After week 9 being a bit of an off week, I was ready to make week 10 an awesome one!! But life never turns out how you plan it and this week I had the police knocking on my tent with his hand on his gun because someone called the cops on me! Although it was completely my fault, it was really scary, and I made a fool of myself while filming. At least it was a more productive week than last week!
About a week ago now, I finished running at around 2am. I started running later to avoid the heat throughout the day. I’d run 26 miles or so.
I always check Google Maps to find somewhere to put my tent up and I found a big green patch (pretty rare where I was running, and fairly away from everything else!) that I thought might be good for camping.
I pitched my tent just off the side of the road next to a hill. I was certain this time, after having to pick spots so carefully through San Francisco, that I wouldn’t be upsetting anyone.
As I nodded off at around 4am, my sleep was disturbed by somebody shouting near the tent – “grab your s**t and go, or I’m calling the cops.”
I opened the tent – it takes a short while to open both the inside and outside zips, especially being as tired as I am when it gets to bedtime now! – and shouted “hello?” into the darkness, but I heard nothing back and couldn’t see anybody.
Packing up, running and trying to find a new place to camp didn’t feel like something I could do as the next camping ground was miles up the road – around a 30-minute run. I was spent after running a marathon distance. I easily drifted off back to sleep. Big mistake.
After what felt like seconds but must have been a couple of hours, the next voice I heard was louder. Much louder.
“Get out of the tent and come out with your hands first.”
As soon as I heard, ‘come out with your hands first’, I became scared. My heart was pounding. I quickly started to record.
I unzipped the tent and peered around the corner. It was a cop with his hand on his holster of his gun.
After re-watching it, I think the cop was pretty understanding. He even forgave me answering with ‘um, I’ve got a website!’ when he asked who I was. Yeah, I’m embarrassed about that bit, but I really was terrified!!!
This isn’t the first time in California I’ve been shouted at by people outside of the tent while sleeping – it’s happened about half a dozen times in the last week and it made me think about how terrifying it must be to be homeless.
This has only happened in the last 150 miles or so when I haven’t experienced it at any other stage so far – I just don’t understand.
I’m hoping it’s just a blip but it’s making me feel a bit nervous for the route ahead!
Because of this, my confidence has been knocked a little from camping, being woken up in my tent most mornings (being shouted at or having cops think I’m a criminal), it’s naturally jaded me on the world somewhat, which is so unlike me as I love the world and the people in it – so it was time to get back to being in my ‘love bubble’.
In the morning, I started the day by looking through my pictures of all the people that’s helped me through over the past few days.
As I scrolled through the pictures, each image told a story about how they helped me. I’ll start with…
Surfer dude Antony who ran 6 miles with me and must of used the word ‘amazing bro’ at least 100 times; or Mary who brought me tons of healthy food; the lady that explained the word ‘trudging’ with a whole new meaning of purpose and pursuit; the waitress that brought me a beer; the guy who fell down an elevator that caused brain damage said I was amazing (who I kept thinking how amazing he was!), Suzy & Dave who gave me a bed for the night in Santa Cruz.
Mum Natasha and daughter Lydia who painted a sign that read ‘Jamie & Caesar’ (Caesar was so happy he got a mention too!).
Tessa and Ima who brought my breakfast at Country Kitchen; Duane who sorted out a night stay in a Marriott Residence; and the final picture I looked at was of a mum named Kim and her kids that took me for dinner and then donated $100 at the end of the dinner to Superhero Foundation and Kim looked at me straight in the eyes and said, “you are making a difference and you better believe it.”
As I finished flicking through the last few pictures, I just couldn’t help but think about how incredible the world is, and before I knew it, I was back in my ‘love bubble.’
After feeling the love, it was time to start running. My legs had a new bound lift in them and I ran through the streets of Salinas ramping up curbs and waving at as many cars as I could, until a surprise popped up.
Seven miles into the run, two young men showed up to say hi, they introduced themselves as Caleb and Warren.
