Book Excerpt: “Adventureman: Running America” by Jamie McDonald

by Travel Writing World
Adventureman Running America Jamie McDonald

This extract from Adventureman: Running America by Jamie McDonald is reproduced by kind permission of the author. The book is published by Summersdale and available in bookstores and internet booksellers.

By our fourth evening in Indio, the pain in my knee had died down a little and we were ready to hit the road again. Bombay Beach was 50 miles south and we calculated it’d take us two days to get there. We’d sorted out staying with some firefighters along the way, but Anna hadn’t been able to find any motels in Bombay Beach. I was up for just running into town and going with the flow, but Anna – who is always more of a planner (and probably more sensible) than I am – wasn’t so keen.

“I’m all up for winging it, J, but not when there’s a chance we could end up with nowhere to sleep in the hottest place on earth!”

“Ah, it’ll be alright.” I smiled, knowing that would wind her up.

“But what if it’s not alright?” she said.

“Okay, you said earlier that there was a bar or something there?” I asked.

“Yeah, there is. It’s called the Ski Inn.”

“Well, how about I call the inn? Maybe they can help. I’m sure they have people rocking up all the time looking for a place to stay…”

“Probably not two people dressed as superheroes pushing a baby stroller! But yes please, can you call them?”

After dialling the number, I got the surprise of my life when a woman answered with what sounded like a British West Country accent. This was odd, but maybe they had strange American accents similar to mine out here in the desert. As I explained who I was and what I was doing, the woman clocked my accent too and when I told her I was a Glaaawwwster lad she seemed even more eager to help. As it turned out, Sonja was originally from Cirencester in Gloucestershire, where she had lived 30 minutes away from me. Better still, she was true to her hospitable West Country roots and offered to meet us and put us up for the night. Anna couldn’t believe it when I told her the woman was a fellow West Country lass.

“See, I told you. I knew it’d be alright,” I said, smiling cheekily.

“Of course you did, J,” she said, rolling her eyes.

Hitting the road again, I had grown a little nervous. I realised I couldn’t really afford any more days off, I just had to hope my knee was fully recovered. I was hoping for an uneventful day running to a fire station on the North Shore of the Salton Sea. Before we set off, I thought it would be a good idea to inflate Caesar’s tyres so he’d roll easier over the ground that night. But as I went to detach the pump nozzle from the tyre it got stuck on the inner-tube valve and ripped off completely. Note: that’s not a good sign.

I heard the dreaded noise “Pfffffffftttt” (you know, when a tyre goes completely flat) as green slime spluttered from the inner tube all over the tyre.

“NOOOOOOO! Not now!!!!”

Anna shot me a look that said, “Let’s find a solution, immediately”, and said, “You do have a spare inner tube, don’t you?”

I wasn’t sure I did actually.

We rummaged around in Caesar, Anna repeating, “Please tell me you’re not on this adventure without a spare inner tube.”

It was Anna’s worst nightmare, she’d never run without having a spare in her stroller. Continuing to rummage around in Caesar – potentially for the sake of our relationship – I was hoping one would be knocking around. Then, right at the bottom I found one.

“Phewww, I knew it was in there,” I said, not entirely convincingly.

A month before, I remembered Handy Howard from Hart Velo Bicycles had given me a spare for free after a woman had been rude and treated me like a homeless person in his town, Nipomo. Back then it had really upset me, but now she’d done me the biggest favour of all. 

With Caesar’s tyre all fixed, we finally got running. We were instantly swallowed by the black of night, the only light that of our head torches tunnelling into the gloom. The warm air was still as we pushed forwards, the only sound the pitter-patter of our feet. Anna was actually running barefoot, training for her next adventure running 100 marathons across Britain for Girlguiding. She’s an ambassador for them, helping to empower young girls. I listened to her feet, running just off the road in the sand, and made mine run in rhythm with hers so we had our own little pitter-patter band. That was until Anna screeched, “Oh my god! What was that?!”

“What’s the matter?!” I said, panicking.

“Look at that, what is it?!” she said, clearly alarmed.

“Anna, that’s a scorpion,” I said in disbelief.

It scuttled across the road as our head beams followed, its pincers and curled stinging tail glowing in the light.

“I nearly stepped on that,” said Anna.

“Hmm, I think your barefoot training is over.”

“Yeah, I think I’ll get my shoes on.”

Leaving the scorpion to wander into the night, our eyes were firmly fixed on the ground from there on in.

“How’re you doing, Anna?” I said.

“Not good,” she replied. “That scorpion freaked me out.”

“Me too, this is all a little bit too adventurous for me.”

We weren’t living up to our billing as adventurers right now. And as we continued scanning the road for scorpions there was another sting in the tail, we’d missed our turning a mile back.

After running back the extra mile we eventually found the turning. It was a sand-gravel road that quickly became open fields. We weren’t very happy runners, especially when I saw a second scorpion on the ground. Up ahead, a small truck started to flash its lights. We gave each other a look like, “This is going to be the angry farmer whose land we’re on, isn’t it? But what’s he doing out here at 2 a.m.?” The truck drove towards us kicking up dust in its headlights. We froze. It stopped and the window came down.

A Mexican man’s face revealed itself and so did an enormous smile, “Hola!” he said warmly.

Anna quickly began speaking Spanglish. Then, I showed him the map of my running route, which he seemed to understand. He kept pumping his fist into the air saying “Bravo!” and “Agua, agua”, motioning to the land around us. We didn’t understand.

Then he hopped from the truck and walked us over to his little plants in the ground and said, “Peppers!”

We connected the dots.

“Ah! You water the peppers through the night?!”

He nodded. “Si! Si!”

The friendly exchange calmed our nerves and we got back into a slick running rhythm. With nothing to see but darkness, my sight took a back seat as all my other senses became heightened. I began to feel subtle changes in the air – an increase in humidity, a slight shift in the wind, Anna’s breath. The last couple of miles were run in silence, we were both covered in a thin layer of sweat and sand, our mouths as dry as the desert, until we finally made it to the sanctuary of the CAL FIRE Riverside County Fire Department – Station 41.

This extract from Adventureman: Running America by Jamie McDonald is reproduced by kind permission of the author. The book is published by Summersdale and available in bookstores and internet booksellers.

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