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Day 119–south of Temecula (12/04/08)

We were a lot closer to the house this morning so we were able to sleep another 30 minutes.  Eric drove me to Del Taco for breakfast and I started walking as soon as I was done eating.  There was a lot of fog this morning and lots of traffic.  I stayed well off the road on the dirt shoulder.  It was level and, other than grit in my shoes, no problem.  Eric crewed me from the van the first 10 miles.  I alternated running with walking and made good time.  We arrived at the house for a break.  Eric left the van at the house and accompanied me with his bike the rest of the day.  We started through a residential area and passed several shopping centers.  I had lunch at a Del Taco and visited the Temecula Dairy Queen.   After lunch we made our way to dirt trails. Many of them were fenced and had “no trespassing” signs.  We either went around gates or through fences.  It reminded me of some of the runs I have taken near the Pee Dee River at home where the land is posted and gated.  We eventually found ourselves on the aqueduct (part of the same one I saw in Arizona) and continued on it until we came up to a formidable gate.  Here, the fence was tall and I used the bike as a step to get over and dropped to the ground on the other side.  Eric is more agile than I am and he found a trailer to stand on and boost himself over.  We continued in a residential setting for awhile and came to another trail.  Eric was unfamiliar with this area but said, “It’s heading the way we need to go.”  There was no fence here, just a steep bank, so off we went.  We made our way along the trail, through a stream bed, and finally came to another big fence just before the road.  There were some kids riding their bikes and they showed us to a big hole that had been cut in the fence.  We turned right on the street and came to Rainbow Canyon Road.  We had hoped to make the upper part of this road and we had just enough time.   It was a long climb with nice views of Temecula near the top.  Eric called Noni after the climb and we continued to the next road junction where she picked us up with the van.  Eric had used his gps and said I had just over 28 miles for the day. 

Today is dedicated to Eric Clifton and Noni Nierenberg.  I talked to Eric many weeks back and asked if he could help me out when I passed through Temecula.  He was enthusiastic about my trip and agreed.  He picked me up in Hemet Monday night when Roger and Kim left for North Carolina.  He brought me to his home where I met his wife Noni.  We had dinner and talked about my trip and just how I would make my way from Hemet to San Diego.  They had been expecting to crew for me a couple of days and have me in their home a few nights.  When Rick had his heart attack though, I no longer had a crew for the last week.  Eric and Noni graciously and immediately stepped forward to help me with the finish.  I have been welcomed into their home for probably 11 nights!  Eric will crew for me to a point about 5 miles from the finish that I will save until the last day.   I know nothing of the area so Eric has planned my route.  Noni has welcomed me into her home, prepared food for me, washed my clothes, and in every way made me feel welcome.  I cannot think of anything else they could do for me. 

Thank you, Noni and Eric.


Day 118–south of Hemet

Eric dropped me out at 8 a.m.  I had decided to do today with the pack and no crew.  There would be the cities of Banning and Beaumont to do the first 10 miles, then a 12 mile open country section, and then 2 more towns.  Crewing in towns with lots of traffic is hard on a crew and just not necessary unless there are lots of  turns.   Also the first two miles were between the railroad and interstate and not good for a car.  Then there was a right and a left turn to reach Ramsey street.  Ramsey Street took me through the first 2 towns and there were only two more turns the entire day.  I carried water and stopped for food  along the way.  The first few miles out of Beaumont were open hilly country and the desert was gone.  There were a few cactus but mostly there were lots of grasses and other greenery.   A few miles later I was in the flat again and agriculture was back.  The first thing I saw entering the flat was a huge sod farm.  It was irrigated by treated but not potable water and the “aroma” reminded me of the “biosilage” hauled from Rockingham to the game lands where I work.  After the sod farm there were just flat open grassy areas for a couple of miles.  I entered another town and stopped at Jack in the Box for a coke.  The break was nice and the clerk was really interested in my trip.  He took a picture of me by the coke machine and said he could not wait to tell his parents about me.  About 3:45 I passed a Dairy Queen and did not stop.  Eric was suppose to pick me up at 4 and I did not want to miss him.  I went another few miles and met him about 4:30.  He brought me a sandwich and milk.  I had a total of 26 miles for the day.

