In order to save time in the morning, I began to skip breakfast and eat either granola bars or spam as I began walking. When I got to the next town, Battle Mountain, I began seeing state troopers again and got excited. When were they going to stop and talk to me? One passed slowly and read the sign on my cart and the rest I waved to. As I got to the downtown exit I saw one pull onto the shoulder of the exit ramp and I wondered if he wanted to talk to me. Maybe he thought I was going to exit? So, I went out of my way to walk towards the state trooper but when I approached his vehicle all he did was wave back at me. I didn’t even get a window rolled down. I reached the town limit and saw a sheriff’s vehicle hiding in a shady spot in the median, waiting for speeders. As I walked by I waved, called “hello,” and waved again. He clearly looked at me but ignored me. I became a bit discouraged after that. The law enforcement had become one of my sources of entertainment and socialization. I was walking when their shift began and ended and as I crossed into different counties the officers changed. There was a state trooper further out that was driving loops on his route and I found it humorous that each time he drove by he obliged in waving back to me. I’m assuming it was the same officer anyways. I felt like that friend that decides that they’re your friend before you know they even exist. When I wasn’t waving to strangers, I was completely spaced out. One of my main thoughts was, “Life is a dream.” I began to feel a rush to finish the walk yet I no longer knew what my reality was. As I began to think about finishing I became incredibly overwhelmed. How do I even get through tomorrow?
I woke up in the dirt under a bridge at my usual 4:30am. My circadian rhythm had adjusted to this yet my body continued to fight it. As I finally began to move, a truck pulled into the dirt parking area next to the construction equipment. He must’ve gotten to the job site early. I threw my things together and rushed to get to my cart, which was hidden behind the construction equipment. As I took the entrance ramp back onto the interstate, I tried to pretend that it was perfectly normal for someone to pop out of nowhere and start pushing a cart on the interstate at 5am. Several hours later, I met Damion. The alternator on his RV had gone out and this time he couldn’t fix it. I offered the use of my phone but he had no one to call. I asked if he had food and water and he did. He was well prepared for his desert travels, apart from having unreliable transportation. His elderly dad was still in the vehicle and I hoped that they’d be able to get their RV fixed before it got 100°F. They were on a road trip to visit his father’s school friend and to bond. Despite being no use to his vehicle situation, Damion thanked me for the conversation and I continued. I passed a state trooper that had a car pulled over on the side of the road and he asked me if I needed water. As I walked by the car receiving the ticket, I could see the inhabitants staring at me and grinning. I wanted to talk to them but I didn’t think the officer would’ve appreciated that. My last three miles of the day were the worst. A storm rolled in and the wind gusts blew sand and dirt into the sky. I kept my head down and tried to push my cart uphill. It looked like I was walking into a wall of darkness. The visibility decreased and the brightness from car headlights were the only hint that vehicles were still on the road. Despite these conditions I needed to continue. I was so close to my end point! The bright side to this situation was that the dirt flying in my face distracted me from the pain in my joints. As I reached the bridge, I found out that I was at an exit for a prison. No one was going to stop to talk to me here but I wondered if people would call the police. This bridge was exposed and there was no where to sleep. I knew with my limited options I’d have to continue to find shelter. It was suppose to start drizzling. I’d seen a few culverts and hoped I’d find one suitable to sleep in. About a 1/2 mile further, I discovered one hidden by the tall, yellow foliage. I was excited about the shelter but I prayed that it wasn’t raining harder elsewhere because then I’d be flooded out.
