We left the flea bag motel, rather belatedly, and stopped in to a donut shop to regroup and have breakfast. We had 19 miles to go before reaching Half Moon Bay, a popular surfing destination and state park that allowed for hike and bike camping. So we trudged on through a light drizzle that, although slightly pestering, kept me blessedly cool. Trekking up hills with 30 lbs on back causes one to heat up immediately and it’s not long, and excuse me for being graphic, before the rivulets of sweat start trickling down. I had spent the morning composing an e-mail to, as I consider her, my ‘fairy godmother.” In it, I’d written about Kae’s unfortunate blisters – not only did he have massive blisters, they in turn seemed to be spawning their own baby hellions – and how, if he had not given up the first day of walking, he was golden. I spoke to soon. It was a nigh two miles into our walk this day that I started to hear the first grumblings. “When we get to Salinas, that might be it for me.” Feeling disheartened by this off-hand statement, I chose to block it assuring myself that he just wasn’t conditioned for this trip… yet. Kae’d spent the past three months chain-smoking, eating Taco Bell, and (I’m assuming) reasoning the fifty pounds he’d gained since the end of rugby season was a store of calories for the walk. This was what I focused on as I powered ahead; my body was built for this trip: “hearty legs” (I’d always looked on in envy at the stick thin legs of my friends in high school, now I could finally appreciate my own sturdy pair), calloused runner’s feet not very prone to blisters, and a petite figure with a center of gravity lower to the ground than my male counterpart who at the time was struggling a quarter mile behind. It would take a few weeks, but I knew Kae would surpass me in physical abilities and we would get our speed up as the trip progressed. Tracking my pace with my phone’s gps, I was rocking a 3 miles/hour pace despite the hills and the thirty extra pounds concentrated on my hips. With Kae, our pace was stunted to 2.25 miles/hour. I realize this sounds catty, but it was the truth. Read on. We got four miles outside of Broadmoor (a guestimation as to the actual suburb in which we had spent the night) and found ourselves in Pacifica (at last!), reunited with Highway 1. I had started this walk with neither tissues nor (shocking) hand sanitizer. Coming up on a Walgreenss just before the on-ramp, Kae offered to look after our packs while I made my purchases. I could tell that, already, he was greatly in need of a break. So I went in and made my purchases. This was where it all went down…
When I came back out of the store, I distributed the hand sanitizer and tissues into accessible pockets in my pack. I pulled out my phone and consulted google maps for the next portion of the walk, navigating the Highway. We still had a near 16 mile distance to surmount before we reached Half Moon Bay. Once I’d figured the route, I started the series of motions the sales woman at REI had instructed me to ensure that I was constantly putting an equal distribution of stress on the straps of the pack, so as not to wear out one strap over the other. And Kae just sat there. And he just sat there. And he just sat there. And he just sat there. It was around noon at this point, we hadn’t been walking two hours, and he was not about to budge.
“I’m done. This isn’t any fun.”
– I’m sorry, I don’t think I heard you right. Are you flipping (edited for audience) kidding me? You’re not having fun?
“I never got a break like you did.”
– Did you honestly think this wouldn’t be work? You made the choice to extend your contract, remember?
“Well, I didn’t make as much money as you, I’m all out?”
– So why did you keep buying drinks at the Castro? Why did you spend money on frivolous items in San Francisco if you had such limited resources? And by the way, I will not be made to feel guilty for having had a good job. You chose to move home and work for next to nothing. Those were your decisions. I didn’t even ask you to join me on this trip, you offered to be my walking mate. You could have pulled out at any point, but now? You put next to nothing as far as an investment into this trip and that is why you can give up so easily. FOUR MILES! I quit my job and spent close to a grand on this gear. You didn’t even purchase your own pack! At this point, I sharply recalled a few days earlier when Kae had naively suggested we break the 114 miles to Salinas into three days of 30+ miles with a great deal of misplaced and deeply inappropriate mirth (like a sharp burst of laughter in a crowded movie theater full of the crinkling of tissues and the stifling of tears when the guy hits the propellor in Titanic).
