April 28 - April 30
(34 miles)
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread"
I tried to look as if I knew what I was doing but in truth my maps looked incomprehensible. The red line that I had copied as the Oregon Trail wound diagonally across the city blocks without proper regard for today's street layouts. I suspected it was heading into the heart of a frightening neighborhood but the maze of streets on the map gave no clue.  Every few steps I'd d pull out my map again and face anew the tangled mess. A startling sight came into view as I resumed my anxious wandering. A neat little building sat squarely on my path behind a sign reading Trail Restoration Society. I knocked tentatively on the door and despite the early hour, early hour an elderly man in a conservative dark blue suit opened door of the tiny religious looking museum. It was a historic building for a splinter group of the Mormon Church. I asked for help with my maps and the kindly gentleman slowly and carefully rerouted me with a crayon around the scary section where my map would have led me. My unsuspected stumble into the historic trail building just as I was on the verge of becoming lost was a soothing reprieve from my rush into fear. The appearance of the benign religious man lent the whole episode an aura of benevolent fate. I left the little building breathing easier and headed for the gently curving boulevard. My troubles were not over however for my pack was feeling heavy and the day was heating rapidly.  [24]
I walked on the grassy edge of' the fine old road, experiencing for the first time the intense scrutiny of hundreds of passing motorists. Dozens of people slowed or stopped to shout ride offers. My first unsure day on the trail made me jumpy and suspicious. A large dump truck circled and passed me repeatedly, and I tensed until a friendly man hopped out angling and cheerful and tried to help me. When I explained that I was on my first day of a 2,000 mile walk he looked incredulous and I felt embarrassed. I saw myself through his eyes, staggering, sweating, overheated with flaring face, collapsing on the grass frequently for panting rests, rolling backward unbalanced with the weight of my pack, skinny and out of place in the city.  But he smiled encouragingly and wished me well and periodically circled back to check my progress.
The day became a blur of shoulder pain and thirst and cheeks pulsating with heat. At one point I walked through a dirty area of old warehouses and junkyards and then I saw a tiny well worn path that led down a steep brushy hill toward a market. My body seemed feverishly hot as I followed visions of grape juice and started down the tiny dirt path to the store. As I began picking my way through the assorted whiskey bottles, I looked up and stopped short. Ahead under the shade of the brush were lolling some scruffy looking hoboes. I was too tired to even reclimb the short hill, so I merely continued down the hill making a slight detour around the hobo convention.  In the market I nearly wept with pain and weariness while waiting in the interminable checkout line. Outside the store I drank down the full quart of grape juice without stopping for a breath.
The road entered a busy urban neighborhood of old buildings and fading businesses. It didn't look very promising as a place to stay overnight, yet I was rapidly nearing the physical and mental end of my rope.  I became frightened of the people around me and then had a new urgent problem; I [25] needed to find a bathroom desperately. The foreign unfriendly neighborhood seemed devoid of any hope of bathrooms. Grimly, trancelike I pressed on, a stranger in a strange land withdrawn, oblivious to the figures around me. I raised my eyes from their downward cast and beheld a sign Planned Parenthood, across the street. Planned Parenthood! Bathrooms galore!! Nice people! With relief so close, my bathroom need increased alarmingly in urgency. I found the front door after some fumbling and approached the startled young woman behind the desk with my imploring eyes. She directed me to a bathroom where my intestines disgorged explosively. Pale and shaken, slowly I reentered the world of the normal.
Back at the desk the eager questioning women gathered and gaped at me and my story in friendly amazement. One who was not so friendly told me flatly that I obviously didn't know anything about Kansas heat (she was right) and that I'd never make it (she was wrong).
A casual unassuming young woman named Belle said, "Hey, why don't you come over to my place and crash for the night. You're welcome to my couch and my refrigerator although it isn’t much."  
Isn't much!! At that point it was the world to me and more! Safety, warmth, a haven! The Taj Mahal itself wouldn't have been more inviting. For the first time in my life I learned a deeper meaning to thankfulness, gratefulness. As if it were the most natural thing in the world Belle bundled me and my pack into her tiny rattletrap car, picked up her 5 year old daughter from a day care center, and delivered us to the grand old house she rented in a deteriorated section of the city.
I met Stacy and Mary, two women who shared the rent and appreciation for the faded elegant residence. Together we admired the richly carved woodwork and the exquisite stained glass windows. I was too crippled to make the climb to the upstairs so Belle led me to the couch from which I [26] never budged until morning.
I was demoralized, almost ashamed for being in such bad shape while still admitting to my dream of walking to California. Belle showed me a book about people who run across the United States, people who run through Death Valley and people who run 100 mile races. She then looked straight into my eyes and said "I think what you're doing is perfectly reasonable.''
