten) that tasted of joy and love, I was lucidly aware of where I was and what I would be doing in the morning.



I walked 3.4 miles that first morning – a good strong day in a good strong body, still up to speed. The short time between trips meant I hadn’t lost my stride.



The air smelled of sweet grass the whole way. The weather was crisp, cool; the sky was clear, a perfect day for walking.





This is desert country, with scattered spots green from irrigation.





I passed one fine big house high on a hill, a proud stranger in the midst of the smaller homes on working ranches.





Back at camp, I went exploring. The RV camp at Givens is not a full service camp. It has no sewer hookups. I was hoping that by using the public bathrooms and taking showers after swimming in the hot pool I could avoid having to pack everything up and drive to the nearest town to do a dump. Or at least not have to do it more than once during the two weeks we were to be there.



 

The bathrooms were a short stroll across a green lawn from our RV. There were two large cement steps up to the door with no railing. But I was strong and had no trouble navigating them.



(Seldom has pride been so quickly humbled.)



Inside, I was amused to find a hook and eye closure on the stall door. Givens was last remodeled in the 1950s. Everything is old and a bit worn, but they keep the place spotlessly clean, the water is nice and hot, and it all has the advantage of feeling a bit like you’ve stepped into the past.



When I was through using the commode, I pulled myself up carefully, protective of my left, arthritic knee. And felt a stabbing pain in the back of my good right knee that immediately shot up my leg to my right hip.



All of a sudden the lack of a railing on those tall steps seemed very important. It took me long minutes to make my way down the two steps and hobble back to my RV. I collapsed into a camp chair and sat for a while before finding the strength to pull myself up into the trailer and climb into bed.



The hot pool opened at noon, so I got up and painfully made my way back across the lawn, with my cane this time. It hurt so much I had to stop and sit on the cement steps of the public bathroom. I swung my leg back and forth and massaged it to get the damaged muscles to relax. No improvement. Finally I mustered the courage to get up again. The pool was closer than my RV, so I continued on and struggled up the steps into the pool room. Fortunately these steps had a railing. I hobbled into the dressing room and changed and showered – every movement of my leg bringing involuntary tears. I made it out to the pool, leaning on my cane and taking tiny half steps and gasping at each movement, embarrassed to be making such a fuss.



The pool was surrounded by a cement rim – tall and wide. There was no way I could step over it, so, bracing myself with my cane, I sat down on it and lifted each leg over with my hands, one at a time. Then I abandoned my cane by the side of the pool and slid down the steps into the warm water.



The relief was instantaneous. Without the pressure of my weight, my leg worked reasonably well. I worked the leg gently and found I had full range of motion. Not broken, then – I had worried it was osteoporosis – probably a torn muscle or a ligament. I began an easy exercise routine, moving the leg gently and resting frequently. I floated in the warm water and found a place where the hotter water came in and rested my sore hip against it.



It was miraculous. After a couple of hours alternately exercising and resting, I walked out of the pool with very little pain. I showered and washed my hair and dressed and walked back to the RV without any further mishap, hopeful that I would be able to walk again in the morning.



Life is not so simple, however. I’d had a rough bout with a kidney stone just before my trip with Valerie in August, and the follow-up X-rays had shown the stone temporarily parked in my bladder. That afternoon, the stone apparently decided it was time to move on, and I had a pretty uncomfortable evening and night.



By the morning, however, the stone seemed to be gone, or possibly to have thought better of the whole idea and retreated back to the bladder. In any case, I felt much better and decided I was good to walk.



It was a beautiful morning again. The air was as sweet as the day before and I started out with enthusiasm, taking it a little slow because the right knee seemed a little tender. I was fine for the first five or ten minutes, then the knee started to hurt again. I slowed my pace. Maybe just two miles, today, I thought.



It got worse. I almost radioed Oshara to come get me, but saw a mile marker ahead and decided to at least finish one mile before quitting. To keep my mind off the pain, I began strategizing. It was clear I would not get my fifty miles in this trip, but I though perhaps I could aim for a mile a day, especially if the hot springs kept working as well as they had the day before.



The last few yards to the car I was hobbling painfully.



The next morning, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to walk that day. The muscles down the back of my knee had been throbbing all night. When I got out of bed to go to the bathroom (two or three times a night in general) I had to lean on the table and cling to anything I could find just to walk the few steps from one end of my small trailer to the other.



Oshara, a Focuser like me, did some excellent listening as I bemoaned my fate and tried to figure out what I could do. The hip was fine, pretty much back to normal, but the knee was not. I decided not to try to walk at all for two days, and to spend the time in the pool. It was a stroke of great good luck that this had happened here at the hot springs, I thought, where I could exercise gently in the water to repair the damage. It was also lucky that I still had my crutches from last spring’s catastrophe (with my left knee) in the back of the green van. They were much more supportive than my cane.



Two days later I needed more of Oshara’s good listening. The pool’s healing powers had done their best the first day and not progressed much since then. Even when the knee wasn’t actively hurting, it felt weak, slippery, unreliable. I wasn’t ready to give up my project, but I was fast losing hope for any more progress this trip.



We drove to town that night to attend a fund-raiser organized to help the ranchers who had been burned out by the summer’s big fire. A spaghetti dinner and silent auction. I’d made some friends in the pool during the past few days and they'd told us about it.



The next day, I called it quits for this time out – for this year, really. The knee was not getting any better. Oshara had listened well, as usual, and I had shifted my mindset from “do or die” to problem-solving. To recognizing this setback as part of my adventure, not a failure. I acknowledged that I had injured myself three out of the last four times I’d gone out on the road, and I needed to do something drastically different if I was going to continue this journey. The fact was, it was time to get my knee to my doctor.



When I got home, I wasn’t ready to write my blog. I needed some perspective. I decided to wait until I’d gotten some medical feedback.



X-rays show that I now have arthritis in both my knees, moderate arthritis in my right and severe in the left. I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon (they couldn’t get me in until January) and am seriously considering getting both knees replaced. I’m hoping to do them both at the same time so I can get out on the road again before the end of next year.



My kidney stone has been playing games with me, too – now it’s moving, now it isn’t, so I have an appointment with a urologist, too.



Meanwhile, I’m writing on my latest novel, nearing the end of it, and waxing philosophical.



I’m hoping to continue my project next year, or at worst the year after that. But if not, well, I’ve walked over 500 miles, crossed five mountain ranges, climbed over seven passes, and hiked through about 100 miles of desert.



That is not insignificant for a fat old lady with a wooden cane.

 

 

Days 133-141 Part A

Posted by Anna on September 6, 2015 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (1)

I finally got to go out walking again. My former daughter-in-law, Valerie, came with me. Last time, with Johanna was riddled with health issues – my knee injured, then pneumonia. This time we had problems with equipment.

