September 18 - October 11
(292 miles)

It's a blessing to be alone again and clear my head. The walk was wonderful today, I-80 a real fall situation with unsettled weather, shifting patterns of snow flurries, rain and sunshine, clouds dark and sky brilliant blue all churning and windy. I looked back and saw the distant mountains, snow mantled. Could there be anything white and more pristine than the early autumn snows in the mountains (in the fall).

My alarm was aroused by lateness and no camping spots.  Finally I turned into an old road and was forced to scale the fence.  I broke my water jug and lifted the cart over in a raging fury.  The old abandoned highway skirted the Humoldt River.  The only hidden camping spot required a mighty struggle with a cattle gate, opening and closing.   I camped in a wash crouched behind a large sage brush.  

The night cooled dramatically and I went all out for warmth, both sets of underwear, cotton pants, Oliver's 30 year old wool garberdine square dancing pants, 2 turtleneck wool shirts, and my down jacket.  I used the mylar groundcover from Karen and the bivy bag under the down bag.  I kept an anxious eye on the snowstorm clouds racing by overhead. Sun set was charcoal gray and pink reminding me of that color fad when I was in high school.  Night closed in with a few friendly stars peeking through. 

I feel safe from people when it finally gets dark and I'm hidden. The usual   ground and mice thumped gently over my bag. Stars multiplied and cold [244] deepened. I noticed some high tension power lines and realized Nevada is a big UFO state and UFO's are often seen near power lines. The prospect of a close UFO encounter and abduction swept over me as an unbearable sadness at the thought of not seeing my children any more. Indeed the sadness longing for them was so overwhelming that I nearly panicked. Then I regained my anchor and rationality reigned. The UFO possibility was utterly   remote.  This trip has enforced upon me the need to deal with all situations and fears with total realism.  Then fear and hysteria and irrationality are banished. What are the actual chances that this horror or that horror will actually occur?  And then if these horrors occur, how would I handle them, step by step?  What are the options?  If some one comes, what are the chances he'll (it'll) find me?  Small. If he finds me, what are the chances he'll be mean?  Smaller.  If mean, what are the chances he'll hurt me?  Smaller yet.  If he wants to hurt me, what will I do?  1. or 2. and 3. then 4. etc. This kind of calculating rational thinking overcomes helpless feelings of vulnerability with a sense of taking charge and competence and control.

Slept warmly.  Moon was so bright (sky had cleared) that it hurt my eyes. One could easily read by it. I noticed that ice crystals of frost glittered everywhere in the moonlight, especially on my sleeping bag and even on my "pillow" of sage.  Morning, over 1/2 inch of frost everywhere.  Wait for sun as it turned to golden the deeply scoured and rounded brown canyon rocks. Finally it crept down to my gully and I began the long process of drying my frost wetted camp.

Birds flapped by, the whistle of the air clearly audible in their feathers. The cloudless sky, first in weeks, the air clean and cold as spring water on a hot day, the sun warming and warming, gently melting, the Humboldt sliding steadily on as it did in 1846, such peace and beauty, seeing, smiling, hearing, feeling. I felt part of the setting, as much as the fragrant sage next to me, it's frost turned now to shimmering water droplets [245] in each seed bud.  Is this kin to how mystics felt?  Blending and melting into nature?   Could I merge with these ancient brown rocks and levitate?  I sort of tried but gasped and broke the spell as my senses began to change.  A breeze had gently started the rabbit brush swaying and I felt my hand reeling.  

Time to pack up and move on, 10:30, no hurry anymore, no afternoon heat to beat, no 20 mile quota to meet, just solitary wallowing drunken in this heady beauty.  Now I must make noise and disturb it all, the crackle of folding my ground cloth and scrape off my golf cart. The horrible struggle of the damn cattle fence and then a psyching up to handle I-80 and whatever lies ahead for this day.

While camping in Carlin Canyon the sky ahead was ominous and deep gray yet the sun had broken through behind my back.  It fell on an arching silver rope 300 ft. high, streaming gently in the breeze, an incredible mysterious sight, ethereal, gleaming and perfect.   I found out a few days later that the "rope" was a fine spider's rope often seen at this time of year.  Where do they get the fuel to make such a long one?  It's many times the volume of the spider who spins it.

Every day I experience periods of what can only be described as "highs".
It's a sensation of almost bursting with a sense of happiness, well being and optimism.  It's like the ultimate secret of life is only an inch away.  The excitement comes from being so close to it. Today it came when I heard music from Saturday Night Fever.  Usually it comes when I'm alone and on the road camping.  It's a sense of power and peace and conquering [246] fear and merging with nature, a timelessness, a different dimension or perspective.