Caleb greeted me warmly and said, “you probably don’t remember me, but five years ago I chatted to you over the phone whilst you were breaking the world record on the static bike. I’m Ed Archers nephew and I’ve been following your journey from the beginning. In class we watched all your YouTube videos. It’s crazy that you’re now here in front of me.”
He carried on, “we’ve seen you’ve been having a pretty hard time lately, so we thought we’d come say hi to show you some support.”
We ended up having a Subway together and chatted away. It turns out, both the boys are competitive rowers.
Caleb said, “though we’re obviously not doing anything like the distances you’re doing, to a small degree we are consistently putting our bodies through hell and have many moments that we just wanna quit. So we just love how you keep going.”
After some good pain bonding chat, I ran on – how could I not after being told that?
Hitting a flat country road, the sun started to go down behind me. There were mountains each side of the road and there was a huge tailwind. The wind was funnelling through between the mountains which gave it that bit more extra force – so much force that Caesar was pushing himself along.
With Caesar rolling away, two blokes from Nana’s BBQ came out to give me bbq chicken and water. Apparently, someone messaged them through Facebook, which was a lovely surprise.
As the sun went completely down, the sky went purple like I’ve never seen before. It was stunning.
In the beauty of it all, a text popped in from a man named Dave, “go to Soledad Fire department, there’s a piece of grass you can camp on. Captain Tardifs is expecting you. Here’s his number………”
Six weeks ago, I met Dave and his wife Jeanette up in Washington on a beach. It turns out Dave is a firefighter and his wife came up with the idea of getting the fire stations on board for a safe spot to sleep. I think after seeing all the hassle that I’m getting in trying to camp through social media, Jeanette’s mama bear instincts kicked in to keep me safe – which is so appreciated.
Knowing I had a safe spot for the night, I ran on strongly but had a hiccup to deal with. Using Google Maps, it showed a good running route through some quiet vineyard roads that ran parallel to the 101 highway.
The run was going smoothly, until one road wasn’t there as it said it should have been on Google Maps.
It was 11:30pm, I was 19 miles in and I had no idea how I was going to get back on track.
So I started to push Caesar through vineyard fields with signs that read ‘no trespassing’.
I knew it was risky but running back to the highway would have been illegal too, so I thought this was the safest option.
Eventually, I was well and truly lost, no road was a road on Google Maps so I started to head to the 101 highway through dirt tracks.
Pushing Cesar through dusty dirt tracks, I ended up running along a very well lit building (which out in the middle of nowhere, in vineyard country, I thought it was pretty odd!).
As I carried on running I saw a sign that read, ‘Salinas Valley State Prison.’
Which now made total sense in seeing a building all lit up in the surrounding areas.
I just couldn’t believe it, out of all the places to be lost, I was now running alongside a prison?!
I couldn’t help but think, if any guard right now spots me, he would be certain it’s a crazy prisoner ‘breaking out!’
I ran fast – really fast!!!
Eventually, I made it to Soledad’s Fire Department at 2am, obviously no one was up.
Walking into the fire station, there was a sign that read, ‘WELCOME JAMES’ on the gate. On the sign it had a map showing me where to camp and use the toilet. The ‘James’ bit made me laugh and what a lovely welcome it was!
Setting up my tent, I crawled in after running 31 miles – which was my longest run so far.
I felt proud. Both for the miles, but even more than that, for being back into my love bubble, thinking amazing thoughts about the world and the people in it.
What an amazing world we live in!
The day after, I ran 21 miles to another station.
A network is unfolding and it’s so flipping lovely.
I’ve been welcomed with food (firefighters have to eat well so I’ve been happy to join in!), a bed, shower and protein bars.
Waking up with the King City firefighters they all warned me it would be a hot day, but I don’t think I realised how hot they meant. Americans use Fahrenheit and as a Brit, I’m more of a Celsius man.
At 9am, trying to beat the heat I began running. With each mile my mouth got drier and drier, but I just kept trucking on to do as many miles as I could. If I was going to make it to the town of Bradley, it was going to be a 35-mile kind of day to the next Cal Fire station.
After three hours of running it hit 12noon and the heat went up to a whole new level, to something I’ve never experienced yet in the States. In that moment I knew it was time to stop.