We were suppose to meet his running club (the Temecula Trotters) at 6:30.  The meet Wednesdays for a group run and pizza.  Before we turned around, I told Eric this was the first DQ I had missed since the beginning.  He promptly drove me there for a cone so I did not miss it.  Then we hurried off home for a my shower and then to the meeting.  While they went for a run I waited in a nearby coffee shop.  Then we met for pizza and their meeting.  I was the entertainment for the evening.  I did an overview of my journey and then answered questions.  It was a lot of fun.  I have not shaved or had a haircut in a while and was compaired to Forrest Gump, a comparison I do not mind.

I met Andy Roy, trail name Boston Andy, on the Appalachian Trail (AT)  in 1989.  He was 24 and I was 37.  We met just south of Hot Springs, N.C. and only had a couple of days hiking together.  Nevertheless, by trips end, we had a beginning friendship.  In 1990, we met up for another segment of the AT.  More AT trips followed.  We have gotton to know each other very well.  We have shared a one-man tent.  We both needed a shower on one trip and the coin-operated showers cost 50 cents.  We both had one quarter.  We have discussed everything from ice cream to Stephen Hawking’s theories about time.  He crewed for me at both my 100 mile run finishes.  Most recently, he and his friend, Jennifer Kline, crewed for me when I passed through Phoenix on this journey.  During all this time, he has remained my steadfast friend.  Sometimes we have no reason to talk for a few weeks or months.  But when we connect by phone it is like yesterday.  I am honored and humbled to have such a friend as Andy. 

Andy, you are the best.  I could not ask for or expect to have a better friend.

Day 117–Cabazon

This morning we were up a 5 a.m.  There are some tricky sections along I-10 and I cannot run this interstate.  We spend some time exploring the possibilities along the interstate and decide that I will attempt the powerline road paralleling I-10 and meet again at exit 111.  From there, I can run the old freeway into Cabazon.  The drop off point is 15 miles north of I-10, so I still have a few more miles on Hwy 62 first.  Most of this is downhill and I alternate running and walking.  After passing through Morongo Valley I enter a narrow canyon that is all downhill.  It lasts for a few miles and is too narrow for Roger and Kim to meet me.  I push the downhill and the canyon is over quickly.  The downhill continues for several miles more.  The junction of Hwy 62 and I-10 is at San Gargonio pass just north of Palm Springs.  It is a very windy area and there are are hundreds of windmills here.  A couple of miles before I-10, I leave the highway and take the side road that will lead me to the powerline.  Here I see my first roadrunner.  I have been hearing about this bird but had not seen a live one.  I also saw a covey of Gambel’s quail.  Roger and Kim leave me at the powerline and drive ahead to the meeting place at exit 111.  The powerline road is like most powerline roads and is a steep uphill.  At the top of the hill the road T’s.  Straight ahead is a big drop from the mountain.  Fortunately, a work van drives up and I get more instructions about which way to go.  It’s through a the windmills and down the mountain and then around on the side following the freeway.  I follow these instructions and come to the Whitewater exit.  There I have four parallel dirt roads along the interstate and it does not appear to matter which one I take.  I choose one in the middle and continue west.  After 2 hours I rendezvous with Roger and Kim.  From that point, it was just follow the old freeway with little traffic to Cabazon. 

We come to a good stopping point at 3:30.  It will do us no good to get caught up in rush hour traffic here.  Roger and Kim are leaving this evening and will take me to meet Eric Clifton in Hemet.  I will be with him and his wife Noni for the next few days. 

Today is dedicated to Wayne and Doris Park.  They were my in-laws for many years and I do not think it would have been possible to have better in-laws.   They were more like a second set of parents and I felt often that our relationship was better than the relationship I had with my own parents.  They were good to me and I missed my close relationship with them after the divorce.  Mr. Park died earlier this year and Mrs. Park died this past Saturday.

Day 116–Almost Morongo Valley

Today is one of those good days that I don’t have a long ride out to the start.  I had finished yesterday at room 126 of the Motel 6, so walking out the door was the start.   Roger did drive me to Burger King for breakfast first.  Then, back to the motel and onto the road.  Twentynine Palms should end the long spells without services.  The map shows towns at reasonable intervals all the way to the finish.  I’ll be able to stop along the route and get what I want again.  Today, that meant a Starbucks coffee in the next town, Joshua Tree.  Starbucks used to be more special to me.  They varied the daily coffee but for some reason they always have only “Pikes Place” coffee.  Pikies Place is good but it was nice to find Kenyan or a good Columbian on the menu occasionaly.  Given the choice, I always stop in a local coffee shop because they do offer something different. 