I clung to the memory of her voice and the miracle of that statement for many days afterward.
Next morning Belle and I sat around the breakfast table and communed in a spirit of sisterhood. We discussed a recent TV show about a mature woman who pursued her improbable dream to run in the Boston Marathon. There is a secret bond of empathy that binds together all women who yearn and dream for more than is traditionally allotted us. I was to see it and feel it and share it again and again across this country, but never would it be stronger than in that Kansas City, Missouri kitchen. We shared blinked back tears and cold chills of emotion and then it was time to go our separate ways. Mary, a nurse, sent me off with some solid medical advice. "Walk with your head very straight to avoid pinching the nerve that runs close to the surface of that shoulder. Also, take two aspirins or even more every four hours until your body muscles toughen away from pain."
Belle dropped me off at the point I'd stopped walking yesterday, waved goodbye and was gone. 
An early morning thunder storm had left the flowers and grassed bedecked with water droplet jewels. The air was freshly fragrant. I walked through high class Westport with its chic shops for the wealthy and then into an old exquisite residential area with heavenly grounds, parks, pools, fountains, statuary. Beyond this man-made heaven I emerged into a strip of highway with gas stations, dry cleaners, car lots and fast food drive-ins. [27] Beyond the strip was suburbia which gradually gave way to farm lands. I crossed the border from Missouri to Kansas, walked in and out of a few new housing developments where I asked a young teenager for water. He refilled my water bottle and added ice, an extra little kindness that lifted my spirit.
I began searching for a camping spot, a hiding spot. The pain in my feet and hips had become excruciating. I had walked 16 miles in two days but my general condition was deteriorating. Although I was in rural farm lands camping spots were scarce. All lands were fenced or cultivated. Finally I hobbled over a slight hill and plunked down hidden in a tiny grove of trees near a stream. I would not even attempt to stand on my feet again until morning.
I felt like a frightened animal crouching in the brush, hiding. Because I   couldn't stand on my sore feet, I felt vulnerable. Whenever a car or hot rodding pickup careened by I held my breath, threatened. I kept my bright blue sleeping bag cover rolled tightly and my bright yellow pack covered, although it made no sense unless I feared helicopter search! After a scrutinizing examination of my feet and downing a pack of sunflower seeds, I started to breath easier. And then, incredibly, my safe hiding place was invaded. A couple searching for mushrooms wandered within 10 feet of me. I don't know which of us was more startled! The woman was stepping cautiously, carrying a strange huge implement. "Is that for gathering mushrooms?" I asked. 
"Oh, no, '' she answered, "this is for snakes."
I gulped and looked around at my brushy hollow. "Oh well."
Just as I was dozing off in an exhausted stupor, a woman and her two children ambled by along the stream. Alerted, I remained motionless and they didn't see me. I remained tense and watchful until darkness covered me. [28] The dark thunder clouds that had been gathering released their first splatters. During the night it rained heavily with thunder and lightening. My bivy bag leaked again so that my sleeping bag was two thirds saturated, but somehow I still felt warm. I thought I had solved the bag problem, zip everything shut except a tiny breathing hole out the side, but the water poured in anyway. Even my down jacket pillow was soaked.
In the morning I sat on my sodden equipment and indulged in an emotional outpouring as I confessed to my journal.
Miracles happen when I need them, but I'm in poor shape and under great (unconscious) stress, stress in the cities and urban areas. My mental state roller coasters rapidly during the day and often I do not realize how bad off I am physically. My shoulder simply MUST improve and I think it will. I love my family and cry when I think of them all.  I feel relieved to have finally escaped the city, but still am on guard with the hot rods and "trespassers." I go through cycles of exhilaration and peace to loneliness and despair. My feet last night were too sore to walk on so I felt vulnerable. I wistfully long to be a man so I could walk across the world without the ever present background of fear. Then I get furious that the situation is so accepted (and promoted) by everyone. If I were to be abused and murdered on some lonely road, virtually everyone would say, oh, too bad, but she shouldn't have been out there alone anyway. So I must hide every night and walk the roads with my fear tightly pushed down. It's become obvious that the exact path of the Oregon Trail itself can't be followed across the many barnyards, cornfields   and KEEP OUT sign, so I must now walk on the roads since the trail itself is off limits. I'm never more than 1/2 mile from it however. I can at least always see where it went, although really I couldn't care less when my physical torture and [29] anxiety are so severe. Last night I noticed I was on a swale. I checked my map this morning and am stunned to conclude that I am probably right ON the trail as it came down to this little river! More significant things happen in each day than happen in a week or normal living. It's like a mental and physical crash course. It's always in the balance whether I can keep it together. I think I can, going on faith and conviction."