During the night I awoke to a blending of moonlight and a rhythmic sound.  I thought it was the crackle of my mylar but something told me to check it out.  It was distinctly hoof beats.  Then I saw huge dark shapes move, cows? No, faster beat, horses!  In a flash I realized the piles of horse manure and barren dry ground between sage bushes as the gathering spot for horses, and     there they were, thundering around me.  I turned the flash light on the big dark shape nearest me. One huge yellow eye shone, still now, and I reared up instinctively combatively and all the horses retreated.  I was aroused but not fearful.  Another milestone, I thought, remembering my nervousness in Wyoming when being with unfenced horses even 1/2 mile away was scary. Next morning the great thundering herd of horses was nearby, but it turned out to be just three, kindly and likable looking besides.

Walked on, real Indian summer, the kind of weather that starts deliciously warm and turns to a still aired sweat producer. I suffered for leaving on my long underwear bottoms.

I had heard twice of an old woman living alone in a cluster of deserted buildings on the interstate.  Tired and hot I headed there. The scene was like a 1930's ghost town, deserted cabins, gas station, old trailers and a motley assortment of small confusing abandoned shacks.  I roamed through the incredible scene, a John Steinbeck Wayward Bus movie setting, a disaster movie setting, eerie and not quite old enough to be charming or quant.  After knocking on a half dozen unlikely doors, a pleasant faced old woman called me into a large low building crammed full with thousands of dollars [247] worth of antiques, glassware, Tiffany lamps, photos shelved neatly on an old ice cream counter, glass apothecary display cabinets, etc., etc.  Beulah, 74, in her white uniform sat me down amid the dazzling collection and talked compulsively non-stop from 1 PM to 8 PM until I called a halt after total darkness had descended about which she showed no awareness.  She talked frantically with great agitation of her life, deaths, births, murders, suicides, stabbings, robberies, etc., etc.  Pistols and tear gas, no fear, chasing away terrified vandals, closing the eyes of dead babies, sex and births of 3 children, etc., etc.  She padlocked me in a shack for the night to avoid possible cross fire from nightly vandals who try to rob her.  That night cars prowled but I barely heard them.  In the morning Beulah unlocked me and said she'd finally realized my true identity; I was President Carter's daughter-in-law checking up on her.  President Carter, she assured me, had been checking up on her last week in disguise.  She grabbed my arm frantic to distract me to stay.  The pistol lay on the table between us.  I thanked her firmly for a truly remarkable stay and left.  She still sits there, I assume, alone in her jumble of shacks, guarding her fortune in antiques with the loaded pistol, alone, fearless, without phone or transportation, many miles from the nearest house. 

Far far in the distance, around a big bend in the Humboldt, against a backdrop of brown parched mountains, Battle Mountain lay bleaching in the desert sun.  I headed for it hour after hour but seemed to get no closer.  By the time I finally dragged myself into town, numbing weariness rode like a weight I couldn't dislodge.  The name Senator Rene Lemaire was given to me as someone to say hello to. I found my way to a tall white house, just the place, I thought for a retired senator to reside.  My tentative knock was answered by a tall regal woman who bowed slightly and smiled generously. She held the door wide open and exclaimed, ''Why, it's just as [248]
if heaven sent you here to us.  I've heard about you and wanted so much to meet you. Come right in and let me get you some lemonade."  Leaving my cart on the stately porch, I followed Thelma Lemaire into the elegant old home.  High paneled ceiling, chandeliers, and quiet dignity enveloped me with a sense of peace and history and permanence.  The memory of the weary hours on the highway receded like a bad dream.  Senator Lemaire was sitting at the kitchen table and after introductions asked me what nationality my name was.  I said "Maat is Dutch, but of course that's my husband's nationality, not mine."

Ever the consummate host, Senator Lemaire leaned forward and asked, "What is YOUR nationality and what was YOUR maiden name?"

"I'm Hungarian," I answered "and my name was Kardos."

"I would like to have you write that down for me," he said handing me paper and pencil.

I complied with a feeling that I had been honored by his interest and sensitivity. I also was walloped with the realization that I would have voted for this man any day.  He cared and had communicated that concern within two minutes of our meeting.  Skillful politician, genuine human being, both meeting in the same man.

I spent three memorable days with the Lemaire's basking in their graciousness.  Thelma too had developed her hostess skills to a fine art.  While talking I had mentioned casually that one thing I dearly missed on the trail was reading magazines now and then.  As soon as the conversation shifted to Rene and me, Thelma unobtrusively arose and went upstairs for a few moments.  Later, up in the guest room while resting in perfect splendor under a satin comforter, I discovered what Thelma had done earlier in her brief absence.  On the bedside table she had quietly, thoughtfully arranged a variety of magazines and assorted reading matter for me. [249]

In the evenings we dined in the elegant dining room, me in my ragged trail clothes, and Rene would speak as if he were still before the senate.
He would afix a stern eye on me and hold forth on subjects ranging from declining national morality, to Nevada silver mining in the old days. I was a rapt pupil as much from his charismatic delivery as the anecdotes. When reminiscing about his own successful career, he would assume a bashful, aw gosh and golly demeanor, the modesty of a man with a lot to be proud of.

A bit over a month after my stay with the Lemaire's, Rene was killed in a car accident and Thelma critically injured. But memories of those evenings around the dining table are as fresh and alive as yesterday. 