 

When we got to my sister Elaine’s ranch in Jerome, we found the Blazer was infested with wasps and the battery dead. Again! It’s a new battery, so there is something else wrong – something draining it while it just sits. Anyway, we couldn’t get as early a start as we had hoped in the morning because we had to wait for Elaine’s future son-in-law to bring home some wasp spray and get us going again. He’s a firefighter and works all night, comes home in the mornings. He’s a sweet man and very generous with his time, and has been a great support for me. Everyone there at the ranch has been wonderful.

 

Anyway, he got us going and we took off for camp. We stayed at a gorgeous RV “Resort” right on the Snake River that is beautifully maintained and managed by a very kind man named Dave.

 



Dave immediately came and started helping me hook up. Then he told me my sewer hook-up was not legal. It was too late in the day to go buy a new hose or connector, so he brought over something he had for a temporary connection.


My feet were swollen up from the long drive of the past two days and I thought I might have to put on a pair of walking shoes I had bought that turned out to be much too big. I'd packed them just in case because I'd been struggling with swollen feet for several weeks.

 

The next morning, however, after a great night’s sleep, my feet were a bit smaller and I managed to get my regular walking shoes on.  Each day they got smaller until they reached normal size.

 

Finally I was out on the road again.



 

I didn’t walk far the first day. I’d just had a rather bad bout with a kidney stone the week before and was still a bit wobbly and weak, but just getting out there in that beautiful countryside was exhilarating.  Cornfields,



 

Beautifully kept farms,



 

Magical sky.



 

The shoulder of the road was plenty wide, but mostly at an angle, which made my right hip hurt a bit. It didn’t make sense to push too hard right at the outset and risk actually injuring myself. I continued to have this problem until we reached the town of Marsing, some ten or twelve miles along the way. Then the shoulder leveled off and the hip got better.



After that first day’s walk, we drove to an RV supply store in Marsing. They not only got us what we needed, but spent a good bit of time on us, explaining things to me about sewage that I needed to know and no one had ever bothered to tell me. Things like I shouldn’t use a lot of water flushing because it dilutes the chemicals. (I had thought more liquid would make the paper break down faster.) Things like I can leave the grey water line open most of the time so it doesn’t backflow. Then I can close it a day or so before dumping the black water tank (about once a week) so there will be some grey water to flush out the hose after the black water dump.


 

All anyone ever told me was to flush out the grey water after the black, so I was doing the whole process every two days or so. Otherwise the grey water tank would start backing up into the tub. And two days isn’t enough time for the chemicals to work in the black water tank.


 

Which is why I was having so much trouble getting the tank cleaned out properly at the end of the season. So I guess it was worth having to replace my hose. I’ll find out in October if this makes a difference.


 

Each day I walked farther. People waved at me as they drove past. Some stopped to see if I needed help. One farmer came running across a field to offer assistance.


 

Coming back to camp each day was lovely.





Temperatures were high – often in the nineties – so it was a relief to climb into my bunk, prop up my feet, unzip the tent flaps, and let the fan send  the air through.



 

I had a spectacular view of the river from my bed.

 



 

Valerie viewed the trip as a writing retreat and put in five or more hours each day working on her novel.




I did a little work on my novel, but mostly I read, and of course, each day took notes for this blog.




 

Days 133-141, Part B

Posted by Anna on September 5, 2015 at 11:50 PM Comments comments (0)

By the third day out I was covering at least three miles each day. Valerie mostly waited in the car, either reading or writing. Twice she forgot to turn off the lights and had to walk to a nearby farmhouse to get a jump start when it was time to go check on me. Her car is a “smart” car that turns its own lights off. But my little yellow car is not at all intelligent. Nothing in it is automatic. You have to roll up the windows, open the doors with a key, and remember to turn off the lights.


 

The first time she killed the battery, I found out about it from a Sheriff who pulled up next to me and asked if I was the one with car trouble. I said no, it must be someone else. My daughter-in-law was with my car and would be picking me up shortly.


 

He was like a caricature of the country sheriff – big and burly and serious. He was certain the person in trouble must be me. “A yellow car? Oregon license plates? A purple note taped to the window?”


 

“That sounds like my car. She must have left the radio on. Or the lights.”


 

“There’s a purple note in the window,” he said again. Something about that purple note bothered him.


 

“It’s okay. She’s resourceful. I’m sure she’ll find a way to get it going.”


 

I think the whole situation seemed pretty suspicious to him. I was a suspicious person out there walking alone. How come I wasn’t upset? And that purple note!


 

“I’d help her,” he said, “but I can’t if she’s not there.”


 

He wanted to help, poor man, but I didn’t need help. He couldn’t grasp what I was doing or why I was all alone out there on the highway. It really bothered him. Meanwhile, I had to go to the bathroom and there was a gas station a quarter of a mile ahead and my body was demanding that I get on my way.


 

I told him Val had probably gone to a nearby farm house for assistance, and that she would come and get me when she got the car started. I asked him to go back, and if she had returned to the car to tell her to look for me at the gas station. Then I took off, nearly running to make it to the station in time.


 

He did find Val, and a local rancher, back at the car. The engine was started. I think he must have felt frustrated at not being able to help, because Val says he walked around to the front of the car and slammed the hood shut. Unfortunately, he didn’t release the little metal thingy that holds the hood up, so he ended up bending it so that it wouldn’t hook into place.


 

“You bent it!” Val said. Reproachfully.


 

“No, I didn’t.” he replied. But he did. I was able to bend it back later, though so it works again.


 

I walked another hour after that.


 

The countryside is stunning.



 

Beautiful fields with mountains behind them (the Owyhee Mountains),



 

fresh cut hay (third cutting?),



 

corn  - tall with gold tassels,



 

 

and of course, water – always so fascinating in the desert.


Water in streams like “Jump Creek”,



 

in ditches,



 

canals,



 

little marshlands,



 

and the beautiful Snake river.



 

For the most part my route follows the Snake River, so I get periodic views, some of them quite spectacular.



 

Days 133-141 Part C

Posted by Anna on September 5, 2015 at 10:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I encountered birds of all kinds everywhere, egrets in the river, oriental pear doves at camp, and out on the road a little sandpiper scolded me and strutted across the highway, staying with me for easily a quarter of a mile. I tried to take his picture, but they just came out as blurs. Then I looked up and saw a whole flock of birds sitting on telephone wires. They looked black against the sky, but they could have been anything.




 

Sunday we woke up to find a flat tire. We got it changed, but I wasn’t willing to drive out on the highway on the little donut they provide. So we had a day without walking. Monday morning we drove 25 miles to the nearest Les Schwab and got the tire replaced. It took a while and we didn’t get out to the highway until noon. It was so hot I gave up before I’d walked a mile. We were in a section of road where it was mostly desert. Ranches few and far apart.

 



I love that country. The next morning, walking in the cool of the morning, I felt a special kind of thrill – a delicious sense of being all on my own. Just me and the hills 




and the road and the sky.

 




Of course, that’s easy to say when I know Val is just at the top of the next hill waiting for me. I got in the car to rest a bit and as I got out to walk on, a man came out of a house by the highway to see if he could help us. I told him what I was up to and he was excited about it. Asked if I wanted to stop for breakfast. He was very sweet and I was tempted, but Val had already driven on, and besides, as I told him, if I eat while I’m walking it can cause problems “at the other end.” I usually start my day with just one yogurt and then eat a bit more when we get back to camp.

