I have this weird habit of being uninterested in goals that other people have made. Maybe I’m just never going to be over my teenage rebel-without-a-cause mindset. But chances are, the more sought-after a goal is, the less interested I will be in achieving it. I try to get over this, because actually most experiences are worth having, but there will always be a special place in my heart for doing “difficult” things literally no one else wants to do. Or in this case, just seemingly very boring things.
So I was excited Friday morning to leave my house to start walking for 36 hours. I was sure it would be an experience that was different from anything else I’d tried before, and that’s why I picked it. (Also, the weather was bad in the mountains.) I hadn’t picked a route, and I didn’t have many plans aside from trying to be as present as possible and also not sitting down. I was going to have company later in my walk, but I was alone for the morning. Starting was strange, because it was interesting embarking on something that was pushing my limits that would first involve at least around 14 hours of what felt like a normal casual walk, and nothing new.
I started off by going to my favorite bakery for a croissant, and then I ambled up toward Green lake, just because I hadn’t walked around there much before and there was a chocolate shop. In an effort to interact with the spaces I was visiting, I tried saying “good morning” to people who passed me and made eye contact. Some people seemed confused, some seemed pleasantly surprised, and some just ignored me. I did this instead of listening to music for the time that I was alone to keep myself engaged in what I was doing.
Around Green Lake, almost everyone was out on a pleasure stroll, so I saw a lot of dogs wrestling with each other, and most people greeted me cheerfully. It was great to see so many people out on walks or jogs with their friends or alone, even in the bleak rainy weather. The lake itself looked a little eerie, a foggy scene for some 1800s British couple to part ways forever under a weeping willow.
After circling the lake, I went to the chocolate shop that I’d remembered loving. I ordered chocolates to take to my friends and a spicy hot chocolate. Next, I needed to head in the general direction of the University of Washington to meet some friends during their lunches. I chose a route that took me through multiple tiny parks, where I passed hoards of happy screaming muddy children as I dug with my finger into the bottom of my cup to get the melted chocolate. They were visibly jealous. I was still saying hello to everyone even as I shamelessly got chocolate all over my hand. During this time, I also noticed there was a hole in the sole of my (pretty old) shoe, which had also made a hole in my sock, and the pavement was abrading a tiny perfect circle on the bottom of my foot.
When I was approaching UW, I texted my friend Eric to see if he’d take a break with me. I met him at his lab building and we walked along the water. We chose a route he frequented and visited some tiny seating areas with interesting curving benches and historical photos printed on tiles imbedded in the rocks. We talked about how his career may take him away from Seattle and how hard it is to leave. Eventually we turned around so he could go back to work.
After accepting first aid supplies through the door of the lab for an existing wound on my hand, I hugged Eric and tried to remember how to get to the computer science building. There were still cherry blossoms in the trees and fallen petals making some of the parked cars look like vehicles for newlyweds. I found the building and stood in the atrium. Just when I started to be a bit concerned about how long I had been stationary, I saw Philip coming down the stairs, looking a little tired but happy to see me.
I suggested a taco place I knew because I had noticed it had a walk up window, and he agreed. It was back by the same route I had just walked with Eric, so I retraced my steps. We ordered tacos and found a picnic bench. I stood up despite the existence of seating to stick to my own arbitrary rules, and Philip stood up too. Some salsa and cabbage was lost to the difficulty of eating in this way, but the tacos were delicious and we enjoyed looking at the water. The weather was rapidly improving.
He carried the to-go boxes to take them back to his office where there was compost, a gesture which made me really happy. I decided I just barely had time to make it to my friend in West Seattle before my next engagement, so he walked with me to the bridge and hugged me goodbye. I decided to stick to the water as I headed south, and eventually I got to Pike Place.
I walked through the market to get samples but immediately regretted this decision. I had forgotten how annoying it was fighting tourists to go anywhere, and it was meaningless to try to interact with anyone. I got some vinegar and apple samples among the cacophony of street musicians and tourists discussing the merits of waiting in line for cheese, and ducked out onto the more industrial coastal route toward West Seattle.
