11 September 2012

All righty. I think the most important thing is that I didn’t run anyone over with the van. I didn’t plow through a crosswalk filled with nuns and small children, I didn’t smash into a line of cars at the side of the street, and I didn’t squish walkers, road safety crew, nor knock the port-a-potties over at any of the pit stops.

There were a few curb checks, but I blame the big ass van and narrow San Francisco streets for that. And we had a very close call in Berkley while making a right turn and some impatient bubble-brained blonde woman in a blue sedan was too impatient for me to finish making the damned turn before trying to pass…we’re talking a very narrow lane, sidewalk with people on one side and a traffic island on the other, and she decides to pass. I think we missed colliding by less than an inch.

But we didn’t, and all in all, I had an absolute blast driving the sweep van for the 3 Day.

We had less than an auspicious start to our 3 Day adventure; when we checked into the crew hotel Thursday, the clerk at the front desk told us the crew buses would start at 3:45; we took that to mean the first bus would leave then, followed by others, until the last walker bus left at 6:30. After all, that’s how it’s worked in the past. One bus follows another, until all the walkers are boarded.

Um. Yeah.

We got down to the lobby at about 3:50 Friday morning, and the only crew buses—just two of them—had already left. The first walker bus wouldn’t be there until 4:45, long after we were supposed to be at the opening ceremony site.


Michelle called our crew captain to let her know; she said it was fine. That was all well and good, but we still had an hour to kill waiting for the next bus. The hotel was passing out breakfast boxes, which only had an apple, a protein bar, and some yogurt in them. Not really enough to pass an entire hour munching on.

We didn’t get to the opening ceremony site until nearly 5:25; since we were one of the first vans out and were starting at Pit Stop 1, we headed out and finished decorating our van there. The nice people of the PS1 Double Dee Diner let us load our cooler with their ice, we availed ourselves of the not-yet-used port-a-potties, and waited for the first walker to get there. Once she was in, we took off, starting our three days of driving around, stalking walkers, making sure they were all right and picking up those who needed a break.

Left side of the van, Day 1 at Pit Stop 1

This photo taken by walker Cathy Youngling as we drove by on Day 2
I’m not gonna kid you, Marge; the days were long, starting before 7 a.m. and ending after 6 p.m. and the longest we were out of the van at any given time was on day 1 when we took 15 minutes to have lunch and take in the view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our vantage point at Fort Baker.

Lunch with a view on Day 1
We’d have been fools not to. But other than that, we kept moving all day on all three days; I drove and Michelle navigated—she is truly a map-reading demon and kept us on route even when the Garmin could not (‘cause it just did.not.work.) and when the maps didn’t show one way streets or blocked off streets—and she was the one getting in and out of the van to help walkers get in and out.

All I had to do was point the van where she told me to, to keep an eye out for objects I should probably not run over, and to look for walkers needing help

Michelle also kept an eye out for route safety workers to offer them water, Gatorade, and cookies; on day 2 we were flagged down by one of the guys who wanted to buy one of our bras so he would have some kind of decoration on his motorcycle; she had 140 of the damn things (donated to the cause by the people she works with and her nieces) and by the time we left, he not only had a bra on his bike, but he was wearing a leopard print bra and his teenaged son was wearing a zebra print bra. Later in the day they asked for a couple more, and were seen riding around with them on their helmets.

When we got to camp on the first day, I was worn out. I hadn’t slept much in the hotel Thursday night, and after driving all day, I was down to the last of my energy reserves. We got the van parked and headed for the gear truck where our bags were waiting and where we could pick up our tent, which still needed to be put up. We needed to blow up our mattresses, get food, get shuttle passes in order to get back to the hotel on Sunday because that’s where my car was parked, still needed to shower…

…so you can imagine how grateful we were that waiting for us at the gear truck were a couple of Boy Scouts, who dragged our heavy-assed bags across the camp site for us, and who put up two tents for us.