My third day on the trail was a repeat of the first morning's fresh beauty, but my boots became saturated in the tall wet grass. My blisters got bad rapidly and soon all I could do was concentrate on how and where I put my feet to angle off the pain. I was feeling futile and had gone only 6 rules. I could see the outskirts of a town ahead and a ''Jack-in-the-Box|'' so I plodded doggedly and painfully on.
Suddenly ahead I saw two figures carrying packs, bent over. They were on the opposite side of the road and darkly tanned, a young couple and grinning broadly, so broadly, in fact that it was startling. They were radiant emanating health and happiness way beyond the ordinary. They waved hello and I shouted ''how far have you been?"
They called back ''Oh thousands of miles. We've been on the road since August 1."
I said "really! I guess there's hope for me."
The man answered prophetically, ''Just be sure to take good care of your feet and you'll make it."
I limped into the ''Jack-in-the-Box'' and a young woman giving out cotton candy gave me as many as I could eat and talked in a very cheerful optimistic way, mentioning that the other couple had been in and seemed so happy. I complained about my feet and she said "I wonder if the wet weather makes it worse."
I stayed too long and when I got up, I could barely move forward. My [30] legs, feet and hips wouldn't go. The blisters had blown up and I barely baby stepped out the door, shuffling and sliding my feet. But my "spirits" weren't too bad. I baby stepped 6 blocks to a motel, the faded letters "MOTEL" alluring and lending strength. There I was eyed suspiciously and greeted as if I were the scum of the earth. It wasn't till a few sleep hours later that I noticed what a horrid motel it was. I was the only guest. It was in a poor section of the "strip." There were no locks on the door or windows and I vaguely recalled a fearful magazine article about women in unlockable motel rooms, as I barricaded myself in by lining up tables and chairs across the room to wedge the door shut and wedged objects into the window sashes. The room came to resemble the final siege of Mount Casino. Then I cringed to hear the hot rods blatting up and down the strip. I turned once again to my journal to pour out my heart.
"Here I am in a motel room that smells like someone wet the bed. I realize that I MUST take care of my feet. EVERY book says, "keep socks clean and dry, boots dry, tape BEFORE blisters come, etc." So WHY had I ignored this and figured I'd break in my feet by force? I'm absolutely helpless now and wasting money. The whole bottom of my left heel is a blister that I can't touch let alone walk on! My right foot has the usual heel blister and a blood blister on my middle toe that is pushing out my nail (which later dropped off). The problem is that moleskin softens the skin and I blister underneath it anyway. My boots are always wet from sweat. The double leather layer at the toe makes it worse. I wonder if water proofing would make it better or worse. I'm so damn crippled I can't even go to the Safeway next door for food! This is learning the hard way! When I'm preoccupied with my physical and mental complaints, I couldn't care less about danger!  I've lost so much stomach that my pack waist belt does not tighten enough! I'm too exhausted   and sore to have any appetite in the evening. Thoughts of my family fill me with unspeakable longing and love [31] and self reproach for the times I've ignored my kids when I should have been attentive. I hope Paula never feels she has to compete with me. I was getting up tight about miles per day, but now I see that's futile. All the will power in the world won't dent the inevitable. I intend to get "trail toughened," feet, hip bones and shoulder and get to do 20 miles per day by week number 3. We'll see......(!!!!!!) (fool's paradise) Meantime, I must work up to it by cooperating with my body, not fighting it.  One day at a time. After a long day with my pack, when I take it off, it feels like air under my body is pushing me upward, incredible sensation! I am more and more coming to believe that I'm being guided on this trip and am having less and less anxiety as to what to do about problems and decisions and more and more faith that if I hang loose, I'll somehow be guided.
At these crucial times, the "answer" has popped up.
1. Bumping into the Mormon at the Trail Restoration Society who mapped my route around the inner city area.
2. When at the absolute end of my endurance, coming upon the Planned Parenthood Center and the precious bathroom!
3. Bumping into Belle who saved me from self doubt by showing me the book about cross country runners.
4. Bumping into Mary who gave me the aspirin and head holding advice.
5. Stopping at the swale where I had a strong impression of Sarah Keyes
6. Having the woman with the cotton candy mention wet boots and sore feet.
7. Having impulsively taken the road to Olathe instead of being crippled out in the middle of a soggy field God knows where.
I believe my guide is my inner or greater self plus the "knowing" telepathy we have with others.
Tomorrow's problems:
1. Getting physically going, if possible.
2.  Laundry
3.  Post office
4. Dodging the dangers again.