Saturday, May 16, 2009

Blythe, California: The Golden State

Miles since last blog: 5.6
Miles Total: 3533.0


A few days ago it started, the pressure bushing back on me from California. I couldn't explain it but as I pushed towards it, it pushed me back, I didn't feel ready. When I wrote this originally I wasn't even in California, I was less than a mile away in a Hotel room I had gotten donated. I used the room as an excuse not to enter California last night, I was nervous. I sat in my room, I showered, I wrote, I edited, I clipped my fingernails and realized why I was nervous, I was getting ready for a date.

California is where I came from, I haven't lived there in more than a decade and I wanted to come back the right way, not feeling tired and dirty but clean, fresh and triumphant. I wanted to make a good impression, I realized for the first time since I left that California was still my home and there is a something in that that never leaves you no matter how far from it you go. The thought of walking across the state line, now fills my eyes with salt water and my stomach with butterflies. I can't say why, perhaps it's even more, the last border, the end of this all, I don't know.

When I walked up to Exit 1 in Arizona it was almost Sunset. The Colorado River that defines the border of California here was a shining golden ribbon dressing the land. It had been a hard road to get here and would be easy across but I couldn't bring myself to walk it just yet.

Miles outside of Quartzsite, AZ I came to the furthest off ramp and sat under it in the shade trying to regain a bit of coolness, composure and energy and I decided, out of fatigue and heat and laziness, to continue walking into town via the interstate. It was my great mistake. Though I had talked to a Highway Patrolman the day before another officer stopped me a mile past the off ramp.

Immediately I knew this officer wasn't like the other officer. Officer Gibbs had been kind and thoughtful and in much the way i have found most police on this trip, just wanted to help. Officer Castillo, or as I call him, Officer D'bag, was no such officer. He was the kind of officer portrayed in movies and television, the kind that makes people despise the law. I knew this immediately because instead of driving up slowly on the rumble strips to make noise or to signal me in some other way that he was there, he drove quietly up behind me and then hit the siren at full volume to startle me.

We crossed over the familiar territory, I had talked to another officer (whom he did not know), what I was doing, why I had moved to the interstate (the other roads had simply gotten too hot and difficult), all D'bag had to say was, "yeah, it's against the law to walk on the interstate."

This was true and I couldn't fail him for noting it, except that he wouldn't really offer a solution or anything else, not even punishment, he'd just purse his lips for a while and the say, "it's against the law to walk on the interstate." The other thing he said was that people were calling about me.

I told him several times that I would get off at the next exit and he, not knowing what to do simply kept repeating his line. This kind of boldfaced stupidity is hard for me to deal with, on the rare occasions I run into it as an obstacle I just try to think to myself, "this person is precisely the guy I'm trying to help, precisely the reason I chose to help education, if he was just a little bit smarter this would be a much less painful experience."

I said my goodbye and made an exit realizing if I left it up to him we'd be stuck in a perpetual loop of torturous line rehearsal. It was over, I'd have to be careful crossing out of Arizona now which was unfortunate since that was where there really weren't any other roads on the map, and where crossing the Colorado River, there was only one bridge, the interstate.

My dealings with D'bag were over, I thought. I walked and a few miles later he started creeping up behind me again. I scooted off the road to let him pull up in case he wanted to tell me something but instead he stopped a hundred yards back and sat there in his car. Great, now I had a creepy stalker cop. Another miles down the road, just two or three miles from the exit I would take, he pulled up again and got out this time.

"Hey, we keep getting calls, so you're going to have to get off the interstate."

"What do you want me to do?" I asked. We talked briefly and Officer D'bag laid out his intricate plan. The plan was to lift my cart over a barbed wire fence onto what may or may not be private property and send me out into the desert where there was no road, many ditches and rocks, snakes and no water or food as there would be shortly on the interstate. There was no reason to fight, it would go nowhere, I just dragged him down to the worst place I could find and made him help me move my cart over the fence and was off. I was furious, this wasn't about the law, surely throwing me over a barbed wire fence was proof of that, and the spirit of the law was about protection, which this surely wasn't. On the shoulder of the interstate I had been more than a full car width away from the near lane which also had rumble strips beside it to warn drivers or me if they were off course. I was safer on the interstate than I was on many of the roads I had traveled throughout my journey.