 

It was interesting how on one side of the road there might be a ranch, all green and lush




 

and right across the highway, pure desert, all sagebrush and rock.



 

That night the sky was a blend of pink and aqua. Val took some lovely pictures, but they came out bluer, less aqua, than the color appeared to the eye.



 

A perfect finish to a near perfect day.

 



 

The next day took me through the little town of Givens and past a quarry where someone was shooting. I was pretty nervous, but managed to get past the quarry without stopping a stray bullet.

 

Temperatures were high – and a couple of times it didn’t cool down properly during the night so that I felt almost sick from the heat the next morning out on the road. Bugs, too began to follow me about. Large gnat-like creatures that buzzed me, but didn’t bite. Still they flew into my face and my ears. I tried spraying with OFF, but it just seemed to encourage them. Finally, I got so hot, I poured water on my bandana and put it over my head under my hat. That cooled me down and partially protected me from the bugs.



 

The last two days, I finally felt fit and seemed to find my stride. I had been going far less than my usual two miles per hour, and suddenly, with that darned scarf flapping over my head, I picked up speed. Sometimes I walked even faster than 2 mph.

 

I passed a field of some strange plant. It looked almost alien, with big round black balls on top of tall stalks.

 



Then I got closer – sunflowers. Hadn’t been able to see the yellow petals in the distance.



 

I passed Givens Hot Springs, where there is an RV park. Been looking for one in this area in vain. Wondering where I would stay next time. This will be lovely. I can walk and then soak in the hot springs. These hot springs were frequented by Native American tribes long before white settlers took it over and turned it into a spa for weary travelers on the Oregeon trail. The same family (Givens) owns it now that originally settled there.


The hot springs are near a small community with luxury hoes and a tiny airfield, with hangers filled with tiny airplanes.



 

Just before we stopped, I passed a ranch with original rock art out front. Fun!

 




I particularly liked the Snoopy-style vulture.




We got back to Jerome, left the RV and the next morning headed home.

 

We drove past hillsides blackened by the forest fires rampant in Oregon. I almost cried when I saw that the beautiful birch trees I photographed near El Dorado pass just one year ago were badly charred, and some of them completely downed.

 

The smoke was so thick as we approached Prairie City that we had to close our windows and put on the air conditioner. We dashed out of the car to take some quick pictures of the red smoke and the thick haze caused by a big fire just south of John Day. Then we hurried back inside the car where we could breathe.



 

It was a little scary seeing a sign warning of “extreme fire danger” as we came through the mountains.

 

Then as I was driving home to Roseburg from Eugene, I passed the same sign. It seems like the whole northwest is on fire.


I found someone to come walking with me in September, so I will be out on the road again in a few days.

 

Days 126-132 Part A

Posted by Anna on August 14, 2015 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

My friend Johanna came all the way from Vienna, Austria, to walk with me. I knew her forty-three years ago when we were both living in Yugoslavia and we only recently reconnected. Johanna and I are the kind of best friends that can go for forty years without seeing each other and then pick up the relationship without missing a beat.




She flew into Seattle early in March and we took several days to drive down to Roseburg, Oregon, where I live.


 

We explored Seattle (where someone stole my credit card number and charged two thousand dollars to it over the next two months),


 

 

 

 

drove around the Olympia Peninsula




 

 

and then down the coast where we stopped at Depot Bay to watch for whales (no luck) visited the sea lion caves (lots of luck!).




 

 

Then we reached my home in Roseburg.




 

 

After some local sightseeing –a hike to a small waterfall,




 

 

and a drive to Crater Lake,



 

 

we headed east to pick up my camper at my sister’s ranch in Jerome, Idaho.




 

 

 

 

The Mckenzie Pass highway was still closed for winter, so we went the longer route over Santiam pass, but other than that we followed my walking route so I could show off to Johanna how far I had walked. We stopped for a quick visit to the Painted Hlils.




 

 

 

Johanna is a fun travel companion. She is so curious about everything. She asks questions all the time so that I feel either very smart if I know the answer or very ill-informed when I do not. Then when we stop for the night we get on the computer and she looks up all the answers. Not very flattering to me when she is so surprised to find that sometimes I am right.


 

 

 

 

She is constantly saying something like: “This looks just like Russia!” or, “Everything is so big here! Even the parking spaces are huge!”


After a day or two visiting with my sister in Jerome, we hitched up the camper




 

 

 

 

and drove to an RV park in Nyssa, Oregon, just two miles from the border where I had stopped walking last fall. We arrived in the evening, set up the trailer, and went inside to make up our beds.


And catastrophe struck!

Days 125 - 132 Part B

Posted by Anna on August 14, 2015 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Did you know that making a bed was a dangerous activity?


I was on my hands and knees up in my bed, stretching out to slip the corner of the sheet around the mattress, and I felt a sharp pain in my left knee. It was intense and continuous. I tried to lie down on the bed, but the pain kept me frozen in place. I could not put my leg down, could not change its position in any way without the pain getting even worse. Johanna came to help me and I yelled, “Don’t touch me!” I stayed suspended on my one good knee and two hands for some time before I could grit my teeth and move – letting myself down slowly and working my way to the edge of the bed.


 

 

It took me more than a half an hour to get down from the bed, miniscule adjustment after miniscule adjustment. I sat on the little couch and clung to my knee. I tried to straighten my leg, but could not. I tried to bend it tight. No good either. I massaged it, cradled it, punched it, rubbed it. Everything hurt. A lot. I was very much afraid I had broken something. Osteoporosis, here we come!


 

 

By midnight I had to concede that I was not going to be able to go walking the next morning. Also that I was not going to be able to go to bed that night. I couldn’t even look at the step ladder up to the bed without groaning.


 

 

I gave in and called 911. “I’m fat. I told them. It won’t be easy to move me.”


 

 

They told me it would be a while as their ambulance crew was out on a call and they would have to wake up their backup crew. As I waited, I continued to try to massage, pound, batter my knee into submission.


 

 

They sent an ambulance and two police cars – six men all together – lights flashing, bouncing off the surrounding trailers. The EMT stepped into the trailer and looked around.


 

 

“Can you climb down from the trailer?” he asked me.


 

 

If I could, I wouldn’t have called you,” I said. “I can’t do anything.”


 

 

He stood there looking around the tiny space.


 

 

“If you could get a tarp or something, I might be able to slide off this couch down onto the floor,” I conceded.


 

 

They brought the tarp. He wanted to help me down, but I insisted, “Don’t touch me!” Gingerly I lowered myself to the floor and lay down on the tarp. All of that massaging must have helped some. It was easier than getting down from the bed had been.


