Hello all of you beautiful people!
Utah came and went in a blur but the multi-colored desert mountains continue to grasp my heart. For the first week I had the opportunity to walk with another cross-country hiker. Johnathan, and together we experienced our first Utah hail storm. Throughout the day a black wall of darkness inched its way across the sky towards us along highway 40. Within that darkness there was a concentrated area of white streaks falling from the sky. With dread, I knew what was coming and the universe must’ve thought it’d be funny to throw Murphy’s Law into the equation. Johnathan was pushing a supply cart for the desert portion to come and as we watched the storm near he had not one but two flat tires. The culprit? A staple. This is why we don’t throw staples out the window.. As anxiety and frustration rose within Johnathan I reassured him to take his time. The flat tires needed to be fixed right the first time. We got his cart moving again and then the down pour of dime sized hail began. There weren’t any trees to shelter under and the only thing I knew how to do was to push through it. I had faith that if it was bad enough a kind-hearted individual would stop to help. Johnathan on the other hand yelled, “I’m ditching the cart!” “You can’t ditch the cart!” I exclaimed back. “There’s an overhang, I’m ditching the cart,” Johnathan stated as he pointed into the distance and took off running. I barely identified the overhang through the downpour and immediately ran after him as my brain tried to calculate the plausibility of climbing the incline in the mud. We made it and were fortunate to have the wind in our favor. We watched the aggressive pellets of ice bestow themselves on the ground causing traffic to pull off onto the side of the road. The situation seemed utterly ridiculous at this point and we both began to laugh off the chaos that’d just occurred. We looked off into the distance and spotted a rainbow on the horizon and we knew that we could continue on our way.
Once I got into the Provo area I was able to begin my search for my very own jogging stroller. I figured my most cost efficient solution would be checking out the local KSL website (similar to Craigslist) and after scanning through a variety of profiles I found one I wanted to inquire about. The only problem was that I was unsure of my means of transportation. The logistical nightmare began as I contacted the woman about the cart and tried to match a pick up time that meshed with my friend, Amalia’s, schedule. At some point, I knew that I would need to break the news to the woman that I was in a different boat than most people, aka walking across the country. “Why?” you ask. I felt transparency was the best way to go when I had an unknown means of transportation and an unknown time availability. Thankfully, she wasn’t weirded out about it, to my knowledge anyways, and as soon as I had the logistics figured out I was enroute to her house. The cart was more than I’d hoped for! Everything easily detached and it folded up beautifully to fit in the car. The tires needed a bit of maintenance but that was expected. My next task was to learn how to change a flat tire. Simple thing to do right? Well, it is when you have the proper tools. Between my hands, a flathead screwdriver from my pocket knife, and an old tire I spent several hours trying to break the seal on the tire. In the process I inadvertently tore through the tube itself. Whoops.. To some degree I created more problems for myself yet I gained a satisfaction from learning from my mistakes. I noted that I needed something less sharp to work with on the tube and that the old tires were a pain in the butt, thus I should get new ones. After a day of trial and error, I felt competent problem solving with flat tires and ready to take on the road!
