Ripon Police dispatch supervisor Linda Johnston has found her own “personal angel” on her 1,500-mile road trip from Bain, Washington that started on May 1. It’s an angel she says kept her from quitting and going home.
Johnston has battled the weather, terrain, flat tires and the agony of her right knee as she has headed from the Canadian border to Santa Barbara and back to Ripon.
Monday was “Day 14” where she had planned to rest with her mother who was trailing her at a distance from behind and sometimes in advance of her route.
Johnston has traveled nearly 713 miles that has taken her beyond Crescent City and into Brookings, Calif. for her mid-trip rest and recuperation.
Day 12 was her day to remember. She started her day at 7:15 a.m. with a bowl of shredded wheat and a banana for breakfast. “I dressed for warm weather, bad idea, it was cold, very, very cold,” she remembers. She said she struggled with every pedal stroke before calling her husband Ted and telling him she really wanted to rack her bike and quit.
“I didn’t want my right knee to hurt anymore; I really wanted to go home,” she said. Her husband gave her encouragement and noted that everyone who had been pulling for her on her trip would understand whatever she decided.
She said she cried for a long time after that emotional conversation with him. She said she had wanted to quit so badly, but knew it wasn’t really an option. Plus the “sag lady,” as she referred to her mother, was another 14 miles ahead of her in the car.
“I knew I would need to suck it up until I met up with her – so I told myself to GET OVER IT! And I forged ahead.”
They met at the Golf Beach Bridge and Johnston hopped into the car and told her mom to find a café where they could have a big breakfast.
“Had breakfast at the Double D Café. Had eggs, French toast and bacon. After that we went across the street to the Rogue River Jet boat store. Went inside the store just to hang out and try to motivate myself to continue this trip – went outside and played throw stick with a dog,” to pass some time, she said.
Across the street was a gift shop where she purchased gifts for grandchildren and her two nieces. Still trying to talk herself into continuing the trip, she put on her knee brace with the intent of trying to make it to Brookings, Oregon – some 26 miles down the road.
About five miles into that stretch, the 23-year-old rider from Quebec she had earlier labeled as her “angel” came up behind her. She had met Jess a couple days before. He had already helped her with some priceless tips and aid with her throbbing knee.
“Jess and I decided to ride together for awhile. Believe me when I say that Jess saved me from giving up. Without her company, I believe I would have given up my journey today. I probably would almost be home right now, if it weren’t for her. I do believe God put her in my path today. She knew I needed something or someone to motivate me to continue,” she remembers.
Thirty-five miles later they met up with the “sag lady” in her car at in Brookings, Oregon, where they stopped for a soda at McDonalds and made the decision to head on for Crescent City, Calif.
Johnston noted that Jess, too, struggles with her right knee that she injured some five months ago. Her current ride was an effort to strengthen that knee joint. She added that her newfound friend has been all over the world on her bike, saying that she weighs little more than 80 pounds soaking wet.
In Crescent City they met up with her mom and the car at the local Walmart.
Staying only in motels – no camping considered on her ride – Johnston said she offered to pay for a room for Jess. She felt it was the least she could do after all of her unwavering support in more ways than she could ever explain.
“There was no way I could live with myself by allowing her to sleep outside while I slept comfortably in a nice warm room,” Johnston said.
Her riding partner declined to accept accommodations several times, but finally relented saying she would consider bunking down with them in their room on a day where Johnston logged 82 miles – a day when she was ready to throw in the towel and quit.
“Day 12 was my second worst day on the trip with a major emotional breakdown,” she will never forget.
Family and friends have been keeping close tabs of her daily posts on Facebook with some writing back to encourage. It is a trip she had hoped to finish in 15 days; however she had taken 30 days off work with the Ripon Police Department to make sure she had a sufficient window of time to complete the trek before she turns 50.
One of her friends posted her thoughts on Facebook telling Johnston just how she felt: “God sent you an angel in human form today – what a blessing. I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. I only know that you are an extraordinary woman and in case you hadn’t noticed, God’s got your back. Amazing story!”
A second friend wrote, “I feel for you Linda. When this is over, regardless of your final decision, you will look back on this and be proud of what you have accomplished. You really are a strong person. Your grandkids will be very proud of you.”
Another writes, “Happy Mothers’ Day to you Linda! Welcome back to the sunshine state!”
A brief observation followed with, “Amazing woman, Linda!”
And yet another offers her thoughts: “Amazing how God works. He has answered prayers and blessed you with a little person named Jess to inspire you. Absolutely amazing! You are such a giving person yourself and I am sure a blessing for Jess. I’m glad to read she bunked with you and mom for the night. May your day be filled with love, encouragement and the strength to pedal on – welcome home to California.”
The first day of her trip just topped 56 miles. Day two was just under 64 miles and day 3 was 61.67 miles on her odometer. Day four was a rest day for weather. Day 5 hit 88 miles and day 6 was logged as 64.4 miles. On day seven she had suffered from two flat tires within a three mile stretch.
She said, because of the flats, she felt someone or something was telling her to stop, but she made nearly 43 miles by that afternoon. On the eighth day she took her number one bike and her backup to the “bike doctor” for maintenance. She only made 25 miles on that day.
Day 9 she totaled 75 miles and the following day she rested her knee again, saying “it was not happy.” Day 11 Johnston topped 77 miles and she noted it was a “very good day and I’m very happy.”
And day 12 was the one she wanted to quit, “but God sent Jess my way,” and she totaled an unexpected 82.18 miles. Day 13 was quite an emotional contrast to the day before and she totaled 77 miles, she said.
And it was on that frightful day 12 that she responded to her friends’ posts saying, “Thank you all for your encouraging words. I needed them more than ever today. I was ready to rack the bike and be done, but God sent a riding partner – an angel – my way and she truly motivated me to go an additional 50 miles today.”