National Geographic : 1979 Aug
as if we could flow as easily as they all the way to the Pacific. On the dull gray day we crossed the Snake River into Nyssa, Oregon, we shouted and lifted our arms in exultation. I'd expected Oregon to be filled with trees, bearded loggers with friendly smiles, joggers, and hip college types. We found, instead, hundreds of miles of desolate ranchland, will-cracking blizzards, hundred-mile spaces between towns of a thousand people, and frozen slush spraying us from passing logging trucks. Barbara took it hard. I'd given her the impression that most of the pain was behind us. Now she grew depressed. She seemed a different person. Before, she would always tighten up and tough out whatever faced us. Now the slightest puff of snow made her think of quitting. She started talking about letting me go on without her, about how she could meet me at the Pacific ... If we hadn't met a new set of heroes named Mike and Mary Lou Koto and Milo and Evelyn Franke, I don't think we'd have made it. We met them in a little town named John Day. Mike works for the U. S. Forest Service. Milo is a retired rancher. They made it their responsibility to get us to the Cascades. Each day as we slogged farther west from John Day, either Mike or Milo would drive out to see us on Route 26 and bring food, hot and home cooked. Still, the Ochoco Mountains awaited. After leaving speck-size Mitchell, we began a 107-mile stretch A Walk Across America: PartII over ice-slick roads. Blizzards raged, as if to keep us from the Pacific. The Pacific? Out here in the numbing mountain wilds of Oregon, the Pacific didn't seem to exist. We were walking through the coldest winter here since 1919. Barbara grew weaker, too tired to complain, or even to move out of the way of the spray from the trucks. Milo, coming out to us one day, made a suggestion. He could see our determination waning. "I've got this doctor friend in Prineville," he said. "Why don't we drive over and have him take a look at Barbara." Barb agreed, barely able to nod her head. Milo and I sat in the waiting room, fidgeting nervously. Finally the bald, tanned 227 A s we walked through the winter of '78-'79 in eastern Oregon, logging trucks splashed slush on us. Numb, sick, and dead-tired,Barbaracried.