One problem though, there was no shade. Nothing. It was just fields and fields with not a single tree or anything for shade.
As I ran I kept craving shade, looking at every nook and cranny thinking ‘I wonder if I can crawl under that?’
At one point, I convinced myself that some cabbages planted in the ground would do the job if I led down and squeezed up and under them tightly. Though of course, it was a ridiculous thought.
Another three miles down, I was panting like an over-heated dog, but I finally spotted some pallets stacked up on one another in a field. They were stacked up tall enough that it created enough shade for the size of my body to fit in – just.
In the shade, lying down in a pair of shorts with my top off sweating, I piled a litre of water down my neck and half a jar of almond butter.
Then, a young man appeared around the corner of the pallets and said with a Mexican accent, “you can’t lie here bro. Our crops and food are right there growing, and it doesn’t look good having you here. Can you go over there behind those pallets instead away from the food?”
I totally agreed with him.
While moving my stuff over to the other pallets, he then said, “na, you just can’t stay here.”
At this point, I thought he’s totally lost trust me in me and I’m going to have to run on in the scorching heat.
He carried on chatting, “It’s too hot bro. I can’t leave you out here like this. It’s inhuman.”
I assured him that it was totally fine and that I was comfortable (though, not really!).
He then said, “you have to come with me!”
We walked over to his farmhouse in the distance.
When we got there, he opened up a barn and said, “here you go, this is a better spot for you.” The temperature inside the barn dropped drastically.
A few minutes later, he came back, “do you drink beer? That’s all I drink.”
I was like, “yeah, why not. That will be good for hydration.”
Of course, I knew it wasn’t good for hydration but when you’re in someone’s territory, I always try to say yes to everything, as it helps build a connection quicker. And I really did fancy a beer anyway!
We chatted away and it turns out that Vince, 27 years old, has lived on the farm all his life. He’s never left and knows the farm like the ‘back of his hand.’
He said, “you must be hot. Here, jump on the tractor, I’ll take you for a ride and take you to a place to cool off.”
Whilst bumping around on the tractor, we stopped and climbed some barbwire fence. I was so nervous from my last barbwire fence experience when I cut my leg, so I was careful in climbing.
Once over the fence, there was a huge river and Vince said, “it’s Friday afternoon. It’s part of my routine to come here. You’ve timed it well. Shall we take a dip?” And then laughed his head off.
We walked into the river and sat in there for 10 minutes. I dunked my head a few times too and Vince kept laughing. Such a cool experience.
Getting out, my body was back to a normal temperature, so I stopped panting like a dog for the first time in six hours.
Around 5pm, it was time to say goodbye and Vince said, “I’ve loved the past few hours with you. I don’t know what it was, I just had a good feeling about you. And I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie with you, listening to your accent.” Then he laughed his head off again.
Then what blew me away was Vince reached in his pocket and pulled out a $100 bill and said, “here man. This is a donation to the kid’s hospital” and put his hand on his heart.
If there was ever a day to have a Mexican Vince in your life, today was that day.
Running on, I thought I’d check the heat. It was 40C (104F). Insane heat!
Muscling through the heat, I managed to clock up 21 miles and running through the valley with mountains each side was gorgeous. There were sprinklers going off everywhere on all the fields creating hundreds of rainbow effects.
Soaking up the views, I checked on Google Maps which was showing that it should have been fine to get back on to the highway as the shortest route possible.
One problem though, Google Maps didn’t show an enormous barbwire fence that was in the way. A panic set in because I knew if I couldn’t get through, it would add on another five miles.
As I took Caesar off road, there just wasn’t a gap anywhere through the fence.
In the end, after a few extra miles of running backwards and forwards, I eventually found a road that got me back to the highway.
Though that road had these huge big hammer head machines moving up and down, literally hundreds of them, but there was no one in sight. It reminded me of that film, War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise where the machines try to take over the world.
After the film set, I let go of my frustration of running an extra couple of miles and hit the highway.
