Thurs, Feb. 27, An unexpected Hero

Dear All, Every day can be filled with promise. I know sometimes that is hard to see, to accept. But the challenges I faced yesterday were light burdens today. I had a much shorter walk. The pathway was free of obstacles and there was just a gentle cool breeze as I made my way to Casa Grande. Walking through Casa Grande I spied the newspaper office, the Casa Grande Dispatch. After hearing my story they agreed to do an interview later in the day. The general manager of the Holiday Inn offered me a room for the night along with meals! I had lunch and did my interview with Melissa from the Casa Grande Dispatch and by 4:00 I went to my room for some rest.
Around 8:00 pm I went down to the bar to have a light supper. There I could hear two men speaking with German accents. (Ronnie and Alex) During the introductions I told them and Dean who was also sitting at the bar Jada and Torsten’s story and how easy it is to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474. Then I added in Germany you can type in to join the German Donor Center. The younger of the two men, Alex, said, “I know. I belong to Deutschland Knochenmarkspender and I donated my blood to a young man who was about to be married.” Just hearing their German accents had put a smile on my face because it made me feel closer to Jada’s donor, Torsten Huber. Then to hear Alex’s story of saving the life of his fellow countryman filled me with joy. Alex humbly shared his donor story. He and his recipient are the same age. He received a letter from the recipient two years post transplant that said he had married his girl and that he and his wife are indebted to Alex for his life. This is why I walk so that there will be many, many more stories of successful transplants from donor to recipient. I am especially determined to increase awareness for the need to register folks of Native American, African American, Latinx, and Asian descent, on the Be The Match registry, with this Steps To-Marrow 3 walk. You all can help by sharing how to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474 and joining yourself if you are between the ages of 18 and 60 and medically eligible.

Fri, Feb 14: Perfectly Imperfect Hearts

Dear All, I decided yesterday that I would not try to find a ride out to I-8 this morning. I do like to walk every step of my route contiguously but getting a ride out to Montgomery Road and then finishing my route 9.6 miles out in the middle of the desert and having to rewalk the remaining 4 miles to I-10 exit 200 just didn’t make sense so I decided to walk my 9.6 miles along a desert nature trail that I could pick up right behind the Love’s Travel Center.
A bit into the walk I spied a little heart rock embedded into the pathway. I studied it and thought, ‘well, it isn’t shaped quite right on the left side. It isn’t perfect’ but it inspired me to begin looking for heart shapes to photograph as I walked along amidst the desert beauty. Being present with the rocks and flora, the dead wood and eroded sand, the heat of the sun and the earthen winter smell of the desert I began to realize it wasn’t perfect hearts I was looking for. No, it was not a matter of searching at all. I was looking at, communing with, surrounded by every day, ordinary perfectly imperfect hearts. The day unfolded so sweetly with each step.
My husband of 23 years left our marriage while baby Jada was fighting for her life against Acute Myeoloid Leukemia. It was a daily life and death struggle. All of us lived not knowing, not knowing if this tiny little baby would live through the day. I dare not speak for the motivations of another but lots of marriages break up when a family is facing this kind of medical crisis. I just never imagined that it would be my marriage. And I can tell you I had some pretty miserable Valentine’s Days in the years that followed. Grief, loneliness, rejection stick out like neon lights on Valentine’s Day. Emerging from this dark grief and heavy sense of lacking slowly steadily, step by step over the years made this peaceful light-hearted communion with the desert on Valentine’s Day all the sweeter.
Make someone’s day sweeter and join the Be The Match registry today! Text LIFE to 61484