 

 

Two men tugged on the tarp, one on each end, and pulled me towards the door. We quickly realized that another challenge was upon us. My wide hips would not fit between the kitchen sink and the bathroom door. I was already feeling badly battered by the movement, and now found that it hurt to laugh as well. A more ridiculous situation could scarcely be imagined. Again telling them not to touch me, I managed to roll myself onto my side so they could pull me around the corner to the door of the trailer. The other four men were waiting outside to receive the tarp. It took all six of my rescuers to slide me out onto the stretcher and transfer me to the waiting ambulance. My foot kept thumping one of the policemen on his chest.


 

 

“I keep kicking you,” I said.


 

 

“It’s okay. I’m used to it,” he said, graciously.


 

 

“No, I mean, every time my foot hits you, it hurts me,” I complained, not so graciously. But then I was in the ambulance, and we were speeding through the night towards the hospital some fifteen miles away. Johanna followed in my little yellow car.


 

An x-ray blessedly revealed no broken bones – just arthritis. They gave me crutches and pain medication and suggested a follow-up appointment with an orthopedic doctor.




 

 

 

Johanna and I spent the next three nights in a motel since I couldn’t get in and out of the trailer. I called around and couldn’t get an appointment with a local doctor for at least a week. After the third night I was mobile enough to drive, so we packed up the trailer and headed back to the ranch. I got an appointment there the next day. Meanwhile I spent the time fretting, worried that my walk might be over.


 

 

The doctor gave me a cortisone shot in the knee and the pain simply vanished. He said I should take it easy for a week and if the pain came back in that time, I should go home and get my knee replaced.


 

 

So, with a week to kill, Johanna and I set off to explore the west. I figured this would probably be the last time I saw all these sights. It was Johanna’s first time.


We stopped first at Zion




 

 

 

and the Vermillion Cliffs.




 

 

 

Johanna claimed that it was all a charade. That we had carved the mountains and no doubt painted them as well.




 

 

 

 

We spent most of the next day at the Grand Canyon.




 

 

 

When Johanna had visited the Negev desert, and American tourist kept saying loudly, “It’s just like the Grand Canyon!”

I told her she had my permission to claim the Grand Canyon was “just like the Negev!” However, when we got there, Johanna told me they were not at all alike.




It is very different from when I was there last (as a teenager). They have shuttle service to various points along the rim and an easy walking trail, so we got to see the canyon from different spots. It was lovely. I was easily tired, walking on crutches at high altitude. And always worrying, wondering if I had wrecked my leg, afraid I could not continue my walk.


 

The next day, driving back, we saw Bryce Canon in the snow!




 

 

 

 

It was so beautiful that Johanna and I got giddy and silly. Altitude sickness perhaps.




 

 

 

 

 

 




A week had passed, and I was still pain free. No operation needed!


 

 

When we got back to Jerome we took one more sightseeing excursion before heading out to walk again. We drove to the Craters of the Moon, a splendid wasteland of black rocks with white-capped mountains in the distance.




 

 

 

 

The astronauts actually did some training there in preparation for landing on the Moon, even though these rocks are volcanic and not caused by meteors like the actual moon craters.




 

 

 

 

 

We walked several miles worth of trails – good preparation for getting back on the road –




 

 

 

 

and Johanna explored a couple of caves. There was no walkway through the caves, though, and I was not willing to risk a scramble over big rough boulders that might result in a twisted ankle or some other incapacitating injury. My experience the week before had made me feel vulnerable and inclined to be cautious.




Days 126 - 132 Part C

Posted by Anna on August 14, 2015 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

 

The next day – finally – we hitched up the camper again. It was windy when we left my sister’s ranch, rattling the trailer behind me. We stopped for gas in town before hitting the highway, and the wind was so strong it almost ripped the door off my truck.


 

 

We drove back to the ranch. No way I was going to try pulling my RV in that. Another day lost and March was almost over.


 

 

I began to wonder if I would even get one week of walking in, but the next day was calm and clear and we headed back to Nyssa and set up camp once more.


 

 

March 30th I began my walk. At last! The air was crisp and cold – a perfect day for walking. I was amused to find onions by the roadside – just like last fall. Either they had been preserved by the winter cold or more onions trucks had driven by recently.




 

 

 

 

This part of Idaho is well irrigated – farm country and well populated in comparison with Eastern Oregon. During my week of walking I passed many tidy – and not so tidy – farms,




 

 

a splendidly panted Farmers’ market,




 

 

and a drive-in movie theater.

 

 


I tried to keep my days down to about three miles to avoid straining my muscles like I did last fall.

 

 

Idaho is an optimistic state. It has names like Happy Valley, Sun Valley, Magic Valley, Treasure Valley and Paradise Valley. None of these seem to me to be obvious valleys, though you can see mountains in the far distance. Idaho has a town named Bliss. And through all this paradise winds the charming Snake River, twisting and turning so that you are always having to cross it.

 

 

It’s a patriotic state as well, with so many American Flags flying everywhere that it is hard to spot a post office. Usually a flag means a government building, but in Idaho it just means someone likes to fly the flag.

 

 

I reached the town of Parma on my third day of walking. They have a stately little library there (In what was once the town bank) and a internet-connected coffee shop down by the railroad tracks. We got into the habit of stopping in one of those two places in the afternoons after I walked, because our RV park didn’t have a wifi connection.

 

 


 

I had an internet meeting one afternoon. I sat outside the coffee shop in my car with my computer on my lap, talking to people in New Jersey and Massachusetts while watching old-fashioned trains rumble through this small Idaho town. A strange new world we live in.

 

 

From Parma I took the detour Barbara and I had discovered last fall to avoid walking across a narrow bridge. I found myself walking a little back road through ranch country.

 

 


This was my first time walking since I got my hearing aids. I heard a rooster crow, and it sounded like he was right inside my ear.


I walked past a field full of red-winged blackbirds.


Where we rejoined the highway, we found a palatial estate with gorgeous horses – well-groomed and well-fed – in lush green pastures,

 

 

 

 

two large mansions,

 

 

 

 

a magnificent green barn, and a series of grand houses that were likely the servants’ quarters.

 

 

 

 

Out front flew the ubiquitous American flag, and the Idaho state flag as well.

 

 


People, kind as ever, stopped to ask if I needed help. Johanna, leaving the car to walk back to meet me, was offered help as well.

 

It’s funny. I’m walking through a desert (a well-irrigated one) and find myself always taking pictures of water. Rivers.



 

Even a muddy creek has its charm.

 

 

 

 

 

The weather stayed cool. I enjoyed feeling the cold. I also enjoyed seeing sunlight ahead. Very different from last summer when the sun meant not blessed warmth, but exhausting heat.

 

In one area, I walked past fields of hops. Johanna pulled the car off the road and explored a small pond where red-singed blackbirds were singing a loud chorus. She recorded a video of the birds and their song.

 

 



Towards the end of my week it became cloudy and threatened to rain. We packed up as much as we could the night before my last morning walk so we wouldn’t be caught packing the next day in the rain.

 

A good thing, too. The skies opened up and poured.


