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Tuesday, August 29, 2017
I know I didn’t sleep well last night. My deflated air mattress had JUST enough air in it to feel like a slightly deflated water bed, and neither Ben nor I could move comfortably without disturbing each other. I know now that I will never ever ever get a water bed like the ones that so fascinated me as a child.
Jenny is not on her bed by my feet, or snuggling with me; she’s waking up Dwight and Sarah with kisses and tail beatings. It’s 5:30 AM or so, and we’re all wide awake.
Last night at the grocery store, we bought bacon and eggs for breakfast. Ben gets up, cleans the plates from last night’s burgers as best he can without dish soap, and starts making breakfast on the camp stove. I start folding up sleeping bags. I’m in the process of moving one sleeping bag from tent to roof bag when I see a flash of orange from the corner of my eye. I know without thinking about what I’m seeing that it’s orange. I turn to look more closely with my limited vision, and the sun is starting to rise, blanketed by a smoky haze that – until now – I haven’t been truly able to detect visually. It looks incredible to me, like a sunrise but not, and I stand for a moment in awe of it.
We sit around the picnic table eating eggs with chopped up bacon. Ben and I discuss needing to get a new, more compact, air mattress, and dish soap and something to wash dishes in. I count out bills and hand them to Ben, since I’ve got plans in Portland today and he’s got time to buy these things.
We’re fed, as well-rested as can be expected, but severely under-caffeinated (we forgot to pack coffee supplies). The tent is disassembled, the roof bag packed and loaded onto Hoshi, and we hit the road.

Cascade Peaks Campground – Portland, Oregon
Distance: 140 miles (225 km)
Travel Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

We don’t have room for the big air mattress – in the tent or in the car – especially if we’re going to buy a new one. We check out of our campsite and leave the air mattress at the main office building with a note that says it should go to anyone who may need it.
My phone briefly connects to the WiFi signal, and I’m thrilled that a book I’ve had my eye on for months is on sale on Audible today. Unfortunately, no matter what I do, I can’t seem to purchase it on my phone – due to the ancient nature of my “semi-intelligent brick” or the weak Wifi signal here.
We turn on to the highway and are thrilled that Dad’s strategy of tying up the loose ends of the roof bag’s straps has eliminated the humming noise we heard the first day of our trip. Right on the highway, we locate a coffee shop with a drive-through window. We buy our drinks and get ready for the drive to Portland. Sarah’s thrilled she can get a breva, and she offers Ben a sip of hers. He likes it, and drives on.
We put on the music as we travel I5, and I realize that we didn’t have the music yesterday. Maybe that’s why our short trips felt so long. By 9:30, I open up the GoPicnic box and start passing packs to anyone who wants one. Sarah and I are doing workouts today, so we need the quick bursts of energy the food gives us. I trade Sarah my applesauce for her edamame seed blend, and eat something every 10-15 minutes – the seed blend, crackers and turkey slices, fruit and nut mix – until we pull in to the parking lot at 10th Planet at 10:30.

We all enter the gym, and Sarah introduces herself. She’s been in touch with them, asking if she can join 1-2 Jiu Jitsu classes while she’s in town, and they welcome her instantly. She fills out forms and pays for her classes, we all take turns using the public washroom, and her class begins almost immediately.

Ben asks about places to go to take pictures, and the man behind the desk (I think he said his name is Bam) gives some great directions. After a few minutes, Ben and Dwight go back to the car, and I’m Just about ready to settle in to a chair and wait for my guide runner, when I realize I forgot something.

I take Jenny and fly over to the car, thankful that they haven’t left yet. I’m wearing my sandals, not my runners, and my running shoes are still in the car. I quickly change footwear, wish the guys luck, and tell them I’ll see them in a couple hours.

Before taking off for this trip, I put out feelers for a guide runner at any of the stops we would make. A friend mentioned United in Stride, a tool to pair visually impaired runners with sighted guides. I got in touch with Mark, who agreed to run with me, and was so accommodating of my shifting plans and changing meet-up locations and schedules. We’ve agreed to meet at 11:00 at 10th Planet, and it’s just past that. I try and pull up the email he sent me with his phone number to touch base, but the wifi doesn’t work and the email, for some reason, isn’t stored on my phone.

