Days 11 and 12 – Victorville to Barstow
The attack of the canines – and in fact anything negative that’s happened on this first stage of my challenge – is counterbalanced by events so positive that they outshine the struggles with ease and will live far longer in the memory. Just before I’d been confronted by the two dogs, as I’d been sat by the roadside pumping up a tyre yet again, a car had pulled up a little way ahead. After a while – presumably spent weighing up what on earth I was doing – a women jumped out and walked along the side of the road towards me, bottle of iced water in hand. She asked what I was doing and seemed genuinely taken aback and overjoyed at my response. She invited me over to the car where her son Ethan and husband Randy (and younger and sleeping son Bryson) were waiting with questions. We took photos and chatted about where I was heading that day and, on realising I was destined for more or less the same spot as they lived in, I was promptly invited for dinner. I accepted without hesitation and was a little awed by the kindness of strangers for the minutes afterwards until punctures and dogs filled my radar.
And how lucky that dinner invitation was – not only was I taken out for possibly the nicest vegetarian pizza ever, but they also took me to a store to buy some essentials for the next day (almonds, dark chocolate and lip-balm with sunblock) AND reappeared with breakfast-to-go for me the next morning as I prepared for my longest day yet of 22 desert miles to Barstow. Without their intervention, I would have been left holed up in what turned out to be a hotel with no staff (a key was left for me) with no restaurant or breakfast facilities. I would have either had to eat the next day’s provisions that night, or march further miles to find a store still open – exactly what I would have hated to do after a hard day’s dancing.
More than anything, meeting other folks such as Jana, Randy and Ethan allowed me to expand my narrow horizons on a challenge such as this. For a brief time I’m able to ask and learn about others’ lives and forget about the pain, aches and proverbial mountains coming tomorrow.
Their incredible kindness got me thinking of the many stand-out moments where I’d been figuratively or literally rescued by the roadside over the course of the trip, including:
- When my hosts Karen and Simon saved me from dancing through San Bernadino – and potentially being targeted for my (pretty expensive) collection of kit – by highlighting the gang activity there, and being kind enough to support me in changing my plans as a result and allowing me to take a rest day initially planned for elsewhere at their home. Simon also saved the day when he explained that I can walk/dance on the Interstate when no other route was available – saving me at least 7 miles of dancing over near impassable, mountainous dirt tracks which surely would have taken their toll on Barbara.
- When a highway patrol officer took a keen interest in what I was doing as I navigated up past the Cajon Pass and on to Hesperia on Highway 138. She first stopped me to warn me of a section of the road that had no shoulder and became very dangerous as it hair-pinned around a mountainous stretch, and then as I approached that bit some time later there she was in front of it. She’d gone ahead and spoken to construction workers working to create a new bypass of the dangerous area. It wasn’t yet tarmacked but it was passable, and she’d got me permission to dance my way through. Amazing work and dedication to keeping everyone safe on the highway, tutu or not.
- When my flag ripped when out dancing on the road at the end of my dance into Victorville and I thought all was lost promotion-wise. The flag had been my ally in telling far more people what I was doing that I ever could verbally – and now, with its seams broken, stitching coming apart and flag pole poking out of the top, it seemed irreparably damaged – its short life cut short in its prime. Yet I had reckoned without the wonderfully creative and talented Anita, my host while in the Hesperia/Victorville area, who stayed up until 1am fixing that flag to perfection. She found a solution to every problem and the flag was still going strong by the time I made it to the end of the first Californian stage in Ludlow.
- When a car pulled up just inside the Barstow city limits and out jumped Victor, wearing full military combat fatigues and a huge smile across his face. “I’ve been following your progress and just love what you’re doing – is there anything I can do to help?”. We chatted for a bit – he said he’d love to be taking on a challenge such as this but can’t because his knees are shot, so he now works at the Marine Corps Logistics Base fixing helicopters. He said he could fix one other amazing thing for me – to be able to dance through the base on my next leg of the journey (66 goes right through it, and it’s inaccessible for the public), instead of having to take a lengthy dance-around on a dirt track. True to his word, two days later I waltzed my way through the base and everyone knew I was coming!