I no longer can tolerate the taste or smell of oatmeal and I don’t have the time in the mornings to force feed myself. The result, I eat cold spam and poptarts as I walked my first mile. My fatigue only grew worse and after seven miles I needed a new game plan. I put in my earbuds and began jamming to the band, “Rainbow Kitten Surprise.” The beats were uplifting and it altered the wavelengths in my brain to help me see the world more positively. My pace quickened and eased my discomfort. Walking was once again bearable. My first motorcycle state trooper stopped to talk to me but his questions didn’t seem like they came from a place of curiosity but rather inquisitive to see if I was a person of concern. Throughout the day, him and the other state troopers did oblige in waving to me as they passed and of course I appreciated each acknowledgement. With a few miles left, a woman called Marebear stopped to offer me food. She talked to me, gave me gatorade and a peach, and then a hug. My energy level spiked after meeting her. She was on her way home after spending at least a week in the desert at the Burning Man festival. Finally, I ended up at a rest stop except they aren’t what they are in Utah. There was a giant building that had pit toilets room after room and they smelled horrendous. Not to mention, you thought you’d be consumed by the flies. I walked up to the signs that talked about the history of the California Trail and then I heard, “Where are you going?” The voice came from Gary, a retired history teacher that was on his bucket list trip. He’d seen me out of the corner of his eye as he was driving away from the rest stop and something told him to turn around. When I told him my name was Amanda his grin, which I didn’t think could get bigger, doubled in size. “You’re kidding?! Amanda means worthy of love” he said. Gary’s mother, daughter, and cousin were all named Amanda and now he discovered another one! He worked with an organization, Students Against Violence Everywhere, and gave me a copy of his book. I loved listening to his stories and how excited he was about telling them but my body was exhausted. I was standing and could feel the blood flush from my face. I had to sit down or I’d pass out. I attempted to keep my cool and sit while I grabbed a fun sized snickers to eat. He could see the color change in my face and encouraged me to do what I needed to do. Before he left he told me that he’d “adopted me into his heart.”
35 miles down the road, my longest day, and after walking 10 plus miles in a construction zone ( a good thing, I had a full lane to myself) I ended up in the home of Alex and Lisa. They were my hosts for the night and they made tacos! I was excited to see how excited they were to host me. It was wonderful and exactly what I needed. They convinced me to stay a day and took me to North Lake Tahoe to experience the beach. I couldn’t believe the beauty or the peacefullness. I floated on a floatie for a few minutes but feared being taken away by the current. My arms were too short to effectively paddle in any direction so I stayed close to shore. When we returned to their home they pointed out wild horses to me. My mind was blown! Alex described to me that they’ll sometimes roam through the neighborhood and eat the grass off of people’s lawns. Which eventually leads to them pooping there too. As I got ready for the following day, Alex made me a map that showed the bike route that went through Reno. The bike route itself had a few signs but they weren’t easy to see and could be misleading.
I ditched my jogging stroller and began backpacking once again. I not only didn’t want to have to push that thing over the Sierra mountains but my resources (food and water) were no longer 100 miles apart. Alex warned me that I’d see homeless people along the bike route but it wasn’t what I expected. When I thought of homeless people in the middle of a city I thought of mentally ill and unpredictable. There were makeshift shelters hidden in the trees and tall grass but most were tents. In the early morning, the owners of them were breaking camp and getting ready for their day. It was strange for me because I was no different from them in that instance. The fact that they were putting their tents up gave me the impression that they cared about their belongings and themselves. I didn’t know their situation but I saw the humanity behind their actions. They were just trying to do the best they could. When I walked past some of them I made sure to say “hello” and their “hello” back would be filled with enthusiasm and then they’d ask, “How are you?” A few individuals did look concerning yet I had no problems with them. There was one man sleeping on steps and he looked severely uncomfortable. Couples were outstretched on the grass in between layers of blankets. I wanted to talk to them to learn and better understand but I refrained. They were just trying to get through each day like I was. I continued to follow the bike route through various neighborhoods and the signage was confusing. I definitely would’ve gotten lost if it was not for the map Alex made me. I walked past a man and his dog standing outside their home and the dog wanted to say hello. When the man called back his dog the dog looked distressed. He looked torn between listening to his owner and investigating me so I asked the man if I could pet his dog. The man, Phillip, asked if I needed water and even though I still had 2 liters, it never hurt to top it off. He thought I was just a random walker but when I explained what I was doing he became enthralled. He gave me a bag of doritos and a chair to sit in while we exchanged stories. He grew up in California in a rough neighborhood and in order to break the poverty cycle his mother told him that he had to be smarter than she was and his kids had to be smarter than him. He shared with me how proud he was to be paying his bills himself, unassisted, and that his kids are doing well. He really had no interest going on a grand adventure like I was because he was happy working so that his children could have the opportunity to do whatever they wanted. It was another beautiful perspective on life, one of love and self-sacrifice.