I'm alarmed by my sudden deterioration, partly too much and too many doses of people.  I'm strained to be ever gracious and thoughtful and it's cracking. And partly the great stress of the interstate, trucks blow you over, spray gravel, blow off hat, etc.  Have decided not to be so uptight about schedule.

Yesterday on the road I waved back to a trucker while holding a granola bar; the unintended result, I heartily gave him the finger!!

Rounding the big bend of the Humboldt was dramatic, vast marsh plain 30 miles across and surrounded by mountain ranges.  Nevada mountain ranges   run in straight long lines, utterly brown. The color of the landscape here very mute, brown and faint milky green similar to looking through a dirty window or subtle pre-dawn tinge.  Dark brown rock, dirt brown, brush on grass, tan brown.  The Humboldt is almost always out of sight. No dramatic tree line marks it course as with the Platte.  [250]

In the evening the sunset worked its artistry in shades of mauve and deep rose on the mountains.  The sky turned auburn and burished straw and the valley grayed in haze. The stars came out, old friends I wait anxiously for every night. The first twinkle brings a sigh of safety and relaxation, and then after a snooze I awaken and watch the satellites and shooting stars and planes.   At one point I was fascinated (and not scared) to see what I thought was a UFO.  It was flying low, even disappeared behind a nearby mountain peak and was extremely fast and utterly silent even at close range.  It turned out to be a jet, however. The sound was audible later.

Much has been made of Donner Party mistakes by Monday morning quarter- backs. They rested too long here. They took the wrong route there and on and on. The romantics among us would like to picture the emigrant pioneers as daring, courageous and above all smart. We fairly demand images of competent and trail wise leaders, outguessing the Indians and plucking edible plants along the way. Is it our insecurities that urge us to expect the impossible?  The families that moved west across unfamiliar territory made all the mistakes that you or I would make in an alien land.  Why do we today as yesterday speak contemptuously of ''greenhorns''?  The rancher today snickers about the city dude who doesn't know from which side to mount a horse while the city folk snort about the hillbillys who get lost on subways. Yesterday's adventurers who leave the familiar faced crises and unknown terrors that boggle the mind, yet all in all they coped with a flexibility that should make us proud of our heritage. When the trees ran out, they burned buffalo droppings (chips) for fuel. They did their laundry in hot springs and used some kinds of alkali for baking [251] powder biscuits. They traveled by night across hot deserts and made snow- shoes from oxen yokes. On the other hand, they overloaded their wagons, carried the wrong kind of guns for the large distant game in the west and were exploited by Indians because they erred on the side of hospitality.  The wonder is that any of them made it at all. From diaries it is apparent that some emigrant trains actually had a wonderful time! Amazing.  

As I was getting my room, a sheriff arrived and ominously asked to speak with me alone. There began the most bizarre adventure of the trip.  I was a suspect in a robbery, 2 diamond rings were missing from the home I'd been a guest in a week before.  I offered my stuff to search, incredulous and alternately stunned and giggling.  I was horrified that my hosts could think I might have stolen their rings after we'd had a such a fine and trusting time together.  The deputy who was very engaging and even embarrassed,   completely dismantled my pack. The sheer amount of stuff was astounding, piled high on the bed and dresser.  I'm sure he felt like a fool going through my underwear and sanitary supplies, and he certainly could have missed diamond rings any number of times!  My only thought was to be proven innocent, and I readily agreed to a skin search at the police station. Off we went in the police car, the motel personnel already eyeing me as if I were the scum of the earth. At the police station a very uncomfortable women took me to the ladies room where I stood before her and took off all my clothes which she examined, even my hair elastic!  I found the whole episode ludicrous, some big silly mistake, a good and amusing chapter for any book I might write.

This is quite an education. It's one thing to be wined and dined in Elko, introduced at the floor show in the casino and at the Mormon Church, newspaper articles running for 4 days and being given the luxury suite with [252] food and then be unknown in the next town, but actually to be a police suspect and searched is going from God to Satan. The contrast is quite a jar to the psyche.  I have a new attitude toward famous or infamous people. They're all more medium than the publicity paints.  President Kennedy not as good nor President Nixon as bad.

I’m going through an uneasy stage in this trip.  It's almost as if my lucky stars have moved out of position.  For about 3 weeks my feeling has been one of unexplainable deterioration.  Physically, I've been verging on sickness. My mental stability seems a bit more shaky and my luck has been slowly but surely turning sour.  In the back of my mind I even fathom attack or death as I near the end of the trip. The most eerie phenomenon of all is that suddenly many people are asking, "How's your health?"  No one asked that before and now suddenly EVERYONE is popping that question. 