It actually wasn’t that nice either. I navigated a lot of closed sidewalks and saw the Starbucks headquarters. I did enjoy looking at the Lego stacks of shipping containers, though, and by the time I got to the West Seattle bridge, the weather was actually amazing. I got a wonderful view of boats going about their business, deep blue water, and Rainier in the distance. The bridge was pretty long, and I was rapt. When I did get to West Seattle, too, the streets I was on were high enough that I got a view of the mountains in the distance behind me for the whole time I looked for Amanda’s workplace.
When I got there, I was beyond excited to see that it was a park with a public restroom. Amanda came out of her building and I gave her the next of my chocolates from the morning. She walked around the track with me and showed me her building, where she told some of her co-workers what I was doing. I felt a little silly since I’d been walking less than 10 hours, and I felt even sillier when I spilled water on the floor filling up my water bladder.
I left Amanda, bought a bagel, and was running a bit late to pick up Wade from work in pioneer square. I texted him asking if we could walk directly home together so I could swap out my broken shoe, which I’d been walking in for dozens of miles at this point. I slowly made my way back along something similar to the way I came, and he started south to meet me. Finally, there was a gap in the barbed wire fencing and we were able to meet. I walked up to him flailing my arms, but he seemed embarrassed by a man standing nearby and waited a minute before he would participate in my roughhousing.
It was nice to have a companion to actually cover distance with me, and Wade was in a good mood. As we were still walking near the water, a loud electrical box off to the side made conversation difficult. “LOUD BOX, WHY ARE YOU LOUD?” Wade yelled, and I laughed too much, unsure if I was already a bit loopy from a repetitive day or if I just always find dumb things funny. After we got home via the International District, I was relieved to change my shoes, leave my backpack, and drink some water. I resisted the urge to sit on my bed, and saw that Westy had left his house in Georgetown to meet me. He was going to join me for the last 24 hours.
I explained what I was doing to some confused guests at my house and rushed to keep Westy from having to wait too long. A friend saw from Instagram that I was near him and reached out to me. “Come walk with us,” I insisted. “Show us cap hill!” Soon it was going to be night life time, and in order to stay awake, I planned to just wander around near bars until everyone went home. I knew Ben spent way more time out in my own neighborhood than I ever did.
Westy and I tried a new ice cream place, which was fine but not as good as our standard favorites, and Ben found us right outside of it. He took us on a whirlwind tour of walking around the neighborhood and pointing out obvious things. We saw some people playing dodgeball and laughed at the spectator commentary. We went to some inexplicable thing that looked like temple ruins from a movie, and we walked past all of the typical Capitol Hill bars, until we got to a bright pink one.
“That used to be blue!” Ben said, seemingly disappointed. “Do you like tequila?”
Technically it didn’t break our rules to stand and have a shot, but the shots Ben ordered for us were spicy and delicious, and he made fun of us for sipping them instead. We still stuck to our mission and didn’t stay long, and we agreed to escort Ben to his destination for the night.
There we also met Teddy, who was absolutely not okay with the fact that we couldn’t stop and drink with them. There was a lot of conversation about how we should hang out “but you guys are always on Mt. Everest or something” and stories about the annoying girls in the audience at drag shows. I laughed so hard it hurt and it was hard to leave them, but we had to keep walking.
Trying to stick to interesting places, we headed toward Ballard. First we went to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is always stunning at night, and we walked on small beaches and passed the glittering ferris wheel that carries tourists above Seattle during the day. The sand on the short stretches of beach felt squishy-crunchy and allowed the tendons in the bottom of my feet to remember all the ways they could move. Before we left the touristy area, I peed in the bushes for the only time during this venture. Westy took photos of a fallen sign that said “Be Prepared to Stop.” We saw quite a lot of people out in Ballard, but they were boring-ish people with black dresses and normal conversations. Westy gave some of them high fives, and they were energetic to receive them. We continued on to the Fremont area and saw a few stragglers, some drunk girls who passed us cackling, but it was getting pretty quiet. Wade was supposed to join us but wasn’t picking up. We went home to wake him up.
On the way home, we walked by Gasworks Park. It has a little unusually blank and uniform grassy hill that especially late at night looked very flat. The lack of definition made it look like it could be any distance away, and therefore any size, like the summit of a mountain we had just started climbing. We went to the top of the dark shape and looked out at the city lights. Afterwards, we found a spot by the water where Westy climbed around a fence and said “Have I ever showed you my favorite sound?”
