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May 21, 2009
Happy birthday! Lathrop to Tracy

Today Russell walked 12.08 miles!
Total traveled so far = 85.16 miles

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
– Mark Twain

My sister Joanne very much wanted to spend my birthday with me, so we worked out the logistics that enabled her to join me for today’s walk (childcare, cancelled Girl Scout meeting, car shuttle, etc.). She drove up last night and spent the night with me in Lathrop.

Lathrop (population: 17,429) is a rapidly-growing suburb between two major freeways, 5 and 205. It has several planned communities, but the area where we stayed (like Stockton yesterday) very much resembled a commercial truck stop. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the town:

“Lathrop is an economically vibrant town with many traditional restaurants such as the Country Kitchen, Mikasa, & Mountain Mikes Pizza.”

Joanne warned me that she hates hot weather, so we got an early start. I was up at 5:00 am, we breakfasted when the dining hall opened at 6:00, and we were on the road by 6:30. (Actually, we were on the road by 6:35. We had just crossed Highway 5 when I realized I had forgotten the key for the car shuttle. That could have been very, very bad.)

Two walkers in search of adventure

Because of the car shuttle, I was able to walk without my 14.5-lb daypack. What a difference! I also walked without my trekking poles, and I wore sandals instead of shoes. Within the first minute of the walk, I was bragging to Joanne about how well I knew the route when I stepped into a water-filled hole in the grass. My sandals – and my dry socks – were completely soaked. Joanne literally could not stop laughing for five minutes.

Today included what was easily the most gorgeous scenery we’ve seen so far. After crossing Highway 5, we walked through Mossdale Village. This planned community includes a walking path atop a levee that follows the San Joaquin River. Our first destination was Mossdale Crossing Park, which is the only way for pedestrians to cross the river. (This is the bridge that Gail had researched and we had scoped out during preparations.)

The San Joaquin River on a day with perfect weather. Our destination was the railroad bridge in the distance, where there was also a pedestrian bridge across the river.

Mossdale Crossing Park

Once across the river, we walked on a bicycle path that followed Highways 5 and 205. At the halfway part of our route, we crossed under Highway 205 and entered the itty-bitty town of Banta (once the home of Steve Perry from the rock group Journey). Grant Line Road was a straight shot for several miles that finally took us to Tracy and our destination for the night, the Fairfield Inn.

Today's terrain"
The bicycle path along Highways 5 and 205
A country road in Banta
Grant Line Road (Highway 205 crosses in the background, indicating our final destination)

We arrived at 1:30 pm, completing almost all of the route in the cool of the morning. This was a great way to walk, and I plan to start out as early as possible every day from now on. After driving the shuttle car back to Lathrop, then driving both vehicles back to Tracy, we relaxed for the rest of the day. We had lunch at Bluefin Sushi and dinner at the Olive Garden (in honor of our brother Curtis, who loved that restaurant). After a wonderful and fulfilling day, Joanne finally departed at 7:00 pm.

Russell's 50th birthday dinner at the Olive Garden (the dessert is Zeppoli, little powder-sugared Italian doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce)

I am now officially 50 years old! (Thanks to everyone who called, emailed and commented to wish me “Happy birthday”!) I must say that I do not feel one bit different. I certainly don’t feel older – in fact, I seem to be gaining energy every day this walk progresses. (I am looking increasingly shabby, however.)

Joanne’s intention was to surprise me with a new iPhone for my birthday. Unfortunately, activating a new iPhone would have meant shutting off my current phone, which would have been the wrong kind of surprise. In the end, we decided that I still need to think about whether I really, really “need” an iPhone or not.

Gail had a few surprises for my birthday as well. Her original plan was to drive up to Tracy (yes, yet again) and decorate my motel room before I arrived. Unfortunately, Fairfield/Marriott wouldn’t let her in because her name was not on the reservation. (She escalated this all the way up to Corporate, but Security ultimately nixed the idea.)

Unbeknownst to me, Gail had also gone along my route for today and left several “happy messages” for me to find. On the levee path at Mossdale Crossing Park, she had scrawled “Hi Russell” in the dirt. And along the bike path near Highway 5, she had left a sign for me. (I know she underwent a considerable amount of effort, as neither of those locations is accessible by car.)

Thank you, wife! I love you very, very much!

Love letters from Gail:
"Hi Russell" scrawled in the dirt
This trail sign originally adorned Russell's daypack at the beginning of the walk

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