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May 19, 2009
Holding down the fort, Riding to the rescue (by Gail)

Gail and Russell, refreshed in the morning at the Inn at Locke House

“Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn't guarantee
That Monday evening you would still be here with me.”
– The Mamas and the Papas

When Russell first proposed this trip, I thought it would be fun to go with him for at least part of the walk. After listening to him talk about the logistics – using little paper cutouts for each vehicle and moving them to and fro on a map – I realized I just couldn’t go. I had to be shuttle back up. Darn.

Little did I expect that I would end up driving more than 560 miles by Day Three of his trip. I know he is exhausted from walking, but right now I really can’t look at the inside of a vehicle.

You’ve read his letters. “Now,” as Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”

After saying goodbye to Russell on Saturday, I managed to keep Joss moving forward on homework (via cell phone calls) while I worked on wiring with our friend Dirk. After a nice evening at the Hotel Leger Saturday, and after breakfast Sunday morning, we said good bye to Russell yet again and then drove back to the house to continue on wiring issues. That’s when Dirk let me know that the tires on my van were ready to blow and I should get them changed immediately once I got home.

On Sunday I left at 11:30, because I was so concerned about Russell and the heat. Dirk was happily working on a problem, so he was fine letting me go. I spotted Russell on the road and stopped to offer cool water and encouragement. And one last chance to change his mind. Nope, he was going on. So I said yet another goodbye and finally got home on Sunday at about 3 PM. I got Joss moving on the rest of his homework in preparation for his tutor at 5:00.

Monday morning looked like it was going to be a quiet one. I planned to take the van in for tires around 9:30, do laundry and go grocery shopping. But before I had even had coffee, things started hopping. At 8:00 am I had sent an email to KGO radio asking if they might be interested in interviewing Russell. Within 15 minutes, Jennifer Hodges was on the phone. I gave her Russell’s number and she talked to him then called me back. While I was talking to her, Russell was beeping in.

I got back with him when she was done, and that is when he told me of the blood. Breathe deep, calm, calm. I asked a bunch of questions – pain, fever, etc. – but he answered “no” to every one. He has already covered his side in his letter. On this side, what he termed “Gail made arrangements” was actually me scrambling trying to get him help. After what seemed like forever on hold (never call Kaiser on Monday morning), with maps spread out over the table (Lodi or Stockton? Lodi or Stockton?), I made an appointment with Kaiser Stockton for 3:00 based on Russell’s time estimate.

I was ready to go get him, but then I realized there were two catches: tires and Joss. I got onto Facebook and asked the father of Joss’ girlfriend if Joss could go to their house after school. He needed to check and would get back with me. I then ran out the door to get the tires done. Usually that takes about one hour. I decided I would just wait until it was done. However, this day was proving to be anything but usual. Not only did I need two front tires, but I needed front brakes as well.

So instead of doing the desperately-needed grocery shopping and laundry, I sat for four hours, with a break at Carl’s Jr. for lunch (I know). I had better things to do, but I was stuck. I needed tires to get to Russell. By 2:00 the tires were done, but after numerous calls throughout the day from Russell, plans had changed. Because he was walking slower, Kaiser at 3:00 was out. I needed to cancel that appointment and find a clinic in Lockeford that was open until at least 6:00. Not as easy as it sounds.

As you already read, once Russell got to the clinic he was told they could not see him – though Kaiser Patient Services assured me he could be seen there.

Lani, the owner of the Inn at Locke House where he was staying, offered to drive him to Urgent Care in Lodi. Russell called me again. No offense intended, but I was really starting to hate my ring tone. Ultimately, we decided that the best plan of action was for me to drive up and rescue him. But there was another catch: Joss had an appointment from 5:00-7:00. So back to the phones to ask Tandre’s (he’s Joss best friend) mom, who assured me that they could pick him up at 7:00 and get him home.

At 5:00 I dropped Joss off and was once again ready to go, when Russell called and said “Hmmm, maybe you should wait. Things seem to be getting better. Let me call you once I shower and rest.”

So I waited. He called at about 6:30 and said that the advice nurse told him to go in right away. Since I needed to leave, I would rely on Tandre’s parents to get him at 7:00. But once again, nothing was going as planned. Joss called at 6:40 saying he was done and wanted food. He reminded me that he had Bible Study from 7:00 to 9:00. I couldn’t leave him hungry and I couldn’t ask someone else to drag him around for food, so I went to get him.

By this time I felt like a ping pong ball and was ready to start laughing hysterically in a not very pretty way. Thankfully Joss’ best friend also goes to Bible Study, and they agreed to bring him home afterward. I took Joss to Taco Bell (I know, I know) and then rushed him to church. By now it was 7:15.

Had I left at 5:00, I would have been there and had Russell to Kaiser Urgent Care. Instead, I got there at 9:00. Yes, I drove a little bit fast… and I had a weird sense of “Hey, I just drove this” as I was going over the pass yet again in less than 24 hours. We were at Kaiser by 10:00, but not out and back to our room until 1:00. THEN Russell decides that he has to update the website. “It will take about an hour”. He wrote until almost 3:30 and FYI I was not asleep.

There were a lot of things that I was concerned about before he started off on Day One:

  1. Coyotes (mountain lions too)
  2. Dogs chasing him
  3. Heat
  4. Police telling him he can’t walk here
  5. Being whacked along the side of the road by cars whizzing by (there are places with almost no shoulder)
  6. Blisters (he’s walked six miles per day, but broken in half with hours of sitting at work in between)
  7. He forgets to or forgoes shaving and (gasp) grows a beard
  8. He shows up on the doorstep all wild eyed and crazed
  9. He enjoys the solitude and freedom and decides to not come home
  10. A medical emergency
  11. It taking longer to walk from Point A to Point B than he thinks
  12. He won’t sleep well and will be exhausted, but still has to get up and walk

The last three have happened. Because of the health issue, it took him longer to cover distances yesterday. And the trip to the hospital and late night/early morning has left him exhausted today. He’s out of the foothills, the temperature has come down, he’ll mostly be on roads with shoulders and sidewalks, his feet are holding up. I guess it’s okay now. But I won’t rule out numbers 7, 8 and 9 as real possibilities.

At 9:15 this morning I said “Goodbye” to him yet again. I had to drive home – and three hours’ sleep and a two-hour drive can be dangerous – so I tried to take a nap, but just couldn’t. So I left at 10:00. Once again I passed him on the road and took a few pictures. He’s looking strong, so I won’t worry. Well, not too much anyway.

So after switching vehicles in Tracy, I finally got home at 3:00. The tutor should be here at 5:00. And no offense Russell, but I don’t want to go back up until Friday as originally planned. I need a nap.

Russell walking, as photographed by Gail

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