Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Henderson, LA: And then there are the other days

Miles Since last blog: 28.2
Miles Total: 1901.8


All the good karma and luck in the world couldn't get me across Louisiana today. The first major event of the day was crossing the Mississippi River, I took a video that I'll get done soon, but my battery won't last long enough so just a blog this evening, sorry. Though I was supposed to cross the bridge on US-190, I soon found out that didn't necessarily mean there was a sidewalk, or even a shoulder. It was a high adrenaline dash, well okay, it started as a dash and sort of faded into the creeping jog of a terrified and wheezing 30-year-old man. It was no the religious experience I had hoped for with my first crossing of the river, but I suppose I'll remember the feeling of cars whizzing by me a lot longer anyway.

The rest of the day was a long anticipation if an upcoming bridge, a bridge people had been talking about since NOLA, a bridge I couldn't cross. The bridges description ranged from 17 to 23 miles depending on who was telling it and although there was one other bridge, it added another 60 miles to my course and was equally uncrossable.

I arrived an hour after dark having not eaten since 10:30 or so, I had been pushing myself to get as far as possible during the daylight hours then there had just been nowhere to stop. Where I arrived was a closed down trailer/market a scant 200 feet from the interstate highway. I'd never walked on an interstate except for an accidental wander on that ended quickly once, but this time I was prepared to go at it mentally. I sat down and pulled my old smushed bread out of the back of Cherry, I unloaded my jelly and peanut butter and a plastic knife, even my laptop which I finished watching Ben-Hur on over the hour and a half I was pre-interstate. First I tried a last ditch effort at finding a way across somewhere else, then I walked around a bit, while I had been eating I had gotten cold, really cold and my body was shuddering.

All day long I had been talking to police officers who had told me the bridge north had no shoulder and was 4 miles long and that it was illegal to walk on the interstate. The prospect of getting arrested was what lead me to the events following.

I walked cautiously up the on ramp shoulder for I-10, on the divide, immediately after the on ramp was to end, was a Sheriff. I jogged across the three lanes of Westbound traffic and came up to his window, I explained my plight and he radioed for a car to take me across the bridge. I felt lost. I felt like I had lost something, it was much worse than being hit by a car.

While I waited my eyes teared up a few times, the one real solid principle I had had about this journey was that my steps across the country, my ultimate path would be unbroken. I felt like I was breaking a contract with everyone who had ever cared about this journey and mostly myself. The point of the whole thing seemed muddled and dirty now.

Before too long, but long enough for me to start shivering and pacing to keep warm, an officer came. I took Cherry apart and loaded my things into the back seat and Cherry into the trunk which had to be shut using bungee chords. It was my first time in a police cruiser and certainly my first time in the back seat. I sort of want to just stare longingly at the small shoulder of the road that we were driving past. I watched it, I knew, I could walk this. Cherry might not be able to go because she was too bad, but there was a time, when my buddy Free was with me, I would have pawned Cherry off on his VW and made my way across at night as stealthily as possible. But there was no use with ifs. I knew I could walk this given the chance, but I'd never get the chance, the road was filled with police and it was illegal.

The officer and I started talking and I tried my best to ignore my feeling that somehow I had failed and everything was suddenly terribly wrong. I was still trying to think of ways to fix it. We talked about education, his kids, the bridges of which he said, "I don't relish the thought of a pedestrian on here. We have a hard enough time keeping the drivers alive."

I liked the conversation, and it helped. He told me about the starfish.

"Two men were walking along the beach," he said, "and one friend picked up a starfish lying on the beach and threw it back into the ocean. His friend said, 'do you really think that that makes any difference? One or two starfish don't make any kind of difference in the entire marine ecosystem.' He nodded and replied, 'explain that to the starfish.'"

He told me about why we do what we do.

"You get over the idea that you're gonna save the world pretty quickly. You come in 10 feet tall and bulletproof, all googly eyed. A gambler gambles for that once in a while that he hits a big score, a band for that one gold record, and us, police, most of the guys I know that keep doing this do it because every once in a while, you get to really help someone."

It still felt like a loss, sitting in a police cruiser being ferried across the bridge, even despite the officers words, "I don't see it as a loss, I see it as survival." Still, he was right even if the message was that sometimes you win, with everything having gone so well for so long, I nearly forgot, sometimes you lose, and that's okay too.


Anonymous said...

Keep the faith, Skip. Your journey is much more than 18 miles, and much more meaningful than any words we shared. Godspeed.

Signed: the cop who drove you to Henderson.

A. Murat Eren said...

In my humble opinion, Skip, what makes your journey "real" would be imperfections and disappointments in it.

Those are like sub products of the reaction of converting fantasy into reality :)

We imagine things. We imagine ourselves doing them. When we stop imagining and actually start doing those things reality puts its spice into what we had imagined. Then, what we do becomes real.

You should be proud :)

Good luck,