I vaguely recall a saying to the effect that "there's a tide in the affairs of men (women). To fight it is futile."  The tide until now has been with me. Now it seems to be turning.  Feeling this way, today down-town after hours pf total frustration in every avenue I turned, I suddenly just felt so defeated and victimized that I cried momentarily on the sidewalk. Then I rallied and started making some firm decisions.
  1)  No, I will not go to dinner with the repulsive reporter.
  2)  No, I will not pay the horrid motel people who treat me like dirt another cent.  I will move on to town or beyond and pay whatever it costs.
  3)  I will not be intimidated by my fear of spending money to the point where I exclude other considerations.
4 )  I will head for Reno and maybe work or see what develops. [253]

While only half awake this morning, I was slowly brought to the realization   (by my inner guide) that there is a great generalization that can be made about many of the women I've met. They are apparently more eager to get out and explore life than their husbands. They are stifled and frustrated and bored and held back. They are the closet adventurers. In those situations where the woman holds back the husband, one is immediately sympathetic to the husband, but somehow one overlooks the reverse.  The great parade of closet adventurers, Thelma, Ruby, LaVonne, JoAnn, Kathy, Beverly, Erma, Becky, Rose and on and on.  I'll have to get out my list and examine it all the way. What a realization!

I'm stuck and peeved by the universal western sign (is it also in the east?) found everywhere, cafes, drugstores, libraries, news stands, hotels, barbershops, everywhere, NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE.  It's smart alec flippancy was catchy, no doubt, the first time it was written, but now its repetition infinitum signals a mindless herd instinct. Ahhh yes, let's all write against the common foe, that monster that threatens us all, the filthy drug-crazed hippy! Dear God! Did ever so few strike such lasting terror in the hearts of so many! For so long! How many years ago did the hippy movement crest? Still to this day I'm warned occasionally that my greatest   danger on the road is the "drug addict who'll do ANYTHING to get money to support his habit."  (Here in the middle of the Great Basin Desert!)  A great rabid insane crazed violence is hinted at. It's a boogeyman image.
A far cry from the sickly heroin addict nodding out or skulking nervously after the color TV in the next apartment. But yep, the whole West is on alert against the dread hippy menace, and NO SHIRT, NO SHOES, NO SERVICE serves notice.  OK, so what's my gripe?  Look in your own backyard, westerners.  [254] What about your drunken he-men? Your smelly lecherous drunks, all living in the hallowed tradition of the old hard drinkin, hard fighten, West, utterly macho and utterly obnoxious. Is THAT who you want in your cafes and stores?  

Related to this, TV news, Howard Jarvis, the Proposition 13 man, was speaking at a gathering and somebody threw a pie in his face. Horrors! (a hippy, no doubt!!)  Anyway, the startled and horrified attendants wiping the pie away muttered instinctively, "It wasn't one of us.  IT WAS SOME OUTSIDER."  And there it is, the unhealthy fear and assumption that strangers and outsiders are the problem, never we ourselves, never admit that our own house might not be in order.

Boy! Am I on the rampage this morning! Underneath all my months of nicey nicey there's apparently a smoldering irritation.

When I came to this town I'd toiled for hours and miles and days across hot (and impressive) sage range.  No trees for hundreds of miles in sight.  At the motel near the edge of town there were trees, pretty scraggly, to be sure, by eastern standards, but I stood and gazed gratefully at the lovely dappled shadows they cast on the driveway.  Today walking through town I kicked and the breeze rustled some of the few brown leaves the trees had dropped.  I turned around and walked through them again and the sound was a small and pitiful reminder of the swish and rustle of fallen leaves in New England.   I hope that this trip sharpens my appreciation for the small precious signals that every region has.  The contrasts draw attention to the little things often overlooked.

I'm learning or just beginning to learn and understand the extent to which we are able to create our own sense of happiness or fear.  A given set of circumstances can be interpreted many ways.  A friend of mine first [255] pointed this out when I once sympathized with her leadership of a festival which flopped for lack of help.  She corrected me. She said, "but I don't think of all the people who didn't help; I remember all those who DID and who worked so hard."  Similarly, if 2 out of 10 truckers wave to me, I can grumble about the 8 who stare stonily or I can bask in the warmth and friendliness of the 2 who do.  Winnemicca which seemed so hostile yesterday, today feels safe and friendly.  I cannot be strictly objective, try as I might.  I am struck again, however, with the force of kindness. It's catching. When I get a break I come out of my defensive shell and in turn feel more kindly toward others.

Earlier I watched some people play 21. A man and his wife were betting $50 a hand. They were enjoying it, but my nerves were a wreck.  I wanted them to win (which they were doing) but when they'd lose $50, I'd nearly die! Finally I left in a state of tension, no gambler me!!

I have attacks of unease fearing that I've forgotten to write someone in my address book that I've promised a "victory" card to.  Even awake in the middle of the night with memory of someone who stopped way back in Nebraska or wherever.  

I watched Pope John Paul's invititure in Clover Valley and now I'm in Winnemicca and he's dead.  His whole reign lasted in my walk from Clover Valley to Winnemicca and yet he touched millions. There are so many ways to measure time.

This morning a workman here eyed me balefully and said with vague scorn, "Just what is the purpose of your trip!" [256] 

And the woman beyond the desk immediately defended me vigorously, "Just   because she wants to, and I think it takes a lot of guts." It's taking an overly long time to sink into my prejudiced brain, but women are defending me, often, especially in Nevada and especially Mormon women.