Thurs, Feb, 13, The Walk Continues on I-8 toward Arizona City

Dear All, I looked and looked and looked for someone headed west on the I-8 toward Gila Bend that could drop me between mile marker 158 and 159. After an hour and unhappy looks from the boss at the Love’s Travel Center I decided to walk west instead of trying to get a ride out to my stopping point. A new plan for the day. 🙂 After walking 4 Miles a Highway Patrol Officer stopped. I explained my situation and he offered to take a out to mile marker 159. Awesome! I can add a 1/2 mile at the end of the day! How wonderful and amusing. I came up with an alternative plan when the first didn’t unfold like I had hoped and then magically a ride appeared and there I was at my stopping point from the day before.
The rest of the day’s walk was uneventful. I enjoyed the solitude and intimacy of the winter desert.
I arrived at Montgomery Road mid-afternoon. Montgomery Road is a no services exit so I had no idea how long I would have to wait before I even saw my first car let alone got offered a ride. So I settled down to wait sitting on one of the posts supporting the guard rail.
I didn’t wait long. After about 15 minutes a white sudan appeared. I stood and put out my thumb. And she stopped!
Yesterday, I was given a ride by an explosives expert and today I was given a ride by a caregiver on her way back from gently feeding broth to a hospice patient. We had a lovely visit on the way back to the Motel 6.

Wed Feb 12, Still many miles to I-10 Exit 200 and Arizona City

Dear All, Linda dropped me off this morning on Quail Trail near the Saguaro One RV Park. When I saw it on Google maps I thought perhaps I can stay here for two days as I make my way to the I-8 and I-10 interchange but when I arrived here at the end of the day yesterday I understood that was not going to happen. It is an exit with a hotel that is closed, a gas station that is closed and an old RV Park that is essentially closed. There were a few RV’S and trailers parked around. So with a flexible attitude I decided I would walk approximately 11 miles to the Stanfield exit and try to get a ride to the Arizona City exit.
I was having a pleasant walk even with the weight of the heavier backpack. Now you all must know that I need to pee way out here in the middle of the desert. I generally do not mention it out of my sense of proper decorum, but in this case it pertains to the story of how I got a ride. Have I piqued your interest?
So, I am walking along and nature calls. So I begin scanning the desert for a depression or gully I might be able to hide myself in or a grouping of bushes or the occasional tree. Ah, I was lucky up ahead there was a nice grouping of bushes and small trees perfect for my purpose. Now, when you walk out into the desert to pee you do not want to take off your backpack and lay it down just anywhere. In your haste you might lay it on a cactus, even a small cactus can leave thorns in your pack that will poke you later when you’ve put the pack back on. You also have to be careful of insects that may hitch a ride on your pack and appear out of the blue gnawing on you. So I have taken to finding a clear spot near the shoulder of the road, leaving my pack, hiding myself in the bushes and coming back to retrieve my pack. All seemed to go according to plan but as I swung the pack up over my shoulder out of the corner of my eye I spied a shiny white pickup truck.
A nice young man looked across the front seat at me, a bit incredulous. I found out later he is an explosives expert. He offered me a ride and I accepted immediately even though I had only walked 7.8 of my 11 miles. I can make those miles up in the next couple of days but I had no surity for a ride later.
As we drove the 30 or so miles he explained that his job requires lots of walking in the wilderness because he looks for unexploded bombs and other explosive devices on lands that have been used by the military as training grounds for soldiers. We talked alot about good hiking boots and the differences between his boots and mine. I was also able to share with him how important it is to join the registry and how easy it is to join by texting LIFE to 61474. It turns out that his friend has a brother who was someone’s perfect match. The friend’s brother went to Texas to make his stem cell donation. The young man said he hadn’t joined back then but perhaps this was a message that it was time to join.
As he was dropping me off I told him to be safe in his job. He proudly held up 10 wiggling fingers and with a big smile wished me safe travels.
There is another very long story to tell about not being able to find a safe place to put my tent for the night but the short story is that I ended up paying for a room at the Motel 6. They did give me a discount. I was so happy to have my first shower (I did have sponge baths in-between) in a week and a bed to sleep in!