“Aaron Huey (National Geographic photographer/dream boat who walked across the country with a flaming chariot and his dog Cosmos in 2002) lied.”
(You know, because surely no one has ever crossed the nation by foot. Not Helga or Clara, not Peter Jenkins, not even that old lady that my mom saw on the Smuckers birthday listings with creepy Willard Scott. This said in my head, not aloud).
While we were working our way through this conversation, I was on my phone and already trying to work out the next move. It was pretty clear to me that the only place to go from here was back to San Francisco. I refused to spring a visit on my family in Salinas today, seeing as they weren’t really expecting us for another week. Had we been able to catch a bus, it wouldn’t have even arrived until 2:15 in the morning anyways. A walk back to the Colma Station, basically retracing the route we’d just come, would lead us to the BART. That’s how close we were to San Francisco proper, we’d basically went from Marin County to San Mateo, hitting the entire length of San Francisco city-county. I got Kae back across the street where he plopped right on a bench, refusing another step. He started unpacking the tent to hand to me, as I told him I wasn’t about to give up.
– I’m not leaving you here.
“Contrary to what you think, I can navigate the transit on my own.”
No, I don’t think you understand. This little tantrum you’re throwing, well, combined with the drag on walking time, you’ve set me back two hours. At this rate, I will not make it to Half Moon Bay before dark. I might as well go back to San Francisco, head to Salinas tomorrow, and regroup there. (When angered, I suffer the inability to align my thoughts into a cohesive argument. A brief thought fragment passed through the anger and hurt right there but it didn’t fully materialize until much later recounting the events to my friend Jenny who argued that, forgetting the fact that he was a friend willing to abandon his “besty,” as a man, Kae had no problem sending a twenty-five year old girl out on her own with little in the way of defense. He knew the only way I, or anyone who cares about me for that matter, felt comfortable embarking on this endeavor was in having a companion for safety. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we live in an age where male p*ssies run rampant).
“I regret not making it to Las Vegas. (That’s your regret?) *Sigh* I’ll probably just go home and spend the next few weeks drinking and smoking.”
At the time, he sounded so dejected, like this is exactly what he didn’t want. Hadn’t he spent the past year on the phone lamenting being back in Nashville? Oh, what a ploy! The “woah is me” pity party. Laying on a nice shmear of guilt, so that I’m meant to feel that, if I don’t feed into that line of bull, then I’m not a friend. He would later tell me that he wanted to be left sitting on that bench, that I was the reason he didn’t have the money for the trip (yeah, wrap your head around that one, I’m still trying to), that it was my bossiness and not, in fact, his unpreparedness physically and financially that made him give up right then and there. May I emphasize again, FOUR MILES! Ah, rue, rue, rue. So, I threw him a bone I knew he didn’t want and I was hesitant to give: I’ll get you to Salinas, we can go to Las Vegas from there, and then you can have your parents get you a bus ticket home as this was what was explicitly drilled into us by Kae’s family before we left. Coming home is not a failure. So, I threw caution to the wind, and convinced Kae that the Colma bus was not getting there anytime soon so we might as well start the four mile trek in reverse. It would be some days after the fact when the bile was rising thick that Kae would state, I saw the bus go by as we were walking.