Why is it that if not ''perfectly" OK, it's at least rather OK for men to pee in semi-public along the highways, to inch their crotches even on full color TV (ever see a ballgame?), but it's absolutely taboo for a woman to pee along the highway or itch her crotch.  All 5 men I've walked with have peed unceremoniously a few feet from me. I have often walked a whole day on a busy highway on a treeless, brushless plain waiting for darkness to pee. I remember clearly my unfair horror in Brookline when I rounded a corner to see an old woman peeing behind a garbage can.

Yesterday left Winnemucoa and walked long and hard. The valleys are broader and the mountains less high and more spaced. Everything is a pale brown, the mountains like smooth wrinkled cloth draped over bumps. Walking almost due south now. At one point saw 6 wild horses at the foot of the mountain range to the east at least 2 miles away. They were grazing and walking paralleled me for at least 1/2 hour before dropping below my sight line.

Stopped at an elaborate rest area and was soon joined by a young California man.   He astonished me by reporting that in 1974 he had run across the U.S. ocean to ocean in less than 4 months. We were kindred spirits comparing   and sharing similar experiences, food cravings, lack of distance, comprehension, shoe problems, etc.  

After a particularly sophisticated exchange of ideas about nutrition, [257] I asked, "But what did your diet consist of on your trip?"

"Any and every damn thing I could get my hands on," he laughed. I knew what he meant. At the end of a 25 mile day, a hamburger was manna from heaven even to that vegetarian.

I spent the night on the floor of his van, both of us dumping all kinds of pent up stuff that only a bull shitter from the urban east and a bull shitter from California could stand.  I was absolutely hungry to talk to this type (and mine), psychic talk, vegetarian talk, philosophy, exercise, etc., etc.  He fixed my shoes, fed me well and generously and next morning I paid him $1.25. Afterward on the road I was mortified at my cheapness, absolutely appalled. Despite all the generosity showed to me, my underlying stinginess still dies hard and slow, I guess.

Long hot day.  Every camping spot seems a bit worse. Now I'm near the road and in sight if I sit and if I lie, but I think it would take very sharp eyes to spot me.

The California runner said that he did his run partly to encourage people to get out of capsules, houses and cars, to promote a sense of community.  It's true that cars and houses and offices foster isolation, insulation and dehumanize. The jerks who honk and swear at old ladies wouldn't be so inhuman in person.  It is unhealthy to car travel hundreds of miles and pass close to thousands of people (also in cars) and have no interaction. It fosters indifference in people and a sense of personal isolation and alienation.

I told the runner about my distress over the diamond ring suspicions, and he mentioned something true, a continuation of his community theory; if the rings were discovered missing while I was there, there'd be no [258] suspicion, but trust breaks down with increase in time and distance between people. 

The runner said the one main thing he learned is that people are nice, so many.  And that after he did his trip, he couldn't believe he'd done all that. I too have a sense that all that I've done doesn't seem possible.  "Hey! Did I really do all that?"

Runner friend at conclusion of coast to coast run, sat with his feet in the Atlantic ocean in Georgia. He pulled out his Unites States map and said with disbelief, "Did I really do that?" I feel the same lack of comprehension. Have I really walked almost 2,000 miles?   One almost feels cheated in not being able to comprehend (let alone savor) it.  I'm sure the Donners also couldn't comprehend their achievement. Vet the lesson may be that we humans CAN accomplish even more than we can imagine. The human mind is very sorely limited.  There are whole worlds beyond our ability to imagine, comprehend. As I look back across the desert I have crossed, I see the road fade to nothing in the distance.  I can't even comprehend or appreciate walking the comparatively short distance that I have today.  Similarly, at the start of the trip the distance looks impossible,   unfathomable.  I would never have dreamed of even attempting it if the pioneers hadn't first led the way by the hundreds of thousands.  I'm sure they didn't fully realize what they were getting into and after they'd crossed, didn't fully realize what they'd done. What a pity for all of us!  (In this world anyway. Maybe comprehension will come in another dimension, in afterlife perhaps.)  

Today I wore my old shoes while the Nikes dried and got very sore feet and blisters.  Passeded a long white alkali flat. At about 3 PM   exhausted and overheated, I looked for a spot to hide and camp.  I finally found a [259] ditch back from the road. I must either lie down or crawl to be invisible   from the highway, but it's a pretty setting, light straw native grass, delicate but sharp and scratchy, stretches to the shadow sculpted wrinkly brown mountains about 2 miles away. The high peak rises to 9,000 ft. some rough brown rock visible at the top. I can see 5 wild horses grazing at the base.

Had a hard time with the water jug. It kept leaking. Finally, discovered it was through the cap, sloshing out. I have 40 miles to go yet on 1/2 gallon, hope there'll be a refill stop somewhere. Interesting thing, today white truck that said on the front HERE COME THE LOAFERS tooted gently as it passed and out flew 2 packaged sweet rolls that landed at my feet. It was very hot today. Now the sun is setting and it's very cold.