As I was waiting to cross the street to Starbucks, I got a call from Kathy French.  I was stunned when she told me Rick was at a ball game and had a heart attack.  He was at that moment being transferred to the Sanger Clinic in Charlotte.  There was good news.  He was awake and responsive although he was unable to talk due to a breathing tube.  I crossed to Starbucks and took a 20 minute sitdown break with my coffee. 

Rick is not my brother by blood.  He is my brother by choice.  We have been through much together.  Although I am older, he functions as the older brother.  Always the wise one, he has taught me more about running than anyone else.  I am not talking about the technical details.  I am talking about the mind and spirit.  I have been a whiner, a complainer, and a quitter.  At Sauertown was the first lesson.  After miles of mud and misery and listening to me complain, he asked, “Have you tried a goo lately?”  The simplicity of the question stopped me in my tracks.  I was pushing my misery to its max and he was focused only on doing what was necessary to move ahead.  The humor of the contrast did not escape me and I moved on too, following my friend to the finish.  Many lessons have followed.  I doubt that he realized that I began to look at him as a model for the proper mindset of an ultrarunner.  In my second Leadville attempt, I learned a lesson that changed my attitude completely.  I went to 47 miles climbing partway up Hope Pass, did the math, and came to the conclusion that a finish was impossible.  It would be less difficult to turn around and go back to Twin Lakes so that is what I did.  Rick made it to Winfield before he did the math.  He had only a two minute lead on the cuttoff and knew he could not finish.  But instead of quitting, he left the aid station quickly, not wanting to be pulled.  He knew he could not finish but he wanted to see just how far he could go.  What a difference in our attitudes.  I was inwardly ashamed of my poor, whimpy attitude.  I vowed from that point on to try Rick’s approach instead of mine.

Rick, this is not a dedication.  You’ve already had two of those.  This is just a statement of fact.  I am in California and winding up my journey.  Although it’s not quite over yet, I owe you much for being here.  In fact, I think I would never had made it without you.  I don’t expect you will be here for the last week as we planned.  I thought of having a life size poster of you made for the dunking ceremony but I decided not.  Just know that you will be there in my mind, heart, and spirit. 

I finished my coffee at Starbucks and moved on down the road.  It was a quiet afternoon and the Yucca Valley was the beginning of a change in the desert.  There seems to be more moisture here although there is none visible.  I finished the day early with about 25 miles just before Morongo Valley.   

Friends please pray for Rick as he begins his recovery.

Day 115–Twentynine Palms, Ca

I ate well (interpret as a lot) and went to sleep early last night and this morning went better.  I started at 7:30, walked a couple of miles and then ran 5 of the next 10.  Also, I was out of the big hills and only had rolling stuff today.  The wind came again later in the morning and was strong and in my face again.  I worked hard and had 16 miles at noon.  My goal was the motel in Twentynine Palms and I needed a 30 mile day to get there.  Roger and Kim went to town for lunch and brought coffee and bean burritos back for me.  I stopped only long enough to eat and continued to push the afternoon.  The wind died down some after 3:30 and I ran a couple more miles.  I arrived at the motel at 4:10 and that’s a good thing because the sun was already ducking behind the mountains.  We did a quick trip to the grocery for milk and Burger King for 3 vege-burgers for my dinner.  Roger and Kim went out for dinner, but I like to get “to go”  food for my room so I can eat sooner and get to bed early.  It just takes too much of my resting time to go out and sit in a restaurant waiting for food.

When I started directing races I decided to get my shirts done locally at Sports World.  Even before that, they were making Mangum Track Club shirts for me when I had a shirt run.  The decision to keep the shirts local with Sports World is one I have never regretted.  They have always made sure the shirts were done well and that I was satisfied.  I also feel that we have become good friends.  David, Duff, Andy, and Carolyn, thanks for all the support and encouragement over the years.  Thanks for your friendship.  I dedicated today’s run to you.