I dressed a bit too warmly in the morning, expecting to get wet as I walked. But the weather was kind. It only spit a bit. I was wet all right, but not with rain. I was covered in sweat as I finished my walk.

 

My goal for the last day was a town called Homedale. I made it through the town and about a mile beyond. I covered 22.8 miles in seven days.

 

I was so happy to walking again! So relieved not to have injured myself seriously. No broken bones. Just arthritis – and I am used to dealing with that.

Days 126- 132 Part D

Posted by Anna on August 14, 2015 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (6)

 

With our week of walking completed, Johanna and I had more traveling to do.


We were going to Michigan to visit friends we had known in Yugoslavia forty years earlier. And stopping to visit relations of mine in Colorado and some friends of Johana’s in Chicago. The plan was once I got Johanna on her plane at O’Hare Airport, I would drive back west and meet up with my next travel companion for two weeks on the road in May.


 

Part of that worked out.

\

On the way east, we drove through a snowstorm in Idaho,




 

 

and crossed a windy Wyoming pass through the Rockies.


 

 

My Denver cousin took us on a side trip through the high mountains of Colorado.



 

It was so beautiful I had to fight the impulse to change my route to take me through Colorado.


But the altitude is very high. I found myself exhausted just walking from the car to read the roadside signs. And the way I am traveling – a few weeks at a time – I’d never be able to adjust. Wyoming will be high enough.


 

We stopped to see Mt. Rushmore on our way East.




 

 

 

“I told you so! Carved!” Johanna said.




 

 

 

I tried to name all the US Presidents in order and left out about six of them. I also forgot to list Grover Cleveland twice.


We cruised through the Badlands of South Dakota.




 

 

We stopped for almost a week in Chicago with friends of Johanna. They were kind and funny and fed us very well and treated us to concerts.

 

 

We did some fancy sightseeing.




 

 

 

Chicago, too, has changed significantly since my childhood days in Illinois.




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 








Then we looked up our old friends from Yugoslav days in Michigan. What fun to reconnect after all these years and find out what we have done with our lives. Like catching the end of a story. Or perhaps reading a sequel to a well-loved novel.


 

 

I took a couple of days to visit a Confidence Clinic woman who has moved to Michigan. She’s doing so well, I was delighted.




She and I had shared fond memories of Steak n Shake when we were in distant Oregon, and here we were in Steak n Shake territory once more. I took her and her family out to eat and we all gobbled down steakburgers and shakes as if they had just been invented. Steakburgers were my very first burger ever (age three or four) and it had been almost thirty years since I’d eaten one. They were just as delicious as I remembered. Yum!

 

 

 

I caught the flu in Michigan. (The flu shot I got was only 19% effective this year.) Then the flu turned into pneumonia. Miserable. Johanna’s friends in Chicago let me sleep in their house for five days after Johanna got on the plane home.

 

By the time I got back to Idaho, I had learned that my May travel companion was scheduled for surgery and couldn’t walk with me. I got back to Roseburg and found that my June walking companion had cancelled also. So in the past three months, I have walked for seven days. And I am just 22.8 miles into Idaho.

 

I am ever hopeful. I have companions lined up for August, September and October. I believe they are solid.

 

In the meantime I’m cleaning up my credit card mess and catching up on everything that accumulated while I was away. Including this blog entry. I’ll keep you posted.

 

(This entry was a long time coming. I had trouble getting the photos inserted. Finally found a method that works better. I'm going out again the beginning of next week.)

Pondering

Posted by Anna on February 4, 2015 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

 

People often ask me if I wear earphones and listen to music as I walk. I can imagine that a soundtrack to accompany my walking might be powerful at times, but the truth is I don’t want the distraction.



I love music. I sing to the cows, and sometimes as I walk, I sing in my head. (I’d sing aloud, but can seldom spare the breath.) All kinds of songs run through my head – not just the Communist Internationale, which I use to entertain the cows, but also “We shall overcome” and “Down by the Riverside” and other songs from my activist youth.



One day show tunes from old musicals like Carousel and Showboat and Cinderella rang through my brain – “If I loved you” and “Only make believe I love you” and “Do I love you because you’re beautiful?” Love songs all of them – sweet songs – saccharin even. Another day I walked past a field of freshly cut grass – the smell so sharp and pure I felt I was in heaven. “Back Home Again in Indiana” rang through my mind all that day, with its refrain: “The new mown hay sends all its fragrance though the fields I used to roam.” Here I was, roaming alongside the fields, soaking in the fragrance. On another occasion I ran through the Beatles repertoire as I toiled up a mountain pass, wishing I had “a ticket to ride”.



I expect people think listening to music would help with the monotony of walking, but in fact I am never bored. There is so much to see and absorb. I am so busy experiencing every detail. Every sound, breeze, bird call, scent. Each weed, every moo. One day a cow walked parallel to me along a distant hillside crying the whole way. She was separated from her herd and trying to find them – or maybe the rancher had just taken away her calf. I heard her urgent bawling long before I spotted her – a large field separated us – and I felt for her plight. Music playing in my ears would have denied me that moment of empathy.



And of course I think a good deal as I walk. All kinds of thoughts – wonderings – ponderings. I’d like to report that my thoughts are profound – deep philosophical revelations about life and the world, and perhaps occasionally they are. (If you’re curious, you can look up some profundities in an early blog about philosophy.) But often they are almost trivial. Oddities catch my attention and send my thoughts reeling off into strange channels.



I walked past a collection of hay bales shaped like giant loaves of bread, all taller than me.




That led to at least a half an hour wondering how the farmer would manage to move the bales into the fields for the cows. Just getting the hay into a truck seemed nearly impossible. The bales were nearly as large as a truck.



One day I fixated on the shape of trees. Not all, but many trees seem to grow so that the bottom of their canopy makes a straight line parallel to the ground. I took several pictures.





I remembered noticing a weeping willow in my town of Roseburg that was all tidily shaped this way and thinking the landowner must be a bit obsessive compulsive, trimming it so neatly. But here it was again, out in the country, and I realized that I have seen many trees like this over the years – without really registering it. And country people are much too busy to waste time trimming the under branches of a tree. So – why do trees do this? I was sure there must be a simple answer, but could not figure out what evolutionary benefit such a growth pattern provided to the trees. I raised this question weeks later to a friend, who had the answer. Deer – and cows, too – eat the leaves and twigs of trees (at least of those that taste good), and they can only reach so high. The OCD pruners are not, after all people, but herbivores. The evolutionary payoff was theirs.



Last May I became aware that cars and trucks passing me made a kind of growly sound as they approached me and often again after they passed me. Like they were revving their engines with the clutch in. Rrrrrrr! Rrrrrrr! Two or three times. Not all cars, and not all the time. But often more than half of them did it. I couldn’t figure out what they were doing. It wasn’t unfriendly, despite the sound, because often the drivers waved as they passed.



It seemed to me that I had heard this sound before and remembered the large truck that had growled at me in the dread tunnel way back on day six of my walk. That awesome roar sent me flat against the tunnel wall, my heart pounding, my limbs frozen with fear. It had not felt friendly then.