Yesterday saw a little snake, no rattles but a very triangular shaped head. It coiled zig zag and seemed a bit aggressive.  Kind?

A strange thing has happened to my hair on this trip. It's never been nicer. It's shiny and manageable and healthy. Most of my life its been dull and dry and bushy and split endsy . Something is wrong here. It's been subject to all those things that make the beauty magazines quiver with fright, blazing sun, wind, damaging dryness, but all this seems to have had a good effect.

Last week I realized I was eating an orange while gratefully squatting in the tiny shadow of a "Yield" sign.  I don't think people in the east very long can   imagine the situation of no trees or shade for hundreds of miles.  [260]

Last night I became so impatient to end this trip I could hardly stand it. As one nears a goal whether walking the Donner Trail or blacks achieving equality, one becomes frantic for attainment, nervous, energized, impatient.

I had been given the name, "Wonder" as a woman who would “certainly love what you're doing and would surely want to talk to you and put you up in high style for a night."

"Oh, but who is she?" I asked.

"Well, she practically owns the whole town," I was told.

There was a pause and then, ''she's loaded with money, a shrewd woman.
She ran a string of houses when prostitution was in its hey day. But now she lives outside of town in retirement in a swank Mexican ranch. Everyone likes her. She holds her head as high as anyone even if she is a madame."

I approached the little desert town and could find no campground or inexpensive motel, so I asked a passerby where I could find ''Wonder''.

The woman said, ''Wel1, you'll probably see her riding around town with a young man in a big baby blue Cadillac."  The woman gave me a curious look and then continued in a friendly way, "I suppose you know that she used to ran the uhhh, well, you know...girl houses here. You'll see her sooner or later; you can't miss her. She has platinum blond hair. She's put on a little weight the past few years but is still a good looking woman. Why don't you try the Golden Spigot Casino first; she owns it and stops in there every day to check on things."

I headed toward the Golden Spigot more curious than ever about ''Wonder''.
But I just missed Wonder. Oh, she just left. I think she was going down to the hotel." [261]

And again I just missed her, "I think she said she was going to the beauty parlor; you'll see it down there next to the Sunoco station."

I was beginning to feel a bit silly dashing to and fro about town, my loose white pants flapping in the breeze as I pulled my little golf cart behind me.

Hot on the trail of the elusive Wonder I arrived fairly panting at the beauty parlor. ''Wonder?'' said the hairdresser, ''Yeah, she's here. Wadda ya want her for?" With an implicit deference and defensive protectiveness the hairdresser had placed herself between me and another woman nearby.  But then the other woman stepped forward and spoke for herself. I knew at once it was Wonder; the platinum blond hair softened only somewhat the strong authority that she emanated. "Yes?" she said with a tone intimating the controlled patience of a busy person.

Suddenly nonplussed I stammered who I was and what I was doing feeling more foolish with every word. Wonder, meanwhile, was carefully scrutinizing me up and down with her professional eye and I can only assume her assessment found me lacking. I just wasn't the type for her type of business.

"But what do you want from me?" she asked sensibly.

"Well, I ahhh, I just wanted to say hello from Mary," (who as it turned out Wonder couldn't remember) ''and ask if I could stay in your hotel," I finished rather lamely.

''Sure, tell Rubin at the desk I said to rent you a room. Is that all?''


As I stumbled out the door I tried to remember just what it was that I had been looking for. The legendary Wonder at that point was probably trying to figure it out too.

"Just what is the point of your trip?" said the man in the cafe. Dear [262] God, I still can't even come up with a flip answer or any answer.  Do I
have a mental block? I know damn well it'll be asked again and again yet I fumble and strain and the questioner confirms his original suspicion that I'm nuts.

Last night went on a vegetable baby food binge, 4 jars strained green beans, strained squash, strained garden vegetables, and strained peaches, enjoyed every bit.

Today 12 miles to Lovelock, the blister grew to an enormous size.

Last night a little animal jumped off my pack and landed on my sleeping bag next to my head. We were both shocked!

My lips scare me. After being burned and peeling for the hundredth time, they are not healing anymore, skin cancer? I was scared enough to buy some PABAnol but to save money bought it in alcohol base which dries everything and makes the problem worse.

In Winnemicca the newspaper headlines screamed, NUDE WOMAN FOUND WANDERING WITH ARMS CUT OFF.  In Lovelock a woman referred to it to me and so did another. One was hostile toward me saying, "I'd NEVER go out alone or permit my daughter to either."

As my runner friend would say, "SO that's one in 200,000,000 people." 

I'm getting weary, too many people, too many experiences.  I need more days of mental rest and require them more often. Now I'm near the end and [263] should be in a frame of mind to celebrate, but what I'd like is a week alone in a motel room.

Tomorrow I start the long haul, and on Sunday and Monday my great fear is no hiding place. Then Reno and many options, no certainties.

