Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Day One: Saturday

At Friday’s registration, we were instructed to catch a bus outside the hotel which would take us to Golden Gate Park where the opening ceremony would be held and where the walk would begin. There were a few time slots for busses, but we were advised that the earlier one(s) would be easier to get onto. So we got up at 3:30 Saturday morning to catch the 4:15 bus. Yawn!

The morning was uneventful, unless you consider finding a good cuppa coffee at a hotel to be an event (which, I must admit, I do). After handing my bag over to the bus driver to load into the cargo hold, I turned to climb aboard and promptly fell right into a tree! You know how trees on city streets are planted deeply in a hole in the ground? Yeah, well, minutes before embarking on a 26.2 mile walk, I fell into the hole. Scraped up my shin, but (fortunately) didn’t maim my feet or ankles. It was embarrassing, but also very, very funny. I think we were all punchy from lack of sleep.

The bus drive was interesting; again, all the people with the various degrees of "costume". Unfortunately, as tired as I was, I don’t remember enough detail to share here. We arrived at GG Park around 5:00 (we weren’t really that far away, it just took an inordinately long time to get everyone loaded & start moving). It was still pitch dark outside, but there was a stage set up at the far end of the field and two HUGE blow-up pillars on either side of the stage, but at the near end of the field. Like balloon columns, lighted from the inside. Really cool looking. They were identical pillars with five rings, each about 4 feet high, and each naming the cities and dates of all the Avon walks.

From a distance, the Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago segments looked odd. Dirty. Or pixilated, somehow. Upon closer examination, I discovered that they were covered in comments! The San Francisco segment had been moved to the bottom and all around these pillars were sharpie pens. We promptly walked over to the one on the left (why do people always go to the right side first?) and wrote out our own little notes. I wrote a goodbye to my cousin Melissa. Less than an hour into the event, I was already in tears.

I snuck away from the grove, so as not to be seen by my fellow anti-cancer walkers, and sneaked a cigarette. Then I went and wrote an easier note on the other column—a happier note to a survivor. Shortly after we dried our tears, we helped ourselves to some breakfast and some more coffee. ICK! Bar none, that was the worst coffee I’ve ever had in my LIFE. I actually threw it away. It was that bad. And that’s sayin’ something! Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

It was cold. It was damp. It was pre-dawn. The coffee sucked. My leg hurt from the stupid fall. I only slept about 4 ½ hours the night before. Let’s get this show on the road already!

Finally, at long last, the opening ceremonies began at 6:30. Blah, blah, blah. All the usual rah-rah you’d expect at such an event. Whatever. When all the people were done talking, we peed one more time then hit the road. It was 7:20. We’d already been up nearly four hours and we were JUST getting started. I was feeling disillusioned by the whole thing at this point. Could someone get me a good cup of coffee, please?

The walk through & out of the park was a pleasant stroll. In no time at all, we made our way around to the street which parallels Baker Beach. For those of you who don’t know, that road goes up. Then it curves around at just the right angle that you think it’s going to stop going up, but it doesn’t. It continues up. Another curve. Turn around for an incredible view of the ocean. And continue climbing…. FINALLY, we reached the top of the first hill. Mind you, we’re in San Francisco. It was only the first of many hills. Everyone stopped at the top, chugged water, took off sweatshirts (despite the overcast skies and heavy mist), stood with arms akimbo, and It was exhausting.

Onward we went. We’d only just begun. This hill, though, did wonders for thinning out the mass of walkers. It truly separated us, for the remainder of the weekend, into groups. Just around the corner, we ran into a guy whose hair was died hot pink wearing pink tennis shoes and pink gloves. Out of his car stereo blasted Roy Orbison’s "Pretty Woman". No one knew at the time that he’d be a mainstay of the weekend. Every few miles, there he’d be again—high-fiving everyone, clapping for us, patting us on the backs, encouraging us to keep going. At first it was cute. Then it got annoying. Then it became almost necessary. Gotta go just one more mile to see the Pretty Woman Guy again.... He wasn’t the only cheerleader along the way, there were many people who met us at various points and they were all just incredible.

Let’s see—so we made it up the killer hill, walked down the back side of the Presidio and across the Golden Gate Bridge. While we were heading North, a whole pack of folks bicycling for charity (Leukemia, I think) were riding South. Didn’t take any of us long to recognize the other group. Within minutes, we were all high-fiving each other as we passed by. That was very inspiring!

By the time we got to the other side of the bridge, the fog had started to burn off some. We walked into Sausalito where our lunch was waiting at a park. As we walked in, we were each presented with a silk flower. I thought it was very sweet—I kept mine. I now have a whole stack of memorabilia from these two days. Lunch was good, but not noteworthy. One of the reps from Ryka shoes, however, made my day. He came up to us and asked if he could take a picture of our feet for their wall of a thousand feet. I’m not overly vain about my feet in general, but I wasn’t particularly pleased with how my feet looked at that moment. On the other hand, how many people have a toe ring and a tattoo on the same foot, and how could I pass that up? So we had a picture taken of our feet! It was kinda cool.

Then we walked from Sausalito to Mill Valley. If you’ve never been along that stretch of path, there’s nothing I can say that would truly express how hot, dusty, and un-pretty it is. Nothing. We just walked until it was done.

At about 1:50, we ended up at our destination for the day—Mill Valley Junior High. Had more Gatorade (have I mentioned yet how much I hate Gatorade? That’s some nasty stuff, son!), and loaded the bus back to camp.

I have to go to bed now. It’s late. I’ll tell you about camp next time round, and might even make it to Sunday, though Sunday was a pretty heady day, so we may still be 2 posts from the end. Either way, stay tuned. We’re getting there.

As always, thanks for stopping by. xoxo