It was the slightly high-pitched, staticky and all-erasing sound of the light rain on the water. I perched on a tree root next to him and closed my eyes, mentally crawling through the cave that I visualized as the sound. Then we walked home.
I really didn’t want to go look at my bed to wake Wade up, but I did, and turned the light on and off to get him up without being tempted to sit down. He gave us “walkers” shortbread (a pun he was very proud of) and we headed out around 5 AM. He wanted to walk across the I-90 bridge over to Bellevue and back on the 520.
At some point after we left Ben, the weather had become terrible. And the bridge was windy and full of sideways rain. It was still going to be dark for a while, and we faced an interminable length of the same blank view. We silently marched along a slight upward slope toward darkness with little white lights embedded in the ground on one side. It was like mental training for hiking on boring snowfields. I was cold. I kept checking how far we had until the coffee shop in Bellevue. As we got to the end of the bridge, we saw the very first semblance of daylight, and the views of deep blue water and hills across the bridge– in several shades of navy that normally would have been difficult to distinguish from each other– were actually pretty beautiful.
The coffee shop was closed, but I decided I absolutely needed a hot drink to keep my morale up, so we stopped at a gas station and had questionable pastries. We continued through Bellevue on the route to 520. We passed uneventful neighborhoods and forested areas, and stopped in the city center for me to buy some medical tape and for croissants. Westy was still standing to eat with me; Wade was making use of the chairs at the cafe like a normal person.
Genmai-cha in hand and finished with the literal and figurative darkest part of the venture, spirits were higher as we walked toward the other bridge. We explored some construction areas and all took a silent, synchronized detour to walk through some large concrete tubes. We had some tricky pedestrian problems due to the construction, but eventually made the other bridge, where the sun started to come out. The views were nice, and by the time we got to the Seattle side, it was legitimately sunny. It was nearing lunchtime, we were all very fixated on the idea of getting crumpets in Capitol Hill, and we still had a ways to go.
We walked along the water and climbed a hill to begin the endless-feeling walk down 23rd toward the crumpet place. My feet started to feel so swollen I couldn’t walk properly. I had been standing for 29 hours. “Are you going to sit down to eat crumpets?” Wade asked, reading my mind.
“I… Think I might have to. Also there’s no way I am actually going to be able to taste my crumpet otherwise.”
“That will be nice, to sit down,” Westy said.
“Were you also thinking about sitting down?” I asked, somewhat irrationally trying to make myself feel less guilty.
“I mean of course,” he corrected me, “I was still going to stand if you were.”
When we got to the crumpet place, I was so hungry and in so much pain the relief of the 20-ish minute break was indescribable. I had a latte and two crumpets, one sweet and one savory. We walked Wade home, being careful not to abuse the break and invalidate the whole exercise, and decided we were still a bit hungry, so we also got ice cream after he was gone.
I had a friend in Wallingford, so it made sense to go there. We started walking by the water again, near South Lake Union, and I am sure we had some deep conversations but that my input was very nonsensical. I felt a little like I didn’t know how to talk about anything except feet. I was excited for some new, well-rested company.
We met Charles on his way back from the gym and had some restful time in Fremont, pottering around to taste chocolate samples and do a whiskey tasting. Thankfully, Charles did not embarass me by explaining what we were doing to the people at the distillery, but he did confuse the bartender by insisting he could taste which one was aged on an older boat. It turned out Westy and Charles had a mutual friend who lived on a boat nearby, so we went to look at it. We still had a tiny bit of time to kill, so Charles accompanied us for another walk around Gasworks Park until we determined– amazingly– that basically all we had to do was walk home.
We headed back via a new route that Westy knew well, where my exhausted brain became overwhelmed with the concept of trying to find somewhere to pee. Luckily, just as I became stressed out about it, a port-a-potty materialized.
The streets were quiet and foresty, and we saw some extremely bright white birch trees. We reflected on the experience and the state of our feet, and Westy was surprisingly happy about the whole thing. I couldn’t get over the fact that someone else actually wanted to come with me on this literally pointless journey, not to mention all the other super helpful and fun company I’d found. I did feel objectively awful physically, and I wasn’t making sense, but I was feeling pretty happy. We got to my block with just a couple of minutes left. We walked around it once, and I stopped Strava on my phone at my front door, one second after 36 hours had elapsed.
It was time to sit down, and eventually sleep.