Day 114–milepost 62, California Highway 62


Roger, Kim, and I left Parker, Arizona for good this morning. By the end of today it would be 80 miles behind us and closer lodging would be in front at Twentynine Palms. It took an hour to drive out to the start but we got up in Parker on mountain time and gained an hour when we drove into California. We started at 7:30 Pacific time. I was tired this morning. The first 3 miles were flat. After that I had a 2 mile downhill followed by a 14 mile climb. The wind was from the north and in my face during the climb. After I topped out there was a turn to the west and then to the south and the wind was no longer a problem. I was able to run a couple of miles after the southerly turn because the road was now headed downhill. Other than the long climb the road and scenery was the same as I’ve been looking at the last few days. I think change is coming soon though. I only have 200 miles to San Diego.

Today is dedicated to Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. The show fired my imagination in the 1960s and remains my favorite television show of all time.

Day 113–milepost 116 to 88, Highway 62

We had biscuits at McDonalds this morning and headed out.  The sky looked good until we began approaching my drop out point.  There was a storm coming from the south and my start was just at the western edge.  We saw lightning once and heard some thunder so I sat in the car. The rain was light and we saw no more lightning so after a 15 minute wait, I hopped out and headed west.  The rain stopped in the first mile with me getting only slightly wet.  After another couple of miles I changed from a jacket to the wind vest.  You would think that by now my feet would be so tough that there would be no more problems.  Yesterday, though, they were wet most of the day and that softened them up.  Today there is no shoulder and I have to run and walk most of the time on the grainy sloped dirt and rock next to the shoulder.  Many times I shake out my shoes and brush off my socks when I stop for water.  In between stops I just deal with it.  If I stopped every time something got in my shoe I would make no miles at all.  I stopped for the day at 28 miles because we had a long drive back to Parker for the night.  My feet were happy when I took the shoes off in the car.  I managed to prop them up a little for the drive.

There were some interesting sites today.  In addition to the cloudy desert again, we crossed the Colorado River aqueduct that takes water to southern California cities.  It carries a lot of fast moving water.  We saw the deserted town of Rice.  All the buildings have been burned.  There is a fence there that is hung with hundreds of pairs of shoes.  There were also numerous historical markers.  It seems that many (a million or more) of the men who fought in World War II trained at one of the eleven camps in the area.  I took pictures of two of the markers so take a look for the story. 

If you have kept up with my journal you know how important the State Farm agents have been to me.  Two weeks ago, Anita and I came into Globe.  We were met there by Dan Hockersmith, a retired agent, and taken to his home where we met his wife Carol.  I explained to them our needs for lodging as we covered the area north of Globe where there are no towns for 87 miles.  Dan and Carol opened their home to us for four nights as we passed through their area.  They cooked for us, took me out to eat, let me wash my clothes, and then crewed for me on Saturday so Anita could head home.  Then, the next week, Dan called to see if I had found a crew for the Wickenburg to Parker section.  When I told him I had not, he drove 150 miles to Wickenburg and crewed for me the next four days as I did the 110 miles to Parker.  I have had many blessings during this journey.  Dan and Carol are an example of just how blessed I have been.  I went in looking for help and got it.  I also found new friends.  I dedicate today to those new friends.

Day 112–California!

I’ve been looking across the river at California for two days.  Dan and I talked about it before he left.  I decided then that crossing the bridge would be “the beginning of the end.”  But to not cross the bridge would be to end the journey in Parker and that is not an option.  The only thing to do is finish this journey in the way I intended…at the Pacific Ocean, preferably at Mission Beach.  I do not know how that finish will feel but I do know that I am ready for it.  It has been a long time since July 15.  Merrie has stood by patiently all that time and allowed me to pursue my dream.  She has supported and encouraged me and dealt with things at home that should have been my job.  It is time for me get back home and be her husband again.  And that job can be a lot of fun!