I started off with Kae trudging behind, and decided it was time to call home. The conversation was brief, “Hi mom, you may be happy to know, after four miles, Kae’s dropped out. I’m not done though, but I realize how dangerous walking alone is, so I’ve made arrangements with Aunt Linda, and I’m heading to Salinas to sort out what’s what. ” My mom remarked that I was neither caustic nor crying, amazing considering the former year I’d had where I’d allowed my depression to swallow me whole. I related to her some thing an amazing person, Dr. Geoff Kurland – an ultramarathon runner who had survived a battle against hairy cell leukemia while training for an ultramarathon (100 miles), had told me: while more men compete in ultramarathons, the percentage of women who actually complete the run to women that don’t is higher than their male counterparts. (Did I explain that clearly?) This, he reasoned, is simply because women have a higher endurance for pain, think childbirth. I’ve thought of this several times in the past when being confronted with a particularly whiny male. Lyman DeLiguori anyone? So, could I really blame Kae for giving up? No. For giving up so easily? Maybe. But I’d spent the last year raging against an individual, alternating among feelings of wrath, plots to destroy, and fits of tears. I’m not doing that again. I refuse to stare at another brick wall (in my case at the time, both literal and figural) through tear-clouded eyes. Apparently, February is just not my month to depend on men. Mental note and check mark. So I looked on the bright side, I could finally participate in SF Beer Week.
And that is what I did, I dragged Kae down to the Mission (once again, a little unwillingly) for a burrito and a flight of beer-flavored ice creams at Harry Slocombe’s. For anyone interested, I had the Magnolia (Haight-Ahsbury SF, CA) Four Winds, Napa Smith (Napa Valley, CA) Bonfire Imperial Porter, Beach Chalet (Great Highway – again!) Backwater Belgian Dubbel, and the great Dogfish Head (DE) Palo Santo Marron. SUCCESS! The burrito was an afterthought, Kae wanting to locate a Del Taco for dinner, I opted for something a little more authentic. I wasn’t going to begrudge him the Del Taco, but render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and, according to Del Taco, leave the “mexican” food to Ed Hackbarth. For those of you on the edge of your seat waiting to hear how it turned out, Kae declared the food subpar, the fish taco a little gamy (blech!), and Taco Bell still reigns supreme (registered trademark symbol implied) in his heart. Having already exhausted our patience with couchsurfing, if anyone would care to hear more just ask me about the glad rags, we spent the night in another hostel. This one, located in the convenient but rather dodgy City Center, was a former hotel of the art deco variety. The rooms were much smaller, fitting four to five beds with and an, and the elevator even had a brass gate which delighted me so. The good vibes from the beer ice cream and geeking out over architecture wore off quickly when attempting to purchase the next day’s Greyhound tickets online. Wachovia flagged the purchases for authentication and, when trying to resolve the issue wih the bank, I was told that, due to the storm in the East, the system wouldn’t be up until 10 the next morning. This was the day that even Savannah saw snow. Our bus was to leave at 10:30 the next morning so I informed Kae that we would have to, as the Greyhound website states, get there at 8:30 to purchase our tickets. “Yeah, that’s not happening.” I’d held my tongue and not gone drill sergeant back at the Walgreen’s because, deep down inside, there was a part of me that felt sorry for Kae. But to step all over my goodwill, remember, he did not have enough money to cover so much as the $20 dollars to get to Salinas let alone another night in San Francisco, I’d had it. What I said is lost in an angry moment filled with haze and spots of colors wheeling behind my eyes. I turned off the lights, curled into the top bunk with my netbook to watch the final few episodes of Pushing Daisies and decided that, if Kae weren’t to make it up in time for the bus tomorrow, that would be okay with me.
*Laugh* It’s taken me two weeks to post this bit. As I was writing it, I couldn’t help but feel that it came off entirely bitter and mean. But, I had to tell it like it happened. This had meant so much to me, years of dreaming and seven months of planning, all to have it cut down so abruptly, very selfishly I feel. As an aside, had we been able to achieve Half Moon Bay, the likelihood of finding a place to stay would probably have been slim to zilch. The day we were set to arrive coincided with the opening ceremony of The Mavericks big surf competition, held just north of HMB. The way it’s been explained to me, the exact date of the competition is entirely dependent upon the swells and is usually not announced until just before the event. This year, a rogue wave took out several spectators, a pretty awesome sight and kind of funny to boot. You can search videos of this on YouTube, as for me, I’m emotionally exhausted and curled up on a couch with a gimp ankle wondering where to go from here. Suggestions anyone?