Surely nothing could go wrong, hey? Well maybe someone was getting cocky. Either that, or just plain lazy. I'd seen on the map that I could save a WHOLE MILE by ignoring Google directions to leave the RV Park and instead head directly down a hill with the same gradient as that of the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling (For the non-British audience, check this out, for an idea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeEr5-n6F8Y), though this one contained thorn bushes and huge patches of prickly pear cacti, just to add a frisson of danger. Watching from the top, I'm sure Nads despaired and Alex was immensely amused, but the whole affair was a disappointment in that it passed off very unremarkably. Alex had very kindly offered to tail Nads north of LA to a town called Santa Clarita, where we would stay for a few days after the run and eventually be running through, so they could drive back into LA in his more manoeuvrable little hire car, leaving me to my own devices for a few hours. I planned to do about 12 miles before a break today as again, my self-preservation behaviour patterns had largely been abandoned over the last few days. Just as I was checking to see what team Liverpool were going to field in a match that was just about to start I saw a Mexican sports bar called Tipsy Wings. Just as I'd been saved by Dos Amigos in the Arizona exodus (for an entirely different reason – see earlier!!), I saw this as a sign, ordered myself some topped fries, a large Dr Pepper and found out how the guys were getting on. By the guys, I mean both Liverpool and my valiant support crew. They'd dropped the RV off and I felt that they should take their time, and get a nice lunch, for their efforts, of course, nothing to do with the fact that watching the whole match would have otherwise left me an hour late for our meeting point. All went so swimmingly, I had a pint of Lagunitas IPA at halftime, served by the newly-Liverpool suppporting Lalo; they had a nice lunch; Liverpool won and I was only 10 minutes late for the final stop before close of running for the day. This was a special stop. I'd arranged them to meet me at the Weingart Stadium, home of the East Los Angeles College Huskies, but more importantly, the scene for filming of the scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest, playing football for the University of Alabama, scores a touchdown and kept running out of the stadium. This happened so often, the crowd mosaic needed to be changed from “Run, Forrest, Run” to “Stop, Forrest, Stop”! In case you're wondering, after chatting to a friendly member of staff who turned a blind eye, I did repeat the scene!
Frivolities over, it was time to head to LA proper. I'd already caught a glimpse of the LA skyline on the approach to the stadium and this became more prominent as I moved the last few miles down E. Cesar Chavez Avenue and towards Union Station. I couldn't get over the feeling how surreal this was. It felt a bit like what an Olympic marathoner must feel like when he or she knows it's in the bag and they can see the stadium, ready for the victory lap, but it being easy and they're not out of breath. I kept saying “unbelievable”, over and over again, looking up at the tops of buildings like a country boy on his first trip to the big city. I was also struck by the number of homeless people around, especially with the contrast of the shiny, modern buildings and trappings of wealth. I took a slight detour onto an area known as Skid Row, an area notorious for its homelessness problem. The current accepted view of most homeless charities (certainly in the UK) is that no-one needs to be homeless and that you shouldn't give money directly to the homeless as it won't be spent...wisely, shall we say. I grew in the next couple of days to find that there seems to be a much higher percentage of homeless here who appear to be mentally ill and maybe not as able to be helped as easily by the numerous hard-working charities in LA trying to alleviate this hardship. This surely has to be a consequence of the nature of the US healthcare system and much as Obamacare, AKA the Affordable Health Care Act has its critics, I saw first hand what happens when the poorest in society are not helped by the state and it made me even more appreciative of the NHS and our welfare system in the UK. The slow, stealthy dismantling that appears to be underway of both these institutions makes me shudder. I think Alex had noted this and was worried when I said we were staying in a hostel-cum-hotel for the night, as he'd had some bad experiences in the past, but our lodgings for the night were comfortable enough and good value, despite our misfortune to be in a room next to some people who appeared to our ears to be shooting an “art” movie the next morning.
After a quick debrief, we headed out to a famous bar-restaurant in LA, called Coles, apparent originators of the “French Dip” sandwich (Everyone in LA knows it…) and also the scene for Forrest and Lieutenant Dan's NYE party in 1972, where I partook in one of the French Dips (two thumbs up!) and when I headed to the bar, a lovely couple called James and Morgan who had overheard me telling the barman why I was wearing the Bubba Gump cap, bought me a drink. I took James' recommendation of the porter he was drinking which warmed me nicely up for a quick walk around downtown taking in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Broad, a couple more social establishments, including a “Public School of Craft Beer”, a return to Coles and a welcome late night. I had something on the next day, but I couldn't remember what...
Start: East Shore RV Park. Finish: Stay on Main Hotel, Downtown LA. 30.1 miles
Whatever I had planned for today, it wasn't meeting John Savoy, but my day was better for it. AKA, The Man in the White Hat, AKA The Diamond Jew, AKA Monster-in-Chief, the Bob Dylan lookalike had been previously sighted in the hotel looking very dapper and sporting said White Hat and when he saw my camera outside he wasted no time putting on a show worthy of the Edinburgh Fringe. Somebody get that man a dollar and an agent, so he can get his Project Skytower off the ground. He told me he was a pathological liar on the verge of relapsing into a nervous breakdown and ashamed of the fact he'd drunk a pint of Bourbon in two weeks. I know enough people who do that in a night, so I hoped my reassurances worked on his fragile (or was it?) psyche. He wanted to see the video on Facebook, which he wasn't sure existed in my country but as I was in America I had permission to use it as I saw fit. I had a look on Facebook. Couldn't find him. Was he ever even there? Fortunately my GoPro captured one of the few times I'd caught a great encounter on camera.