Day one with my stroller, dubbed Nugget, was an adjustment to say the least. I had to walk out of the city and find my way to a bike trail. What should’ve been simple turned ridiculous when Google Maps insisted I should walk through a golf course to get there. My instincts told me that I probably shouldn’t walk through yet being unfamiliar to the area I decided to try. It was one of those “act confidently and maybe no one will stop me” moments. I circled the front office, I’d already missed a turn, and as I was about to turn onto the course I hear, “Ma’am, you can’t go there.” Keep in mind, I’m pushing a giant red jogging stroller. There was no blending in. I told him I was trying to get to the bike trail and Google Maps told me to go that way. He gave me directions to the public entrance to the bike trail and went back to his business. The morning was filled with small frustrations. The tiny, hard front wheel struggled to roll and when it was time to push the cart up a steep gradient it became a beast of burden. With these realizations, I came to the decision that pushing the cart up a dirt road, over a mountain, to avoid 12 miles was NOT a good idea. At the day’s end, I’d stopped thinking about what people thought about my cart as they drove by and eventually ended up at a city park for the night. It looked decent and children ran around and played on the playground equipment. As dusk fell, I began to maneuver to what I’d hoped to be an ideal sleeping spot. I’d stopped trusting the grass because of radical sprinkler systems throughout he night and instead headed to the concrete baseball area. There were cement bleachers and at the top there was a covered section where the announcers sat. “Perfect!” I thought. I hauled my cart up the bleachers and began laying out my bedding. Headlights soon turned into the parking lot so I stopped what I was doing and observed. Something strange was going on. The single car would drive a few feet and sit there. I could see the illumination of a cell phone but nothing more. The car advanced a few more feet and sat there. Then, I heard a voice from below me and in the shadowy darkness I saw a figure walk to the trash can. I sat silently and waited. The figure, now on a bicycle, went up to the vehicle but the words were indistinguishable. The figure soon disappeared yet a SUV appeared and slowly maneuvered around the parking lot. It was nearing 11pm at this point and I was tired. I wanted to rest. The SUV drove away yet the original car continued to display bizarre behavior except now it was slowly progressing towards the exit. My guess was that there was a sort of drug deal occurring but the part that disturbed me the most was waiting. I didn’t know what they were actually doing so I sat in the darkness and observed my surroundings while gripping mace and double knotting my shoes, ready to run if need be. I continued to watch the car, now sitting near the exit, and then I saw the red and blue flash of police lights. What was going on?? I wish I knew. A few minutes later a second police officer arrived to the scene but I still had no way of knowing what was occurring. With that, I figured any sketchy business was over with and fell into a light sleep while the red and blue lights flickered in the distance.
After a long day of rerouting due to construction, I was fed up. I walked 20 miles and only 6 of them were progressive. Along with that the only alternative reroute was arguably more dangerous than the original highway under construction. There was maybe a foot of shoulder, I’m pushing a massive jogging stroller, and there are semi-trucks passing me on a busy two lane road. To make matters worse, there was still construction. I was furious the majority of the day and that was when I decided that for better or for worse I would begin walking on the interstate. I’d heard mixed things about walking along it though. Some people had told me that it was illegal while others told me they’d read about people doing it in books. I had to take a leap of faith and try. The road conditions were getting ridiculous. I scouted out the entrance ramp in the late afternoon and began my entry. My hands gripped onto the stroller handle bars and my jaw clenched together. “Act like you’re suppose to be here,” I told myself. Anxiety swelled within me and the sound and wind of the semi-trucks disturbed me. I immediately noticed two differences between highways and interstates on this busy section: 1) the cars care a whole lot less about you 2) the roadkill is unidentifiable. After about 45 minutes, a state trooper pulled over next to me. “What are you doing?” After a brief explanation his only response was, “why would you want to do that?” He didn’t seem keen on getting the details so I didn’t provide my more meaningful answers. Before he left he asked his main question, “You don’t have a baby in there do you?” He was responding to a call about a woman with a baby. Relief flooded over me. It appeared there wasn’t a problem walking along the interstate. Thirty minutes go by and another state trooper pulls over, in front of me this time. He gets out and visually checks the cart and asks what I’m doing. I’d just entered a new dispatch zone so he had no idea what was going on when he received word that there was a woman with a baby. He jotted down all of my driver’s license info and my cell phone number “in case something happened to me.” He was prepping for when I disappeared or had heat stroke along the salt flats. With that now at the forefront of my mind, he offered me a ride into town for the night. However, I declined. I needed to make up mileage for all the detours I had during the day. I walked until the last bit of light hit the horizon and then I found a ditch encompassed by grass the height of corn. I would be hidden from the night traffic yet there were no barriers to the sound of the engines roaring past.