Roger and Kim came in yesterday.  We had breakfast and I started from the motel.  I crossed the bridge and stopped at the California state line sign for a picture.  Shortly after that the rain began.  I wore my jacket but it was too warm so I changed into a wind vest.  The vest was not quite enough in the heavy rain but there were only brief periods of that.  The first 10 miles out of Parker were really rolling with lots of small ups and downs.  The rain continued until about noon.  At 16 miles I passed Vidal Junction.  The next buildings or houses will be in Twentynine Palms, 92 miles west on Hwy 62.  With the rain stopped and the road now flat, I made good time the rest of the day and finished with 27 miles.  The clouds hung around all day making the usually bright and hot desert a cool place.  The mountain tops were invisible and their dark sides were mostly purple.  It was the first time I have seen the desert like this and I spent some time looking at it and taking pictures.  I doubt that it will stay this way long.

Today is my daughter Erin’s birthday.  I could write pages about Erin!  She came home from Thailand in September and I have not seen her yet.  I look forward to seeing her and her husband Tong soon.   Today is dedicated to you Erin.  We have a lot of catching up to do when I get home.  Happy Birthday!

Day 111–Parker, Az and the California!! border


Sunday, November 23

Dan and I ate biscuits from Burger King and headed out to Bouse. He dropped me out just before 8 a.m. I walked a half mile and then ran 6 miles without any walking. It felt good even though my legs were tired. The scenery is dry desert just like all the last two weeks except there are less plants and even few cactus here. The only things that seems to thrive are creosote bush, dirt, and rocks. There is little ground cover. There are still a few cattle so I assume that further from the road or possibly after a rain there must be more for them to eat. The good part of today is that I am heading toward the Colorado River and that means mostly downhill. As it warms up I alternate walking and running. Traffic really picks up about noon so I take advantage of four wheeler trails when they are available. I arrive into Parker just after 3:30 and meet Dan at the Dairy Queen. They close at 3:30 today but Dan has convinced them to wait for me. I have a large pecan-cluster blizzard to celebrate my arrival in Parker, my last Arizona town. California awaits just across the river. I finish today with 26 miles at the Bridge Inn in Parker. I have covered 389 miles in the past 16 days without an off day despite the two shorter days caused by the injury. I have two days off in Parker before Roger and Kim arrive to crew me into California. I am thrilled to have a chance to be still for a change.

I was thoroughly checked out today by the Arizona DPS (highway patrol). He was nice but very business like and is the first law enforcement officer to ask for identification. He look it over and called in the number, all the time asking me questions about where I was headed, where I came from, and various trip questions. After he was satisfied with the license, he cautioned me about walking along the highway, commenting on the amount of traffic and their fast pace. I thought at first that he was a little more thorough than necessary, but then remembered that lots of illegals cross the border in the Arizona desert. I can understand why he would be suspicious of a person walking along the highway so far from a town.

Today is dedicated to Saundra and John Smith. Saundra was my first wife and is the mother of our children, Dana and Erin. John is her husband. They are both fine people.

Day 110–Bouse, Az

Dan and I had breakfast in Hope and drove back to the start.  I was on the road just before 8 a.m.  Today I seemed to be tired at the start.  It is the 15th day in a row so I guess there is reason to be tired.  Running was not what my legs wanted to do so I walked all day.  At 3 miles I left Hwy 60 and turned onto Arizona 72 toward Parker.  The shoulder immediately got a lot smaller.  The white line at the edge was right at the edge of the road.  I had to be very careful with traffic and watch for passing cars.  They almost never blow their horn and come flying by way too close for my comfort.  After a few miles I noticed a four wheeler trail next to the highway fence about 50 feet off the road.  It was crooked in places and went through the washes adding some ups and downs but much safer.  It must be how lots of locals get to Bouse because it went on for miles and ended in town.  I stayed on the trail and only came out to the road to meet Dan for aid.  We finished with a 25 mile day.  Tomorrow I will do the 27 to our motel in Parker.  It is only a half mile from the bridge over the Colorado River that separates Arizona from California.  

This journey across the U.S. will soon be over.  I have spent many nights in the homes of State Farm insurance agents or in motel rooms provided by the agents at their own expense.  I will contact and thank each of you after I get home but I did want to thank all of you here too.  You have been such a blessing.  I really do think State Farm sends you all to “Nice School” because you are all such good, caring, and generous people.  I might have given up and gone home if I had not connected with you guys in Tennessee.  Then Missouri, Kansas, and Arizona agents all came forward too.  What a story I have to tell about all of you!  Thanks for making my journey comfortable, enjoyable, and successful.  I dedicate today’s run to all of you.