After that slice of Hollywood, it was time to run there myself to meet up with the crew. Hollywood is such a variable place, a bit like the more tacky bits of Oxford Street, but with the surreal nature of crossing the road standing next to Optimus Prime and your eyes being inevitably drawn to the floor by the Walk of Fame. Everyone's got a favourite. I like the fact that Muhammad Ali had his mounted on the wall of the Dolby Theatre as no-one was going to walk all over him. There were two I was on the look out for, one was of Sally Field, Forrest's momma and also Tom Hanks himself. You may remember him from a few films like Turner and Hooch, Big… Nah. I'm out. Speaking about Big – I ran past another Zoltar machine, but I was too scared to risk a gamble like that at this point. I found the guys, with Alex busy reciting facts about Tom's neighbour on the walk, a certain Wink Martindale, to passers by and got my photo next to the star, rubbing the gold for some good luck. There's so much to know about Wink, we ran over on our lunch and I realised I was actually going to have to be pretty quick running the 12 miles to Santa Monica to make sure we we there for sunset and our planned meeting with Kacey Montoya, KTLA-5 reporter AND weather anchor (!) and Paul, cameraman extraordinaire. I was also excited to see Jamie and Luli again, who had made the trek from Temecula once more, old pals Helen and Chris and their girls, Emily, 3 and Charlotte – 3 weeks! Alex had also been joined by school friend Chris, who lives locally so we pretty much had a crowd! There was a bit of a hold up as rather than a police escort taking me across the road, I had traffic lights of all things, so I was looking at guys, including Jamie and Luli with some huge signs that I refused to look at till the end of the Pier and Paul, with Kacey up the road behind me as I'd gone a bit tooooo fast! A hasty retreat was beaten to do a little bit of filming and then it was on. I was prowling at the lights like a caged animal (which is a bad thing, remember people!) desperate to get under the arch and even then it was a little bitty as we filmed little pieces here and there. Everyone apart from me and Alex had now headed to the end of the Pier as we jogged together (Alex keeping pace impressively in flip flops…) to the end of the Pier. Jamie's signs had switched from “Run Robla Run” to “Stop Robla Stop (For now…!), which was of course prudent, H+S wise, with it being the end of the Pier. I paused briefly...thought about it...(Nah...didn't really!) and turned round. I figured since I'd come this far… A spontaneous jump for joy and fist pump 10m afterwards and I was done...for now. Kacey began the interview… “Why had I done it? What were my plans? How did I manage it?”. A crowd was forming, everyone was smiling, but none more than me. I'd done what I'd wanted to do for years. I'd run across America. I'd ran clear to the ocean and the only thing for it now was, as I'd been told by Chris Finnill, now a FELLOW trans-continental runner, I had to get in the Pacific and go right under. Despite warnings of hypothermia I informed the KTLA guys that I'd cope. I was Northern and stripped off as I ran to the Pacific and dived in after a few Baywatch strides into the water. It was bloody cold, by the way, especially after I got out, but both Jamie/Luli and Chris had kindly bought a couple of towels and, to be honest, I didn't care.
I got half dressed and we headed for a meal at Bubba Gump. Standing outside I was still shoeless, my retro Nikes resting by the front desk. Nads nudged me and asked if I'd just put “that” there. I didn't know what she was referring to, so she gestured towards the shoes, where a single, pure white feather had nestled by the sole of one of these. For fans of the film, you'll instantly get the reference. At both the start and the end of the film, a single, pure white feather floats into and eventually, out of Forrest's life, bookending his incredible story. For this to have happened here is beyond uncanny and the significance of this was discussed over our delicious dinner. We finished here, saying goodnight to Helen, (her) Chris and family and we headed to the Kings Head, an English pub in Santa Monica, where over a few beers we waited for 10 pm. We'd seen the incredibly hard work KTLA guys still in their van at the end of the Pier, trying to get the piece ready for the news at 10. Ready it was and we watched in one quiet room of the pub, with a group of new pals erupting as they first recognised Santa Monica, then me, still clad from head to toe in Forrest gear - my white, university red and royal blue Nike Cortez, damp shorts and check shirt, all topped off with the Bubba Gump cap. No way was I changing! The piece was amazing and unbeknown to us, the big room holding about 100 people for the pub quiz that I'd asked a special bonus question at (Where have I run from? Guessed correctly after three goes...I wonder why?) was going crazy, as they'd stopped the quiz and turned the volume up on the TVs. When I returned to the room, I was greeted like a conquering hero, with the whole bar chanting my name. Of course this was nice, but also a little weird as well, I'd only gone for a run, after all! OK, it was a long one at over 2200 miles, but I think it will be a long time before it will all sink in. I kept saying it in my head as I went to sleep that night. I'd ran clear to the ocean. I also remembered that I'd turned round. We still have the feather, so the story continues.
I was gonna keep on going.
Start: Stay on Main Hotel, Downtown LA. Finish: The ocean. Santa Monica Pier 21.35 miles
Total: 2229.64 miles