No, what it was about was made abundantly clear when I asked if I could just stay on this side of the fence but walk in the rough which was still straight and relatively passable even 20 to 30 feet off the side.

"We'd still get calls," he said. Yes, it was made clear that safety and the law were not priorities here, just so long as Officer D'bag and cohorts didn't have to answer a pesky phone. Never mind that this would send me into a far more dangerous situation which was in all likelihood also illegal, or that the barbed wire fence really didn't hide me and wasn't any more likely to stop calls than if I had been on the other side. Simply, the only explanation was that at one point in his life officer D'bag had come to a crossroads which was either clown college or police officer, and he chose police because the word 'college' had in all probability intimidated the crap out of his poor atrophied brain. I wasn't on the highway so I wasn't his problem, who cares about the law or safety of anyone?

As I said of Quartzsite, AZ, I was lucky to have the rest of the people I encountered not taint my memory of the area which they accomplished by being incredibly nice. The next morning however I had to deal with the repercussions of my previous meeting with D'bag in which he pondered aloud how I was going to get to California and suggested a route which was about 40 miles linger through the middle of nowhere rather than the short and safe interstate walk.

I walked side roads as long as I could but knew there was a six miles stretch with no mapped roads. I quickly reached that point and headed out into terrible mountains on what looked to be ATV trails. They were a double edged sword, it was good to have a trail that was slightly worn, but they often went on some of the worse courses for steepness and path because those were the most fun on an ATV. A few times I had to sneak back onto the interstate when no other road was remotely reasonable in direction and during that time I would sprint until I found a suitable place to get off, my temper which had submerged in town was burning white hot. If D'bag had caught me I doubt it would have been a very productive encounter.

Eventually I landed on my final off map road. I'd been over several fences and this was just one more to add to the list. The mountains were incredibly steep. When I would go uphill my head would often be pressed against the handlebar of my cart and my feet would slide back sometimes for a foot or more until I found purchase again and started climbing. The rolling nature of the land was even more treacherous for going downhill. With no brakes I would lean back so far I was nearly skiing on my shoes being pulled down the rocky slopes by my heavy partner until I had to break into a full sprint down the hill while trying to steer with one hand so my things wouldn't drop into a crevasse.

Occasionally I would look down on the interstate with great distain for my foe to pass so I could spit venom at him from afar, but I never saw a sate troopers car. The path was dangerous, arduous and easily one of the least enjoyable things I had done in a long time. By the time I had checked in to my hotel I had long since forgotten most of this, when I dipped into the pool I felt clean and free again, but even now when I think of him it fires me up. Abuse of authority is one of my very few hot buttons. Before now, I always said that I had never had a bad experience on this walk with anyone, at most, they had been awkward but well intentioned or a draw, but Officer Castillo, excuse me, D'bag, changed all that. Then again, making 3500 miles is pretty good.


After all the trouble, when I got to the bridge just ten minutes after leaving my hotel, there was a walkway. I took the shoulder in protest, and also because I was already on the other side of the fence. It was hot but I was distracted by the people jet skiing in the Colorado River, it was California, it was time for fun and games and the sun on your face.

I tried about ten hotels before finally getting a room donated at the Motel 6 in Blythe by the very nice people in the office. Others had wanted to help but couldn't and many just said, 'no,' or lied about not being able to. It feels good to be home. Home, what a word.

ALONE/TOGETHER - My newest video



Dixxe's Doodles said...

What a jerk! I know my mouth would have gotten the best of me in that situation and I would probably end up in front of a judge with an even bigger attitude than D'Bag. You did good to keep your temper in check in that situation!..You cant reason with people like him.
Last State--Wow.

Anonymous said...

Fuck tha police!

Anonymous said...