Long hot haul. Alkali flats, Humbolt Sink, Carson Sink. Saw a tarantula. Over crest of hill and 40 mile desert ahead. Still distant brown mountains. Desert gritty here, like cinders, plants sparse and spotty.  Exciting and feels like getting there. Wheels, rubber, about to come off, worn through.

The 40 mile desert is a barren stretch of waterless alkali wasteland.  It was the most dreaded section of the trail with starvation and thirst stalking men and animals every mile.  In 1850 a traveler counted and recorded 1,061 dead mules, 5,000 dead horses, 3,750 dead cattle, 853 graves and an estimated $1,000,000 worth of personal property discarded to lighten loads. [264]

Day at Lovelock saw train with record 141 cars!  Yesterday saw 4 trains stopped dead in the middle of the desert, looked like 4 straight dead segmented worms lying there.

Today saw as exquisitely beautiful large bird lying in a dead fluff by the road.  I turned it over an saw it was a huge owl, so clean and delicately marked!  I tried to get some feathers for Paula. First I tried to pull, then pull with my foot holding the owl down, then I tried to break one off. Through all this I was breaking bones and twisting wings.  I gave up and looked at the bird now grotesquely mutilated, and I felt so sickened and ashamed.

Last evening at the rest area some poor tough, tough looking guy came coasting in on a dead motorcycle. He tinkered with it and finally after hours got some truck to go somewhere and charge the battery. He returned after dark and tinkered by the light of his flashlight for more hours. I awoke later to hear him in agony saying desperately, "son of a bitch, son of a bitch." Apparently after all that, the damn thing still wouldn't even sputter, and there it sat out in the middle of the damn desert. I could hear his unfathomable depths of frustration and bitterness, " son of a bitch, son of a bitch."  Gee whiz! I could have cursed more colorfully than that!!!  Then he started to cry. I could hear him sniffling.  This morning he was finally asleep and I left my box of wheat thins next to him.

The scruples of civilization did not die quickly nor easily; nor did they ever die completely. But as the press of the desperate struggle for mere survival intensified, the emigrants priorities circled closer and [265] closer to their immediate families and even themselves. When one's own family is threatened with death from thirst, it is hard to imagine refusing water to another family only slightly nearer death. Would one conserve food carefully only to give it away to others in closer peril of starvation?

An old man near 70 traveling alone named Hardcoop became the first victim of inhumanity and neglect. His feet were giving out early along the Humboldt. With oxen weakened to near immobility, wagons were stripped to the barest household essentials to lighten the loads. Women carrying babies and children walked beside the wagons but still the going was perilously slow. Old man Hardcoop barely able to walk was tolerated to ride for stretches by some and turned away by others. The wagons were strung out along the trail for many miles with minimal communication between them.  A thousand worries weighed heavily on every person; Hardcoop was but one concern. And then the inconceivable happened; turned away by some, forgotten by others, Hardcoop was left behind. By the time it was discovered that he was missing, it was declared too late to return for him. Every ounce of energy in the animals and every second of time would be needed for the stretch ahead, and still it was doubtful they would make it. It is testimony of their frenzied panic that the once respectable emigrants allowed this inhumanity to occur. One can imagine the old man baby stepping and finally crawling as the last wagon receded before him. In the end was it the Indians or the wolves or the desert heat or cold that finally got him?

Lots of chubby gray lizards with wrinkly necks, but they move very fast.

Last night found a good place to camp.  I had feared finding nothing.  The opposite I-80 lane diverged about 1/2 mile and between them was irregular gouged earth.  I crossed the crusty cindered alkali, extremely hard to pull [266 ] (cinders sharp and alkali soft under crust) and found a pit, deep, far from either lane. A van stopped as I headed toward it making me uneasy.  As night fell I kept peeking out of the pit. Somehow I felt so vulnerable down there! Then I got up and hauled all my stuff up and out and onto the flat. But that only helped somewhat. I heard a distant car door slam.  The moon was too bright in my eyes. And then, in the middle of the dawn 40 mile desert where oxen and horses died from thirst by the hundred, on came the mosquitoes!!  Pale beige nastys!!!  I kept getting a very distinct odor of tee. I'd drift to sleep and then be awakened as if someone were holding a tea bag in front of my nose.  Then asleep again only to be awakened by a sudden stiff breeze. Oh, to be in the pit again!! The wind blew alkali into my eyes and flapped the plastic hiding my pack.  On went the down jacket. The wind died down leaving me too hot, and I awoke again to the sound of cattle bawling and fussing.  Cattle??!!  In the 40 mile desert?  They must have been on the slopes of the brown and tan mountains rimming and ringing the desert and alkali flats.  "Dear God! My nerves are shot," I thought. Nothing as serious as "seeing the elephant" but I felt weary, weary, weary, tired of being on guard and fending for myself. I wondered if I were picking up the vibes of all the horrors this desert had served up to the exhausted pioneers. Would the ghost of old Hardcoop crawl by? 