The view from inside my tent
Yep, we got our own tents. The down side to that is we were able to get our own because there was enough space for them, and there was enough space for them because there were 6oo fewer walkers than last year.

Still. Tiny tents = very happy to get one solo no matter what the reason.

Morning comes too early
Day 2 started earlier than it needed to when someone slapped the door to my tent at 5:30 to wake me up…a fellow sweep van person who didn’t realize I didn’t need to be up quite so early. I grumbled, but I’d been lying there half-awake anyway, and it gave me enough time to lounge a bit and not rush to get dressed, get food, and get going.

It was by far the busiest day. We picked up fewer than 20 walkers the first day and fewer than 10 the third (partly because of where we were in the van lineup and partly because by that point on the route no one wanted to get swept to the holding area, not with fewer than 5 miles to go) but on the second day we picked up somewhere around 60.

Coolest thing to happen? We were at the lunch stop to drop a couple of tired walkers off and a woman came up excitedly to tell us we had her tattoo on our van. After a little confusion—because, peeps, it’s my tattoo design we had on the van—we came to find out she had wanted a cool pink ribbon tattoo but not the typical one (kind of like me) and Googled for ideas and found this pink ribbon feet tattoo and took it to an artist to get it inked…the tattoo she’d found was mine.

I may have started a trend!

I’m not sure how many miles we covered over the three days; the walkers did roughly 60, but with all the back and forth we did, I’m guessing it was around 300-350 miles. That third day we started ahead of the walkers, and kept up with the first group until around noon, when we headed for the stretch between the last pit stop and the holding area, and rode that for over 4 hours.

There was one point where if I could have, I would have stopped the van in the middle of the road, gotten out, and beaten the holy hell out of someone; as the walkers were making their way down a very narrow path that had the street (and us) on one side and a hill heading downward on their other side, some dipwad trying to walk against the stream of 3 day people got annoyed and shoulder-checked a walker—if he’d done it any harder she would have gone down the hill—and he was yelling about them walking single file.

Yeah, I yelled back. I couldn’t do anything and couldn’t stop because there were a lot of cars behind us and no way for them to get around, but damn I wanted to.

I think that was the worst of things happening.

Other than that…we had a blast. There were only a couple of grumpy walkers we picked up, and then only because they didn’t quite understand that when they wanted us to get them they were in an area we were not allowed in so we had to meet them at a point about a mile from where they wanted us to be, but everyone else was cheery and happy to take a short ride with us.

They got a Rock the Pink pin and temporary tattoos for getting into the van, and Michelle had a ton of candy and cookies for them, which made for some happy campers.

All in all, tons of fun and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year; registration opens tomorrow, so cross your fingers I get online in time to snag the sweep job. I drove a lot of miles, ate way too many Tootsie Rolls, got to watch nearly a thousand people walk along, had a few chuckles when tourists pointed at the bra-covered van and took pictures, and got a really good look at why people did this walk, even those who were still really ticked off about the Komen/Planned Parenthood fiasco that happened earlier in the year.

It wasn’t about politics. It was about friends and family who have been helped by the Komen Foundation, politics aside, and for survivors it was about living life and not counting every wrong thing Komen does against every right thing it does.

It was about hope. Politics don’t get to take that away from people.

Oh, and next year remind me to use sunscreen. I had on a sweatshirt, but I pushed it up my arm and I got a nice 4 inch burn from hell on my left arm.

Totally worth it.


Gemini and Ichiro said...

How very excellent of you to do that. What a grand time--and cool for you on your tattoo catching fire! WOO HOO!

Angel, Kirby and Max said...

Love your stories about the walk! Too bad there were not Girl Scouts there to help you, too!

Just Ducky said...

Good job and mum swears that the white bra over the right rear tire used to be hers. Used to, her boobities are smaller now.

las794 said...

You did great, and I'm glad your health cooperated through all three days!