10 marathons down, 125 to go
When we last left off, it was 4 in the morning in the men’s restroom at the Grass Lake Rest Area, about halfway between Dorris and Weed. I’m still in that restroom, and I’ve completely given up on sleep. So I stand and read and wait for the sun to rise.
People continue to trickle in and out of the restroom. One gentleman is 66, my best guess based on the year in which he entered the Army. He’s on his way to a vintage bicycle event, and he’s quite intrigued by my story. His response to everything I say is, “Wow.” Then he goes to use the sink, pushes the soap dispenser plunger over and over again, soap falling onto the sink, and asks me, “Isn’t the water turned on?” I say yes, and tell him I’ve seen both sinks work. So he goes to the other sink and pushes on that soap plunger over and over and over again. I point out that all he’s doing is getting soap everywhere and to make the sink work he just needs to wave his hands under the faucet to engage the motion detector. It then seems to dawn on him for the first time that there is soap everywhere, then he discovers, sure enough, the water does work.
About an hour later, a gentleman in his 70s starts slamming one of the soap dispensers in and out. I can’t believe this is happening. “Wave your hands under the faucet!” He puts his hands under the faucet and just holds them there. “Wave them around!” He just stands there. “Don’t make me come over there and wave your hands around for you!” He starts waving his hands around, and lo and behold, water comes out. I kid you not; I am not making this stuff up. Two people in about an hour who have apparently never seen a motion detecting faucet before and both of whom thought the way to turn on the faucet was to spray soap all over the sink. Even if someone has never seen a motion detecting faucet before, why think dispensing soap would turn on the water? And people think I’m batshit crazy.
I read, I talk with people, I keep looking out the window to check for light. The weather forecast for today is not good. High winds out of the southwest, snow, and thunderstorms. Weed is 2,000 feet lower than where I am, and there are roller coaster hills that mean I will gain 1,000 feet in elevation and lose 3,000 feet in elevation today. My goal today is to get to Weed as quickly as possible. No breakfast this morning because I don’t want to eat in a bathroom and I don’t want to take time later, which means my last meal was lunch yesterday. No photographs today. Just go.
Once it’s light, I head into the wind and start grinding up and down hills and dealing with that headwind. Shasta is never out today. There is a bank of clouds between Weed and me. There’s a cloudy haze across everything. This section of Hwy 97 is very asymmetric. One shoulder is the width of a truck and the other shoulder is the width of a unicycle. Then the shoulders switch so I keep crossing the highway to the wide shoulder.
Anyone who has ever hiked with me knows I can go uphill forever but that downhill just kills my knees. 3,000 feet downhill. My knees are throbbing. I’m getting a great upper body workout. Pushing the trailer uphill means bench presses and overhead lifts. Flat ground means pushups and planks. Downhill means pull-ups and rows. I keep going, trying to beat the weather, wanting out of this wind.
I walk on an overpass that goes over a cattle drive trail. That’s a new experience for me.
I walk over a dry creek, and with the way the creek looks with large rocks and trees, it looks exactly like a set for a western.
The only time I’ve walked on flat ground all day is back at the start at Grass Lake. Everything else has either been uphill or downhill. Head down, keep going.
I see the city limit sign for Weed, but it dawns on me that the speed limit hasn’t decreased. I’m now in Weed, going up and down hills, with still no change in the speed limit and not much of anything out here. I’m beat and I want to be done. I start to wonder if I’ve somehow missed Weed, but surely I couldn’t have missed I-5. I come around a bend, to the top of the next hill, and all I see is another hill.
The speed limit starts lowering! Finally, I see the core strip of Weed. There’s a signal! I’m going to make it. The motel is up to the left. The trailer doesn’t fit through the motel door. Empty the trailer, take everything into the room, work on the right angle to get the empty trailer through the door.
I’m exhausted, but I have to eat. My last meal was lunch yesterday. The Hi-Lo Cafe is just across the street and down a block, and it has good reviews so I head over there. I can’t believe I’m doing it, but they have this really large breakfast for twelve bucks. It’s five at night, and I’m going to have three eggs, five homemade hot sausage patties, hash browns, two huge homemade biscuits with butter and honey, and coffee. Food is great and service is great. I’m recovering well from the past two days.
There’s live music across the street so I go over to listen. It starts snowing, but I’m inside before it starts. I never did hear or see any sign of thunderstorms. I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve recovered from the past two days. I’m feeling good, and I can already look back at the past two days and laugh. It may not always seem like it when I’m struggling up and down more hills or fighting a headwind that makes it difficult to make any forward progress for the second consecutive day, but I’m having the time of my life!