Jenny and I wait outside in the growing heat of the day, and Bam comes out a couple minutes later to wait with me. Mark pulls up and Bam introduces himself, then me, and Mark and I laugh about our seeming inability to keep track of each other’s phone numbers. Since my phone isn’t REALLY a phone anymore, he couldn’t have reached me, even if he had tried to call.

Jenny hops up into the back of Mark’s vehicle. She’s thrilled that she has easy access to a window to look out of – something that’s been in short supply in our little Nissan. I apologize to Mark for any nose prints, and he laughs and says he has kids- nose prints are nothing.

The traffic is heavy today, and we make it to Leif Erickson Trail a full twenty minutes later than planned. But the conversation on the way is easy and fluid, and I’m completely comfortable with Mark acting as my guide.

Before we hit the trail, Mark grabs the T-shirt I had agreed to purchase from his online store. I make sure it fits by putting it over my current running shirt; it’s slightly big, but not baggy. I put the T-shirt in the car and make sure my shoes are laced up.

Mark asks if he can get a picture of the three of us – me, Jenny, and Mark – before we get all gross and hot from running. I quickly agree, and we sit on Mark’s tailgate, my calf coming in contact with a tail pipe. Before it burns, Mark quickly grabs a cold water bottle, holding it against my calf for a full minute, apologizing the whole time. I tell him there’s nothing to apologize for, and my calf feels fine. We snap the picture; I think Jenny likes Mark.

Jenny is giving Mark a kiss as we take this picture

 

We hit the trail running. I tell Mark that I think Jenn’s going to kick my butt for the first mile at least, and I’m not wrong. My training plan has me doing an easy mile, three hard miles, then another easy mile, but Jenny has made other plans. She’s been cooped up in a car for three days, and by God she wants to RUN! I have two choices: fight, or adapt. I choose to adapt, but that first mile is grueling, run in less than 9 minutes (faster than my usual pace). Mark advises of changes in terrain, is confused by Jenny’s placement toward the edge of the trail, and we need to fine-tune our placement (Mark moves a couple steps behind me and Jenny is much happier). At every quarter mile, Mark announces the distance on posts along the trail. Parts are shady, others are baked by the sun. I’m thrilled by my first trail run in a year, even in the heat. I alternate the miles – hard-slow-hard-slow-hard – as best I can, given the terrain, the heat and distractions – mostly off-leash dogs – on the trail. Mark holds a water bottle for me and hands it to me when I ask. Jenny takes any opportunity to drink, something she almost never does when running at home. We push through the last mile and make it back to the vehicle. I feel proud, even though my speed isn’t quite what I expected, and Mark and I chat on the way back to 10th Planet about marathons and future running plans (his first guiding experience was at Boston).

I try and call the gym to leave a message for Ben  that we’re running late – traffic, again, is surprisingly slow – vbut Mark and Siri aren’t getting along. He hands me the phone and, for some reason, I’m able to get Siri to play nice. Mark laughs and calls me a show-off.

We make it back about twenty minutes later than planned. I thank mark profusely and introduce him to Ben, Dwight and Sarah before he drives away. I load Jenny into the car and go into the gym to freshen up as best I can, changing in to my new T-shirt and heading back to the car to get back on the road.

Portland, Oregon – Memaloose State park

Distance: 77 miles (124 km)

Travel Time: 2.5 hours (including stops)

 

I ask the guys about their shopping trip, and hope Ben has gotten some of the pictures he’s been wanting to take for days. The shopping trip was a success – if an expensive one – and we now have two camping mats similar to Sarah’s and a folding basket to wash dishes in. It took all the money I had handed to Ben (and then some) to purchase these items, but they were able to swing by a food truck for burgers and stop at Voodoo Donut (as recommended by a friend). The pictures, however, are much less successful because of the smoke that hangs in the air.

 

Looks pretty smoky

Donuts are probably not the best post-run food ever, but I need the sugar. Sarah is thrilled with her experience at 10th Planet, and we’re both so much more relaxed. I don’t think I knew how much I needed a run until after I’d had one, and I’m thrilled to have gotten a chance to fly.

Sarah and Dwight are both fans of Elliott Smith, so we put on some of his songs on this portion of the trip. I’m struggling to get into this music, because – while I don’t think anyone can deny his talent – the dark and brooding nature of these songs aren’t compatible with my current headspace. I stay silent on the subject, though, because to me it’s not a huge deal; this portion of the trip is short, and I’ve gotten to do something I really wanted to do, the least I can do is allow others to enjoy the music.