At 9pm, I’d hit over 26 miles, which is more than a marathon and my feet started to ache. I changed shoes to make them feel better, but nothing seemed to help – they’d had enough.
Mile by mile, I just hoped that my feet wouldn’t give out and break.
Then, I saw my first LA sign ‘243 miles’ and for those few seconds, it took the pain off my feet.
At 10pm a copper pulled in. I couldn’t help but think, ‘please not again!’ When he got out of the car, he had this huge beaming smile on his face and said, “what you doing? Can I help you?” It was the warmest greeting ever for a Friday night on a busy highway.
After a quick selfie with the policeman, I ran on to finish up my day in Bradley. There was a fire station there, but I wasn’t sure they were expecting me as everything got booked in last minute.
Running through the tiny town, I saw the fire engines and a couple of people standing outside. It was 11:15pm and really dark, so I blinked my eyes to see if I was seeing clearly that people were still up at that time of night.
The next noise I hear was clapping. Then more hands clapping. I ran towards it, like a music fan running to their idol.
There were seven or so fire fighters clapping me in and one said, “we’ve been following you on your tracker! We could see you getting lost in the oil fields running back and forth!” We all laughed together (obviously not that funny at the time).
And then they showed me around the station, the kitchen, the shower and showed me my already made bed ready for a big sleep.
It was the hottest and longest run so far, 34 miles, and was packed with adventure. I sometimes forget how much I love it, searching for shade, meeting random lovely strangers, even the mishaps.
Leaving the Bradley Cal Fire Station at 5pm the day after, it was still too hot to run but I just had to get going.
As the sun started to set, the mountains turned golden and all I could see were farmer fields for miles and miles.
On the road side, the odd rabbit would scurry across, most probably scared hearing my footsteps.
Whilst watching one rabbit run, I realised I was soaking up everything in sight; the rabbits, the moon, the sunset, the colours, even my legs running striving forward!
It was a moment I realised that I was letting the fundraising pressures lift (not too much as that’s what it’s all about and keeps me motivated!) but I really started focusing on soaking up adventure, so I grabbed the camera to share with you how it felt.
As it got dark, I ran on a quiet road and at 15 miles, a guy came out of the house after seeing all my lights on Caesar, and he said, “hey, can I help you? What are you doing cycling at this time of night?”
As he neared I explained I was running and the next thing he offered, “can I get you some Tri-tip?” Obviously that’s a standard thing to ask and offer at 9pm on a Saturday night. Of course, I said yes, not having a freaking clue what tri-tip was.
It turned out it was beef, but the good stuff. Now that really is a great offer on a Saturday night!
After nailing 17 miles, I could have eaten just about anything, but I really enjoyed nailing down the tri-tip.
Fuelled on beef, I ran on and finished the marathon into a stranger’s home.
At 11pm, I hit a driveway but there was no sign of the number of the house, so I wasn’t sure if I was at the right one.
Then, along the driveway I could see a finish line tape. Was that what I think it was? A finishing line tape? It sure looked like one, so I picked that house.
I walked up to the door, it was open and there I met Tor and Jenny, who greeted me with a big hug. And then introduced me to 20 pieces of salmon (just for me) and Tor said, “is that enough?”
The morning after when I woke up, I met their little girl.
Maisy has a rare genetic disorder called EEC, which stands for ‘ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia’, a cleft lip/palate and has spent a LOT of time in hospital.
Her fingers haven’t formed like ours would, but that doesn’t stop her one bit from cracking on being a kid and having lightsabre fights!
As well as meeting Maisy, I met her friends and family and we even had a ‘costume dance party’ – I just couldn’t say no when Maisy asked me.
She never stops smiling – this really is what it’s all about, raising money to help kids like this girl!
I also uploaded the third YouTube episode – it’s called ‘Big Talk, Best Friend’.
Here’s the 28-minute episode:
It’s about my reunion with one of my best friends and giving a talk at Microsoft HQ – all something I’m never going to forget!
It also shows Adventureman cakes, Caesar running away from me (he misbehaves far too often!) and some incredible donations, especially a big £12,000 one from intY Ltd!