Feb 9, 10, and 11; Walking East From Gila Bend

Dear All,
My trail angel, Linda Buckley, continued to assist me with a safe place to sleep Sunday night, Monday night and Tuesday night! She also dropped me off where I finished my walk the day before every morning and picked me up at the end of each day on I-8. Now you know that I don’t get very far away very fast but step by step the miles pass and after 3 days of walking Linda had to drive 40 miles to pick me up at the end of the day. We had agreed that Tuesday would be the last night I would spend with her. When Linda picked me up on Tuesday afternoon she asked if we could take a roundabout way home and drive through Maricopa.It was a very pleasant drive as we drove along Linda mentioned points of interest like the John Wayne cattle ranch. She also included bits of history of Maricopa and its relationship with the tribal lands around it. She stopped so I could get a small tube of toothpaste and then we shared a meal at Cilantro’s. On the way back to Gila Bend from Maricopa Linda stopped so I could capture some pictures of the stricking sunset.
The beauty of the Sonoran Desert in the winter is breathtaking. A vast expanse of high desert surrounded by mountains all reflecting the colors of the sky like a boundless sea. I feel privileged to walk with intimacy on this sacred land. My commitment to those in need of a bone marrow transplant ever present. Please share with others the great need for diversity on the Be The Match registry and how to join by texting LIFE to 61474.

Feb 6th and 7th, walking into Gila Bend

Dear All, I was lucky to find safe rides out into the desert to my stopping points and back into Gila Bend on Thursday and on Friday morning. On Friday afternoon I finally walked myself into Gila Bend.
Wed, Thursday and Friday nights I was the guest of my trail Angel, Linda. Linda bought some property that has two brick buildings on it. They used to be apartments but she doesn’t think anyone has lived in them since the 70’s. She bought them thinking she could fix them up and create housing for veterans in need. She has been working on the project for two years and still has a long way to go. In the meantime she gives homeless and/or jobless folks a place to stay. I met Linda at The Church at Gila Bend late on Wednesday night and she has allowed me to stay as I walked into Gila Bend. It has been a blessing to know that I have a safe place to lie my head down at night. It isn’t much but it is ample accommodations for me. Linda lets me use her bathroom because the bathroom in my room doesn’t have working fixtures. My room has electricity that is a power cord coming through the window. It is just enough for me to charge my phone at night and to use a small lamp. There is a mattress where I can lay out my sleeping bag.
At night when Linda returns from volunteering at The Church at Gila Bend food bank she has been preparing dinner for both David and I. How lovely and generous she has been.
I continue my walks along Pima Street, east to west in the mornings and west to east in the afternoons. Having arrived in Gila Bend officially my next walk will take me out of Gila Bend and begin my trek to Tucson.

