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May 10, 2009
Preparations: What to eat, where to sleep

From left to right:
The Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hill
The 10th Green Inn in Valley Springs
The Inn at Locke House in Lockeford
(Images are courtesy of each accommodation's website and © their respective owners)

“When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go… you know… I went.”
– Forrest Gump

There is one thing I want to make clear about my big birthday walk: I am not “roughing it.” When I say that I plan to walk 160 miles, most people bring up the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk as a point of reference. During this fundraiser, walkers travel 60 miles in three days. They sleep in tents – usually in open fields – and eat food prepared by volunteers. I am doing neither of these.

Instead, I plan to sleep in various motels and bed-and-breakfast inns along the way. All of my accommodations have been reserved ahead of time; I don’t want to trust to luck and end up with no place to stay.

Choosing accommodations has been an exercise in itself. The first several nights in Gold Country were easy. There is only one motel in Mokelumne Hill. There is only one motel a day’s walk away in Valley Springs. And the next town with accommodations – Lockeford – only has one motel as well.

Unfortunately, Lockeford is 21 miles from Valley Springs, but there is no other option. I actually toyed with the idea of bringing a bicycle specifically for this leg. However, after bicycling to work several times (as practice), I came to the strong conclusion that I don’t want to bicycle. First, it takes away from my “big idea” of walking the entire 160 miles. Second, when I bicycle I realize that I concentrate on the destination more than the journey. When I walk, it’s the other way around.

So I intend to walk the entire 160 miles, including the 21-mile leg from Valley Springs to Lockeford. Fortunately it will pass through some of the prettiest terrain on the entire walk.

Once past Stockton, the unique accommodations give way to the usual motel chains that inhabit interstate highways. For these stops, I simply used Yahoo’s “yellow pages” to find each next motel approximately 15 miles away from each last motel. The result is a motley collection of Holiday Inns, Hyatts, and Days Inns.

In another abandoned idea, I briefly considered ending my walk once I got as far as the Bay Area. There seemed to be something wrong with paying up to $100 a night to stay in motels that were less than a half-hour's drive from my own house. In the end, Gail encouraged me to complete the entire distance. Her reasoning was that I may only do this walk one time in my life, so I may as well go all out and do it right.

Gail was correct, as usual. At this point, I am really looking forward to walking down my own street to my own front door (triumphantly, I hope) after being away for almost two weeks.

As far as food, I plan to eat my main meals in restaurants. When there is no restaurant at a convenient time and/or place along the route, I can dine on granola, dried fruit and water that I will carry with me (and purchase along the way). When I know ahead of time that there will be no eating establishments on a particular leg (the Altamont Pass, for instance), I will pack a lunch in the morning. I even plan to carry a light-weight backpacking chair so I will have a place to sit down.

In my next entry, I’ll talk about everything else that I plan to pack.

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