But I couldn’t remember hearing this sound any other time in over a year of walking, and now all of a sudden, all these cars were growling at me. Was it a new fad? Some kind of gizmo to say “hello”, like an Aoooga horn sort of thing? But the drivers’ hands were often visible on the steering wheel, not busy pushing some button.



My companion Marge never made the sound when she drove past. In fact, it was mostly the vehicles on my side of the road.



I would have phoned NPR’s “Car Talk” to see if the Tappet brothers knew the answer if they were still taking calls. Then I mentioned it to Janet (who came out with me in August) and she said, “It’s the rumble strips.”



Duh! All that time spent pondering over rumble strips – tidy little bumps in the center of the road to alert drivers if they cross the middle line. Rrrrrr! Rrrrr! Rrrrr! as approaching cars considerately moved into the oncoming lane to give me a wide berth and then moved back again. And of course, when there was traffic coming towards them in that lane, they didn’t cross, and there was no growly sound. And the tunnel way back near Mapleton had rumble strips down the middle, too, though the highway leading to and from it did not. That big truck had eased away from the tunnel wall (and because he came from behind, he was coincidentally heading right towards me on the far side of the road). Those big tires hit the rumble bumps and the roar echoed throughout the narrow tunnel. Every hair stood on end, but it wasn’t malice, but physics that shook me. Nice to know.



Such odd (and trivial) ponderings keep my mind occupied. If my thoughts are not always profound, they at least provide me with a natural form of entertainment. This daily encounter with the details of the landscape, soaking in the minutia of American life, is what my trip is all about.



So no, I don’t need an ipod.

 

Days 110-125

Posted by Anna on November 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)

My notes from my second day out this trip read: “In some ways this trip is me blowing a raspberry at the vulnerability of old age, thumbing my nose at mortality.” Such hubris seldom goes untested, and indeed fate took on my challenge with full force.



My hope was that I would reach Idaho this trip. In part this depended on my new companion Barbara, who wasn’t sure whether she could give me two weeks or three. I’d been making a little over 50 miles in two weeks, and the border was a good deal farther ahead than that. So I began with a strong determination to walk just a bit farther each day, pushing the pace a little.



The problem was that my right hip was giving me a hard time. It started hurting towards the end of the long drive to Idaho to pick up my RV. I’d left the trailer at my sister Elaine’s ranch in Jerome, so that I wouldn’t have to pull it over all those mountains again, but Jerome is a good three hours or more beyond where I’m walking. It’s a 500 mile drive from Roseburg to Jerome – about eleven or twelve hours not counting food stops, and Barbara had brought along her dog Madison, so we had to stop periodically to let her stretch her legs. We ended up spending a night on the road at a $35 a night motel in Vale, and arriving in Jerome midmorning the second day.



(Dismal motel – saggy beds and not even a single bar of soap in the bathroom, but you get what you pay for.)



One day lost right there, because I couldn’t just turn around and leave again. We stayed the night in Jerome and it was truly nice to visit with Elaine. My big sister (with all the good things that relationship implies!)



We left in the morning and got to the RV camp in Brogan. Brogan is a tiny town about 24 miles west of Vale. The campground is an oasis of tall, shade trees – and has inexpensive cabins as well as full hookups for trailers, with a number of permanent residents as well as travelers like me.



We found a friendly community there – very mellow and sweet people. One resident, a slim woman with long “hippy-style” hair and a warm smile, welcomed us and helped us find a good spot. Another lady with a short haircut and a slightly shy manner, brought us fresh baked biscuits one night and beans another. The men were friendly, too, offering advice and helping out with technical difficulties – water connection problems, etc. Like all small communities, it was a hotbed of gossip, too. A lot of time spent on secrets and supposed misdemeanors. Hurt feelings occasionally loomed large, but were generally soothed by the overall mellowness and genuine kindness of the group. People helping each other through hard times.



They were all excited about my venture and cheered me on, asking each day how many miles I had covered.



Our biscuit baker said I was an inspiration. Not sure how to respond to that. I’m just doing what I want. Of course I know it is because I am such an unlikely person to be doing this – old and fat and arthritic. Not at all the athletic type. The surprise of it is what gets them. If I were twenty-nine and thin and muscular, they wouldn’t be so impressed.



So I started out a day late and with the first step realized I might have a problem with my hip. It had hurt some the last two times out – in May and August – but then it had been mostly a twinge that worked itself out as I walked. This time, after that long drive out, it was not being so accommodating.



My bravado when I wrote of “thumbing my nose” was coming from a real sense of vulnerability, limping through the vast and empty terrain of the desert. Caught between the pain spiraling out from my hip and my determination to cover extra miles each day, I needed to talk up my courage.





I concentrated on the positives. My feet continued to be in great shape. The new shoes I had purchased were a half size larger than the shoes I bought the first year, and they worked well for me. No more burning or painful toes. I had four different pairs of shoes and never wore the same pair two days in a row. I had just one blister the whole trip and I dealt with it quickly and effectively. A snug bandaid kept it clean and pain free.



My muscle tone seemed good, too. I had walked the three mile loop around the VA grounds in Roseburg on three different days the week before I set out. Not a lot, but enough to get the legs used to walking again. My hip had bothered me some even then, but I thought at the time that it would work itself out. I was more worried about the companion problem.



My friend Viennese Johanna had planned to accompany me, but had broken her hand in an automobile accident just days before her scheduled flight to the US and ended up in the hospital. I talked my friend Barbara into coming with me instead, along with Madison. Madison is a lovely golden retriever, with gentle eyes and total devotion to Barbara, who seems equally enchanted with Madison. What a trooper that dog was! Well behaved, patient with all the car travel, sweet as only a dog can be. And Barbara of course, was great company. I am so lucky in my friends!





My concerns last time about “public indecency” on the long, straight, treeless highway over the desert proved groundless. My body behaved with perfect regularity. I only faced the problem I was so worried about twice during the whole trip, and both times managed to take care of my business efficiently without flashing any passing cars. It helped that I was walking early in the morning when traffic was sparse.





Nor was I overwhelmed by the landscape which had seemed almost monotonous as I drove through it. Once again I was reminded that walking is radically different from driving. The scenery, though vast and often forbidding, was breathtakingly beautiful in the morning light. The desert glowed with color – rich golds, lavender sage, all varieties of green and brown. The early morning air was cool and there was often a breeze, so that the sun, though relentless did not interfere with my walking. Even when I felt I was overheating as I walked, I could feel the coolness of the air on my skin.










The sky was amazing as the sun rose,









turning telephone wires into gossimer threads of silver.






And once the sun was up, the sky continued to entertain me.









I had one rainy day when I wore my red raincoat, which billowed around me in the breeze. Mostly I wore just a T-shirt and my white windbreaker, and I usually discarded the jacket within the first hour. My straw hat kept me shaded, and my fanny pack held a bottle of water, my camera, my walkie-talkie, and a couple of paper penises.



Who could ask for more?