Wed. Feb 5th, Advancing to Gila Bend

Dear All, Wow! What a day! You never know what you will encounter when you are relying on the generosity of others for your food and housing. The practice of relying on the generosity of others manifests in accepting the answer that is given, for example if someone declines to help me I thank them for listening or for considering my request. It is also a practice of receiving what is given. It is a practice of discernment of what I need and what I want. And it is the practice of sharing the opportunity with others to give. Today was centered around this practice of relying on the generosity of others.
A very good man named Juan gave me a ride from the Dateland Travel Center to Gila Bend. Juan spoke very little English and I speak very little Spanish. But we were able to communicate a lot about ourselves on the ride from Dateland to Gila Bend. Juan was born in the Sonoran Desert on the Mexico side of the border. He and his wife raised 4 great kids 3 boys and 1 daughter…
After Juan and I parted ways I started to look to take care of my immediate needs, first, a restroom. I stopped in at the McDonald’s. After I took my pack off someone hollered to me from across the room, “I saw you on the news.” I went over and she and her husband invited me to sit with them. They had many questions about Jada, bone marrow donation and the Steps To-Marrow 3 walk. They bought lunch for me and we visited for quite a while.
Having used the restroom and had a filling lunch I turned my attention to finding a safe place to sleep for the night. I walked all the way down the main street, Pima Street, going west to east. I stopped at hotels and churches mostly. It was Wed afternoon so no one was at the churches and all of the hotels turned down my request for a room. But the desk clerk at the last hotel told me that the food bank at The Church at Gila Bend opens up after 3. She also said that they will sometimes pay for folks to stay in one of the hotels for the night. So I slung my backpack up over my shoulders again and walked back down Pima Street, this time going east to west.
I was fortunate that The Church at Gila Bend was still open when I got there. A very kind person named Linda phoned the right people and pretty soon I was dropped off at a very run down hotel back to the east again on Pima Street. I hadn’t stopped at this particular hotel on my first trip down Pima Street because it looked a bit seedy. But here I was receiving the gift of one night at the Payless Inn. The desk clerk hidden behind a thick glass shield was used to dealing with Paul from The Church at Gila Bend. He helped me get settled. The room was saturated with the thick lingering odor of cigarette butts. It looked relatively clean and I could take a shower. I took off my boots,put on my sandals, and prepared for a shower. I noticed a bite on my ankle. “Umm, fleas.” I wondered. Following the shower I got bites not only on my ankles but also on my wrists and soon I saw a flea jump across my field of vision after a little baby chomp into my neck. That did it for me. I quickly packed up, locked the door to room 16 crossed the courtyard and slid my key under the thick glass shield at the counter in the office.
“Ok, Jeana, it is dark outside, after 8:00 pm and you have no place to stay. What are you going to do?” The best option that I could see was to walk to one of the all night gas stations. As I headed to the gas stations at the west end of town I noticed that there were folks at The Church at Gila Bend. I stopped by to let them know that though I appreciated the room I was not going to be able to stay there. It turns out that on Wednesday nights they have Bible study. They had finished Bible study and were visiting on their way out. After I explained about the fleas everyone looked around from one to the other not sure what to do next. Then my trail angel Linda spoke up. “Come with me.” She said. She loaded me, my backpack and another guest, David Smith into her 2001 Pathfinder, Nissan and drove me to a building that she is remodeling. There she gave me a mattress and a safe place to sleep for the night.

Tuesday, Feb 4, Deeper into the Sonoran Desert

Dear All,
It was cold last night! But I stayed nice and warm tucked down in my sleeping bag. I didn’t want to crawl out into the cold but I did. After an hour of getting ready I began the search for a ride to where my route ended the day before.
It took me a while so I got a bit of a late start but two ladies out for a day trip agreed to take me east on I-8. Both of them come down each winter from the north one lady was from Ontario, Canada the other from Wenatchee from my home state of Washington.
Before I left Dateland I arranged for a ride back to Dateland at the end of the day with Luis and Robyn. After 12 miles Robyn called and said that they were ready to pick me up. I walked another 1/2 mile and there they were. It was great timing because a cold wind was blowing and temperatures were dropping.
You wouldn’t think that I would run into many people to talk to about joining Be The Match out in the middle of the desert but I do! Lots of folks have seen the KYMA news story about the third Steps To-Marrow walk and they honk as they go by; I have a sign on my backpack that says Save A Life, Text LIFE to 61474; and I talk to folks at gas stations, rest areas, every where that I can. The internet is a great tool but good old face to face communication and connection is my cup of tea.

Jan 31 and Feb 1, lots of walkin’

Dear All,
On Friday the 31st I walked from Wellton to Tacna on old HWY 80. I had a chance to visit with the Wellton firefighters before I left and share the message about how to join Be The Match by texting LIFE to 61474!
The old hotel in Tacna has been closed for at least 5 years. But there is a RV Park, Copper Mountain, across highway 8. They suggested that I put my tent across the road behind the park. I came up with a new strategy because the walk for Feb 1st is 15 miles. That’s a long way for me to carry all of that weight. The folks at Copper Mountain thought that my tent would be safe all day while I walked. So I left my tent up, packed my small backpack filled it with a lot of water, some trail mix and my change of shoes and walked 14 of the 15 miles. A very nice man picked me up and drove me back to Copper Mountain where I am safe and sound in my tent again.
I will be up early tomorrow to get ready for the walk to Dateland. You all enjoy the Super Bowl. 🙂