We stop in a small town for a bite to eat; Sarah and I haven’t had lunch. We find a grab-and-go barbecue place, but are glad to be able to sit inside an air-conditioned building while we eat. We both enjoy our food, then Ben and Sarah swing over to a Walmart for a few supplies. Having purchased everything they need, we get back on the highway and head for Memaloose State Park.

The first thing we notice upon pulling in to our camp site is a barking dog. I smile, as this means that my friend Tami and her husband (our suppoer hosts) are here! It’s only 4:30 or so, and we mentioned we might be there by 6:00, so I am in a way surprised to see them already.

The barking dog is Loki, a 3-year-old standard poodle that Tami has owner-trained as a guide dog. I wait to bring Jenny from the car (thankfully it’s cool enough to leave her there for a few minutes) so I can greet Tami. We’ve known each other online for the past few years, and it turned out to work extraordinarily well that we’re in this area at this time. Tami and her husband Wayne live in eastern Oregon, but made plans in Portland this week, so a great camping spot to make friends and feed people (as Tami says Wayne likes to do) about halfway between their place and Portland was perfect.

I bring Jenny over to cautiously greet Loki. He’s still barking as we approach. I put Jenny in her Newtrix, just so I can have more tactile feedback on her head movements. Tami backs up with Loki, praising him for a quiet approach. But Loki gets within about five feet of Jenny and starts barking again. Jenny, annoyed that this poodle is barking in her face, lets this go on for about ten seconds before she moves forward and barks twice right back.

We separate the dogs (Loki goes in the truck, Jenny goes back in the car), and we set up the tent. The wind is blowing a beautiful cool breeze, but we have no tent pegs to anchor the tent. Once the tent is set up, the sides start blowing with the wind, and we place our backpacks and other items in the corners and sides of the hexigonal tent to keep it from blowing away.

Wayne and Ben get dinner started. Wayne’s got the steaks going while Ben uses the camp stove to make corn on the cob. We’ve tested out the new wash basin to clean our camping dishes, and – after a momentary fear that the plastic will melt or be damaged by hot water – our dishes are clean! While food is cooking, we set up the sleeping mats and air mattresses, and – miracle of miracles – they all fit snuggly in the tent.

Tami and I mutually decide that the dogs might never be best friends, so while Jenny is now out on the camp site with me, Loki is still in his space. Tami uses her white cane to walk over to where I’m sitting at our site’s picnic table. She’s embarrassed by Loki’s reaction and I’m quick to reassure her that she’s doing the right things by reworking a situation as far as it will go. I’m also thrilled that she respects her dog and mine enough to allow that extra space and the realization that they may not become the buddies we’d hoped they’d be. We talk about dogs, about books, about travel and camping, about our mattresses not fitting in the tent and the need to buy new ones. When I tell her the tent was supposed to fit seven people, she pauses a few seconds and asks, “What, are they all five-year-olds?”

When dinner is ready, we all crowd around Tami and Wayne’s picnic table. Jenny and Loki are as far apart as they can get, and they very pointedly ignore each other as the six of us eat and laugh and chat, throwing away our paper plates in the covered cans provided by the camp site. We’ve set up our camping chairs near the picnic table and open the leftover drinks from the cooler as we chat – sometimes as a big group, sometimes in smaller 2-person pockets. Sarah uses her phone to log on to my Audible account for me so that I can purchase that on-sale book (you can’t beat a book for $2.95), and I smile and thank her. The sun sets, the air continues to cool, and the crickets (sounding different from last night’s chorus) come out of hiding. Jenny and Loki continue to ignore each other, until Tami gives Loki a treat that Jenny shows too much interest in for Loki’s liking. It takes Jenny a little too long to lay down and turn her back to Loki again, but in the end they are content to coexist and ignore each other’s proximity entirely.

The showers close at 10:00, so at about 9:30 I grab my toiletry bag and walk with Sarah over to the showering room. Sarah describes it as almost jail-like, and while it’s not exactly super well-lit, the water is hot and the water pressure strong. I’m so thrilled to be cleaned up after the heat of the day. When we return to the camp site, Tami and Wayne are back in their space with Loki, and Jenny is curled up in the tent with Ben and Dwight. The crickets sing me to sleep as I think about all the amazing people who’ve opened their spaces, their hearts and their lives to me – even for a moment – today.

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