The first week was mostly desert – distant ranches, a tiny town called Ironside, and occasional cows by the roadside.











I passed an old abandoned ranch house, picturesque under roiling clouds.





I sang to the cows again with mixed results. One herd near Ironside was rather noisy, mooing boisterously at me as I walked by them and then getting absolutely silent as I sang. When I stopped singing and walked away, they got noisy again. Another smaller herd watched me in silence as I approached and then ran away from me when I sang. No appreciation of the finer arts!




Barbara told me she tried singing, too, as she and Madison adventured separately on little side roads. Her first group of cows departed rapidly, but a second group seemed to enjoy her music. She sang “You are my Sunshine”, so at first I thought the cows preferred the more operatic tones of “The Communist Internationale“, but that was before my second group of cows ran away from me and her second herd stayed to listen. Apparently some cows just don’t like music. And some do.




The pain in my right hip continued to plague me. To extend my overall mileage, I had decided not to walk less than four miles a day the first week, and hoped to stay above five miles each day the second. Everything else about my walk was wonderful, but what had once been an occasional twinge was now a raw nerve pain that shot down my leg and up my back in debilitating surges. Some days each step was an agony. My walks were becoming an exercise in endurance.




I can be stubborn. I refused to walk less than four miles a day. I would get a rhythm going and just keep moving, riding the pain rather than fighting it. I was determined to reach the Idaho border if at all possible. Some days I did very well in spite of the pain, but I did begin to wonder if this much pain was consistent with “having fun”.




We drove to Ontario one afternoon that first week to find a health food store, where I purchased some turmeric, which allowed me to double my intake of this anti-inflammatory spice. The increased dosage did help a good deal, though it did not totally eliminate the pain. It moved me back to a persistent and annoying twinge interspersed with occasional spurts of shooting pain. My fifth day out, I walked 5.5 miles! No stupid pain was going to stop me!



 

One farmer stopped on the road and asked if he could help me. When I told him what I was doing, he shook his head. “I stopped to see if I could help you,” he said, “but I can’t help people who are crazy.”



I laughed and agreed it was a crazy undertaking.



A lot of people stopped – seeing an elderly lady of generous proportions hobbling across the desert with a cane. Really, people are so kind. One young woman from Ironside stopped her big truck as I was approaching the top of Brogan Hill – my last summit in Oregon. She kindly agreed to wait for me at the top and take my picture with Barbara and Madison at the summit.





Shortly after that I started a long downhill trek to Brogan. The hills, dotted with sagebrush looked almost like an old fashioned calico print.





At the foot of the hill, we entered new territory – more water, ranches closer together and nearer to the road.











Lots of trucks drove by filled with onions – a popular item now being harvested. One man and his son stopped their truck and offered me some. I took just one and found it heavy to carry in my hand until Barbara came by and I could leave it in the car.





They fill the trucks so full that onions fall off the top wherever the road curves or the wind blows. You could make a stew from the vegetables scattered along the highway. I found onions along the road all the way from Brogan to Vale, and our friends at the RV park said they hardly ever buy onions as they can find plenty out on the road. There were other vegetables by the wayside as well, though in smaller quantities. I saw a cucumber. Lots of kernals of corn, too. The corn made a trail, with a kernal every foot or so, and gleaming in the morning light. I thought they would have served Hansel and Gretel better than bread crumbs, with dots of gold marking the way.




I began to worry that I was developing arthritis in my hip. I returned to camp each day exhausted, unfit for anything but to lie down in my bed and sleep.




It was confusing, too, because with a bad left knee and a bad right hip, which side should I use the cane on? And which foot would be the lead foot when I climbed onto my RV or up into my bunk bed? Even managing the little steps of my stepladder getting into the bed was miserably painful. I found myself unwilling to leave the RV in the afternoons simply because I didn’t want to have to climb back inside.





Some days were better than others, of course, and I tried to make the most of them, pushing myself to walk longer on those days. By the second week, I was making at least five miles each day, and some days 5.6 and 5.7. I began to dream about making it to six miles.





There’s not much in the way of water in this country, and what there is tends to be coated with various forms of algae. Not very inviting to swimmers.






We did inquire as to more local bodies of water, but though there are a few rivers and creeks along the way and some reservoirs high in the mountains, access is not so easy.




Poor Madison is definitely a water dog, so one day we drove all the way back to Lake Magone just so she could swim. She was so happy, it was worth the forty-mile drive.




Barbara is enchanted by old cemeteries, and there were several along the way, which she took time to explore. The oldest grave near Ironside was dated 1833 – fellow died at the age of 64. There’s an old cemetery near Vale, too, which apparently has flooded out several times over the years. Poor Madison encountered a vicious weed there that produced really sharp stickers that embedded themselves in her paws. Barbara finally had to practically carry her out and then pick them all off. The points were hard and sharp like thorns.




One day, coming back from a shopping trip in Ontario, we passed an man on a bike pulling a little cart with a dog on a leash running beside him. That night he came to stop at our RV camp. Kyle is probably in his sxties, with a snowy Santa Claus beard topped by a white Hercule Poirot mustache. He started out from Boise on a trip that will take him to Seattle and from there down the coast to Mexico. He’s crossing the US north to south. September seemed a bit late in the year to start a trek that will take him over so many mountain ranges, but cycling will get him over the mountains much faster than I have been able to do on foot. He stayed two nights at the campground and then passed us, heading west, just after we (going east) came down Brogan Hill.




The ranches and farms got closer and closer. The scenery now was definitely rural, with weeds by the roadside, farms in the foreground, and bare hills beyond.










I had another encounter with Charlieboy, too (see my last two blogs). After I passed through Brogan, walking towards Vale, a car stopped by the side of the road and someone yelled “Get a horse!” This old guy gets out of the car and I don’t even recognize him at first. Who would have expected to see Charlieboy in a car! But I remember he told me he had a friend in the Vale area, and that was who was driving the car. Charlieboy is getting ready for some surgery on his neck, so is resting up for a while. What fun to see him again! We have bumped into each other all three trips this year.



It was funny, too, because I was just thinking about him. Shortly before he stopped, I had passed the first tree for over fifty miles – the first one that cast shade on the road.





I had been so happy to see the shade ahead, looked forward to stopping for a bit to enjoy the coolness. Then when I got there, I was greeted by a black pit bull who was determined not to share the shade with me. I used my “I know all about dogs” tone of voice and commended him on his watchdog skills and then firmly told him to go home. He fell back a little, but as soon as I turned my back, he came after me, closer and closer, growling and threatening to bite me. Each time I turned and told him calmly and firmly to go home. “That’s enough!” I said.



He finally got the message and retreated, and I reluctantly walked back out into the sunshine. And wondered how Charlieboy had handled the situation back in August when he had surely walked past this same spot. And then no more than a half an hour later, there he was right in front of me telling me to get a horse. Small world.