After the moon went down, I slept better and awoke and left. The cooler air made the terrain seem less hostile.  After a few miles I saw a fringe of trees in the distance, 12 miles, that had to be the Truckee River, the closest     thing to heaven to the desperate pioneers. Stagnant pools of alkali water gave off a strange odor.

The faint figure of a person walking toward me east appeared. It was [267] a man heading into the desert. He was already shiny wet with sweat and wearing hot dark blue pants and shirt. He reeked and look unhealthy, relaxed abdomen yet only in his 30's.  I said, "Where are you going?" "I'm trying to get to Chicago."  "How far have you walked?"  "Since Fernley."  (2 hours).   He was hitchhiking and his unsavory appearance and smell didn't make him a good candidate to be picked up.  He asked, "Have you got any water?" I unhooked the last of my gallon and then impulsively said, "If you want to carry that you can have it."  "Thank you."  "Good luck."  We parted.  As long as I could see him (hour) he never did get a ride. I was sorry I hadn't given him some food. It strongly occurred to me that he could easily die out there, in fact, it seemed inevitable if he were not picked up very soon.

Then I realized, holy smokes!  I HAVE NO WATER!!!  My cardinal rule was always to have plenty of water, especially in the desert. Immediately a tiny panic set in and my mouth felt absolutely dry. My realistic self said, "Well, you're not going to die and Fernley is only 2 hours away." And that was that.

Some green grass appeared and the Truckee trees were now only 6 miles away.  My now familiar "high" crept upon me. I found myself inexplicably singing, "stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above."   I didn't know what song it was but continued, "from the mountains, to the prairies, to the ocean white with foam, God bless America, my home sweet home, God bless America, My home sweet home." Some shore like birds (peep) squeaked in the alkali marsh and their tiny running legs held the promise of water, even ocean far beyond the mountains. Then I sang on I-80 in the desert, "Oh beautiful for spacious skies for amber wages of grain. For purple mountain magisty above the fruited plain, America, America, God shed his grace on thee. And crown they good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea." There were tears in my eyes, emotion and happiness.  I said it again, this time, "God shed HER grace on thee, and crown they good [268] with SISTERHOOD.." And "Happy trails to you until we meet again. Happy trails to you, keep smiling until then. Happy trails to you, till we meet again." And "We're on the trail. My mule and I, we haven't a care."  Then "Oh beautiful for patriot's dream that sees beyond the years thine alabaster cities gleam..... "

Rest areas are used primarily for dog bathrooms. 90% of the people who stop urgently spring loose dogs to pee and drink water. One is hard pressed to find a place to unroll a sleeping bag. The proper people guide their dogs to the surrounding areas which pollutes for sleeping bags and others pee right in the middle of things.

I became aware of a young hippy couple and their 17 month old daughter.
They were relaxed and clean and nice to their little girl. Their faces were pleasant, old tie died t-shirts, Jeans and braids. But why did the young man have to LOOK so counter culture, long skinny tight braids hanging from the sides of his head and a long wispy beard. Then they came over and gave me some fruit, tomato, banana and apples. We started talking and the prostheletizing was on! They are from the "spiritual commune" and on and on he went, about the Indians and the world, etc. etc.  The word ''love'' was flung around with the old abandon of the 60's and the term ''folks'' cropped up in every other sentence. "We have to love all the folks even if we can't stand to live with them, but we still love those folks.'' These young hippies from the commune are good sincere, hardworking people, but Dear God, I wish they would NOT preach their naive simplistic palver, even if it IS true!! They gave me a book from their Tennessee commune, THE FARM on Spiritual Midwifery. I've read it today for a few hours and after one gags, swallows and tolerates the slang, ''stoned psychedelic vibes, [269] far out'' etc. it does paint a pretty picture. All this hippy talk about the beauties of natural childbirth has always been a red flag to me.  I react with an emotional fury having suffered soundly through labor and delivery of my own kids and having seen other women similarly suffer and then pronounce it a beautiful experience the next day. However, 13 years later, I read Spiritual Midwifery and am impressed, a rare admission for me.  Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it is possible to create and interpret this into something super. . . .

And then two retired couples brought me sandwich and coffee and talked radiantly and glowingly of their retired lives, vagabonding in their trailers. I slept on the pavement between their rigs. I prefer sun sterilized dirty pavement to the sun shaded, food sticky picnic tables. All night the truckers pulled in and out. The street lights spotlighted me and the traffic roared by, but I slept deeply; vivid dreams lately.

Today walked nearer to Sparks than I intended. It was close to 4 PM in terribly heavy traffic when nearby in a panic and close to tears I found a hiding place, 30 feet from the traffic but in a ravine deep enough to be visible.

Lying in this ditch I look up at the old fashioned telephone lines, the pole with 4 cross bars lined with 10 blue insulators on each bar.  I remember as a child lying on the back seat of the car riding to Connecticut, being very impressed with the much larger number of wires down there than l'd ever seen. Somehow this was evidence of traveling far away and seeing something important. I remember telling this fascinating discovery to my once best friend, Karen. [270]