So many people! One woman, out fetching her mail, gave me a hug and offered her bathroom, though I didn’t need it at the moment. One of the guys at camp brought me a warm jacket so I wouldn’t be cold in the early mornings – but of course I love the cool of the mornings. Barb met a lady while walking a side road, and when she told her my story, the lady said, “Holy Cow!” One couple saw me at the supermarket in Vale and came up and asked, “Are you the walker?” They had passed me three times out on the road.



And of course, lots of people wave as they pass, and I smile and wave back.



Lots of different kinds of waves. Some just lift a few fingers from their steering wheel, others wave vigorously. Some give a beauty queen kind of sideways wave and some lift one hand in an Indian-style “How!” greeting. I find myself waving differently, too. Depending in part on my energy level at the moment, but sometimes just in response to their variety.



Vale is a changed town from when I was there last, some ten or more years ago. They have been painting murals everywhere – splendid murals covering whole buildings with color and life. Some of the best mural art I have ever seen adorns this tiny East Oregon town. My favorite was a wall covered with four panels depicting ethnic groups that have played a significant part in local history – the Basques, Japanese, Mexicans, and Chinese. Really rich colors and action in the details.













Lots of nice views of travelers on the Oregon trail as well, and also images from later eras.










Well done, Vale!



After I passed Vale, I soon came in sight of a small mountain – all by itself out in the middle of the fields. I’ve driven past it, but walking is different. I kept wanting to pass it, but it semed to always stay in front of me. In part this is because the road circles half-way around it, and in part because travel is just much slower on foot. “I’ve crossed four mountain ranges,” I told the mountain, “I’ll pass you too.”





Its answer was simply to stay always in front of me. I walked 6.1 miles that day, trying to pass that darn mountain. The next day I finally passed it. “I told you so,” I said, and didn’t look back.




So I finally succeeded in reaching six miles, that day I pursued the mountain. My hip was not too bad that day and I was feeling very triumphant when I returned to camp. Then I pulled myself up into the trailer, with a loud groan. A bit later, as I climbed into my bed, I learned what the term “blinding pain” meant. I fell onto the mattress with a cry. Barbara, outside the trailer, heard me and asked if I was okay.



“I’m fine!” I called, but when she came in to check I was sobbing, exhausted, and disheartened. I could not move my right leg, the pain was still surging through my body. I could hardly breathe through the pain, let alone “ride” it.



I finally eased myself onto my back and found a position to put my leg in that was, if not painless, at least a little less painful. I slept a little, but mostly just lay and wallowed in self-pity. I would have to sell the RV. I had just spent $500 on shoes and now would never use them. I would be crippled by arthritis and turn into a giant turnip unable to move from my couch. I’d never walk again.



I’d have to have hip surgery, and who knew when I would be on my feet again? Barbara helped there as she has had both hips and both shoulders replaced and is pain free. Elaine, too, has artificial joints and moves around comfortably. Then again, neither of them is fat.



This went on for some time. I went to sleep that night in a deep funk – all despair and hopelessness. I was determined to make it to Idaho no matter what. At the very least, I would be able to say I walked across Oregon. Not so sexy as walking across the continent, but still something. I didn’t think I could even roll over, let alone ever walk again, so how was I going to get to Idaho?



Gradually the pain eased as I groused to myself and oozed despair. By morning, I could not only roll over, but walk. I began to rethink my submission to the dark forces of negativity and started thinking of the hip as a problem to be addressed, not unlike the problem of self-exposure by the roadside. “I have all winter to find a solution,” I told myself. “First stop when I get to Roseburg is to the doctor. If I have to have surgery, I’ll schedule it right away so I can get started on physical therapy before spring comes.” Barbara told me that with hip surgery they want you to walk right away, and that cheered me mightily.



I took it easy on the road that next day, walking just 3.4 miles as I made it past my little mountain. It was the first time that week I had walked less than five miles and the first time the whole trip I walked less than four. I had hoped to make it to Idaho on my birthday, but the lower mileage put an end to that plan. I reached Route 201 that day, and the next day, my birthday, walked four miles south to Nyssa, Oregon. So close, less than two miles to the Idaho border, but my hip could take no more that day.



The next day I crossed into Idaho. And stopped right there. Done. My hip was insistent, and Barbara, too, was ready to go home. We’d had a lovely time, but we were both more than ready to stop.



I took almost no pictures those last few days – it was ranch country much like what I had already passed through, with pastures, hay, farmhouses, all mapped out in square miles with crossroads every mile. My energy level was all directed to taking the next step. And waving at passing cars, for the traffic was heavy, flowing between the city of Ontario and the town of Nyssa.



Barbara and I took pictures of each other at the border. A major goal accomplished, crossing my first state border.









Then we drove about twenty miles into Idaho, scouting out the road ahead, looking for good RV parks for the spring, and finding a side road to take to skirt a place where the highway looks perilous.



Then we headed back to camp. Barbara drove home the next morning and I took the RV back to Elaine’s ranch, where it will spend the winter snug under its canvas cover. I sent almost a week at Elaine’s. My sister Mary drove down from Salmon, Idaho, to spend a couple of days. We shared lots of memories and retold old family stories while I rested my hip for the car journey back to Roseburg.




So I had my first great “dark night of the soul” and for the first time seriously considered that I might not succeed on this venture. Vulnerable? Yes, indeed. There’s a new awareness of my limits. I know I will need to rethink my pacing. I had hoped the next time out to be walking all five- and six-mile days and I know that that is too ambitious for now. I need to rethink my self-expectations, go slower to go farther. Go back to three- and four-mile days.



I went to the doctor as soon as I got home and was duly x-rayed. The hip is not arthritic – just pushed too hard in support of the left knee. Tortured muscles and ligaments are causing the pain, not bone rubbing on bone. So no walking for a bit and leg lifts, slow and careful to strengthen the hip muscles. Water exercise, not land, until a month or so has passed. A problem to be addressed over the winter to make me ready for spring.



I reached Idaho!





Statistics may be a bit tedious, but people always ask how far I have walked, how much per day, etc., so it must have some interest. I have now walked for 125 days over a two year period. I have walked well over 400 miles. (It is about 380 miles across Oregon as the crow flies – if crows could be persuaded to fly in a straight line – and my path curved well north of a straight line, ended up about 8 miles south of the straight line, and wiggled excessively a good portion of the way, following rivers and switchbacking up and down mountainsides.) I have crossed five mountain ranges, reached six passes and climbed two summits (hills high enough to merit an elevation sign). I have crossed from one time zone into another and from one state into another.



I went from thinking I had accomplished much if I walked three miles in one day to a peak walk of 6.1 miles this last time out.



(I have lost essentially no weight at all, but who’s counting?)



I was out for two weeks and two days this time out, starting on September 24th and reaching Idaho on October 9th. I missed my birthday by just one day.



I walked a total of 73.6 miles – 32.4 the first week, 35.5 the second, and just 5.7 on the last two days. Before this I was covering just over 25 miles per week, so this was a significant improvement despite the pain.



So all’s well that ends. And a wiser, less cocky Anna will walk out again in the spring. My next immediate goal – the Continental Divide.

 

 

 

 

 



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